August 7, 2022

Honoring Mom once more

 After a year delay from Covid, we were finally able to gather in a larger group last weekend to celebrate Mom's life, and all that she meant to us. It was at once a difficult day, but also a day filled with the warmth of love and friendship. The day seemed to fly by as we hugged and shared stories, saw friends old and new, and feel joy in the midst of grief. The day was a blessing, much like she was. 

Some words I shared at the memorial.


Grief and loss are never easy burdens to bear. It is at once so universal, yet so specific a feeling it can be isolating. We gather today to share both our feelings of loss, and also to celebrate the joy we all have had in knowing Beverly, Bev, Aunt Bev, and Mom in our lives. I thank you all for being here today. It means so much to us, and Mom was blessed by your love and friendship.

I want to thank Nick once again for putting together the lovely slideshow. It is such a great way to see the various parts of her life, and we will have it running in the background later in case you want to catch parts of it again. 

I also want to thank all of the family members who sent us pictures for the slideshow, and for us to have for our own memories. Some of the photos I had never seen, and some were wonderful reminders. It was great to be able to walk through various points of mom's life. What a gift.

Mom herself was a diligent photographer and scrapbooker. She had bookshelves filed with albums with careful notes of dates and places. As she was often the one behind the camera, there were more pictures of her family than of herself. Of course most of her time taking pictures pre-dates the selfie, and even if it had been around, I don't know how often she would have pointed the lens at herself to capture a moment. Thankfully she was not camera shy though, and she joined me in the recent tradition of selfies at Crescent Bar. I wish that the selfie tradition had been a thing much earlier, so that I could look back on those forty years of Sun Lakes and then Crescent Bar, a year at time.

One of the great things about these photos is to remind us of moments and the stories behind them. We of course have shared many stories with each other over the past year. Some are big moments like the road trip to the Rose Bowl, or the sketchy flight into the Grand Canyon, but most of them are smaller moments. There is a great story behind the picture of Mom jumping off the boat at Sun Lakes that is in the slideshow and on the photo board. The moment was etched in Corey's mind since he snapped the picture when he was just seven years old, but it was just a random moment for Mom until she got to hear the story many years later. 

Another moment I vividly remember Mom wasn't physically there, but boy was she present. I was up camping outside of Salmon La Sac some thirty years ago. I was crossing a river alone, and got swept away. I was flying down the river trying to swim or find my feet, and the only thing in my head besides panic was, "Mom is going to be so pissed if I die." She must have read something about the snowpack, melting run off, or some other person getting swept away in another river, but she had warned me to be careful before I left for the trip. I had not been careful. 

It took what felt like an eternity to make my way across the river, but I was still moving fast downstream. When I got close to the opposite shore, I saw a branch extended out over the river like something in a movie and lunged for it. The force of the river twisted me around and dislocated a finger, but I was safe. I walked a mile down river to a bridge and then back upstream to camp, soaking wet and ready to start listening to good advice again. When I told Mom the story later, she was of course more thankful that I was OK than mad that I had done something stupid, but she may have given me a good Nanny-like shake of the finger. 

My last story takes us back to Sun Lakes again, and it lives in my memory even though this time it was me who wasn't really there. One morning Mom hiked up the cliff with Dan and a few others. I was invited along, but I couldn't be bothered to get out of bed any earlier than absolutely necessary because I was a teenager. This "old" lady and Dan came back with animated stories of their adventures and all the fun they had. You could see the light in Mom's eyes as she relived the tough but rewarding climb. There was no way my extra hour of sleep had been worth missing out. I have taken that to heart, and have been much more likely to say "count me in!" instead of talking myself out of things. To spend time with people I care for, and to create a new memory.

Our lives end up being these stories. Our lives are about who we create these stories with, and who we get to tell them too. Our lives are even the stories we don't know we are a part of. These seemingly throw away moments that impacted others, and left them better for it. 

At the graveside service I mentioned Mom' s habit of collecting rocks when she hiked. Each one held a memory. When I recently went looking for the rocks, I found that the old Lucerne ice cream bucket she piled them into did not make it through their last move. Dad also mentioned that Mom had used some of the rocks to line the garden at their previous home, which seemed a lovely way to share those memories instead of tucking them away. Even so, she had collected so many rocks that there are still ones left over. We encourage you to take one of her memory rocks home with you if you like, to remember her, and to remind ourselves that memories can be sometimes be found in the strangest places.  

Mom left this world a better place through her love, her actions and her words. She will live on in our memories, in the recipe cards she passed along, in the cross-stitch keepsakes she created, in the kindness we show each other, and in our stories.

May the stories we tell and retell keep her alive in our hearts. May those little reminders and stories bring us joy, even when we still miss her so. 

I love you Mom, and I miss you so. You will always be with me.

Click to enlarge


May 29, 2022

Something'll happen

 Back when I was building decks, we would often come across issues where we had to figure out how to make something work. Though the general construction was basically the same, every design was a little different, and every house presented different challenges. When the solution wasn't immediately obvious, we would let the problem sit in the back of our minds. Sometimes your brain keeps that problem running in the background and a solution will pop up while you are working on something else. Other times you just need to step away to come back with a fresh set of eyes. 

