Exploring Oregon 2009

Exploring Oregon 2009

Sunday, August 28, 2011


This is not a warm, fuzzy post.  It is not witty or fun or light hearted, but is coming from my devastated and grieving heart.  It is my attempt to console myself by pouring my thoughts and feelings out in hope that it lightens this burden on my soul.  This is me, doing what I can to cope with the unpleasantries of life.

One week ago yesterday Jason and I had to put our beloved Cameo down.  She was a difficult dog, but there wasn't an unloving or disloyal bone in her old, frail body.  She loved my husband almost to a fault, as it would drive him crazy at times when she would get up to follow him around the house when he was only walking from the couch to the refrigerator and back to refill a glass of water.  Or when he would be laying on the couch watching a movie, and she would sit on the floor next to him, staring at him and panting with that unbelievable foul breath of hers.  Don't get me wrong, my husband loved this dog and did more for her than most would tolerate, but she was a rescue dog with a past that made her fairly neurotic and generally uneasy.

Jason and I came to Bend, Oregon in the summer of 2006.  Jason had just graduated and had a job offer with a very promising company working in renewable energy.  I had one year of grad school remaining and had managed to land an internship with an architecture firm for the summer.  Other than the handful of interviews that Jason had come over for, neither or us had much knowledge of Bend, but from what I had read, it seemed like a wonderful, up-and-coming place.  We ended up renting a house in what we would come to learn was the armpit of town.  The location was sketchy at best and was only about a block and a half away from where the train tracks crossed a very busy road.  Nothing like being awoken at 2am to the sound of the crossing arms coming down across the road, "Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!" followed by the sound of the train's whistle blasting "WHOOOOOOO-WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" and finally the screeching metal and clanging of the train barreling down the tracks.  And yet, even in this less than ideal living situation, we fell in love with Bend, Oregon.  We were there for less than 2 months when we realized this is where we wanted to be and we started searching for a home of our own (away from the tracks).

We put an offer in just before I was headed back to school for the fall, which was accepted.  The closing process was quick and painless and Jason got the keys to our new home at the end of September.  He moved in with his two friends, Ricky and Jordan, who planned to live with him and help with the mortgage until I moved back out to Bend for good in May.  Jason was barely in the house for a month when I got the news that he had adopted a dog.  At first I was a little angry that he had made the decision to get a dog without consulting with me.  Not that I would have objected to a dog as I love them, but just that he got one without me, that he didn't wait until I had finished school and moved in so that we could get one together.  He was so happy to have a dog, that I couldn't be mad for long.  I knew he had been wanting one for some time, but being in school just wasn't conducive to caring for a dog.

He told me her name was Cameo and that she was found roaming in a field somewhere and was brought to a rescue organization.  She was a red heeler and they were guessing that she was around 2 years old.  She wasn't fond of strangers or other dogs and she spooked at loud noises and fast movements.  Her complexes could only be summed up to the result of years of abuse.  It broke my heart to see how she would cower and run when I picked up a broom to sweep.  She loved treats but never really took to chewing on raw hide or bones.  She was really good on a leash, but didn't understand the concept of playing such as fetching a ball or tugging on a rope.  Despite our best efforts to socialize her and teach her to play, she was most content just walking with Jason or simply being by his side.

It became apparent after a couple years that the original estimation of her being 2 years old when Jason got her was off by a few years.  We used to take her hiking and backpacking with us, but we started to notice her slowing down, and on one particular three mile hike to a lake, she would actually stop altogether when she found some shade to lie in and would simply refuse to move until she regained her energy.  From then on we limited her exercise to daily walks in the park down the street from our house.

A year or so later while Jason was out of town for work, I was taking Cameo for one of her walks in the park when she started stumbling and not quite picking up her feet.  She looked like what I would imagine a drunk dog would look like walking home after a Friday night bender.  She began panting and collapsed at one point.  I didn't know what was going on, but I sat with her in the park until she had the energy to get up and make our way home.  She stumbled her way back to the house and ran into the gate before I could open it, like she didn't even see it there.  I knew something pretty serious was wrong at this point.

After about 5 minutes of her stumbling and pacing through the house, she laid down and passed out for a good while.  When she awoke, she was back to her normal self.  The next day I was nervous walking her, and saw signs of her starting to stumble again, so immediately cut the walk short and we went home.  Again she paced around the house in her clumsy way, often walking right into a corner, or trying to walk under a chair before she would change direction.  After 10 minutes she again fell asleep and woke up fine.  The following day, we cut her walk short and she was fine.  At this point, I thought that perhaps something was sprayed at the far side of the park for weeds that was causing her to have these mini seizures as she only seemed to have them when we walked to that part of the park.

