Is This Healthy? Or Am I Kidding Myself?


The thing about summer is that all of the veggies are amazing.

Right?

It’s July now. So I can drive up the street to the local farmstand where I can buy fresh, buttery lettuce, fresh peas, tomatoes still warm from the sun, cucumbers that are as crisp as breadsticks.

I can run up to the weekly farmer’s market and get garlic scapes, fresh spring onions, tender, fresh kale.

I can go home and microwave some beets, then cool them and mix them into all those fresh, tender greens with a bit of goat cheese.

Holy delicious.

I am the healthiest eater in the world from June through October.

But does all that delicious green goodness buy me extra time on this earth if I refuse to touch salad in the winter?

I mean, I try. Every single year, I try to eat salad in the winter. I buy grocery store lettuce (bitter!) and grocery store cukes (flabby!) and grocery store tomatoes (tasteless!).  And they sit in the fridge until they begin to liquify, at which point I give up until the following summer.

So am I still healthy if I sort of stock up for six months? Can I still call myself a healthy eater if I only eat roasted carrots, beets, potatoes through the fall? Is it still a good veggie side dish if it’s roasted butternut squash with butter and real maple syrup?

My theory is that New Englanders learned to eat a whole pile of greens all summer (I DO!). And then they learned to preserve summer veggies like corn and tomatoes and beans (I DO THAT, TOO!) so in the winter they could eat pig fat while telling themselves “Well, at least we have veggies put up in the old root cellar.” (YUP, THAT’S ME.)

The early New England settlers managed to survive without eating hothouse tomatoes. They didn’t die of scurvy just because they refused to eat hothouse kale.

And I won’t either.

Right?

By shucking the corn and taking the peas out of their pods all spring and summer, I am earning my way into ‘healthy eater’s heaven’, aren’t I?

I love summer food. The peaches, the cherry tomatoes, the ripe berries all over the yard. I love it. I could forage all summer on the garden delights that surround me, as long as I could get a free pass to eat pork and butter my bread all winter long.

What do you think?

Am I delusional, or can I really save up my health points before the cold New England nights set in once again?

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Worth The Effort?


What is it that gives a person “worth?” I’m old enough, and self aware enough, to know that worth is not measured by money.

Hey, I was a teacher! I’m married to a therapist. Money has never been our goal.

But what is it that lets us move through our days with a sense of self-worth?

At the tender and transitional age of 61, I’m struggling with this question once again.

You see, I used to find my sense of worth from my work. I have always worked, and had a purpose.

When I was only 22, I was a Russian interpreter. I took new immigrants to the doctor. I sat in therapy sessions, helping patient and doctor to understand each other. I helped with surgery, translating what the doctor wanted the patient to do during cataract surgery and cardiac catheterization.

I even helped to interpret at a baby’s birth. I was valued. I felt my worth.

Later, I became a speech pathologist, a job I held for 20 years. I helped families learn how to communicate with their disabled children. I helped those children to find their voices.  I was valued. I knew that what I was doing was helpful and important.

And after many years I became a teacher. I taught fifth graders. I was a fun teacher. I was funny. I made learning interesting. No matter what, I will always know that I was very good at my job.

I felt so good about myself in those years. I felt worthy.

Then things changed. I lost my teaching job, and moved into retirement.

And this is where the question of worth has reappeared. When I have my granddaughter in my arms, I know that I am the most important person on earth. Ellie needs me. Ellie loves me. I am NONNI.

But it’s summer.

Ellie is home with her Mom and Dad and new baby brother. They are close by. I see them almost every day. I love them all more than I could ever express.

But.

Now I have no role. I have no job. I have no way to measure my worth in this lovely world.

So, dear blog readers, I guess I’m fishing. (Phishing?)

Now I wonder, is a gray haired lady still useful if she isn’t physically able to manage her garden by herself? Is she still worth keeping if her husband works hard every day while she stays home and cleans things?

Does it count that this house has NEVER been this clean? Or that the closets are completely organized?

What do I do with myself on these long days? How do I define myself?