Occasionally a customer would see the problem themselves and would ask us how we were going to solve it. If we didn't yet have the answer, we would say, "Something'll happen". It was shorthand for "We haven't figured it out yet, but are confident that we will. Just give it/us some time."

"Something'll happen" has been the theme of the last few days. 

When I landed in Paris, my bike did not. The cardboard box that held my panniers and other bags showed up, but the bike box was nowhere to be found. I talked to the people in baggage claim and called Iceland Air, but their answer was basically, "Don't call us, we'll call you". Unfortunately, they mistyped my email address, got my home address wrong, and even put down my last name as "Dan" rather than "Day". It took an additional twenty minute call to get that fixed. It didn't inspire confidence. 

Since I had planned to ride my bike everywhere, I had to take an Uber while Rick and Liz rode to hotel from the airport, then another Uber on to the hotel in Paris the following day. Every next move and plan was prefaced by, "Well, if you get your bike..." There was one plan with, and one plan without a bike. We tried to stay positive, stay in the moment, and continued to work the plan as variables kept changing. Something'll happen.

We had planned for one full down day in Paris to let me recover some sleep, finish getting set up, and race by a few touristy spots. When we hadn't heard from the airline at the end of that second day, we spent an additional day looking around to see if I could rent a bike for two weeks. We struck out in Paris. Not only was it a long holiday weekend, but there was also a championship soccer/football final that weekend. The city was more overrun than normal, and everything was more expensive. Our already expensive hotel was due to double in price the second day, but Liz was able to sweet talk them into letting us stay on another day at the original price. 

We looked at taking a train to a smaller town on the route to see if we could pick up a bike there, but still no luck. As each hour and day ticked by, I became less and less confident my bike would ever show up, much less late, or that we would be able to figure out a work around. 

Before arriving, I had worried about throwing a wrench in their trip if my hip made it too difficult to keep up. The last thing I wanted to do was show up and screw up this epic trip they were on. Now I didn't even have a bike to fail on. I told Rick and Liz that I was planning to go home early, to let them continue the trip and ride without me. It broke my heart. They understood how I felt, but we set aside any final decisions until the next day. We went out and had a wonderful dinner, then slept on it. 

I could have shifted gears and made a new vacation plan for myself. After all, I was in Europe for the first time in thirty years. Why not spend some time, see the sights. But that wasn't what this trip was going to be about. It was about riding along rivers and through countrysides. It was about spending time with family I love, and finding small places and moments together that would be missed on a normal journey. I travel by myself all the time, but again this wasn't what this trip was about. I was pretty crushed, but still ready to make the difficult call to go home. 

I woke up at 3:30 and couldn't fall back asleep. I looked at changing my flight ($540 charge), for hotels anywhere between Paris and the airport (nothing under $200), our previously planned route and other things while fighting insomnia. I was finally able to sleep for an hour and then met Rick and Liz for breakfast. My new suggested plan was to take a train to Rouen (which was on our planned route), to spend another day with them before finding my way home. Paris had been a mess, and I just wanted to see a smaller town, and have a day where we didn't have to come up with any contingency plans. We found  an apartment in Rouen where we could stay for two nights. 

I had not heard a peep from the airport or the airline in all this time, even though I had corrected all the information they took down (except my last name was still Dan since that was somehow unchangeable). There was however a website where I could log in to see if they had found my bag. I had checked it every couple of hours over the three days, and checked it again in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep. Still no sign of my bag.

I checked the website one more time after breakfast. The bike was now at the airport. 

Liz had finalized the reservation in Rouen just minutes before, so the train was still the plan. Scrambling ensued. Rick and I took an Uber to the airport, grabbed the bike, and took a taxi back, taking about three hours in the process. We assembled the bike in the street, loaded up our gear and rode to the train station. Another three hours later, we were in Rouen. The trip was back on. 

I am thankful that Rick and Liz are so flexible in the way they travel, always ready to figure out the next solution to the next problem. Even after I had given up hope, they were ready to roll with what came next. 

 Something'll happen.

Oh how I have missed this stupid box

Ready to ride

But first, a train. 

May 18, 2022

Getting my gear in gear

 The previous times I've done multi-day bike trips were a two week ride from Seattle to San Francisco in 2006, and one a week ride loop from Whitefish Montana to Canada and back to the US through Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Park in 2007. Both were amazing experiences I will never forget. 

Both were also charity rides for the American Lung Association. The first ride in 2006, I didn't know a soul on the trip when I started, but within a few days it felt like the other riders were already friends. Many of those riders signed up for the Glacier ride the next year, and it was a wonderful reunion ride through a spectacular part of the country.

On both of those trips, we were camping. Each night you set up the tent, rolled out your sleeping bag, and in the morning you did everything in reverse to break camp. But, there was a support truck that followed along, so we didn't have to carry anything beyond what we needed for each day's ride. We would throw our duffel bag in the U-Haul in the morning, and grab the duffel bag out of the pile when we rode into camp each night. Rinse and repeat.

