24 July 2011


When I was in the Young Women's program, my favorite value was integrity. Looking back on my time in YW, I probably liked integrity best because it was so straight forward: do what you know is right. It went hand in hand with my other favorite pair of values, choice and accountability. When confronted with a choice that has consequences, do the right thing. Make choices you can live with, choices that are true to who you are. Mormons don't have a corner on these values, but they are really good at teaching them.

When confronted with a question of integrity-- amidst the troubled rush of doing the right thing-- the song "I Walk By Faith" popped into my head as I rode my bike home. For the last couple of weeks, I've been singing the line "by doing what I know is right, I show integrity" like a mantra. It helped me get my self esteem back when I was being hard on myself about getting into a situation where I had to confront my integrity in such an intense way.

Oslo has been on my mind. I have cherished the hours I spent at Vigeland Sculpture Park in 2005- there is a connectedness and solidity in the way he portrays relationships that I still find poignant and worth aspiring to.

I've been reading Parker Palmer's The Courage To Teach. It's on the reading list for a program I will be going to training for next month. Just the act of participation in the program is, for me, an expression of integrity-- I want to put my values about social justice into action as an educator. Given my recent meditations on integrity, I was moved by Palmer's discussion of the value. He writes:
"...Identity is a moving intersection of the inner and outer forces that make me who I am, converging in the irreducible mystery of being human.
By integrity I mean whatever wholeness I am able to find within that nexus as its vectors form and re-form the pattern of my life. Integrity requires that I discern what is integral to my selfhood, what fits and what does not-- and that I choose life-giving ways of relating to the forces that converge within me: Do I welcome them or fear them, embrace them or reject them, move with them or against them? By choosing integrity, I become more whole, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means becoming more real by acknowledging the whole of who I am." (13)
Palmer enriches my definition in several ways. Just as my identity is constantly changing, so too is my sense of what is right for me and my life. Integrity means living in a state of consciousness that leads to authenticity.

Palmer later adds:
"Gandhi called his life 'experiments with truth,' and experimenting in the complex field of forces that bear on our lives is how we learn more about our integrity. We learn experimentally that we thrive on some connections and not with others, that we enhance our integrity by choosing relationships that give us life and violate it by assenting to those that do not.
Experimentation is risky. We rarely know in advance what will give us life and what will sap life away. But if we want to deepen our understanding of our own integrity, experiment we must-- and then be willing to make choices as we view the experimental results." (16)
This spoke to my heart. My integrity will not be perfect all the time because there is a certain degree to which I have to test the waters-- it sometimes takes time to get a sense of what the right course is. I think it's notable that Palmer is not talking about integrity as a way to achieve happiness, but as a means of gaining the perspective and the power to be a conscious and aware teacher, to achieve fulfillment in ones vocation. What's life-giving is so much bigger than fleeting happiness or satisfaction; it is to discern what is vital-- both in what is essential and what will give my life the kind of momentum and energy that I want it to have.

20 July 2011

on remaining a member of a church in which you are no longer active.

When I bailed on Mormonism nearly four years ago (I practically have a college degree in being inactive), it was after a number of years of frustration and resentment. Suddenly and strangely liberated-- and by this, meaning that I no longer felt inclined to keep a certain balance on my savings account, should I need to finance a wedding on the fly-- I bought a Dutch bicycle and I started this blog. Leaving the church, getting the Old Dutch Treat, and this silly little blogchurch were all part of that funny, disorienting moment in my life.

new bike owner. the ride home was 100% terrifying.

The thing about my membership in the Church-- the LDS Church-- is that I'm kind of unwilling to give it up. Sure, I don't acknowledge priesthood authority as a force that governs my life, and we all know I have done my fair share of things that would probably disqualify me from membership-- but the fact of the matter is, even though I don't go and I don't intend to go back, my membership, ensured through my baptism, means a lot to me. I still regard Mormons as my tribe-- adopted, to be sure-- and I just don't feel the inclination to resign my membership, in spite of everything. It's like keeping your married name after a divorce-- you can't deny that you made that choice, and it changed you in powerful ways (that's mixing metaphors, because this whole post is a metaphor, but whatever). I still identify as Mormon-- albiet a lapsed one- because Christian, atheist, agnostic- those labels just don't seem to fit. It's who I am, I can't shake it.

Ok, this post isn't actually about my relationship to the Church. It's about my relationship to my Dutch bike. I bought it with the intention of coasting down hills at the U, to feel the wind on my face-- and I did. The bike was not a burden. I had a large living room to store it in, and even when it didn't shift right or it blew over in the wind- I was just so into it. The bike was the symbol of the freedom I felt, and I might have spent a lot of my rides thinking, "Look at me! Don't you see how free I am? ACKNOWLEDGE MY FREEDOM."

my first fall in Philly.

So what went wrong? You will recall that I moved into a second floor apartment with a very narrow staircase. And even though the ODT carried me through a very exciting transition my life-- from West to East, car-owner to full-time city cyclist-- I still had to drag that heavy-ass bike up the stairs every night. It felt good to ride, but it's a lot of bike. I was covered in bruises from our battles. And the more I rode it, the more I had to maintain it. Have you ever taken the wheel off of a Dutch bicycle? No? GOOD. What I'm saying is, I could never find a shop that didn't bitch about my bike when I brought it in, so the bike and I were forced to duke it out and this tended to make for weeks of the ODT sitting around half dismantled.
the "aggressively hauling shit" phase. note that I had, by that time, gone to war with my skirt guards.

