Category Archives: Family & Friends

La Dolce Far Niente

A general translation for this is, “the sweetness of doing nothing”. It is a reminder to stop and smell the roses.To use the good China. To open that bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion. To just BE for a moment in time.

It’s a well honed joke these days about how everyone is together, but in their own little world, usually on personal electronic devices.  There are times we need to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with the warm, real, tactile world around us. When was the last time you enjoyed doing….well,  nothing?

Know what I did today? After scratching Penny cat’s ears, she lazily stretched, sauntered to a warm stone on my entry way, and languidly laid her form upon the rocks to bask in the afternoon sun. As I sat on the stoop watching her, wondering how could a cat just walk away from everything around her and nap in the light, I rested my head on my knees. And fell asleep.   It was a catnap in the purest sense of the word. It lasted just minutes. Out there, in the sunshine, I lost every care in the world and was able to achieve complete peace. And I felt more rested than I have in months.

We tend to try to micromanage the people and situations on our lives. At some point we must admit that this level of control is an ego-centric construct. We think we feel better about ourselves if we believe we can handle every possibility right down to the day’s rainfall.  It’s silly really. Or so says my cat.  She’d much rather resume that nap.

I may join her.

I have to remind myself once in a while to enjoy the simple pleasure of doing absolutely nothing.  My day is usually so planned, so precise, so restrictive I’m amazed my google calendar isn’t giving me alarm alerts on when I’m allowed to breathe.  I need to give myself permission to enjoy small moments of quiet clarity without a schedule. For a very long time, I wasn’t sure that was possible.

I started small. Part of that objective was learning when to say NO. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to help, or that my  friends and family were unappreciative; it was simply that i was pushing myself beyond my limits and I needed to learn how to respect my OWN boundaries.  The ones who had my best interests at heart understood.

I began to carve out time just for me, and also, just for US. I’m married We still need date nights. Time for us to be just with one another and remind us why we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. I strongly believe this is a vital building block for a lifetime commitment.

But sometimes I need ME time too. It isn’t selfish or wrong. It is what t is, and it helps make me a stronger person inside. It is in these moments I recite the phrase and recommit myself to finding a place in my own soul where i am comfortable.

In moments like this I will open a bottle of wine or a brew a pot of tea, take my time preparing a plate of fruits and cheese and delicious snacks I didn’t need to put much thought or effort into; keeping it simple. I may load up my kayak and go to the lake in this state. I may take a map and go exploring the nearby hills. I may go no further than the 40+ acres we reside on and just melt into the forest floor shadows for a while on a blanket under the wise old oaks.  I need to have time to recall that there truly is a certain sweetness in accomplishing absolutely nothing.

Pick up a book and read it though. Snuggle the puppy. Make cookie dough and eat half the bowl with a friend or your kids.Walk in the rain.   Look closer for those defining moments of internal clarity in the quiet spaces between. I promise, they are there. You just have to want them badly enough.

Race season. Sigh.

I’m a “race widow”.   For an every varying number of weeks per month, my husband packs his suitcases, backpack of essential travel gear, gives me a long kiss goodbye and sets off for parts unknown.  Ok, the parts are known, at least to him and the fine folks across the country who are fans of automobile racing.

My husband won’t usually tell you what he does for a living. “I grout tile on the space shuttle” he says with his I’m-up-to-something grin.   He’s being silly. And modest.

We have a general idea of what each year’s schedule is going to look like ahead of time, but as the saying goes, “men make plans, and God laughs“.  The circuit sets the number of races per year, the locations and dates.  Events usually start in late January and run through early September. Knowing in advance he has thirteen races on the calendar is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s mandatory test days. There’s voluntary test days, made at the request of his drivers or due to the development or replacement of certain equipment.  There’s practice sessions simply because the drivers want more track time to perfect their craft and need their crew present.  Then there may be promotional events or trade shows where his expertise is necessary. And because the team he works for encourages new people in the sport with hands on training and car builds, he may be told on a Tuesday evening that he’s needed in another town or state (or country)  by Thursday with a trailer full of track ready speed machines.  I get it- he’s awesome, and I have to share him with the world.

