I Ate Bread In The Car And Turned Into My Mother

Did you know it’s a mistake to go into a grocery store early in the morning? It’s true. Not because it’s a bad time to shop (it’s actually pretty empty and easy to get in and get out fast), but because it’s a bad time to know the store has a bakery.

We may eat with our eyes, but we grocery shop with our noses. I stopped in a big-box store near the pool after the morning workout, to get some important things, like chicken, ground turkey, ear plugs, eye drops, and bananas. Next thing you know, the cart takes a hard charge forward towards the smell of carbs and sugar. Cookies, doughnuts, rolls, cakes, brownies, and bread. My downfall forever is bread. I take after my mother on this.

Back in the day when small bakeries were the place to buy high-calorie creations, my mother bought cookies and pastries for weekly card and mah jongg gatherings, and she bought rye bread. Sliced to order by the counter help, it had a shiny crust, lots of seeds and that sweet-sour tang that only really good rye bread brings to the palate. Not once did a complete loaf of rye bread ever make it home. She ate the ends in the car ride home. It was her favorite part, and besides, “None of you like the ends anyway,” she always said.

That might have been true back then, but no more. I cherish the ends of any loaf of bread, because it’s more bread-y to me. A firmer texture that stands up to being toasted, dunked, and slathered. This morning, my takeaway loaf of choice was sourdough. I learned to love sourdough thanks to a childhood trip to San Francisco. I find the almost fermented quality perfect with nothing more than a lot of butter.

I nibbled on the end of the loaf at stoplights on the way home, which is what my mother did all those decades ago, and made the connection. Over 10 years she’s gone, and it’s amazing how some flour, yeast, salt, and water can build a bridge.

Time Left in Rehab Hell: 48 Hours And Counting

Monday, 10 a.m. The last surgeon appointment for my foot. Seven days of steroids (to remove what little swelling is left) and we are done and basically good to go. I now have a matched set of titanium screws and plates, probably worth more than all the rest of me. And yes, I plan to get a keepsake picture of my “twins” on Monday.

It’s been a long eight weeks, counted down a day at a time. From heavy gauze padding, a surgical boot, and a kneeling cart to a butterfly bandage and a toe separator, it’s been a ride. I had this surgery done on the other foot 20 years ago. I don’t remember it being this hard, but then again, I don’t recall a lot of things from 20 years ago.

I feel like that little kid in the car, driving to a vacation destination, constantly asking, “Are we there yet?” I’ve been able to swim, bike, and walk to some extent and I am really bored with limitations. Grateful for what I have been able to do the last three weeks, but definitely ready for more. I stopped by my local bike shop last week for swim goggles (my favorite pair broke, so of course I bought two pairs to replace the one that broke) and bought new running socks to celebrate my upcoming first post-op run.

Some things I will think about, now that both feet are fixed:

I will never complain about running in 90-plus degree heat again. I will be grateful for it.

I will never complain about running in the rain again. I will be grateful for it.

Trail running won’t just be something I do for training; I will learn to love it as a challenge unto itself.

I will never complain about the height of a diving block again. I will get up there and learn to use it correctly, now that both feet are straight and pain-free.

I will purposely go looking for elevation changes on a bike ride, just for the challenge (aside from drawbridges, we don’t really have big hills here. Just some nice undulating roadways).

Mostly, I will be grateful to the medical technology and the people smarter than me who study hard and turn lives around putting their talents to good use, despite a pandemic and its continued impact. Labeling the doctors, nurses, and support staff who show up, keep up and move us all forward as heroes seems inadequate. The dictionary simply does not offer enough accolades to describe what they do, or thank them for it.

I’d Like Your Product If Only I Could Open It

Another day, another cut finger and another $#@!&* after trying to open yet another adult-proof package.

This time, it was a container of vegetable shortening. Really. Harmless plastic container to look at, but the lid was almost lethal to one of my fingers. It took a knife and a pair of pliers to destroy the lock mechanism and pry off the top.Who gets paid the money to sit around and come up with these things? I want that job. The Consumer Product Safety Commission spends a lot of time and money worrying about toys and child safety, which they should do. But how about adults and the packaging we have to deal with daily? The cardboard-plastic combination covers on multi-packs of everything are bad enough. You need a bolt cutter and a blow torch for those. But the break-and-pull tabs on many food products neither break nor pull easily. The number of times I’ve hurt myself getting into a package forced me to stock a ready shelf of bandages and ointment. I’ve been wounded, gouged, and sliced deep enough to probably get a few stitches (fortunately, I don’t bleed long). I’ve “succeeded” in opening bags, only to have the contents fly onto the floor because my use of necessary force exceeded the bag’s capacity to endure it. And yes, I have given up and either tossed out products or returned them, figuring out it was a higher power’s desire that I do so, rather than continue fighting.

