Sunday, September 30, 2007

Damp, Lost and Hurting, Yet Triumphant

Today I rode in the Lance Armstrong Foundation LIVESTRONG Challenge. It was a 40-mile ride through the picturesque farms and fields surrounding the Nike World Campus. It might have been yet more picturesque, nay, even bucolic, were it not for the steady, relentless, unceasing rain and wind. But I digress.

I began this little journey a few months ago when my friend Wussy McFairweatherpants (name changed to protect her identity) suggested that I join her on this ride after we had completed the Summit to Surf in July. It will be fun, she said. Won’t it be nice to have someone else to ride with, she said. All the really cool kids are doing it, she said. So, I gathered up my courage and through the miracle of that set of tubes we call the internet, I got all signed up.

Now, a 40-mile ride was kind of intimidating to me. The longest I’d been on was 35, and the first ten miles of that are bombing downhill at forty miles per hour. Exhilarating, yes. Work, no. Except for keeping an eye out for gravel patches and manning those brake levers like your life depends on it. Which it in fact does. So the thought of having a cohort in crime was attractive. When we did the 35 miler together it was over so much faster than when I did it alone, the year before.

Cut to this morning. As I drive to the venue, my cellphone rings. She’s bailing. (To be fair, she did warn me that she might if it was rainy, and I don’t really blame her that much, although I will give her crap about it forever.)

Great. Now what am I going to do? Should I ride forth, alone and friendless (sniff, sniff), into the driving rain? Or should I turn around and go home?

Clearly, friends and neighbors, I have no brain at all. I chose to forge ahead, though I did occasionally falter. Like every minute and a half, right up until we got moving.

So, off we went. Lance Armstrong was there to kick it off, there was much media coverage, hoopla, fol-de-rol, etc. Into the Valley of Rain rode the 3,000! Puddles to the left of them! Puddles to the right of them!

All went fantastically at first. I was completely drenched, but warm; the wind was a bit gusty but not terribly strong, the rain was steady but not a deluge. The hills were rolling and manageable. I stopped at the rest stops and snacked a bit, had some water, some Gatorade. It’s all good. This is easy! … Okay, not easy, but not horrible.

Then, I met (duhn duhn DUHN!) the train tracks. Sure, I’d met train tracks before, and just passed right over them, no problem. But these tracks were different. They were not perpendicular to the road. They were slanty. This was along about mile 25.

The textbook approach to a slanty railroad track is to turn your bicycle slightly to meet them at a 90 degree angle. If you have time and realize that the track is slanty before you pass over it. Which I did not. Also? If it’s raining? Yeah, you’re pretty much screwed.

In all the years that I commuted by bicycle in my misspent youth, I never ONCE wiped out on a railroad track, manhole cover, or crosswalk stripe – all slippery harbingers of evil to the bicycle tire, particularly the smooth ones favored by road bikes.

Yeah. So much for that.

My front tire got over it all right but the back tire slipped right down into the slanty groove and suddenly I was all over the road like a big, nylon-coated sack of potatoes. I took the brunt of it on my right elbow, then my shoulder and hip. My right ankle got into the act as well as the inside/back of my left knee. I slid down the road, merrily slithering along, until finally coming to rest. Which is when the pain began. Ow. Ow, ow, ow. Stinging ow! Hurting ow! OW!

Fortunately, a police car bearing two law-upholding types happened to be right behind me, and they stopped to collect me and my trusty steed off the pavement. Once I determined that nothing was broken, sprained, or bleeding, I continued on, smarting and wincing but Not! Giving! Up! I found that there was a hitch in my gitalong: some shifting difficulties, but I can still limp along. Another rider happened along and accompanied me to the next rest stop, which mercifully was not far away, and once there, I submitted my bike to the attentions of the mechanics who are omnipresent at all stops. They bent my rear derailleur back into some semblance of order. It will require further ministration by Ye Olde Bike Shoppe, but it was good enough to keep me on the road. Also I was given some Tylenol by the medics.

Oh! And they handed out these swell little mini-warm-packs, which they suggested be placed inside each of our gloves, right against the blood vessels that pass close to the surface on the inner aspect of the wrist. This kept my hands perfectly warm for the rest of the ride. A little trick to remember!

Several riders were being assessed there for hypothermia. I do not know what the temperature was today but it was a bit chilly, and with the rain (and shocking lack of raingear displayed by many riders) it was easy to get chilled.

The rest of the ride passed without incident. I was flagging pretty hard but was too close to resort to the sag wagon. I inched my way up the hills and slogged down them, and eventually arrived at The Finish Line! Yay me!