Flexibility is the name of the game in this household.  I dread the arrival of wedding invitations, reunion announcements or other notices requiring an RSVP and potentially, an expense incurred by our gracious hosts because it could well be that I ‘ll need to place an uncomfortable phone call saying “I’m so sorry, but something’s come up…”   We are grateful to have such understanding and gracious friends; some are in the same industry and understand. Others are simply that good-hearted.

These are things we’ve come to expect, along with the need for high quality detergent (lemme tell you that track worn garments stuffed inside a bag and stashed on the semi for the return trip home after ten days on the road are smeeeelllllllllyyyyyyyyy). What you can’t expect is how empty the house feels when he’s gone.

We eat dinner as a family, many nights at the dining table; I mean, really, who even uses a dining room anymore? We do.  We talk about our day.  And I love to cook. Home made meals with flair, healthy and prettily plated.  If he’s traveling, there’s nothing special about mealtimes.  I’m accompanied by the teenager, who, being the sweet sort she is, is chatting away amiably about all the subjects she loves, but it isn’t the conversation we usually have. And dinner is often something very simple; spaghetti in meat sauce, leftover baked chicken, you get the idea.  The teenager isn’t impressed by veal marsala or shrimp diablo. Sure she’ll eat most of what I put in front of her but when we’re all together the meal becomes so much more than just good food. Its OUR time.

I don’t sleep much when he’s gone. This isn’t due to the fact I have more to do around the homestead when our strongest pair of hands is away.  If anything,  I should be more ready to hit the hay after hauling it.  But there’s this big empty spot where the other half of me usually is and I find it difficult to get much rest in that suddenly open space.  His cat knows when he’s gone and assumes ownership of his pillows. I’m not permitted on that side even if I wanted to be there…Whiskey has a stare that reminds you the average domestic cat isn’t all that far removed from their larger cousins in the jungles and savannas of the planet.  We call her a house panther. She gets the spot.

Normal Monday to Friday we say our ‘see you laters”  and go about our day. I still get a happy little jump in my heartbeat when I hear his car come up the drive every evening.  Trip weeks? I’m on my own and those simple little daily things I’ve come to adore so much, like the perfect cup of coffee he makes just for me each morning to the way he walks up behind me and wraps his arms around my waist, leaning his chin into my shoulder with a sweet sigh when he gets home.

The kiddo and I try to make these weeks our own.  We go out to a movie. We pick up a box of ice cream sandwiches and make sure we destroy the evidence before he returns.  We have girl days where we do things just for us and smile conspiratorially “don’t tell dad!”.  I love our time together.   But once we’re home, she’s back to her books; she writes graphic novels and they’re quite good.  She’s consumed by her art projects.  She’s completing her homework.  And I’m…..drifting.

I knew what I signed up for.  I just have to redirect that energy that usually goes into US into something just for ME and its harder some days than others.  A cup of tea on the porch. A good book.  Catching up on chatting with friends. Volunteer duties. They all get caught up and then some.

He sends me text messages from the road. Small reminders to let me know he’s thinking about me too. I treasure them all until the best one eventually arrives: “made it to the shop, home soon

And its just fifteen more minutes until that happy little heartbeat jump and we’re a family again.

 

whoopsadaisy

My husband, a car chief for a race team, has been known to utter an oft used expression from his industry when he sees something bad about to happen: “This is all gonna end in a lot of fiberglass and tears“. The resulting damage is usually explained by another phrase: “He ran out of track and talent at the same time“.

I never thought those words would apply to me and certainly not in such a mundane happenstance.

It was a gorgeous spring day on our acreage. For weeks my daughter and I had been taking advantage of the mild late winter weather to cut back overgrowth that was weighing down fences, raking out dead branches and clearing larger areas for actual leisure use.  The pile in the center of the far back yard near the edge of the back 40 was getting rather big.   We finally had a day with little to no wind perfect for burning.  The ashes were going to be spread into our garden area to help nurture the soil.  That was the plan. And for a while, it was a good one.

Cue Murphy. You know, Murphy, the guy who says anything that can go wrong, will.  He made a spectacular appearance.

