Tuesday, August 22, 2023


Today was another 90-minute ride on my wonderful bike path. The weather was warm and sunny. The backhoe which almost crushed me about five days ago was nowhere to be seen. So that was good. I was going around him and he started moving with his big tank like "wheels" and I pulled my bike and body out of the way just in time. It was really close. I don't even understand why he is tilling up all the natural weeds and grasses on the canal bank, anyway. It's a project that has been going on for about a month and I'm ready for it to be over. 

My husband is just finishing up his master's degree here in Leuven. And then he is going to hopefully find a good job. We don't know where that will be, but hopefully it will be somewhere where we both can thrive and be happy. 

I have a very strong desire to get a home Pilates/personal training studio going again. It's something I'm really good at and it helps me feel like I'm doing something purposeful with my days. It's such a wonderful feeling to help someone get out of chronic pain or to help them become stronger, leaner, healthier, and happier. 

It's also one of the things I'm really qualified to do. I have a degree in Sport Studies. Then I did series of four trainings on the Pilates reformer which gave me a solid foundation in the most important Pilates apparatus. I also did a 1-year Pilates apprenticeship with a woman who apprenticed under one of the original apprentices of Joseph Pilates. So that makes me something like a great-granddaughter of Joseph Pilates. I have several certifications I've earned over the years including Hatha yoga teacher, personal trainer, Pilates teacher, master trainer, Resist-a-ball trainer, and stretching expert. I volunteered for 200 hours as a Physical Therapy Aide in which the physical therapist who was my mentor let me sit in with every patient so I could learn as much as possible. I also have a Sports Nutritionist Certification, an Senior Fitness Certification and a Healthy Eating for Weight Loss Certification. 

I've also collected over two thousand different exercises that I use to make it so that no two workouts are ever the same when you come to see me. There's always something different. I believe this kind of variety keeps the brain active and challenges the body to get much better results than if you do the exact same thing every workout. I miss teaching and really hope that wherever we end up I'll get to do it again. 

So that's what I've been thinking about lately. I'm getting ready for a new life. Who knows where we'll end up? 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Sunflower Ride


I rode off today with the goal of riding for two hours. I had two nut bars with me and a bottle of water. The weather was misty, but not rainy, and pleasantly cool. 

The path wasn't too busy. The town I live in has about 100,000 people when the students are in school, but only 30,000 people during school breaks. It's dramatically different to walk around town or to ride your bike during school breaks. 

I noticed a few caterpillars wandering across the path today and did my best to miss them. Then I passed a dead rat in the middle of the path. It has obviously been scavenged by some magpies or crows and looked like a nightmare. I made a mental note to find a big stick so I could flick the rat off the path. Yuck.

Further down the path I saw some beautiful sunflowers. They were so lovely and I managed to get a good shot of them on my way back. I stopped somewhere in there to eat a bar. 

At about one hour and six minutes I stopped just before a road and turned around. I felt good, a little tired but fine. 

When I was at about the 45-minutes remaining picnic benches I stopped to eat another bar. At this point I was really feeling it. I haven't pushed myself physically this hard for a long time and I wished I had packed a banana. 

When I passed a downed tree, I stopped and broke off about three feet of a big stick. I clamped it onto my bike rack and road forward, searching for the dead rat. Then I found it and parked my bike to the side. It looked absolutely awful. Just super nasty. With one good flick of my hearty stick, it went flying into the grasses to the side of the path. A road biker smiled at me when he saw what I was doing. I felt totally grossed out and immediately like I needed to take a shower. I felt proud of myself, too, for taking care of my beloved bike path. 

When I got back on my bike, I was tired. Dreams of a rest day started to float through my head. A rest day is probably a good idea since I've been riding a lot. 

Soon I was past the 17-minutes remaining spot and I got my second wind. I pedaled hard and made it home with a total time of 2 hours and 12 minutes. It was a good ride. 

