A new chapter . . . and back to the car

I finished my final semester of dietetics coursework (and bike commuting to campus) in early May, and I am now one week away from working full-time outside the home for the first time in SIX years.  Six. Years.  August 1, 2012.  That feels like eons ago.

Also, while my job from December 2009 — July 2012 was full-time, it was a four-day-a-week full-time gig.  Which means it’s been over eight-and-a-half years since I’ve had a 5-day outside-the-home work week.

Needless to say, I go into these next 10 months (the length of my internship) with more than a little trepidation about what this change will mean for me and my family.  As the partner who worked part-time, from home, with fairly flexible hours, it made sense for me to take on the bulk of the household tasks for the last six years — that will have to change, but exactly how remains TBD.  It’s not like Matthew will magically have more hours in his day, as he will continue to work his full-time job.

We have talked about cutting back on the garden, at least temporarily.  We’re hoping to continue to have homemade, mostly garden-grown meals most nights, but we will also need to be flexible on this.  I thought about exploring some meal kit options over the summer, but that hasn’t happened . . . .

On the transportation front, I will once again be primarily car-bound.*  My time will be split between two sites, one that is 13-16 miles (25-30 minutes) by car and one that is 7-8 miles (20-25 minutes) by car.  The longer commute will actually be pretty similar to my previous car commute.  I hope to bike to the closer site somewhat regularly, though I need to explore shower options.

The further site is a bit less far by bike than by car — 10 miles by bike vs. 13-16 miles by car — but still, TEN miles one way.  I test rode this route over a year ago and wrote about it here.  Those 10 miles took me a bit over an hour, which means 2+ hours out of my day, round-trip.  If I didn’t have a kid to get home to, maybe, but as it is, that’s time that I can’t regularly afford.  I don’t see that time decreasing much short of getting an e-bike, and getting an e-bike for 10 months doesn’t make sense.

While the realities of this change are sobering, I am excited and grateful that I not only matched for a dietetic internship (nationwide the match rate is under 60%), but I matched with my first choice program!  I will be engaging in amazing, hands-on learning in a field I love while working with great preceptors.

These next ten months will be challenging, and I’m not expecting a great work-life balance.  What will come after May 2019 remains to be seen.  Our ideal work-life balance is probably working ~1.3 paid jobs between the two of us, leaving room for our gardening and from-scratch cooking habits.  Realistically, while it would be great to divide the paid work evenly between us, with health insurance and other benefits being tied to full-time employment, that means one of us working full-time and the other working part-time.  Once I finish my internship, secure employment, and pay off my school loans, we will see about that 1.3 jobs goal. And more consistent bike commuting!

*Any of the internships to which I applied would have required a car commute, given the distance and time to the sites, so this internship is neutral in that sense.

Summer fun[k]

Over a month ago, I wrote a post about a mini bicycle adventure, intending it for this space, but it instead morphed into my first piece for The Savvy Cyclist blog.  After weeks of waiting, the post went live today — check it out here!

I almost had a bigger bicycle adventure to share — my first ever bike camping trip, but the weather didn’t cooperate, and the trip is on hold indefinitely.

Anyhow, the ride chronicled on The Savvy Cyclist kicked off my summer, and the weeks since have flown by, with both highs and lows along the way.

Summer Fun

  • Harvesting veggies from our own yard!
  • Picnic dinners and acro yoga jams at MOBot Whitaker Concerts
  • Shakespeare Festival to see The Winter’s Tale on a deliciously cool [almost] summer night
  • Continuing our aerial journey with our first level 3 (!) silks class
  • Fun times leading a Sunday morning social ride
  • Watching Jesus Christ Superstar at The Muny from lovely ticketed seats (and singing the songs on the bike ride home)
  • Blueberries!
  • Hosting a potluck and game night

If you’re thinking, “That sounds like a lot for parents of a young one,” you’re right!  We enjoyed an entire week where Gabriel was traveling with my MIL, which was reminiscent of our pre-child summers — fun and tiring — and we continue to benefit from regular “Baba overnights.”

