Wednesday, August 5, 2009

taking a break

I need to take my blog down for a bit starting tomorrow, Friday, August 6. Talk to you soon!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

We Need to Share the Road With Morons Like This?

Read the second letter to the editor in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/52023367.html
Seriously? I'm supposed to share the road with this guy? He wants me to ride on a trainer or a bike path? I'm a road hog?
Please. As a non-"professional" cyclist, I share my road with cars every day. I take up a few feet on the side of the road. True, there are group rides.
Maybe I allow the cars to alter traffic around me.
Maybe the cars should move over and stay off the roads.
Maybe the future tragedies can be prevented when morons like this remember we all get to use the same roads.
As a guy who now has intimate knowledge of what happens when cars don't see cyclists, it'd be nice to think even people like letter writer Terry Smith of Waukesha might learn to share the road.
Or maybe he's jealous of how good I look in spandex...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Next Stage; Good Weekend

No, not of the Tour. That's over, thank god. Now we can focus on the real racing that comes in September! Yes, cyclocross. What else matters? Road and mountain bikes are just good training.

Superweek is over, so my house is now empty. Jonathan left yesterday, Daniel this morning. Jonathan had a forgettable Superweek. He doesn't much like crits, preferring stage races with long climbs and tough TTs. Plus he got sick with a persistent cold while here.
On the last day, racing in Whitefish Bay, he crashed hard, ending up in the Froedert Hospital ER. He had ripped a large gash from his left forearm, cutting down to the bone. We got home around 1 a.m., then he packed, slept a few hours, and took a taxi to the airport at 5:30 a.m. Rough way to race a bike for a living.

My weekend was considerably better. A few days in Eau Claire, visiting the family, including grandma Irene, the 94 year old from Nebraska. Nephew Lucas is still recovering from his broken leg. We saw Harry Potter and agreed it was a good transition movie, and the next ones would be good.
Kate and I went down to Viroqua over the weekend. I got there early to try out the new Specialized Stumpie 29er hardtail. Whoa. Sweet ride on some sweet trails in Sidie Hollow Park. My former student Savanah and her family helped create the trails. Savanah's uncle and aunt own Blue Dog cycles in Viroqua. Very cool shop, very cool people.
Saturday morning was the Butter Churn ride, put on by folks associated with Organic Valley. More beautiful countryside, long climbs up the ridges, great descents. Savanah rode with us, but she tired by the end, riding a mountain bike with knobby tires! How can you beat a 20 mile tour in beautiful country when there are two rest stops, plus organic chocolate milk at the finish?
You beat it with the Kickapoo Country Fair! Brett Dennen performed under a rainbow with the earthy crunchies from around the state and country dancing. Loads of fun.

Needless to say, I'm beat today. The bike shop was slow both Sunday and Monday. Time for a ride now. The new stage begins Aug. 1, whether I'm ready or not. Coach Crusty will start sending me programs that I'll adapt as I need to in order to keep PT Kim happy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Buffalo Shout Out

Back in the 80s and early 90s, I lived near Buffalo, NY. I had already love to ride, but had no idea about training or anything else.

I joined the Buffalo Bike Club and made some good progress as a rider, particularly with the help of John Roden, Larry Reade, and others.

This weekend I hosted a couple of riders from the Buffalo area who were in town for Superweek, Ryan Nye, a newly minted cat. 1 racer, and Janell Clare Bedard.

It was very cool to remember names from the past, especially Boyd Johnson, now making his living at least partially from bike racing. Boyd was a young pup of a high school student when he started riding with us. The boy could ride back then too.

Ryan and Janell are on their way to Pittsburgh right now.

Good to reminisce about the BBC, Handlebars Bike Shop, and Roden, who really gave me a start in learning how to train. He took his time to ride with me often, teach me how to train.

And now Roden apparently just focuses on 'cross! My respect for him just grows!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm Listening to Kim the PT

It's beautiful outside, and I'm sitting inside after a long nap. All the travel lately, with actual work at the bike shop and actual classwork to do has left me exhausted.

Kim the PT says listen to my body during the recovery. The body says sleep.

Seriously, how long will this go on? I want to be able to ride all day today, not just a short 60-minute cruise. And I didn't ride or lift the last two days because of the fatigue.

Once again, I'm grateful for good insurance and a teaching job this summer to give me time and space to recover.

Now I get to encourage nephew Lucas who broke his tibia and fibia last week, and is now wearing a full-leg cast. I planned to go up again this week to visit him, but I don't think that's going to happen. Maybe a weekend of rest and riding will do me good. That's what Kim the PT says.

Much of the My Wife Inc cyclocross team just signed up for the Cincinnati race weekend in October! After all, if I can't train and rest, Mike and Crusty might ride faster than me after all.

Not.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tip off?

Not to be cynical, but might Hincapie have tipped off his old friend Armstrong that Columbia was about to put the hammer down?

I'd hate to have Bruyneel's job at the Tour. If I were him, I'd hope this weekend's mountains make the Astana's GC ambitions a bit more clear.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Riding the Bike - Outside!

For the first time in six weeks, I rode the cross bike last night, out to the Milwaukee Athletic Center on Ryan Road and back.

I took off the current stem and used a shorter, straight up stem to alleviate some of the pressure on the shoulder. I still had to take my left hand off the bars to reduce the pressure, but damn, it felt good to be out on a beautiful evening.

This morning, I rode out to PT, where PT Kim thought I was crazy for riding outside, then to the gym. I'm learning not to lift and ride hard on the same day!

Tomorrow, I'll ride a couple of hours if I can, in between class and the shop.

It's good to be riding outside again!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One More New Poem to Review

This one took a long time to work out in my head. It came about from a series of stories on NPR about the Godspot, a place in our temporal lobes where, if stimulated, can cause visions of god, angels, light and dark.

The God Spot
thanks to Barbara Bradley Hagerty

Touch me there. Reach your finger inside
my skull to feather
that spot on my temporal lobe.

In some kind of burning bush
hallucination, you might fire up
light and dark, even fire up angels,
or maybe, in my case,
demons running out of control.

Ancient mystics may have had the sacred
disease that brought visions, epileptic
brain seizures that bring God into sharp view.
If I had the sacred disease,
I might see angels
and not fear demons.

You just brush that spot
and, in an exclamation mark of emotion,
color bursts the sounds
and smells
and visions of God
or the Something Beyond our meager existence.

Maybe, in the beginning, we all had this god-spot.
Maybe most of us never
knew what was possible. And maybe

we are hard-wired to sense the Something Beyond,
the Supernatural, the
Eternal Now the mystics knew.

So if you can’t touch that spot in my skull,
touch me with your peyote in a mecca
of God, Muhammad, and Buddha.

Mystical experiences of meditation
shape sand dunes in my skull in two weeks,
and in two months you might see cities on a hill.
Touch me

somehow. I don’t care if God causes
the visions, or if the touch
causes God:

I want the burning bush
alive in my backyard,

the adagio in perfect D major,
popping off the top of my skull.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Poems for Comment

Hello all, I'd love some feedback (positive and negative) on some new poems. My brain still feels a little rusty and tired, but these are some beginnings.

Lord Stanley
for Jeff Kresge

Get me a hammer to knock
out these two loose teeth.
Took us three hours to shovel
the snow from the pond. I want
to play. Dougie’s stick smashed

my mouth into pulp of bloody teeth.
I missed only one line
shift, drowning the pain
with two Blues and cotton balls
stuffed into the cavities.

The Cup’s stories are not always
suitable for the youngsters,
as the gleaming silver has been left
in a brothel, for example, lost,
plunged to the depths of a pool.

That damn Cup, misspellings
and all, will someday stand
in Buffalo so I can die
happy, and my mother

can put away the photo
of the illegal goal in 1999, the photo
that shocks her awake every morning
like no coffee shot every could.

It’s different here in Buffalo, where boys
still slap sticks on frozen ponds,
the frozen Canadian wind blowing
hard and cold, and those boys
just skate faster.


Potato Musk

Earthy tangs of brown green
and yellow inspire

rooftops of strawberries
to grow in barrels.

Get your hands dirty
to hold off the rain

of darkness out there
into compost and peat.

All six growing stations
connect to your enemies:

wind and evaporation,
so let’s see what happens

in the back yard of yours,
when senses delight

in sun, water, soil.


You’re Really Nice, But
for Bonnie

Under the tan brick fa├žade,
maybe I am bitter. The recessed
display window
has a front tooth gap filled
with colored crepe paper.

