This blog introduces you to my special brand of BIKE. I show you how to find your Best self, access your Inner strength, tune in to your Killer instincts, and use your Expressive voice. It's inspiring, spiritual, quirky, and it's all in your head. It's about ATTITUDE, not exercise, though that might be a side benefit.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Celebrate good times, c'mon!

Love high energy music like Kool & The Gang's Celebration song. It's perfect for a day like today -- our final day with the 2012 WordCount Blogathon. I know I did it, but how many more of the 250+ bloggers managed to blog every day for 31 days in May? Did you do it? Do you know anyone who dropped out? I'm sure we'll find out on June 1, when Michelle Rafter hosts the Twitter Party.

For now, let's celebrate good times and pop open the wine I won during this challenge. Lucky me, I turned out to be the 55th person who retweeted a tweet from the California Wine Club, and they shipped me this bottle of wine -- a select reserve Red Zinfadel from Kiara in California's Central Coast -- which arrived yesterday, in time for the end of the blogathon. Probably wouldn't have been on Twitter so much and won the wine if it hadn't been for the Blogathon. I love it.


Aside from posting your "I DID IT!" badge, how do you intend to celebrate your blogging success?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cab or pedicab: which would you take?

Did I ever tell you about my dream to become a pedicab driver?

That's right. It's been something I've thought of off and on for the past few years. It's a cycling thing, you know. I'm thoroughly fascinated with bikes of many kinds. Anyway, I took the above photo in New York three years ago, when I was there for a conference to remind me that some day I'm going to be that driver.

In my dream world, here's what it would look like:

First of all, I'll paint my pedicab a shiny blue. It's my favorite color. My handlebars will have a horn and fringe, just because that would be fun. And I'll wear a helmet when I ride -- for safety reasons, and so I don't have to do my hair. Awesome!

And here's how I imagine the getting passengers scene would play out: 

ME: Hey, there! You guys need a ride to your destination?
THEM: Maybe. How much does it cost?
ME: It won't be cheaper than the Yellow Cab, but I'll be your guide, too. I'm pretty knowledgeable about the area. You need to know restaurants? I got you covered? You're looking for a boutique? I'll take you there. Just heading over to the game? I'll get you there on time.
THEM: Cool! How much?
ME: $10 per ride.
THEM: Let's go!

In the real world, however, I posted my information on a pedicab site and never heard back. I did it twice, and no word. Seriously. I was disappointed. In the real world, I probably wouldn't be strong enough to pull another adult sitting in the back seat, anyway. I could carry your kids. But who's going to let a stranger carry her kids without riding along? Yeah, I'd definitely need to train for this job.

Yes, there are a few obstacles getting in my way. Since I haven't decided how much I really want to drive a pedicab, I haven't done much to change this situation, such as picking up the phone and making a call to follow up on my pedicab driver inquiry. No, I haven't done that.

Maybe this is just a silly fantasy to live out on paper and nothing else. I'm not sure. But after I took the Certified Travel Ambassador class last year and became a CTA -- basically, someone trained to answer pertinent travel information about specific areas (in my case, Phoenix) -- I thought I'd have a leg up on the competition. I even had the pin to wear on my lapel! I thought I'd make a great choice for such a job. And then, the city stopped partnering with the CTA program officials and my leg up went down. Perhaps that's a sign -- a sign that I'm not supposed to head in that direction. And you know how I like signs...

Have you ever dreamed of doing something that seemed really outrageous? Did you ever do it? What happened afterward?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

BLOG STATS: A Quick Review

It's nearing the end of #Blog2012 (just two more days to go after today), and that means it's time to take a look at the stats. What's been a popular read here? How does that compare over time?

If I look at where I am this month in terms of overall numbers, traffic has picked up considerably. My number on this home page shows a 10,000 page view increase over the course of the month. Amazing! But when I look at Google Analytics, there's a 3,000 page view discrepancy to that number. So I don't know what to make of that. Regardless, I'm happy to see the increase. Whether it's 10,000 pages views or just 7,000, that's still at least 2,000 more than what this blog was seeing in April. It's a decent jump in traffic, and to me means: If you blog, they will come.

You just have to post relevant content regularly. Here's why I say that. My stats this month when you break it down by the top five posts:

The post I wrote to be in the running for the story turned out to be my all-time favorite when it comes to the numbers it attracted in the shortest amount of time. It's not the post with the most sites visits over all, however, but it brought it the most readers this month, and still made the top 5 overall, which you can see from this graph below:

When I look more closely at the posts themselves, these stats tell me a few things about blogging:

_Stick to a central focus or theme.
_Tell your real-life stories and relate them back to your readers.
_Offer thoughtful insights for the reader take-away.
_Link back to other posts from your blog if they can add necessary detail to your current post.
_Keep linking back; readers do click on those links.
_Ask questions at the end of your posts to encourage dialogue.
_Visit other people's blogs so you get to know your fellow bloggers, and they you.

A few things I need to do more of to continue growing the blog and its readership:

_Find and follow other bloggers who write about self development.
_Find and follow other bike blogs that may be interested in self development using a bike.
_Find and follow other bloggers who write about working through transitions.
_Encourage more readers to sign up for the RSS feed and become regular readers.
_Continue blogging regularly and find a schedule that I can stick to for the long term.

One thing I expect to add this year: vlogs (blog posts on video).

Now that you've been blogging for almost 31 days straight, what have you learned about your blog? 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wordles and Tweets on Memorial Day

Another theme day for the Blogathon: Wordle Day!

Participants, who chose to do so, created a Wordle from their past posts. For whatever reason (I chose not to investigate it), the Wordle software didn't work for me this year. So I made a Tweet Cloud from the hashtags I've posted on Twitter recently. It looks different than before. But as you can see, even on Twitter the blogathon has played a major part in my tweets these past 28 days:

Since we did this so we can enjoy the day off, and it may be considered a little silly, please remember we are not taking this day lightly. It's Memorial Day. Please be sure to take some time to today to think of the veterans in your life who have served this country or are serving now. Let's honor our service men and women -- and their families -- with our thoughts and prayers. God bless the U.S.A.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Feed the creative mind with chair sculpture

Today, I did the equivalent of flipping the coin to decide on what I'd post. I just closed my eyes and scrolled down in my files to pick a photo, landing on the one above. It's of something I saw in Quebec City three summers ago -- the poetry chair exhibit, called an Ode to the New World, by Michel Goulet. On exhibit in front of the Via Rail Station, each one of the 40 chairs includes a poem written by a renowned poet from Quebec engraved in the seat. The exhibit was a gift to the city from Montreal for its 400th birthday in 2008.

This photo inspired me to hunt down several other chair sculptures so I could post the links for you here. What does this have to do with the BIKE? Not much. Not much at all, except that a bike has a seat, and you can sit down on it. Ha! I hope you're sitting down, so we can all enjoy a little more chair sculpture and feed the creative mind:

Echoes by Michel Goulet Another chair sculpture by Michel Goulet. This one's in Vancouver.
10 Amazing Contemporary Sculptures The first sculpture is a ball of chairs. Then more cool stuff.
Public Art in Tampa The red chairs here are part of a public art project called "Face the Jury."
Improvisation on Four Legs and a Seat A group of artists in Austin reinvent the chair as we know it.
Leda-Chair Sculpture I had no idea Salvador Dali created chairs. Look at the feet on this one!
The Art of Creation And a rocking chair made out of Doritos bags--a 17-year-old's creation.