For a time, we stopped walking there and she was fine, until we were visiting Jason's parents and she started stumbling down the road while we were out for a walk.  We realized then that there was something wrong with her, and it wasn't any sort of pesticide that was causing this.  Jason took her to the vet, and after a series of tests and blood work, it was determined that she was hypoglycemic, meaning that her blood sugar would drop, causing the seizures.  We changed her diet, so that she was being fed high quality, special food throughout the day to keep her blood sugar even, and we reduced her exercise to a couple small walks per day.  This worked for a while, until she decided to stop eating.  We tried changing her food, mixing cookies into it and other treats, as well as canned food.  She would be interested in the change in food briefly, but would soon be over it and wanted nothing to do with it.  This brought on more seizures.  Jason talked to the vet again, and they put her on medication for her condition.  This increased her appetite and stopped the seizures.  It was a miraculous drug.

Everything seemed to be going well for some time, until she suddenly, and out of nowhere had a Grand Mal seizure.  This was scary, as she was on the ground kicking, twitching and snapping while foaming at the mouth.  It lasted for a couple minutes before she snapped out of it and would do her pace around the house routine before laying down and sleeping it all off.  Over the years, this started happening more and more frequently as her general health, hearing and sight degraded and we came to the conclusion that yet again, she was probably a lot older than we were previously assuming.

The vet was at a loss as to why she was having these Grand Mal seizures and said that more testing would need to be done until they could find a the cause, at which point, surgery would probably be needed.  Being at the age and health that she was, we knew we could not put Cameo through surgery, and since she seemed to be fine and happy and only having the seizures once every 4-8 weeks, we turned down the additional testing.

Every so often, Cameo would go through some hard times where she would have multiple seizures in a day, and I would think, "How on earth is this dog surviving this?"  But she would bounce back every time and be fine again for weeks, falling right back into her regular routine of eating, sleeping, licking her paws (and the carpet) and following Jason around like his shadow. 

Watching her health degrade so much over such a short period of time was devastating.  When Jason first got her, we thought we would have a good ten years with her, but we knew in this last year that our time was running out.  We were aware that she wasn't going to be around much longer, and every time she had a seizure I would think "This is it.  Her little heart is just going to give out,"  but it never did.  She was a fighter and it was clear that she wasn't ready to be done with life.  No sooner would I think that she was close to the end, would her health improve and I'd be left thinking that she was just gonna plod along this way for years to come.

Last Friday night was one of those tough nights in that she had one of her seizures as we were getting ready for bed.  She had been doing so well for so long, that the seizure kind of took me by surprise.  Again she fought through it, and quickly nodded off to sleep for the night.  The next morning, we were cleaning the house in anticipation of the BBQ we were hosting that evening when Jason told me that Cameo had another seizure.  When I came over, she was out of her thrashing stage, but was in the twitching stage, where she wasn't quite conscious yet.  She usually would thrash for about a minute, then lay there breathing heavily and twitching for another minute before she would snap out of it and regain consciousness.  This time she stayed in the twitching stage for what seemed forever before she ended up going backwards back into the violent thrashing.  This was devastating to watch, and Jason and I sat for a long time watching her go back and forth between thrashing and twitching, hoping that she would snap out of it soon.  After some time, it became clear that she was not coming out of this on her own, so Jason carried her out to the car and took her to the emergency animal clinic in hopes that they could give her something to help.  After being there for around 30 or 40 minutes, I got the call that I needed to come down.

I somehow knew what was coming, from the moment I saw her go from twitching back to thrashing at the house, I had this voice in the back of my head saying 'This is it,' but I never fully gave up hope.  She had proven me wrong so many times before and she was such a fighter.  When I came, she was on a blanket in the back pumped full of drugs to stop the seizures, but she was still not conscious or aware of her surroundings.  Jason's face was puffy, red and covered in streams of tears when he explained to me that they thought she had a brain tumor, and that the only thing we could do would be to take her to Portland for an MRI, and if they confirmed the tumor, they would need to operate.  We both knew that brain surgery was not an option for this poor old dog, and we knew what had to be done.  Knowing what needed to be done didn't make it any easier when the doctor came and asked what we wanted to do.  We didn't WANT to put her down, even though we knew we had to.  Saying the words was next to impossible.  Our dog was a fighter, and I always thought that one day her little heart would just give out and that would be it.  Being the one to actually END her fight seemed wrong and unfair, but it was clear that she was not coming out of this seizure, and it was cruel to let her suffer anymore. 

They put us in a private room with her so we could spend some time with her and say our goodbyes.  The doctor came in and gave us some paperwork to fill out in order for them to perform the euthanization.  We filled everything out, handed it back and sat with Cameo, petting her while she remained awake but unconscious.  After some time, her medication started wearing off and she started to thrash again.  It was heartbreaking to see, but was a good reaffirmation that she was not going to pull through this one on her own.  In the middle of her seizing, the doctor came to perform the euthanization.  When she saw Cameo seizing again, she hurried over to get started.

