Using my words

I have a lot to share here, but it all feels trivial.  And I don’t feel fully qualified to talk about what isn’t trivial, as Heather so pointedly stated a few months ago:

Because who the hell am I? I am a white woman raised in a white household, a white woman who has experienced nothing but privilege her entire life. I have never known persecution or been maligned because of my minority status. I have never had to worry that the color of my skin would in any way cost me the slightest luxury or basic human right.


Yet who the hell am I to NOT talk about this?  Though I have yet to be there physically, most of my heart and mind feel stuck in Ferguson, MO.  This is important.  There is so much to read and process — so much background to understand about how we got to this point and so much wisdom and grace needed to begin to move forward, to change.

MotherTeresaQuoteRecommended reading

St. Louis: A city divided

What’s unusual about St. Louis — and goes a long way to explain the tension of the Ferguson protests — is not racism per se, but the way the metropolitan area has chopped itself into bits, remaining socially and economically segregated long after the racist laws were erased from the books.

For the Sake of Michael Brown

It may take a village to raise a child, but many administrators and parents in better-resourced parts of our region had no problem saying quite publicly that Michael Brown and his brothers and sisters did not belong in their village.

What I Did After Police Killed My Son

Our country is simply not paying enough attention to the terrible lack of accountability of police departments and the way it affects all of us—regardless of race or ethnicity. Because if a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy — that was my son, Michael — can be shot in the head under a street light with his hands cuffed behind his back, in front of five eyewitnesses (including his mother and sister), and his father was a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew in three wars for his country — that’s me — and I still couldn’t get anything done about it, then Joe the plumber and Javier the roofer aren’t going to be able to do anything about it either.


Alternatives to guns?

Over the weekend, I asked Matthew, “Couldn’t police officers just use tasers and stun guns?”  You know, something less permanent than putting a bullet in someone?

After reading a bit more about the uses and limitations of such weapons, I think the answer is, yes, maybe, but not as long as everyone and his brother is running around armed with real guns in this country.

And, sadly, we seem headed in just the opposite direction, given what this situation has revealed about the militarization of police forces (haven’t read the book I link to, but it looks worth a read).

Walking in the street

While we have far from a full, clear account of exactly what happened between Darren Wilson (the police officer) and Michael Brown (the victim) on August 9, the accounts of Wilson initially stopping Brown because he was “walking in the street” really struck me.

For some background, the term “jaywalking” did not exist until the invention of the automobile in the early 1900s:

The term’s dissemination was due in part to a deliberate effort by promoters of automobiles, such as local auto clubs and dealers, to redefine streets as places where pedestrians do not belong.  (Wikipedia, emphasis mine)

If our streets were for people instead of for cars, would Mike Brown still be alive?

I don’t mean to over-simplify this, or direct attention away from the very important issues of inequality or injustice, but I can’t help but wonder.

White privilege

White privilege.  I think those are hard words to hear.  What do they mean?  What do they call us to do?

Yesterday, parishioner at my church recommended the book Witnessing Whiteness by Shelly Tochluk as a starting point for this important discussion.  I just requested a copy from the library.

If you’re in St. Louis, and want to be part of a discussion group, check out the YWCA (dates/times are for 2012 — I wrote to ask them to update the page, as I believe there will be a group starting in September 2014).

Say something

Despite living less than 18 miles from Ferguson, MO, I didn’t hear about the events that unfolded last weekend (and continue to unfold) until more than forty-eight hours later.  In a small cabin south of Crater Lake in Oregon, I received a garbled second-hand account of the rioting and looting from my MIL, who had just spoken to her brother.

I turned to the internet, where I learned about Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a police officer, and I watched with a breaking heart from hundreds of miles away: loss, hate, hope, anger, love, grief.


After nine years in St. Louis, I’m no stranger to the fact that the region has race issues.

I’m often struck by the make-up of crowds that I’m in, how in a city that is split almost exactly fifty-fifty between white and black, that racial mix is rarely represented at a given place or event.

In May, I took G to be tested to see if he would qualify for speech services through St. Louis Public Schools.  Our assigned testing site was Gateway Elementary and Middle School in north St. Louis City.  As we were leaving, we were caught in the halls during a class change at the middle school, and I was struck by the fact that I did not see a single white student in that hallway.  I wasn’t surprised, exactly, but all I could think was, “It’s the year 2014, and segregation is alive and well.”

This is not an accident, but rather the result of concerted historical efforts in St. Louis (as well as other cities), to separate white people and black people, and “protect property values,” through the use of [racially] restrictive covenants in real estate, which created white neighborhoods and black neighborhoods.

