Dreamboarding: Diversity

“From a biological perspective, I love genetic diversity,” Dale said.  “That’s what makes the world safe, what makes it thrive.  It means that everything is terribly healthy.  And when you see the narrowing of genetic culture, that’s when you know things are going to die.”  img_3841

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Free Cycles: Build A Bike

It took me a while to get to this part.  Honestly, I was dragging my feet a little bit because the idea of building my own bike was a little overwhelming.  So I did what any good, mechanically challenged person would do:  I waited for my dad to come into town.


Dad came to Missoula for five days and on the first day, I dragged him into Free Cycles and had him help me “build” a bike.  I say “build” because what we actually ended up doing was finding a bike that just needed a few repairs and a lot of lube.  We made sure the gears worked, we changed out the seat and the pedals.  We added reflectors and a water bottle holder.  We tried, unsuccessfully, to add a kickstand, but it just wasn’t happening.  The gears were pretty sticky and it took a while to get them to transition smoothly, but we did finally manage to do so.  During this process, we also learned that while the gears worked, the gauge didn’t, so I’ll always have to change them by feel (which is really what you do anyway).  After my last experience with a bike, I made sure to buy a good lock and I even registered my bike with the city.

It was a fun project and I’m glad I got to do it with my dad.  I think he enjoyed it too – he said the big wood-floored shop that is Free Cycles reminded him of the ranch he grew up on.  And it’s been great to have an alternate mode of transportation around town (although, it’s getting pretty cold and not very fun to ride). So while I don’t think I’m ever going to get super into building and repairing bikes, I do highly recommend the experience Free Cycles has to offer.  It’s a great program, a great resource for the community and a fun new thing to try.



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Free Cycles: Pre-Reqs

As I mentioned in my last post, there were a few things I needed to do before I could get started building my bike:

Bike Well Class:  This is a free class offered every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at Free Cycles.  It takes about an hour and you learn about bike safety, bike laws in Missoula, areas to be mindful of around town and a little bit of information about MIST (Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation).  A and I took it together and we were both surprised to learn that it’s actually okay to bike in the middle of the lane when there’s no bike lane.  Yes, it’s true, that annoying habit of cyclists is completely legit and it’s actually safer.  By riding in the middle of the lane, it encourages motorists to move over into the other lane to pass, rather than trying to creep by the cyclist by veering slightly out into the other lane and potentially hitting the cyclist, or cutting off another car, etc.  Cyclists can even ride two across in a lane in this fashion.  We also learned that roundabouts are one of the safest types of intersections, which I find shocking considering most people traversing the Toole roundabout seem to have no idea what they’re doing.

4h of Volunteering:  I admit I was a little intimidated by this.  I wasn’t really sure how I could possibly be helpful since I have zero mechanical knowledge.  But, the folks at Free Cycles are pretty used to people like me.  I spent my first two hours working on a campaign they were running at the time to help raise money to buy the property and building that they are currently located on.  I made a few calls, wrote a few letters, hit up a couple of bike-loving friends to donate a few bucks.  They did manage to meet their goal, and while most of that came from philanthropists, I like to think I helped in some small way.

I spent my last two hours doing odd jobs around the shop – sweeping, picking up trash, cleaning up after an event, sorting bike parts.  It’s about as exciting as it sounds, but it had its Zen moments.  It also helped me learn my way around the shop a little and figure out where to find some things and where other things went.  I think this type of volunteering is pretty typical – it’s the easiest and simplest way to be involved and it always needs to be done.  That being said, I think the sky is the limit.  They regularly hold events at the shop and being involved with set-up/clean-up, or even organization, are possible ways to contribute.  And then, obviously, people with more mechanical/bike knowledge, can triage bikes and figure out which ones are repairable and which ones are good for spare parts and break them down as needed.

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Free Cycles: An Idea Is Born

I had a great bike.  It was a Marin hybrid that I bought in 2003.  At the time, I basically knew how to get on a bike and ride in a straight line thanks to a bizarre childhood that did not include bike riding.  Turns out that all new riders fall off their bikes regardless of age, the difference being that at 18-19 years old, I fell a lot harder.  In that first summer of riding, I managed to crack open a helmet, tear up my hands (twice), remove a layer of skin from my shoulder and acquire permanent purple scars dotting my knees and elbows.  The first time I went to the ER to make sure I didn’t have a concussion, but the second time I rode back home in a blood and toilet paper covered rage (I found a Port-o-Potty and wrapped the TP around my injuries to ride home).  Somehow this didn’t stop me from continuing to ride – I enjoyed the exercise and it was a convenient way to get around Portland – although, admittedly I don’t think I will ever be as comfortable on a bike as my normally bicycle-abled friends.  The bike also got beat up in these early years, but I got it regular tune ups and it continued to serve me well over time.  Then the bike and I were unceremoniously broken up in New Haven when some asshat SAWED through my porch and stole my bike during my last semester at school.  It still upsets me to think about it.