This trip in France we aren't camping, instead staying in hostels or cheap hotels, but there will be no SAG wagon following behind us carrying our stuff like a mechanical Sherpa. Everything from start to finish needs to fit on the bike. 

I originally planned on using the same road bike that I used for the charity rides, just needing to figure out how to retro-fit racks to carry things. However, I found out there were going to be a number of sections where we were riding on dirt and gravel, and my skinny tire road bike wasn't going to work very well. 

A buddy loaned me his mountain/hybrid bike that had wide tires and a rack, but it was too big. I looked for used bikes in every shop and also online, but couldn't find anything that seemed to be a good fit. The more I looked, the more I didn't want to get something that would only sorta work. I didn't want to fly all the way there, for basically a once in a lifetime kind of trip, and be miserable on an ill-fitting bike. 

So I bought another bike. 

The bike is specifically designed for touring. Lots of places to bolt on racks and fenders, wide tires to tackle any terrain, and a steel frame that will probably outlive me. Ever since those charity rides fifteen years ago, I have wanted to do another long distance ride. Take off for a week, camp out and unplug. See the contours of the land at a much slower pace. This trip finally gave me the push to get set up to do just that, so now no excuses.

The bike is basically set up now. I took a few things off my road bike, and bought what I couldn't scrounge. Rick and Liz had some extra panniers (saddle bags) they loaned me, so I that was a big help. 


It seems there are a hundred tiny things I still need to do and get to be ready, but the big pieces are in place.

One of the remaining hurdles is fitting it all in. I chronically overpack, and this is not a trip where that is going to work out. Room is limited, and anything I carry, I have to carry over each hill I ride. I'd like to think I have learned my lesson to pack light, and only the essentials from previous backpacking trips, but I can be a slow learner sometimes. 

May 16, 2022

Two wheeled adventure

I have this weird thing with vacations, and maybe anticipation in general. 

For vacations, it isn't real until I check in at the airport, or drive away with a loaded up car. Something can always go wrong I suppose, so don't spend the energy on anticipation. But once vacation brain is turned on, I am all in. A switch is thrown and living in the moment is where I want to be. 

This trip is a little different, while being more of the same for my pre-vacation brain. 

There is much more planning involved this time around, though to be fair a lot of it is being done by the people I am joining. This time I can't wait until the last minute to run to the store, pack my bag, procrastinate as is my habit. There are just too many boxes to be checked, and small boxes to squeeze into. 

I am going on a two week bicycle trip through France. I leave in about a week. 

My cousins have been planning this trip for quite some time. I can't remember when they first told me about it, but in the first sentence or two they said, "You should join us!"

Yes, yes I should. 

There have been other opportunities to join friends on some cool trips before. I went on a number of them, but I have passed on couple I definitely regret, like the trips to Hawaii and Ireland. There were valid or semi-valid reasons to not go at the time, but I didn't want to let this one slip by and live to regret it. This trip is one I know I will love, but probably wouldn't have planned on my own, and I am so excited to travel with Rick and Liz. 

Their ride started in Portugal and they have been biking for almost a month now. They are currently in France, biking from Bordeaux to Paris, which is where I will join them. After a day in the city, we will ride west to the Normandy area on the coast. We will then head north along the coastline toward Dunkirk. There are general plans, but no set schedule of how far we will ride each day, or where we will stop each night. My sense is that they have been planning a few days out, but remaining flexible to hiccups and joys that make them pause or change their plans. I am not sure of how far I will get in the two weeks I will be with them, but at some point I will have to peel off and hop a train back to Paris to fly home. They will continue on to eventually finish in Amsterdam. 

Even though there has been planning in the background, I didn't tell a lot of people about the trip. Beyond the usual things that can throw a wrench in your plans, Covid has kept its two-plus year hold on things. Add to that my arthritic hip, and I wasn't sure how getting on the bike would feel. The answer is not great so far, but that is a story for another post. 

The hurdles can still trip me up, but the excitement is building. I have been fortunate to travel to some cool places in my life, and have even taken week-long and two-week-long bike trips in the past. However, it has been fifteen years since the last long bike ride, and it will be almost exactly 30 years since I was last in Europe. It feels crazy when I say things like "it has been 30 years since I...", but getting older doesn't mean getting old (just yet). Right? 

For at least a couple of weeks, the Views From Two Wheels blog will be a bit more literal. 



February 19, 2022

Habit check in

Had another Dry January this year. 

Last year a group of us participated in Dry January together. The motivation was to (in a small way) support our friend who was pregnant and giving drinking up for a much longer period. This time around there was less of a concrete reason, but the same group was in just the same. 

It was another easy go of it. Last year I had a brain fart and drank while out with my brothers, but this time around there were no slip ups. No drinking without thinking this year. 

One activity I have enjoyed through the two years of pandemic is getting out for a round of golf with friends, picking up the sport again after all our bike events were cancelled. Since we are out of doors the entire time, the risks are much lower. It has been a bit of a savior of sanity. About the only real thing I missed related to this Dry January was the post round beer and debrief. 