Did you ever think furniture could be so fascinating? 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

This is how Augusten Burroughs describes it

It's probably no secret that I'm a huge fan of self-help books. I've been reading them since college in the early '80s. As a young single parent then, I looked to them for the advice I desperately needed. I devoured them to help me get through some difficult moments in life, including the subsequent death of my second spouse, step-parenting, and the dissolution of a third marriage.

Self-help books have not been my only retreat, and I'm well aware that they do not supply all of life's answers. What they do for me is help me widen my perspective on life and find my way out of its many challenges. They are merely a little extra help to find my way. And who doesn't need a little extra help? So I'm always curious to see what's new or soon to publish in this genre. That being the case, I'm looking forward to reading Augusten Burroughs new self-help book, This is How.

Here's why.

I watched the author (known for his best selling memoir Running With Scissors and who is on now on his new book tour) do an interview on CNBC's "Morning Joe" show today. I agreed with many of his thoughts that are presented in his new book. It appears This is How deconstructs what many of us think self-help is about.

It's not about healing, he told the show's cast, "There are some things in life that you're not going to heal from," the death of a child, for instance. He says when you know that you don't have to heal from something like that, it takes the pressure off.

And I liked what he said about diets, when he told the story of a friend of his who has been joking about her diet for more than a decade: "If, after 15 years, you're still on a diet, you gotta ask yourself, 'Do you really want to reach that goal weight or do you really just enjoy cheese a little more?' And that's fine, but you gotta know the difference."

The difference he's referring to is between what you want and what you want to want.

"You have to be honest with yourself," he says.

It sounds like a book that cuts to the chase and doesn't let you off the hook. If you're the type of person who can go inside yourself and look at your inner truths openly, this might be a book you'd find worthwhile. I'm pretty certain I'll get something out of it. After I read it, I'll post a review here.

What about you? If you're a fan of self-help books, what's your favorite? Or, are there any new ones out you'd like to read? Feel free to post your suggestions here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Letting Go Retreat

On Twitter this morning, I read someone's tweet, "Thanks for the letting go retweet," as "Thanks for the letting go retreat." My mind replaced RETWEET with RETREAT. And I thought, "Hey, I'd like to go to that." And then that became, "Hey, I'd like to create that."

In light of my dyslexic moment, or Freudian slip, or whatever it was, I started thinking what this Letting Go Retreat would look like for women who've felt bruised by another person or event. I came up with a few ideas that would help people let go and restore a sense of balance to life. Of course, my retreat would be a mix of several activities. It would involve a lot of doing, a lot of listening, and a lot of releasing of negative energy. It would be something I'd sign up for in a second. It would look something like this:

Holding on to your past mistakes or regrets means you're carrying around some anger, so I'd like the retreat to include some Mixed Martial Arts. Wouldn't that be fun? We'd kick-box and punch that anger right out of our systems. Let's let that crap go.

I'm a writer, there would have to be writing. We'd take out journals or notebooks, colored pens and markers, and free write. The colors would help put a less stressful spin on our "letting go" subjects. The writing would be the coping tool we'd use to get that stuff out of our heads. I'd include writing prompts, such as, "If I could tell X what I'm really angry about, and not worry how X would respond, this is what I'd tell X." Then I'd set a timer for 10 minutes, and we'd write whatever comes to mind, about whoever we thought of first, non-stop for those 10 minutes. We'd break up the day or weekend, whatever the length of the retreat, with journal writing like this -- and different prompts to get the thoughts flowing.  

You knew there would have to be bikes involved, didn't you? I'd create a mix tape of all the sappy love songs I could find, and we'd do a spinning class to that. The songs and the movement would help push those pent up feelings right out with the tears. Because, you know what? It's good to cry. We spend far too much time stuffing feelings. Let's just use this retreat to get them out. Because I like to make up songs from songs we all know, we could close this portion of the retreat with a version of that old Western song, "Goodbye Old Paint," changing the words to: "Goodbye, old flame, I'm leaving you now." Why? So it's us saying goodbye and not them, because when we feel like we can take back charge of our own lives, that's when we can begin to let go. The old flame could be an old lover, an old boss, an old anybody that you want to get out of your head.

We'd have a stage, and a mic, and everyone would get 10 minutes to tell their stories, without interruption. You'd just get to tell your story however you wanted to, with or without the drama, to help get it out of your head.

For anyone who didn't get their 10 minutes before, you'd have another option. You could write out your story in verse. Rhyme, no rhyme, simple prose. But no more than 20 lines. Then you could recite it out loud on the stage. We'd have a contest to see which poem fueled the most emotion. That means, you'd have to be honest. This would be your opportunity to dig deep into those feelings, so you could get them out in the open. Being able to face your hurt feelings is one of the best ways to begin to release them.

To wrap up the retreat, we could devise as many ridiculous ways in which we'd seek revenge, if it were allowed, as possible. Absolutely not to be acted upon, this portion of the retreat would involve the release of humor. To laugh about pain is a coping mechanism that can be very helpful. When you're able to look at the ridiculously absurd side of a life challenge, that's when you're able to see beyond it, and that's what letting go is all about.

No one would leave the retreat without painting or drawing the more serene side of what your life looks like now, or what you want your life to look like soon enough. This part of the retreat would be about goal-setting and aiming for a more positive look at your future. 

If there were enough funds, the retreat would take place at a resort spa, and we'd end the event with an afternoon of massages, body wraps, manicures/pedicures, saunas, and a little wine & cheese. Since the whole point is about letting go, this would be an ideal way to release whatever stress might be left, so we could all head home relaxed and ready for renewal, that sense of unease replaced with a good, strong dose of balance.

What do you think? Would you attend a Letting Go Retreat like this? How would you make yours different?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"If I started blogging today, I would..."

Let me tell ya somethin' 'bout bloggin'
For today's Theme Day during this year's WordCount Blogathon, we're taking a look back at what might be different if we were to start blogging today. What have we learned that might cause us to do it differently? Would we use a different program or software? Would we alter the topic in some way? In other words, what have we learned since we started blogging that would affect our blogging efforts if we were just getting started today?

Ummmmm...a few thoughts from my experience...

I've learned so much since I started BIKE WITH JACKIE with a welcome post on May 11, 2007, in which I ended my very first post with this line: "Together, we'll learn how to ride the mental BIKE." I have not switched my focus. I started to stray a bit when I felt a little uncertainty in my life, but I came back full circle. I'm actually proud of that. I knew then what I wanted to tell you about, and I still believe in it. That feels good. If I started blogging today, I'd still be writing about my special brand of BIKE. What would you still be writing about?

And how funny is it that I began this blog in the month of May?! I didn't know then that May would be synonymous with fresh starts and that a blogathon would be the catalyst for that. But since 2008, a full year into my own blogging experience (with no more than a few dozen posts) I have participated in this highly motivating challenge. 2008 marks the first year Michelle Rafter organized the Blogathon. As best I recall, she did it because so many of us writers at were just beginning to blog. I remember I started after a Q/A session on with Penelope Trunk, when she said we should all be blogging. So I started blogging. But I didn't know what I was doing. A year later, we had the blogathon because Michelle recognized a need and found a way to meet it. Even though I didn't announce the start of it (I did announce the end) back then, May still always represents a new beginning or a fresh start to me, and I celebrate it wholeheartedly. I wouldn't change that, either, not if I didn't have to. If I were just starting a blog today, I'd understand the benefits of the group effort, and I would follow more blogs sooner, that's for sure. I still have work to do in this area.