I know manufacturers are trying to keep us safe from contaminants and evil people who would introduce harmful stuff into what we eat, drink and use. But have a little mercy on the unfortunate who do not have the youthful dexterity (or the garage-worthy tool arsenal) to punch our way into your package. We’d try more and buy more, if only we could open more.

This Surgical Boot Is No Longer Made For Walkin’

Staples, boot, and bandages are a thing of the past, and I can put weight on both feet now. Not bad at 25 days out of surgery. Thursday will be the full four weeks, and by next week, after another post-operative visit, I hope to be on the bike, at least on the indoor trainer, riding again.

I got into the pool this morning, just freestyle and backstroke with limited kicking. But 75 minutes was longer than I thought I could do, so I was happy with that. The surgical site is still a little swollen, but the foot is back to a normal shade of skin tone, rather than black and blue. I’ve been able to do enough yard work to make the place look like humans live here. I made cookies for the husband yesterday (none for me, since I am not up to normal workout levels yet) and can mostly stand long enough to make full meals and clean the house to a decent extent. I can drive, though I keep the trips short. Grocery store visits are done with a strict list and mostly along the perimeter.

I cannot mow the lawn, wash the car or walk on uneven ground yet. No running for another month. No stairs or hard exercise walking yet. But overall progress is good and I am looking at the competition schedule. First swim meet comes up in August, when I won’t be quite 100%. I accept that, and I am going anyway. It will be good to see people and approach normal again.

Foot Up, Out Of Action — Just Temporary

I waited out the pandemic to do it, but it’s done. That fugly foot bump known as a bunion was shaved off my left foot and into history nine days ago, by the same surgeon who did the same thing on my right foot twenty years ago.

My toes are blue-black (at least, what little I can see of them) but all the toenails are still attached. The staples pull and ache and the foot is itchy, but at least I can put some weight on it now. For the first five days, I was attached to a four-wheel scooter as my sole mode of transportation (you don’t want to ask me about crutches). My house is mid-1980s closed concept, so there are narrower doors and bumps and sharp turns. I fell once, but nothing was damaged aside from my ego; I was able to maneuver off the bathroom floor and get upright again.

To be fair, I’d give myself an A- for preparation; I stocked food and supplies, made sure my prescriptions were refilled, the ice maker worked (the number of post-surgical ice packs was astounding), laundry was done, and I had protein powder for shakes and vitamins for recovery. It seems to be working; the staples come out Tuesday, less than two weeks after surgery.

I am looking forward to getting back to getting out there. I have a 10K booked in September and swim meets in August and October. It’s not fun to watch other people sweat while being on the sidelines.

Hills? We Have Hills In Florida?

I have a few road race traditions I follow, and one of them is a race on Memorial Day. Except this year, the race was moved to a new venue. A new, pain-inducing venue.

For almost 30 years, this 5K was a nice, mostly flat, fast course through a small, wealthy bedroom community north of here. Lots of shade, some waterfront views, and one small elevation change. And a collection of weird food selections at the end. Think cold pizza, yogurt, and fresh fruit. You know, a typical breakfast of champions, and let’s be honest, not what most of us were eating for Memorial Day barbecues. No chance of eating the same thing twice in a day.

I guess that nice little community got tired of us.

The race got kicked out. But it found a new home. The start/finish area is in a beautiful park setting along the Intracoastal, with a long dock, real restrooms, and plenty of parking. And it was only about two miles from the previous venue.

Sounds good? It was — until the the start/finish line was revealed. Both were uphill. And it did not get better from there. Four additional hills featured in this race. I had no idea the course would look like this. I was fortunate that my workouts include bridge running, but after the uphill start and the next climb (about 3/4 mile from the start) it was obvious that not everyone was prepared for the upward slog. And going downhill hurts, by the way. Sure, gravity does some of the work for you, but it’s still a shin-killer.

And those of you who actually live in mountain country, or places with real hills, can stop rolling your eyes and referring to our hills as old asphalt-covered sand dunes. For the record, that is likely what these were. We get you don’t take them seriously. Just humor the flat-land runners for now.