One big difference this time around is the ever increasing non-alcoholic (NA) choices. Cutting back on alcohol is having a bit of a moment. A few years ago your choice was basically O'Douls, which is a non-alcoholic version of a style of beer I don't care for in its "real" version. Now much like how the explosion of microbreweries brought increased variety and quality to regular beer, more and more companies have sprung up to produce interesting non-alcoholic beer. 

Non-alcoholic wine has been around for quite some time, but from what I had heard, it has been pretty terrible in the past. Now there are more choices for wine substitutes as well, but I didn't try any this year so I can't vouch for their improvement.

However, one of the options I enjoyed the most was the Hoppy Refresher from Lagunitas. It is basically a hop flavored seltzer and was actually created for the Lagunitas employees. One of the perks of working for a brewery is free beer, but that doesn't work out so well when you are on the clock. The company created this to hand out instead, and it was such a hit they started selling it to the public.

The hop seltzer is its own thing, not trying to pretend to be beer. Often a substitute that isn't trying too hard at replication is actually more interesting. For example, I would much rather have a Garden Burger than an Impossible Burger. The Hoppy Refresher even has this great, non-Surgeon General warning. 

click to embiggen

One new addition to the lineup this year was gin substitutes. I do love me a gin and tonic, and I have found a couple of NA substitutes that are quite enjoyable in a mocktail. One odd thing is that the non-alcoholic versions are more expensive than the real thing, sometimes almost double the price. Clean(ish) living isn't cheap. 

Were there any lessons or morals to the story in not drinking for a month? Not really. No epiphanies were had, I didn't lose a bunch of weight, and I didn't feel more rested in the mornings. As with previous Dry Januarys I have participated in, it was mostly concrete goal to start the year, and a check against habits running in the background. You can't change habits you don't pay attention to, and over all it is just good to pay attention.

There was one clear benefit this year. When I was mostly separated from friends in January, it was nice sharing this common goal with the group. We'd check in through text or through video on Marco Polo, swap stories and drink suggestions. It was good excuse to reach out. I kept us connected in a different way during a month that is statistically the most depressing.  

Will I do it again? Probably. But there are plans this weekend to see friends and enjoy an adult beverage together. In person. 

February 7, 2022

Flashing back to small posts about random things

I have started reading old posts here. I have actually started from the first one and I am working my way forward, post by post. I think I started the "project" hoping to find some good stuff that I had forgotten about, and reminisce a bit about almost 15 years of writing in some form. 

I have made my way through 2007 and am currently in the spring of 2008. Things will go sideways by the end of that year, and the 2009 posts will have some subtext clear only to me, but we're not there yet. 

In the heady days of 2007, I was excited about this new outlet and was posting nearly every day. A lot of the posts were small updates, random thoughts, articles that had caught my eye, and responding to and promoting my friend's posts who were also beginning bloggers. Not much of those first six months were worth re-reading, and a lot of the moments were mundane, but discovery can come in small moments. But again, I wasn't really there yet. 

Back then I also wrote a lot about environmental concerns. I was pretty passionate about it, wanted to talk about it, share whatever tips I might have, etc. A decade and a half later, I still think we are treating the planet too much like a rental car we don't give a shit about, but I am more discouraged than passionate. The companies that produce so much of the waste in this world have done a great job of pushing the onus on the consumer to consider our own carbon footprint, while not much considering theirs. At their scale, they can make a tiny change that has massive impact, while if I make a massive change the impact is small. 

But I still try to do my best, if only to better live with my decisions. 

Anyway, to harken back to those 2007 days of talking about small random things...why is it so hard to find powder laundry detergent these days? 

I have long used powder over liquid detergent to save on the unnecessary shipping of water, and to reduce plastic bottles going into the waste/recycling stream. However, for some reason it is much harder to find these days. My local grocery has shelves and shelves of liquid/plastic detergent, but not a single cardboard box of powdered detergent. On the way back from the library on Sunday I stopped by a different grocery store. Again, so many choices of liquid detergent. It took me three scans of the aisle and nearly giving up before finally finding the one box/powder choice on the bottom shelf. Small victory. 

I get home and notice a small sticker on the box. 

You can click to enlarge the picture, but it reads, "Thank you for buying @ QFC. If found for resale elsewhere call 888-892-6460." 

So now I wonder if there is a black market for powdered laundry detergent. Maybe I am looking in the wrong aisle, and it is actually locked up behind protective glass somewhere with the Benadryl. 


January 30, 2022

When I radiate more heat than light

 I am so f*cking angry right now.

I don't exactly know why.

My fuse is exceptionally short these days. My dog pisses me off, mostly for just being a dog. Everything seems to break when I touch it. Everything seems to hurt. When things go wrong, I launch into a swearing tirade, whether I am in public or not. I can't calm myself down. It all feels so out of control right now. 