What I've noticed is that I didn't post many links back then, not to anyone else's site and not back to my own. I've since learned the importance of the back link. If I were starting to blog today, I'm glad I would know to embed the links that help create traffic.

I'd also do a much better job of writing headlines using key words so people could find me more easily during their Google searches. Back then, I was all over the clever titles. But we've learned they don't work online. The catchy or catch phrase headlines work in print, but not online. Key words is key here. So I'm more mindful of that. If I were to start blogging today, I'd know that, and I now wouldn't have to go back and re-do my older headlines for this reason.

When I first started blogging, my blog was all content and no cool photographs. For one thing, I didn't have a cell phone to carry around with me to be able to snap all kinds of photographs on the spot. I didn't really know how to download photos from my camera. And I didn't do video. If I just started blogging today, I'd probably take a class and learn how to do those kinds of things. I'd certainly need to learn video, because I still don't really use video here. Every now and then, I'll add a link, but I'd rather do the audio and visual myself. So that's something I still need to incorporate. I'd recommend taking classes where applicable, and reading ProBlogger. He's been a help to many of the bloggers I know.

I love the idea of bringing more voices to my blog, so if were just getting started blogging today, I'd include that in my blogging plan. I don't do it enough here, and I plan to incorporate more of this in the years ahead. That means making a conscious effort and not just thinking about it. If I were advising anyone about blogging today, I'd suggest taking the experience seriously and developing a plan of action that allows you to incorporate interactive approaches such as interviews and guest blogging into the blogging experience.

Finally, I'd be okay with where I'm at. When I started blogging, I was okay with the "learn as you go" process. I'm still okay with that. Because I know technology changes so much, and I can't possibly keep up with it alone, I'd be crazy to think I have to know it all at once. I'd never get started if that were the case. So if I started blogging today, or if I were advising anyone about starting a blog today, I'd tell them that it's okay to experiment as you go. Whether on Blogger as I am or WordPress as so many others I know are, I don't find that to be a hugely important factor for me. I'm happy to be blogging regularly. I've used WordPress before, too, though, and I like either platform. Some day, I may switch for some specific reason, but that wouldn't keep me from blogging one way or the other. I think the bottom line is you have the opportunity to experiment with what works for you and go from there.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cycling research round-up

I'm in search of research that helps prove the mind-body connection through cycling. If you know of any research or research outlets that might be helpful, I hope you'll post a comment below.

Meanwhile, I've curated a short list of articles related to cycling in some form or another. I hope you'll find them interesting or helpful in some way. I explain how I did:

Yoga for Cyclists: 3 Poses You Should Practice
I took up yoga last year and have found it to be extremely helpful with regards to balance on single track trails. It's also helpful when I need to stand up a bit off the saddle to ride through some of the tougher terrain. I can hold myself up and steady for a longer period of time. The only pose in this article I've ever done, though, is the bridge pose. I'll be sure to try the other two and watch for the benefit.

Cycling in the Zone
While older (1999), this insight paper written by a sports therapist addresses the mental benefits of cycling and how performance can improve if you reach that mental state called flow or arrive "in the zone." Can the cyclist continue, against all odds (specifically pain where elite sports is concerned), and overcome that pain and fatigue to finish the race? Not everyone can overcome such intense pain, which is why I see this as a great analogy for life, in general. Not everyone can overcome life obstacles. Those who do stay focused on the goal, find their zone, and keep going till they reach the space where "self-consciousness, distractions and irrelevant thoughts are absent." Oh, don't we wish we could have that all the time? Something else I got out of reading this paper...It includes a quote from Buddha, which reminds me of a conversation I just had with a friend this week about getting comfortable in your pain:
As long as you are in time, there is suffering.
Exercise Bike Articles/Research offers articles and research for cycling enthusiasts who enjoy a spinning class to get their cycling experience. In some ways, the mind-body connection is more attainable on a stationary bike because you have no traffic to avoid. You can place your full concentration on the experience itself. I found two articles here of interest to me: "Spinning Program Science," and "The Power of Mind/Body Training." Scroll through the index and you may find something of interest to you.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Haiku minus H plus B equals Baiku

Today marks Haiku Day, another Theme Day for the participants of the WordCount Blogathon. Just as I did last year, I'm posting haiku with a twist, giving you what's known in the cycling world as Baiku. Yes, that's right. We're talking HAIKU centered not around nature, necessarily, but definitely around the bike ride. The short poems are still written in three lines, with the general haiku syllable count: first line, 5 syllables; second line, 7 syllables; and third line, 5 syllables.

So for your reading pleasure: 3 BAIKU 

by Jackie Dishner

The ride lifts me up
Higher than I'd like to go
Otherwise, I'm down

by Jackie Dishner

Those long, bumpy rides
will teach you about your life
if you are in tune

by Jackie Dishner

Empty streets in town
Nobody walking around
Just me and the bike

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Siesta! Are you making time for down time?

Whether you call it...

a) a day of rest
b) nap time
c) taking a siesta

...we all need it more often than we get it. 

What are some ways you make sure you are fitting down time into your schedule?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Faith Hill and a lesson in breathing

When Faith Hill sings the words to the song, "Breathe," she made famous in 1999, I'm sure she wasn't referring to yoga breaths.

"Just breathe," she sings, referring to the love of her life.

"The whole world just fades away," she says, only hearing the beating of his heart, not her own. Such a beautiful love song, and also stereotypical about how we get caught up in other people's lives -- sometimes at the detriment to our own.

"Just breathe" has a different meaning for me since I started taking yoga a year ago. Now beginning to see the effects as it automatically, yet gently, brings me back to a safe place during times of stress, I see this time to stop and breathe as another form of the bike ride.

Taking time to "just breathe" is my time. It's time for me to stop and be present where I'm at in that moment. It's not about anyone else -- not a lover, not a spouse, not the children. It's not about an argument, a mistake, a worry.

Just breathe. Just me. The two phrases can be interchanged.

Don't worry, it's not an ego thing. It's a self-care thing. For the remainder of this week, when you run into some challenge, something that upsets you, even if only slightly, see if you can remember to stop and take time to breathe deep breaths. In and out. Just for you.

When you hear the words to a favorite song of yours, what phrase most sticks out in your mind. What thoughts does it conjure up?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why your tweets, links and mentions matter

Today, I'm playing "Thankful Thursday" and posting about something for which I'm grateful: you!

Yesterday, the WordCount Blogathon hosted a day to post "second act" stories -- the stories that tell, if you've switched careers in mid-life, how you arrived there. I shared a portion of the origins of my BIKE story providing detail I may not have shared here before. I then posted a link to that post on Twitter. The post attracted a lot of readers, a lot of comments, a lot of nods -- and some sharing.

At least two of our fellow blogathoners RTd, or retweeted, that link.

Today, one of Jenny's Twitter followers picked up the link and ran it on her daily online newspaper. Then that follower posted an update on Twitter, letting Jenny know her tweet got mentioned. Jenny then posted an RT, including my Twitter handle, to let me know the link got picked up, that my story got more notice.

Right after I saw Jenny's tweet, I checked my stats. Comparing it to last night's, this particular Twitter love tripled the page views for that single post. Impressive work, I'd say. And this is why it pays to tweet, add links, and mention your friends and followers. You will gain greater visibility, everyone who participates. The graphics above will give you an example of what Twitter love looks like.