It was strange.  Part of me thought that she would wait for her to stop seizing to do it.  I'm not sure why I thought this, but I also hoped for it as well.  Even though she was not truly conscious in-between the seizures, I felt she was there more than she was when she was actually seizing, and part of me wanted her to know that we were there with her, holding her paw so to speak at her last moments.  Watching them inject the pink fluid into her I.V. all I could think was "No, no, no, I'm not ready yet!"  At the same time, I knew we needed to take her out of the suffering she was going through with the seizure.  Performing the euthanization during her seizure also made it painfully clear when her time ended, as she suddenly just stopped moving.  I knew I wanted to be there for her, but it was a horrid thing to watch, and it took only a moment to know that the deed was done.  I wanted to scream out.  How could our little fighter of a dog be gone?  No matter how prepared I thought I was for that moment, my mind, heart and soul shattered watching her go still.

We sat with her for a good long time working through our emotions and realizations that she was not coming home with us.  We prepared to leave on a couple different occasions, but would inevitably break into more sobs at the idea of walking out the door without her.  For some reason, that was the hardest part.  We knew she was already gone, hopefully to a better place, yet the idea of walking away from her body was gut-wrenching.

In the days to follow, I went through some hard times.  Jason was gone on a bike ride most of Sunday, and I was home alone for a good part of the day.  My mind had a hard time accepting that Cameo was gone.  I would see movement out of the corner of my eye and would look over, fully expecting to see Cameo, but it was one of the cats, or a shadow or something.  It broke my heart over and over, each time I realized that it would never be Cameo that I would look over and see again.

Watching my husband mourn was devastating.  As much as I loved that dog, she was his first pet all of his own, of whom he was responsible for, and he loved her immensely.  Holding him while he sobbed in my arms was possibly the most helpless feeling in the world.  What could I say or do to make this better?  There is no 'making this better.'  I could only assure him that he was good to her and was a very loving father, but it was hard when his guilt took over for being annoyed or aggravated with her from time to time.  I assured him that it was normal to be frustrated once in a while, and that it didn't make him a bad person, and it didn't make her love him any less.

Then came my own feelings of guilt.  I knew for some time that she was approaching the end of her life and when Jason would make a comment about how much it was going to cost, or how hard it would be on Cameo to have to board her for ten days while we go on vacation in October, a part of me would think that it was very possible that she just may not live that long.  Then there were the dark thoughts that would somehow crawl their way into my head that had me thinking, 'maybe it would be easier if she did just pass on before we went on that trip so we wouldn't have to worry about her.'  I cannot say how ashamed I felt to think those thoughts, or how much that thought makes my stomach turn now that she is gone.  What a heartless thing to think, as I would trade all the trouble and worry to have her around now that she is gone.

There is a hole in my heart, one I wasn't truly expecting to have.  She was always Jason's dog, though I loved her and I'm sure she cared very much for me, but it was always him she was excited to see.  I didn't expect to feel such a void with her gone.  I finally got my own dog back in May, and it was so nice for a while that we each had a dog.  We would walk them together at night, whereas before, I rarely accompanied Jason on his walks with Cameo.  Now we are back to having one dog, and it pains me every time we go to take our nightly walk, as I know Jason is missing his regular walking buddy.  Jason had fallen into such a routine with her, that it is a hard pill to swallow knowing that everything has changed.  It's a strange sensation, as we knew her time was coming to an end, and yet at the same time, it feels like someone pulled a rug out from under us.  We knew she wouldn't be around forever, but we never really imagined how much it would change our lives once she was gone.

Everyone has been very supportive, reassuring us that we did the right thing, and deep down, I know we did.  They say she is in a better place, and I really hope that she is.  Then I start over thinking things, as I'm known to do from time to time.  I always thought that animals also go to Heaven, and I when one of our pets died when I was growing up, my mom would comfort us by saying that our beloved pet had just rejoined some of our previous pets or family members that had passed on, and that they were being taken care of and loved.  When I think about Cameo, this pulls at my heart because there were no other pets that were her friends.  She didn't care about other dogs or cats or even other people...she just loved Jason, unconditionally, and he can't be up in Heaven with her.  So who is there for her?  How can she possibly be in a better place when her whole world revolved around Jason and nothing else, and they can no longer be together?  I know it's a horrible way to think, and I shouldn't do it to myself, but I can't help it.