The large banana hook
in the corner is broken
and tarantulas might still
lurk in that part of the store.

The candy case stayed
even filled with trays of licorice
and jars of bright colors
too bitter to eat.

And the candy sometimes
came with a spoon, for the fairy
food that melted in my
empty mouth.


Concrete Tablets

The dark-haired
girl sits on
the pavement

sipping iced
coffee while
her mother

makes new lists.
She holds white
chalk to write

her name Kate,
draws light blue
little girls

pink flowers
blooming gray
concrete stone.


Bay Sounds

Oh, that was cool.
No, but I’m going tonight.
Soft sneakers scratch sidewalks
and flip flops pop stick. The car

engine purrs. Go! shouts one
stomping along the sidewalk
after sticky brakes slow
at the corner.

Soft laughter from the next
table, from behind, from above.
Mom! His pencil scratches.
That’s there, mom. I don’t care.

Do you want anything to drink?
But it’s all tangy and nasty
and there’s the loud thud of full
plastic cup in the garbage.

Okay, bye, I’ll call you. Hello,
Dan! Who’s that? Oh man. Hi Ellen!

You look wonderful. They are in the same place
there. Slap, slide of flip flop sandpaper.
For the two weeks I’ll be at camp,

Absolutely not, no. But I’ll tell him.
I’m sure she’ll get a chuckle out of it.

Bass beat in the back of the truck.
That’s Sam, right there. I’m
off Friday.

Numbers Don't Lie

Crusty and He-Man,

Power numbers on the bike - now that I have a new, non-crushed power tap - suggest very interesting progress.

I won't share them because I don't want to make you nervous, but for a gimpy, one-armed old man, they are definitely promising.

I have just a couple of more weeks until I get out on the road. That leaves me July, August, and September to train. That should be enough to make you think twice...

How many more days until the cross season starts?

And should I buy you two rear-view mirrors for your bike so you can see me coming before I pass you?

And yes, I'll knock either of you over with my surgically repaired shoulder if you try to get in my way...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Temperatures

It is June, isn't it?

Funny how in September through December, I crave the cold and miserable weather. I can find something inside to forget about the lack of body fat and my chattering teeth and ride the cross bike.

But in June, it's prety damn hard to put on a heavy coat. Forty degrees in September can feel ridiculously cold, while 40 degrees in February feels like a heat wave.

Once again, it's all about perspective.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

We'll Try This Again

I already wrote one entry today about my visit to Dr. Grindel. It was a frustrated angry screed about the driver of the truck.

But I got a text from a friend who I'm visiting this weekend about perspective. So I took down the post and writing this instead. I kept the screed as a reminder of a bottom point. But now I'm okay.

Here's the news: Grindel said I need to wear the sling with a cushion for another four weeks.

In another eight weeks, so three months from today in September, I can start full on strength training.

In the coming four weeks, I should take the sling off often during the day to stretch and move the shoulder. I should do several passive movments to stretch including putting my arm on a kitchen counter and moving my body away from it to relax it.

In the following two months, I can do more therapy and begin to put my hand on my bike handlebars inside on the trainer.

The planned July 5 "comeback" race in Eau Claire at the Firecracker mountain bike race is off for me. Grindel said, "no, no way."

"That's a serious no way?"

"No way."

Alright then.

He did show me some of the radiology of the operation. I didn't understand any of it, but saw what a rotator cuff shouldn't look like (it was all frayed like a disintegrating rope); a dissolvable half hook thing that looks like a curtain holder, used to hold other tissue in the labrum (the cartilage around your shoulder) together.

He also showed me the tunnels he dug with a "crochet needle" into which he sutured the bone back into place.

So now I'm left with an uncertain summer. I'm working part-time for Crankdaddy's, which will be awesome. I'm writing poetry and a book proposal and article about teaching. I'll continue to train and do therapy as hard and often as I can. And finally I'll do some traveling about the state, particularly up to Eau Claire and my parents' cabin.

I knew there would be rough moments in the recovery. And this was certainly the worst so far.

My potential comebacks are now:
Aug. 2 Crystal Ridge mountain bike race
Aug. 9 state time trial
Aug. 16 River Falls mountain bike race
Aug. 30 Suamico mountain bike race

But now I'm off to see Kim the wonderful physical therapist.

Bike Spaz

Mike "Bike Genius, My Wife Inc Cross Team Manager" He-Man must just laugh at me sometimes. Maybe a lot of times.

His current source of amusement is my choice of cyclocross bike or bikes. I currently have a Redline that is a good bike, but since it's been used for winter riding, it's kind of beat up. I want to keep that as a winter ride and trainer bike.

I also have an Orbea cross bike that I bought last summer. I rode it for three training rides, then four races before breaking my collarbone! It's a good bike, but doesn't fit me very well, so I'm selling that off.

Now the choice is up in the air. Since Mike rides a Moots Psychol-x, I wanted one too! So we had that all ready to order.

Hold the phone. Now Mike is obsessing about Spooky bikes, very cool in the cross community. So I checked the Spooky website, loved the bikes, but saw that their largest is a 56 top tube. Since I usually have a 58 or 59 tt, we figured it was too small.

So I checked out the Blue cross bike since Crankdaddy's sells that brand too.

This morning, I talked with Mickey, bike designed and builder at Spooky. He said his 56s work with guys so now that's back on the table.

I'd love to have two identical cross bikes. That's totally a "want," not a "need." For cross, it's nice to have a pit bike so if your race bike has a mechanical or gets really muddy, you have a spare to ride.

My Redline would work well as a pit bike. And if I buy the Moots, that would likely be the pit bike, unless I could buy a Blue at a reasonable price. Two Spooky cross bikes sounds much cooler. Or maybe two Blue carbons?

Regardless, all the cross bikes are going to have SRAM Force as components with TRP magnesium brakes, and the funky oblong cranks that I can never remember. Basically, the set up is exactly what Mike rides!

So he shouldn't get too bent out of shape about my indecision since I'm trying to be as cool and pro as him. I hope that doesn't sound sarcastic because it's not. He's forgotten more about bikes than I will ever know so it makes sense to let him spend my money.

And while he may know more than I about bikes, I'll still beat him in cross. Maybe not this year, but definitely next year!

Bring it!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Shoulder Surgery, Teaching, and a New Ride

After with Dr. Grindel's nurse and my PT extraordinaire Kim, I understand a little more about the surgery. First Grindel's children, if he has them, did not sneak into surgery to draw on my shoulder in purple marker. He draws out the bone structure to aid in surgery.



He went in arthroscopically through the front of the shoulder. When he discovered rotator cuff damage, he opened the side up to repair the greater tuberosity fracture by suturing the bone piece back in.



Then to repair the labrum, the cartilage around the arm bone, he put an anchor into the bone and sutured the labrum (I think) into place.



That still makes no sense to me, but to Chris Hougen and others who read this, they may understand. Bottom line: it will still take a long time to heal, and I can't move it this week or next.



Secondly, I'm grateful this year my school district doesn't do merit pay. I'm grading the final assessments in reading and writing skills, stuff we've literally practiced all year long. The grades are ugly, man. I'm depressed. Clearly I have a large stake in that failure. And while I'm sure the kids did learn some things this year, they weren't able to demonstrate it in a fairly straightforward, non high-stakes assessment.



I, though, did learn a lot, and I plan to work hard this summer to put it all into place so the kids next year learn this material - essentially writing and reading skills - much better.



Finally, to ease my troubled mind tonight, Mike He-man called to let me know the mountain bike is in.


http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/SBCBkModel.jsp?spid=39219&eid=99

Saturday, May 30, 2009

$2.3 Billion Should Be Used for Alternatives

Here it is, the Journal's article about the zoo interchange reconstruction: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/46322737.html

I'm sometimes at a loss for words (not often enough according to my friends!), but this makes me speechless. A state legislator talked about how the interchange is not suitable for the "modern economy."

Maybe the modern economy needs alternatives to concrete. It's easy to sit back and deride the lack of progress on public transportation when people don't use it.

But if public transportation, including rail and bus, was cheap, easy, and available, you have to think people would use it more often.

And if gas prices continue to rise, as they will as demand increases and supply decreases, more people will look for those alternatives.

So why do we continue to invest in highways? Lawmakers, I assume, find it easy and safe. Build more roads. Why is it so hard to invest in light rail, more efficient buses?