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Perfect Winds

The winds were perfect for today's ride. They were out of the west the whole time which means that the bike path was protected from them by the small line of forest that lines the trail. I only noticed them a little when I turned to ride past the horses. There is a little section of the bike path that loops around a factory. That takes you past a field with cows and a couple of fields with horses. My husband tells a joke that goes: "Those cows are really outstanding in their field." It cracks me up and I think of it sometimes when I ride past the cows. 

I've decided that I'm done with riding my bike over about a 50-foot stretch of cobbles. I rode over it the other day and it rattled my water bottle cage right off my bike. The cage broke into two pieces when it did that so it was unusable. So now I just stop, get off my bike, and walk over the cobbles. It's so much better.

There was a downed tree that blocked almost the whole path. One my way north I rode around it, but it felt too tight. So on the way back I walked around it. I saw a rock in the trail and kicked it out of the way. I also kicked a branch out of the way. I hope someone comes quickly to remove the downed tree. 

It was a great ride today. The temperature was cool enough to need a long-sleeved shirt, but no coat. And there were hardly any other cyclists on the trail. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Classical Music

I like to keep lists of things. I have a list of all the birds I've seen in my lifetime, a list of mammals, a list of dragonflies and damselflies that I've seen. I have a list of every city I've ever been in and every country I've been in. (Cities: 246, countries: 28) I also have a "Favorites" list which has my favorite books, movies, foods, and music. I've recently been working on my list of favorite classical pieces. That's what I was thinking about as I set out on my ride today. 

Some of my favorite pieces are the ones everybody knows like Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers" or Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." Some are a little less well known like Bach's "Little Prelude No. 1." It's a perfect searching task which is something I find to be very soothing. And the music itself is also soothing. Sometimes it's stirring, too and evokes a deep feeling in my heart. It taps into a reservoir of feeling that doesn't usually rise to the surface in my everyday life. And it is very pleasant. 

One of the things I discovered with all my searching is that I love Mendelssohn. So I set out to make a list of all my favorite Mendelssohn pieces. I looked on Amazon Music and also went to the library and checked out a Works for Cello and Piano cd which has 12 of Mendelssohn's pieces in it. So far, I love it. It looked like they had about fifteen different Mendelssohn cds available to check out. That could be fun.

It was a cool, cloudy day for riding and the canal rippled under the variable breezes. I'm fascinated by slow, moving water. And I spent some time just looking out at the water as I rode. I passed some ducks and geese. The goslings are getting so big! They almost look like adults. 

I stopped at one point and kicked a rock off the path. I did this yesterday twice. It just takes a second but might help my fellow riders. I noticed that someone had cleaned up all the glass that had broken on the part of the path where the goslings are. We've got to take care of each other.

Bicycling and the way it soothes the mind is one of the joys of my life. It's a way to refresh me in body and spirit. I used to listen to music while I rode on trails or on Mt. Tabor, but now I don't. I think that's not very smart and that you need your ears to help you be aware of other riders. So instead I just spend time with my thoughts as I ride and then come home, open up some music to enjoy afterward. 

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Precision, Symmetry, and Synchrony

I rode off for a 90-minute ride today thinking about precision, symmetry, and synchrony. I remembered the movie The Last Samurai and a very inspiring scene where samurai culture is described as being dedicated to pursuing every daily task they perform with perfection. Even simple tasks, like pouring boiling water with a ladle were completed flawlessly: lifting the ladle carefully, gently pouring the water into a cup, and then slowly placing the ladle down, so that it rested perfectly above the pot of hot water. There is a precision to their movements from the moment they wake until the moment they lie down to sleep. 

Their kimonos are also very precise, with the sashes being tied with symmetry that is very pleasing to the eye. Humans love symmetry, whether the bilateral symmetry of a human face or the radial symmetry of a bike tire. 

It was at about this point in my ride that I saw a Grey heron, a bilaterally symmetrical exquisitely lovely example of beauty in the bird world. And Grey herons are perfect for what I was thinking about today because they move very slowly and precisely, while standing at the edge of the water or flying.