Next time you read something that you really like -- it speaks to you in some way -- chances are it will speak to others as well. By all means, share the love on your social media outlets. Most blogs now provide easy access to the icons for sharing at the end of a post that allow you to do this easily. If you like what you read, use those icons. Help your buddies out, and post thank-yous to those who help you. That's the way social media is meant to work. And you can see from the illustrations above, and from my growing numbers, it really does work.

Michelle Rafter's blogathon and others like hers offer the opportunity to learn how to make blogging work best for you. Sharing the Twitter (or Facebook / Google+ / LinkedIn) love is one way.

Signing up for a blogger's RSS feeds or following is another way. So if you like what you're reading here, consider signing up for my feed or following me. Scroll down the right-hand side of this page for three different ways you can do that. If you know someone who could benefit by reading my blog, feel free to pass my URL along to them as well.

I always appreciate your feedback and thank you for reading.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A bike ride to my second act

It's not easy being older than 40. It's not easy being in transition. It's not easy when life alters the course of what you thought your life would look like, or where you thought you'd be.

But all that change? It can be exciting.

Forget the failed marriage. Forget the lost job. Forget the mortgage you can no longer afford. Those worries cost your life too much time already. Put a laser-like focus, instead, on: what's next?

The proverbial question was slapped in my lap a few years before I hit 40, about the time I learned my then-husband had been living a secret life.

What the...?! Secret life?!

Yeah, um, his story is a bit dramatic,and would have left me in fighting mode if I hadn't gotten sick to my stomach first -- for about a month. I lost a lot of weight trying to process that his "secret" involved activities no wife would ever condone. And, oh, yeah, toss in the secretary. 

Painful as my reality was at the time, I had to laugh at the absurdity -- An escort service on your speed dial! Really? -- or I would have fallen apart. But I didn't want to fall apart. So I focused on how I could get out of this mess. There was a bike involved.

Though I hadn't ridden it in years, I was drawn to the bicycle in my garage immediately. It would become my safety net, my refuge, my release. And it would take me to the land of pretense and carefree living, where nothing else mattered but the ride. Ironically, those child-like bike rides led me back into adulthood and to my second act: inspirational public speaking.

Still in the process of advancing this part of my career (I'm also a freelance writer and author), I started sharing my BIKE STORY at Toastmaster's. It got good enough reviews by my peers -- men and woman, alike -- that I braved joining a professional speakers group to share it with them. I got a standing ovation! 

And I got chills, realizing the power behind a story. To be honest, it freaked me out. But it also fed an inner truth. If professional speakers can hear my story, laugh with me, cry with me, and wildly applaud the efforts of a new speaker who dares tell the story of how she overcame what had been an unbearable life obstacle from the seat of her faithful Trek, then I had something. I had no choice now but to trust in that.

The bike gave me a philosophy that I now teach to women in transition. But I don't believe it would have happened without other past obstacles (abusive family of origin, teenage marriage with two babies, three wrecked marriages, and on and on) before this one. I had overcome other traumas, too. My bike story is just what turned the light bulb on.

So this is why I've gone through all of that!

My bike gave me the space to reflect, relearn and revise. It was my safe space where no judges or critics existed. Just me and a renewed sense of self. Women do not wind up with men who abuse them, cheat on them, or lie to them without getting permission to do it from us. And we don't give them that permission unless we learned to do that as children. Boy, did I have some relearning to do! Thankfully, spiritual guidance helped me connect instinctively to other tools that would lift me back up from despair and the years and years of unacknowledged sadness. That bike got the wheels turning.

I remember learning about my then-husband's "infidelities" on a Friday. On Saturday, he wanted to do yard work all day and plant flowers in concrete pots on the back patio. I let him drag me to a nursery where we picked out the plants that I later purposely let wilt. I think he wanted to keep me busy so I wouldn't ask too many questions. On Sunday, he left to attend a conference.

Numb, and now alone, I wandered about my two-story house like a zombie, not eating anything, barely drinking water. Other than my bike rides, I pretty much spent that first week on the couch in a daze, wondering, "What the hell just happened?" Then, "Who do I tell this to? How do I get this out of my head?"

On Friday, I got in my car and wandered the streets of my neighborhood. At one point, I remember hearing Bonnie Raitt on the radio, "Cuz I can't make you love me, if you don't. You can't make your heart feel something it won't..." and then sobbing so uncontrollably that I pulled into the first parking lot on my left. A church. It didn't matter that I'd never even attended that church, it seemed logical for me to get out of the car and go inside. At the administration desk, I barely got out the words, "I need to speak to a pastor," when I was rushed inside an office, my sobs echoing in the lobby behind me. The door closed, and I sat down on a padded chair in front of a desk, shaking but trying to compose myself. I knew exactly why I was here. The pastor came in, looked me square in the face, and said, "You're safe. How can I help?" It shouldn't surprise you that I started attending his church the following Sunday.

Just as I was drawn to get up and ride my bike every morning (it relieved my anxiety), I was drawn to this church (it relieved my wounded heart), I was drawn to write in my journals (it relieved my anxious thoughts), and I was drawn to seek professional help from a therapist, lawyer and financial advisor (it relieved my fear of the unknown).

That lightbulb kept blinking, telling me I had a story to tell and that it would be helpful to others. I'd found my purpose! It was unfolding minute by minute.

But by now, you may be thinking: exciting isn't exactly what I'd call this. But even if no one else knew, I knew this was going to be the ride of my life. And it's exciting to be in the middle of something you know is going to change you forever and to know deep inside that you're going to get through this. It's exciting to know the experience is going to take you places you never dreamed you'd be able to go. Or maybe, like me, you did dream it but didn't know what it meant till it bopped you upside the head. While I was processing how to rebuild myself on those bike rides, the change was already underway.

Then, when I gave what I considered my first paid speech and collected my first real check -- $500 to speak at a women's regional conference -- I was beyond excited. I was proud of myself. I had made it. And you can, too. If you're wondering, though, in the midst of the anxiety change often brings, how you can connect with the excitement -- and let go of the fear -- of your second act, here are a few tips:
  • Accept the change. Denial only makes transitions more difficult to navigate. Tell yourself: Okay, this is where I am now. So be it. I will adapt. When you can be honest with yourself, you are more apt to notice you are not alone. When you know you're not alone, you are more apt to be open to what's next.
  • Seek assistance. When you accept that you're going to have to adapt your life a bit, and that you're not alone, only then can you begin to reach out. No need to hide away. No need to shy away. Start sharing your story with friends and neighbors. Find out who knows someone who can help you adjust. Being brave enough to reach out strengthens your resilience. This is where self-trust begins. 
  • Focus on your natural-born talents. If you know what they are, start doing them. If you don't know, take some classes or take time to investigate. If you are getting internal messaging that suggests you should be doing something specific with your life (Mental images would always pop in my head of me standing in front of a large audience), pay attention to that. Your purpose is speaking to you. Listen. Draw positive energy from that.
  • Read and read some more. When you feel knowledgeable, you gain confidence. So read up on what you believe to be your next life. If you intend to open a small boutique, start a home-based business, or write the next "great American novel," it's smart to learn how others have done it before you. Consult with similar professionals to find out what mistakes they made and how you can avoid them, and find out what's worked best. Copy other people's success, and then adapt it to fit your needs.
  • Join like-minded groups. Your peer groups are your support groups. Find out who they are, and join up. Whether it's online or in-person, organizations, associations or others affiliated with the type of work you want to do (or are trying to do now), the members will provide the inspiration you'll need to get through the challenges everyone faces in business. You will never be without a challenge as long as you are alive. So see them as something to overcome, and not as something that might stop you in your tracks.
  • Explore your personal interests and hobbies. Your second act should NOT be all about work. Make your second act about life, in general. This is your time to take up the painting class you always wanted to sign up for but never did. This is your time to plan that trip to Italy and learn how to make lace on the island of Burano, if that's your desire. This is your time to experience what makes you feel alive. Whatever it is, it's within you, not in somebody else. If it's your grandchildren that you want to spend more time with, go visit them. If it's your blog, commit to writing in it. If it's community service, find out where you can volunteer your time.
  • Take responsibility. There's no one else better equipped to know what's right for you than you. Listen to your heart. Pay attention to the signs that might be calling out to you. Trust that you have what it takes, and then take the action that's required to move yourself forward. These are just some of the lessons that I share in my classes, workshops and keynotes. It's not rocket science. But for some of us, during the more difficult moments in life, it seems daunting. It's not, unless you make it seem so. 
The way I see the second half of our lives is that this is our shot at being who we really are. The first half? It's probably just practice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

When life hands you lemons, or something...

