Sunday, May 25, 2014


My first grade class photo

Every so often a series of events triggers some old memories ... actually, everything seems to trigger memories.  Occasionally the memories triggered are pleasant without the pervasive breakdown or crash at the end.

We were sorting through old yard tool and other miscellaneous junk which has been stored in our garage and two storage sheds.  Much of this stuff is older than me ... and possibly a bit more decrepit than me as well.

This job is long overdue ... not simply because much of this could have been and likely should have been thrown away years ago, but also for the fact that we removed the two old metal sheds to make room for a slightly larger and more durable shed.  All this work has been delayed by schedule issues and unbearable heat over the past few weeks.

We have an arrangement with our neighbor to share a huge dumpster for the job.  This is the construction site sized cargo container dumpster, and it is 3/4 full by now.

Pam, my mom and I have had little trouble with the smaller and lighter items, but there were many large and heavy that we could not handle alone.  Two years ago we would have needed help with these items.  Now, with my mom still recovering from back surgery, Pam's right arm in pretty much constant pain and likely 1/3 of my strength gone from the estrogen this help wasn't simply wanted to make the job move faster, it was a necessity to even attempt it.

Thank God Timmy and his friend Kyle were able to pitch in a couple hours of work.  Without them most of the junk would still be sitting in our yard.  They even helped remove the tiny nectarine stump because it was at the edge of where the new shed will sit ... well, to be truthful they dug and hacked the roots for several minutes, breaking an axe handle in the process, but they made progress that we ladies couldn't make..

After the helpers left we started leveling the area where the shed will sit.  Not a difficult task ... I've used my favorite flat bladed shovel to level out many areas before.  The soil was damp and would easily scrape the mud and get the job done.

I remember this mud ... sticky and thick ... like the clay I used to try and work on the potter's wheel in the Discovery Room back in elementary school.  I was not patient nor talented enough to work with clay ... likely I'm still not.

As I scraped Pam raked the excess dirt off the area.  She was using my mom's favorite, light weight rake ... she broke it ... oops.  That, of course is when my mom came out to help ... double oops.

As we worked on the area where the back shed sat the job became a little more difficult ... I'm guessing my diminishing strength played a role in this, but we needed to get that patch of ground down to the level of the pavers in front.

I scraped down to a layer of decaying plastic.  This was the plastic my dad laid down when he assembled the first shed back in the 70s.

The roots, possibly from the nectarine tree, were making the job more tedious.  I cut several of them with the shovel.

As my mom raked over a recently scraped area she saw something sticking out of the ground.

A spoon ...

An old teaspoon buried for likely 40 years.

Most likely it was dropped there when my brother, my sister and I were eating something under the grape arbor.

I remember the grape arbor.  My brother and I would play a multitude of games in the mud beneath those winding vines.

He is four years older than me and likely did not want to play some of the games, but between us we managed to find ways to get the mud caked on ourselves and have fun doing it.  Many a plastic army man were killed in the mini mud forts we made.

Maybe the spoon was one of the tools we used to help us dig.

Anyway ...

The remains of the battle

Once the area was pretty level we decided to finish off the stump.  Most of the work was done, so all we had to do was loosen it a bit more and pry it out.

I hacked through what seemed like the one remaining root and began to pry ... it moved.

I asked Pam to pry with the pickaxe while I wedged my shovel under the edge and tried to remove the uncooperative lump of wood.

It moved more.  I could feel it giving, and giving and ... snap!!

I felt something hit my shoulder as I tried to maintain my balance.  I was holding the broken handle of my favorite shovel.


This was now a battle of attrition and I had no intentions on giving up.

It took pretty much everything I had, but eventually, between Pam, my mom and I, we dislodged the stump ... and I had the satisfaction of holding my defeated foe in my muddy, sore hands.

By now you have either forgotten the title of this post or you are scratching your head wondering if I have lost my mind.

While we were clearing some boxes from the garage we stumbled upon a box of stuff from our apartment when we first moved out here.

There are far too many items we found to talk about them all, but one truly revved up the memory machine.

Pam found a belt in Timmy's stuff.  It was so small, it was obviously made for a young child.

Timmy didn't remember it.

Pam said, "It must be yours.  Your name is on it and there's a dog ..."

"That's not just a dog," I interrupted.  "That's Scamp."

"You mean Tramp ... as in Lady and the Tramp?"  Pam inspected the images on the leather.

"No ... Scamp.  It was a comic strip in the 70s."  My mouth kept going, but my mind was worlds away.

My sister was making many leather items.  I believe it was a class in high school, but I am not positive.  I began reliving the moment as she measured my waist, asked how I wanted the belt to look and even game me a choice of buckles to use.

I was not used to having choices like this ... I was excited.

Days later she brings the belt home.  It was very stiff and difficult to thread through the belt loops on my pants.  I am now having vague memories of being so frustrated that I could not get the belt on that I was nearly in tears ... but my sister helped me.

I wore that belt whenever I could ... then I outgrew it.

I have no clue how it survived all these years, let alone how it came to be in Timmy's belongings from our old residence.  So many of my childhood favorites wound up disappearing, being ruined or simply thrown away because I no longer wanted or needed them.

Smack - my favorite teddy bear.  He had a music box inside, but I played it so often it eventually broke.

