Happy Not-Dead Day to Me

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It is a good day to be alive. I suppose, as the mystical saying goes, it is a good day to die, but I am feeling happy to be in the former camp for now. Five years ago, on this very day of the calendar, I made a fast trip to the hospital. That worked out well, thankfully, in the end.

Home alone that day, I tried to put on some socks. I missed my foot. Twice. After countless times putting on socks in my life, I suddenly just couldn’t do it. My brain said go and my body just didn’t hear it right. My mind was a bit scrambled. My right side was the problem. I got those socks on with my left hand damn it. But I wasn’t right, so to speak.

My right arm rose without me meaning it to. And when I tried to raise it I couldn’t do it. I limped down the stairs. I thought I knew what was up, but no, it couldn’t be. That was for old people. I was a healthy dude. But just to check, I looked in the mirror. My face was sagging on the right side. Crap, that was one symptom hard to deny. I was having a stroke. I tried to utter some profanity to express my freakedoutedness. Turns out I couldn’t speak either.

I had enough medical training at that point to know I was having a stroke and to know that I needed to get to a hospital. Fast. I was intentional in using the land line because I knew they could find me that way. I called 911.

The woman who answered asked me questions but, as much as wanted to answer, I simply couldn’t speak. I could make a few noises, grunts and such, but that was it. She was patient with me, telling me to just stay on the phone until help arrived. I sat, with my wallet, cell phone and those warm socks, waiting for help. I texted my wife with my good but non-dominant hand. It was all I could offer her.

A fire truck pulled up. Of course, they had no idea what to expect from someone who calls for help but can’t speak. An ambulance followed. When the EMT walked in I had my driver’s license ready. I knew he would ask my name and age and I at least could answer that. I couldn’t say a word.

That was a sweet ride to the hospital. It wasn’t all fun. They had to pull over to insert an IV needle. But we flew. I have never gotten into Burlington so fast.  And, despite my condition, or maybe because of my condition, it all seemed so fascinating. The ambulance scene, the emergency room, the questions everyone asked, the posse of medical students waiting to see the 40-something guy who was having a stroke.

My voice did start to return. I could sort of make some words. After my wife arrived, however, and a CT scan, it left me again. So they gave me the big, bad clot-buster drug. Serious stuff. That meant I had to spend the night with constant care. That stuff can be dangerous. No ability to clot means bleeding in the brain can be fatal. That wasn’t exactly a comfort, but the nurses were gems.

I wanted to make light of the situation. I wanted to have good humor about it. But I couldn’t joke. All I could do was half-smile and turn things over in my head. There was a lot going on inside that head of mine. Come the next morning I was starting to speak again. It was surreal simply not having control over what I could do. For four decades I had been used to my brain making commands and my tongue or arms or legs responding. I didn’t think about it. It just happened.

I spent a couple of days under the tender care of hospital staff. I got hungry–no eating when your tongue doesn’t work well. When I got to have chocolate pudding I was pretty psyched. I mean, I love chocolate pudding anyway, but this chocolate pudding was amazing.  Then I got to go home, my amazing spouse taking over for those staff members.

Bottom line: I didn’t die. I could have. I could have been in really bad shape. But I healed up quickly, physically at least. It took me a lot longer to heal mentally. But hey, I’m not dead. So Happy Not-Dead Day to me. Over the past five years I have thought a bit about my mortality and about what matters in life. If you’ve had a brush with the other side you know what I’m talking about. If you have not, well, soon enough. Enjoy the days while you can. I plan on it.

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Snow on the Ground

This morning it was snowing. It was kind of a bummer of a morning to fail to rally to get up early for a run, but my head was squeaking from all the pressure in my sinuses. I stayed in bed. There was white stuff on the ground, so we were all happy to look out and see it in the morning light. My son was literally jumping up and down in front of the window shouting, “My dream came true! My dream came true! It snowed last night! It snowed!” He was happiest to see the new precipitation it seemed.

It was coming down hard for a while, especially when it came time to drive. That was a bit of a snow and slippery event. Here is a shot of the scene before we fired up the old automobile:

Finally, some snow on the ground

By the afternoon, it had cleared. In fact, it was a stunning day. Check out Camel’s Hump, all decked out in her December finest:

Perfect December Day

Tomorrow we are looking to get some more weather. Snow is predicted to fall overnight and make morning driving a little sketchy again. We shall see. I never want to get excited for the possibility of a storm. I have been disappointed too many times. At least here. When we lived in the mountains we had the opposite situation–we would get lots of snow when only a little was forecast. But one can’t have it all. We never had the view above when we lived up high. I do hope we get more snow tonight. I will try to keep my fingers crossed, even when I am awake in the wee hours blowing my nose. Ah, winter.