So I'm looking in the refrigerator yesterday for something to eat for lunch. I see maybe five take-home boxes in there. Apparently, I've been eating out a lot lately. I pick one, not knowing for sure what's inside -- all white boxes, of course. Only the Chinese take-out is identifiable.

Turns out I picked the chipped beef and cheese sandwich with mashed potatoes, the meal I brought home from a chain restaurant on Saturday evening. Not at all healthy, but it was tasty. And since I only ate half for dinner, I get the rest for leftovers.

To warm it up, I simply stick both items from the box into a little sauce pan on the stove, cover it, and go back to my office.

It's not long before I smell something.

"Oh, no! The potatoes!"

I run back to the kitchen, quickly turn the burner down and flip the sandwich and potatoes over. Wouldn't you know it? The potatoes no longer look like a nice, round mound of tastiness. After the flip, they fall flat. My mind doesn't see burned potatoes, though. My mind sees...latkes! Potato pancakes.

It's like that old lemon/lemonade saying, only different: when life hands you burned potatoes, make latkes.

Yeah. Why not?

Latkes or lemons -- it's about the spin. Alter your perspective, and you can turn any sour situation into something more palatable. 

So how about this? The next time you make a mistake (Burn the pototoes, maybe?) notice what happens to your mind. Where do your thoughts go? Do they want to focus on the negative aspects of the mistake (a ruined meal), or can you refocus them into a solution (Well, whaddya know? Burned and flattened mashed potatoes look like latkes!) that will work for you, despite the mistake? Think about it: little mishaps like this one offer opportunity to practice mental mind games so that when the big challenges get in your way, you're better armed to face them head-on. That's part of being your Best self.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

GUEST POST: Positive Visualization for Sport and for Healing

As part of the May challenge, the WordCount Blogathon hosts theme days. Last week, as a group, we blogged about movies that have inspired our writing or blogging. Today, it's Guest Post Day.

Stepping in for me is Peggy J. Noonan, a health writer whose interest in alternative medicine mirrors my interest in the mind-body connection. I wouldn't have been able to develop the BIKE metaphor without it. When Peggy's not writing for magazines, newspapers, books and online publications, she's sharing news and tips about how to use alternative medicine at her blog, AltMedForYou. That's where you'll find me today, reviewing Spontaneous Happiness, a book written by Dr. Andrew Weil, a Tucson celebrity and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. You can find more information about Dr. Weil at Peggy's blog. Today at BIKE WITH JACKIE, Peggy's advancing our knowledge about positive visualization...

Jackie’s May 4 post describing how positive visualization worked for her was inspiring. It reminded me of Laura Wilkinson, the platform diver who won the Olympic gold medal in 2000 by using positive visualization when a foot injury prevented her from practicing for a couple of months before the competition.

Laura’s success in that event was so dramatic and so impressive that afterward other divers adopted it and improved their performance too.

Imagine standing up on a diving platform, with all the world watching, as you walk confidently to the platform and go into your dive, not even considering for a second that your achievement would be anything less than perfect.

I remember hoping she could succeed, but not really expecting she would. After all, everybody knows the key to physical performance success is physical practice, right? And, although those of us in the TV viewing audience might be fervently hoping for a Cinderella success, I doubt any of us thought it could really happen. Win a medal after missing months of practice? Nah, not likely. 

But she did it. Her performance won the gold in one of those goosebump-thrilling moments that never seem believable in movies but knock your socks off when they happen in real life.

Later, I remember her telling reporters the two secrets that made positive visualization work for her were making the visualized practice intensely vivid and real in her mind and believing it would succeed.

That same technique is being applied to healing by practitioners of alternative medicine. Does it work? Conventional medicine is skeptical but to alternative medicine doctors, the answer is a resounding yes. A no brainer, especially in cancer treatment that employs meditation, guided imagery, and visualization with Qi Gong (sometimes called Chi Gong), Tai Chi, Tibetan Yoga, and other and mind-body practices.  

It has been said that the body can’t tell the difference between something that really happened and something you imagined vividly. As in sports, making it work is simple: 

1) Pick a clear and specific target.  
Jackie visualized how she would sit, how she would push off the chair, how she would use her poles, how she would make a successful exit onto the snow.

2) Relax 
Visualization works better when your mind is calm and clear. Set other concerns aside and focus. A few deep belly breaths can help you shift into a receptive state of relaxed awareness. 

3) BE in that moment.   
Make it as vivid and immediate as you can. Like the Olympic divers, feel the successful dive down to the tiniest detail of how the air moves against your skin as you step onto the platform and what the texture of the board feels like against the soles of your feet. 

4) Believe.  
Make it true in your mind and it can become true in reality. 

What do you think about positive visualization? Is there something you could try it out on this month? 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Memories

Me and my first grandchild -- mom becomes grandmom
My proud son, his baby, and an ecstatic aunt (my daughter)
Do you have a mom you're thinking of today? Maybe it's your own, a sister or daughter who just had her first baby, the mothers of your grandchildren? To celebrate the day, I've curated list of Mother's Day memories and inspiration from my fellow blogathoners. Enjoy!

Women who bond  Nothing says Happy Mother's Day better than those fond memories of the mothers, aunts and cousins in your life. For those who were blessed to experience the true spirit of sisterhood, this post is for you. Thanks for this post, Anne Wainscott.

A guy who obviously loves his mom  What a great son to comply with his mom's request to send weekly updates. I love that it made him more deliberate in his actions. Thanks, Patrick McGraw, for sharing the sentiment. Very sweet and loving. 

I'm a sucker for family photos  Even if they aren't mine.

Mothering your mom  What's that like? There might be pills, as you'll see if you read what my favorite blogger in Poland writes.

Real moms of bloggerland  Here's a post that tells you like it really is. And, no, it's not all fun and games. But so what!? We're mothers. You can dish it out, and, trust me, we can take it!

Gratuitous bike post  Just because it came up in my search and made me smile. So, this is a Happy Mother's Day message to me! Hey, a girl's gotta take care of her own addictions needs. LOL.

What favorite Mother's Day post have you read today? What memory did it spark of your own?  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A blog post showdown

Whenever I participate in the WordCount Blogathon, I'm always tracking my stats. It's the only time I really focus on how well the blog is or is not doing. I don't know why, other than it's a sure betting time that I'll get a lot of traffic. I'm sure, if you're participating, you're seeing this, too.

It makes the whole blogging experience that much more exciting and interesting.