My fuzzy blanket - I would likely still have this security blanket if it weren't for the fact that it was literally unraveling in my hands.

Ween - a stuffed wiener dog I bought at a rummage sale.  He was made of a corduroy material ... except his ears and tail. 

Far too many things to mention ... far too many memories to cover in a dozen blog posts.

To find my old Scamp belt after all this time ... one of my childhood favorites ... something made specifically for me ... this is beyond words.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

It's just like riding a bike

I began this blog two years ago ... more than 2 years ago.  I thought I would have something exciting or profound to write ... something that would embody my journey with vivid clarity ... something that could voice some sort of inspiring success and accomplishment.

But I don't.

May 6 2014
in my office at work
*** Early summer 1974?? maybe 1975? ***

Truth is I am not positive what year this was as the process of my bicycle riding lessons began several years earlier, and were very long and ill planned.  The fact that the bike I was learning on was a full sized men' three speed road bike may have been part of the issue ... the fact that I was so frightened of testing my balance on anything other than a steady plank or other apparatus was another issue.

I was very young the first time my sister hoisted me onto that bike.  My feet did not touch the pedals ... even when I perched on the top tube, but sitting on that uncomfortable frame was the only way to grab the handlebars.

My brother and sister steadied me as they pushed me across the lawn.  The bouncing greatly increased the discomfort of sitting on the steel.

I had a bit more success on the girls bike.  My feet still didn't touch the pedals from the seat, but I discovered that I could stand on the pedals in a strange squatting position and keep my grip on the handlebars.  The issue was that I needed to lean side to side to generate enough force to push the pedals ... but I did push the pedals ... and the bike did move as a result of my pedaling.  The fact that it was swaying side to side so uneasily did not bother me ... until I needed to turn.
Very similar to the old men's bike

I cannot recall the exact details of the fall, just a moment frozen in time while the pedal stuck into the grass and the bicycle made a semicircle around it ... then I was on the ground.

But this is not the story I set out to tell ... it is a bit of history leading to this memory ...

My brother and I spent some time working on the bicycles to ready them for summer.  He made many adjustments, oiled anything that looked like it may move and killed several spiders ... I mimicked his actions having no clue what I was doing ... except I knew well how to kill spiders while trying not to flinch or make any noise.

Although I had an inquisitive mind and could figure out how to take things apart and put them back together (like my eldest brother's tape recorder ... I figure it's safe to admit now as he is 2000+ miles away and probably does not need it any more ... but it worked perfectly when I was done with it ... in fact, I fixed the tuner on the radio) ... ...

ummm ... where was I?

Despite my curious nature of things, the actual understanding of anything mechanical ... or more precisely, following instructions and comprehending the terms or names of parts was akin to listening to a foreign language and being expected to converse.

All the boys in class would talk about spindles and sprockets, lugs and lockrings ... forks, cassettes, bearings and bottom brackets ... ... I didn't get it ... but when I turned the bike upside-down and turned the pedals I saw how everything worked ... and it didn't matter what the parts were called.

So we finally finished tuning up the old bikes, and my brother jumps on his and starts riding a loop into the garage then out, partway down the driveway and back into the garage.

Eventually I joined in.

Similar to our old women's bike
the top tube is more angled on this pic
I had grown several inches since my first lessons.  I could now properly reach the pedals from the seat, but the handlebars were still a bit of a stretch ... but that didn't matter.  Within moments we were riding in and out of the garage ... in a figure 8 pattern on the driveway ... in opposite directions.

There was likely a safe space between us as we passed each other at the top and bottom of the path, and as we crossed in the middle, but it seemed we were separated by mere inches.

I was having fun ...

We were having fun ...

After several minutes and dozens of laps I was heading out of the garage and back down the slight hill.  Something was wrong and I knew it.  We were too far apart when we crossed and I was at a different position on the hill.

In the second or less it took to reach the turning point thousands of thoughts swarmed my mind ... "how do I correct this?""am I going to crash?""the blacktop driveway will scrape me up really bad!""why is that hawk circling over the barranco?""I hope Rick doesn't get hurt.""I don't want to hit the gate!""DO SOMETHING!""DON'T JUST SIT HERE!!"

My brain locked ... my body froze ... I hit him.

All I had to do was move the handlebars a degree to the right and I would have missed him and hit the gate, but I hit his rear tire.

He was upset ... he had the right to be upset.

I felt so stupid ... I should feel stupid ... I am stupid.  There was no way to explain what I was thinking, what happened, or why I didn't try to move ... I was embarrassed and stupid.

In a big way this is the story of my life.

I feel apprehensive ... I don't always understand the technical explanations of what is expected of me.  I study ... I observe ... I practice ... I mess around and eventually feel competent.

I have always admitted that I am very quick to become extremely mediocre at most things I try ... then I crash.  Just like on the bikes ... I crash.

It makes me wonder what is wrong with me that I constantly hit this wall ... why I cannot remember just the fun times ... the successes without the failure that eventually ensues scarring the moment.

My counselor, the company big wigs, my coworkers for many years keep telling how smart, intelligent or capable I am ... ... I just don't see it.

Whatever it is that most people have that drives them to success is apparently broken in me.

I can handle being mediocre ... I don't know if I can deal with many more crashes in my life.