I understand our cities, Milwaukee as an example, are laid out so that public transportation is a challenge. For instance, to get to my doctor's appointment at Froedert on Thursday, it would take a long time to get there using buses.

Why not change our mindset? Why not change how we start to look at transportation? What will we need in 50 years? Will gas be plentiful? Probably not, so let's look at the alternatives now.

Notice I haven't mentioned bikes yet. With fewer cars on the road (given more public transportation), Milwaukee is a pretty easy town to get around in by bicycle.

This is such a huge topic to consider. And I'm not doing it any sense of justice here.

But before this massive Zoo interchange project goes forth, I want to see a lot more discussion and movement on public transportation.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Not the Best

Surgery today not great. The bone went back in, but there was rotator cuff damage as well as some kind of tear behind the shoulder with soft tissue damage. Apparently when I crashed, there was some dislocation of the shoulder. Dr. Grindel essentially put a patch on it.

The surgery itself took twice as long as it was supposed to. I'll know more next Thursday when
I see him again. Needless to say, I'm not a terribly happy boy. But Chris Horner found a hairline crack in his tibia and still plans/hopes to ride the Tour. The guy broke his collarbone last August, again this spring, and now this.

Maybe we should form a support group...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the last surgery: Dr. Grindel cuts open the shoulder with an arthroscope to clean up any damage and pin or sew the bone back together.

I'm totally not worried about the surgery itself. I'm dreading the idea of the recovery. I've broken the collarbone/shoulder enough to know what's coming, and it's a pain in the a...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Good News, Bad News

I figured it would come to this.

But good news first: Dr. Schmeling, the leg doc, said I was healing quickly, months ahead of schedule. He told me to ditch the cane, and go ride my bike a lot to strengthen the leg. Not a problem, doc!

So yesterday, I rode my cross bike with road wheels down the trail all the way to the Milwaukee Athletic Center. It used to be my warmup, but Tuesday it was a blast just to be able to ride. I was pretty tired this morning!

Today, I saw Dr. Grindel, the shoulder doc. I expected to hear bad news since the shoulder was simply not healing. It hurt often, especially with stupid quick movement when I forget I'm hurt.

At this moment, while I wait for Grindel's nurse to confirm, I'm getting surgery next Thursday. Grindel will either screw the loose bone back into my shoulder or push it back in and sew it into the bone. (If it wasn't my shoulder, sewing bone into bone sounds kind of cool.)

While it will heal as my leg heals, I probably won't be able to meet my goal of racing July 4 in Eau Claire. Grindel says these things take up to 12 weeks to heal. That means 8 or 9 weeks for me! And that means more weeks of riding the trainer.

Needless to say, I'm getting out tomorrow for as long as I can stand it. Same with the rest of the week until surgery day.

It'll be nice to put this all behind me. Except for the scar, and the limp, and the sore shoulder...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Progress

Last night was a bit of a challenge. I wanted to go have dinner and drinks with friends. But by 8:30, I was sleeping.

I should expect that, I know. School and working out/therapy occupies all of my time during the week, and, as PT Kim says, my body is working overtime to heal.

Still, it's a bit frustrating.

Then I start thinking about perspective.

Only three weeks ago, the docs gave me permission to put weight on the leg, ride the bike, and begin more extensive therapy.

That Friday, I rode the recumbent bike at a gym for FOUR MINUTES, rested, then TWO minutes. I was wiped out and sore.

Yesterday, I managed to do my complete therapy workout AND ride 30 minutes on my bike (on a trainer in my living room) at a decent pace.

Three weeks ago, PT Kim told me to sit on the floor, back against the wall, and do leg lifts. I actually had to concentrate to lift my leg once, then again. Today I did that 30 times, along with sitting squats.

Three weeks ago, I laid on my living room floor with a theraband, trying to raise my leg. And I stood with my walker pulling the band front, back, and both side ways (is that a description?). Today, I pushed 60 pounds on the hip machine doing the same exercises.

Mom just sent me pictures from Easter when I was hobbling around on two crutches. Now I walk around, still hobbling, but I hardly use my cane at home. (Friend Lisa said I now have an awesome pimp roll walk with my cane. Time for the black cane with a silver death head!)

So there's measurable and consistent progress. That's good. I know when I've broken my collarbone or arm, it's taken six weeks to heal. And while it's now been seven weeks, this was a hell of lot more serious of a break.

I see the doctors soon. Schmeling (or his PA Jennifer) next Friday, then Grindel for the shoulder the following Tuesday.

In the meantime, friend Mike Heenan is keeping me focused on the big picture by sending my cyclocross schedules and challenges. It's going to be a bit of a challenge to recognize my limitations this fall, especially when I was hoping to seriously challenge at a state and national level. But 'cross is fun, and I can't wait for the road trips.

There better be some serious mud this season!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Beer Blog

On Sunday night, I took dinner outside in the fading sunlight and sipped a Bell's Oberon Ale, from Comstock, Michigan. Summer can begin.

We have three beers on review tonight. The first is Indica India Pale Ale from the Lost Coast
Brewery in Eureka, California. It's a good beer, but not great. It's full, strong, but not remarkable.

Second beer is Snake Dog IPA from Flying Dog Brewery in Denver. It's a tasty beverage with an odd after taste, or maybe odd after texture. I'm not sure. But I had a sense that something thick like caramel slid down my throat after the tasty hoppy beer. I'll have to try another one to make sure.

But the total, absolute star of this round of tasting is Double Trouble IPA, from Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While it's not fair to compare a double IPA with regulars, this beer was amazing. It was highly hoppy, sharp and bitter, just the way I like it. Refreshing and alive. This beer ranks right up there with Tyranena's Bitter Woman, judged best of class in a blind taste test done by sister Teena and I some years ago!
The only issue is the 9.4 percent alcohol content. Yikes. I'm a lightweight now anyway, and one beer was all I could handle!

Clearly, a road trip to Michigan's breweries seems necessary this summer.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Real Bike, But With Training Wheels

Got on the cross bike today for the first time since the crash. Neighbor Katie brought it downstairs for me. It was a bit of a challenge to actually get on the damn thing.

But boy, that 30 minutes felt awfully satisfying.

We're still on track for the GOAL: the July 5 Firecracker mountain bike race in Eau Claire. Nephew Lucas and friends the Hougens plan to do it with me. I'll just enter the citizens and ride the course.

Days like this, when I'm starting to walk without crutches, give some hope. Even though I'm ready to sleep by 7:30 every night, I get better every day. At least that's what I tell the kids, better, smarter, better looking.

No, they don't believe me...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Only in Middle School, I Hope

I don't know if this story will work in translation, but I thought it was hilarious!

I like pushing buttons of kids. One day I was talking about how women sometimes hear men's words through a super secret decoding filter that often sends messages that the men NEVER meant to send.

For example, women can hear men say something about apples, and wonder if the man is calling them fat!

So I said that in class. One student, a wonderful, lovely girl named Abby, started to argue with me.

"Abby, if I said chair, you'd think I was calling you fat!"

"No I wouldn't," she protested.

This was several months ago. Yesterday in class, Abby was pouting about something I said again.

"You're mean, Mr. Warloski!"

"No I'm not, Abby, I'd never say anything really mean!"

"Yes, you would. You called me ugly!"

"What??"

"Yeah, you said I was as ugly as a chair!"

"Are you kidding me? I never said that."

She waited a minute. Then she corrected herself.

"No wait, you said I was fat! Yeah, you said something about a chair, and that I was fat!"

Wow. Abby is neither fat nor ugly. She is a charming young lady. In a way, it's sad, but it was funny. The kids all laughed with me as I reassured Abby that I didn't mean that at all, and that in fact, she proved my point.

You have to love 7th graders!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Back in the (School) Saddle Again

Man, I miss those little balls of energy, can't sit still, need to be entertained, laughing kids. It's so so good to be back. Some are out of practice with the whole listening to the teacher kind of thing, but they'll get it back soon. Right now, though, I'm going to bed. I'm beat. I love those 7th graders!

Okay, one story: we sat around the cafeteria waiting for all the kids to get their pictures taken. I'm talking with a bunch of kids. I got my iphone out to check my emails, and one asks me if I have atomic fart yet as an application. No, I didn't, and since it was free, we downloaded it.

My young friend showed me how to set everything up.

"Now you can just wiggle your butt in class, Mr. Warloski, and it'll sound like you're farting."