Here I am on this lovely warm Saturday, half a dozen projects around the house and yard in motion and chatting on the phone with my Bestie on the Westie (Constance lives in California).  I’m raking burning bits of branches, leaves and other debris back towards the central burn area which has become considerably smaller since it started. Fire works like that, who knew?  That’s when I feel a sharp, burning pain in my left foot. Yep, the left.  Damn that hurts! I jerk my foot up, mutter an expletive or two and and desperately trying to figure out what in the world just went through my shoe into my foot (a nail was my first guess)  when I roll the right foot under me in what must have looked to any observer- thankfully there were none- like some warped version of Swan Lake. I heard the SNAP before I felt myself collapse. Right into the smoldering edges of the burn pile.  I’d screamed when it happened, and dropped my phone. I pulled myself, and luckily the phone, backwards out of the ashes into the grass, tears streaming down my face. This really, REALLY hurt.  And I have a high threshold.

Connie was alarmed asking what happened.  Between gasps of breath through the pain I told her I thought I’d just broken my ankle.  I called out to the house for help but they couldn’t hear me. Thank goodness I had pulled out the phone.  Connie made the calls and texts to my husband to locate me out back. By the time he made it out to me I’d discovered it was a piece of locust tree branch, with two inch thorns, that had pierced my left foot. I removed it and attempted to put my right ankle into a position it could tolerate.

Not. A. Good. Idea.  But still it had to be done. As did the removal of the shoe. From the rate of the swelling it was either that or have it cut off later.

Richard, bless this man, quickly realized I couldn’t bear any weight in any way and that it was too far to carry me home. He retrieved the smaller yard tractor and an attached cart, lined carefully with a moving blanket to try to give me some comfort.  After several  agonizing tries he was able to get me seated in the cart, and as he drove to the house I took a good critical look at the sum of all circumstances involved and gave him new directions. Emergency room. Now.

I hate seeing a doctor for anything. The fact I was willing to go without any argument or coercion of any kind on his part elicited an immediate response. Once there, and whisked back quickly to a large exam room, he came to the realization it was bad with a capital B when I didn’t refuse painkillers. That high tolerance I have for pain is mirrored by a low tolerance for drugs, especially anything narcotic. I get very….interesting…on even low doses.  I may be conscious but I have no recollection of events.  I avoid it whenever possible and have a great relationship with things like Tylenol and Aleve.  They work and there’s no pesky what day is it? after-effects.

Unfortunately for me while the pharmacy was debating what I could tolerate without going for a three day trip to La La Land,  Dr. Brisk Bedsidemanner, MD, was confirming his initial diagnosis (and the immediate affirmation of every nurse I’d seen so far) of a broken ankle. It needed splinting, he said, and he got right down to business with the help of a nearby nurse who he instructed to cup my heel and pull my toes to straighten the break while he applied an OrthoGlass splint and wrappings.  The problem? This was BEFORE the nice young lady with the syringes came back.   “Oh you started without me!” she exclaimed watching me grip the sheets with clenched fists while buckets of tears poured down my face.  To her credit, Nurse Lenda Hand got about as pale as me just assisting and kept muttering soft placating tones in my ear meant to get me through it.  I’ll take that drink now please, and make it a double.

Yet here still, never once taking a hand away from a comforting touch, was my Marine.  Richard stayed for the entire process.  He didn’t leave my side at all except for being shoo’ed away for the mobile xray. Then BOOM,  the moment they finished, rear end planted firmly in the seat alongside me, making sure I didn’t go through any of it alone.  This man is my rock in more ways than I can enumerate.

Most of the rest of the er visit is kind of fuzzy around the edges. The small dose of dilaudid and phenergan I’d received had me feeling pretty pleasant by then.  What wasn’t ok was when it wore off, and being a weekend evening by the time I was discharged, no pharmacies were open. Amazingly, Walmart’s was the next day, which just happened to be on Easter Sunday. Say what you will about the big box megastore evil corporation, I would have gladly kissed their entire board of directors for that precious half pill I took as soon as my husband returned.

It takes a really special kind of graceful to trip over your own two feet in your own backyard and wind up in this hot mess.  I ended up with a slightly different diagnosis on the specifics of the break during my follow up appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, who seemed almost disappointed he couldn’t slice ‘n’ dice with his expensive tinkertoys and put things back together again.  He advised about 8 weeks in cast, with a check up in two to be sure it was healing properly and didn’t need “intervention” (that’s a fancy specialist’s word for “break it all over again and start fresh”), and if all went to plan, a ‘boot’ after that for a few weeks.  Seems his take on it was that it was worse than originally thought, but not bad enough for surgery.  So the good news was, no new scars, the bad news was a longer healing time than I had originally been counseled.  Sheesh for all this I could have at least had a good backstory!  Nope, just pathetic, clutzy me.