Now, those of you who know me at all should be guessing that this is not the end of the story. And, if you know me well, you should already be adding up the variables:

Low blood sugar.
Anxiety about time.
Poor sense of direction.

I now have three hours to get home, take a shower, and drive to work.

Can I find my car?

Of course not.

After a good twenty minutes of wandering through the vast, confusing parking lots, I made my way back to the post-event party and found some helpful volunteers to assist me. A very nice and extremely patient young man drove me around in a truck, bike in back, through every single parking lot. My car was in the last possible place it could have been. This process took a HALF HOUR, during which I have gotten colder and colder, until I am shivering uncontrollably. Thank heavens the car warms up quickly.

Once I get on the road, I pick my way through complete traffic mayhem and finally arrive home. It is now 2:30pm. I finished the event two and a half hours ago. I call work, tell them I’ll be late, run inside, shower, dress, endure enthusiastic wrestling moves administered by the young one (ow! ow! ow!), and bolt to work. I am half an hour late, due in part to yet more traffic mayhem. This is the first really rainy week of the fall and no one here can drive in the rain now, evidently. There are accidents everywhere.

It was still totally worth it.

I rock! (at least a little bit!)

PS I totally blame my absent friend for the wipeout AND my inability to find the car. Ha! (just kidding) (sort of)

PS Again: My elbow is all swollen up and hurts like a mofo. My hip is developing its bruise quite nicely. And the back/side of my left knee is purple. War wounds!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bitter, Table for One

For some reason as I woke up for the umpteenth time in the night my brain started rehashing a recent conversation with my father. This, coupled with the noise emanating from A Person In Close Proximity To Me Who Shall Remain Anonymous, resulted in my getting out of bed. In part as an attempt to head off the inevitable violence that would result had I stayed in bed, as That Person is difficult to wake and I was getting mighty peeved at the levels of sleep-enjoyance that I was experiencing. Which is to say, "nonexistent."

So, the conversation, which takes place on my 40th birthday:

(My cell phone rings)

Me (while getting out of car to enter MembershipCo store): Hello?
Dad: Well hello there.
Me: Hi, Dad, how are you?
Dad: Oh, pretty good, pretty good. Say, I called to tell you that Your Evil Stepmother's job with Gigantic Construction Company is closing ahead of schedule and she's taking another one at the airport expansion out in Major East Coast City. You know, conveniently close to where her kids all live. Far from here. Not near any of my family such as my children or elderly mother or other relatives.
Me: Oh, well I understand how it goes. Believe me. I certainly do. Ha! Ha! Ha!
Dad: Well I'm glad you do. Hey, we're selling most of our crap because given the state of the housing market right now, we're reluctant to buy a house that we might have trouble unloading later should her kids move away from that area, forcing us to relocate yet again. If there's anything you might like, let me know.
Me: Well, we pretty much have everything we need... although we do want to replace the living room couch, as it is an antiquated futon that was chewed on by the dogs when they were puppies.
Dad: Oh, except the couches. Those are spoken for by someone who we barely know, because they asked first, and we can't be bothered to tell anyone that we want to give my kids first crack at anything!
Me: Oh, okay. Well, I can't think of anything else we would need. ....Well, I should get going, I'm here at MembershipCo.
Dad: Oh, are you doing a little shopping?
Me: Yeah, we're having a sort of a... get together with friends tomorrow. September 8th. The day after today, September 7th. Perhaps in celebration of something.
Dad: Well, that sounds nice. I'll let you go then, because I am a clueless idiot and have forgotten every single one of your daughter's birthdays so far, so why in the world should I remember yours? Although that Evil Wife of mine, boy, she never forgets any of her kids' or grandkids' birthdays! But she usually doesn't remind me of yours, your brother's, or any of my grandkids' special days. What a corker she is. Ha! Ha! Ha! Talk to you later!
Me: Okay, bye Dad.

Okay, so maybe it didn't go exactly like that, but I have helpfully included the subtext for those reader(s) unfamiliar with my particular family dynamics. Or more like family statics.

One day I will not be bothered by any of this.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Update time

Golly, I haven’t updated in bloody ages. There hasn’t been a lot going on, I mean other than getting stuff done that needs doing, or else putting it off until some other time. More typically the latter.

