At 10 I inherited an oversized boy’s bike from my cousin. It was officially my first bike since we couldn’t afford the popular Schwinns of the day.
It made me happy to have my own "wheels." I cleaned and painted the secondhand bike red and even added a silver thunderbolt to the fender to make it look fast and ready to roll.
Once it was "restored" and no longer looked like a dust catcher from someone’s basement, I took it for a test drive.
The first step was to find a place to mount the boy’s bike since I wasn’t tall enough to reach over the frame without starting from a stoop. Then I had to manage to stay upright and balanced.
After many falls and scraped knees, I wobbly made my way over the streets and sidewalks of our immigrant Chicago neighborhood in the ‘50s.
I was curious about what was outside the safety of the few blocks I already knew. I decided to risk a ride beyond the boundaries of my Greek, Irish, Polish and Swedish neighborhood. There was a bigger world out there; and my bike, like a trusty steed, would take me there.
So I headed for the nearest stoop, straddled my bike, and set off for my first trip across neighborhood borders into foreign territory with other nationalities on Chicago's South Side.
I was breaking the rules by leaving my neighborhood, but I couldn’t resist the adventure.
As I rode, I heard new languages and saw different ethnic faces.
Even so, the lifestyles seemed familiar to my neighborhood with open market tables covered with fresh breads, fish, and produce, many displayed just outside of family-owned shops housed under their apartments.
Some of the food and the odors were unfamiliar.Other sidewalk tables held clothing and trinkets for sale.
I didn’t feel comfortable getting off my bike just yet. After all, these were strangers I was told not to go near.
When I returned home, I didn't dare tell anyone of my explorations just a few blocks away. I kept my travels a secret so I could return to discover more about the new territory.
As time passed, I grew bolder and got off my bike to taste and touch the foods and wares of the other immigrants' lives.
Thanks to my secondhand bike, I got to discover a new world and its inhabitants in Chicago's immigrant melting pot of the '50s.
Ninety blog followers and counting on Blogger; 51 followers on Facebook's Networked Blogs:)
Every time a new follower appears, I experience a childlike excitement.
It's like opening a gift whenever a new face shows up, and it's inspiring to dialogue with those who leave comments.
Who has come by? from where? We are now connected through my stories and comments and their thoughts and reflections on what I've shared.
It's been a year and a half since I set up my blog. At the time, I had no idea where the blog journey would lead me.
It’s been an amazing ride so far. I have shared stories from my youth with my children that were new to them. Followers I will never meet have commented on my blog from Greece, Australia, NYC, Indiana, Canada and elsewhere.
At local events people tell me they have shared my blog with their friends and relatives, and each time I am thrilled and grateful.
Blogging expands my world in delightful ways. I'm often surprised that the writing speaks to such a diverse group of men and women, ages and beliefs.
I always wanted to write a memoir to share my life experiences and the wisdom from them, but a book seemed so daunting. Blogging moves me one step closer to that dream.
Each follower is part of my blogging life, and it makes me smile when they show up or share their thoughts.
But the most important discovery from blogging is the joy I feel every time I write.
My creative process springs from ideas that emerge in the car, the bathtub, anywhere, to finding images to enhance and complete the story, and finally to publishing it. I feel euphoric when I see it published and more so when someone "likes" it.
For me, blogging is the ultimate way to connect and share with those I know and many I will only meet in the virtual world. It gives me a natural "high"every single time. I am following my bliss.
Erana Leiken, principal of Tiger Marketing, is a marketing and PR consultant and freelance writer. She also teaches communication courses at the University of Phoenix and Web marketing and interactive content for the Art Institute of Phoenix.
Formerly an NBC reporter, magazine editor, and Web business writer, she is writing creative nonfiction and doing Web consulting. See www.tigermarketing.com.