Ever broken an ankle? No? DON’T. I can’t begin to tell you just how much it tops my list of Things That Suck.  I can’t do much of anything.  And I’m always doing something. My friends tell me just reading about my day to day life wears them out. Now scooting up my stairs for bed every night on my buttski is enough to tire me.    My daughter has been a huge help and of course, my husband has taken on a lot more.  I foresee a few weeks of laundry constantly being a load or two behind, tons of spaghetti dinners made by my teenager and my woodwork not having that warm gleam that only weekly lemon oil and elbow grease can bring out.  I’ll get over it. If I keep telling myself that, sooner or later I’ll believe it.

It did end up in tears and fiberglass, just like Richard says.  And an important lesson from the universe to SLOW DOWN and stop trying to do everything. I’m not superwoman and I got a very painful reminder of that fact.   Still, I have to do something so I’ve begun a genealogy project.  It’s going well and I’m learning a great deal about where I really come from (hint, its not Krypton).   But me being, well, ME, I’m also plotting ways to get my garden planted without tasking it out to the rest of the family or friends.  I’ll think of a way. Hopefully the universe doesn’t break the other one on me for trying!

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady

If you ask me how it happened, I’d tell you I didn’t know.  If you asked Richard, he’d say in a lightly mocking tone “It’s just a piece of turkey and she looks so huuuunnnggggrrrrryyyyyy”. If you asked Bri she’d chime in with “you’re a sucker for animals!”.

I’ve always been a dog person. People say I speak dog.  Fluent in canis familiaris. Dogs are drawn to me, me to them and I’m able to work with some no one else can.  Its just been that way forever, And while I didn’t dislike cats, I didn’t go out of my way to seek them out either.

Until Pandora. So named because I just had to open that box, didn’t I?

It was our first year in Virginia and we lived in a rural area near Richmond.  Richard’s parents live out on the eastern shore and we’d gone to visit for Thanksgiving. In typical mom fashion, we were sent home with ziplock containers full of roasted yams and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. And turkey. You can’t forget the turkey.  It began snowing in Virginia Beach, and by the time we passed Norfolk it was looking like a real storm.  And hour later into the drive back there was already two inches on the ground and more coming down hard.

When we finally got home, at least 8 inches blanketed the ground.  Our home, set back into the tree line, often saw woodland visitors make up close and personal appearances.   Raccoons who always seemed to know when I was frying chicken were frequent fliers on our long wide porch. Deer grazed in the yard. And feral cats stopped by to see what was for lunch.  Two in particular were around most- a glossy black tom we referred to as “Leroy” (Bri was big into Disney’s “Leroy & Stitch” at the time)   and a stunning tortoise shell calico.  Trudging through the snow to our door we could tell they’d all been around that evening. The calico still was.

Curled on our porch out of the worst of the weather she seemed like she was waiting.   We made multiple trips to get everything into the house and she was  there, watching, blinking, in what my buddy Max would call “standard meatloaf position” for warmth.  We kept looking out and she was still there.  We determined she looked hungry but since we didn’t own a cat, we had no cat food.

We had turkey though.    And so I ventured out to the porch, moist meaty offering in hand, and made a new friend.   The walked to the door after being fed and gently pawed it. We allowed her inside. She walked calmly around, settled in for a nap for a bit on the couch, walked about some more meeting the dogs then quietly padded back to the door, giving a soft “mew”, until we let her out again.

This became routine and she was christened Pandora. It would have stayed this way too until we realized she was getting rather round about the middle.  We had assumed the notched ear was a sign she’d been through the local TNR program- a program we participated in, too.  We were wrong. When it become apparent that this friendly feral was going to soon be an unwed mother, we gave her a space in the kitchen to stay warm and safe from predators.  She delivered five adorable balls of cuteness in late February, though she chose a dim corner or Bri’s room under her desk to do it.   We kept cat and kits indoors for a while for their protection, then Richard built a kitty enclosure outdoors where nothing could get to them.  Our sweet Brooklyn loved them and never missed an opportunity to swipe a baby or two to snuggle and love on until momma cat threw a real live hissy fit demanding their return. Eventually, the kits- all girls- were spayed and mom too, with all ears properly clipped under sedation to mark them as altered.  Much friendlier now, and used to daily human interaction, we found homes for momma (happily enjoying the good life with my mother and father in law on the shore!) and three of the kits.   Penny and Whiskers (aka Whiskey) stayed on.  We tried without success to ever trap Leroy for a snip, but we kept another generation of girls from producing more cats than the local colony could handle.  On the day we relocated to the New River Valley, Leroy glared at us from the driveway, long thick tail sweeping from side to side, eyes narrowing in his scarred face. He never liked us much but enjoyed the food.  This reinforced my belief that cats were not the greatest. But Richard and Bri were in love with the two kittens in their laps. What could I do?whiskey romeo