I got my fingerprints done and back already, so that’s out of the way. Then had to send in a copy of my CNA training diploma to verify that the training was completed no more than one year prior to my entry into nursing school. Now have to submit my transcript for the last term of anatomy & physiology, which I thought I did but must have forgotten. Must find checkbook…

There are some things I need to get done before starting nursing school. For starters, clean out the horrible Pit of Despair that used to be my lovely, spanking clean, shiny office. It has become the “dump & run” room where anything hanging around the kitchen or wherever gets thrown before we have a party or some other such event. And the filing. Ye gods, the filing. I am spending my days shredding ancient stubs that don’t need to be kept (gas bill July 2005, etc.) and trying to find homes for the many miscellaneous pieces of crap that I simply must keep, yet have no place for. The closet is full of college textbooks (ed. note: not mine). There is much junk piled around. It is depressing. I would like to have it whipped into shape before the shit hits the fan in January.

Tomorrow I get to go look for more Crocs. I bought that bright yellow pair at the triathlon and now my feet are totally addicted. For those of you who are not acquainted with my feet, let us just say that they are a sad example of what feet are not supposed to be as regards structural requirements, load-bearing, etc. I wear the Crocs and my feet sing with pleasure, giddy foot-laughter abounds, etc. I wear anything else, even with orthotics, and my feet are sad and grouchy by mid-day, even on days wherein I do not spend much time on my feet. I realize that there are many Croc-haters out there, but I for one cannot say enough good things about them. I mean, I wouldn’t wear them to the opera, but for everyday casual wear they are great. So now I would like a pair that are a slightly less exciting color, like maybe chocolate brown or similar.

Ooh, speaking of the opera, my mother and stepfather and I are going to see “Carmen” this week. The woman playing Carmen looks fantastic. :)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Inky badness

For the second time in about six weeks, an ink pen has found its way into a place where no ink pen belongs. That's right, my friends: the dryer. The dryer full of my favorite clothes. The dryer with my daughter's new shirt and tights in it. The stupid dryer. GAH.

So I'm skipping church today to go find some new clothes. Sorry, Lord Almighty God the Father, I'm having a wardrobe crisis and somehow that's more important to me today than engaging in worship and fellowship with my chosen family.

...That, and the fact that the other day whilst browsing around in a store I happened to see some of the very clothes that just got ruined, and they were on clearance. I can't risk another three hours (service + visiting after + drive time) on them being snapped up right out from under me! By some mindless, undeserving zombie who didn't just have half her major wardrobe staples defiled by Papermate or Bic or whoever. Surely this is excusable.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Exhaustive List (Warning: v. boring)

So it turns out that going to nursing school requires a great deal of preparation.

Firstly, the prerequisite courses of microbiology, nutrition, psychology (human development), three terms of anatomy & physiology, chemistry, math, etc. Fortunately I was excused from several courses, having already completed them for my bachelor’s, and now they are all behind me. Got all A’s but one term of A&P, wherein I received a "B." (golf clap here)

Secondly, the Certified Nurse Assistant course and certification exam must be completed also. I did that in the spring.

And then once you are at last accepted, they send a fat little packet of materials with a lengthy list of yet more things to take care of before your first day of class. Indeed, at least one week or more before your first day of class. Or else.

1. Send Euphemism College a check for two hundred bucks to show that you are in earnest about attending their program. Do it soon or they will give away your spot to some other schlub. Done.

2. Submit a money order for 18 bucks, a short letter detailing why you need a background check, and a set of your fingerprints (taken at the local cop shop by a burly, bored cop for ten bucks cash only) to the FBI. Do it now as it takes 3 to 4 months to get your clearance. Done.

3. Turn your head and cough! Physical exam and immunizations time. MMR, two TB tests, hepatitis vaccines, tetanus and chicken pox shots. Good thing I have health insurance. I’ll schedule this closer to the start date.

4. Take CPR (Healthcare Provider Level). I’m trying to see if work will cover this one or part of it since I have to take general adult CPR for my job anyway. This agency has become rather tight with a buck so I’m thinking no. But it’s worth a try.