Is it legal to actually have three months of vacation while everyone else is working?

I swear, in September I will be back to working hard. I’ll have both two year old Ellie and three month old Johnnie. My arms, my heart and my day will all be full.

But.

What about now? Do I earn some kind of Donna Reed points for the incredibly clean kitchen cabinets and the very fluffy towels in the bathroom? I was raised by one of the first feminists. I know that just being a “homemaker” isn’t an actual role in life.

But what else do I do while I’m waiting to go back to Nonni extraordinaire? How do I feel good about so many days where nothing is actually accomplished?

Sigh.

I have to admit. I think I’m nuts. I hate the fact that I do this to myself.

On the other hand, if anyone needs any alphabetized spices, come on over.

 

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Poor useless Nonni

Summertime, and everything is different.


For all my life, the end of the school year meant a celebration of freedom. Summer! Cook outs! Baseball and hot dogs and fireflies and s’mores. Camping and swimming and beautifully scary thunder storms.

As a young working mom, my work schedule tied to the academic year, summer meant time to reconnect with the people I loved most in all the world. It meant sleeping later, making piles of pancakes, watching cartoons together in the morning. Summer meant days at the lake, days at the ocean, days of running the hose into the sandy part of our back yard. It was all about growing tomatoes and eating them as they ripened. Snakes and bees and butterflies.

Summer, back then, meant time to hold children close and pretend that they would never, ever, grow up and away.

But now I am in my Nonni years. My world has turned upside down. Now the days of snuggling over breakfast and walking in the woods are the days of fall and spring. Now it’s the cold, wet days of winter that mean time to cuddle and read and bake cupcakes together.

Now everything is reversed.

When summer comes, in the world of this Nonni, my role as beloved and needed comes to a sudden crashing end.

Suddenly, Mommy is home. Mommy, the teacher, the woman who looks at summer with the same grateful eyes that I once had. Mommy knows that summer means a celebration of freedom. It means cookouts, baseball, fireflies and s’mores. For Mommy, summer means a time of reconnection, a time to reassure her babies and herself that she is the one who bring safety and security and love to a world that is filled with beautiful and scary thunderstorms.

Now Nonni steps back, catches her breath, and tells herself that all is just as it should be. Now is my time to rest, to reconnect with my own true self. To write and read and divide the perennials.

Now is the time for Nonni to look forward, for the first time in her increasingly long life, to the crisp days of fall. The days of cool sun, pumpkins, fresh apples. The days when Mommy will go back to work. And Nonni will once again take her place in the kitchen, teaching the little ones to bake an apple pie.

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The Wolf King Reborn


I am the Wolf King.

Or at least, I used to be the Wolf King.

Lately I’ve been The Old Dog Who Can Hardly Get Down The Stairs.

What can I say? Time goes on, and arthritis hits hard.

For the past few weeks, I have had to contend with the humiliating prospect of a young pup, constantly jumping up to nip my ears or grab my collar. Always trying to get me to jump and play.

Annoying little fool. I have gone along with him as often as I could, but sometimes I just wanted to smack him. I have barked and growled at him so much that my royal voice is getting really creaky.

Today was a sunny day, and the air was crisp and cold. The yard was filled with fresh white snow, and birds filled our feeders.

The puppy, so foolishly named “Lennie,” was whining to go out. Woman Who Feeds Me made those sickening little cooing noises at him, and soon he was wearing his blaze orange collar.

I stood, slowly and regally. I do not beg to go outside.

But I don’t say “no”, either. I waited, aloof and calm, as the Woman Who Feeds Me put on my bra…. I mean, my Wolf King harness.

We headed out into the cold.

For a few minutes, I walked calmly alongside the Woman. The small, annoying puppy ran in circles around us, barking and yipping and racing in and out of the woods.

After a while, I noticed that my leash seemed very lax. I was able to wander away from the Woman Who Feeds Me without feeling the tug of the leash. Hmm.