It isn't one thing. Maybe part pandemic and all that keeps meaning. Part dread, a tax season that was previously looming and is now here. Part missing my Mom. Part worry for Dad. Part general loneliness. Part my arthritic hip, pain and weakness. Part feeling like a failure. Parts I haven't been able to figure out. None of it seems to add up to the manifesting anger.

I feel worn thin.

Fractured and brittle.

Snapping.

Lashing out.

Fighting against phantoms. 

Punching at shadows. 

Spiraling.

Spiraling.

Pulling back on the yoke to try and pull out of the tailspin.

Lights are flashing, alarms going off. 

Maybe there is a clear field nearby where I can safely land and touch down for a while.

Walk it off. 

Gain perspective.

Find the horizon.

Douse the fuse.

Stop shouting at clouds.

Going to need some time.

Please be patient. 

Not ready to talk.

I don't know what I would say.

It is not you, it is me.

Sorry I yelled.


January 18, 2022

Silly challenges and a resolution

 Sometimes you just have to trick yourself into things.

When I was stuck at home during hibernation week, I went for a lot of walks. Of course it was great to get out of the house, and the pup really loved the snow, but I wouldn't have walked quite so much if I hadn't signed up for a silly challenge on Strava. The challenge was to walk 50k for the month. I had largely forgotten about the challenge/goal until I was bored at home. I certainly would have gone on several walks anyway, but wouldn't have been motivated to go as often or as far. I ended up walking about 34 miles in December, more than half of it in the snow between Christmas and New Year's Eve with traction devices on my hiking boots.

Another challenge I engage in is to try and read a certain number of books each year. I have been using the Goodreads website to track my reading since 2008. I started using it mostly to keep track of books I had read. More than once I would return to a book series that I had stepped away from, picking up where I thought I had left off, only realizing three chapters in that I had already read this book. Now an even greater value of the website is adding to the "To be Read" list whenever I hear about an interesting read.

However the To be Read pile is growing faster than the Read list. I already have piles of physical books stacked around the house, and a massive virtual pile online, but there are so many books that catch my eye I can't resist adding another to the list. When I am looking for my next read, and none of the books in the house are hitting the spot, I pull up the online list. However, many of the books have been on there so long I have no idea where I heard about them, or what grabbed my attention in the first place. I end up reading synopsis after synopsis to jog my memory.

The last few years I have tried to read 30 books a year. I came close in 2018, but haven't ever been quite able to reach the magic (arbitrary) number. 

(Click to embiggen)


In 2021 I read 21 books. Nice numeric repetition there, but in a year when I had so much time on my hands, and so much desire to get out of my own head, I wish I had read more. 

So much of it is habit. I won't deny it is harder to read these days. I am, like so many others, easily distracted by my phone, the TV, and other shiny things to scroll through. I used to be able to fall into a book so much more easily. Didn't matter if I was in a crowded coffee shop filed with people and chatter - I could shut it all out. Not so much these days. There is this constant background hum tapping on my attention's shoulder. 

Along with the urge to get the miles in during the last week of December, I was also trying to read a bunch. I wanted to try and re-forge the habit before work would once again get crazy in January, and hibernation week did make it a bit easier. I have been reading books on my Kindle lately and I saw this thing pop up on my phone.



Without intending to, I had a month-long streak of reading every day. May as well keep the streak going. I am going to try and read every day in 2022. It may not be many pages on some days (hello tax season) but I want to commit to reading this year. I know it will be good for me, moments of quiet in a noisy world. 

I have some other pseudo resolutions in mind for the year, one of which is to keep writing here and hopefully elsewhere, but we'll start with reading. If you have any recommendations for books that you loved, let me know and I will add them to the digital pile. I will try and get a few off the To be Read list to make room. 

January 8, 2022

Moments of light in a rather dark, two-year-long year

 2021 felt like a terrible sequel to an already bad movie. 

Inspired by a post a friend put up at the end of 2020, I tried to come up with a list of good things that happened during the year. It was a nice exercise to find the good in a year when everything was turned upside down for everyone, the whole world really. While I didn't expect that things would be back to "normal" in 2021, I guess I figured it would at least be a little better. 

Yeah, no. Every dumpster fire can burn a little brighter.

I do my best to focus on the positive, but man it is tough sometimes, in some years. Beyond the *gestures broadly* of all we have been going through the past two years, there were more personal struggles and losses this year. Life will never be the same in a lot of ways.

Pain should not be compared, but my year was a blip compared to others. I worry about a friend struggling through long-Covid, while so, many, people bitch about the smallest inconvenience. Essential workers, once praised, are now just stretched thin, mostly forgotten. Homes lost to fires and floods amplified by climate change. Science and reality denied. Democracy seems more fragile than ever before. The ability to find common ground and any light at the end of the tunnel seems so far off. I don't want to bright-side any of it.

But I also don't want to focus on the darkness. None of the things below are about finding silver linings in adapting to the new normal. Just small moments that I would like to remember. 

In February I tuned in to "watch" the rover land on Mars. I was certainly interested in it, but didn't feel all that invested. However, when it touched down safely, I wept at my desk. February was really hard watching Mom go downhill so fast, and somehow all the things going just right, millions of miles away, to make the Perseverance land safely, broke me in the best way.

