Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dark 100 Reconnaissance

The Dark 100 Miles of Nowhere is only three days from now!  Please consider donating to the worthy cause to which I'm dedicating my ride:  Camp Kesem via Livestrong.  Camp Kesem is a place for kids, whose world has been adversely rocked by a parent's cancer, to have a week of "normal kid fun" away from the stresses brought on by a parent's cancer battle.

Once again, you can Donate Here.  Please?

Reconnaissance for The Dark 100, a 100 Miles of Nowhere Ride

If you are completely in the dark about what this is, visit HERE and HERE for some background on the ride.  Can I offer you enlightenment about darkness?  I think that's reaching more than even I normally do.

Last weekend I finished the job my brother, Del, and I started last fall, that of scouting the route for The Dark 100.  It would be a shame, plus an embarrassment, to drag several other riders with us for a 100 mile ride IN THE DARK and in rural isolation, only to discover there were issues with the route.  You know, like trail closures or washed out bridges:
Seriously, this could happen, especially this year.  It's been a little wet in Minnesota. Oh THIS picture?  Completely unrelated.  Another trail, another year.  Cheap trick, huh?

Happily, I can report that all is well with the trails we intend to ride.  One area had clearly been under water recently, but sustained no damage:
The Mississippi is raging with spring run-off, yet we are not afraid.  THIS picture really was taken along our route, just 2 days ago.  Implying that the trail is somewhere under the raging waters was another cheap trick.  Please know that I feel quite bad about such subterfuge.


The reconnaissance rides have been a blast!  So I made a little movie about it.  Not to worry, it is only the length of one song.

I'm so excited to share my first Vimeo creation:  The Dark 100 2013 Reconnaissance wherein I show a little bit about our route... but not in darkness. What?  Do you think I'm nuts?  The scouting missions were done during daylight hours, some last fall with Del, and some this last weekend as a solo mission.

The Video doesn't explain the whole thing, but it captures the feel of being on these beautiful trails.  Please remember that this is my first Video production and it is highly amateur!  The very best part of the video is the music, Brother Lee by Citizen Cope, which is a song I've wanted to use for a cycling video since the first time I heard it.  It's a perfect riding song and I have it on several playlists.

Minnesota Has The Best Trails!

It doesn't matter if it's been proven, I know it to be true.  We will be riding portions of three trails, all connected, and here are links to information about the trails we'll ride:

Wobegon Trail
Central Lakes Trail
Soo Line West

So what now?

Visit Camp Kesem via Livestrong and donate to a great cause for kids.  By the way,


And watch my video on Vimeo: The Dark 100 2013 Reconnaissance


Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Dark 100 and The F-Man

Darkness Approaches!!

The Dark 100 is only 13 days off and I’m a little worried about my fitness level.  T-shirts, prizes, route and primary logistics are largely in place (lies, all lies), but this business of being physically prepared is entirely different. 

Actually, the only thing that is really up and running is my Fund Raising Page,  and that just happened today.   Best not to rush these things.  Having said that, I encourage you to hurry on over and donate to the Fabulous Cause of sending kids, whose parents have or had cancer, to a fun filled week of camp where they can just be kids.  Man!  That was an awkward sentence.  I hope you understood it.

The Dark 100 is not primarily about raising funds for a good cause, it’s about doing something fun and unusual.  Because of this, I want to be clear that the fund raising piece is completely separate.  All donated funds go to the cause; none go to supporting the ride itself.  As far as I know, I’m the only one in the group trying to squeeze people for donations.  Let’s hope we don’t need to find out what I mean by “squeezing”.

Is a carrot better than a stick?

Honestly, I don’t know.

Perhaps I should back off with the threats and offer a carrot.  How about a fabulous prize, chosen by me, to be awarded to one lucky donor?  Better?  I thought so too.

There’s an important phrase in the above paragraph:  “chosen by me”.  I have a pretty good idea what it’ll be, but that’s as far as it goes.  I can tell you that it will be bicycling related, but not in a way that forces you to actually ride a bike to enjoy it.  No, it’s not going to be one of my retired leaky water bottles.  Unless you are Del.  Then it will, indeed, be a used water bottle.

Here’s how you can win this magical mystery prize:  For each $5 that you donate HERE, your name will be entered once into the drawing for the prize.  If gob-jillions of dollars are raised, I’ll make sure there is more than one prize.