Suddenly, a truck pulled into our driveway.  Somewhere, deep in my brain, I remembered that I am the Wolf King; the protector of our castle.  I began to bark. I ran toward the truck.

A though went zinging through my head.

“Hey! I’m running, and there’s no leash.” I glanced back at Woman Who Feeds Me.

Sure enough, she looked guilty.

“Tucker, come!” she called. She held out a tiny cookie.

One. Tiny. Cookie.

Ordinarily, I would walk on hot coals to get one of those cookies. But now. Now the cold wind was rushing through the woods. The smells of deer and moose and birds and fox came wafting toward me. I lifted my head. I sniffed.

I looked back at Woman Who Feeds Me. Her hand was out. Her voice sounded stressed.

I looked forward, toward the woods. I saw the puppy, running free, racing in circles.

“Tucker?”

My old eyes met the worried eyes of my Mistress.

“Adios!” I barked. And I raced like the wind away from the yard and into the woods.

Oh, OK. Mostly I didn’t really race. I sort of lumbered. And limped a bit. But I still went into the woods with the puppy dancing around me.

It was glorious. It was heaven. It was freedom, remembered from a time long ago.

It. Was. The. Best.

After a while, Woman Who Feeds Me, Annoying Puppy, Poopie Baby and Young Woman With Treats all went back inside the house. They called me to come.

But I would not be tempted back inside.

No. The Wolf King decided to sit outside of the house. Resting in the deep snow. With freezing ice pellets sticking to my niblets.

My back was aching like you read about, what with all the running through the woods, jumping over fallen trees, avoiding puppy kisses, and climbing over snowbanks.

I kind of wanted to go inside. Back to the fire. And the heat. And the cookies.

And the couch.

But I remained firm. I stayed out for hours.

I was so proud of my freedom and my strength.

Eventually, as I dozed with my paws held over my half frozen nose, I smelled the intoxicating aroma of cooking chicken livers. The window to the living room had been opened, and the simmering pot placed on the ledge.

“Oh, Woman Who Feeds Me,” I howled. “Have you no shame?”

She was trying to lure me back in.

But I would NOT be moved.

I stood erect ( except for my bendy spine and my splayed-out back legs.) “NO!” I barked with royal strength. “No! I will not yield to the liver! I am the Wolf King and I am FREE!”

I lasted a full four minutes before my aching back, my shaking legs, my frozen niblets and my empty belly got the better of me.

OK. So I came back in.

I got all warm. I ate my liver. I let the Woman and the Baby cuddle me.

I came back in.

But really? I only did it because I could hear that puppy whining for me to come back home to him.

I can’t resist the little goof when he gets all kissy like that.

But don’t be fooled.

If they drop that leash again, I’ll be off.

The Wolf King will be back. You can count on it.

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Still as handsome as you ever were.

A Puppy, A Baby and a Sleepy Old Nonni


One of the many pleasures of being a ‘stay at home Nonni’ is that I get to nap when Ellie does.

I have always loved naps. Always.

My dad was a wonderful napper. He could close his eyes and sleep for 15 minutes and wake up completely refreshed.

I get this talent from him.

When Ellie was very small, we used to nap together in the recliner. I’d hold her in my arms and we’d both drift off.

Now she’s too big for that to be safe, so now we lie down together on my bed. She goes to sleep, and I read or write. Sometimes (OK, pretty much every day) I fall asleep , too.

Today was one of those challenging days, when you’re not sure you can make it all work. It was snowing hard when the puppy woke me up at 6. I stayed awake checking the school closings. Would Kate have to drive to school? Would she be able to go in late?

I finally realized that her school schedule was unchanged, which meant that mine was, too. I made the coffee and headed out into the icy snow/rain mix to get my granddaughter.

It was a long, slow, slog to her house and back, a round trip of about 10 miles. At least we turned into our driveway, and I gave the old Colonial America cheer, “Huzzah!”  To my joy and pleasure, Ellie yelled it right back at me.