So we did that, and we were giggling in class so hard. It was hilarious. Well, at least I thought so...

Friday, April 17, 2009

And the doctor said...

You may return to school on Monday.

You may ride the stationary bike.

You may put 50 percent of your weight on your leg.

WOO-WOO. Nothing but good news today from Jennifer Johnson, PA for Dr. Schmeling. I love this woman!!!

So Monday I can return to school full-time. I need to have my crutches and/or the wheelchair available. I'm planning on making the kids move around anyway!

She wants me to ride the bike for therapy! So tomorrow morning I drive up to the gym and sit on the recumbent for as long as I can take it. I'd truly never thought I'd be excited to ride a recumbent at the gym in sunny weather!

And for the next two weeks, Jennifer wants me to use 50 percent of my weight on my left leg and progress to full weight after that as long as there is no pain near the fracture site.

I cannot tell you how stoked I am. It's tangible proof that healing is happening.

Some friends of my parents' visited me in Eau Claire last week. We talked about the crash and recovery. I talked about physical therapy and how the process of therapy does not seem challenging at all.

I don't mean that to sound boastful, like I'm tougher than others. Athletes who train their bodies push themselves so far. Most of us have trained so hard that we puke.

I bring the same attitude to physical therapy. It's just another workout. And I'm going to push it, just like any other workout on the bike.

I hope the therapists at the new outpatient PT facility understand this mentality. I'm going to push myself harder than you'll ever push me. Just show me how, and let me go.

On July 5, Eau Claire is hosting a mountain bike race called the Firecracker. It's at Lowes Creek Park where I've ridden, skied, or run since I was a boy. That's my goal: to ride that race, at least as a citizen. I plan to start riding outside in a month and by July hope to have a little bit of fitness.

Big step today. I'm excited and ready for the next phase of healing. My friend Chris, a chiropractor, said the next step is "beat the crap out of my leg" to help break up the scar tissue and strengthen and mobilize the leg.

In the words of retiring John Madden: "Boom!"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Oh...

Prior to the crash, when I was lifting and training like a madman, I weighed about 175 lbs.

I just got on a scale here in Eau Claire. I was at 160 lbs. Even with a scale difference, that's still a big weight loss. Yikes.

It will take time to get that back up!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Beer Log

Yesterday, sister Teena and I went for coffee and discovered a treasure chest of beer instead. The Coffee Grounds in Eau Claire, WI has an amazing selection of state, national, and world beers, many in singles.

Last night we sampled the Grand Teton Brewing Company's Bitch Creek ESB. Yes, we bought it for the name! Grand Teton is in Victor, Idaho.

It was a copper color, but delicious. Full, bitter. Not as bitter as I'd like, but still a great taste.

Tonight's sample is from Black Sheep Brewery in Rochester, NY. I bought this one, too, because of its name: Monty Python's Holy Ail Ale. "Tempered over burning witches."

When I first opened it, it smelled like a Dutch lager such as Grolsch. That's pretty good beer, but not my favorite. It looks like a lager as well, very light colored. It has a bit of a bitter after-taste, but there's not much difference between this beer and typical American big-name beer. Not a beer I'd get again.

Apparently, those witches were a little on the skinny side.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Good Sleep

I haven't been sleeping at all the past few nights: awake at all hours, fall asleep for an hour or two. It wore on me.

I'm with my parents in Eau Claire for a few days. For whatever reason, the clean air up here, a bed that was really comfortable, mom's cooking, I finally had a good night's sleep.

Man, that makes all the difference. I feel awake today, had a great therapy workout, and feel like my brain is attached inside my head.

Now, with the temperatures reaching 55 on a beautiful sunny day, I only wish I could go ride out in the hills of southern Eau Claire county. The farm roads often remind me of Ireland or Belgium. I've done four or five hour rides out there, just because I didn't want to go home.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sundays with Paul

In 1997, writer Mitch Albom wrote "Tuesdays with Morrie" about reuniting with a favorite college professor as he was dying with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. Albom visits Morrie, who taught sociology for years at Brandeis University, every Tuesday, more as the disease progresses. Morrie teaches Albom lessons about life and pursuing deeper meanings of love and connection with other people.

Although I am not dying, just crabby about my broken leg, one of my favorite students ever visited me last Sunday. I taught Lauren in 7th grade, seven years ago. She's now a nursing student.

We went out to lunch for sushi as she drove me and my crutches, opening doors for me. I felt like a bit of an old man!

She showed me a scrapbook album of her high school years. And when we returned to my house, she played DVDs of her high school musicals. Lauren has an incredible alto singing voice.

She brought the movie "Yes Man" up so we watched that and ate some stew that Karen and John brought over.

I know that in "Tuesdays," it's Albom who learns all the life lessons, but in "Sundays" at least, I was grateful for Lauren's smiling, happy presence, bringing some laughter into my day.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

CT scans of my leg after surgery

This picture freaks me out a bit. You can see bone fragments. The report said the fragments are in the right place to heal. The lines you see are tubes, etc, used during the surgery.



I'm guessing the pins are by my knee, not my hip since there are no cuts near the hip.

This definitely looks like the knee. Maybe that's why it's so stiff!

Freedom!

I was so excited this morning about two big steps for me, I called my friend John. We laughed about how ridiculous the steps seemed, but how huge they were for me in recovery.


Big Step One:
If you read this on a regular basis, you know Mom has been here for three weeks, taking care of me. Since I'm restricted to crutches and the walker, I can't carry anything like a plate.

Mom found a tray for the walker that folds up into a platform, then folds down in front. We tried it while she was here, and it worked well.

This morning, since Mom is back in Eau Claire, I was entirely on my own. The picture above is my coffee and hot cereal! I was thrilled to be able to eat at the table with the paper. Woo-woo.

Big Step Two: I slept in my own bed! I used the crutches to get up the stairs and slept in my room. The bed is a little low, so getting up was a bit of a challenge. And the toilet upstairs does not have a riser thingie, so that is a little low too. But still, it's a return to some normalcy!

Funny how I have taken those things for granted for so many years!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Life and Death

Today was a day of feeling close to death, but then being reminded of the life and energy of 7th graders.

Mike He-Man drove me down to Racine today to pick up my bike so he could bring it back to the shop and provide an estimate for insurance.

Mike, Crankdaddy's chief mechanic and manager, told me earlier that in the case of vehicle/bicycle collisions, he always declares the frame a total loss because you never know what kind of internal stressors in the frame might cause the bike to fall apart at inopportune times!

After the crash, a guy told me the bike was okay. But last night I dreamed that when I picked up the frame, it fell apart in my hands.

I felt nauseous when I saw the bike today. Since Mom reads this, I won't go into details or show pictures. But the frame was in pieces. It was ugly.

I felt deeply grateful I am still alive and that I only have a broken femur from the crash. If you look at the frame, you would assume I had died.

He-Man drove me up to school so I could see the kids. I can't tell you how much I miss them. They all crowded around the wheelchair to see the scars. I only showed them a portion of the thigh laceration because parts of it are too gross for them to see.

As typical kids, they would say, "ooo, gross. Can I see it again?"

Many kids asked me if I cried. I told them I was in too much pain to cry, and I did a lot more screaming.

I wanted more time with them, in small groups, to hear about their lives and what had been going in the last three weeks. In three weeks, kids could start a couple of new relationships!

It's a cliche for sure, but today I realized how close I was to losing those kids. I'm grateful for the time with them.

And when I go back after Easter, and one of them is driving me crazy, I'll try to remember this day, and be thankful I'm around for him to bug me.

Finally, today Mom went back to Eau Claire. She spent the morning cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, worrying about me. She can tend to be a bit "motherly" and want to help someone with everything.

But she's been amazing here. She's let me work through learning how to use the walker and crutches, how to get around, she's even around when I'm doing my workouts and feeling all the pain. She's kept me company, and listened to me.

I will miss her a ton until I head to Eau Claire so she can take care of me there. I'm a lucky man to have had her take care of me these past three weeks. Thanks, mom.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

News I'm Thinking About

Item #1: I rarely understand Israeli politics, and don't often care, but this piece in the New York Times made me a little nervous.

New Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, already a right-wing conservative, apparently needed to reach further to the right in order to form his government.

For foreign minister, he selected nationalist Avigdor Lieberman. The guy, according to the Times, wanted a loyalty clause for all Israelis, seems to be racist against Arabs, and refuses the Annapolis agreement signed in 2007.