Skipping ahead a bit, Bri comes homes in tears one afternoon from school. Seems her teacher had found a stray cat, quite friendly, declawed, and couldn’t keep her. She’d taken her to the vet for a check up and shots but since her apartment didn’t permit pets, the cat couldn’t stay and had to be gone by the end of the week. She ever so thoughtfully turned to her impressionable group of middle schoolers and asked them to ask their parents if they could have a cat.   Miss Manipulative, the teacher, had spoken of a sad, tragic place called The Pound, where animals go in and never come out.   This instigated a long, serious talk with my daughter about the responsibilities of pet ownership, and in the end, my little girl’s sense of compassion won the day and Katniss came to stay with us too.   Penny and Whiskey were unimpressed.  I had the first twinges of concern that I was leaning towards becoming a CCL.

A visit to the vet with a sick puppy brought Salem into our lives. As I sat there and listened to this idiotic wretch go on and on about all the reasons she just couldn’t keep her cat after ten years- TEN YEARS- of ownership and he had to go RIGHT NOW and she couldn’t even wait another day for a shelter to open…and being a volunteer with my Akita breed’s Save Our Seniors and knowing first hand the dismal rates of adoption for old pets- I stepped up and said four words in a chilling tone meant to brook no disobedience. Give. Me. The. Cat.   Long story short (I’ll share his tale on another blog), Salem become cat #4.  I said we were done. I lied.

A kennel club meeting one evening in the park and…yeah you know where this is going. Soft ,warm,  no  more than 6 weeks old kitten tucked into my jacket and headed home. The others left with her found homes with my fellow club members. We must all suffer from the same form of Suckeritis.  Echo joined our crew and with a grand total of five, I resigned myself to the title. I’d become a cat lady.  Adding crazy to the front is an honorific earned once you get past four; and just kind of comes with the territory.

As I type, Salem  has crawled across the furniture and deposited himself on the narrow space between my waist and thighs not already occupied by my HP laptop.   He’s purring like mad- he’s a real talker- and either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that I’m trying to accomplish something here. I suspect the latter.

Life had become a series of picking things up that the cats toss off shelves and dressers, crockpots full of fish or rabbit to cook down into easy to digest meals for the senior, morning removal of a living hat on my pillow and playing guessing games as to which is responsible when I hear a crash in the other room. It’s also full of the contented sounds of a happy feline who knows he is safe and sound in my arms, laughing along to the mid evening marathon, loads of “awwwww” moments when the dogs and cats join in social grooming sessions, and realizing the thing that used to be up a tree or down a hole in my yard now lying motionless on my porch was a treasured gift from an independent creature who wanted me to know they like having me in their life, too.

 

The Right Man For The Job

My husband, Spousal Unit 2.0, is one hell of an upgrade.  Richard is a quietly driven person with some strong values and an outstanding work ethic.  He is also very nearly painfully modest and is going to blush seven shades of magenta knowing he’s my writing subject today.

richard at wedding
the guy worth waiting for

Get over it babe.

I was a few years out of The Great and Terrible Marriage.  Every couple has their problems.   You iron them out when you can.  But when the wrinkle in question is discovering your spouse has very successfully hidden a serious mental illness from the public for a very long time- and when you make this discovery in the middle of a psychotic break where YOU are the Enemy and must be destroyed by any means possible, there isn’t  much you can do. I tried.  I grew up Catholic and the guilt instilled from a very young age is a powerful force; you made a vow, you keep it, no matter what. Even when your partner doesn’t want help. Even when he stops taking his medications. Even when he has repetitive crises and does some extremely frightening things.  And so many people tell you, “Leave. Just go” but how can they possibly understand? You have a child together. You made a commitment for better or worse. You should make this better.

