Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Actually Productive This Morning

I usually sit in my office and read/respond to student work for several hours before going to class. Some days I'm really productive, making a huge dent in the stack of papers. Other days I find it terribly difficult to settle in and get things accomplished. Thankfully, this morning, I was very productive. I am totally caught up in three classes. All papers have been read, responded to, and the grades recorded. That leaves three classes to go. I'm thinking maybe this evening, after I do a little more fall cleaning of the garden, I'll pour a shot of whiskey, make myself comfortable at my desk, and try to get the other three classes caught up. I'm jazzed now that I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Hopefully the whiskey won't turn off that light.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Back to Walking/Running

With the shorter daylight hours, I'm finding I have to return to walking/running on the treadmill to get a workout in. Since I haven't run in quite some time, I figure it's best to ease back into it, so I've been walking the last two days, making sure I up the incline to really make the time on the treadmill worth it. I even surprised myself by walking for a full hour yesterday, getting in four miles at a 2% incline for part of it, and a 3%-4% incline for part of it. I'm not usually focused enough on the treadmill to have an hour of staying power, but I managed to do so by watching the first episode of the new season of "Amazing Race." Today, thankfully, I was able to get an hour of riding in.

Now that I am back to walking/running, I'm even kicking around the idea of running some 5k's. Maybe that's all I'll do--kick around the idea--since I'm such a head case when it comes to running, but who knows. Maybe I'll give it a go and try to beat my PR from the sprint tri relay. I just might have that 28 minute 5k in me. If I talk my daughter into running with me, I know her pushing me will get me that 28 I'm looking for. She's a tad bit faster than I am, so having to keep up with her would be a good thing for me to do. Well, maybe not good, but it'd sure get me closer to the time I'd like to see as I pass the finish line.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just One Ride

This week's been kinda crazy, and I was only able to ride this afternoon. Well, I guess riding to work and home counts, but since that's a short ride, I don't really consider it a ride. The commute has become such a part of what I do everyday that I just think of it as part of my work day and not part of my ride time. I guess it's become a given that I ride to work these days. That's a good feeling.

This evening I actually had a couple of hours to get in a ride. We did the ride to the lake and back, around 23 miles, and it felt so good. The wind going up blew around 15 mph, out of the northwest. My bike veered to the right a couple of times when the wind gusted. Other than that, the ride up went well. Cool and sunny--couldn't ask for better. The ride back was faster with the wind mostly at our backs. I was cruising along when I heard Hubby yell that his shoelace was caught in the chain. We stopped for him to get that taken care of. A little further on, he called to me that his chain had come off. We stopped so he could put it back on. When we about three miles out, we heard a loud pop come from his bike, and his back wheel began to wobble back and forth. A spoke had broken. This same thing happened last Sunday during our 50 miler after he rode over some horrible railroad tracks, and unbeknownst to us we kept riding, not realizing he was warping his wheel. When we got home, Hubby was putting his bike away when he saw he had a problem. He took it to the shop the next day, got it back in working order yesterday, and had the same problem happen today. This is a brand new bike, what I thought was a fairly nice one, but now I'm beginning to wonder.

I ended up hightailing it home the last three miles to get the truck and go back for Hubby. I had to ride by the local high school that was having homecoming, so I had lots of traffic to keep watch of. Pedestrians, too. I had to call out to a young girl crossing the street as she wasn't paying a bit of attention. If I hadn't yelled, we would have collided. That got my heart pounding.

Quite the eventful ride this evening. Hopefully the next one won't be so much.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gotta Love Rejection

Cuz if I let it get to me, I'd be a basketcase. As of today, three short stories rejected out of the four I've sent out. I know three is nowhere near the number of rejection slips some famous writers received before finally getting that one break, so I'm just going to buck up and keep on trying. I've been saying for a long time now that writing is what I really want to do, and I know the chances of making it are extremely slim, but writing truly is all I've ever dreamed about. It's way past time to take it from dreamland into reality land.

When I was in college and grad school, I wrote some stories that my profs loved. They all encouraged me to continue honing my craft, saying I have a gift. I sort of just waved their kind words off, thinking they said that to all the students who came through their classes. But then I submitted a story to a writers conference, and the guest writer chose my story alone to workshop with everyone attending. I felt so honored. He, too, told me I need to keep writing, that what I write is what every editor wants to see. Well, I'm really starting to wonder about that one since I now have three editors saying thanks but no thanks.