The day was fine, but by the time I saw Ellie rubbing her eyes at about 2 o’clock, I was ready and willing to rest. I had already cooked, served and cleaned up both breakfast and lunch. I had wrestled Lennie for possession of 4 boots, 6 socks, a mitten, 43 toys and one winter coat.

I was more than ready to bring Ellie into my bedroom for a nice nap. The problem was that Lennie was NOT in nap mode.

He was running in circles around us, grabbing at the blankets, my book, the pillow…..

I tried offering a treat. “Good boy, Lennie, good dog. Lie down!”  No good.

I tried putting down a nice warm blanket. “Lennie, time to rest!”  No good at all; he tried to eat it.

Finally, I had had it. Ellie was whining, wanting a book. My back was aching. It was snowing outside and I wanted to LIE THE HELL DOWN.

So I turned to the puppy and snarled, “LIE THE HELL DOWN!”

To my shock, he did.

Ellie and I settled in, read “Good night Moon” and she fell asleep. I wrote an article for LiberalAmerica, and then I went to sleep, too.

And when I woke up, Ellie was still snoozing, her soft curly hair moving with her gentle breaths.

I looked over the side of the bed.

There was my baby Lennie, curled into the shape of a snail. And right beside him, curled up in the exact same shape, only three times larger, was my old dog, Tucker. Side by side on one doggie bed.

I lay back down, listening to the combined sounds of two sleeping dogs and one sleeping baby girl.

Life can be so unexpectedly perfect, you know?

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When old folks argue


Yesterday we had an experience that has me thinking.

Thinking in a good way, but also thinking in a kind of serious way.

It was a pretty typical weekend day for us. We had invited some guests to come for dinner and spend the afternoon with us.

Not “guests” as in “people you need to impress” but “guests” as in “family, people who get it, people you just really want to spend your day with.”

All would have been well as we prepared to make dinner for two young couples with little kids if only Nonni here hadn’t come down with a nasty bout of asthmatic bronchitis.

Nonni woke up yesterday feeling (as my mom used to say), “Like something the cat dragged in.” My husband, also known as “the sweetest man in the world,” let me sleep late while he dealt with our old hound and our new puppy. He even took said puppy to the vet.

But when it was time to make dinner, I asked him for help. This is an unusual request from an over functioning, over controlling Italian woman, but I did. I asked for help.

Then company arrived. Our beloved young folks, with babies in arms, arrived as planned. And “Papa” went straight into Grandfather Host mode. He was charming, hugging babies, pouring beer, chatting and laughing.

Meanwhile, Nonni was sauteeing and coughing in the kitchen.

Nonni was NOT amused.

Nonni was, in fact, crabby, cranky and slightly snarling.

Both young women asked how they could help.

All of the men stayed on the couch.

Finally, Nonni growled at Papa.

And here is the point of this post.

When a couple argues during a more than 40 year relationship, this is what it means.

It means that sometimes humans misunderstand each other. Even humans who love each other and want what is best for each other.

I remember, back in about 1980, every argument felt like the end of the relationship. Every time I lost my temper, every time my husband lost his, it felt like the end of the world. I tried so hard to always push down my irritation, swallow my needs, keep the boat from rocking.

But now that my one true love and I have come through graduate school, two separate careers, raising three children, falling head over heels in love with a grandchild, and even living with three different dogs….well.

Now I understand that when I’m mad at Paul, or when he’s mad at me, it means “I’m mad at you.”

It doesn’t mean “I hate your.” or “I want a divorce” or “You are a terrible person.”

What freedom.

The best part of getting older, maybe, is the realization that you can get really annoyed at the person you love, and still love them in the morning.

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My honey and I, back in the day. At Dolly Copp Campground.

The Wolf King Meets His Biggest Challenge


Oh, for God’s sake.

Doesn’t anyone here realize that I am The Wolf King?

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I am majestic. I am proud. I am the ruler of all I survey.

So it’s been a rough few weeks.

I knew that Miss Sadie was heading out of this world. I have known it for many, many weeks.

My humans are, of course, less intuitive than I am. It took them almost too long to see that she was fading, and that only her thinnest shell was left here with us.