You can’t. And when The Big Snap comes and you almost lose your life during it, as scary as striking out on your own and accepting the stigma from friends and family who tell you its your duty to stay can be, it has to be done.

I spent a considerable amount of time moving frequently to avoid him.  Jumping at bumps in the night.  It took me a lot of effort to realize I deserved to be safe. And happy.  Don’t ask me to explain why that’s a difficult concept to understand.   I’m still not sure I get the hows and whys myself.

Fast forward to making myself available again.   One of the hardest things about getting “back out there” was allowing anyone to get close, emotionally or physically.  I would get scared. I’d bolt.  I fell back on that lame excuse “it’s not you it’s me….” It was easier than saying I couldn’t handle someone leaning in to kiss me without being scared to death of suffocating.

Richard was different right from the start.  I felt a level of comfort around him I hadn’t in more years than I wanted to count.   First dates were public events. Out in the open, where I felt safer.  And though most guys are pushing for intimacy sooner than I knew I’d be ready, he took 45 minutes to even kiss me goodnight.  For once, it wasn’t scary.

When I finally let him come to my home for dinner (we had plans to go out but decided to stay in) he fell asleep against me watching a movie. I didn’t have the heart to wake him. I laid there all night, just watching him breathe with an arm wrapped around me. I had to eventually get him up so he could travel the hour plus home and get ready for work.  He was a little embarrassed and texted me later in the day to apologize. Like I said- different from minute one.

We continued seeing one another, and the relationship blossomed at a rate that sometimes I wasn’t sure I could handle.  It was time to introduce him to my daughter. When you’re a parent, the dating issue is much larger than just you.   Richard took everything in stride.    As he said once in a discussion on the dating scene, “I only date single moms- the married ones are too complicated”.  Yeah, ten thousand comedians outta work and I get this one 🙂 …..

Bri wasn’t sure what to think at first.  An expected reaction. Richard brought Keisha, his senior mixed breed dog (we called her a Sibaskan Huskamute if anyone asked).  That helped break the ice between them; Bri loves all animals. He talked to her like a real person. He was patient with some of the challenges a child like her presented.  Eventually it was clear to us both that this was going to be permanent and Bri accepted this- but until the day we married, she wouldn’t call him Dad.  Since then, she’s never called him anything else.

He didn’t have to take on the title. And yet he did, with all the accompanying duties and responsibilities that followed.  He put her up in front of him on the bike to show her what it was like. He carefully chose which magnets to use on the fridge to display her art. He held a funeral- complete with grave digging services and a eulogy – for a stuffed animal. You read that right. Bri is very rule bound and set in schedules, order and routines.  Every stuffed animal she had not only had a name, but a backstory. And one day, shortly after the not unexpected but still heavily mourned loss of Keisha, she walked into the room, quietly crying, and announced a terrible thing had happened- Gloria was dead. Gloria, a stuffed hippopotamus, apparently contracted a fast acting and fatal disease and was lost before Mom could perform any stuffie saving first aid.

Richard didn’t crack a smile. He didn’t wave her off. He didn’t say this was stupid.  He hugged her and when she expressed a desire to bury her friend, he retrieved a shovel and got to work.  Complete with a solemn prayer for her journey to wherever she was going.

After that he continued to do the day to day things that the job required. He helped with homework. He kissed skinned knees.  He taught her to ride a bike and took her for trips around the neighborhood. They carved pumpkins at Halloween and made salt dough ornaments at Christmas and conspired together on my birthday to get me a gift in secret.  They sneak out for fast food when I’m not around and make sure to get rid of the cardboard ice cream containers before I get home to hide the evidence. Now that she is a teenager and she and I have our inevitable head butting sessions with one another, he’s the referee and translates mom-speak to teen brain.    I’m fairly certain it requires the use of a Rosetta Stone.


Any guy can be a friend. A lover. Even a husband. But it takes an incredible man to pick up the mantle of “Daddy” and all it entails.  This is not a position for the weak of spirit or faint of heart, and woe betide the first youngster to show up on our doorstep to ask her out. That’s HIS little girl.   Their bond wasn’t forged in blood but in something deeper.  They chose one another.

He didn’t need to take the job but I am thankful and blessed, every day, that he did and that his qualifications were beyond compare.