My mind isn't right at the moment.  It's swirled full of emotions and memories.  I think that it isn't fair for a dog who was so sweet and trusting and loving with us, Jason especially, to have such a rough end to her life when she had to endure who knows what kind of abuse for the first years of her life.  In the end, we came to think that she had to be around 13 years old, and we only had 5 years with her.  That means that she spent around 7 years of her life, a good portion of it in an unhealthy situation before she was rescued.  I think about how it isn't fair.  She deserved better, she was a good dog.

Our last weekend with her, the Saturday previous to having to have her put down, we were all camping together at Newberry Crater.  It was a beautiful weekend and we sat out enjoying the sunset and then the starlight before calling it a night.  Once in the tent, Jason asked me to give Cameo her pill, which we wrap in some cheese or lunch meat for her.  I went to give it to her and the old dog bit me.  In her old age, she has lost most of her sight, so she began to start snapping when being fed a treat because she could no longer see it.  It also didn't help that she became more snappy when we got the other dog, as she was afraid that she might lose her treat to the younger dog if she wasn't fast enough.  While trying to give her her pill, she snapped out and caught my pinkie and chomped down.  She was not giving it up and I had to pry her teeth off my finger with my free hand, swearing throughout the process.  I had some indentations in my pinkie nail and she broke the skin just above the nail.  It hurt like hell and I was so mad at her for doing it.  Now I look at my pinkie and the little scab there, and I dread the day when the scab heals up and is gone.  I feel like it is my one little physical reminder that I keep with me always of our poor old dog who couldn't see and feared her treat being stolen.  If I could, I would keep the scab with me forever, but I know that the wound was not bad enough to scar, and that it will soon be gone.  The thought of that pains me.  Why should I dread the healing of a scab?  It is the strangest thing, but it feels like a small part of her is still here with me and I just don't want to let go.

For some reason, Cameo started to lose her hair in this last year, so we only put her collar on her when we were outside the house, as it was rubbing away all the hair around her neck.  When Jason rushed her off to the emergency clinic, we didn't think to grab her collar or leash as we just didn't need it since she couldn't even walk.  Both the collar and leash still sit in their normal spot in the top drawer by our patio doors, where we would grab it as we headed out to walk her.  I just don't have the heart to pull it out.  What am I to do with it?  I know we don't need it anymore, and there are better uses for that drawer, but I can't bring myself to even open the drawer and look at it.  I wonder if there will ever be a time when I can.  I can't fathom it at the moment - it's just too hard.

As I type now, I look up to see her photograph come up on our digital picture frame sitting in the office.  She looks happy in the photo, which is how I want to remember her.  I pray that she is in a better place and that she understands that we ended her fight out of love, and that we miss her and think of her often and fondly.  She is in our hearts, always.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


One year ago today I found myself mounting my faithful Bianchi steed in the stadium parking lot at UW in Seattle, intending (and maybe a little hoping and praying thrown in) to cross the state of Washington and arrive in Portland, Oregon the following day.  Before setting off, I had many a moment where I thought "204 miles of bicycling, are you crazy Summer?!  That's just wrong!"  But then I would think "10,000 people do this every year and 10,000 people can't be wrong.  Can they?"

The bug was planted in my ear a year earlier when a couple friends signed up for this ride.  I am fairly positive I thought them crazy at the time, but when I told my husband about what they were doing, he thought it was fantastic.  I remember him asking me to tell them that if they were thinking about doing it again the next year, to let him know as he would love to do that ride.  All I could think at the time was "Ack.  Two days on the seat of a bicycle.  No thanks."

Flash forward about six months.  2009 had quietly bowed out and 2010 tiptoed in, along with the realization that I was turning thirty that year.  Honestly, at this point in my life I had never been more out of shape and embarrassed with what I had let myself become.  I was moderately depressed and the idea of turning 30 did nothing to help.  I decided that nobody was going to be able to get me out of this rut that I had managed to get myself into, and it was up to me to get myself out of it.  I promised myself that I would turn 30 and feel good about who I was, and that 30 had NOTHING on me!

Of course I made these decisions, and a month later had done very little to accomplish my goal.  Then came the word that sign-ups for the Seattle to Portland bike ride were coming up.  Somewhere along the way, my train of thought went from "I'm going to get back into shape and turn 30 and feel good about it." to "I'm going to get back into shape, turn 30 and do AMAZING things!  Things I've always wanted to do, or thought I would never be able to do.  I am going to do them this year."  So naturally, I decided that riding my reduced-sized butt across the state of Washington would not only be an amazing accomplishment, but it would also be a great motivator.  So Jason and I signed ourselves up for the ride and paid our nearly $100 entry fees.  No backing out now!

So of course this meant that I needed to get my butt in shape, or I would inevitably end up dead along some stretch of road between Seattle and Portland.  Great motivation.