Summer Funk

  • Adjusting to a new routine, i.e., summer — I get there eventually, but change is hard.
  • Remembering that “just taking one” summer class is deceptive, because it’s 16-weeks worth of work and material packed into 8 weeks.
  • Gabriel’s drama over swimming lessons (clearly I learned nothing from last summer)

I was going to put the garden on both lists, but it’s not fair to call it a “low.”  It IS, however, a ton of work, which can be overwhelming at times.  With the commuter garden located at my MIL’s, we had a lot more of her help.  Now it’s all us, and we’re working on garden-life balance.  There will ALWAYS be more work to do!  (Any volunteers???  We’ll pay you in beautiful vegetables!)

While the official season of summer has just begun, it feels like we’ve already had a full summer’s worth of stuff, but it’s not over yet — birthdays, big cats, and naked bike rides await!



When your cart is bigger than your bike

Every six-to-eight weeks, I make a big stock up run to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, which are conveniently located near each other.  They are also located relatively near a light rail stop, making them ideal for a bike + transit trip.

That said, I usually make the trip by car, trying to combine it with a time that I’ll be out and about in the car in the vicinity of said stores anyway.  Making this trip by bike poses two challenges that aren’t an issue with the car:

  1. Can I fit everything on my bike?
  2. What do I do with the groceries from the first store while I’m in the second store?

The answer to #1 is . . . maybe — more on that in a sec.  The answer to #2 is, “It depends.”  I usually hit WF first and TJ’s second because I buy frozen veg at TJ’s that I want to get back in a freezer ASAP.  For today’s trip, I went to WF first, as usual.  I fit most of my WF grocery bags into Big Blue’s side loaders, where I could conceal them fairly well with the flaps.  Sure, someone could walk off with my groceries, which would totally suck, but to make this bike thing somewhat reasonable, I counted on the decency of my fellow shoppers.  I brought the one bag I couldn’t fit into the side loaders into TJ’s with me.

Back to question #1 — I’ve made this double-store trip at least once before, and the bike was full, but it wasn’t an issue.  I don’t know what was different today, but for some reason I barely made it.

As in, barely fit all of the bags, and then, once I had everything loaded, I dropped the thing right in front of Trader Joe’s as I wheeled it from the sidewalk into the parking lot.  Yep, that was me, attempting to heave Big Blue back upright.  Fortunately, I had packed everything well enough that no bags fell off of / out of the bike, and no items fell out of bags, and a nice lady stopped to help me right the bicycle.

I knew riding it would be easier than walking it, but my confidence was a little low at that point.  I wobbled my way to the MetroLink stop, where I examined my scraped knee and took some pictures to regroup.

I wrangled the bike onto and off of the train without incident, thankful that I wasn’t actually riding the bike all that far, and wobbled home to survey my haul.

Nine bags in all (these six + three insulated bags)

Curious, and expecting a big number, I weighed all of the bags.  From the way the bike was handling, I was expecting close to 200 pounds!  The grand total?  A measly 105 pounds — whomp, whomp, wah.  On the up side, everything was fully intact despite the tip, including a number of glass jars / bottles (the nice thing about Big Blue is that she doesn’t really tip far to either side because of the metal running board rails).

I’m not sure if this load was really that much heavier than previous big loads, or if I just loaded it poorly.  I know it’s better to carry weight lower and evenly distributed on both sides.  I fit two bags in each of the side loaders, which left five bags on the cargo rack.

I’m not sure what I could have done differently.  For now, I’m thinking that if I want to do WF and TJ’s by bike, I need to divide it into two trips, unless one of the stores is truly just a few items.

Year end thoughts

Well, here we are on the other side of the semester, the election, the holidays — I won’t try to recap three months in one post, but I’ll share a few relevant details.

On the bike

As expected, I put in quite a few miles between getting G to school and getting to my own classes.  Most weeks, I was on the hook for seven school drop-off or pick ups , which was quite the change from my previous zero.  The two days where I did both drop-off and pick up were the most challenging, often feeling like I made it home only to turn around and go back again.