The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On

So here I was-  single mom, self employed, with more weeks on the road than home, a load of four footed beasties about that acted like cranky toddlers in fur coats more often than not, and after spending a couple of years post divorce learning how to allow myself to be happy, I began dating again. And looking to broaden my horizons on life in general.

Getting back into the crazy, upside down world of The Dating Scene (bahm duhm dahhhhh!) is a story bigger than these pages.  The condensed version reads that I had a lot of first and even second or third dates stretching out my wings a little, remembering what it was like to be free.  I was looking for new experiences as much as new faces and gave more attention to those who were offering exciting new things to try.  Film noir.  Vintage cars. Wine collecting and rare Scotch tastings.  Skiing.  Art exhibitions. This was a fine opportunity to meet interesting new people and try things I didn’t know much about before.

Like motorcycles.

my scuffed leather  knight
I’ll take scuffed leathers over    shining armor any day

I briefly dated  someone really into them. Riding, racing, and track days.  While that association didn’t last very long, my enthusiasm for the sport did. I began making new relationships in the sport bike community, joining forums, going to meets, reading everything I could get my hands on so that once I was ready to throw a leg over, I would truly be prepared.  It also eventually led me to the Guy Worth Waiting For.   You’ll read about him in another post (lots of them).

Buying my first bike was one part elation, one part trepidation, and a whole lot of OHMYGAWDWHATAMIDOING?  Most “newbs” start on the training wheels of all sport bikes, the Ninja “two fiddy”.   The problem I had with this was my height; these aren’t ideal bikes for a six foot tall beginner.  I don’t dance for a reason- I’m not the most graceful creature out there. The extreme forward position of most modern sport bikes wasn’t something I was ready for right off the bat. I eventually settled on a solid, mechanically sound if a little rough around the fairings Suzuki Katana 600. The more upright position helped me transition from 4 to 2 wheels much faster.

A few parking lot practice sessions and increasingly longer short rides about town later, I found myself answering posts for “anyone up for a Berryessa run?”  and “group ride to Preston Castle, who’s in?”.   Invariably these rides included stops to see scenic vistas, historic places, and more coffee shops than you can imagine.  They also included laughter, hugs, tips and tricks and incredible bonds forged over miles of pavement.

preston castle ride
Preston Castle ride with SCR- yes we saw ghosts!

I finally took the plunge and signed up for my first track day.  Track days are events where the host company rents an entire race track for the day or weekend. breaks riders into groups based on their proficiency, and provides classroom and on track instruction on how to be a better rider. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” is a phrase often heard at track days. It isn’t about opening the throttle as wide as you for as long as you can, its about perfecting your techniques and having a blast doing it.

That short lived dating scenario mentioned before? Something he said stuck with me; he was speaking of track days and called it “the most fun you can have with your clothes on”.  He never spoke truer words to me.

From my first session, I couldn’t wait for more.  Everyone is their own worst critic and I was no exception, constantly worried that I wasn’t doing enough right out there. My instructors were there for me every step of the way, assuring me that everyone starts somewhere, swooping in and tapping their tail to tell me to follow them to find the right line, giving me encouragement to go ahead and move a little faster,  to get my ass off the seat more and let physics work for me not against me.  One of the best compliments I received was when one instructor was riding on her own at a much faster pace and made a very close pass in a very tight turn.  After the session, she came to our set up in the paddock, gave me a hug and apologized for “stuffing” me into a corner.  “I came up on you realized what I was doing and said OH S&%$, and then I realized, oh, its Danni, it’s ok!”.    She went to explain that by her observations of my riding that I didn’t choke under pressure or seize up in a situation, I just stuck to my line and stayed focused. I was thrilled at this praise! A month later at another day on a different track, my instructor worked with me on several laps and as the session was nearing a close, pulled into the pits, jumped off her bike and gave me a huge hug telling me “That was AWESOME! You’ve come so far!”


I couldn’t have been happier if I’d won the lottery.

You not only wear all your clothes to have this incredible of a time, you wear extra. Specific safety gear is required- one piece leathers or two piece that zip together, a full helmet with a set safety rating, gloves, proper boots, spine protector….  Of course, you end up getting more and better gear the more you ride; my street boots and my track boots were two completely different things!

You get some odd looks when people say “What do you do for fun?” and you answer “Well first, I put on a full leather suit….” But it’s worth it.