Fast-forward two years and I decided it was high time to find an alternate mode of transportation that didn’t involve my own two feet.  However, cash was an issue and I also had no idea what I was looking for, other than the bike I used to have.  That’s when someone told me about Free Cycles.  I’ll let you browse their website, but the short-version of the story is that Free Cycles has a great program where you take a class, volunteer for four hours and then they help you build a bike for free!  This idea appealed to me on a number of levels – community involvement, learning a new skill, DIY, etc. – so I decided to go for it.  Stay tuned for the rest of the process!

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Heal Thyself: Final Thoughts

As mentioned in the post about herbal medicine, I have recently enrolled in Aviva Romm’s Herbal Medicine for Women course.  While reading the first chapter from her book, Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), I discovered, not shockingly, that I am the poster child for a CAM consumer:

The average US CAM user is a well-educated health consumer, generally with at least a college education and an annual income of $50,000 or greater.  Most are women between 30 and 59 years of age.  Individuals whose personal values include a holistic approach to health, environmentalism, feminism, or a desire for personal spiritual growth are more than twice as likely to use CAM therapies.  

The chapter goes on to discuss other reasons people might choose CAM, including a desire for fewer side effects, treatment of long-term or chronic problems, wanting a closer relationship with their provider and having a say in their treatment plan.  All of these are reasons why I chose the path I did.  I know the answers I would have gotten in a standard primary care provider’s office, because I’ve gotten them before:  It sounds like you’re over-doing it and need to rest more.  You should probably give up X, Y or Z.  There isn’t really anything physically wrong with you, so it’s probably just stress.  Have you tried ibuprofen for pain/inflammation?  None of these were real answers for me – I enjoy being physically active – it makes my body feel good and it’s the primary way that I spend time with my partner.  I also perform professionally from time-to-time, so I don’t consider taking a complete break from training to be an option.  So I found practitioners whose goals were to keep me moving, to keep me training, to help make being physically active sustainable.  “Just stress,” is a response that drives me a little bonkers – it’s true that my pain does not limit my range of motion and that none of my lab values or physical attributes are technically “abnormal,” but I still don’t feel well and I do limit some of my activities because of that.  So I found myself a therapist who helps me learn to better manage my stress in whatever situation I find myself in.  And yes, I have tried ibuprofen, so much so that I’m pretty sure (and my ND agrees) that I gave myself an ulcer.  So I started reading up on botanicals and consulting my ND and the herbalists at Meadowsweet.

None of this has been cheap (but I have reached my deductible for the year!), and I know that I could have been using this money for a variety of different things.  But I decided to make my health and well-being a priority in the hopes that I could eventually move on to focus on other things.  So far it all seems to be working – I feel like I’m making progress and gains (why have we started spelling it with a “z” all of a sudden?), I’m happier, I deal with conflict better, I’m in less pain, I’m stronger.  I find myself with energy to socialize with my partner and friends, coordinate things like acrobatic flash mobs, and even miss a night of sleep and not feel ruined for the rest of the week.  I have met providers and trainers that I trust, have relationships with and would recommend to anyone.  I also feel that this experience has made me a better provider – now that I have first-hand knowledge of different CAM therapies and also non-pharmaceutical/non-surgical management of chronic pain, I feel more comfortable suggesting CAM therapies to patients.

I know I won’t use or recommend CAM for everything.  I will continue to take my daily Zyrtec and won’t hesitate to prescribe antibiotics for a patient’s rare UTI.  But I like having a broad range of options that I can customize to fit my or my patient’s needs.  Rather than pit one type of medicine against another, it feels like a truly holistic approach to health and healthcare.