Click HEREHERE, or HERE to visit my fundraising page and learn more about Camp Kesem. 

The drawing will be held on Sunday, June 23, 2013.

Stay tuned to this blog for more information about prizes, ride preparation and training!


Contrary to what I’ve implied, some of us have actually been trying to train a bit for The Dark 100.   Here is our best adventure so far, a tradition in the way The Dark 100 hopes to be:

The Third Annual Ferrous-man!

For years, we’ve ridden the Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride (MIBR), usually held in late April.  The ride is huge (~4700 this year) and it’s a great way to kick off the cycling season.  We’ve ridden on April Saturdays that are so bright and sunny that one gets a world class sunburn, we’ve ridden in snowstorms and freezing, driving rain.  It’s always been fun, except when the weather is so bad that it’s not fun.  On the other hand, parking at the start/finish has always been not fun. 

Three years ago, a few of us came up with the idea of an alternative, small group ride on or about the same day, with a similar amount of suffering but with better parking, in Warren’s driveway.   Honesty time!  I was not actually one of the few to think up the ride.  Maybe I should have said  “a few of them”, but that sounded weird.

Every ride needs a moniker, so they came up with “Ferrous-Man”, because they are a witty bunch of nerdy bikers.  Recently, Chris shortened it to “F-Man”, and we all embraced the truncation for the obvious reason.

This year, The F-Man was held a week after the Ironman in conditions that were substantially less ride-friendly than the MIBR enjoyed.  In all fairness to the MIBR, it was long overdue for one of those warm sunny Saturdays.  A few days later, a storm came through that dropped anywhere from a few inches to two feet of snow on southern Minnesota and central Wisconsin.  The storm was so significant that they gave it a name:  Achilles.  I’d have named it Attila or Adolf, because a snowfall this meaningful in early May is nothing short of diabolical.

By the time the four of us rode on May 4, the roads were clear and the icy rainstorms had moved in all around us.  The clouds held their moisture all during our ride and we merely contended with cold (for May), something we all know well. 

Dress in layers, dress in layers, dress in layers!  The problem with all those layers is that there is a certain amount of roadside un-layering.

On this ride, I was testing out the GoPro Hero 3 camera that Paul gave me for Christmas.  I’ve been mounting this little camera on my handlebars for several rides, gradually learning complicated things like the difference between “on” and “off”.  My hope is to get enough experience that I’ll make good use of the camera for portions of The Dark 100.  This is what I learned by using the GoPro on a group ride for the first time:

·      First, I’ve observed that I talk too much on the bike.  Between the talking and the wind/road noise I now understand why cycling videos usually feature music rather than real-time sound.

·      Second, review of the video showed that I was looking ahead at neon yellow jackets… all day.   This means I was wheel sucking… all day.  There was only a little footage of the open horizon with me “pulling” and I was only allowed to pull because I was riding with gentlemen… albeit gentlemen who were OK with belching, farting, peeing and disrobing to some extent in my presence, but nice guys, nonetheless. 

·      Third, though I’ve known it since I’ve thought I was a distance cyclist, I suck at climbing hills.  It’s not even that I dislike it… I actually appreciate the challenge both mentally and physically.  I just suck at it.  I drop off the back of the pack the moment the grade exceeds 6%, or maybe even 3%.  It happened so many times in the course of 70 miles that, when Chris was hanging back with me one time, I all but accused him of patronizing me when he said he was also struggling.  Turns out he had a flat tire.  Really.

More participant bios:

·      Chris is the Jerry Seinfeld of the group.  He delivers his wit in a deadpan manner and he even looks a bit like Jerry.  Chris is also our best hope for a spot on Jeapordy! as he knows a thing or two about a thing or two.  The fact that he’s a strong, tireless rider even on flat tires, well that’s just a bonus.

·      Laurie is Del’s inexplicably long-suffering wife and probably the main reason Del’s sisters haven’t disowned him.  She’s also Chris’s even longer suffering cousin.  Laurie will be our sag driver extraordinaire, which is not to say she’s any saggier than the rest of us.*  It’s just that she’s really good at keeping track of all the little ducks on a long course.  She’s also the best I’ve ever met at the question of The Fox, The Corn, and The Chicken and how to get them safely across the river without anything being devoured, drowned or otherwise harmed.  In her version of the riddle, it’s The Minivan, The Toddler and the Tandem.  All that said, the main reason she’ll be driving sag for us is that she’s willing.  Superior logic is not always applied to her decisions.