The effects of these covenants are still apparent in St. Louis City and the surrounding suburbs today.  For a closer look at how this played out in and near Ferguson, check out Jeff Smith’s excellent post, “You Can’t Understand Ferguson without First Understanding these Three Things.”


I’ve been in Kinloch and other parts of north county.  I vividly remember an assignment in grad school, which involved visiting a number of parks in the metro area, assessing them from a usability perspective (okay, we say people should just get out and exercise — what are the sidewalks and the parks near their houses like — is that really feasible???).  For the exercise, we were assigned partners and a list of parks to assess, ranging from nice to not-so-nice.

My [white, female] partner and I were in a large, but clearly under-resourced, park in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in north St. Louis County (we may have actually been IN Kinloch, or not far from) when a couple of police officers approached and asked what we were doing there.

I don’t remember exactly what was said, but it was clear to my partner and I that the officers assumed that only thing white people could be doing in that park was buying or selling drugs.  We explained our assignment and showed them our park inventory sheet, and they let us continue.

I was fairly new to St. Louis at the time, and the encounter was both surprising and saddening.  Despite being across the street from a decent-sized apartment complex, we were the only people out in the park on a Saturday morning.  Was drug-dealing really the only thing that happened in that park?  Was the perceived (and perhaps real) danger just too high for residents to use the park for recreational purposes?


I know people who live in Ferguson, including our real estate agent and a fellow CyclingSavvy instructor, who is also a small business (a bike shop, of course) owner there.  There is a great organic farm and farmer training program within the city limits, and a Saturday Farmers’ Market.  This is also Ferguson, MO.

But as the events of the past week demonstrate, there are some very real issues that we must face, not just in Ferguson, but in the entire St. Louis metro area (and in other parts of the country as well), issues stemming from a long history of racial injustice and disparities in education, healthcare, and economic opportunity.

At the same time as my heart breaks at the continued violence and unrest, there are many more heartening stories, and images, of a community and region pulling together.  My hope and prayer is that this won’t just “go away,” but will lead to real, honest dialogue; enlightenment; and then action to change things.  This process won’t be easy or painless, and change won’t happen overnight, but we can, and must, do better.



Bike expo and pawpaws

We spent Sunday morning on top of a parking garage at the Mississippi Valley Bicycle Expo and Swap Meet helping at the CyclingSavvy info table.

What’s the best way to get to a bicycle expo?  By bike, of course!

Our route took us past the theoretical pawpaw spot.  We rode slowly, with our eyes peeled, until Matthew said, “That’s a pawpaw tree.”


I never would have found this on my own, as I don’t think the tree is particularly “tropical looking,” and it wasn’t in the spot marked on either of the foraging maps.

Whether it was birds, humans, or just a low-fruit year, there were not many pawpaws to be found.  A few ripe dropped fruits on the ground, and a couple more unripe that Matthew grabbed from a tree — not sure if they’ll ripen or not.

Despite the low harvest, it was a successful mission in my book.  We now know the exact location for future years AND there were some fully-loaded persimmon trees with fruit that should be ready before too long!

After our little detour, we proceeded to the expo.


CyclingSavvy’s littlest fan needs a t-shirt of his own!

We bungeed Sir’s BalanceBike to Matthew’s rear rack, and Gabriel enjoyed riding it around the expo.  Sir needs an advertising contract with the bike company.


We also added one more [small] bike to our fleet, picking up a used tricycle for Sir.  Our cargo capacity was already maxed out, so the trike is awaiting pick-up at a friend’s house.

Want to find out what it’s all about?  There are still a few spots open in this week’s CyclingSavvy workshop: course details and registration.

*Bike expo photos courtesy of our friend and fellow CyclingSavvy instructor, Karen.

Bikey stuff

For my St. Louis area readers, it’s not too late to sign up for Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling on August 22nd at 6:3opm, details and registration here.

If you’re into planning ahead, check out the fall schedule, with full workshops, including the on-bike sessions, offered in both September and October.

Be Informed
Check out the plans to make a simple, straightforward road (Manchester Rd. in StL City) that currently works for all users into something messy and complicated for all: “A Tragedy of Good Intentions.”

While the plans mentioned above are not for separated cycle paths, this post, from Off The Beaten Path, addresses what I felt when I read about the proposed plans: “Did you guys ask any people who regularly cycle on that stretch of road for their opinion when considering changes?”

Not-so-hot biking
The weather we’ve had for the last month or so tempts me to forgive St. Louis for the brutal summers of the past two years.

Sure, some days, the temperatures still climb into the mid- to upper-80s, which count as hot in my book, but we’ve had a number of days with highs in the low-80s and even some with upper-70s.

