Thursday, August 22, 2013

Break it down..

We're working at bringing the level of crazy activity down a little bit before September over here at la casa de Gemdriks. It started with a rare quiet weekend at the Cottage, followed by some delicious houseguests and is settling in with slowly cleaning and sorting the home after a summer spent outside riding.

School is coming and September is always an exhausting month full of new schedules, classes and shorter days.  I love Fall for all the cooling down but without a couple of weeks of preparation, September has the power of Thor's hammer to crush us.

Step one - Invite dear friends up for a quiet weekend at the Cottage. Important: Put the social media down for a weekend. This is not easy for me but I put down the iPhone and picked up my camera instead.
Step 2: Move slow enough for small skittish animals to hang out with us.
Step 3: Go visit favourite quiet spots near the lake to explore rocks and investigate frog population.
Step 5: Look up and breathe deep. If only for a moment.

Step 6: Say goodbye to cottage cousins. Research caterpillar specimens rarely seen.
Eacles imperialis

Orgyia antiqua
It was a lovely weekend and on Monday some more of our favourite people came for a visit. Parents who had just finished their own epic endeavour for an amazing cause and whose children, my children are deeply in love with.

I am in a few high impact work moments so thanks to Jason, we enjoyed amazing food with a table and home full of people we love. Lots of wine and a little backyard fire to talk about the summers' adventures. 

It was a lovely and hopeful start to our pre-school slow down.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We're living the life of dreams.


It has been just over one week since my family and I arrived back in Toronto exhausted and fattened by adventurous travel.  It has taken this long for us to get back into a rhythm and a routine without daily heightened expectations of an epic adventure.

When the Friends for Life Bike Rally left Toronto on July 28th, I'd already had the extreme luxury of being on a team of experienced riders and generous first times. These three characters here gave me heads up to pitfalls (no LCBO on the first day, camp chairs are worth it) and kept me inspired while getting ready without ruining any of the amazing surprises that would follow in the next six days.

How at the end of every day the fastest riders set up the tents and put our bins together so we never feel alone and like we all belong on a team together.  That first night, I got into camp with my intrepid riding partner who knew where our team would be and showed me the ropes.

Luxury is having one's high school shyness waylaid by a good posse of people keeping one company.

We fell into a weird sort of rhythm for a short time this huge group of people all riding to the same goal for a myriad of personal reasons.  Luxury was being told a story or two during a quiet moment in the morning before the gears started shifting.
Stephanie and I would start each morning and set out each day with a goal of making it Great. She was unstoppable. Punny and charming all day even when it got really hard to like me and for me to like her (turns out coffee is not so much a luxury but a fundamental necessity) She knew what was coming and so I could be ready for the hardest hills at the end of a decaffeinated day.

My friend Josh was unstoppable, even when his knee was trying to convince him to.  It was his first year too and we kept each other going on training rides and throughout the Rally. He really set the bar for unflagging commitment to civility through discomfort.
At the end of every ride, our little crew would roll into Camp.  Our tent and gear already having been set up by the fastest riders (KEN YOU ARE A GIFT). We would pump our mattress and debrief the day.  Enjoy dinner, conversation with the team, a couple of glasses of wine and then we'd go to bed.

Luxury is laughing like 14 year old girls at a slumber party, when we are closer to 50 than we are to 14.  This is a picture of us laughing to the point of getting called out by other campers. We felt totally bad ass.

These guys. All of them. Luxury on the ride. So smart, gracious, funny and inspiring. Not to mention asskicking riders.
Arriving in Kingston to see my favourite people in the world watching me do something I'm so unequivocally proud of?  Luxury. 

Fenner's face as I rode up in a sequined dress?  ECSTATIC.
   
 To be invited into a family for the riveting process of 'cleaning oneself up' and napping? Super luxurious.  Steph's Aunt Yvonne made it so we wished we'd never left. My kids are still referring to our stay there as though they were in a magic wonderland...and they were right.
 
Our team had 7 top fundraisers (only five here). The knitters, my neighbours, colleagues (former and current) and my family gave me the gift of being a top fundraiser and the pride that went with it.  I found myself in incredibly high quality company. There was inspiration that will keep me aiming high for years to come.
The luxury of riding through areas I've only ever driven brought us to beautiful coffees that seemed to carry us for 80 kms.
Our little paceline rode by towns my family has lived in.
Through rainstorms that blinded us and then over paths that were treacherous. At one point, we took pause under a tree because the rain was going SIDEWAYS. When the rain had 'let up' enough for us to decide we could carry on; we had to go along a part of the path that was so clearly under construction that we thought we'd taken a wrong turn.

Large rocks, gravel, loose dirt, puddles hiding pot holes, 15 riders following us. All of us cycling carefully.  It was terrifying and, once it was done, exhilarating. We all had to step right outside our individual comfort zones. It was a brutal and exhilarating day. Once we knew none of us would be alone that day, anything could be accomplished.

We crushed Day 5. That tetra pack French Cross was divine.

Day Six. Stephanie and I are still friends.  Despite my ability to make a cheap shot and her ability to lose a knitting needle in a mattress...vertically. As a tent partner and biking partner she was the best an uppity difficult woman like myself could ask for. Don't get me wrong, we were both nervous about how much time together was too much time.

But in the end, making things nice as possible for each other made everything as nice as possible for everyone. When I was flagging she was there to inspire me to press on and vice versa.  Although, she and I are shit at creating a wind shadow. 5 feet of rage is not enough to block wind effectively.



By the end of the week I couldn't count all the moments that cumulatively changed the way I see myself.  The friends, the inspiration, the stories and the laughing...so much laughing.








After all the fundraising, the training, the cycling, the camping, the learning, the friendships; getting to Montreal was the cherry on top of one enormous epic adventure.
 



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Affirmation

I shaved my armpits for the first time in 5 years in a moment of insecurity. As an adult mammal it is one of the signs that I am a mature homo sapien despite what every magazine in North America tells me.

Upon seeing them, my FIVE YEAR OLD daughter cried, "Now you look just like me!!"

Exactly, my dear, exactly.