·      Jeff is just a guy trying to have a good time without getting a concussion.  We are hoping he will beta test this Airbag Helmet .  He may be the most patient, non-judging guy I know, which explains why he’s Del’s friend.

·      David is the only professional involved in this adventure.  He joins us as videographer and he genuinely knows what he’s doing.  The fact that he’s my son is seldom held against him because people just plain like him.

*Mandatory bike blog sag-driver double entendre


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Dark 100 Revealed

The Dark 100

What if you were certain you could win a 100-mile bicycle race?  What if you could do something good for kids affected by their parent’s cancer while achieving greatness on the racecourse? 

When I first read about the 100 Miles of Nowhere at FatCyclist.com, my favorite cycling blog, I knew I had to do it.  Fatty, as Elden Nelson dubs himself in his blog, describes the 100 MoN as “a race without a place”.  Visit Fatty's 2011 100 MoN post for great description of the ride and it's objectives.  And this year's race:  Fatty's 2013 100 MoN post

I was immediately taken with the idea of 500+ cyclists around the world (the race is restricted to 500 registrants worldwide, poachers of the ride are represented by “+”) each endeavoring to travel 100 miles while getting nowhere, each planning their own kind of monotony.
100 miles on the trainer in your basement pain cave not sound like fun?  This is some other person's Pain Cave.  Cozy, huh?

How about riding around the block 100s of times until you hit 100 miles? Or 3000 laps?  Seriously, click the "3000 laps" link so you can instantly feel more rational than this guy.

Or you could ride up and down a long hill until your legs scream in agony and residents along the course complain about your whimpering.  See this video: The Vehemence of Suckage by the Noodle, aka the Noodleator.  She's not normal.

Having missed registration for the race two years ago, I vowed to get in for 2012 and began to dream of original ways to ride (and WIN) my division in the 100 MoN.  The swag bag alone is worth the cost of admission, not to mention bragging rights and the possible opportunity to tell the story of my remarkable first-place finish in my division on FatCyclist.com. Visit 2012 100 MoN to see swag and read more about the good-deeds side of riding the 100 MoN.

After scoring a coveted position in the race last year, (2012)  I embarked on planning a ride and write-up worthy of a berth on Fatty’s blog.  That’s when I realized I was already registered for a ride with my brother and another friend on that day. Now, there’s nothing that says the 100 MoN must be raced on the race day selected by Fatty, but I wanted to try to make something of combining the ride with the “race”.   My companions were eager to poach the 100 MoN and I geared up to make tacky poacher-versions of the t-shirt for them.

We were registered to ride the beautiful Tour de Pepin in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Tour de Pepin   (TdP) offers three ride distances and circles Lake Pepin with the shorter distances using a paddleboat ride to get back to the starting point.

Lake Pepin is a naturally occurring lake, and the widest naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River.

By combining one short course and one long course, we could ride 104 miles.  Since I all but promised a spectacular write-up and video, the TdP organizers were excited about our plans and they were open to the idea of us double-dipping the ride.  It would mean a paddleboat ride for us after 32 miles, then a full 72-mile loop of the course.  And this is why there are a few lame nautical references earlier:  the paddleboat ride.  I like to wrap things up that way.

Speaking of double-dipping the ride, there IS ice cream available along the route for double-entendre double-dipping.  And!  The Tour de Pepin organizers are offering a 100-mile route this year.  I like to think our plans last year inspired them.  I like to think I’ve inspired many great things.  It feels good.

Enough with the foreshadowing! 

We didn’t do the ride.  Oh, don't act so surprised.  Proper foreshadowing by a decent writer would not have been so obvious.  What can I say?  I'm not a real writer.

My husband’s cancer came back and I was with him at The Mayo Clinic while he recuperated from what turned out to be a life-changing surgery.  Over the ensuing summer we wrangled with Paul’s post-operative complications and radiation therapy, then celebrated our only child’s high-school graduation and became empty nesters.  For a more full picture of Paul’s cancer journey, visit our Caring Bridge site:  Paul's Caring Bridge Page, where we found a way to have fun with our friends and family while fighting a serious battle.

When things finally settled down, my brother (Del) and I revisited the 100 MoN concept and came up with a great idea:

“Let’s ride 100 miles in the dark,” we said.