There were a couple of times that music grabbed my heart when I wasn't expecting it. I was watching a virtual concert put on by Brandi Carlile and the twins. It was a casual thing, the three of them set up in her house. She played through the album "The Story" and the last/hidden track (remember hidden tracks?) is "Hiding My Heart". I had listened to the album and song many times, but listening to it 'live' made me hear it for the first time. It cracked me open for some reason that night.

The other time was with the song "Ablaze" by Alanis Morrisette. It is a song about a mother and her kids, and I had always listened to it as an imagined parent. I mentioned to it my friend when she was pregnant and hoped it resonated with her. Then it happened to come on the day before Mom's memorial while I was walking Izzy on a work break. It was the first time I listened to the song as a child rather than as an imagined parent. A song I already loved hit me in a new way. I was weeping again, needing to take Izzy on a longer walk than planned. 

To my boy, my precious, gentle warrior
To your sweetness and your strength in exploring
May this bond stay with you through all your days
My mission is to keep the light in your eyes ablaze

And of course, a big bright spot of the year was seeing those great friends have their first baby. We shared in their excitement as the day approached, and it has been wonderful to see their new family form and grow. Love and hope. And the cutest kid by the way. 

There were other good moments like my trip to San Diego. Seeing friends after years apart. So much to catch up on, but picking up like no time had passed. The walks by myself in the sunshine and remembered beauty. Seeing different people finding the same favorite spot on consecutive days to let the waves wash them clean.

 Vaccines, boosters, the North Bend Beer Runners, family at Crescent Bar, golf with friends, music on Twitch, walking in the snow, and a friend's engagement on New Year's Eve. So many good things. Lights holding back the darkness.

May there be moments large and small that make 2022 a little bit brighter for all of us.





January 2, 2022

Hibernation week

The week between Christmas and New Year's Eve always feels like some sort of limbo. School is out, many people take the week off of work, and there is sort of a emotional hangover from Christmas, that often leads into the more typical hangover of the New Year. This year was no different, while being quite different. 

Unlike 2020, there were some cautious gatherings in 2021. At the annual Keg Christmas party, I wore a mask the whole evening. At the Christmas Eve gathering with friends, everyone had to show a negative Covid test to get in the door, particularly since there would be young children there unable to get a vaccine shot. At the family Christmas gathering, all were vaccinated and many took Covid tests prior to arriving. 

Covid still found a way. A family member started feeling poorly and tested positive Monday morning (Christmas was on Saturday). He was vaccinated and boosted, and fortunately it appears to be a mild case for him. 

The Seattle area received a bunch of snow on the day after Christmas. This is not all that unusual, but what was unusual was how cold it was going to be all week. The snow would be sticking around for a while, and the roads were very icy. I was already debating going into the office on Monday because of the roads, but the possible Covid exposure sealed the deal. Staying home.

I isolated for the week. I had used the last of my home Covid test kits on Christmas, and the stores were sold out of them. All the local test sites were overrun by people in my situation, and the snow made things worse since several of the sites could not open. I was able to get an appointment on Thursday thanks to a friend constantly refreshing a website and snagging someone else's cancelled appointment for me. I fortunately tested negative. 

I had planned a week off for vacation earlier in the month, but a workmate had emergency surgery so I stayed in town to help out at the office. With the snow/Covid situation keeping me at home, I had a bit of a staycation instead. 

I walked around the neighborhood a bunch. Though Izzy acts like she will melt if rain touches her, she absolutely loves the snow. Though we had walked them a hundred times before, each street looked a little different in the snow. Kids, and kids at heart, took over the streets and parks to sled, and there seemed to be a little surprise around every corner. 

I shut off my alarm clock for a week. I read, finishing one book I liked and another that was just OK. I did a bit of writing, played a video game I hadn't played in a decade, and ate way too much brie and other appetizers left over from Christmas. Probably no coincidence that I gained five pounds in December. New Year's Eve was spent alone at home with wine and pizza, but with friends sending videos back and forth throughout the evening. 

It wasn't the vacation I had planned, but being forced to slow down for a week at home had its bright spots.  










January 1, 2022

Updating Share the Road

I wrote a novel, and (self) published it ten years ago today. 

Three years ago I re-read it while on vacation, and decided to do it with a pen in hand. I circled a few typos, noted some words that were repeated a little too close to each other, and crossed out/added some commas.  And then set that marked up copy aside. 

Since it was ticking over to a nice round number of ten years this New Year's Day, I decided to fix those things.  That is one of the bonuses of self-publishing and print on demand. You can go back and tweak things, upload a new manuscript, and any new purchase will get the updated version.

The most difficult part was that I wasn't sure I still had the original "final" version saved anywhere. I had a ton of copies of the Word files that I had saved after every day of original writing, and a number of versions after the rewrites and revisions. What I didn't have was a Word file that said, "This is the final, final version you published." I had also had an unfortunate incident where I managed to overwrite both my computer and a backup drive in one day. I am still missing a big chunk of 2012 - 2015. Years of photos, and possibly a book, gone into the ether. There was definitely some swearing that day.  