Here are a couple of quotes from the Times:

"Those who wish for peace should prepare for war."

"Those who think that through concessions they will gain respect and peace are wrong. It is the other way around; it will lead to more wars."

Obviously, the Israeli and Palestinian conflicts are incredibly complex, and I'll admit to understanding maybe 10 percent. It just seems odd to me that a foreign minister in charge of diplomacy with other nations would talk like this.

2) In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this morning, Eugene Kane wrote a piece about Milwaukee's school choice program. http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/42301667.html

In it he admits to not always supporting the program, while Howard Fuller, former school superintendent and nationally known supporter of choice program, believes school choice gives poor inner-city black students a better chance of academic success.

Last week, several studies reported no significant difference between test scores of choice schools and public schools. Fuller concedes, and Kane seems to agree, that choice schools need more "quality, accountability, and transparency."

Kane also talked about how choice schools become a political football, particularly for politicians who want to bash the teachers' union.

As a public school teacher, I haven't liked the idea of choice schools, particularly sending public money to private, often religious, schools. But Milwaukee Public Schools face incredible challenges, and if a man as well-respected as Howard Fuller says choice schools are good for poor black students, then I have to rely on his opinion since I don't teach at MPS.

But as a teacher who fully believes in drastically reforming public education, I think there is room for choice within MPS.

For example, could we create a school - or a school within in a school - where we work out the theories of James Beane, Paulo Freire, and so many other researchers who say kids need to have meaningful and relevant curriculum that they choose and that is based on authentic questions the kids pose?

And could there be other options: music and drama schools, schools where learners learn by doing, schools where kids explore science or history in depth?

I'd be a lot more comfortable with this kind of choice school, rather than publicly funded private schools.

You should see my classroom when all kids are fully engaged in meaningful activities. It doesn't happen every day, but I'll tell you: there are no discipline problems. Ever.

In schools and classrooms where kids feel like the curriculum is meaningless and/or irrelevant, the discipline problems increase.

Regardless, MPS needs serious changes. The educational system does not work for the current clientele of student. If Howard Fuller believes choice schools are the best alternative right now, and we can all agree on more quality, accountability, and transparency, then that's a good place to start.

But let's not rely on the new Israeli foreign minister's views to shape our education discussion about MPS. Those who wish for a better educational system should not bicker about political agendas, but should be concerned about how kids learn best. Then we should design our schools to meet those needs.

High Priest Myerson

If cyclocross is a cult - and we're going to assume that it is - Adam Myerson would be its High Priest, Chief Philosopher.

Myerson is a long-time cross racer, coach, and crit rider. In his blog writings, he can be a crusty, describing himself as an aging punk rocker. He muses on cycling, cross, beer, relationships, and the life and struggles of a traveling bike racer.

I met him four or five years ago when he did a cross clinic for his company Cycle Smart out in Madison. I just started cross at the time, and really didn't know much about the man.

Some months ago, Cyclocross Magazine published an interview with Myerson and a profile of him.

Here is something he said that made me genuflect in front of the cross bike:

"Road racing is a novel, and cross is poetry. Every word counts in poetry. Cross is like that."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mostly Good News from the Docs

In the first follow up visit, the orthopedic doctors at Froedert gave me almost all good news.

1. The stitches and staples are all out!

2. The dressing for the laceration to the side of my leg is gone now. The bad thing is that laceration looks worse than ever, but is actually healing well. I'll keep it covered when I go out in public!

3. Jennifer, Dr. Schmeling's PA, said it was very likely I'd be able to teach again after spring break! WOO-WOO!!!

4. Jennifer also said I was able to drive. That only means I need to switch vehicles with someone for a few weeks because my car is a stick shift. I love the stick shift, but as long as I keep racing - and falling over - I'm not sure it was a smart purchase!

5. No weight bearing on the leg for a few more weeks, but Jennifer said I can exercise it a lot. (I didn't tell her I was already doing that!)

6. Prescribed therapy for my leg: CYCLING!! (Yes, Mr. Principal, I need Wednesday off so I can ride 80 miles in the warm sun. Doctor's orders!)

7. Stupid cast came off my thumb. Every once in a while, I bump it against something and it stings, but it doesn't hurt much at all. No cast, no nothing!

8. My ankle, which was hurt when the television fell on it (don't ask!), is okay, just tender.

9. The only "negative" news from the morning is the shoulder. Apparently the muscles over the ball end of my arm bone are moving off the bone slightly. Dr. Grindel, who is also a cyclist!, wasn't thrilled to see the muscle, but didn't think surgery would be required. He ordered a CT scan for Thursday to see if there is any other damage.

I was doing a happy dance in my wheelchair this morning. Honestly, I was very nervous this morning, worried that everything was wrong. It is a huge relief to know that the healing is moving along nicely.

It's going to be a long process, and I may never have the same strength in my left leg. But man, when I get back in my classroom and on my bike, it's going to be glorious!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mornings

Usually, I hop out of bed in the morning, ready to take on the day.

Since the crash, though, particularly this week, I'm not a fan of mornings.

The pain meds I took at midnight are totally worn off by the time I wake up. And everything just aches. Soon, I want to wean myself off the meds, but right now, they're necessary.

So I wake up hurting, become crabby. The whole day has been one of those crabby days. I've worked really hard to stay positive, work hard at the rehab, and think positive thoughts about my recovery.

Today, though, I hated the guy who hit me, I hated the situation, felt sorry for myself. Blah, blah, blah. Now I'm done.

The only things that have brought me smiles today was finding the Beer Advocate website, where you can type out the kinds of beer you like, and it gives you a list of their favorite beers!

And the other thing that has been bringing me happiness is the thought of the new bikes on the way: A replacement road bike for the Waterford R33, and I'm using my tax return to buy a mountain bike, probably a Gunnar single speed.

Even though it snowed last night, it's sunny now and the snow is melting into the rain gutter. There is hope yet.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mom

At this moment, mom is washing up the lunch dishes. She threw some leftovers together, added BACON, and served it up. Dee-lish!

My mom is 73, but acts like she's much younger. She came down the day after the crash to help out in the hospital. She went back to Eau Claire to recuperate and get ready to help me post-hospital.

I literally would be lost right now without her. She cooks my meals, washes clothing, shops, even gets the paper in the morning, which I can't reach on the porch.

She survives by taking little trips for fun. The new Sendiks grocery store was a field trip! She's heading to Chicago Saturday to see a friend of hers.

I'm so grateful she's here. Despite all my very stubborn need for independence, I need her. I simply can't do things like carry my oatmeal to the table.

I'm going to have to learn to do all these things, I know. But by next week, when she leaves, I'll be that much stronger and that much more able to move around.

At night we've been watching goofy movies to laugh. We've watched Cars, Best in Show, the Incredibles. We're trying to laugh and keep the mood light.

To tell the truth, although I'm actively encouraging her to get back to her life in Eau Claire, I'm a bit nervous, no, a lot, nervous about her leaving. It's going to be very different here, and I'm going to have to learn to reach out to others for help.

Much of this recovery time has been humbling, like mom cleaning out my urinal bottle. Maybe that's what I'm learning?

Regardless, I'd be lost without my mother. Thanks, mom.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Normal Day at the Office

Some sense of routine has begun in home recovery. Mom made coffee this morning, while I actually made my oatmeal. Did the exercises, some school work, at lunch, tried to sleep a bit, more reading and school work, dinner later, then a movie while I do workout session #2.

Jay the PT came yesterday. I asked the health care company for an athlete. I got it. He works part time at a sports med clinic. He didn't think there was any reason I couldn't return to the kids after Easter. He likes to be active with treatment, pushing the patient.

I told him he came to the right place. I was thrilled with the no-nonsense approach. As he left, he said he looked forward to "kicking your, I mean I look forward to seeing you Thursday." Those are sweet words.

Whatever I do now just gets me back walking that much sooner. I can't wait to walk down to the village, get a raspberry scone from Great Harvest and a coffee from Broad Street and see my kids everywhere.

Jackie the neighbor brought Caden and Caleb over with some cool artwork and the magic helmet. (See separate post)

Thanks to friend Kristin for sending me the sacred brownies, to neighbors Sean and Heidi for the fruit, and to seriously cool neighbors Jackie and Katie for setting up the house and providing movies. Tonight, mom and I start with "Cars!"

What is Up with Froedert?