“Let’s invite a bunch of other people to join us,” we decided.

“T-shirts and sag driver?”  “Of course!”

“October 13 sounds good. No bugs, not too hot, maybe no snow.”

And the Dark 100 was conceived.

We like to think of it as:
The ultimate “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” ride

And then we didn’t ride.   Seriously, did you not see this coming?

This time it was my fault. 

Maybe it was because, sooner or later, the previous 15 months of Paul’s illness was going to catch up with me, or perhaps I’m just a wuss.  I got sick after a tooth extraction & dry socket and the cascade of complications took me out for several weeks.  Barely dragging my carcass to work each day, I was forced to cancel the ride again.  But we’ve still got the T-shirts, decorative lighting, planned route, sag driver and lodging, not to mention our unrealistic hopes and dreams for an epic ride.

Third time’s a charm?  It jolly well better be!

We ride Friday night, May 31 into Saturday June 1, 2013.   We are diverse in age and background but all share a common trait:  We are optimistic fools, every one of us.

Participant bios:

·      Jason, who joins us for the ride shortly after arriving from Taiwan, meets our requirements for international travel and a rider that speaks in tongues. 

·      Siri, age 12, broadens the age range of the group by plenty-lots and is likely to be the most “adult” of the pack. 

·      Warren, aka Warren Peace, brings the longest legs and the oldest bike.  Perhaps the oldest frame, as well.

·      Del, my brother, boasts the shortest attention span, which is why we ride in the dark.  The less he sees, the less he’ll be distracted.  He's a strong rider, willing to take long pulls if he's focused.  Squirrels aren’t out at night and shiny things are, well, less shiny in the dark.

Stay tuned for more bios, talk of Cool Equipment, and something about PIE, which is essential for FatCyclist.com "sanctioned" rides.  Visit Fatty's post about pie: We Want Pie! for a clearer understanding of the importance of pie in the life of a dedicated everyman cyclist.

My nephew penned this little ditty about the ride:

Dark Dark Dark One Hundred
Sleepy Hamlets will be Plundered
Dark Dark Dark Marauders
Shush your Sons and Hide your Daughters
Dark Dark Dark The Riders
Seen By Terrified Survivors
Dark Dark Dark Their Laughter
Chills your Bones Forever After!

T-shirt worthy, no?  Or maybe a poster with sinister images and ominous coloring.

And now, the most important thing, the sticky in the wicket, the switch for the bait:

The all important Doing Good Things plug.  Yes, I do plan to offer you the opportunity to make a donation to this amazing charity.  Visit and learn.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Getting ready for the Dark 100 Miles of Nowhere, my brother (the troll) and I scouted the Lake Woebegone Trail in central Minnesota last November.  During hunting season.  Which was dumb.

Though we did not get mistaken for deer, we did see many hunting parties tromping the woods, meadows and marshes along the trail.  As we rode along, we wondered why the winter gates were all closed, forcing us to dismount and walk around two gates each time the trail crossed a road.  When we started seeing the hunters, we figured out the trail was probably closed... for our safety.

We lived to ride another day!  In another post, I'll shed light on the story of the Dark 100 Miles of Nowhere, coming up on May31-June 1 2013.

Graphic for the front of our t-shirts. We got these shirts from the incomparable cycling apparel company, TwinSix and added some sleeve art that is highly secret and quite awesome.

My brother, Del the Troll Bakkum, along the Woebegone trail.  Note, it is not dark out.  It will be when we ride the Dark 100 Miles of Nowhere.

I am the Troll's much younger sister. Yes, I wear a dork mirror when I ride.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Easy "Upholstered" Bulletin Board

Welcome to my first NanaBananaBike tutorial!   If I ever get another great idea worth sharing, I'll try to do this again.  For now, please be patient with my Blog-ineptitude and tell me how I can improve this one. 

After discovering how easy and fun it was to make an "upholstered" bulletin board, I wanted to make dozens more.  I've a stopped at three, but there will be more.  

In addition to "easy" and "fun", here are a few more reasons you'll love making one:
  • No sewing
  • Because size matters, make the board whatever size you like
  • There's almost no limit to the decorative looks you can achieve

As you scroll through this tutorial, you'll notice there are three different bulletin boards featured in the photography.  What can I say?  This really is my first rodeo, so I've got a lot to learn about writing up instructions and using pictures along the way.  This floral board is, in fact, the last one I made for this project and I used it to fill in some missing steps in the picture story. 

