It blankets the drab and sometimes unforgiving world in a pristine swath of white, sparkling like a new beginning. You always know it’s going to snow because of the sky and the smell. And the stillness. The wind quiets and the clouds create an alabaster ceiling. If you breathe in deeply, your nostrils tingle with a chill that’s more inviting than foreboding, and you’ll catch the faintest hint of ice, a scent that’s almost impossible to describe.
Every March the clock springs forward giving us more precious hours of sunlight, and at least in New Jersey, a crocus or two pops from the ground, winking and promising that Spring is nearly here.
We make plans, eagerly lugging our bicycles and gardening tools from the basement, and then Mother Nature says, “Psych!”
I suppose it makes sense that the ones who face Mother Nature’s wrath head on have something huge in common: gender.
During last week’s nor’easter, I received text after text from female friends and colleagues. It looked a little like this:
Over the next 24 hours, my gal pals rallied as they faced everything from:
…to driving 40+ miles to work…
…to fixing a broken generator…
Yes, sir ma’am. These ladies put the “win” in “winter.”
I’m hashtag blessed to have so many women in my life who handle Mother Nature’s little curveballs with poise wine, grace vodka, and humor. It doesn’t hurt that they now write blog posts for me, too.
How are ya’ll doing? Everybody good? Have (girl) power?
About a year and a half ago, I visited my brother and his girlfriend in Tucson, Arizona. I was eager to see the sights, and after a little coaxing, we drove the long, meandering 25 miles to the top of Mt. Lemmon. Sunny and 60 degrees at the base, there was snow at the summit. Between that and an elevation gain of over 5,000 feet, I never expected to see this:
Almost immediately, I began planning my own Tucson cycling adventure. I would bring along my sister and a close friend, and together we too would conquer Mt. Lemmon.
We arrived in Tucson last week with grand plans: Climb a mountain and drink all the beer.
When I asked my sister and friend if they wanted to drive up the mountain for a sneak peak peek, they gave a resounding, “Hell no!” We had recently done some long, challenging rides, and felt cocky confident.
The night before our trek, a man named Robert met us in a dentist office parking lot with three rental road bikes.
“Eh, it’ll take you a few hours and three bottles of water to get to the top,” Robert said. “I’ve done it a bunch of times.”
The next morning, when we finally arrived at the base of the mountain (a 45-minute drive from our AirBnb), I looked at my sister. “Oh my god,” I said. “I left my helmet in your suitcase.” My sister spun around and spotted another cyclist in the parking lot. “Excuse me,” she called. “Are you from around here? Do you know where we can buy a helmet?”
We were prepared to drive to the nearest Walmart, but our new cycling friend, Gary, rummaged in the back of his car and pulled out a well-worn white helmet. Without a moment’s hesitation, he walked over and began fitting it on my head, pulling the chin strap tightly.
“That should work,” he said with a smile and a nod.
“Crap,” I told him. “I almost got out of this.”
By then it was 9:30am, and the sun felt like it was sitting squarely atop my borrowed head gear. We took off and before long, everything hurt. Numb hands, aching legs, and dull chills – everything I’d dreamt of and more.
Two hours in, my sister and I stopped for our 87th break and said, almost in unison, “Well, I can’t breathe and I’m out of water.”
We were at mile 7.
P.S. – Here’s our friend at the top. She’s a machine. Ain’t that right, KB!
When I pulled up to my rental cottage in northern Maine this past weekend, I let out out a sigh of relief. Ten hours in the car with a distressed Labradoodle, two wrong turns, and a long, steep decent via gravel road had been worth it.
I had booked the cottage nearly nine months earlier, anticipating my summer residency, a week-long retreat required as part of my Humane Education Masters degree program. (YES, it’s a THING.)
I knew after nine-hour days of singing Kumbaya and braiding my cohorts’ armpit hair, this New Jersey native and closet introvert was going to need some alone time.
I arrived at my little rustic gem with a view and, per the check-in instructions, headed straight for what I thought was the front door. “Doors will be unlocked,” the instructions read. “The key will be inside in an obvious location. Should you need a spare, it will be under the back doormat.”
I jiggled the handle. The deadbolt, apparently, was working overtime.
I jumped from foot to foot, having had to pee for what felt like 127 hours.
I walked around the side of the cottage and saw another door. “Ah, of course,” I said to myself. “This must be it.” I turned the handle and once again – door locks working the night shift.
My bladder screamed as I tried both doors again. I checked and rechecked under both doormats. Uncle Jesse, my dog, bounced around me as if to say, “Is it time to go back to Jersey yet?”