At last, though, they heard her, and they let her go to rest.

I miss her.

She was calm. She was quiet. She pretty much followed my orders. She used to look at me with her big golden eyes and say, “You are the Wolf King. I am not worthy.”

I liked that a lot.

Then she was gone, and the Woman Who Feeds Me was often quiet, and I could smell the sharp iron smell of sadness coming from her, even when she took me for easy walks along our street.

Man Who Walks Me smelled different, too, but with him it was harder to know what he was feeling. I know that I wanted to lean my head on him more often. I wanted to rest my noble chin on his bare foot.

He seemed a little lost, to be honest.

And so it went, for a few short weeks.

Then everything changed. I had noticed that both of my humans seemed a little more like themselves. As if a shadow had passed over. Happier times seemed to be at hand.

One morning, very early, both Man Who Walks Me and Woman Who Feeds Me woke up early. I could smell nervousness and eagerness on them both, like a field of grass burning far away. Their voices were tense, their bodies alert as they petted me good bye. I watched them go, the Wolf King left in charge.

I settled myself to guard the castle from my comfy perch on the couch. I dozed, but only because everything seemed pretty safe.

Then I heard the car. I slowly got up from my resting spot, stretching my spine as I made it to all four feet. I made my way to the top of the stairs, clearing my throat so that I would be ready to give the traditional Wolf King Howl Of Welcome.

Man Who Walks Me came inside. He smelled odd….he smelled like a strange mixture of happiness and guilt.

Hmmmm. I was suspicious, but I am loyal. I am the Wolf King, but I know who fills my kibble bowl. I let him attach the leash to my collar.

He lead me outside.

And there I was met by Woman Who Feeds Me and……What was this? Could it be?

A Little Dude was there, dancing on the end of his own leash.

 

He smelled like faraway places and chemicals and fear and loneliness. I did NOT like this smell.

I stood stiffly, the regal crest of my neck fur standing up with electric fury.

“STRANGER!!!!” I barked. “RED ALERT!!”

Every one of my aging muscles was rigid with warning.

“Woman Who Feeds Me,” I howled in warning. “Watch out! A stranger has come to our home!”

Woman Who Feeds Me was looking kind of goofy. She had a big smile on her face and her voice was high and full of false promises. I heard her use my name, and then the tone that made me think of bath time and nail clippings. Or worse.

I was alert. I was not going to fall for the soft sound of her voice.

I looked at the stranger who stood in our midst, in the place where Miss Sadie has stood so recently.

He was tiny. He was vibrating with the energy of youth that makes the old want to simply sleep. His eyes were bright buttons of curiosity and his smooth golden fur was shivering with excitement.

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I got tired just looking at him.

I groaned and growled and barked to show my displeasure.

“I am the Wolf King!,” I cried. “I will not tolerate a wild hippy child in my kingdom! Get this Little Dude out of here!”

Nobody paid the slightest attention.

It was a long, strange day.

The Little Dude repeatedly peed on the floor. I knew that this would be a Big Problem. I settled my chin on my paws to wait out the reaction.

But Woman Who Feeds Me just kept cleaning it up without a word. She even scratched the head of the Floor Pee-er.

The Little Dude raced around the house, banging into walls, bouncing off of furniture. No one complained.

He tried to sniff my royal butt. I barked so loud I hurt my throat. That made him back off for about a minute.

He tried to lick my face.  Are. You. Kidding. I barked even more loudly, using my best Kingly voice.

That hurt my throat even more. Little Dude danced around my face until Woman Who Feeds Me got him to follow her down the hall.

At last, after a long and confusing day, we all got ready for bed. Man Who Walks Me and Woman Who Feeds Me filled their mouths with the sweet minty smell of bed time. They put Little Dude into a crate in our living room, and the three of us went down the hall to our beds.

Wouldn’t you know, though? That little golden furred, energetic annoyance kept whimpering and crying. I knew the sound of sadness and loneliness; I recognized it from the time when my litter mates and I were lost in the woods.