I am proud of that last race of the season (I know a few of you are shocked, but here in Florida June, July, and August are just painful months for road-racing). Seventeen runners in my age group and I was ninth. No water stations due to pandemic rules, but I carried my own. The local Boy Scout troop did an admirable job cooking a pancake breakfast, though I think they underestimated just how much some hungry runners can scarf down when they aren’t handing over money for the meal.

I assume this race has been moved to this venue for good. I won’t dread it the next time. Just add a few more bridge runs beforehand.

The Only Voice In My Head Is My Own…And We Argue

I’ve been working from home for 14 months, and I’ll admit this much: I hated it in the beginning.

I am a child of the office age, not the technology age. I started working in the late seventies; we had clunky word processors masquerading as computers, but mostly it was pens, notepads and phones (push-button at that point, though even that was relatively new; I still recall rotary phones and phone booths. Don’t make me go there, young’uns).

I was the last person to quit my office, and it was painful. I figured if everyone else was working from home under COVID restrictions, I could stay in the office alone, right? No, I couldn’t, as we were not deemed essential employees. So off to the home office in March, 2020.

I’ve never gone back. Never plan to go back. I’d smother at least a few of my coworkers at this point. I have been more productive from home than I ever thought possible, thanks to fewer interruptions and the ability to schedule work in my day, instead of dealing with CMS (Chronic Meeting Syndrome). I can start early if I need to, finish later if I want to, and run or bike in the middle of the day. A doctor’s appointment is no longer a time issue. A lunch break can include vacuuming rugs or folding laundry or running out to pick up a prescription. It’s telling a service person, “Sure, come over anytime to fix/inspect/replace whatever. I am home.” And not one single cold since work from home started, thanks to avoiding two employees in particular who felt obligated to come to work coughing, sweating, and sick to the point of collapse because it was so important for them. The truth: they had blown off all their PTO on other things and had none left.

The bad part about working from home: Zoom™ meetings with or without video. Not a fan, though I don’t blame the Zoom creators. Some people just are not video-camera material. I happen to be one of them. I have a state-of-the-art computer; there just isn’t enough plastic surgery or cosmetics to make me look good in pictures. And even without video, some folks don’t know how to mute their phones, or keep the family and personal stuff out of their office. Kids, dogs, the TV, the spouse, the neighbors are all fair game on Zoom calls because “it’s not like it’s the real office.”

I miss interaction with people I liked, but not much. I have other people outside work to see. I have returned to competing. I do not miss morning rush hour and driving and honking at crawling drivers in the left lane. I understand people who want and need to go back and hate that they cannot go back because child care and school virtual learning make it impossible to return. I am happy to work from right here, drive and consume less, not contribute to the carbon footprint and argue with the only occasional opposing voice — my own.

It’s Back To Business, Even If It’s Not The Usual

It’s good to be competing again. I have a race every weekend in May (including yesterday), with the exception of Mother’s Day weekend. I don’t have kids; I figure I just need a break somewhere.

It’s good to see friends again, even though it is masked and hugs are only a sometimes thing. I’m good with an elbow bump. It’s the thought and the contact that count.

It’s good to train with a purpose. I am always up for a run, swim, bike session, or weight workout, but it’s easier with a goal.

And I hate to admit this, but it is fun to shop for workout gear again. I hate to shop; I think “retail therapy” is torture and would almost prefer a tooth-pulling to time wandering in a department store. But workout clothes are in a different realm. My closet is totally out of balance when you look at the workout vs. everyday wardrobe. In fact, I need to clean out the workout side; I have some new things coming and there isn’t room for them at the moment.

In the same thought, it is good to shop for things you didn’t know you needed. I always hated coming home from events with wet or towel-wrapped hair. Who knew there was such a thing as a rechargeable blow dryer? I have it and I love it.

I was surprised to see some wearing down on my running shoes; I have two pairs, and the ones I use for races are showing signs of use. While shoes are expensive to replace, it’s also nice to know they’re actually getting used.

I use a paper spiral calendar notebook for scheduling races, and last year was a big ugly blank, for the most part. My shiny new one is filling in fast, as more races go in-person, or at least offer the option.

It’s not all normal. Masks at the start and finish are required, as are temperature checks and at least some attempt at social distancing. I am all for maintaining the precautions as long as it takes, along with vaccinations, until the pandemic that has poisoned our politics and personal relationships, eradicated whole economic sectors and jobs, taken hundreds of thousands of lives, and changed much more permanently is as much a thing of the past as we can make it.