Another thing that I thought about from The Last Samurai is how pleasing it is when people, animals, and plants move in synchrony. In The Last Samurai, they show them practicing their fighting techniques. But you see it all the time in the world. When the wind sweeps across a field of corn, the stalks move synchronously in the wind. And even the sound of that is pleasing. And when the ballet performs The Nutcracker Suite, the synchrony of the movements is so practiced, so precise, so elegant that it leaves the audience astounded.

Elegance is something that requires precision of movement. It is beautiful and peaceful to behold. I have a friend named Amy from high school. One day our choir director asked her to direct the choir. I don't think she wanted to do it because she is very shy, but she went up to the front anyway. She is a very naturally elegant person, fluid and precise in her movements, and she is an extremely attractive woman. (She also was our valedictorian so you can imagine what an impressive person she is.) Anyway, she got up to direct the choir and was so perfect, so elegant, so lovely as she conducted us that the boy sitting next to me sighed heavily and said to himself, "She is so beautiful."

At this part of my ride I saw an airplane on its approach to Brussels. Airplanes are perfect examples of precision, symmetry, and synchrony. Thousands of parts come together to precisely create this bilaterally symmetrical machine that is capable of flying through the air in a feat of engineering so astounding that I get a little thrill every time I see one. 

I've wondered how I could try to become more precise and elegant in my life. I have to think about it throughout my day. My husband and I built a cabin on some land in Wyoming. We built the whole thing ourselves and the entire thing required precise effort. It required focus. I had the look carefully at each task I was completing, holding my concentration and using my physical strength as well. Because I had to, I learned to be more precise. But I could work on it more in my everyday life. It's like with eating. You have to do it anyway, so you might as well put some effort into it and enjoy it. I have to do all my tasks of daily living anyway. I might as well put some effort into them and become more elegant if I can. 

So that's what I thought about today. It was a very good ride and a very nice way to spend time with my thoughts. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Likes and Dislikes

I wonder why I like grasses so much in nature. I like the way the wind rustles through their leaves and how they sway against the breeze. But I just don't like grasses in people's yards. This is one of the things I thought about today on my afternoon ride. This got me thinking about likes and dislikes and how quirky I am about certain things.

I love sundresses. I love summer, in part, because it is the season for sundresses. I have eleven sundresses. Four are not good for riding on my bike, seven are. I love to go for a short ride in a sundress. And I love to see other women wearing sundresses. They are just so beautiful! Plus, the shops show lots of dresses in their windows. 

I dislike a lot of songs that have names as a big part of the chorus. Even the two songs with my name I don't like. There's Starship's song, "Sara" and Fleetwood Mac's "Sara." Both are spelled like I spell my name, which is interesting. I wonder how that happened. But I also don't like the song "Roxanne" by the Police. There are others, but I can't think of them right now. Songs I love with names in the choruses are "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond and "Cecilia" by Simon and Garfunkel. 

I don't really like dogs in general, but I absolutely adore Corgis, Cocker Spaniels, and Greyhounds. They are three very different looking dogs, but I just light up when I see all three of them. I can't stand Chihuahas. My favorite dog in Leuven is a very old St. Bernard who goes for walks with his person a couple times a day. He gets so tired that he lies down on the sidewalk and sleeps sometimes. I've often come upon them and the dog is completely sacked out. His person just squats down beside him and looks at his phone until he's ready to get up and walk a little bit more. I've seen them out doing this for about a year. I don't know how old the St. Bernard is, but they are the sweetest pair ever. 

I love almost all smooth foods. I adore pudding and chocolate mousse. I love hummus, yogurt and skyr, and guacamole. I love mashed potatoes especially when they have sour cream or yogurt or cream cheese in them that makes them really creamy. I also love refried beans especially if they are served with plain yogurt and guacamole. I also really like soft foods like scrambled eggs and cottage cheese. 

With the exception of Swedish meatballs, I can't stand dishes where they mix meats. I once had to eat a pie that had pork, beef, and chicken in it and it is the second worst dish I have ever eaten. (The worst meal I ever ate was the kosher, vegan, low-cholesterol, gluten-free, low-sodium meal on an airplane. Blech.) But I also don't like cassoulet. That kind of thing, where the meats are really stewed together. 