I waited a few minutes, safe and warm on my bed next to my humans. But the sound of Little Dude all alone down the hall pulled at my heart in a way that I wouldn’t want to make public.

I stood up slowly, grumbling the whole time. I made my way down the hall to the darkened living room.

“I’m scared!” I heard from the crate. “I’m not sure where I am…”

“Oh, be quiet,” I grumbled in my most royal Kingly voice. “You’re with us now. You’re safe. Stop making that ridiculous noise.”

I heard a whimper, and then the sound of a baby dog settled onto a bed. I laid my head on my royal paws, snuggled down on my lovely leather couch, and thought about what the future would bring. I fell asleep remembering what it was like to race around the yard with the wind rushing through my fur.

Life is sure an interesting journey.

 

 

Oh, for the love of……


I can NOT wait for November 9th. Partly I will be happy to have the suspense over. I am getting really tired of waking up at 3 Am wondering if Trump is going to blow us all to kingdom come.

It isn’t only the Presidential shit storm that I want to be done with though. It’s also the endless barrage of ads about the state candidates and referendum questions.

I am unlucky enough to live in Massachusetts but on the New Hampshire border. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but every time I try to turn it on to catch the news, or a movie, or a ballgame, I am slammed with conflicting ads.

And they are all pure 100% bullshit. That’s what I really hate.

Turn on the tube two weeks before the election and you will see 8 commercials in a row. I can sum them up here:

“Raising the Charter School Cap will make every child in America a Nobel Prize Winner!”

“Raising the Charter School Cap will end education as we know it!”

“Kelly Ayotte has a halo! She once saved a choking baby and then paid for his college tuition!”

“Kelly Ayotte is the spawn of the devil. She hates babies. She kicks puppies. She eats toads for breakfast.”

“Donald Trump will save us all from eternal damnation and will make America the actual center of the universe!”

“Donald Trump will blow us all up in the first day of his administration, just because he CAN.”

Oh. My. God.

In my fantasy world, I am running for public office. I create my own ads. They go like this.

“Hi. I’m Karen. I am not smarter than my opponent, and I am not a better human being. Neither one of us has a direct line to God or to the Founding Fathers. I think I have a good plan for making things better for us. Here it is…..”

Wouldn’t that be SO refreshing? Wouldn’t we all love it?

We WOULD.

We’d all be so relieved to have some positive ads and some actual plans and ideas.

So why can’t we manage to get that point across to the people who are running for office?

I mean, I don’t agree with my friends who want to raise the Charter School Cap. But I don’t think that they are all mass murderers, either.

I don’t agree with most of Kelly Ayotte’s votes. But I don’t think she’s a monster, either. And I don’t think her opponent, Maggie Hassan, is an angel. I just agree with her ideas and her political positions.

Good Lord. Why can’t Democracy be based on some truth for a change?

I plan to drink a whole bottle of champagne on November 9th. And not because I am so thrilled with any of the election outcomes.

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Aw, what’s a little pneumonia anyway?


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A New England Autumn

It’s funny. I was just sitting here, feeling the nice cool autumn breeze. So refreshing!

For some unfathomable reason, I started to think about that time a few years ago. I had been fighting asthma for a few weeks, and no matter what I did, it seemed to just keep getting worse. I was a fifth grade teacher at the time, and I had to talk all day. I had to talk over 25  happy ten year olds. I had to talk over the sound of the kids in the hallway and the kids in the cafeteria.

My throat was always sore and I was hoarse. And the asthma was making me short of breath and a little dizzy.

I remember that I was on two different inhalers, an antihistamine by day and a different one by night, a nose spray and some herbal things.

That cough just kept building up on me. But you know what? I was a typical working woman. I just kept plugging along. I didn’t miss one day of school.

Finally, though, I did break down and go the doctor. He told me that I had a fairly serious case of bronchitis and was “well on the way” to pneumonia.  He changed one of my inhalers, added prednisone and a strong antibiotic.

He suggested that I take a few days to recuperate.