I joined some boot camp classes, and what my gym called the "Summer Fat Loss Blast Off."  Basically, my first boot camp class, Beginner's Bootcamp, was six weeks of cutting all alcohol, sugar, salt and processed foods out of our diet while tracking what we ate daily on a food log and attending some kick butt, cross training style classes twice a week.  I'll admit that the 'no sugar' rule was the hardest for me.  Admittedly I have a pretty bad sweet tooth, so I knew this would be hard.  I routinely drink coffee every morning, but I can't drink it without cream and sugar, so without sugar my coffee was out.  And no, splenda and the likes were also not allowed.  The hardest part came in realizing that sugar was in EVERYTHING.  Seriously, just try to find a cereal without sugar, or a pasta sauce.  I couldn't even have ketchup on a homemade lean hamburger because it's loaded with sugar.  Needless to say, it was quite the eye opener.

I followed this 6-week class with an advanced bootcamp class, which then shows you how to add things like sugar and alcohol back into your life in moderate doses.  The problem was that I simultaneously signed up for that "Summer Fat Loss Blast Off" program, in which we join a team lead by a physical trainer, and our teams would square off against each other to see who had the highest overall, combined weight loss percentage at the end of 6 weeks.  This program required working out everyday, anywhere from 30 or 40 minutes to up to 3 hours and also had some fairly strict diet regulations, which meant I still couldn't have sugar, salt, alcohol, etc.  That, combined with my Beginner Bootcamp resulted in 12 weeks without sugar, which was HUGE for me.  This was a serious test for my will power, and amazingly I surprised even myself with how strong I was.  In all honestly, I was the ONLY person on my team who didn't have a single piece of candy on Easter.  It really was a devastating Easter without Cadburry in my life, BUT, I survived!  I also vividly remember my entire office going across the street for margaritas one day to celebrate a job, and I alone stayed behind.  Not only was I not getting a margarita (which sounded amazing), but I had to look out the window and see all my colleagues sitting out on the patio enjoying the sunshine while I finished up work in the office.  Granted, I could have gone home for the day or could have just gone and sat with them and drank some iced tea or water, but I had stuff to do and had to cram work in when I could so that I had time to do my 3 hours of gym time that were often required after work.  It also seemed that anyone and everyone who baked was bringing goodies into the office.  Did they all know that I wasn't allowed to have them and liked to watch me sigh at their delicious looking cookies and cupcakes as I walked by?  Seriously...I amazed myself.  I learned that if I had something set in my mind, that I was going to abide by it.  It also helped that the "Summer Fat Loss Blast Off" was a competition, and I am extremely competitive.

At the end of the 6-week fat loss program I lost 10.6 lbs, 3.5% body fat, 1/4" off my neck, 2-3/4" in my chest, 5" IN MY WAIST, 1-1/4" in my hips, 2-3/4" in my thighs, 1/2" in my calves, and and 1-1/2" in my upper arms.  There wasn't a ton of weight lost, but there was a ton of toning.  In total between bootcamp and the fat loss program, I lost about 24 pounds, and had MUCH more energy and stamina, AND I learned to run.

I've never been a fan of running and was in fact one of those who would say "only if someone is chasing me," but I found trail running and fell in love and at the end of my fat loss program, actually ran 9 miles.  For this reason, I signed myself up to run my first 10k on my birthday.  It was fantastic and felt like a great way to kick the big 3-0 in the pants.  Take that thirty!  Even when I was 17 and in the best shape of my life I couldn't run 6 miles, and definitely would not have done so willingly, especially on my birthday.

With all this, I was still nervous about my Seattle to Portland (STP) ride.  I had got a great deal on the previous year's model Bianchi road bike at a local bike shop at the beginning of the year and had taken it out for quite a few rides, getting comfortable with it.  With all the other exercise I had been doing though, I was nowhere close to what the training schedule said I should be riding, and when it came time to head up to Seattle for STP, the longest ride I had been on to date was a mere 36-miler.  Part of me was okay with this.  I had this thought that I could do a 100 mile ride and hate it, and then I would be stuck dreading the STP ride.  I thought that I would rather go into it ignorantly blissful about the whole thing so that I could look forward to it.  Should I come to hate myself half way through, well, then I would just have too keep pushing, and I knew I would finish.

So there I am, a year ago, in the parking lot with thousands of people, preparing to set off for what would surely be my biggest adventure.  Excited?  Yes.  Nervous?  Of course, but there is something exhilarating about doing something so big and being a part of something like this with so many other people.  So we cued up and soon we were riding through the streets of Seattle.  Quite the spectacle to see these normally bustling roads closed down to cars and taken over by bicycles.  The scenery was beautiful and the weather started off a little chilly, but the early morning marine layer soon burned off and the sun felt good.

