Jan 30, 2015

My New Normal

Hello my friends,

I am hoping this week is closing out well for you and a fun weekend ahead awaits for you. I wanted to spend a moment to share with you a few thoughts on feeling good and feeling pretty. Not my usual images, but I am hoping by opening up what I am going through, maybe someone out there won't feel alone with their struggles. For some of us, needing to feel good or pretty might  just be only a new lipstick, or getting our nails done to get that fix. For others it can be a fresh haircut, a good night's sleep, or fitting in an old pair of jeans to feel good or pretty. Others may claim that being around friends and family make them feel good and pretty...but I am talking more on a personal, one-on-one experience with oneself, not with others, and not a "quick fix," but rather more of an authentic and healthy sense of self-acceptance.

I had my own "aha" moment a few weeks ago when I left the gym. I had gone a few times for two weeks, my first time to the gym in over 27 months after multiple surgeries, hospital stays, 100's of hours of rehab and doctors' appointments due to my knee. I decided that 2015 would be the year of total health and total contentment with "it is what it is" regarding my new self.

I noticed I left every gym visit very depressed, instead of the elated feeling I used to have three years ago. I left unhappy and discouraged and it took me a couple of times to figure out that many of the machines were too demanding on my limited range of motion and I couldn't use several machines that I once loved using, due to my limited knee range. 

Feeling depressed after my "workout" was just not acceptable. 

Then one day, as I went to my car after yet another crappy gym visit, feeling defeated...feeling ugly...and feeling like I would never get my "real" old life back, a bike whizzed past me and pulled me out of my private pity party. As I glared at the rider who nearly missing me (never mind I wasn't paying attention where I was going...you know, it's always their fault...haha), my glare turned to curiosity, then wonderment, then finally excitement. That's it! That is what I what I really miss - being outdoors! 

I have been an avid bike rider my entire life up till my first surgery in Nov 2012. I even raced bikes in three mini triathlons. I decided right then, what I needed, and actually craved, was to be on the open road again - no matter what. I can't run/jog anymore, but biking - I could try that again.

After work, my beloved barber husband scooted down to the most wonderful bike shop in town, Maplewood Bicycle, and scoped out a couple of bikes for me to check out whenever I could "find the time." 

I found the time.

I was filled with mixed emotions as I entered the store - happy to be doing something I loved, but sad that I am now a different person, with different needs and limitations, which meant (to me) I would now need an "old lady's" bike, not a racing bike like I once rode. I discovered the Trek Verve bike, which looked really cool actually, and sat more upright, which is good for my wrists (another ailment that I just don't feel like talking about right now) and the step-through frame allowed me to mount with my limited knee range. Not too bad, I thought.

It looks really cute, so I gave it a try. Boy, this was not for me...I had a very hard time getting my foot on the pedal (due to my knee) and I was riding like a shaky old lady, or a little kid who just got training wheels! What the ...? This really shook me up as I made my way down the sidewalk and I felt myself getting emotional as I began to think, "Can't I do anything I like I used to???" I rode back, and Mike, the great store guy who gives great personal service, raised the seat for me, and I tried again. Better, but still shaky. I was not liking this experience at all. By the time I got back, Mike had a different bike waiting for me, a Trek Allant, a green retro looking bike that had a different personality. He had seat adjusted just for me and so I tried it.

I get on, not sure what to expect from this retro looking bike, and just like that - it was love at first ride. I was very sure, stable, and I felt "normal" again! I didn't want to ride back to the store. The only Allant they had was green, which was cute, but I needed the full gear system to climb hills and such, and the green didn't come with the rack. But, I decided I liked the sleek black better  - reminded me of my European days, where black bikes were rode by stylish Europeans on their way to work, market, or out to eat.

I quickly realized that this little adventure of mine went deeper than just "needing to exercise" again, but rather, it was more of a right of passage from the last 27 months of pretty much, well... hell.

Have you ever been forced to go through something, something you would have never chose, be it a job loss, health issue, a move, or whatever, and when it was finally "over" you didn't really feel like celebrating, but rather just wanted things to get back as they once were? And with time, you came to accept that "as it once was" would never be again? That is how I felt while shopping in the bike store...I saw a bike rider come in, all in his bike gear, and looking like he was ready to race, and I knew that would not be me. I glanced over at the wall of the beautiful race bikes and knew that would never be me. I looked at racing gear, and knew that wasn't me - anymore.

But when I glanced over at the little green bike I had a choice to make: either accept my new normal, or just keep grieving for what once was, but isn't. So what does a girl do when having a bad hair day? Wear a fab hat! What does a girl do when invited to a party - get a new dress! So, just like that, I set about to outfit my Allant with all the "pretties" and to make it really my - my new normal.