Supplies you'll need: 
          1½” thick foam insulation board cut to desired size.  When I bought mine at Home Depot, the nice man with the big saw cut a 4’x8’ sheet into several smaller bulletin-board sized pieces for me.  Free!  Though I'd like to believe it was because I looked particularly fetching in my sweatpants and Pebbles ponytail, I think it's really because they do this sort of thing for customers.  Bonus:  it's much easier to transport after it's been cut up.
           Fabric that is 5” bigger vertically and horizontally than the dimensions of your foam-board piece (2 ½” all around) .  I've been using both 100% cotton quilting fabric and a cotton/linen blend.  Avoid synthetics, as they might not tolerate the heat used for fusing.  Silk would be interesting.....
           Fusible web (see picture and link below)
           Mounting board:  finish-grade lathing or other board (I used 1"x 4" board on a few bulletin boards and it was fine) cut about 2" shorter than the width of the bulletin board
           Adhesive caulk to attach mounting board (see pictures and link below)
           Mounting hardware (see pictures below)

Equipment you'll need:
           Ironing board
           Other stuff that need not be mentioned, such as scissors (or rotary cutter), measuring devices, saw, screwdriver, caulk gun and Delicious Beverage! of choice

Nice to have:
           Teflon pressing sheet
           Iron cleaner 
           Music streaming live from  89.3 The Current

Here's where I started, with a standard bugly (butt-ugly) bulletin board that perennially hung crooked above my sewing table.  The cat was able to reach it whenever he felt he wasn't getting his propers, the favored activity being stealing thumbtacks.  A few times he even knocked the whole thing down, scraping up the wall in the process. Still, I adore the little beast.

Zipper usually receives proper attention.

New and improved bulletin board and location.  My son made that pencil drawing on the right when he was three.  It depicts me holding up a quilt.  Such a treasure!  Now he's off to college and my heart aches for him.  More accurately, I miss the idea of him. Teens are teens, after all, and boys are teens well into their twenties.

Because I didn't take pictures along the way for my new bulletin board, I made another, smaller one.  Yes, I love skull motifs!  Most of the following tutorial shows this board in process.

Favorite fabric.  Feel free to pick something different for your project, though I can't see why you would.  This fabric came from Spoonflower and was printed on cotton/linen canvas.  You can order it here: Spoonflower!

Cut 2 ½”extra on all sides (5” added to each dimension).  You'll end up with about 1” wrapped to the back.

"Lite" fusible web works great. There are several brands (Wonder Under is another popular brand) and you'll find the product at your local JoAnn's or Hancock's, maybe even Walmart!  Naturally, online sources abound, for example:  Heat-n-Bond at Amazon

Attach fusible product to back of fabric per manufacturer's instructions, making sure to cover the whole piece of fabric.  For larger bulletin boards, you'll need to use more than one width of the fusible stuff.  Affixing them to the fabric one piece at a time, it's better to overlap the stuff a bit than leave a gap when you attach the second piece.  

VERY important:  keep the fusible substance off your iron and ironing surface.  The stuff is nasty when it gets on your iron.  This is where Iron Cleaner and Teflon Pressing Sheets come in handy. If it gets on your ironing surface, it's only a matter of time before it's on your iron and then your favorite underwear.  But WHY are you ironing your underwear?  That's just creepy!

Peeling away the paper backing.  Note "glue" is now on the fabric.

Use a ruler to help position the foam-board exactly in the center of the glue-backed fabric (glue side up!).  The overhang should be about 2 ½” on all sides.

Secure one long edge of the fabric to the back side of the foam board with painter's tape.  Do NOT fuse anything yet!  Turn the board over, keeping the fabric taut along the edge that was taped.

Now here's a tricky part that I couldn't find a good way to photograph:  Fusing the fabric to the front!  Above is an embarrassing graphic representing the front of the bulletin board to illustrate my words.

With your iron pre-heated to silk/wool*, fuse fabric to the front of the bulletin board, working from the edge that has been anchored with tape on the back.  Move at a moderate pace, sliding the iron 2-3 inches per second, smoothing the fabric with your other hand to prevent ripples. 

Work in small segments, rather like the sequence shown on the drawing.  After  the front has been fused to the foam, gently fuse the sides, always smoothing with your hands and pulling the fabric taut.