I groaned loudly and walked back to my car to retrieve the check-in instructions. I called all four numbers listed on the paper and not a single person answered. My bathroom situation went from a slightly unpleasant Kevin Costner film to Waterworld.
I looked around surreptitiously. People were sitting on the porch at the house to the left, but they were almost entirely shrouded by trees. The house at the top of the hill had a partially obstructed view of Fort Knox my cottage, but, maybe no one was home?
There was no time left to wonder. I grabbed a battered box of tissues from my car and tiptoed to the side of the cottage. With one more wary glance up the hill, I said, “F*ck it,” and, well.
The relief was as sublime as the view. I was a woman on a mission now. After wrestling with several ancient windows held secure by what I think were pine tree shivs, I managed to pry one open.
I climbed inside, unlocked both doors, and started unloading my overstuffed car when I saw a man walking down the gravel driveway. He looked like a cross between a young(ish) Jeff Bridges and a basket handwoven by fruitarians.
I gave a shy hello, crusted in sweat, shame and ten hours of car funk, assuming he was headed towards the small staircase that led to the coastline.
As he neared, it started to feel increasingly awkward. Maybe he was one of the numbers I’d just called? I took a few steps forward and held out my hand.
“Hi…. I’m Jules. …I’m renting the cottage for the week…?”
“I just happened to notice you pull up,” he said. “I live in the black and tan house that’s shaped like a teepee built in 1971 by a blind nudist colony.” He pointed up the hill, his long brown locks swaying in the breeze.
“Oh, yeah, so,” I stammered. Holy hell. He saw…everything. “I couldn’t find the key and no one answered the emergency number, so, I peed my brains out on the lawn and climbed in through the window…”
“I think I know where the key is,” he said without missing a beat. He headed towards the porch and knelt down by a crack in the wooden staircase. “The owner was just here two days ago.” He handed me a small silver key. “Want to give this a try?”
“Wow,” I said sarcastically. “I feel really secure now.”
He laughed and waited for me to try the key, making small talk about my dog and having once lived in New Jersey. Rattled, I tried to shake him off, and he soon headed down the stairs towards the water, as if that had been his plan all along.
Last week, I spent a few days in New York City, watching many months of work come to fruition. As a project manager in the pharmaceutical industry, my colleagues and I had been planning a bioethics-themed symposium for ages. Finally, the event had arrived.
The symposium took place on the 40th floor of 7 World Trade Center. The views were spectacular.
Things were going well on our first day, but I was anxious. There was a “networking lunch” at noon. Trying to pretend I knew anything about anything compassionate use of medicines for an hour and a half, among some of the country’s foremost ethicists, seemed daunting.
For the first few minutes during lunch, I checked my email in the hallway, doing my best to look busy and important. When I glanced up, I noticed an exit sign.
“I could do a little exploring,” I thought. “Stretch my legs.”
There wasn’t any indication that this was an emergency only exit, so off I scampered into the obviously post-9/11 constructed stairwell. The stairs were wide and well marked with fluorescent tape.
As I descended, I noticed each floor bore signs that read, “Nearest re-entry on floor 36.”
The floors in between had only locked doors, not even a pad to swipe your badge – if you had a badge.
The 36th floor did have a pad, but I decided onward and downward was the way to go. Also I had no badge. No doubt some floor would have public access, and if not, I could piggyback off of one of the people I was bound to see.
And I did see someone. Around floor 20. By then, I was determined to see this thing through. Because surely -surely- I could exit on the ground floor.
The final floors were daunting. There were no doors at all, and large, brightly lit ticker tape signs announcing, “EXIT THIS WAY >>>>>>>>>.”
I finally made it to the ground floor, wobbly-kneed and decidedly damp, only to see this:
Knowing there was a red ‘call if you’re a moron’ phone back on the 11th floor, I turned around and began my long ascent.
When I reached the 4th floor, a tall, brunette man in a fleece jacket appeared.
“Can I help you?” he asked suspiciously.
He looked like Brody from Homeland.
“I’m trapped!” I blurted.
“Yeah. You’re supposed to be on the 40th floor.”
Which is when it hit me. Nicholas Brody had been watching me for forty. Floors.
“Come with me,” he said, leading me to the 5th floor. He looked like he knew 17 ways to kill someone with a rubber band.
When he opened the 5th floor door and I saw it wasn’t an interrogation room, I breathed a sigh of relief.
He found someone to babysit me on the way to the proper elevator bank, and when I eventually made it back to the 40th floor, I ducked into a bathroom stall and desperately swabbed my head with toilet paper.
When I felt fairly certain I’d stopped sweating, I emerged from the stall and washed my hands. I looked up to see my entire forehead covered in toilet paper bits.
Have you ever gotten stuck in a compromising position?