It will take my bike a week to come in, which gives me time to get all my fixin's ordered and put on before I go in for my personal fitting of the bike. Maplewood Bicycle has a computer program that measure your stride, size and so on to get the perfect fit. So, first order up - need some saddlebags! I decided to get a vintage French pannier - found these online and they were just shipped from France today! The price was too good to pass up and if they don't work out, then I will pass them along and find ones that will. But I will admit, I love that they are French with a retro look:

I love the retro black accent on them (will highlight the black bike) and I am pretty sure the color will match really close to the English leather saddle I ordered:

If it doesn't match exactly, that's okay...most won't be able to really see the saddle once I'm on it anyway! Ha-Ha. And I got matching leather ring grips from Brooks England as well:

And of course, a front basket is needed as well. This one has a wooden bottom and leather straps by Nantucket - I think the extra light color will look good with the black bike and will age well:

I knew I didn't want a racing helmet like the one I used to wear, this riding experience was more than just exercise by now. It is a little bit of very much needed "just me time." So, when I got home, all excited over my new normal, I decided to embrace it fully and got online to shop around on how to make my riding more about feeling good both outside and INSIDE and I came across the fabulous site: Bike Pretty. This is such a great site!! This woman, Kelly, lives in London and write about all things pretty (vintage and super stylish) related to biking. She has that retro, fashion/hipster look that I took for granted when I lived in Europe. 

Here are some images from Bike Pretty Blog:

Kelly (above) who runs the site.

Okay, must find some very stylish riding gloves. Yes, I have some, but they are racing gloves - time for a stylish leather glove that is made for cycling...love these above! And, will look for a chrome, vintage looking bell - this one is great too. Okay, just need to push this chick off her bike and just mug her.... :-)

When I lived in Europe, it was SO COMMON to see ladies of all ages riding in dresses - I remember thinking how neat that was - and all these years later? I still do.

I loved Kelly's site so much, I am ordering a helmet from her. This is a vented, but a small helmet that I just love, by Bern. There are some really cool "hat" helmets - but it will be warming up in a couple of months, and those hat helmets would be great in cold weather.

I don't know Kelly, owner of Bike Pretty, as I just discovered her. But even if you aren't into biking, her site is really eye candy. One event, I would LOVE , LOVE , LOVE to attend is the Tweed Run in London:

Look at some of the images from this vintage Tweed Run event, click here. And here are some pics I captured online so you could see how cool this event really is:

I don't know if I would be able to ride in this event, as I would want to take pictures - talk about a conundrum! I think there is a Tweed Run in NYC...how cool would that be? But my point is, my new normal with bike riding is no longer about speed and sweating, but rather it's just about me - my new normal. And the Bike Pretty blog has so many great, stylish, articles that inspired me to rethink my new way riding...feeling good and feeling pretty.

I don't get fitted for my new bike until next week. I still have time to find a few more vintage accessories to hunt down to make the bike really mine. But the real me, the new normal me, is discovering that I am more able to accept "it is what it is" when "is" is decked out in chrome, leather, and who knows, maybe even tweed and oxfords someday!

I will definitely be blogging about my new normal biking adventure and show you the real deal when it's a done deal. Thank you for listening, and for being there. And even though I may still grieve now and again for things to be "as they once were," feeling good, and feeling pretty, certainly helps to be content with things as they are

And things are feeling pretty darn (new) normal good right now. I would love it if you shared your "new normal" experience. I learn so much from my dear readers.

from my house to your house,



Mrs. Kelley Dibble said...

Oh, how I miss my bike on Guam.......

I am SO happy for you!


Rita C at Panoply said...

Oh Elizabeth, I love your new normal selections! I want to also give you this info: The Lake Pepin 3-speed Tour is an annual event in Red Wing, MN (May 16-17, 2015) that is based on pre-war cycling in England, circa 1930s. If you Google it, you may find it something you would enjoy, as a friend of mine has done numerous times.
As a former ballerina, my new normal is facing pain in my neck from years of self-inflicted physical wear/tear, as well as a curvature of the spine. Walking is my new norm, but enjoyable to the extent that it is special time for my husband & me to communicate and solve lots of the world's problems (are you listening, world??)
I love your blog and keeping up with your adventures. Thanks you!

Susan said...

Thought provoking! My new normal is retirement, long looked forward to and now the reality isn't what I expected. Your comments gave me hope. Thanks.

Lin from A {tiny} Cottage In The Woods said...