Stuffed

It started last night–a sniffle, a drip, a few sneezes. I knew it would be a tough night. It was not all that bad, however. The head cold had arrived.

It annoyed me all day. My head is more stuffed than a Thanksgiving turkey. And my nose is running longer than an ultramarathoner.

Tonight will truly be the one where I stay awake, littering the floor with tissues. Luckily I will not be visiting a school tomorrow, like I did today. I had to keep dashing off from my spot in the library to empty the old sinuses. I can snort away to my heart’s content tomorrow as I work (mostly) from home.

I did run this morning and that seemed to help. I hope to rise early and do that again tomorrow as well. It helps flush the green goo. At least, it did this morning, and I am more stuffed now than then.

Good stuff, eh? I am sure you will be staying tuned for more updates. To end on a better note, it snowed on and off all day. It hardly clung to the ground, but we have some white stuff coming down. Christmas may be white, after all. And by then, this head cold should be gone. Good riddance I say to that.

Long Rainy Run

I haven’t gone on a long run in the rain in a long time. Today I broke the streak. I ran eleven miles, hills and cold and all, in rain all the way. This was fine with me. Running in the rain is peaceful, mesmerizing even, and it means I won’t get too hot. Not only did I get in eleven miles but I also hit the 30 mile mark for a week. That also has not happened for a long time. I felt good, although I did run slowly, mentally and physically. But there was one problem.

Once when I ran the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, it rained. Not the whole time and not all that hard, but it was a wet day, rain on an off. At every aid station volunteers hand out water. At some of them they hand out snacks. On this day some volunteers were handing out Vaseline. They do this on sunny days as well, although I hadn’t really noticed it before. It helps with, well, chafing, if that happens to be a problem. I declined the oily goo. Who needs that stuff, I thought.

At the finish line that day I saw a man with a bloody shirt. He hadn’t cut himself. Nothing so easy. The rain had made his shirt wet and his nipples had rubbed against that wet shirt and there were streaks of blood originating from those two points. He had rubbed his nipples raw. That, I remember thinking, looks painful. The thing is, it has since happened to me. Not nearly to that degree, thank Jehovah, but enough that I had to be careful what I wore for a few days. It happened on a rainy day when I was out running for a long time. Kind of like today…

Look, I’m not proud to admit that I have this particular injury here. I can’t say it is embarrassing, exactly, but it does open one up to the possibility of ridicule. Being a tenderfoot is one thing, but a tendernipple? That can’t look good on a resume.

It isn’t all that bad. I’m just a wee bit sore, and I’ll need to be careful what I wear. No heavy duty work shirts on the old bare torso for me. It goes to show how long I have been out of the habit of running. I didn’t even think of the fact that I might run with a wet shirt for, I don’t know, a couple of hours. Sheesh. I’ve got to learn this stuff all over again? I thought I knew how to learn from my mistakes. Apparently not.

I don’t plan to run at all tomorrow. I need a day off and it will give me a chance to heal up, if you know what I’m saying. At least I’m not really injured. I feel pretty dang good, actually. I could run tomorrow if that felt like the right thing to do. As it is, I will stay away from my chosen fitness activity for at least one day. And even if I don’t sleep in later than usual, I may just hang out in pajamas well into the morning. I mean, it will be Sunday, right?

Time on the Roads

I can’t say that I have had an easy time each morning I have risen to get a run in. Take this morning, for example. I was tired and fuzzy and hungry when I finally got out of bed, and let me tell you that was not quick process. It was dark. Clouds covered the early light and the half moon high in the sky. It was windy. I shuffled out of bed and changed into running duds. The temperature was 52 and thought, did I read that right? It was warm. So I put on shorts and long sleeves and slapped on a headlamp and a reflector vest and out I went.

