It's Just Like Riding a Bike

I’m just back from a 7 day cycling trip in Tuscany, without the kids. It’s not an overstatement to say this situation was epic.   

The trip, “Tuscany by the Sea,” was organized by Back Roads, a cycling/travel company, and took us from Rome to Montalcino to Castaliglione della Pescaia and Ortebello, to Monte Argentario (among other spots) and back to Rome, and was incredible. The rolling hills, the sea views, the churches, the old men sitting on a benches in every town square, the pasta, the Brunello, the espresso, the wonderful guides who told us what to do (my favorite part – being told what to do) – it was such a joy to use my body, to enjoy my family, and mentally put aside all the brutality of recent events. Especially the past few weeks, watching the Kavanaugh heinousness like it was my job, and teetering on the edge of feeling like the result would produce a moment of redemption or healing for all women. But. Of course, we know how that went and honestly, the hits just keep coming and show no sign of stopping. I know that being able to escape the madness of the current political climate for a week was a total luxury, and to do it in ITALY OMG, but man, did it feel good to have a break. I totally unclenched. 

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Leading up to the trip, I had been training on a Peloton indoor bike, which my apartment building purchased back in January. I had never been one for indoor spinning in a gym – the few times I tried Soul Cycle I didn’t really get it, I was self conscious, it was too hard for me, or the instructors made me do a little too much woo-hooing for my taste. My sisters both got Pelotons last year, and particularly Lanie, the middle sister, became a spinning animal.  She talked about it all the time, she loved all the metrics, which wasn’t surprising given her type A tendencies. She rides every day, and eventually, I got on the one in my building’s basement, and just freaking went for it.

So it was likely some sisterly competition that got me into this unique home biking business, but I’m so glad it did! Peloton has re-introduced me to endorphins, to pushing myself cardiovascular-ly, and I’m seeing fitness results with efficiency and crazy convenience. Though I have a very strong yoga practice, I had been needing something to kick my butt a little, as I get older. Riding alone in my basement to fit and funny instructors live or on demand in a Manhattan studio, oddly, was something I hadn’t known I needed.

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The world can be so hard for all of us, and if you have the strength and good fortune to be able to exercise, then you are lucky as hell. I felt so happy being able to rock up those Tuscan hills on a real bike this past week, alongside my sisters, my husband, and my dad, and I’m grateful for all the miles I put in ahead of time to prepare.       

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Cycling is a metaphor, and on this trip I found myself looking through it as a lens for relationships, like my marriage. Evan and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary last week on one of these rides and slipped away from the group for a seaside lunch for two. Cycling has long been Evan’s passion, and on this trip we got to enjoy it together. It’s hard not to be so literal on the hills, valleys, difficulties of the climbs and euphoria of the vistas, in thinking about our life together and the joys and struggles we experience in the moment, and over the long haul. Again, I feel lucky to be able to make these connections.

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In that spirit, check out the MILK Podcast/Peloton mini series I recorded with the lovely Peloton instructor MILKs, Jenn Sherman and Christine D’Ercole.

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Riding with them at home has been a fascinating experience, and getting to know them personally in these interviews just highlighted their talent and deep motivational vibes. They are both super inspiring, and I think the episodes are terrific. Jenn and Christine are wonderful women who motivate and lift up others, and getting to meet and interview them, especially just before this trip, has been a wonderfully bright light.

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And by the way, the day after we returned from Rome, I was right back in it, planning, food shopping, taking the younger to a car racing birthday party and managing a tween temper tantrum over packing her own lunch. So these wonderful experiences, they are over before we know it, and we’re back at the bottom of the hill, working our way up. I feel lucky for all of it.

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

I spent June and July working on a podcast project about preparing parents and kids socially and emotionally for the back to school transition. I loved working with Slate Studios and Target as the host of “Coffee and Crayons,” and I’m proud of the result. Check out the 3 episodes, including interviews with Amy Webb of “This Little Miggy Stayed Home,” Joy Cho of “Oh Joy,” and Morgan Neville, the director of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” here, or anywhere you get podcasts. We talk about inclusivity, creativity, and compassion, and how to infuse transitions like back to school with those components. Do let me know what you think! And please share, subscribe, and rate if you can.

Coffee and Crayons is an extension of my work with MILK, and I’m really excited about it. Even though the episodes are up and living in the world, and many kids have started school already, my family and I are still in the midst of our treasured summer vacation, hanging on tightly for the next few weeks until Labor Day.

Last week we went to Northern California for a cousin’s wedding and then on to Los Angeles to see my husband’s great uncle. This week, after picking up my daughter at overnight camp in New Hampshire, we are with my dad and sisters and kids in Maine. I’m writing from a screened in porch where the rain falls steadily and soothingly. 

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In California, we were super active in a short amount of time – driving and hustling to events surrounding the wedding of a terrific couple, Aaron and Jessica. My son M can be sensitive to his environment, and yanking him around a lot outside of his normal schedule can often end in tears (his and mine). But we had our very supportive and compassionate family surrounding us that weekend, and that made it totally lovely and adventurous instead of treacherous and overwhelming, as busy trips with him have often felt to me in the past. Also having one kid to give our attention to (our older daughter goes to overnight camp for a month every summer), allows the time to feel precious with our son. Plus, less sibling bickering.

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The experience of going to a wedding with my partner of 18 years (married for 14 this fall), was such an interesting one. Wedding are the ultimate in hope, and such slowed down, present, beautiful moments in time. I love the presence of love and choice in every moment. I love watching people dance. I love cake. I love weird speeches. Its just good stuff. I’ve said before, however, that a couple could really use a wedding like 6/7/8 years into a marriage, where speeches and celebratory words and dancing could do a world of good to a couple living in the thick of what marriage actually is.

And though I do love a good horah, the highlight of the California trip was seeing our Uncle Izzy (Isaac) in Los Angeles, who is my husband’s father’s brother, and the last surviving member of his generation at age 96. He and my kids began writing longhand letters to each other a few years ago, and the relationship between them has blossomed into something beautiful and poignant.

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He writes often, in his beautiful, careful hand, about his own childhood, our family history, and about sports and any other subject that might engage M and Z. I saw these letters as something very dear and very special, and decided to compile them into a photo book for him. To say that he appreciated the book is an understatement – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone more moved by a gift. Honestly, it made me want to find a child pen pal for every older person out there! So therapeutic and wonderful for all of us involved. 

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After returning home to repack our suitcases, we headed north to pick up our daughter at overnight camp and our foursome became whole once again. I always relish retrieving Z at her beloved camp, and seeing how her face and manner has changed in a month's time. She’s always tanner and older and more and less familiar at the same time. We all swayed, arms around each other, sang “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” loaded her stinky duffel bag into the car and headed to Maine, where we are now chilling for the next few days with my sisters, nephews and dad. 

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It has been a while since my sisters and all vacationed together with our families, but we are making it work! It's always evolving since we lost our mom five years ago, and I’m very grateful we are together in this beautiful spot, drinking gin and tonics, and remembering that we can be good to each other and that our kids can grow their own relationships. My last post was about the strength of friendship, but family too, is everything. 

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See you soon for more MILK action.