Of course, I want to know which posts my readers seem to like best as well. Yesterday, this (see above graphic) is what my stats looked like at around 10 a.m. When it comes to who's reading what at BIKE WITH JACKIE, it appears that motivational posts seem to do best here. That's a good thing, since that's the objective I'm expecting to achieve.

Are you tracking your page views? Which posts seem to do well? Can you tell if you're meeting your readers' needs? If not, maybe you can use the remainder of the month to focus on what works best. If you like, post a comment here and leave a link to your most popular post to date. And tune in tomorrow for a curated lists of participants' posts I read this week that motivated me.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Just me and my shadow -- and another bike message

More signs today.

After my bike ride this morning, I stopped to take a picture of the water bottle on my bike when I realized I hadn't drank any water whatsoever. A big no-no. What was I thinking?

And somehow during that "photo shoot," I accidentally got another shot (see above) -- my shadow.

Things are starting to get downright obvious around here, aren't they? The message is clear. I will be writing the BIKE book. I will be speaking about the BIKE. And I will continue to ride.

Even if the photo was just pure coincidence, an accidental touch of the finger on the button while I was trying to take that water bottle shot, it reminds me of how many times I've done something like that. Usually they're pocket shots. You know the ones. You just stuck your camera back in your pocket (or purse), forgetting to reset buttons back to a neutral setting, and you wind up with a shot of the inside of your pocket.


But sometimes you wind up with a gem like this one -- a reminder to cherish.

What would you say have been some of your best pocket shots? If you want to send me a copy or a link, I'll post them here.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs

"I am delighted to invite you to a special evening for Pearls of Wisdom. Please join me and a group of like-minded women to explore your life and the connection of mind, body and spirit," the invite read. I'd never heard of the event before, or the woman who was running it. But last night I attended this women's workshop with a friend (the one who bought me the bike ring). It was a last minute invitation she forwarded to me that I wouldn't have otherwise known about if it weren't for her. I said yes.

To top it off, I didn't know they gave out prizes at the end, either. But they did. And I won!

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I won the opportunity to get my message on video, so I can better market my services. FREE! Why, is this another sign that I'm heading in the right direction? Why, yes, I think it is. The universe is lining up the signs as if it were a freeway exit into a big city. Metaphorical rest stops keep appearing exactly when I don't think I can hold it any longer. It makes me feel very lucky. And relieved.

I am ready to receive.

What signs have been speaking louder than usual to you lately. Maybe it's time to listen.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

3 ways to elicit or solicit the support of your friends

When women go through transitions stemming from the start of a new business, the breakup of a relationship, or starting a new exercise regimen, we turn to our friends for support.

There's good reason for that. They want to see you succeed. And just maybe they want to succeed right along with you. We're like lemmings, we want to go where we think the winners are going. And the more, the merrier, right?

If you're in the midst of one of these transitions -- or something else entirely -- I ask you: Where are you getting your help? Are you're friends stepping up in ways you hoped they would? If not, maybe they don't know what you need. Or maybe you're not opening up to them. If you're unsure how to solicit support from your friends (Maybe you learned that's weak. It's not. It's actually showing you know how to access your Inner strength and use your Expressive voice.), here are a few ways to let them know how they might aid you in your transition:

It's one of the oldest tricks in the Holy Bible. Seriously. Not to get all church-y on you or anything, but Matthew 7:7 in the King James version says right there in printed word: "Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Just like I've always told my children: If you don't ask, you won't get. It's that simple. Just ask your friends for what you need. They might not be able to provide it, but they might be able to tell you who can.

I wasn't always great at this, and sometimes I'm still not, but I have a friend who includes in his email signature the following line: "Referrals are always welcome." You know what, every time I see that, I think, "Smart guy." I haven't yet copied the line in my signature (Have you seen my signature? There's enough there already. One more line? Probably too much.), but I do consciously work at remembering to ask for referrals where I think it's appropriate or might lead somewhere. And almost any referral can lead somewhere. You never know how your carpet cleaning guy might be able to help. Mine cleans a lot of carpets, so he might know someone who knows somebody. You know? Refer back to 1) and ask for it, especially when you run into someone who cannot provide what you need at the moment. As long as you're aim is accurate, they are in the position to refer. For instance, a writer who pitches an editor an idea she liked and would have bought if it wasn't already publishing soon is likely to refer you to someone they know might be looking for a similar idea, so ask for it. 

Your friends are the people who will listen to your ideas about starting that new business. They are the ones who care enough to hear for the 100th time about the scumbag boss or the lowlife boyfriend, as long as you're taking proactive steps to move on. Your friends are the people who process what you tell them. They remember what you're doing, and they relate to the struggles you might be having. They care enough that when they're out in the world, just going about their business, they buy you something thoughtful -- something they know will help push you if they think you could use the support. Last night, a girlfriend of mine handed me the ring pictured above. We were celebrating her birthday, and yet she bought me a gift. She'd been reading about my renewed enthusiasm with the BIKE on Facebook and wanted to help. By buying the ring and giving it to me, she was showing her support. It's the way humans connect. So share your story. Tell your friends what you're doing. They may not directly help you. But they will pat you on the back. They'll give you the high-fives. Or they'll present you with a gift -- a token that will remind you that your friends do care about your success.

Friends are the people who want to support you, who want to help lift you up, even when you don't ask for it directly. But if you tell them what's going on in your life, if you share, they will hear you. And some of them (Not all of them. So don't be too hard on those who don't. It might not be something they're particularly good at. One can't be faulted for that.) will intuitively know how to respond. You will both be the better for it.

Can you think of a time when you didn't ask for help, when you kept your worries or concerns to yourself? That's a form of isolation. How do you think it affected you? What could you have done differently?   

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Are you motivated by visuals?

If you're the type who, like me, is motivated by visuals, then you will appreciate this post. On the Google listserv, some bloggers participating in this year's Blogathon were discussing how many hits their posts or blogs are getting. One of us was so excited that a controversial post she wrote netted 1,000 hits in a single day. That's so amazing! I would be thrilled as well. One thousand hits for a single post! Need to spark some controversy, don't I? LOL.

No, seriously. I'm happy to get my 230, more or less, hits per day here. It's consistent, and consistently growing, as you can see from the graphic above. My readership (or at least site hits) has grown considerably since May of 2008, the year the WordCount Blogathon challenge began. The graphic shows me I am capable of taking nothing and turning it into something. The picture shows me what success looks like, and I like that. It motivates me to keep at it.

But are you also motivated by visuals? Would it help for you to see your stats in picture form? Do you use graphics to chart your success? In the early days of my blog, which I started in 2007, when I wasn't posting regularly, I wasn't tracking anything, either. I didn't understand how to add the analytics. It's only something I started maybe two years ago or less. But it's something I learned how to do because of the Blogathon. When I embedded the plug-in for analytics, the total number of hits for all-time here was recorded at 0. That number, which is calculating as we speak on my home page, said 75,000 when I started typing today's post. I'm finishing up with this post, and the calculator has already recorded 12 more clicks. That's exciting! The amped up activity that surrounds the Blogathon is exciting.

I hope you're feeling it just as much as I am, because we're in Week 2 now. If you're in need of motivation to keep going, to keep posting your daily thoughts and pictures, think about what that might be and pull those tools out. If it's a graphic, consider posting one from your stats. If it's participating more in the listserv, by all means, ask your questions. If it's spending more time than you have been updating your social media with links to your blog updates, do that as well. Whatever you need to push yourself through this next week, I hope you'll do it. If you do, post a comment here. Let us know how it's working for you.