Our first food stop was a spectacle.  It was still early in the ride and so many people were there.  Thousands of bicycles scattered across the grass as people stood in line at the port-a-potties and the food tables.  It is amazing the sense of camaraderie you get with thousands of strangers when you all set off on an adventure such as this.  And let me tell you, there are some amazing people who partake.  We came across a couple paraplegics riding bicycles that you pedal with your arms.  Seeing them crank up a hill was inspiring to say the least.  There was also a guy on a unicycle...such determination as those things only have one speed.  We also came across a group that had built this contraption of three bikes somehow linked together with one steering wheel.  It is hard to describe, but they always got lots of attention when they rolled into one of the rest stops.

By the time we rolled into camp that first night, I was exhausted and excited to have come thus far.  We camped just a little beyond the halfway point, which helped because we knew that we had less distance to travel the second day.  Mind games...we knew how to play them.  Setting up our tent among the hundreds at the park we stayed at was quite the sight, and the spaghetti feed hit the spot.  We sat out in the sun, gorging ourselves with real food (we have been eating bread, fruit, cheese, energy bars, cookies, etc. all day long) and couldn't have been happier.  Getting out of our padded bike shorts and into some real clothes after a shower was bliss.  Fed, clean and exhausted, we slept like logs. 

The next morning we got up and had ourselves some pancakes, ham and eggs and packed up camp to hit the road again.  The only problem was that my right knee was killing me, which was funny because my left one was the one that had gotten a little achy at the end of our ride the previous day.  We got onto our bikes, and needless to say, our tailbones were none-too-pleased about it either (seeing as how both Jason and I have fractured our tailbones in the past).  We decided that we were definitely going to need some drugs to get through this second day.  About 20 miles outside of camp, we rolled into a little town with a store that was open on Sunday morning.  Bless them.  We got some drugs, and thank goodness we did because that was pretty much what got me through the day.

At our first food stop, I was really looking forward to getting off the bike for a while and laying out.  Unfortunately, it was still freezing.  The clouds hadn't burned off yet for the day and there was a slight breeze.  This was fine for while we were on the bikes, but armed only with a very light weight, very breathable jacket (thin enough to compact down to the size of a baseball to store in my small Camelbak backpack) it was far too cold to be sitting still.  Laying on the grass shaking in the cold turned out to be surprisingly less appealing than being on the bike and warm, so as soon as we finished getting some food into us, we left.

Stopping for a bathroom break a little later in the day, we decide to check the air pressure in our tires to find that one of Jason's tires has a small ballooned spot in the side wall.  Not good.  Armed with spare tubes but not spare tires, Jason talks with the bike repair tent there to find that they had only high end tires for sale, and they didn't take credit cards and I didn't even have my debit/ATM card to withdraw money with.  So with a limited amount of cash between the two of us, Jason takes the advice of another bicyclist and folds up a dollar bill inside the wall of his tire to add some stability and to keep the tube from pushing out on that weakened spot of the sidewall.  This seems to work, luckily, but I'm not thrilled with the idea of him riding around on a faulty tire.  If it decided to blow, it could mean a pretty nasty wreck at the speeds we were going.  Luckily about 10 or 15 miles down the road, we came across another bike repair tent with tires we could afford, so we get Jason fixed up and back in business.  All this tire repair business ended up taking about an hour out of our day, but we trudged on.

One of the most memorable moments of the ride was on the second day as we crossed the Longview bridge from Washington into Oregon.  We reached the base of the bridge and again were cued up on a side road with hundreds of bicyclists.  Once enough of us were there, they closed the bridge to car traffic and sent us up and over and on our way.  It was amazing to see that many people on bicycles taking over the bridge.  It was a slow process chugging up and over, and the bursts of cheers as we passed under the 'Welcome to Oregon' sign had me simply vibrating from head to toe.  On the Washington side, there wasn't much of a view of the bridge, but once we crossed over to Oregon and looked back, it was incredible to see how high above the water it was and to know that we just pedaled over it.  With that many people and that much excitement going over the bridge, I didn't even realize at the time the amount of climbing I was doing.  Now, every time I drive over that bridge, I reminisce about the time I pedaled my way across.

About three quarters of the way through day two, I was thrilled to reach the last food stop.  The sun had come out and I was exhausted at this point.  Some food and recharging in the sun was exactly what I needed.  I was still a little slow coming out of that food stop, but as soon as I saw Portland up in the distance, I got my second wind.  I'm pretty sure we hit every single red light on our way through Portland to the finish line, but the fact that I was in Portland, that I had, for all intents and purposes made it to Portland had me smiling from ear to ear.  Naturally we get stopped at the stop light one block down from the finish line.  We can see it.  We can hear them because they can see us and are cheering us on.  When that light turned green, I clipped my foot back into my pedal and had forgotten about any and all pain I was experiencing as I closed the gap, 50, then 30, then 15, then only 5 feet from crossing the finish line.

