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!"


"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


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!


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.

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."