Today’s high is a glorious 76°F, which is lower than the usual overnight lows at this time of year.  Amazing!

The hot weather plants in the garden may not be thrilled with this cooler weather, but I’ll take it over the heat any day, though it’s probably not helping drive traffic to my “biking in the heat” post.

While I am NOT complaining, the cooler temps have actually made for a couple of chilly rides, including the World Naked Bike Ride (turns out that temps in the mid- to low-70s are not ideal for biking while wearing [almost] no clothes) and a ride home from the Muny last week.

Even with the cooler temps, I complete my bike errands in the morning to avoid peak sun times.  This morning found me riding to complete paperwork for my new [very] part-time job, which will officially start in a couple of weeks.

Resuming longtail conversations
Our longtail discussion/decision was relegated to the back burner due to summer travel, health issues, and general life uncertainty and craziness.  Not sure where it will end, but we’re revisiting the topic, and not a moment too soon given Sir’s height, which threatens to overwhelm the IBert any day now.

World Naked Bike Ride!

Well, I did it!  Despite serious fatigue on Saturday evening (following a morning of gardening and an afternoon of toddler wrangling), I resisted the urge to just spend the night curled up on the couch and miss out on yet another World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR).

I loved experiencing the positive energy and camaraderie of the Tour de Fat ride in D.C., and that, combined with the fact that we’ve been talking about doing this forever, provided the necessary motivation.

We returned from the garden (sans toddler) and ate a quick dinner, after which I donned my blue tutu and hopped on Baby Jake.  We rode to the rendezvous point/pre-party on South Grand, where we made some final outfit adjustments.

The ride is part protest against dependency on oil and other nonrenewable resources, part celebration of bodies and positive body image, and part really fun group bicycle ride, summed up nicely in this quote:

It’s time to put a stop to the indecent exposure of people and the planet to cars and the pollution they create.

Clothing ran the spectrum from nothing (except footwear — I didn’t see anyone barefoot, though I wouldn’t count it out) to totally PG, family-friendly beach wear, which we’d already discerned from previous years’ pictures.

In this age of digital media, where everyone has a camera and can post to the internet in seconds, we opted for a middle road.  You know, just so there’s nothing scandalous that would mar my future run for president.


We fed off the energy of the crowds that lined many portions of the thirteen mile route through the streets of St. Louis, and, while our ride certainly caused delay for some motorists, they didn’t seem to mind, given the free entertainment.

With over 1500 participants, this was the largest WNBR in St. Louis to date, pretty impressive for an all volunteer-run event.

My only complaint about the ride itself (and the pre-party), was the smoking.  I would love to see the ride become a smoke-free event.  I’m not sure where that would leave the men who stuffed their cigarette packs in their underwear, hoping to compensate  for certain, um, shortages, shall we say, but my lungs would really appreciate it.

Barring the ride going smoke-free, we’re planning to bring water guns next year, so we can help put out fires (guy who puffed a cigar for half of the ride, I am looking at you!  Actually, I was this close to walking up and pulling it out of your hand and smashing it under my running shoe).

Other complaint about the event?  The after-party.

The route ended in The Grove, at an outdoor event sponsored by HandleBar and Atomic Cowboy.  By that point, I seriously needed a restroom (having not relieved myself in alleyways along the route, the toilet of choice for numerous other riders).  After looking in vain for port-a-potties, we headed to HandleBar, hoping for a restroom and the chance to purchase some food.

Instead of welcoming the riders, as one would expect given their sponsorship of the event, HandleBar was charging a five dollar cover for the evening.  Seriously lame, guys!  I was planning to buy food, but you just lost some business.

We crossed the street to Atomic Cowboy (no cover) and joined the growing bathroom queues.  Afterward we grabbed a table and waited in vain for someone to take our food order.  We even resorted to eating our own snacks, sure that that would attract attention, but no.

I finally hopped up and approached a waitress who had just delivered an order to a table across the room, only to have her completely and blatantly ignore me.  (Was it the petals?  Would less clothing help?)

We finished our own snack and headed to the outside “party” area, where I hoped to find an awesome dance party in progress.  Not so.

In addition to being lame in general, there were far too many “spectators” at the after-party, people who were creepily milling around, not following the [un]dress code at ALL.  A private event just for riders (and perhaps appropriately clad friends) would be much better.

Final verdict on my first WNBR: the ride itself was great — I’m very glad we did it, and I’m looking forward to next year!

The after-party?  Seriously anticlimactic! It needed restrooms, food, less fully-clothed people, and more dancing.

Barring those changes, we agreed it would have been fun to have a group of friends to hang out with at the end.  So, who’s joining us next year???