Saturday, June 21, 2008

Show and Tell

In an attempt to lighten the mood around here, I thought it would be good to participate in Mel's weekly Show and Tell, and to talk about something that makes me happy (aside from my husband and kids, of course!)

I think I've mentioned it before on this blog, but early last year I decided to train for my first triathlon. I have been running competitively for years and was looking for something to mix it up a bit, and was very excited about getting into triathlons. I had a VERY old bike that my father, a big cyclist himself, had bought me years and years ago, so I was looking to buy a new bike that didn't weigh a million pounds when I got pregnant (let's not even talk about the fact that I got pregnant spontaneously when training vigorously for a triathlon, when during my six rounds of IVF I freaked out about even a light jog on the treadmill). So buying a new bike- and training for a triathlon- went onto the back burner.

I was determined to do that triathlon, so after Smiley was born I signed up again for this year's race. But I still needed that bike, knowing that I can get competitive in these races and I would not be able to be competitive at all on my old, million-pound bike. DH was all for me buying a new bike, but I felt guilty since I'm not working and, hence, not making the money around here. So I made a deal with myself: I'd save up money I made doing work for my father (he owns his own company and I do some work from home for him from time to time) and when I had enough to buy a bike, I'd buy it with that money. It made me feel better, since I felt like the bike was a splurge and DH doesn't splurge on anything for himself, so at least it would be a splurge paid for by "extra" money I made on my own.

Over the course of six months, I earned enough working for my dad to buy a decent entry-level road bike. It's not top of the line, but I figure I can always invest in a more expensive bike if I really get into racing and once I'm working again. But it is a great bike and I love it already. It has clipless pedals, which means you wear shoes with cleats on the bottom and "clip" into the pedals-- so your feet are actually stuck to the pedals (helps with efficiency) and you have to learn to clip out so you don't topple over when you stop.

I was scared about learning to ride a "real" bike, with the clipless pedals, but excited. And over the course of the past two months I've really gotten used to the bike and LOVE riding. My father and I used to ride together when I was much younger and it reminds me of those rides-- a special time we shared together-- and gives me the chance to ride with him again (we went out together a few weeks ago). I love having that shared interest with him. It also reminds me that I can do things that might scare me at first. Plus, I feel like a pretty bad@ss in my cleats, helmet, sunglasses, cycling jersey and gloves. And I love whizzing past guys.

This morning I went out on my first group ride-- a 55-mile ride that turned into a 60-mile ride because of a wrong turn-- and it was exhilarating. But the best part of the ride was who ended up riding with me. I got to the ride start and was a little intimidated to see that I was the only woman on the ride with a clearly VERY fast group of guys. But at the last minute before we left, a woman pulled up and got out with her bike. I didn't look at her closely but I did heave a sigh of relief and thought, "thank G-d there's another woman here!" It wasn't until I pulled up a little closer that she looked at me and said my name. It was a very, very dear friend of mine who I used to work with and who I had not seen in over two years. It was kind of an eerie irony that just a few days ago she sent me an email and we had been corresponding back and forth about triathlons, cycling, etc. In the course of the emails we both mentioned we were going to start riding with a group, but it never occured to us to compare notes as we don't leave that close to each other and I assumed she would be riding with a group closer to her house.

It turned out that we were the slowest in the group (those guys were not only fast, they were insane) so we rode the entire 4-hour ride together and had a chance to catch up. I really don't know what I would have done without her-- I would have been riding the entire way-- imagine farmlands and cornfields-- by myself and would have freaked out after missing the turn that we missed (and subsequently found-- but not until we stopped to ask a nice man who had a pickup truck and offered to drive us and our bikes back to the point where we missed the turn-off...yes, go ahead and yell at us for accepting a ride from a stranger but I would have NEVER done that by myself and not without knowing we both had our cellphones with us). So we had quite the adventure and a great ride. And it was so special to me to be able to catch up with her. I am not one to believe in "divine intervention" but I have to feel that someone was looking out for me today by sending her to a ride out of her area, the first group ride for both of us, on a ride where I would have ended up riding by myself if she wasn't there.

So my Show and Tell today is my new bike-- it's not only a bike, but it's taught me I can be strong and confident, learn new (kind of intimidating) things and it is the reason I ended up reconnecting with a very special friend today.

No Closure

So I went to the funeral mass for our neighbor and friend this week. I was hoping it would bring me some closure- or maybe more accurately some comfort or answers- because I just can't seem to shake this sadness that her death has brought. It's actually like our whole neighborhood is in a state of shock and mourning.

While it was comforting to come together with friends and support each other at this sad time, I left the service still haunted by the events of this past week, and now with a new sense of sadness because of the unforgettable sight of her husband and young children (especially her 8-year old daughter) following the pall into (and out of) the church, with such grief and pain in their faces. I don't think there are many things sadder than watching the young widower and children of a mother, and imagining what they face every morning when they wake up and realize that their wife and mother is no longer with them.

It's going to take a long time for the shock and sadness to wear off around here, but I do hope that the sense of gratitude that her death has brought sticks around for a long time. It's a crummy way to have to learn such an important lesson.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I have a neighbor, L, who I became friendly with a little over a year ago when she was expecting twins. They were "surprise" twins...she and her husband have two older children (one going into kindergarten and the other already in elementary school) and wanted a third but were going to have three and four. She was excited, though, and we spoke a few times about preparations for twins, joining our local Parents of Multiples club, etc. And then the unimaginable happened: she went in for her scheduled c-section, a few days after a regular check-up that showed both babies doing well, and there were no heartbeats. She lost both twins at term. It was my worst nightmare and I felt so heartbroken for her. I saw her about 6 months after their passing and she was pregnant again, this time with a singleton. She told me that they never found any reason for the twins' stillbirth, except that they were identical and there was a chance it was twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome that went undetected or occur ed so quickly that it couldn't have been caught. So she was somewhat relieved to be carrying "just one" and mentioned that she'd be monitored more carefully this time and the baby would be delivered early just to be safe.

Earlier this week another neighbor friend of mine told me that the baby-- a girl-- was born healthy but that L was in ICU, sedated, because she had some serious complications from the birth related to hemorrhaging. And a few minutes ago I got the call to tell me she had passed away. I am in shock and heartbroken once again. How can one family have to endure two tragedies like this in a lifetime, never mind the course of one year? How can a husband and children live a normal, happy life after something like this? What can anyone do to help them cope with the pain?

I feel helpless. We didn't know the family well, but enough that I want to do something, even if just a token gesture, to let them know that L will always be remembered and that they have a community that loves them to help them through this horrible time and beyond. Nothing anyone can do will bring L back, I know that. But is there something we can do to show our support?