I know the writing world is fickle, that editors have their preferences and choose depending upon their own tastes. I also know I'm old school, going for the literary short story rather than the mainstream or commercial. I can't stand so much of the works out there right now. So much drivel. So much that really doesn't even make sense. I mean come on, how many vampire stories, prostitute stories, druggie stories, and my dad raped me stories does the world need? That said, I pretty sure I'm in for a long and terribly rough ride on my way to publication.

But I'm not going to give up. Sooner or later the letter will come that says yes, we'd love to publish your story. Until then, I'm just going to continue printing out the rejections and compiling them into a scrapbook. Will be good reading one day when I'm holding my first novel in my hands.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On Being a Writer

Some days I just despise my job. Today was one of those days. The students were okay, as they usually are. I'm almost caught up with the paper reading/responding, which means I'll have a short break before the next round of papers come in. So I'm not sure why I'm feeling I could very easily walk away from campus and never look back.

If I was reclining on a shrink's lounge and spilling my guts, I'd have to say teaching others how to write a decent sentence just isn't doing it for me any longer. At this stage of the game for the students, writing a sentence that makes sense shouldn't be an issue. But it is. Oh is it ever. You'd think I wouldn't be surprised any longer with the lack of skills some of the students bring into the classroom. After all, they went through 12 years of education before reaching us. Reason says the students should have a solid foundation from which to work. Not so. Not even close for many of the students I work with. Working with underprepared students becomes exhausting after awhile, and I think that's where I am. Exhausted.

While still on that shrink's lounge, I'd lament the fact that I have so little time to write my own stuff. Up until classes started in August, I was writing, writing, writing. I'm so close to having enough short stories to begin shopping around for an agent. I'm making progress, really, really slow progress, on the novel now since all the "other" stuff has interrupted, and this makes me angry. I'm on the verge of actually calling myself a writer, but the "other" stuff keeps getting in the way.

Where does all of this leave me? Sitting here venting. With a pile of unread papers at my left elbow. Papers that when I do read them will just make me shake my head in wonder at how some of the students made it through high school. My mind thinking more about the newest short story idea I have perculating and am eager to begin. A short story that excites me, makes the unease I've felt throughout the day fade.

That's why I write.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Finished 50

Thumbs way up for the ride today though I didn't complete 60 like I'd wanted to. Hubby was with me, and he agreed to do the 50 if I rode with him the entire way. I couldn't say no. This is the longest ride he's ever done by far, so as long as he was willing, I was willing to cut mine short by 10 miles. I have a 60 miler in two weeks, so I still have the opportunity not too far away.

We kept a pretty good pace on the ride out, maintaining a 15.5. That, too, is quite a bit faster than Hubby is used to doing. He is more the pedal, coast, pedal, coast kind of guy, so he had to pedal a lot more today to keep up. On the ride in, our pace slowed quite a bit due to the wind. Most of the time it came from the side, but for five miles near the end of the ride, it was head on. We slowed to around 13 mph during those miles, with Hubby tucked in behind me to get a breather from having to pedal so hard. For most of the ride I wouldn't let him tuck in to draft. I get tired of him taking the easy way out, like he is known to do when we ride during the week.

The bike envy definitely reared its ugly head today. Seemed like everyone but me had a beautiful road bike with the aerobars and all the gadgets. Riding on these bikes seems so effortless. I'm wondering if aerobars on my bike will just look silly. I so want to give them a go and see what it really feels like to be crouched down, cruising along. And my chain started making an ugly squeaking noise which got louder the longer we went. I just might milk this one, use it as a way to get a new and better road bike.

So, 50 is down in the books. Now I think it's time for a nap.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Attempting 60

Tomorrow at this time I should be able to say thumbs up or thumbs down on a sixty mile ride. Hubby is joining me again this weekend. Hopefully I'll remember my phone so if I need to call him I can. Hopefully he won't go out looking for me and we unknowingly pass each other. Hopefully I can do the full 60 miles.

Forecast says rain, wind, and cool temps. Not quite sure how I feel about this. This time tomorrow I'll know exactly how I feel about this.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dark, Heavy Clouds . . .

and breezy days mean fall is on its way. Along with it comes less daylight after arriving home from work, which means less time to ride. I know eventually there'll come a day when I won't be able to go out after work as it will be completely dark. Then it will be time to set the bike up in the garage and pedal away in front of the TV. Could be a good way to get in some movies I haven't seen but would like to.

Fall is such a beautiful season. Definitely my favorite. There's just something about the fading away that happens. It's like the earth is saying, "Okay, I'm tired. I need to take a nap." I know the feeling--almost every single day I feel that way around 2 p.m.