But I was a fifth grade teacher, with 25 kids depending on me. Plus, it was the week of our annual three day camping adventure in the woods of New Hampshire. I tried to drink extra water and eat well. I went to bed early when I could.

I didn’t stay home, though. I didn’t go to bed.

Actually, I packed my bag and grabbed all my medicines. Then I got on the big yellow bus and took 75 fifth graders on a camping trip in the cold rain.

You know why?

Because I’m a woman. I just didn’t think a little pneumonia would be that big a deal.

Ya know?

 

Nonni in Germany: The Bike Episode #2


If you’ve been reading this little travel journal, you’ll remember that I was a very brave Nonni when I rode a bicycle to the grocery store in Berlin. I mean, OK, so I crashed into a pile of stinging nettles, but I did ride the damn bike, right?

And, boy howdie. Was I proud of myself when I got home!

So when Katja and Jorg took us up to the gorgeous North Sea Island of Sylt, I was only mildly alarmed to hear that we were going to be taking a 45 km ride on e-bikes.

Yup. E-bikes. As in “electronically enhanced bikes that will make you go way faster than you would ever have gone on a regular bike.”

I was…excited!  No, really, I was. The island is so unbelievably beautiful that the idea of being able to see the dunes up close was my absolute dream come true.

I am a confirmed ocean addict, and this was like being in Heaven.

Seriously. The NORTH freaking sea! Where the Vikings sailed! Hell, yeah. I wanted to ride my (big scary) e-bike.

So off we went that cool, sunny morning. I was elated to find that I was able to balance the bike and ride along smoothly and easily. That electric boost was like magic. There I was, zooming along the dunes, the heather and sea on either side, my gray hair blowing in the wind.

It was the most fabulous morning. We stopped for cake (HUGE) and coffee at a beautiful spot on the island. We rode along the tops of the dune. We passed a lighthouse and fields of cows and sheep.  In the early afternoon we arrived at our destination, the little city of Westerland. We shopped and then sat down for a cold beer.

Eventually we headed back toward the northern part of the island, where our hotel was located. We had already ridden farther than I’ve ever biked in my life, but the battery power made the ride easy.

Easy until the moment when the people in front of me found a reason to stop suddenly.

You see, I had mastered that whole “pedal your bike and move forward” thing, and I had gotten pretty good at the “balance on two wheels” thing. But: I was NOT able to stop suddenly.

Uh, uh. No way.

So when Katja stopped in front of me, and Lucas stopped quickly behind her, I knew that I was doomed. I simultaneously pressed back on the foot brakes, squeezed both hand brakes, closed my eyes and made a squealing sound that was reminiscent of a pig being skewered by a fork.

And I face planted on the bike trail in front of me.

Actually, truth to tell, I was fairly graceful as I went over the handlebars. I’m told that I landed relatively gently on my right knee, right hand and right cheekbone. In that order.

All I know is that I saw the cement approaching my face and had just enough presence of mind to turn my head a bit. My bifocals flew off and I found myself on the ground. I have NO idea where the bike was, but it must have been pretty damn close.

I looked up at the horrified faces of my hosts, my husband and a very pretty young German woman. I had just enough comprehension to hear her ask if I was OK and to think, “Nice hair!” Then she was gone.

My biggest worry at that point was “Oh, no!!!! I’m staying at the first upscale resort of my LIFE and I’m going to get home with a black eye and all my face skin removed!”

Eventually I realized that I was in more or less one piece, and I got shakily up to my feet. My glasses were intact. My knee still bent. My expensive new athletic sandals were unscathed. I was completely and totally faked out, but nothing was broken.

I smiled and reassured everyone (especially poor Paul) and got back on the death machine. And off we went, to complete the 15 km left between our location and a good hot shower.

I did OK, overall.

Until Katja stopped to check on me, at which point I more or less screeched, “DO. NOT. STOP.”

It was a very exciting day.

I’m proud that I did it, and glad that I didn’t quit riding and demand a taxi. After another hour or so, we got back to the hotel.

And that’s where the funny part of this story begins. I’ll be back with more!