Interesting news: I also have a broken arm. The tubersosity (ball end) of my humerous (the bone that runs from my shoulder to my elbow) is also fractured.

According to my doctor friend who read the MRI, I shouldn't be putting any weight on it. In fact, he says, he's not sure why I was released from the hospital.

In addition, there is a tear in my rotator cuff muscles that is not serious.

With the humerous, I should have it in a sling, immobilized. But that obviously would prevent me from doing anything on my walker or crutches.

My friend says I can still get around on the walker, but it will hurt and take longer for the fracture to heal.

Not sure why Froedert treats patients like me as separate body parts. Next week I return for appointments with one orthopedic who will treat my leg, and another who will treat my shoulder and thumb.

At least they're getting treated, I guess.

Why wouldn't Froedert want to treat a person first, then work on individual issues? I realize it's a teaching hospital, but seriously.

On Friday, while I was still in the hospital, an orthopedic resident came in to look at my hand. I was still wearing the club they gave me in ER. This is a minor distal fracture of the tip of my thumb.

So he removed the club, fashioned a metal splint around it, taped it up and called it good.

That afternoon I was called down to the hand clinic. There they told me they were casting the thumb down to my elbow!

Uh, no?

I told them what happened earlier so they called a doctor. We compromised on the smaller cast, but I still thought it was ridiculous.

The next day, the doctor who put the splint on came in to check on me. He did a double take when he saw the cast.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Ah, so that answers that question. It wasn't you they called to confirm the orders."

"No, it wasn't." He promised to talk with whomever. But seriously?

My Magic Helmet





Enough broken bones! I now have what I need to stay safe on my bike: the Magic Helmet, created by Caden, Caleb, and Caden's mom, neighbor Jackie.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Home - Day 1

I actually slept without sweating! I didn't have to call the aides three times a night to change my sheets because they were soaked with sweat. I even dreamed about water pouring down my head!

I woke after 7 whole hours of uninterrupted sleep. Smelled the coffee mom made, I started making oatmeal with the usual eggs and honey. I couldn't quite finish before feeling faint and sitting down. But it's the first morning after all.

Made up a chart with my exercises, another with the medications, called the docs for appointments, and contacted the home health care provider. Mom found me some funny movies at the library so I'll watch those this afternoon.

After exercises, now, I'm writing this, and considering a nap. The therapy is going to wear me out, but it's just like my regular cycling program, just a little more painful!

Thanks for all of comments, visits, cards, and calls this past week. I feel loved and missed. Thank you.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hospital Camp is Ending

I'm going home. There's many many things I will not miss about this place, particularly the horrible communication between the doctors.

But as camp ends, I am going to miss Super Nurses Pam and PB, Super Aides and Techs Becky, Charleen, and Emma a ton, I mean a lot a lot. They helped me keep my spirits up, my body properly medicated, cleaned, monitored.

Thank you ladies. Reunion Tour 2010???

It Will Be The Small Things

Today, PT Kelly, also an athlete, told me I was cleared to use the walked to amble around my room. This means I can get out of bed, walker over to the bathroom, use it, and return to bed, ALL WITHOUT A NURSE OR AIDE WATCHING OVER ME!!

In The Morning

I woke up pretty grumpy and depressed. I'm probably going home Monday where all the "new" routines will develop. It's there where I'll realize I can't go to school to be with the kids, where I can't go ride every day.

So I woke up like that. But a nice talk with nurse Pam, an amazing bath from aide Emma, and clean real-person clothing, it's a definite improvement!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nurses of the Century


Truly, the only way I've survived this week with a sense of humor and purpose despite the discomfort, pain, and uncertainty is with the help of a pair of dedicated nurses, both named Pam. One is Pam H., the other goes by PB since she is also a Pam H!

I've been fortunate to have them as my primary nurses all week.

They do their job efficiently, compassionately, and laugh at my feeble attempts at jokes, all with patience and grace.

Yesterday one of the patients was a mentally challenged person who caused several issues on the floor. Pam and PB both dealt with her the same way they dealt with all of their patients: professionally, courteously, and efficiently. And they kept their sense of humor.

The aides, particularly Charleen and Becky, have been great too. Today Becky washed my hair - rinse, repeat - and PB figured out the phone well enough to shoot these pictures!

Saturday Night

I actually got to sit outside today! Bobbie and Jay wheeled me outside. We may have gotten greedy by sitting in sun because I grew dizzy after a few minutes, but man that warmth was pleasant.

So here's the question for today: Since I'm going to have some nasty scars on my left thigh, I'm thinking that I need to lose my tattoo virginity. Ideas?

No, Crusty, I won't do that, or that one either.

It'll be roughly a 4x7 rectangle. I'm thinking something bicycle related or something mysteriously symbolic. Kresge: Get to it!

First Detailed Pictures! Kind of Icky!













These are photos from this morning when the docs took off the leg dressing, including the drainage sponge. Good news is that the graft, the patch closer to my knee, is healing nicely. So I n0 longer need the sponge, and that means I can wear pants!
The hole in the middle is where the bone came through, and the patch closest to you is the source of the skin graft.

Physical Therapy and my hot hair and outfit!








So PT Extraordinaire Cheryl took me to the stairs to practice on the crutches. I can't put weight on the left leg so it ends up a lot of work.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Full Story As I Remember It

A few moments before the crash, I called my friend Mike and told him we needed to take personal days on Tuesday to ride in the 70-degree spring heat.

A few moments later, I considered stopping so I could call Coach Crusty to tell him that while he was making my legs very, very tired, I was feeling strong. I wanted to tell him that if the progress went like this for the season, I'd be a force by September.

And just a few moments later, I was lying on the ground in a fetal position, my left deformed. For some reason, tried to push the bone back into it's proper position. That didn't go too well, though, just more pain added to the more pain.

I had been riding northbound on Loomis Road in Wind Lake. I set out Saturday afternoon to ride until brain-dead enough to get lost, then find my way home. I managed to ride to Waterford, called Mike, then headed home on Loomis.

I had my thoughts about how ridiculously good I was starting to feel. Crusty was keeping me tired, but I could just feel strength in my legs that I had never felt before. And this was in March!

At the top of a small hill, a truck in the southbound lane stopped, or so it seemed, to wait to turn left. I remember a car behind it, maybe. Down the hill I flew. The truck pulled out a few inches, starting his turn.

But he stopped. The truck was now very much in my awareness pattern. Hands on my brakes, slowing, making decisions about what he might do.

Since he stopped, I assumed he had seen me. After all, I WAS THE ONLY PERSON/VEHICLE IN THE ROAD, and I WORE RED, ORANGE, AND YELLOW.

I continued on, and as I reached him, he accelerated. I tried to sprint away, but I think he panicked when he actually "saw" me, hitting the gas instead of the brake.

While on the ground, people started to gather. He hit me near the corner of Loomis and Fries Road, right at the gas station and just past the gymnastics place.

The poor man who reached me first had to crouch while I grabbed his arm or ankle in unbelievable pain. At that point, I wanted only to pass out or even die. I knew I was seriously hurt.

The driver, 21, walked around dazed, upset. Once the Wind Lake Fire Department arrived, their EMTs took over. Funny detail: at one point I told a woman I thought I was Edward Cullen, trying to protect my bike from the car.

It didn't work.

A kind woman Edie called some people for me. I tried calling Marzion at some point, but I don't remember.

In the haze of pain, the WLFD and Racine County deputies were very impressive, kind, compassionate. I can't ever thank you enough. I know it's your job, but there's a difference between going through the motions and excellence.

During the ambulance ride, one of the EMTs named Debbie had the unfortunate job of sitting next to me. She must have some serious bruising on her thighs from me grabbing them. I hope her husband understands! The WL crew in the ambulance was excellent trying to keep the mood light with a screaming/sobbing man in their midst.

At Froedert, there was none of the typical waiting for hours in an ER. They wheeled me directly into surgery. But some well-meaning, although too overanxious, doc started bending my knee straight WITHOUT KNOCKING ME OUT FIRST! No, I don't know what he was thinking either. Most of the Froedert neighborhood was calling police to report a screaming man! "YOU SERIOUSLY NEED TO STOP!" "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?". Not sure what else came out of my mouth, but my sister and a friend clearly heard me in the waiting area.

The next day I found myself in this hospital room, home for a week, a place with little rest, many interruptions, some funny nurses, one potentially nurse, doctors who don't talk to each other, residents who are way too tired, a temporary home that I am seriously ready to leave.