I love seeing well-dressed cyclists. I see them all the time here in Belgium. They could be out on their city bikes or e-bikes, or sometimes they have a couple of kids in tow with their cargo bikes. (Cargo bikes are very popular here and people use them like station wagons.) I noticed once a woman who took her skirt, folded it over and sat on it. She didn't have a skirt guard, but she was able to ride with no problems with her skirt folded over like that. I haven't seen many people riding in high heels. Sneakers are all the rage nowadays which I'm grateful because I also hate uncomfortable shoes. :)

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Living Abroad

Peter and I went for another 90-minute ride today. It was cool and grey and I felt just a little bit off. But it was still so great to be out. Just seeing the trees and the birds and the horses was great. I forgot to mention yesterday that I saw a horse rolling back and forth and back and forth in the grass. He looked so happy. It made me happy to see him looking like he was having so much fun. I loved it. 

Today I was thinking about how living abroad was the fulfillment of over a decade of dreaming by me and my husband. We went to Finland and had such a wonderful time there that we wondered if somehow - by some incredible miracle - we would ever be able to live there or in any other country in Europe. We thought that maybe Peter could apply to a company that had a semi-conductor fab in Grenoble, France. But somehow we were always stopped by the logistics of things. We had a big house and in it was my Pilates studio where I worked five or six hours a day training clients. My studio was filled with expensive equipment I would scarcely be able to take to Europe and I would have to shutter my business for sure. And we had such a great schedule in Portland. Peter worked a compressed workweek: Sunday through Tuesday and every other Wednesday. I worked Sunday through Wednesday and so we always had three days off together. 

And then the mold illness hit. We all got sick. Our three-year-old cat died from mold illness - she went into systemic organ failure because of it. Our fourteen-year-old dog probably died from it, too. Peter was moderately sick because he has better genes and worked in a clean room. I got insanely sick. I had a migraine that lasted for two months and had mold growing in my sinuses and in my stomach. My neurological and immune systems went haywire and I started having food allergies and sensitivities to chemicals that are only mildly harmful to others. It was a nightmare. 

My doctor said we needed to leave our house behind. She also said that all our belongings were likely infected with mold toxins at a level that was too high for my immune and neurological systems. I wouldn't be able to heal unless we moved and left everything behind. 

So we did that and moved to the desert. Fast forward a few years and we ended up living in Wyoming where my husband went back to school and got a degree in Computer Science. He totally kicked butt and ended up graduating Magna Cum Laude. I am so proud of him. And here was our in. His grades were good enough to get into graduate school and if we wanted to, he could go to graduate school in Europe. He ended up applying to ten schools and he got into five of them. He picked the top-rated school, which was in Leuven, Belgium, and since we were pros at letting go of things at that point, we gave away almost everything we owned. We bought a one-way ticket to Brussels and showed up at our new home with just two suitcases each. 

And now here we are, riding our bikes together on what is one of the lovelier bike paths I have ever ridden on. You can go for about fifty minutes riding out and back on it without crossing a single road. The canal which you ride along is beautiful. And if you time your rides right, there is not too much bike traffic. 

We live in an apartment that is modern and furnished. We can walk to seven different grocery stores including a Polish grocery store that has incredibly good pickles and a Middle Eastern grocery store which makes homemade flatbread. We don't have a car at all which is a dream come true for us both. I always felt happier in Portland when my transportation was powered by me and now that we are in a small European town I can walk to everything. Besides grocery stores there are clothing and shoe stores, ice cream shops, tons of restaurants, furniture stores, frite stands and - one of the most important - the train station. We've taken the train on eight different trips around Belgium and the neighboring countries of France, Germany, and the Netherlands. It's been so much fun just like we thought it would be. 

So that's what I thought about today as I rode. It's such a wonderful thing when the things you dreamed about come true. It was a long, circuitous path to Europe for us. It involved a lot of loss and pain and hope and love. But we got here. And that is so much fun.