*Fusible web manufacturer may recommend hottest or cotton setting.  Don't do it!  You'll get nice fusion with the cooler iron and be less likely to melt the foam and stink up the house.

All four sides have been fused, leaving the corner un-fused (open).

Now crease the open corner and begin to wrap it around the corner, folding as you go.  See the next two pictures.  

Repeat for all four corners.

Fuse the corners and the fabric that's been wrapped to the back.  It won't all fuse because there are areas where the non-glued side of the fabric touches itself.  See the next step.

Use fabric glue in areas that don't fuse.

A mounting board stabilizes the foam board and gives you a place to attach the mounting hardware.   The coin is there for scale.

Caulk gun adhesive that won't melt the foam, available everywhere! PL 300 Foamboard Adhesive at The Home Despot or Amazon, or probably your local hardware store. The mounting board is cut 2" shorter than width of bulletin board.  Here I've used a fine bit of 1" x 4" board, but finish-grade lath board, as shown in the previous picture works very well and is easier to cut.

Mounting board has been caulked and set in place.  Use a ruler to make sure it's even.  Here I mounted the board 3" from the upper edge.

Weight the board while the caulking cures.  The board on the left is NOT attached, it is just there to stabilize the weight during cure time. The cat goes where he wishes.

Tubes of caulk, once they are opened, dry out quickly.  Cram a bit of plastic wrap into the tip of the caulk tube to keep it from drying out before you get around to making the next bulletin board.  I used a retracted Bic ballpoint for the cramming step.

And that's all, folks!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Good Deeds and Worms

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Cognitive dissonance

This is the feeling of uncomfortable tension, which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time and it happens to me all the time.  I know what’s right, then I do what’s wrong.  I say one thing, and do another.  I get on a soapbox, and then sneak off the back side when I think no one is looking.  But that’s not what happened this time.  There was no discomfort at all, not even the usual intestinal disorders or voices in my head.

Remember how I said I believed it was good to learn to be simply grateful without needing to pay back?   Well, I simply HAD to give something back to Hope Lodge because I wanted to.

On a weekend home during Paul’s treatment, I dug through my piles of small quilts and came up with several to offer for the corridors of Hope Lodge.  To my surprise, they wanted every single one I brought!  Jammie and Sarah spent a happy hour deciding where to hang them and I took them all home to attach hanging sleeves and make hanging boards.

Delivered a week ago, 14 quilts:


Three more

Zipper inspects the hanging devices

Jammie, Nancy, and Sarah with their favorites, respectively


I’ve been around long enough and done this often enough to begin to see a pattern:  A great idea pops into my head and starts worming around in there until it comes out, by way of my mouth, as a PLAN.  By the time it reaches the ears of others, the idea has become a larger-than-life PLAN, infused with a hidden dream element.  That dream element is part of the problem.  Maybe the line between facts and dreams can be somewhat blurry in my mind when I’m excited?  Or bored?  Or perhaps it’s happening a lot.  You tell me.

Where do worms/ideas come from?  For me, it involves some sort of input… it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  In my defense, most of my ideas start out innocently enough.  I see a problem, a need, or an opportunity and the worm start to squirm. 

In my group of friends (we fondly call each other “besties”) we have a saying: “I have an idea…”  This usually means the speaker is about to suggest something dumb, poorly thought-out, immoral, or all three.

I get it wrong

My idea for Hope Lodge was only guilty of one of the three above elements:  poorly thought out, owing to insufficient data input.  Not sure who gets the blame for the skimpy input, but it’s possible that, once the worm is turning, the input channel gets clogged with worm castings.

Data input:  each of the 60 guest rooms at Hope Lodge has a big comfy recliner.  You might imagine that a guest who’s pretty sick would spend a lot of time that recliner.  Hope Lodge keeps a protective cover on the headrest, something that can be laundered after each guest checks out.   Oops!  That didn’t sound right in this context.  How about “returns home”?

This is the chair and coverlet that was in Paul’s room:
You can see that this thing is very launderable if not cozy.  It turns out that “launderable” is not a real word.  Nor is “laundrable”, but I’ll bet you understand it anyway.

The idea:  Since the folks at Hope Lodge were so excited about the wallhanging quilts I was offering them, I figured they’d love the offer of some new chair coverlets in updated colors and style.  And they did. 