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Heal Thyself: Rolf Method of Structural Integration

In my search for body work that would help my shoulder issues, I came across Jessica Redding-Newhouse of Be Well Bodywork.  She advertised her services as the “Rolf method of structural integration (SI).”  I knew a little about SI from talking to friends and a little about Rolfing from my uncle.  I read through the website and finally gave Jessica a call.  She let me know that she typically recommends a 10-series package (pay-as-you-go) and that even if there is a specific area of pain, she works on the whole body because it’s all connected.  I have had enough body work in my life to know she was speaking truth and so I decided to give it a go.  You know, in case something in my foot was causing my shoulder pain.

It took me about 3-4 months to complete all ten sessions.  Perhaps the most valuable thing I got out of these sessions was working closely and consistently with one practitioner who helped me learn more about my body and how to take care of it.  It was a really organic process and the results are that my right shoulder is mostly pain-free and I now know how to take care of my left shoulder girdle to have pain-free days.  There is still pain in my body, but it feels more predictable and I have more tools to alleviate that pain.

During these ten sessions, I learned that I carry a lot of tension in my feet, that my QL’s (quadratus lumboum) are tight and that most of my left shoulder issues are due to posture or being over-worked, whereas my right shoulder issues are due to stress and inflammation.  I learned to be more diligent about stretching and massaging certain muscle groups and that I need to figure out a better work station at my job.  I learned that whole body structural integration does include having someone stick a finger up your nose.  And while it was something I “knew” in my 20’s, I learned that I will have this body my whole life, and that creating a balance between caring for it and pushing it to new heights is a lifelong task, so I may as well settle in for the long haul.

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After avoiding pretty much any and all CEUs for the last two years, I finally bit the bullet and attended a Primary Care conference through the University of Washington.  You know, to maintain my license and all.  I was pleasantly surprised by the conference – turns out that listening to five 1-hour lectures is way more sustainable than listening to five 2-hour lectures, which is what I used to do in grad school.  

The conference was Sunday – Tuesday, so A came to join me Tuesday night and we made a mini vacation out of it.  I found an AirBnB in Capitol Hill, about a 10 minute walk to the conference and a 30 minute walk to downtown.  Aside from the mid-morning drug deal I happened across while coming down the steps of the apartment, it was a pretty sweet location and reminded me of one thing I really miss about city life:  Even though we live very close to downtown Missoula, we don’t walk anywhere for a variety of reasons – I’m on call and shouldn’t be too far away from my car, we’re going grocery shopping and need the car, we’re running short on time and walking isn’t a viable option.  I know if I lived in a big city, I would have the same problems and probably wouldn’t walk as often.  But it was nice to have all the time in the world to get places on my own two feet and enjoy the city from the sidewalk, rather than being stressed out on the road in a car.  

 On Wednesday (our only sunny day), we took the ferry out to Bainbridge Island.  We didn’t do much out there – mostly just walked along the “Waterfront Trail,” which followed the waterfront less than half the time (we did find out where you can order some Gary Johnson bumper stickers, though, thanks to a sign we passed on someone’s lawn).  The purpose of this excursion was primarily the ferry ride – I love boats and being out on the water, but due to ever increasing motion sickness (it’s started happening on planes sometimes now, too, WTF), I can pretty much only ride on fast-moving or giant boats (or fast-moving, giant boats, a la jet-foils).  It was a little cold and windy on the sun deck, but at least I got to smell the sea air and get that sense of vastness that, for me, is best fulfilled by the ocean.  

On Thursday, we took a long, wet walk to the Space Needle.  I’d never been and wanted to go at least check it out.  I can imagine that on a clear day or during transition times, the view would be breathtaking.  As it was, the view was still impressive, but a lot of that was overshadowed by the downpour.  We spent some time looking at the exhibits while drying out and then headed back out into the rain.  For dinner, we met up with my dear friend, Richard (whom I’d gotten to see earlier in the week as well), and his family, and then stayed out for drinks.  It’s always nice to see old friends, and I feel grateful that I’ve been able to see so many this year.  

On our last day, we took a flying trapeze calss at Emerald City Trapeze Arts.  It had been over a year since I’d done any flying trapeze, but the prinicples and techniques came back pretty quickly.  I learned a new trick – the straddle whip – although, I have to admit I’ve probably forgotten the only two other tricks I’ve learned.  We had some time to kill after that and before our flight, so we grabbed some sushi and did some window shopping, and then found a comfy spot at the airport and watched a bunch of TV before our flight, which kept getting delayed.  I was a little nrvous we wouldn’t make it home at all because of the storm, but we managed to arrive in one piece.  

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