My new normal experience began when both my husband & I lost our software jobs in 2000, then lost our home, then hit bottom in complete, desperate poverty. With a positive change in perspective and great love from many directions we bounced back (albeit in slow motion) by building a tiny house with our own hands, living surrounded by nature, and finally having the time to do what we love most. So having a difficult experience doesn't have to mean that life will be sad from there forward.

Change is constant, and we can be limited by our thoughts, or we can see that change brings new opportunities. We are what we think.

Congratulations on finding what makes you fly, Elizabeth. I've always enjoyed your blog and look forward to all you share.

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Thank you Kelley - I can't wait to show you my bike when it is all done up! :-)

Have a fabulous weekend and thank you for stopping by,
Big hugs

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Rita

THANK YOU for the info - I can't wait to check it out! No idea you were a former ballerina - how cool is that? But, I get that it may not be "so cool" now physically. I love your attitude about your walks. My knee(s) issue is a combination of things...car wrecks, past runner, past soccer player, climbing ladders for years to faux finish walls and ceilings, climbing several flights of steps most of my adult life to get to my residence (apartments, living above the store...) but I am starting to appreciate my new normal and am excited to see what is around the next bend (while on my bike, of course!)

Thanks for the encouragement,
lots of big hugs

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Susan

I have met many people who felt retirement wasn't what they expected - but then they found their own "groove" and loved it. Not sure how they found their "groove" - it may be different attitude, could have been a new hobby, or maybe just something as simple as reconnecting with a long lost friend...but I think ANY major change is bound to shake our world up a bit - I am betting you will be shaking things up yourself - in a good way - really soon!

Big hugs

Elizabeth Maxson said...


Your comment is just what I needed this morning - I love how you view that thoughts can limit us, or we can see change with new opportunities - such wisdom and encouragement at the same time. I just love your story - while I am sure so very difficult at the time, it shows that all isn't "lost" but rather, just "replaced" with something different. Thanks for sharing and by the way, your cottage is so adorable and you seem so very happy. Happy for you.

big hugs

Debra said...

Your post was just what I needed. I am having some surgery soon on my left leg, and recovering from something else going on with my right leg! My most beloved daily walks were cut right off to nothing, but gradually I'm walking around the yard in the snow. After the surgery will be another thing, but I'm lookin' up, and ready to embrace my new normal too.
Thank you again for this post-it really helped!

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Debra,

I am so glad you stopped by and glad the post helped you some. I will pray for your speedy and full recovery and know matter how long (or short) recovery will be, I learned (with time) that unwelcome changes truly are opportunities to explore new adventures to replace what once was. Wishing you the best that life has to offer and may your surgeries be easier than you or the doctors even expect. :-) Please let me know how you are doing when you feel up to it.

Big hugs

Anonymous said...

My old normal was as a slim, curvy brunette. It was fun turning heads wherever I went. But menopause changed my looks-no matter how much makeup I wore I looked tired and washed out. Two years ago I threw in the towel and went gray with a really curly bob. People on the street stop me to say how much they love my hair. I also gave myself permission to weigh 10 lbs more and feel ok about it. I just try to dress better. The world must need more glamourous, confident women, because I get more attention now than ever! Hugs, Allegra

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Allerga!
Oh, how I love your comment and makes me feel so good. Good for you!!! I love your spirit! I just had to stop and answer you before I head out to get groceries and run errands. I literally just put a little ribbon in my hair with a cloth flower because my hair wasn't doing what I wanted and decided instead of hiding it in a hat, I will show off my mess with a flower! Thanks so much for lifting me up - wishing you all the best and would LOVE to see your hair!

Big hugs

Mary said...

I know you've really been tested these past couple of years my dear since your accident. I'm sad that you are not quite perfect perhaps, but boy am I proud of your new outlook on life!!!

Knowing you will regain the joy of biking again is fabulous! I think you are so brave, and I wish you many hours of happy pedaling on that beautiful bike. Look forward to seeing it all decked out with stylish bits and bobs, and beautiful you on the seat ready to pedal in a pretty outfit.

Hugs - Mary x

DD's Cottage said...

Love the Bike pretty and the girls in dresses! Glad you are back in the saddle and doing exercise! I do Crossfit and love it!

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Mary, your sincere love and encouragement feels so loving to me and I appreciate that so much! Thank you for taking time to write me - I know you are a busy gal on the go - something I always admired about you - busy - but never to busy to stop on over.

I AM excited about my new adventure - I called my sister the other day and I asked her, "What are you up to?" And she said, "I just checked the beans and now I am resting..." And we both laughed. She is on disability and tires easily. Well, I proceed to tell her about my "aha" moment and my new purchase ...after a bit, I paused and said, " I know it isn't very exciting, but it is to me..." And there is a small pause and she replies, "Okay, you realize you are talking to someone whose exciting day consisted on checking beans - which are doing fine..." And we both burst out laughing. Thanks for being there Mary - it means a lot to me.