Monday, May 7, 2012

5 movies that have inspired my writing

Today marks our first theme day. The 250+ bloggers participating in the WordCount Blogathon this month were asked to blog about the "five movies that have inspired my writing." Of course, there will be variations, as bloggers were told they can stray from the theme, stick to the theme, or not follow the theme at all. It's merely a suggestion, and I accept the challenge.

There's an additional challenge for me, though, because I don't watch movies with that much intention (meaning, I watch them merely to wind down and don't spend too much time analyzing them), so I had to cheat for this theme day. I visited a list of 100 inspirational films I found on to find out what stood out to me. After coming up with a short list of four -- "Big," "Miracle on 34th Street," "The Sound of Music," and "Forrest Gump" -- I decided the films were probably favorites of many, a bit cliche' and not very original. So what to do?

Well, bikes, of course! So I searched for movies about bikes, looking for a connection of some sort or another, large or small. I wanted to see if that might inspire me to write something. Here's what I found:

5 movies that could have inspired my writing if...
  • "E.T."  Who could forget the scene in the movie that introduced us to Drew Barrymore where the cute and adorable E.T. is taken home into the night sky on a bicycle! Isn't the little alien sitting in a basket? Ah, the stuff that fantasy is made of. I don't write fantasy or science fiction, but if I ever do, maybe this scene will influence me then. And you know what? It reminds me of the scene in the "Wizard of Oz." The Wicked Witch of the West does something similar. She rides off on a bike, for sure, but then disappears into the tornado.
  • "Napoleon Dynamite"  "You got like three feet of air that time," says Napoleon to his new classmate Pedro. Napoleon's such a nerd, and so angst-filled, but his dry, whiny personality makes the movie for me in scenes such as the one where he asks Pedro to show him some "sweet jumps." I do not do sweet jumps, nor sour ones. I'm not a jumper at all, and it's not likely bike jumps will show up in my work. But you never know...I have written fiction before.
  • "The Day I Became a Woman"  This one is an Iranian movie about three woman, one of whom risks divorce so that she can take part in a bike race. The brave woman is willing to give up her husband rather than her freedom. If I had seen this film, I think it might have inspired my writing in some way. In fact, I bet it would inspire my life!  Maybe I should see this one.
  • "The Muppet Movie"  I couldn't remember that Kermit the Frog rode a bike in the series starring The Muppets. But he did. In the 1979 movie, he rides from his home in the swamp to Hollywood -- on a Schwinn bike. Very stylish, don't you think? Of course if I knew more about animation or puppetry, I might have been inspired. But I just prefer to sit back and enjoy a film that anthropomorphizes little green frogs who can sing "Rainbow Connection" while strumming a banjo. The bike ride is just a plus.
  • "The 40-Year-Old Virgin"  Andy Stitzer rides his bike to his job at the Smart Tech electronics store where, when his co-workers learn he's still a virgin at age 40, they to help him get what they think he needs. Hilarious events unfold on the bike and elsewhere. If I knew how to write scripts, maybe this movie would have inspired my writing. But probably not, because the bathroom humor (albeit, really funny) isn't something I intend to master.
What movies would have inspired your writing, or your creative work, if...?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Slow down and smell the...saguaro

It's Sunday. I wanted a day of rest from the bike theme so decided to post a picture of something Arizona tourists love to see -- the stately saguaro.

I "made" this picture (as my photographer friends like to say) yesterday while on a hike with a girlfriend. We had gone off-trail and were fooling around with our cell phone cameras, taking pictures of each other, the saguaro, and other scenery. We were getting in some exercise and taking advantage of what might be the last of the cool mornings here in Phoenix. When the Arizona summer sun heats up and takes over, it'll be too hot to hike the desert trails -- at least at the time we were out there, 7-ish. We'll have to get out at 5 a.m., or earlier, and we'll want to get our hike done quickly. But this morning, we had time to dawdle.

When you have time to slow down, what do you like to do? Can't think of anything? I found some websites to help you out:
  • Daily Dawdle  Just some fun stuff that will surely waste your time, like learning how to feed your dogs their drugs. I don't know about you, but I always used peanut butter. Anyway, I kind of like these different staircase designs. Warning: Visit this site ONLY when you have enough time on your hands. 
  • Boone Dawdle  Who knew?! An event that celebrates the idea of taking one's time, and, okay, it involves a bike ride. But darn it, you know how obsessed (see link above) I am with bikes!
  • Article on toddlers and dawdling  It appears we start this habit at a young age. Too bad parents can't appreciate slowing down like toddlers can. Seems to me we can learn a lot from a 2-year-old.
  • A how-to site  So you're saying you don't know how to pronounce the word, dawdle? No problem. There's a site for that -- and more. Just type in a word and click on the audio arrow at the top of the page. Great for your non-English speaking friends.
  • Pointless Sites  A site by any other name...You'll definitely waste a lot of time here. I spent about an hour here trying to create sand designs or alter the flow of sand at Falling Sand, learn a llama song, getting dizzy watching a can of Heinz baked beans about to explode (I couldn't wait long enough to see if it did), and more. My favorite game was Avoiding Tangerines. Too funny. 
You're welcome.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fueling obsessions

Sometimes, I feel like a stalker of bikes, bicyclists or anything bike-related. I'm obsessed, actually. Anytime I see a bike, anywhere, I take photo of it. If it's possible.

This morning, my friend and I went for a hike in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, near a place called the Dreamy Draw. She lives nearby, so I met her at her place, and we walked over from there. Somehow, we got off-trail -- Somehow? We weren't paying attention, because we were talking and laughing so much -- and stopped to take some photos of us standing in front of a giant saguaro and the surrounding scenery. Just having a grand old time.

All of a sudden, I saw them coming down another trail and stopped to daydream. I love riding my mountain bike on trails...I wish my friend had a sturdy enough bike for rides like theirs. I got lost in my thoughts for a few seconds. Since my friend still had her camera out, I asked her to take a picture of the two guys coming at us on mountain bikes. She did and sent the above photo to me so I could use it here.

With the desert in the foreground, the riders on the horizon, and that blue sky, I think it's a nice shot. Not clear enough. But nice enough to fuel my obsession.

When the bikers came down the trail and passed us, shouting out a happy hello, you could hear their tires rolling over the rocky terrain. Not too rocky, but a fairly even downhill slope. Not too steep, but enough of a ride to get the adrenalin going. Made me wish I were them.

On the other hand, this picture reminds me that I don't have to just observe. I can do. Tomorrow, I'll go out there for a ride of my own. I'll have to stick to easier terrain, since I'll be on my own, but I'll be out there with my helmet and gloves on, ready to eat some dust.

What do you do to fuel your obsessions?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Images, symbols and metaphors

Since the day I learned I could scoot right off a ski lift without forcing myself to fall down into the snow -- get this, for fear I'd fall -- I've been a fan of visualization. Before that, I operated on too many fears. But the second I learned just exactly how powerful the mind can be, that you really can do things you put your mind to, it woke me up to a new sense of power.

The ski lift story happened in Telluride. I was with my family on a holiday break. We went skiing, of course. But I'm no expert now, and I certainly wasn't then, so I took a one-on-one class with a very cute ski instructor -- on the bunny hill. I did well enough that first day that he sent me off with the then husband up the lifts. I was nervous as hell. For the first four or five times up the lift, it never failed, when we'd get near the top of the hill, and it was time to get off the chair, I'd start to feel anxious. The nerves rattled me. In my head, I'd be telling myself, "What the hell am I doing? I don't know how to ski? I'm going to fall." And, sure enough, when it was time to get off, I'd purposefully fall off because I wanted to feel in control of the fall. Each time, the chair lift operator would have to stop the lift to make sure I was okay and safely out of the way for the next skiers to get off the lift.