Update: Friday Morning

The main ortho doc came in this morning with quite a bit of information. He didn't think I'd be teaching until next fall. He didn't think I'd be able to sustain muscle ability to work in the classroom. So I may let the sub take the class. Then I could just come in "observe" when I feel good.

He also thought I'd definitely able to ride my bike again in the future, and, in fact, it will be great therapy. Racing cross this fall is a definite possibility. Of course, there's a "but." I will never be 100 percent of what I was. There is simply too much muscle and nerve damage. But as usual, I will simply do what I can. I will train with Crusty when I'm able to this summer.

Yesterday I had a series of conversations with a variety of people. It's interesting to note your blood pressure throughout the day. It increased with each conversation!.

So it appears I'll be heading to Greendale Sunday or Monday. My mom, Bobbie, and my landlords will "summit" on Satuday to rearrange the house for my arrival.

Apparently, I will get hooked with a home health care company that will come to my house daily for therapy. They will also assess my house for safety, etc.

I'll have to rely on friends for groceries, etc.

It's going to be a seriously long recovery. The dude who hit me has enough of his own pain. I don't think about him much. It is what it is.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not a pretty sight

The docs changed the dressing on my left leg this morning. Usually, it's pretty cool to see what modern medicine can do, although I don't watch the medical documentaries on TV.

This morning, when they unwrapped my leg, it was not a pretty sight.

Definitely not ready for a photo.

There's one hole with a bunch of stitches on the side of my calf.

Another hole at my knee, where the surgeons inserted the femur-length rod.

A roughly 4 by 7 hole on the side of the quadriceps. About the size, actually, of a headlight. More on this in a moment.

There is a fourth hole - golf ball size - also on the left of the quad where the bone exited. It's now stitched up with a lot of stitches

Another 4 by 7 hole in my upper thigh on the left that was a source for the skin graft for the original 4 by 7 hole.

Finally - what is this, six? - there is hole on top of my thigh, origins of which I can't imagine.

When the bandage came off, I was humbled. Grateful. Nauseated.

Humbled and grateful because I could see how close I was to losing my leg, even not making it if one of those arteries was cut. Nauseated because it was my leg, and it looked disgusting.

That 4x7 hole may have come from the truck's headlight. Not sure. The gouge took all the skin and fat layers, and left muscle hanging. So the doctors took a skin graft from my thigh.

Here's the strange thing that made the image more disturbing. There is a sponge on top of the graft, keeping it moist. In an extremely thoughtless decision, the sponge makers colored it black.

S0 instead of color or happiness on my leg, it looks like Level 18 leprosy or gangrened skin. That's helpful. I think a letter is in order.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Weekend Rides

The forecasters predict something like the 40s by the end of the week.

On Saturday, I rode nearly two hours outside, bundled up like the Michelin Man (still looking good, though!). With the ipod - and I can't imagine surviving without it now - it was an easy ride, still cold with 25 degree temperatures.

Today, I struggled for two hours indoors on the trainer. Not even Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) could entertain me enough to keep me really interested in the movie. I literally kept thinking about next fall and racing my bike in the grass and mud. That helped.

Spring can't come quickly enough.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Still, it was 48 degrees

Crusty is all happy about 60s for three days. We in Cheeseland have to settle for one day above 45. But still it was beautiful out. It didn't smell like spring like that last 50 degree day in February, but still.

It was a shame Crusty had me scheduled for a rest week this week. I was itchy to go fly up some hills and crush some pedals. But I'm patient. Just waiting. Seven more months until the real season starts. Another two months until the preparation racing.

But I just want to ride. I talked to a guy named Tim today who I met on the road. He's returning to riding from a nasty collision with a drunk old lady in a car. He suffered a broken collarbone (broken from the sternum), three broken ribs, broken teeth, and a finger that snapped in two and is now pinned together. Tim was just happy to be riding today.

Then I checked all the broken bones on me, reminded myself they were all healed and that I have some sweet scars for stories.

Crusty, you may see me at your door Friday night if it's still warm Saturday. Gonna be cold here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Crazy Nephews and Niece

These are the coolest nephews and niece ever: Jonah has the greenish coat, Simon has the yellow hat, Ellie is buried in the back, and Lucas has the red coat and pretends to be dead. Maybe he is dead because one of his siblings just farted...

We went for a walk in Lowes Creek Park this afternoon. Really it was more of how many times they tried to tackle me or each other, how many times we threw snowballs, and how much snow went down our necks. We had a great time walking through the woods and sliding on our butts down the hills.

When we left, I let Lucas drive out of the parking lot. Jonah refused to drive in the car and walked! My sister and brother in law are going to have some fun when these kids are all teenagers!

Parent Conferences

We met with parents last week to discuss their children and their progress.

Some of the conferences were enlightening to say the least. And I return again to notion that we as educators are totally missing the boat when it comes to adolescent education.

These adolescents are between 11 and 15 years old. Yet they are often put under an amazing set of pressures that sometimes we just add to.

Here are some samples of the conferences. In one, S., a wonderfully creative, sensitive girl of 13, sat between her mother and father. S. is in the special education program with a learning disability. S. is also a very emotional girl fully in the midst of puberty. She's not thinking about school much right now. She's thinking about boys, her body, boys, her friends and social status, her image, and boys. Her mom, on the other hand, is all about school. The mom, who works with high-powered kids, was pretty brutal to the girl. The mom demanded changes and voiced expectations that the girl could not meet, especially at this time in her life. Yes, S. needs to learn a balance between school and her social life, but that learning should be what we develop in our classrooms.

In another conference, a very bright boy, M., sat far away from his father. M. is pretty disengaged from school right now, but he kept looking at me in the conference for help. His father groused and complained and told us that his boy was no good, had never been any good. My heart was breaking throughout the conference, and I told M.'s father very clearly that M. was taking some good steps forward, that he was a good boy, and needed support. M., though, is not going to get that support from his father.

My colleague and friend John talked frankly with another parent about J., who is new to our school and desperately trying to "fit in" and try on different social groups. J. is trying, but his efforts don't always work out.

Yes, these are emotional issues that have nothing to do with learning science and social studies and algebra.

But what if we recreated our curriculums in ways that allowed S. and M. to investigate the issues that matter to them? What if they were allowed, for instance, to investigate questions that really meant something to them?

And what if they pursued questions that concerned them in an environment at school that allowed for mistakes, that graded on effort, that provided a supportive environment where kids actually learn?

I don't know how many conferences we sat through that involved kids who didn't do well on tests. Kids who can tell me complex stories and fix my cell phone don't know how to learn. And they don't want to learn material that has nothing to do with their lives, has zero relevance to their lives.

Once again, I come back to the notion that it's all about the kids. That's the bottom line. If we know what they need for their learning and their futures, why in god's name aren't we teaching that way?

The answers, obviously, are numerous, entrenched, and complex.

And I certainly never pretend to have all the answers. I'm constantly reading material looking for ideas how to pull this kind of classroom off.

But I know that on Monday, I'm sitting down with S. and M. in a conference of our own. And I'm going to ask them what they need from me, what we can work on together, what they want to learn, how I can satisfy the needs for grades.

I'm going to listen to and learn from them. And in the process, they will make me a better teacher.

Maybe their parents might start listening to them too.

At the very least, I'm going to do what I can to create a situation for S. and M. and the other kids where their parents have nothing from school to hammer them with.

At the very least, I'm going to call home and force the parents to hear me tell them what kind of positive impact their children are having on our classroom.

And at the very least, I'm going to call home, as often as I need to, to remind the parents just how cool and wonderful their kids are.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This is why teachers quit early

Perhaps I'm complaining too much, but I'm getting irritated.

I'm passionate about what I do. Helping kids learn is what I love to do.

But there's a serious disconnect in our education. Today I sat in a meeting where we were told two things: the high school teachers are unhappy with the kind of preparation middle school teachers give their kids, and the district wants us to improve our test scores.

To do this, we need to use a scripted reading program, and we can expect some kind of scripted writing program.

I looked over the 8th grade placement test for English. It is a hard test. Far too challenging for the majority of non-future-English majors in middle school. Adolescents are simply not ready for that kind of thinking.

Meanwhile, more and more research experts tell us middle school children should be THINKING, CREATING, WONDERING, QUESTIONING to create authentic learning.