Anyway, through downloading a pdf from Amazon and converting it to Word, and doing an automated comparison, I managed to find a formatted Word doc that was very close to the final version. 

I fixed those typos and minor word issues while resisting the urge to rewrite the whole thing. I would guess that it is pretty typical of anyone who writes, you are never completely satisfied with what you have written, so I could get in a cycle of rewriting it every time I read it. Best to leave it as it was, how I was, when it was written. 

That said, along with making some changes in comma and word choice, I can remember one deleted sentence, another re-written one, and a paragraph I changed during the update that had always bothered me. The changes are small enough that they may not be noticed by someone else, but enough for me to "fix" since I was making an update anyway. 

So, consider this my once a decade promotion to buy my book. You can find the paperback here as well as the Kindle version here.



 

December 30, 2021

Planning for failure, and still falling short

 So to recap from my last post (you may want to read it first), I:

  • Went to the Oceanside Half Iron seriously under-trained.
  • Planned not to do the run, so I was never going to "finish".
  • Still had mild delusions of grandeur.
  • Had a tough go of the swim, including five minutes of cramping and treading water.

The last leg of the swim was in the harbor and was more protected, so the water was less choppy. I swam slowly, trying not to set off another cramp, and made my way toward the boat ramp and finish line. Even with my slow going, there were still plenty of other swimmers around me, so at least I wasn't going to finish dead last.

I reached the boat ramp and was finally able to stand up again. Instead of heading across the finish line and timing mat, I made my way to the small dock to the right of the ramp. I was very nauseous and did not trust myself to stay upright. A volunteer was at my side almost immediately and asked what was wrong. I said I just needed a few minutes, but she stayed by my side. 

When the nausea did not pass, they encouraged me to get up on the dock. As soon as I did, I felt like throwing up, so I stretched out flat on the dock. Then my leg started cramping again. When that cramp settled down, another would fire up. I spent a long time vibrating in pain, flopping around like a fish out of water, all the while trying to roll over on my stomach so I could throw up (never did though). 

Medical staff was there, again almost immediately. They kept asking what was wrong, but I was at the mercy of the pain of misfiring muscles, and couldn't get out much more than a couple of words. Calves and hamstrings seized and cramped while they tried to stretch things out. I felt helpless, though I was surrounded by people trying to help. 

After what seemed like ten minutes, they got me upright and walked me to the medical tent. They set me down on a cot, asked questions, and peeled off my wetsuit so they could take my blood pressure. Various muscles would cramp, but things were starting to settle down. I eventually sat up, and they handed me a Gatorade to get some sugar and electrolytes in my system. 

In the cot next to me was another swimmer. I am not great at guessing ages, but she was probably my age or maybe a bit older. She was shivering violently as the medical staff tried to warm her up. I saw her hand trembling and reached out to hold it. I just wanted to let her know someone was there. I put my head down and started weeping. 

I held her hand for a while. Her body stopped shaking quite so much and was down to a slow shiver.  I left my cot to free up space in case there was someone else who needed it. I gathered up my wetsuit and goggles, thanked everyone I could make eye contact with, and limped back out to where my bike was parked. Someone asked if I was planning on riding and I laughed. No, my day was done. 

It probably wasn't all that cold, but I was shivering in my wet clothes. I had sent off my dry clothes to the finish line, but fortunately I had left a hoodie behind. I dried up the best I could, put on my running (walking) shoes and made my way out of the transition area. I had about three hours to kill before my buddies would be finished with their bike ride. 

I found some breakfast, found a pub with some tables right next to the course, chatted with another person waiting to cheer on a friend, and sent texts to the people who were following me online to let them know why my tracker wasn't moving. And I tried to digest what had just happened. 

After talking to someone later, I think I had a rush of adrenaline when I was cramping and treading water, and my body did not have time to clear it until I hit dry land. As soon as I was safe, it crashed down on me, and my body let me know in no uncertain terms that I needed to listen to it. 

Ironman has a pretty good tracking app so I was able to estimate when my buddies would be passing by. I saw both of them come in on the bike and then head out for the run. I walked along the course toward the finish line to pick up my dry clothes, and spectators kept cheering me on as if I was still a participant. After the first few it was just easier to thank them rather than explain what was going on. 

I was able to see my buddies a couple of times on the run course, and then headed to the finish line to watch people come in. A finish line is really something special. All the stories of how their day went, and what it took to get there, are often written on their face. I cheered every one of them on. Some were coming in strong, some were stumbling. Some wore a face of determination, others you could tell were about to cry. When they cried, I cried. 

When my buddies crossed the line, we swapped stories of our days, the good and the bad. That part is always great. People run the same course, but everyone runs a completely different race. 

After having time to think about my experience, I don't really regret trying. I was never going to do the run, so it was always going to be a DNF (Did Not Finish) for me. It took the pressure off of any sort of goal time or performance. I planned to take it really easy. I wanted to just enjoy participating at an event after more than a year and a half of shutdown, and doing the event with friends. 