The biking got more pleasant when the heat abated, making for several nice weeks until it got cold.  G’s school run is particularly challenging in the cold: we get all bundled up at home, get to school, go inside, unbundle G, and pack the cold weather gear for me to take home, all while I try to avoid overheating while removing as little of my own gear as possible.  Reverse it all in the afternoon.

Between the hassle of bundling/unbundling at school, and the need for an ice/snow backup, we started experimenting with the school bus.  G was very resistant, declaring after the first day (which went just fine, despite my fears) that he would never ride the bus again.  Tough luck, kiddo.

He rode the bus a few more times before winter break, and it’s become fairly routine, though I expect another adjustment period when school starts in January.

I’m going to try to find some balance between biking and busing — I love biking with him to school for the fresh air and exercise, which is sadly lacking in his one-recess-per-day school (drops to zero if the temp is below freezing), but I also like my sanity.

School lunches (and snacks)

After multiple days of scarcely eaten lunches, I realized that, for better or worse, my kid was too much of a food snob to be into cold leftovers.  I can’t really blame him, as I highly prefer the reheated version as well.  With that in mind, I bought a nice thermos container and started sending warm lunches.  Lo and behold, food wastage decreased drastically.

We reached a decent arrangement on the afternoon-snack-at-school front by agreeing to two days per week when Gabriel eats whatever snack is provided in the classroom and three days where he brings a snack from home.  This set-up mostly satisfies my desire for the majority of his snacks to have some nutritional value and to minimize processed foods.

The election

[This feels like a bit of a non sequitur, but it’s important, so here goes . . . .]

After the election, I was disappointed when some bloggers failed to say anything about the results.  I felt it was too big NOT to say something, even on food blogs, where political content is not part of the norm, and thus these bloggers either a) agreed with the outcome or b) were too afraid of reader backlash/financial repercussions to speak up.

Though neither “a” nor “b” are true for me (I am deeply distressed with the choice of president, more so every day with each cabinet appointment, and I don’t make any money from this blog, so I really don’t care about readership), I have also been silent on the subject, so I can’t really judge.  Mostly, I don’t know what to say (that hasn’t already been said), and I’ve also been trying to do more listening, especially before saying or writing things that might further alienate people.

I did sit down and write a post, trying to sort through things, but a lot of it I wish I had published before the election, when maybe, somehow, it might have made a difference.  I may eventually publish it, but for now it will linger in “Drafts.”

Into 2017

And so begins another year, another semester . . . I will continue living and voting my values, working for the world I want to live in, one that is just, equitable, and compassionate.  One where people have the knowledge, resources, and support to care for their health and the health of this planet we all call home.  Here’s to creating moments of light in the new year, even when things seem dark!





So. Much. Cycling.

I just calculated my bicycle mileage for the past nine days — 126 miles! This was high for me due to two high mileage days while preparing for and teaching CyclingSavvy.  I briefly considered giving myself a break on Monday, but the weather was beautiful, I don’t have to worry about where I’ll park the car when I bike, and it’s just habit.

The first half of October is all about the bicycling, as I signed up to teach not one, but two, CyclingSavvy workshops within a two-week period.  Also in that two week period — attending the American Bicycling Education Association’s “I Am Traffic” conference.

(Someone please remind me that teaching two classes and attending a conference in a two-week time period is not the best for the whole “life balance” thing.  Our house is already a wreck!  Made worse by some recent home improvement projects . . . )

Anyhow, despite the work involved, I’m looking forward to the next teaching opportunity, as well as the chance to connect with fellow bikey peeps from across the country at the I Am Traffic conference.

In other news, my regular commuting is much more pleasant now that things are cooling off a bit.  Those first few weeks of the “fall” semester (which occur in summer, of course) were pretty brutal, as one of my classes has me commuting smack in the middle of the day — full heat, full sun, both directions.

That got old really fast.  I stuck with the biking for the most part, but I was dragging myself to my bike when it was time to leave home. Milder temperatures make such a big difference!