Love and hugs

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Thanks for stopping by DD. I appreciate your visit and yes, Bike Pretty has such great style - not to mention the health benefits of biking. Do an extra few minutes of cross fit for me! :-))

Big hug

Debra@CommonGround said...

Hey E! Nothing keeps you down for long! Love the bike and all the wonderful hip accessories you have coming. I'm excited that you've found something thats challenging and fun to get you going. I can just see you now, totally decked. You need to start a bike club up there, if they don't have one already.
This last couple of years have been a new lesson in faith for me. Since I had the last go around with the blood clots and heart attacks (right after Anne and I were up there in 2012).
I thought I had put all the health problems behind me then, and this last two years have physically shaken me and been so frustrating. I've started improving since last summer when I started with a new lady cardiologist at Barnes. I'm slowly getting back to an exercise routine and feeling like I MIGHT have a life again. Physical limitations are a hard thing to get past.
Loved reading this post and hearing the excitement in your words.
Love you a bunch, dear friend!

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Debra,

So nice to hear from you - I think of you quite often and in fact, was just asking about you to our friend, Anne, on the phone today! I hate that you are going through such physical challenges again - you are right, physical limitations can really do a number on one's emotions and sense of self. I hope your treatment goes better than you even hope for. If in the area, and if you have time, would love to meet and hug you. Thinking of you and in my prayers.
Love and big hug

phyllis said...

I'm 52 with MS... new normals happen more and more... I LOVE YOUR BIKE and goodies!!! I want one, too! And to learn ukulele and watercolor art, etc, etc.! Let's have some fun spreading our wings together :) I'm enjoying the other comments. Bless you! (((Hugs and prayers!))

Elizabeth Maxson said...

HI Phyllis!

Yes, would love to spread my wings with you too! I am 51 and some days feel 51, 81, and even though rarely, sometimes 31. But I average feeling, well, 51, I think. :-) I love that you want to learn more as well - me too!! I am actually playing a little harmonica now, and want to take a bee keeping course, and just got a pressure canner and learn how to can using that. Lots more to learn yet - please stay in touch! So glad you visited.

Big hugs and let me know if you get a bike!

Rue said...

Congratulations on your new bike!

I see quite a few old friends in those tweed run pictures, because I belong to a forum called The Fedora Lounge with them.


Mtn Girl said...

Elizabeth, long time since I've left a note on your blog. I had no idea what you'd been through and I empathize with you! Glad you are getting better and can use your bike to get outdoors.
I went through a divorce years ago and my thyroid decided to stop working. Needless to say, my health really suffered. I went through many trials, but have found the right combination of thyroid and supplements to take. I can still get tired from time to time, but overall have adapted.
We just never really know what people are going through...so glad you shared and I will pray that you will continue to thrive!
God's blessings to you!
That Mtn Girl ~

Anonymous said...

Very nice! I have a Trek but it's a mountain bike. I'm in the St. Louis area, also. One of my favorite places to ride is the Katy Trail. I often ride in Wildwood and combine the Al Foster Trail, Hamilton-Carr Trail and the park road in Rockwoods Reservation. Check out the various trails that are part of the Great Rivers Greenway.

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Mt Girl!

I am glad you stopped by - made me smile. You are so right, we never know what story others are living or have lived. Divorce, thyroid, bad knees, you name it, it isn't easy and yet, we still put one foot in the front of the other and keep on living life as we know how. But finding a new pleasure, no matter how small, can make those hard seasons seem less turbulent, even if only for a bit. Thanks for stopping by!!
big hugs

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Mel,

Thank you for stopping by! I rode the Katy Trail years ago, and will do so again once I get some strength back in my legs! Yes, I got my bike, still waiting on some parts, but took it for a spin and I will blog about it - I think I set my expectations way, way too high and came home a little deflated. But I got back in the saddle the next day, and it was much better.

Thanks for the tips and ideas.
big hugs

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Rue!

That is really cool about the Fedora Lounge - sounds neat - maybe you might want to blog about it some day - sounds very neat. So glad you stopped by to visit - will be stopping by you site to catch up soon!

Big hugs

maria at inredningsvis said...

Vilka vackra foton :) det visar verkligen att snart är det äntligen VÅÅRR

Om du gillar lyxiga doftljus kan du kika in hos mig idag :)

ha en härlig helg

LOVE Maria at inredningsvis - inredning it's, Swedish for decor :)

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