Still...

Grit has carried me through difficult events before, but grit and determination can only go so far. I never want to show up that unprepared again. I think I am also done with any event that involves an ocean swim. Difficult events always involve a bit of suffering, but I don't ever want to have that feeling again of hating what I am doing. Now in the future when I utter the phrase, "Well, I've done stupider things...", I think this will be the 'thing' that pops to mind

I hope to never eclipse it. 

December 29, 2021

Well, I've done stupider things...

The phrase in the title is something we say/sort of a meme in our biking group. It is not quite to the level of "Hold by beer", but we say it when we are about to do something, shall we say, not well thought out. 

It started on a ride in Wenatchee. We had all signed up for a 100 mile bike ride, but we weren't in the best of shape, and the temperatures were going to be pushing 100 as well. We agreed that we would ride out about halfway and call it good. The turn around point would be at a small rest area after a gradual climb. The road after that was a very steep downhill that of course we would have to climb up on the way back. 

I don't remember whose bright idea it was to press on once we got there, but I wasn't excited about the decision. But I said, "Well, I've done stupider things..." as I agreed to follow the leader. It ended up being a long, hot day, but we made it through and up that hill, and had more stories to tell. 

My experience at the Oceanside Half Ironman back in October may have set a new bar for stupid decisions for pressing on when unprepared. 

As I have mentioned before, I had signed up for three triathlon events in 2020. All were postponed eventually to 2021. The Oceanside event had actually been postponed three times - March 2020 to October 2020, to March 2021, to October 2021. I hadn't been running this year because of lingering pain, that I eventually found out was arthritis in my hip. I pushed the other triathlons into 2022 in the hopes physical therapy would help, but I decided not to push the Oceanside event. 

I decided to go mostly to see my friends. Plus the re-scheduled date was in March of 2022, so less time for PT and, well, tax season. I still couldn't run, so I thought maybe I could do the swim and bike this time around, and then just step off the course. Problem was that along with not running all year, I had not done any swimming or biking either. It was part of the mental tailspin I was going though, with a side of laziness. After wrapping up tax season on October 15th, I had basically ten days to get in "shape".

I hit the pool a few times and went on two bike rides. The first swim was ugly, but the last couple went pretty well. The bike rides were less encouraging, but if I didn't make the time cut off, so be it. I was already planning on not finishing the event by skipping the run. 

Once I got down there though, talking with my buddies who were doing the race as well, expectations started to rise. Maybe if I didn't implode on the bike, I would have enough time to brisk walk my way through the run course. It was a two lap course, so I should at least be able to make it through one lap before the time cutoff. 

The morning of the race was that regular mix of excitement, anticipation, and standing around. The swim was a rolling start, and we had put ourselves toward the back of the line based on our anticipated pace. It was a really long wait, but eventually the three of us hit the water at about the same time. It went pretty sideways from there. 

It was a beach start into the ocean, and I had a tough time making it through the surf. Two strokes forward, get thrown back two. I saw a guy hanging onto a surfboard hurling into the ocean, so I wasn't the only one getting beat up. By the time I made it through the surf, I was tired, frustrated and had drifted offline for the course. With the continuing chop in the water, it was hard to see where I was going, and I couldn't find a rhythm. I said to myself more than once, "I hate every minute of this." I have never felt that way in any previous event. 

I kept swimming, trying to keep on course, trying to find a rhythm. The course was basically a square around a peninsula. Head out from the beach, hang a right to parallel the beach, another right to go past the point, and another right to swim in the harbor behind to the boat launch. About two thirds of the way through the third leg, I had a massive cramp in my right calf. 


The cramp stopped me in my tracks. I tried to get vertical so I could tread water, but the buoyancy of the wetsuit made it difficult to get my legs underneath me. I was not bashful about screaming because it, hurt, so, bad. Pretty quickly a swimmer offered to let me hang onto them, but I let him go on. There was a volunteer on a surfboard within shouting distance (and I was certainly shouting), but he never came over. It felt like it took five minutes for the cramp to go away as I tried to relax through panic, and for a fleeting second I thought, I could drown in sight of land. 

The cramp eventually settled down, and I slowly made my way around the rest of the course, swimming gingerly toward the boat launch and finish line. But the worst was yet to come. 

To be continued

September 9, 2021

9/9/2021


Twenty years ago today was the day I got married. Still one of the better, in the moment, days of my life, surrounded by family and friends. Of course the nation would change two days later, and then a much smaller part of it some seven years later.

Twenty years further down the road, feelings and lives have changed. Gray hairs, new friends, regrets, adventures, new memories. But that time will always be part of me, in those old memories, in the lessons and discovery as our two roads diverged, in the hope we will always do better each time we try. 


September 1, 2021

No illusions

Sometimes I like to say out loud, "I am about to make a bad decision," just to hang a lantern of self-awareness on it, even if it is just my dog and myself that hears it, before I press on through.