Monday, November 10, 2008

Motorcycle Gramma

Making it around the corner & staying upright!

My impression of a 'Shriner' in a parade!

I have to admit. Years ago as Matt & Krieg developed teenage-boy interest in motorcycle riding I had no desire to play. I have always been very content with riding on the back of Mike's motorcycle. I'm not sure how it started... maybe one of the boys thought it would be funny to dare Mom to ride a bike. We have several couple friends who ride together. Perhaps my curiosity got the best of me this year or at my age I caved to peer pressure. I finally decided to sign up for the STAR motorcycle course. There is a waiting list so I signed up in August for a course this weekend. I didn't think too much of it until this week when suddenly my weekend was booked solid with a 3 day course. I was very nervous.

Friday night was simply class room. I walked in with absolutely no idea how to drive a motorcycle. NONE. A blank canvas. I knew there was a lot of multi tasking and hand and feet moving... The boys all told me we would start to go over the book and than 'ride the desk'. Step by step, engaging our desk clutch, gears, brakes, etc. We started through the chapters covering what to wear (it's important to be fashionably safe), rules of the road, where things are on the bike and a vague diagram. I kept waiting for the desk riding. I knew this was going to be my salvation. I would at the very least have an idea how my hands and feet were going to work together to make this vehicle move forward AND remain upright. The instructor dismissed us and I panicked. He said we would meet outside on the range at 7:45 in the morning next to the bikes. What?! I didn't get to drive my desk and in the morning I was going to have to actually drive the bike. I called Matthew on the way home to point out he led me astray. He talked me down off the ledge and suggested I go to the garage and have Mike help me identify everything. Sound advice from the kid who recently learned about gravity!

Saturday morning bright and early I was standing on the range. The weather was cold but dry. We lucked out. Rain was threatening for later in the day. We were assigned a motorcycle. I didn't get a 'big girl model', there were no automatics AND someone removed all the training wheels. They were all small Suzuki or Kawasaki 125 or 250's. We learned to straddle walk the bikes, letting the clutch out and walking our way back and forth across the range. Feel the burn... Finally we lifted our feet and used the hand and foot brakes while letting the clutch out and applying the throttle. I couldn’t believe I was doing it. I proudly 'press down all four' - squeeze in the clutch, apply the hand brake, use the foot brake and down shift... and remembered to set a foot on terra firma! We worked our way through so many different skills. Swerving around cones, turning sharp corners, turning wide corners, abrupt stops... and shifting! We even got up to 3rd gear a couple of times! We actually put 10 miles on the bikes - making circles and figure 8's. whoo hooo.

The afternoon we had more classroom review. When we were done I was physically and mentally exhausted and slightly high from inhaling exhaust fumes. Four hours in the cold outdoors and than a nice, warm classroom. A hot shower was in my near future.

The bikes were just the right size - if you were 5' or under or have a 30" inseam. I struggled to keep my foot from stepping on the brake when I didn't want it to step and get my boot back out from under the gear lever after shifting. They told us it was mental muscles... but I had some aches and pains in other areas.

Sunday morning I was back on the range by 7:35 in multiple layers to be warmer and my rain gear. It was misting. More skills to learn. My brake foot was cramping because of the angle I had to hold my foot to keep it off the brake. My shoulders were screaming from tension. Myhips wanted a reprieve. tried to slide back on the seat readjusting the 'muscle memory' I learned yesterday. By noon when we got to the skill test it was raining. I'm actually grateful to have had the experience of riding in the rain. I survived my first and second skid and slide and never dropped the bike.

After lunch we went back to the classroom for more book-learning and our written test. I am proud to say I passed both - first with an 85% on the road test and a 90% on the written test. Now I review the motorcycle handbook for DMV, wait to get my certificate in the mail and go take the written test at DMV. It will apply a motorcycle endorsement to my drivers license to make it legal to ride in Idaho. Of course it's November so practice time is limited. The 'boys' think we should have his and her HOGS. Ha. I know that's code for 'if Mom buys a bike we can ride it'. I mostly wanted to take this course so I would be prepared if something ever happened when we were on the road and I had to help out. Who knows? Maybe someday I'll feel way confident and decide to be a motorcycle gramma. For now I'm content on the back seat... where I can sleep when I get tired. Meanwhile my husband hasn't stopped grinning at me. I think he's proud!