As I crossed, my throat got tight and my vision blurred as I got a little choked up at the thought that I DID IT!!  Not even a year ago I considered this an impossible feat - something only a crazy person would do.  Well call me crazy, I got it done!  I don't think I've ever been more proud to finish something.  Sure lots of people graduate high school and college, and I'm not about to say that college was by any means easy, but who rides their bicycle 204 miles across the state of Washington?  Well, I guess 10,000 people every year, which is a lot.  Still, I had to overcome both physical and emotional boundaries to get to that point - to get to that finish line.  It was a life changer for me.  I can do anything I set my mind to, I just have to want it bad enough. 

So my question for myself and everyone who may be reading this is, what do I want in my life and how badly do I want it?  Believe in yourself because nine times out of ten, you are the only one standing in your way.

Best of luck to all my bicycling friends who are pedaling their way across Washington as I type.  Enjoy the adventure!

(To see the professional photos I couldn't afford to buy of me riding, follow this link - http://www.marathonfoto.com/index.cfm?RaceOID=28052010M1&LastName=OMAN&BibNumber=7081&Mailing=25048)

Friday, January 21, 2011


I spent my childhood doing a great many things; from playing dolls to imagining I was an Indian living by the neighboring stream to practicing gymnastics and even pretending I was a mermaid swimming in our pool.  Among all this I also managed to find time to read.  Try as I might, I can only really remember reading one book series through my childhood, and that was The Baby-sitters Club.  I was particular about what I enjoyed reading then, and I can't say that much has changed from then to now.

I went through what I'll call a 'reading for fun drought' for a large portion of my youth.  I can't recall exactly when it started, but I would wager that it was somewhere around 6th or 7th grade - probably when I outgrew my precious Baby-sitters Club.  Through junior high and high school, I found myself wrapped up in other hobbies and interests to keep me busy and yet I still found myself try on a handful of occasions to sit down and read...to no avail.  Maybe it was my book choices, but I wasn't drawn into the stories.  Again I tried in college and found that I could be really interested in the story and yet I would read a couple pages and realize that I had no idea what I just read.  Crazy right?  It's like my brain couldn't or wouldn't allow me to concentrate on one thing.  I had trained my brain to multitask...unconsciously.  I would be reading and a page or so later find that I was thinking about ideas for the project I was working on, or going over the grocery list in my head, and then I would snap back to the story and realize that even though I had been reading the words on the page, I didn't comprehending them.  My mind was elsewhere so what I read didn't stick.  This would lead to frustration as I would go back and reread over and over, till eventually I lost my patience and would give up and put the book down.

I would hear about my mom or friends really enjoying a good book and become jealous.  I wanted to read, but believed I had some kind of attention deficit disorder that was keeping me doing so.  Finally being done with school and with the wedding come and gone, I decided to pick up a book and give reading another shot.  Funny thing, just as I was contemplating this idea, my mother-in-law sent me a chain letter of sorts.  Now, I'm not usually one to pass on chain mail, and honestly neither was she, but this one was different, interesting and fun.  The idea was that you send an old book from your library to to the person's address included with the letter.  Then you copy the letter and send it out to a handful of people with the name and address of the person who sent it to you, and your friends would then each send a book to that person, and they would send it out to their friends, who would in turn send me books.  In the end, if everything went perfectly, you were supposed to receive something like 25 new (used) books.  Well, this sounded like a perfect way to jump into reading, since I had absolutely no idea where to start on my own.  Needless to say, others weren't quite so enthused with the chain mail, so I think I only ended up with 2 books.  Still, somewhere to start.  So I read those books, and I actually quite enjoyed them, but then what?  Libraries and bookstores had SO MANY BOOKS!  I didn't even know what section to start in so picking out a new book became an overwhelming task.

I started talking to some friends, who were my husband's coworkers' wives, and we decided to put together a book club.  Yay, now I have a healthy source of book recommendations and a reason to get together and socialize!  (I'm all for girl's nights.)  The book club was EXACTLY what I needed.  I've read so many different styles and types of books over the course of the last year, it's been amazing.  To give you and idea of the diversity of what we've read, here are the books that I can remember off the top of my head:

1.  The Symbol by Dan Brown
2.  The Host by Stephanie Meyer
3.  The Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons (A graphic Novel) 
4.  Are You There, Vodka?  It's Me, Chelsea.  by Chelsea Handler
5.  One Thousand White Women:  The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
6.  Morrigan's Cross by Nora Roberts(Book one of the Circle Trilogy)
7.  Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
8.  Fallen by Lauren Kate

Quite the variety and I've really enjoyed each of these books on different levels.  I will admit that I had a bit of difficulty getting through The Watchmen even though I've seen the movie and really enjoyed it.  The book was even on Time's Top 100 Reads list, but definitely doesn't make my top reads list.  Still, there were parts I really enjoyed and the whole concept of a graphic novel was really interesting to me.