5. Apply for financial aid. Ha! I don’t qualify anyway. But, done.

6. Attend mandatory orientation when commanded to.

7. Blah blah blahdey blah blah. It goes on and on. Sign this, buy that, etc.

Next, there is the supply list. A well-prepared Nursing Student will have, prior to the first day of clinicals (i.e. indentured slavery at some facility or hospital):

1. White scrub top and pants, white shoes, white lab coat with Euphemism College Nursing Program patches – have top already from CNA course, hope the college permits Croc type shoes…

2. Stethoscope

3. Black pen -- oh, I have thousands of these. But an excuse to run out and buy retractable black gel ink pens? Sweet!!!

4. Watch with second hand - given to me for my birthday by an extremely thoughtful friend whose mom is a nurse, or I guess now she is retired

5. Nursing student photo ID (available at bookstore after orientation)

6. Large loose-leaf notebook – got it.

7. Textbooks

8. Rolling backpack recommended - already ordered off internet

9. Parking permit for campus

10. Several 9x12 manila envelopes for submitting assignments

So, the next few months will be spent doing/obtaining all the things I need to do/have to prepare, and all the other things I won't be doing while in school: hanging out with the family, reading for fun, playing World of Warcraft until my eyes bleed, etc.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Half Dead

So, I'm 40 now. Some might view this as a terrible thing but let's just review the past month, shall we? (woo-woo-woo-woo) (<--- flashback music)

-- I got a shiny new bike.
-- I completed a triathlon.
-- I got into nursing school.

Let's review the last few days before I turned 40:

-- An unexpected and decently-sized check came in the mail. Which we got to use as we saw fit.
-- An unexpected packet came in the mail welcoming me to nursing school beginning a full term before I thought I would be attending.

Let's review my 40th birthday party:

-- I got to have a pirate theme which was totally fun.
-- A pack of kids ages 3 to 11 all wielding dollar-store pirate swords with push-button sound-and-light action is a blast. I only wish I had gotten more eyepatches.
-- The food was good and the mojitos were even better.
-- Many good friends and relatives showed up and showered me with good wishes.
-- I got some nice gifts which were beside the point but totally appreciated. It turns out it really is the thought that counts. :)

I had a great birthday. Thank you everyone. I love you all.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

As Promised

We bought the young one a new coat today, in preparation for winter, and she consented to try it on only once we got home. It turned out to be a bit large, but at least this way it will last maybe two years. And here is a photo taken with the spanky new camera:

Cat Prin

Go thou here and look verily within. Disappointment shall not afflict thee.

Chain Spam Email extravaganza! and other stuff.

I just got another one of those chain-spam-emails. An excerpt:

"In case you didn't know ... Please pass this on.

Terrorist pilot Mohammad Atta blew up a bus in Israel in 1986. The Israelis captured, tried and imprisoned him.

As part of the Oslo agreement with the Palestinians in 1993, Israel had to agree to release so-called "political prisoners." However, the Israelis would not release any with "blood on their hands." The American President at the time, Bill Clinton, and his Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, "insisted" that all prisoners be released.

Thus Mr. Atta was freed and eventually "thanked the US" by flying an airplane into Tower One of the World Trade Center. This was reported by many of the American TV networks at the time that the terrorists were first identified.

It was censored in the US from all later reports."

So, thanks to my Dad, I'm always suspicious of any email I get like this, so I looked it up. The fellow who bombed the bus was a Palestinian who happened to have a similar alias. No connection. Also the account of his arrest are incorrect. Thank you!

There are further inconsistencies and falsities in the email, such as the bit about how Ollie North named Osama bin Laden as a scary terrorist at some hearings... when it was really Abu Nidal... and how Al Gore was there... when he wasn't... You can read all about it at (which links to the North page) if you like.

I'm not especially political so please nobody send me a bunch of spewy comments about my political leanings or tell me I'm a bad American for doubting every little "fact" that gets emailed to me. I just don't like misinformation and especially I don't like sensationalism. These emails are sent out to elicit a response, from the looks of them a knee-jerk one, and I don't like being manipulated like that. How many people read these and believe every word? Too damn many.

In the "other stuff" category: I got my birthday gift from J early, only by about a day and a half which is kind of a record for us. Neither of us is very good at keeping gifts a secret. I wouldn't have gotten this one early except that she left it out in its mailing box a little too long, and in my cleaning for the party I was forced to handle it once or twice. You can't tempt fate like that. So last night it was on the table here and as we noshed I said, "So are you ever going to wrap whatever is in this box from" -- craning neck to read off mailing label -- "Electronic Express Inc.?" So she gave it to me. :)

It's a Sony Cyber-shot 7.2 megapixel digital camera. I will post photos soon, when the baby's hair isn't scary and she's wearing clothes that don't suggest she just popped out of a clown car down at the Big Top. Like right now. Until that time, I do offer this classic shot of her from a week or two ago, right about the time she became keen on picking out her own clothes and putting them on all by herself. Note the creative juxtaposition of stripes and plaids, the playful mixing of shorts with long sleeves, the fun flowered rubber boots. Clearly this young lady will go far in life!