I feel good. Out of 12 students 6 were women. 2 rode automatic scooters (excuse me?), 2 had previous experience when they were younger driving motorcycles, 2 of us had no experience other than riding. I know one woman didn't pass. I felt SO intimidated by the entire course. I'd probably jump up and down to celebrate if I didn't hurt so much!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November 5, 2008

It's the day after our Presidential Election. I state for the record I did not vote for our president elect.Our family had differing opinions over who should carry our nation forward. I voted by absentee ballot several weeks ago. I was certain of my decision. I too want change. I am not pleased with our present national crisis. I wanted to have a leader with experience, foresight and pride in our country. I did not need additional time to ponder who would receive my vote.

The reasons for my choice seemed rational, as I know my family members believed in their selection. I'm proud my children all participated. I'm proud everyone has the ability to make their own choice. I'm proud we have the freedom to be a democracy.

I'll be honest. I'm concerned. I love my country. I love telling folks I was born on the 4th of July. I tear up when I hear the National Anthem. I proudly hold my hand to my chest in salute of our American flag. At the age of 17, I chose to serve my country and when my service was complete I followed my best friend in life across the United States, to South American and the Caribbean, in support of his service to our country. We made sacrifices. We spent a lot of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays apart while he defended our rights. My heart swells when I think of our young children holding their chubby, little hands to their heart when the flag would pass in front of them.

I wanted to elect a president who shared my pride. I wanted a president who's family was proud to be American and proud of what our flag stands for. There is so much animosity among our younger generations. They are being raised during a time of war. They are being called upon to fight for our country. They are scared. I wanted a president who is someone our younger generations will look up to for leadership, guidance, and example.

I know God will guide us through the difficult transition period. I have faith that God has brought us to this point for a purpose. Everything happens for a reason. This has been my personal mantra for years. I believe God must have a reason. Perhaps as a society we've become too obsessed with material matters and we need to rethink our priorities. Perhaps God is asking us to look deep into our hearts to what is important.

Our own family was faced with reprioritizing several years ago when we moved and lost the job that brought us to our new state. As a family we chose to dig deep, cut back and remain where we were. We downsized our home, drove less expensive vehicles and worked jobs which may not have been the most desirable, until we were able to get our feet back on the ground. We learned the difference between wants vs needs. There have been no cruises, no long vacations. When we are able, we gather together at our favorite ocean site, we split expenses with the larger family group combining valuable time together with relaxation. We saved to ensure annual visits to see my parents as I know they will not be around forever. We are closer as a result.

My fear of all things Muslim influenced my choice of presidential candidates. I do realize that not all Muslims are radical fanatics. I pray to God our president elect will open my mind to understand that which I do not know.

Declining investments, decreased housing values and lack of jobs are concerns for everyone right now. I pray we will continue to find a means to assist our college bound children while they attend public state schools. If it weren't for financial aid and student loans this would not be possible. Our hard saved investments for this purpose disappeared after 9-11. I pray the economy improves enough when our children graduate they'll be able to pay back those loans and still get by. I pray our son and his wife are able to support their family and have housing of their own soon.

Change is inevitable - and necessary. I pray our Nation's choice for change proves my fears to be invalid and I can say "I was wrong". I pray our future president has the forethought to accept the guidance of those with more experience around him, to assist in making the right decisions to lead our Nation.

God bless America.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Empty Nesting

Dear Kids,

You've left home. Your parents are without adult supervision. Have you ever wondered what your parents are doing at home, all alone, when you move out?

Despite the long, empty hours wandering aimlessly through the rooms of our home, pining away for the gentle, calming of our children's voices, we are managing!

Mom & Dad