So I went home and started making little quilts for the chairs.  Then I got grandiose and started selling the idea/worm to friends and they started making little quilts.

With the delivery of the 14 wall-hanging quilts above, I carried 17, yes seventeen, chair quilts to Hope Lodge.  And that’s when I learned that half of the 60 recliners are leather and, aside from using a staple gun to keep them in place, they weren’t going to stay in place.  See?  Insufficient data due to premature input channel closure.

But look how nice they look anyway:
Mary's quilt

Fixing it

Velcro is out, and so are safely pins.  I wonder if I can do something with elastic?  When it comes to finding a solution that doesn’t make the whole business look tacky, I’m stumped

If you have any suggestions for a remedy of the problem, something that can be used on either leather or upholstered chairs so the quilts are interchangeable, please share them with me in the comments section.
Detail of Lori's contribution.  3-D!!!

One of mine


Thursday, October 18, 2012


We've had an interesting year+ in the Schmidt House.  Those who've followed our a story on Paul's Caring Bridge site are accustomed to my gallows humor and irreverence in the face of some pretty serious things. This approach to life and it's challenges has been honed by my partnership with my husband, Paul, who shares my twisted strategy for survival in a harsh and unpredictable world.

Now we are on the other side of sixteen months of cancer diagnosis and treatment for Paul.  There have been confounding complications and equally astonishing treatments and outcomes.  We've met people that I've wanted to strangle, which is a common reaction of mine when things don't go according to my plans.  Paul simply ignores or tolerates these people and their words while I snort and twist and start digging another hole in the woods behind our house.  More often we have been surrounded by people who are immeasurably kind, skilled, and blessed with perfect timing.  I'll never be able to thank them enough.
The woods in our back yard, September, 2012 
For a chronicle of Paul's illness and the adventures we've had, please visit our Caring Bridge site here.

Gratitude feels good

This is not something I knew before.  I think I believed that being grateful implied I was indebted in some way.  I was certain that it was more comfortable to be on the giving side of the equation.  As a Christian, I'm surprised to discover how uncomfortable I am with receiving grace.  It means accepting that I can't manage it all on my own, that I need someone outside myself.  It means practicing humility.  Not my strong suit.

I needed to learn to be simply grateful. I know that it's a lesson for the rest of my life, learned slowly, forgotten and relearned over and over until I surrender the notion that I can do it all on my own. 

Hope Lodge

One of our more remarkable experiences in the last year was Paul's five week stay at Hope Lodge in Rochester, MN while he was receiving daily radiation treatments at TWFMC (The World Famous Mayo Clinic).  Hope Lodge is the American Cancer Society's version of Ronald McDonald House.  It is a home away from home, a place to live free of charge, for cancer patients and their caregivers.

At first, Paul was able to be there alone, with occasional visits from his sisters.  Mary, Bette and Laurie all became familiar with Paul's favorite Rochester restaurant, The Canadian Honker.  Later, as the treatments zapped his energy and ability to eat, I joined Paul and stayed for the remainder of his course.

From the moment I got there, I knew that Hope Lodge was a remarkable place, that I'd eventually have a lot to say about our time there.  Caregivers have a very different experience from patients, which sounds so obvious now, but wasn't plain to me at the time.

The rooms are set up like basic hotel rooms and are intentionally kept completely separate from the cooking/eating and public areas.  Imagine how sick some of these people are and how cooking odors and germs from visitors might affect them.  Of course this means that Paul's room had no mini-bar, but I was the only one bothered by that.

So!  The main floor public areas are populated largely by caregivers, volunteers and cancer patients that either feel pretty good or are so gregarious that they need their people fix no matter how crummy they feel.  It's a rarified environment. 

Because everyone living there is fighting the same battle in one way or another, the subject of cancer suddenly becomes comfortable.  It's almost as though it were a normal topic of conversation.  I cannot tell you how nice it was to talk about this stuff without the preambles and sad looks.  It's as though we were all in a lifeboat together.  No need to say, "Hey, I'm in a lifeboat here, in case you didn't know."

Hope Lodge is run by a combination of staff and volunteers that create a warm and open environment.  Without exception they know what's at stake and they know how to make the place a home away from home.  I will never forget the little bright shining moments that happened here.  As dark as those days were, every day had them. 


Giving back to Hope Lodge and how I reconcile that with the idea of being "simply grateful".