We will be able to look at this time with some humor — the toilet paper hoarding, the combination of stuck at home and having the time still did not equal a clean house, and the wrongheaded attempts by kitchen newbies to understand how yeast, flour, and water, combined the right way, turn into bread — but also recall how neighbors helped neighbors with groceries, money, and conversation. How people got to know each other strolling around their own streets and the way complete strangers pitched in at food banks, grocery giveaways, and voter registration drives. We learned how to be human with each other, and there’s hope this is one pandemic lesson that will outlast the virus.

Well, That Was Ugly (for a day)

I have now received both of my COVID shots. Yay, me.

First shot a month ago produced mild symptoms, mostly a sore arm. Second shot was worse than the first. I felt well enough a few hours after to go on an afternoon run. Felt fine to cook and eat dinner. THEN it hit. Feverish, body aches, and chills so severe I needed a winter blanket and comforter to warm up overnight. Very little sleep that night, and when I did get up, it felt like walking barefoot on an ice rink. I looked at the thermostat (it was normal) and then wondered why the &%!$ the weatherman misjudged the overnight temperatures. Nope…just me.

The symptoms lasted about a day; there was not enough hot tea or soup in the house to calm the chills. They departed on their own, and I was fine after 24 hours.

I am very glad I did this, and for the greater realm of humanity, I did this for you. So I hopefully cannot either get or pass the virus to anyone you know. So they don’t get sick and suffer, and possibly die. So they don’t miss time from work, school, activities, and loved ones. I still mask up and social distance, even though I have gone back to competing again. We can live and love and resume activities, but in a way that respects not only each other, but the fact that the virus dictates how things happen, and science dictates how we change the course of how things happen. Not herbal supplements, finger-pointing blame games, bleach imbibing, or casting aside all ideas of sanity and reason by declaring personal rights as more pivotal than public health. The experts with M.D., Ph.D. and other letters designating advanced education should be our guides, not politicians pandering to their ignorant and chanting masses, many of whom don’t believe in vaccinations, but believe that their way is the only way, and any other way is a path to Hell.

Turn off the crazy, if you can. Find reason and meaning and get your shot on behalf of the planet. We’d like you to stick around.

What’s Normal? Where Is It? Can I Run There?

Americans, more than anyone else, seem to be a nervous, edgy, need-it-now society.

That sounds better than saying we’re selfish, impatient, and thoughtless, right?

We miss our old normal, whatever that was. When we could eat, travel, and work anywhere, see anyone anytime we wanted to, without a mask (and without expecting other people to do the same). When did we start wondering if that guy over there got vaccinated or if the person coughing in the next aisle brought more than their grocery list to the store and breathed on the tomatoes? Whether the maskless woman coming in just forgot hers or forgot the rest of us matter and her rights don’t constitute the center of the known universe.

It’s been a year since COVID-19 entered the lexicon, killing over a half-million of us, sickening far more, costing jobs, changing lives, and sometimes forever ruining our ability to communicate with friends and family whose opinions differ from ours as to the severity of the virus — or to some cave-dwelling dim bulbs, whether the virus exists at all or it’s an imaginary creation of a government they didn’t elect and don’t respect.

Normal is slowly coming back. I’ve done some in-person racing. I don’t dislike virtual races; they’re fine for other people, but I am not personally a fan of them. I have a few more on the calendar before I end my season in June. It’s been wonderful to see the face I missed for months on end, with no live racing options available. But I race under COVID-19 protocols as laid out by the race directors. Outside of racing, I wear a mask in public, mandated or not, stay socially distant, don’t travel, and don’t shop unless I have to do so.

I don’t know where the new or next normal is. I think it will arrive slowly and in stages. Some of the precautions should become permanent, like frequent hand-washing and sanitizing surfaces. Working from home isn’t that bad; frankly, I stand a good chance of doing ugly things to some of the people I work with if forced to endure them in an actual office setting. At least from home, I can shut them out and actually get work done rather than deal with the chit-chat train and the idiot interruptions during the average office day. Plus the midday workouts, stop-and-drop-in a load of laundry, or tidying the bathrooms is helpful to my schedule. I’m not solitary by nature, but years of solo workouts have taught me to exist within myself and that while human contact is necessary it’s the quality of it, not the quantity, that counts.

Patience, folks. Keep wearing those masks, do the distance when possible, get vaccinated (I got my first shot; second one is in two weeks, and thank you, Dolly Parton, for handing over a whole lot of money to make it happen for Moderna) and we will get through this. And there will be running, cycling, swimming, yoga, team sports and tears of joy on the other side.