Being that my book club is comprised completely of mom's - with the exception of yours truly - our schedules are a little erratic.  We started with good intentions of meeting every month, then it turned into every two months, and we pretty much didn't meet the whole of summer break last year.  This was causing some problems for me because suddenly I found myself addicted to reading and really valued having recommended reading.  How strange life is.  My opinion on reading for fun has done a complete 180, and I now find that I have a hard time falling asleep without doing some reading first.  I look forward to going to bed and being able to curl up with a good book. I might add that this is all much to my husband's dismay since I no longer cuddle up with him, but instead prop myself up on my alternative down pillow and settle in with my book of choice.

Since I was finishing my book club selections long before our next meeting, I had to find other books to read to fill the time.  Luckily, Morrigan's Cross by Nora Roberts was one of our early selections, and I quickly obtained the other three books in the series and thoroughly enjoyed them all.  I fell in love with Nora Roberts and found myself buying up every used copy of one of her books that I stumbled across (and there are plenty out there to be had).  There was something about Nora's characters I could relate to.  They were people I wanted to hang out with.  How did this happen?  I went from not being able to focus on what I'm reading, to being wrapped up in the story, to the point where I feel like I'm a part of these characters lives and the characters in turn are a part of mine.  Dare I say they became friends? 

Does that make me weird?  A little crazy?  Perhaps.  Truth is, when I finish a book that I really enjoy, especially a series when you really spend time with the characters, I get a little sad when it's over.  It's as if I just made some really great and interesting new friends, and then they all moved away and they never write or call.  What happens to them?  After the story is over, it is rarely truly over.  Not many stories end with the characters dying after a long full life.  I think the only movie (and I have to say movie because I haven't actually read the book...yet) I've seen where both the main characters pass away in their old age in the end is The Notebook.  Great movie, and I'm sure an excellent book, but most of the books I've been reading end with two people falling in love, finally coming to terms with the fact that they are madly in love and deciding to spend their lives with each other.  If' you've read any Nora Roberts, this is pretty much the plot line of all her books.  Two people fall in love and one, or both, hate to admit it, but in the end they always realize they can't live without each other...blah, blah, blah.  So predictable!  Why do I read this?  Better yet, why do so many read this?  Nearly every one of her books have been #1 New York Times best seller.  I, no WE - and when I say we, I mean the female population - are obsessed with love.  Is there anything better than falling in love?  Anything more eye opening than realizing that you simply cannot exist without this person in your life, and anything scarier than realizing that you have no idea if they feel the same way?  If they are in as deep?  Is there anything more soul crushing than losing your love?  It is such a dynamic time, and when you find that person that you can't live without, and learn that they feel the same way, life doesn't get any better.  So as we get further along in the relationship, the love is there and it grows as you learn to appreciate one another, but the dramatic ups and downs of new love tend to peter out.  The relationship and the feelings are no longer shiny and new and exciting.  The feelings may be stronger than ever, but nothing compares to young love.  That is why we read these books.  That is why Nora Roberts has well over 150 best sellers.  I pray that Jason and I will grow old and senile together (some of us becoming senile sooner than others) and I will never have to enter the dating world ever again.  But I can't deny that finding love is exhilarating, so I get my 'fix' through fiction.  Well written, relatable fiction.

I love the characters, I love the stories, but it pains me when I get to the last page and it's over.  I'm sad to lose those friends, to not be at their wedding, to never know if they started a family.  I know some people read and reread books over and over again, and I've kept all my books in the event that I get the urge someday to reread something, but it won't change how I'll feel in the end when I once again lose touch with my revisited friends.  When I'm still no closer to knowing what the rest of their lives hold for them.

Does this happen to anyone else?  Am I alone in these thoughts and feelings?  I've always been the emotional and sentimental type - which you would have some idea what I mean if you read my previous post about the holidays and the poor, little, unselected Christmas trees sitting in the tree lot on Christmas Eve - and I tend to have feelings for things that most normal people don't seem to care about.  So maybe I am a little screwed up inside.  Maybe I need to go get some help.  Do they have a group for people like me? FFA?  Fictional Friends Anonymous?  The first step is admitting I have a problem right?  Check.  Now what?  Oh to hell with it!  I've found that I love to read again, and read I shall!  So, to those few who may actually read this psycho, rambling non-sense, I'm calling it a night and am heading upstairs to curl up in my wonderfully amazing bed (which you would know about if you read my blog on my new mattress) and fully intend to crack open a new (used) Nora Roberts book and make some new friends.  I already know how it will end - love on their end, heartbreak on mine - but it is the journey that I enjoy the most!  Cheers!