The experiment in my class - giving students free reign in creating what they want to create - has gone really well in some cases. Kids who haven't been previously engaged are totally fired up about their projects. Others are coming up with interesting and creative ideas for their writing.

But others remain disengaged, as if they don't want to think. The other teachers in my team see the same thing: many kids want to be spoon-fed and not think. It almost seems like they want to be safe and fill out worksheets.

Many districts want to improve their test scores since the public often judges us on those scores. So does our district want to improve test scores by expecting less thinking? Filling out worksheets does not require any thinking.

We have so much to do to help kids learn literacy skills that they will need to be well-rounded citizens in the future. They need to read authentic texts, write authentic responses, the kind of activities that we as adults do on a daily basis.

Today, I was crabby, tired of all the fighting we have to do in order to really teach kids.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the district requirements. Maybe we'll have a day where we buzz through them, and then move on to the really important, meaningful texts that develop kids' minds.

There are some glimmers of hope: my superintendent asked me to provide the book What Every Middle School Teacher Needs to Know to him, my principal and the assistant principal.

We can only hope. The kids need to learn how to think. And that doesn't happen with worksheets.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Get out of the way

Maybe I'm just cranky today.

It sure seems that when you get a bunch of adults who are in the education world in a room, they tend to lose sight of what our job is: We teach kids.

It's the kids who matter. What do we need to do to help them? To help them learn, think, read, write, do math.

Adults, who are sometimes well-meaning, tend to screw that up and forget about our business. We are not a business. Well, maybe we are, but our clients are short, young, impetuous, curious, wound up.

Adults talk too much about teaching and don't just sit down next to a kid on the ground and find out what they're thinking, what they need. They impose lots of rules on kids instead of asking them what they are curious about, what questions they have about life.

I went to a reading conference today, and many people were talking about inquiry, questions, getting kids out of their desks asking questions, looking for answers.

Maybe I'm still a 14-year-old in mind and heart. If you're not going to help me support my kids, help me teach them, work with me to make them as strong a person as they can be mentally and emotionally, then please leave me alone. Thank you.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Our Super Bowl

The cyclocross world's Super Bowl took place this morning when Niels Albert, a 22-year-old Belgian, took off in the first lap of the elite men's championship and rode away from the field.

It was a stunning display of power and strength from Albert, who just two months ago, was lying in the hospital with a ruptured spleen.

Mike Heenan graciously offered the big screen at Crankdaddy's for the My Wife Inc family to watch the race. He cooked extra tasty ginger waffles with blueberries. The waffles helped me ski harder and longer than usual out at Lapham today! Thanks Mike.

All I could think about was how many times Albert jumped out of the saddle and how much of a time trial his ride was. Training for cross requires a lot of strength, tactical practice, and a million jumps. Bring it on!

I don't care much - actually at all - who wins the super bowl. I can watch the ads tomorrow.

I'd much rather have temps in the 50s and some good friends to go ride all afternoon. What's the groundhog going to say?

New Favorite Teaching Book

Esteemed colleague and good friend John Marzion introduced me to a book he read for his master's class: Star Teachers of Children in Poverty by Martin Haberman.

Last summer, I plowed through a book What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know by Trudi Knowles and Dave F. Brown. In it, the authors distill many years of research into how adolescents learn, much of it gleaned from brain research. The book instantly became a favorite because it crystallized so much of my thinking about how we should be teaching kids. How most traditional middle schools organize teaching is not the way to prepare kids.

In Star Teachers, and I've only read one chapter, Haberman, a UW-Milwaukee professor, talks about how star teachers operate. For instance, in chapter 1, star teachers:
- don't hammer kids with mistakes. They find out how to reach the kid with work that is meaningful and important to the child.
- realize that a safe and productive learning environment is the most important factor in reducing classroom discipline issues.
- homework should be meaningful, exploratory, available for all students, and should be shared, not checked off in a gradebook.
- look for effort and grade that, not ability.
- use some kind of project-based learning.
- realize that their biggest task is to turn kids on to learning, to become independent learners.

I can't wait to read the rest of this.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Coach Crusty

Coach Crusty must be seriously worried about Old Man Chili crushing his skinny self next fall in the cross races. His training program for the Old Man is brutal. Today was and hour and a half in the gym with special attention to cleans, and then another hour on the bike, with a 45 minute tempo interval.

Seriously, the Old Man is not complaining. He loves it. Coach Crusty is pushing him way beyond limits he traditionally has in January. After today, Old Man's legs are noodles, and his next step is his bed and a long sleep.

And he's not riding his bike for the next three days! Just rest and ski and lift. The Old Man's waiting for spring.

But when Old Man Chili catches Coach Crusty in a young dude's race this fall, he's going to push Coach off the course into a mud pit and then laugh for a long, long time...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two Experiments

So we're trying an experiment this quarter. Actually two. I'm nervous as hell.

The first is my colleague and good friend John Marzion's action research for his master's program. He is going to work with kids to teach them how to learn, how to study, how to navigate information in textbooks, how to prepare for tests, how to stay organized, even how to eat and sleep in order to be more successful at school.

I'll post those results as they come in, but I'm thrilled he's looking into what we already suspect is the way to go for adolescents. What would happen if we taught them what they actually need to know?

The second experiment is in my classroom. I'm allowing kids to explore what interests them in whatever genre they want to use. In other words, kids could film their attempts at learning new snowboarding tricks while providing a blow-by-blow account of their efforts. Another kid could create a blog and write about their views of local, national, and world issues. Others could create online scrapbooks, documentaries, presentations, as well as traditional memoirs, poetry, and fiction.

Adolescents tend to plan huge and perform small. Their dreams are huge, but when it comes down to it, they sometimes are challenged in pulling it all together.

Plus, when we do this at school, our very, very slow internet connections will cause serious problems if we can even get access to computers in the first place.

Finally, in the first couple of days of this experiment, some kids are lost. I am unable to find the time to meet with every kid to help them plan out their ideas. We'll have to spend time at lunch and after school to work out the bugs. Other kids, not used to being given control - although we've been working as a workshop all year - are squandering their time and disrupting others.

So the potential is there for some serious chaos. I revel in slightly controlled chaos in which kids are creating and displaying their boundless energy and knowledge. Technology issues, especially ones that should be easy to fix, drive me crazy.

I'll stay calm and collected. Yeah, right!

I'll post updates, photos, links, and maybe even video of the kids' creations.

Why Do We Teach This Way - Part 2

In a short inservice at school today, we watched a very-well video put together by college students at Kansas State University. Essentially, the video argued that college students are multi-tasking high-level users of technology. Most of their learning is done on-line and little in actual classrooms that involve lectures and chalkboards. Yet lectures and chalkboards remain the primary way college students learn.

My kids in 7th grade are just six years away from higher education.

And that frightens me because in the middle school, educators are doing virtually nothing to change the ways students learn.

Students in elementary and middle school need to learn skills. Sure, there needs to be content, but they need to learn how to learn, how to tell truth from fiction, how to form opinions, how to learn how to do something new, how to find information, how to use the information they just found.

Yet they also need to learn how to work with others, how to negotiate, how to resolve conflicts, how to interact with others.

They need to learn how to become, at the risk of sounding all new-agey, who they can become.

Yet we teach them grammar, we read from textbooks, we learn integers. We split up our middle school day into eight periods, regulated by a bell.

We know how adolescents learn - at least we know a lot more than we did last year or 10 years ago.

Once again, why aren't we meeting their needs? Why aren't we restructuring how kids learn - not how we teach, but how kids learn?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My new cross racing team


Even though I don't have a wife, this is my new team! A bunch of guys who race cyclocross. Here are our jerseys for this year. Seriously. He-man designed them. All I can say is that we better be damn fast wearing these...

A Fence

Here is the last poem #5 published here for your comments and feedback. Thanks!

A Fence
by Paul Warloski

I drove past the cemetery too late
to visit Grandpa. The gate is locked now.

Grandma, now 93, takes me to mass
for Thanksgiving, and ancient cantors

lead droning decades of hail marys.
Later, great aunt Virginia, who shared

the guarded family secrets, lays
dying in a hospital bed. Then Friday mass

performed for more dying ancients
in wheelchairs, heads nodding off

in naps interrupted by whispered
and warbled singing, and a final

visit to a nursing home and another
great aunt, whose body has failed her.

On my way home
I visit Grandpa again.
But the gates are still

locked, and I stand
outside the fence,
listening for his silence.

copyright 2009 by Paul Warloski