Finally, my then husband said to me, "Just visualize yourself scooting off the chair at the right time, standing up at the right time, and pushing yourself off with the poles and away from the chair without falling. Just visualize that all the way through the exit, and you'll be fine. You can do it."

Of course, in my mind, I was pooh-poohing the idea but decided to give it a try.

As we neared the top of the hill, he told me to scoot myself forward, closer to the edge (What? Are you trying to kill me?), and get my poles ready on both sides to push myself off the chair when it was time. "Sit up straight," he said, so I would be alert and prepared. "Now!" he yelled, "Stand up and push!" He did the same. All the while, he reminded me to visualize a successful exit onto the snow. I followed his orders.

At the precise moment when I was supposed to scoot and stand, I did it. I visualized myself skiing right down the little slope and toward the left where the ski runs were. And I did it. No falling. A little off-balance. But it worked. I was still standing, with the poles in my hand. I had skied off the lift. Visualization worked.

I've been a fan ever since.

I wasn't yet 30, and I think that's about the time when I began to purposefully collect things that reminded me of success. I'd done that all my life, of course. I think most of us do. But from then on, it was with more understanding of the power behind the image. I'd keep the fortunes in fortune cookies. I'd write quotes down and post them on bulletin boards to see. And when I sold my first poem -- for a whopping $10 -- I kept a copy of the check as a reminder. I still have it.

It wasn't surprising to me, then, when during one of life's more common, yet unexpected, downfalls -- divorce -- I needed a positive image then as well. I adopted the bike because it's what helped get me through. Not only did I ride the bike during the divorce, but I transformed it into a metaphor that helps me overcome whatever life obstacles get in my way. I also collect images and symbols that represent the bike. I have notebooks, greeting cards, a painting. Yes, I even bought a painting at an art gallery once, just because of an image of a girl and her bike having a grand time riding downhill was on it. I couldn't resist the feeling I felt when I saw it. All positive. It made me happy, and it fits my metaphor. It fits my life.

Neither should it be surprising that, after giving my BIKE speech time after time, the moniker "Bike Lady" followed. There are times when I know people think it's simply about riding bikes, and I've wondered whether I should let the moniker go. But I'm holding on. I'm trusting in the metaphor to continue teaching me, so I can continue teaching others.

The point is, maybe you have something that you use to help get you through tough times. Maybe there's an image or a symbol or a metaphor that you use. Maybe it's a favorite phrase or quote. Maybe you don't have yours yet. Or maybe you just haven't noticed. But I bet it's there, tucked away in some cubby hole in the closet or inside a secret box under your bed, or parked in the garage. I believe we all need attachments such as these to help us slug through the muddy waters of our own sometimes swampy life. That's what the BIKE is all about. It's a tool to use to get you through, to keep you moving forward.

I've embraced mine. How about you?

Is there something you cling to during your difficult days or more challenging moments. What is it? How has it helped you? If you're unsure, consider the next time you're faced with a decision you need to make, what do you rely on to help you make it. Maybe, just maybe, that's your BIKE.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Day 3: We're Celebrating National Bike Month!

That's me in the picture above last month on the Arizona Trail. I was in Flagstaff on assignment, pushing myself on a portion of Arizona's longest ride -- more than 800 miles. The trail runs the full length of the state, from the Mexican border to the south all the way up to the northern border at Utah. Maybe some day I'll ride the entire stretch, but on this day I spent about two hours on ten miles of single track. Up and down, over rocks, through narrow, sandy terrain. A fun ride if you're up for the challenge. By bike enthusiast standards, this one's actually a meager challenge. But it works for me. If I could spend more time on trails like this one, I would. I don't need to be too challenged. I know my limits. That's another part of the BIKE mentality -- know your limits.

About this time, I imagine my fellow blogathoners are considering that mentality. With 250 (or more) participants this year (I posted a link to all of us below the participant badge on the right-hand side of the page if you're curious), messages streaming like running water on the email listserv (no, I can't keep up), and the need to post updates to all of the social networks so you can let everyone know you're blogging all 31 days this month -- and with my decision to talk BIKE all month long -- I just learned via a press release that May is National Bike Month. A little serendipity, don't you think? Definitely! It means I have even better reason to push my limits to the max, hammering my brand of BIKE into your heads.

My mental BIKE means a lot to me. It's what gets me over those tough spots on the trail. It's what helps me deal with the daily rejection that editors slip into my email box when I'm not looking. Silly editors. It's what reminds me that I can do this, whatever "this" might be at any given moment: give a presentation to a new audience, for example, or write a story for a new editor, or conduct an interview with a stranger.

For me, riding the bike (either on the trail or in my head, as I reflect on the power of the letters in the metaphor) is a lifestyle choice. Just like National Bike Month is about bringing attention to the benefits of the ride, so, too, does my blog. The only difference is whether you choose the physical ride or the mental one. I choose both.

So how about celebrating National Bike Month with me? Here are a few things you can do:

_Take a ride. If you don't have a bike, you can always rent one.
_Write a blog post about the time you first learned how to ride.
_Share a ride with friend on a tandem bike. You can rent those, too!
_Post a picture of a bike you'd like to own on you blog and tell your readers why.
_Think about the benefits of a bike ride. It's not just physical.
_Talk to your kids about bike safety, and make sure they wear their helmets.
_Find a new trail or a new route to take on your next ride.
_Ride bikes with your kids to school one day this month.
_Can't find the solution to a problem at work, take a solo ride and see what happens.
_Go shopping for a bike. You don't have to buy. Just check out the options.
_Start noticing bike imagery -- on greeting cards, journals, in art.

The thing I love about bikes is that they represent positivity. They take you back to childhood, to carefree times. They give you sense of freedom. They provide inexpensive transportation. Even if you get a flat tire while riding one, that's a positive thing -- it offers a chance for you to witness how you deal with an irritating challenge. I connect to bikes in a way I never expected, and that's worth celebrating.

What's one positive thing you can say about bikes? Post your comment here. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Blogathon Day 2: Food for thought

It's only Day 2, and I'm just starting to dig in to the 250 or so bloggers involved in this year's WordCount Blogathon, but already I'm seeing variations of the BIKE. To give you other ways to process the philosophy, here's more food for thought. Remember, I told you we'd get to know the other bloggers through BIKE WITH JACKIE. I wasn't kidding.

A short curated list for you: 

To be your Best self, access your Inner strength, and to develop those Killer instincts, you may need to learn when to let go -- What does that look like? Lady Moxie gives you an idea from her yoga class.

You use your Expressive voice not only when you stand up for yourself, but also when you can laugh at the oddities of life's everyday moments -- or the not so everyday rewards. At Still Living the Dream, we learn this because of a winning outfit. Prepare to smile if you read this one.

Holding yourself accountable also works wonders when on the mental BIKE ride. You'll find a great example of this over at Let's Walk and Talk, where blogger Glenneth Reed composes her list of things she's expecting to accomplish in 2012 -- and admits what she hasn't yet begun. She put it out there for all the world to see, and that will help her progress. That's also about being your Best self. You don't have to do everything right. But you do something.

One step at a time, and you'll get wherever you're going. It's about moving forward.

What have you committed to act on today? To help hold you accountable, you can post your comments here.