When I moved last year, getting a place with first floor access was a big deal for me. But then, you know, we have had a world of trouble with our pesky storm door. And the bike is still huge and hard to take care of. The headlight, which hadn't worked in over a year, started popping off and kickstand lost its functionality. Things were getting ramshackle. And then I started my exams. Being exhausted and hauling thirty books a trip up and down the hill-- because my commute doubled and now included a hill-- it just stopped working. I resented the bike, I didn't enjoy riding it (except on the downhills) and when the chain popped off when I was running late for school last Spring, I didn't bother to fix it. I told myself I'd take the train to school and ride the Dahon in the neighborhood and fix the bike when there weren't so many other demands on my energies. I had worked really hard to make the bike work, and it just wasn't happening. 

oh, the weight. by then, my Basil basket had disintegrated too. 

Fast forward, two months later--I finally finished fixing the bike today (it probably needs an adjustment at some hater bike shop).

And then I went to the shop to pick up the bike I bought in Tacoma. The tiny, light bike that won't be a bother when I'm late for school. The bike that will be much easier to lock up. The bike that shops won't mind working on. The bike I can actually take out on long rides. The bike that actually fits my leg length. The Bike. The Guez.

I'm not selling the Old Dutch, but I think it's time to put it in the basement. Maybe not forever-- I will probably want those fenders in the winter-- but for now, there's just no sense in keeping it out. Is this a rejection of the Cycle Chic, slow bicycle ethos that got me into cycling? It feels like it, a little bit. Riding in a skirt isn't my first priority these days, and slow only fits my life some of the time. But putting the Old Dutch to pasture doesn't mean getting rid of it-- like my church membership, it remains a powerful symbol of choices I made and things I wanted for my life. It will be there when I want it.

I like to think that I can cast off the weight of the symbol of being free and just be free. So I'll keep worshipping at the Church of the Granny Bike, just not on it. 

First thing out of the shop, I took my bike for a zip along the river to my favorite spot. Note that Big Brother cable tied my old tires on for shipping, and that the seat is the perfect height because BB made a note when he packed it! He is too wonderful.

15 July 2011

great moments in tacoma cycling, part iv.

A roundup of some of my favorite bikey photos from my trip to Tacoma earlier in the summer. They represent a broad swath of unphoto-ed bike memories and bike friends and family in lovely Tacoma.

Bicycle dinner date with my beloved and generous hosts

My new bike- The Guez- piled high with eats from my favorite teriyaki place. We will be reunited next week and I can. not. wait!!

Only a small portion of the megabikepile that my posse of Tacoma Mob Riders leaves outside of bars. Of all of the things I do when I go home, riding with that crowd always leaves me with the greatest sense that Tacoma is a magical place for bike riding (so what if I sound like Prester John!).

This one's not from Tacoma, but our ill-fated effort to ride bikes in Tulsa was still notable and memorable. Our greatest consolation was that we later found bike people, which is of course the next best thing to riding bikes.

10 July 2011

DIY mayonnaise.

Last night I was wandering around the grocery store, trying to figure out what to eat. It's too hot to eat, but a girl can't subsist on a diet of beverages and frozen treats (iced coffee and mini ice cream sandwich for breakfast, Yuengling Lager and Otter Pops for dinner...).

So I got the makings of my standard macaroni salad, because it's cheap to make and cold and, with some chicken added, sticks to your bones while still functioning as light summer fare. So I got home and prepped all the ingredients and went to dress it and... I had no mayonnaise.

Enter The Essential New York Times Cook Book.  From 1981, a lighter, creamier mayonnaise. A mayonnaise that's got that certain something. A mayonnaise that doesn't require uncomfortable discussion about spoilage and expiration dates. A mayonnaise that makes exactly enough for dressing a pound of macaroni. This is A mayonnaise that changes lives. It took less than 5 minutes to make in my Kitchen Aid.


1 large egg yolk 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard or other imported mustard
1 teaspoon cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 cup peanut, vegetable, or olive oil

Place the yolk in a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste, the mustard, and vinegar. Beat vigourously for a second or two with whisk attachment. Start adding the oil gradually, beating continuously with the whisk (I did this on 10). Continue beating and adding the oil until all of it is used.

Makes about 1 cup

Macaroni Salad

1 lb macaroni
3-5 stalks celery, chopped
1-2 bell peppers
salt and pepper 
the homemade mayonnaise you just made
generous quantities of celery salt
poached chicken, shredded and salted

04 July 2011

living in america.

In honor of the holiday, some Fourth of July tunes:

Tomorrow I start teaching my first, very own class. For lecture, I'm providing the students with an overview of race and ethnicity in America. It's a little strange to be cataloguing four hundred years of injustice and conflict on a day that we supposedly celebrate our nation's independence and the magic of democracy. I mean, America is great, but the costs, the costs.

In the interest of being upbeat (block parties! fireworks! pie!), let us remember that the promises of section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution are real, even if they are unfulfilled:
"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."


And because I'm a cheeseball, the finer interpretation of the official song of Summer 2011: