Sep 23

And now our rides are about something else

One year ago tonight … well, I’ll let me tell the story …

I was walking from the control room into the studio — two back-to-back doors — just before a taping began tonight when my phone rang.

My phone never rings.

… The Yankee on the phone, clear as can be. She’s had a bike accident. She’s OK. Deputies are coming and so is an ambulance and people have stopped to help. She’s going to the hospital because she’s sure her collarbone is broken and where am I.

When I got to the hospital, she was off getting some scans. Some of her things were in the examination room they put me in, and I studied her helmet, which had done its job and was destroyed, while I waited.

They wheeled her back into the room and, friends, there’s just no way to prepare yourself to see someone you love in a neck brace unexpectedly. The scans revealed the neck brace to be merely a precaution, and the next year started right there, starting right here.

She was going through that intersection when the driver of a red pickup truck caused her to crash, and then drove off without stopping. Someone else did stop to help. Her kid called the police, she called me, collected the bike and called again to check on us later that evening.

I told that woman that my wife had the three broken ribs, a broken collarbone and who knows what else. We later added a likely concussion, weeks without sleep, and a fractured shoulder blade to that list.

The surgeon was great. He’s a triathlete himself. Or he was. (It sounded, for a time, like treating her injuries had psyched him out of road riding.) He taught me a new term. Her collarbone was a comminuted fracture. He described it like this. Go out into the driveway and stomp on a small stick until its just pulverized dust. Sometimes that happens to bone. Comminuted fracture.

I didn’t sleep for more than a week. She couldn’t sleep for more than two, but the surgery, a week after, stabilized the bones — what was left of the collarbone anyway — and that was a big step.

I was fortunate to be able to stay home and take care of her those first two weeks. Her mother came for a week, and then her bestie drove in and took over the house, letting me go to work and take some naps. And, between us, we got to week four, where the patient progressed to feeling terrible.

She had months of checkups and a half-year or so of physical therapy. She got PT homework that she still has to do because, a year later, her bones are still mending. And in light of all of that, she got, we got, pretty lucky. All of that pain, hard work and the frustration involved in simply trying to get back to normal made us very lucky, indeed.

I’d like to tell the guy driving the red pickup truck where he can go, but he’s already in Bloomington.

Do you know where we were today? We were on our bikes, on a sunny, windy day, marking the anniversary.

She’s still not 100 percent, but she’s getting stronger, a process that’s been underway since her first ride back, in early March. It was almost six months off the bike, much of that under doctor’s orders. The six months since she’s been slowly regaining her confidence, which is an

When I broke my collarbone, in a 2012 accident that was plenty bad, but not nearly as rough as hers, it took me almost six full months to even want to ride again. It was 11 months for me before I noticed I had a moment I wasn’t hurting, and a year almost to the day of my surgery that I realized there were times when I didn’t feel protectively self-conscious about turning my head or shoulder. It took me more than 14-months — and a second and third specialist and more PT than I’d care to admit to — before I wasn’t in some sort of constant pain. If anything, she might be a tiny bit ahead of schedule, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

This is what I learned then, what I’d forgotten since, and what I’m reminded of today, having looked back at my own little recovery process: every little normal thing is a huge win, and they’re all worth celebrating.

Sep 23

Welcome the weekend

This is how parking works on the Rowan campus: You park. If you work there, you don’t have to pay for it. Which is a novel approach for some campuses, and more of them should look into it.

I would ride my bike to work more, but our house is a little too far away and no one wants to watch me sweat during a lecture. So I have to drive, which means I have to park, which means I have to get a parking permit. No problem.

This is how the parking permits work on the Rowan campus: You go online through a series of website links, with each click wondering why they didn’t send you to the third-party vendor site the first time. Eventually, you fill out some information asking about the color of your car and so on. You put in the mailing address and, eventually, the permit arrives. Mine arrived today, which will come in handy next week.

This was on the note inside the envelope.

Helpful stuff considering I had been looking for this in the mail and the return address sort of gave the game away about what might be inside the envelope.

The parking permit is a sticker. I prefer the hang tag style, as I am old school like that, but whatever puts me in a good spot with a relatively easy walk on campus, ya know? The only problem is they want you to put the sticker on a particular spot on your car. You can tell that from the instructions, the instructions found on that insert. But the instructions might leave you with the impression of having been edited by someone moonlighting in the assembly manual department of IKEA. They say put the sticker here, unless that spot is unavailable, in which case, put the sticker here. The way I’ve read the sentence, several times, it sounds like the two places are the same place. This is only a problem for people like the security guard hut in front of my parking lot and any people tasked with doing parking enforcement who are looking for these stickers, affixed to cars in one of two places, which are the same place.

This is only the second most first world problem of my beautiful Friday.

We had a bike ride today, and the weather was grand. Sunny, not windy. Mild enough so that you didn’t get a lot of sweat in your eyes. I’ve been getting dropped a lot lately, and I’d resigned myself to more of that. But it wasn’t too bad. My lovely bride stopped about a third of the way through the route to stretch her back out and I pressed on, knowing she’s particularly strong on the next segment and she’d catch me soon.

That road is 2.5 miles and she didn’t catch me, but I saw her over my shoulder as I turned left.

I divided the next 10 miles or so up into short segments in my head. “If I can make it to this overpass in front of her, then I’ll be able to stay out front until that next intersection.” So for 10 miles I rode as fast and as hard as I could, knowing she’d catch me just before the end, because she’s done that a few times.

And I made it over that overpass. I got to that next intersection. I put in a lot of effort over two sticky little hills and through another left turn. Here, I knew, was where she’d find me. And probably pass me like there was nothing to it. Only she didn’t. And then there’s one more left, and on that last mile she didn’t catch me.

Checked my phone, which I suppose your supposed to do, but, there’s a lot of information coming your way through your phone. Take this, for instance —

So I put the bike inside, changed my shoes, had the brilliant idea to grab a kitty carrier and drove back out to the scene of the cat.

We brought her home. She was young, hungry, angry, and desperate for pets. We didn’t take her inside, no need to mingle with our furballs. Called around for animal control, no answer. Called some vets, one of which told us to not call that animal control, but do call this one.

Eventually, we found a place where we could take this kitten to get the care and attention she needs. And, soon enough, some kid or some adult is going to all in love with that little face.

Our friend Sally Ann flew in for part of the weekend. The Yankee picked her up at the airport while I took a trip to the inconvenience center. I rearranged some things in the garage, picked some tomatoes and soon enough there we all were, reunited once again. We went to a nearby winery for dinner. The atmosphere is as causal as possible — there was a DJ tonight, and it was nothing but coffee house hipster vibe covers.

They make really good pizza, it turns out, and so we went for pizza. Except they only make pizza on Saturdays and Sundays. On Thursdays and Fridays they do shortbread.

Not as good as their pizza, but, still, a great way to welcome the weekend.

Sep 23

Happy World Literacy Day

This is an important day, World Literacy Day, and you’re reading this, so you’re doing part of your part. It’s a day, started in the 1960s, that aims to remind the world of the importance of literacy for individuals and societies, as well as the necessity for increased efforts toward a more literate society.

It could be the class prep I’m doing — literacy is going to come up next week — but a more literacy society should feel like an important task.

After a full day Thursday, I took in the weekend by taking it easy. Which is to say I worked in the home office on things I said I would do next week and set up some of the work I’ll need to do this weekend. But that’s for tomorrow, and Sunday, and Monday. Today, I could do a tiny bit less, and I was grateful for it.

After next week, he told himself, naively, the semester will settle into its own rhythm and you won’t have to spend every day stressing about every thing.

I see no reason why something so elemental should change at this late stage of the game.

We had a lovely bike ride today. I have two new tubes and two new tires. Same old legs, though. So it wasn’t especially fast on my part. And when I’m not especially fast that means I have to chase my lovely bride for the whole ride. As seen in this video.

No superlatives were set. But! On four Strava segments I was one second off a PR. That’s an odd bit of consistency, really. You have to accidentally not push on a lot to get right up to the magic number, but stop just short of a new time. It was a nice ride. The new tires felt smooth and supple. There was a lot of sun; it was warm and it is always nice to say you took a lunch ride.

I might take another lunch ride tomorrow!

This afternoon, I warmed up the recording equipment. I have to build a small studio — it is on the very long To Do list — but, today, I had to record a few bits for someone. Two scripts about psychology. Four pages. Lots of inflection. A few takes, just to be sure.

Took about an hour, from start to edit to send.

Just like that, my voiceover career is back on some sort of track. And, I made that banner for it, too.

And now it is the weekend, a perfectly, beautifully mild evening. Time to stop writing this, and go try that.

Enjoy your own weekend. Remember, you deserve it.

Sep 23

Happy September

As is so often the case with big tasks, I find that if I can break them up I can finally make real and good progress. It takes a few days of wheel spinning to remember that each time. You could say it is a shortcoming. An oversight. A stubbornness. I think of it as part of the process.

So it was that I laid out a plan to have the syllabi and material for two classes all squared away by Monday. The other, I’ll wrap up on Tuesday. And then, finally, I can think about what to do with an actual class. (Step one, haircut.)

Circumstances beyond anyone’s control gave me a late start with some of the prep. My new colleagues have been incredibly helpful with mitigated a lot of that, but, still, there’s a lot to do. Taking it on in smaller chunks gets it done, though, every time.

I have three notebooks, two piles of paper, three separate browsers, multiple tabs in each and, now, gobs of Google Drive links. There’s a lot to work through.

And so I did, until almost 6 p.m. on the Friday of a three-day weekend. Then I went for a swim.

Two days after a 2,650 yards night swim, I was at it again.

It takes about 400 yards for my shoulders to warm up. After they stop complaining and until I stop, I go through stretches where my form is bad and then my form feels extraordinarily good. There are moments where I’m breathing on each stroke, hard and strong, a puffing locomotive. And then there are these wild moments where I swim a few short laps with the most relaxed breathing possible. It never lasts, that calmness, that efficiency, but the way it all changes amuses me, and probably says a lot about my inconsistency as a swimmer.

At precisely the moment where I reached Wednesday’s 2,650-yard distance, my arms started complaining again, this time from fatigue. That’s a mile-and-a-half, so being tired was understandable, but I kept on swimming for a while longer, until I reached this swim’s little goal. Taking on the bigger thing in smaller chunks: a good approach for September.

I swam 3,080 yards this evening.

I do not know what is happening.

Aug 23

32 gallons can take it right out of you

It is garbage day here on the inner coastal plain. As I’ve mentioned, the garbage people don’t pick up our garbage. They don’t service the area, despite almost all of our customers using the service. Despite them picking up the discards from the previous owners. Despite my having timed this such as to see the garbage truck rumble down the street as I was gathering things together. It’s a weird thing, this small inconvenience. It makes you feel a little vulnerable, somehow.

And it’s a small inconvenience, to be sure. The problem is solved by simply catapulting our refuse into a neighbor’s yard putting a small garbage can or two into the car, sliding a tub of recyclables in there somewhere, and driving them the 7.3 miles to the drop off place.

So I did that. One over-filled, smelly garbage can into the trunk. Plastics, steel, glass and aluminum into the back seat. Turn left, drive awhile, turn right, go around a curve, turn right and then left again, and you’re there. If you do this in the middle of the day, as I did, you might be the only one there, as I almost was.

A woman pulled in just after me and, even though this place should probably suit four or five people setting about the busy work of getting rid of things, I managed to get in her way. She smiled, I smiled. I got out of her way, and then drove away, back through town, and I took this photo.

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I published a photo of the front door of a local historic bank as part of the We Learn Wednesdays feature. Here’s a better look.

Back at the house, the plastic recycling tub returned to its spot, the garbage can dealt with, I returned to the computer to do computer-type things. I plugged away at this site and that, dealing with tech support from two separate parts of the country on two separate issues. All but the last little bit of what the university requires for their administrative work has now been completed, and the last thing, something of a redundancy if I recall correctly, is now out of my hands. All of which means there will soon be real work to do.

But at quitting time, I quit, and went for a swim. Today I counted out 1,760 yards, which is a fair amount for me. My longest swim since October 29, 2015. I only wrote one throwaway sentence about it here that day; maybe it felt common to do long swims at the time. Most anything can feel ordinary after a time. And then ordinary can, of course, change with the simple demands of the day.

My swims aren’t very pretty, or fast, or efficient. I’ve been in the pull next to incredible swimmers — varsity swimmers, All Americans, Olympians — and it’s simply a gorgeous demonstration of the human form. What you see on TV does not do justice to what you see when you’re in the next lane. And you’ll forget to “swim” altogether as you watch the poet slicing through the water next to you. Or, at least, I do. I don’t swim like that. The only thing we’d have in common is being in the water. But over your lap time, you get to think about things, and today I considered what legendary coach David Marsh — he was himself five times an All-American, coached 12 teams to national championships and has coached more than four dozen Olympians — once told me. “You have to respect someone willing to spend hours and hours, swimming hundreds of laps, to shave a thousandth of a second off of their best time.”

Every now and then, during my swim, a part of one lap felt better than the last. Maybe I was almost finding the right technique, just in time to reach the wall and throw the whole thing off. I’m not good at it, is what I’m saying, and also inconsistent. But it was a long swim, and it felt mostly comfortable. The metric I’m using: I only stopped twice.

After that, my lovely bride and I talked about sports and classes. For the second time in a week or so someone has mentioned to her a study idea I suggested a few weeks back. We might be on to something there. These are the conversations that are the most fun. Sometimes they go somewhere.

By dinner time, which was soon after that conversation, I could already feel that swim in my shoulders. I wonder, what would Marsh say about that?

“Blame it on the garbage cans,” probably.