My friend Pat, who is a fast enough runner to win now and again, once said to me, when I asked him how he keeps up the training pace, “There are many days when I just do not want to go for a run, but every time I do, I have a great experience.” What he meant was this: it may be hard to get started, but once you do get started, you won’t regret it.  That is pretty much spot on. Today was one of those days. Since it was dark, and the windows on the house are closed these days, I was imagining how cold it was going to be. It is November, and most dark mornings are cold. I recently ran when the temperature was in the 20’s.  This morning, however, was what you might call pleasant.

I had to use my headlamp for a bit. Cars and potholes make me cautious. But much of the way I ran in the almost-dark. It is a bit surreal at times to run when the wind blows and you can’t quite see what lies at the roadside–is that the shadow of a stump or a skunk?–and it is only you and your feet and your breathing and the road ahead. I  love that. A warm morning helps. I stopped for a couple minutes on the bridge over the river, to listen and to look at the shadowed water. It was, to use a word many shiver to utter, lovely.

I will keep doing it, this rising early to run. Some days I will go farther than others. Some days I will hop up eager to pull in some miles. Some mornings I will rise because I know I will be happy I do so even though I just don’t want to in that moment. But I rarely wish I hadn’t gotten up early to run. Only a couple of times have I been too preoccupied with my mental detritus that I would have been better off staying in bed for a while longer. But then again, I probably wouldn’t have slept anyway. In the end, I might as well just get up and go.

I am still wrangling with a bad cough and a bit a stuffed head. I look forward to that passing so I have a little more energy when I get out there in the wee hours, even if I haven’t had breakfast yet. Breakfast, by the way, tastes pretty good once you’ve already been outside for an hour or so. And who doesn’t like a good breakfast? I sit at the table, my mind clear and my muscles feeling good, and I look out at the view and look forward to the day. It may be hard to get up some days, but the time is well spent.

November View

November Morning at Breakfast

Back at it Then Nothin’ Today

Yesterday I busted out the Camelbak (I had to wash it first, since I hadn’t used it since early summer), figured out what to wear, stashed a Clif bar in my pocket, and ran eleven miles.  Now to some, that may seem like a lot.  To others it may seem like a walk in the park.  It felt just right for me yesterday.  It was not a hot day.  It was 36 degrees when I hit the road.  That made dressing right a challenge.  It wasn’t cold enough to warrant an insulated hat but it was windy.  Would I need a vest under my wind layer?  What about gloves?  I bagged the vest, went with the gloves, and had a great run.

There was a half marathon in Shelburne today. I had considered running that, but ended up bagging it.  The eleven yesterday was the substitute. Well, it wasn’t really a substitute. It was just a longish run on a fine day.  My wife ran the half marathon. I stayed home to bake bread and let my children sleep in. Today was the truly fine day. Can you say September day? My plan was to run a short one today, maybe three or four miles, just to get out there. But with the bread baking and putting the last of the garden beds to sleep and raking and clearing some crap out of the basement and storing the summer furniture and making and apple pie and the rest of it, I just plain forgot. I have been so used to running in the morning that afternoon came and I forgot all about it.

So I got in nothing today. The long run felt good, however. My plan is to do that again next weekend. Sorter runs during the week, then eleven again on Saturday. Maybe I will plan to take Sunday off this time. That means rising early Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. I will take Thursday off since I have to head out to work way early. Then Sunday off. That sounds about right.  I am aiming for 30 miles per week for a while. I may just register for the marathon in Burlington this month, before it fills up. Six months ought to be enough time to train for it, for Mercury’s sake, so I should be fine with that.

Now that I am less nimble–I trained for my first marathon in 60 days–I need to take it easier. But I do not mean to plod along like an old man for the next several months.  Build up slowly so I don’t get injured (again), run the marathon in May, then the Vermont 50 in September.  Sounds like a plan to me.

Close to the End

 

Sauteed onions and peppers

Pizza Topping--Colorful and Tasty

Last night’s dinner was pizza. We topped one of them with peppers and onions. I used the last onion we grew in our garden. I used peppers and another onion from our farm share. We have one more pepper we grew tucked in the refrigerator, one more pepper from the farm, and a couple small onions from the farm. There was a bonus pick up yesterday but I have been sick, so I didn’t get organized enough to put in an order. That is a bummer since having more peppers, onions and some squash at least would be helpful in making this transition to winter. I really want to make sure we preserve more food next year. We have some, but cracking open something I grew over the summer, in the middle of winter, just can’t be beat.  We have a few items left, including sweet pumpkins, but we are close to out for the season. Winter’s farmers markets are near. I need to make sure we get there.