Each day I look forward to that one more detail that says fall is here. Today it was the leaves scattered along the bike path I take to work. The leaves float into the air as my tires wisk past, then settle back down into another haphazard pattern. In a couple of weeks the leaves will cover the path completely. Not too long after, maybe it'll be snow. Will I be brave enough to ride then?

Harvest has started, too. It won't be long before all the fields are bare, opening up the horizon for miles. Every time we ride out in the rural areas, my body yearns to be there again.
It's all I can do to turn my back and pedal once more to the city. I keep hoping that one day I'll be able to stand in my yard and watch the combines working the fields, watch the grain trucks haul the golden corn to the elevators, breathe in the open space.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Commuter Challenge

This week my workplace is participating in a commuter challenge involving giving up the car for walking, biking, taking public transportation, or carpooling. When I saw the email encouraging everyone to take part, I couldn't resist joining. This goes right along with my desire to drive less and bike more.

For three days now I've biked to work. Being on the bike is just becoming a part of who I am and I'm working now to figure out how to continue when the weather turns nasty. I did find a raincoat for those just-in-case days, like Monday. The forecast called for rain. I packed the raincoat but didn't need it. Tomorrow the rain is supposed to move in, so I'll pack the slicker again with the hopes of not needing it. Slowly, little by little, I'm getting the small details figured out. I know I'm going to miss things here and there, but I'm beginning to believe that even if I do get drenched on the way to work, it won't be a big deal. I'll dry--eventually. Since I go so early not many people will see me arriving as a drowned rat, and if I can make someone's day by me being soaked, then hey, that's okay. At least they'll have a smile on their face all day because of the wet teacher pedaling up to the bike rack.

I wanted to get a ride in today after work, but when I walked through the door I was so tired. I just wanted to curl up on the bed and sleep. So I did, but only for about twenty minutes. My daughter knocked on the door to tell me supper was ready. I'm still tired now. And being tired makes me annoyed. Being tired stems from the hours of reading and responding to student papers, which is my job, but after almost twenty years of doing this, I'm ready for a break. I need to make a change. Problem is I can't since I'm the only one working right now. We need my income.

I know things could be much worse. I know I'm fortunate to have a stable, relatively good-paying job with benefits. But I'm tired. What's the answer? Just keep on keeping on, I guess. And try to see the sunshine through the clouds.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

40 Miles of Smiles . . .

stayed plastered on my face as well as on everyone else's who was riding today. Just a great day for a ride--cool, sunny, a slight breeze, a few rolling hills. At the end, brats and beer awaited us, along with chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, pumpkin cookies, and lots of other cookies. Sitting in the beach house, watching all the other riders laughing and talking about their adventures on the routes made me so glad I decided to do more with cycling.

My next ride is a week from today, Sunday the 19th, and my goal is to complete a metric century. I think I can do 62 after feeling really good today after 40. I thought I might be more fatigued. Maybe it'll actually hit me tomorrow sometime, so I guess I should hold off on saying exactly how I'm feeling. Right now, all's good. Tomorrow may be a totally different story.

The biggest funny from today is me and Hubby passing each other like ships in the dark. Hubby did the 25 mile route. After getting back, he decided to go backwards on the 40 mile route to meet up with me so we could ride in together. Only problem was he went the wrong way initially and by the time he figured this out I had already finished and was at the beach house looking for him. He didn't see that I had put my bike in the truck, so he went on, thinking he would meet up with me. After waiting an hour, I finally called him (I forgot my cell phone and had to find someone who didn't mind me using theirs), asking him where he was. He was five miles out. Twenty minutes later he showed up, out of breath and drenched in sweat.

We're both looking forward to next Sunday. Hopefully I won't forget my cell, and hopefully Hubby will take the right route if he decides to meet up with me to finish the ride together. Even if each of us goofs up somehow, we'll be laughing and smiling all the way home, and that's the best thing about cycling.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Continued Discombobulation

My youngest is still complaining of pain on the left side of his torso, at times clutching at it and crying while screaming about the pain. The tears stream down his face, and I feel helpless. I have no idea what to do since we took him to the ER then to the pediatrician, both of whom said they had no clue what is going on. Perfect. This means I hold him tightly against me when the pain becomes so much that he can't sit, can't focus, can't keep himself from having a panic attack. This means I rub his back to try and calm him. This means I sit against piled up pillows through the night, with him backed up against me since this is the only relief he seems to get that allows him to sleep. I don't sleep. And now I'm tired.

Today he seems better. I bought several different muscle heat treatments for him to try. Once seems to be doing the trick. It along with some pain reliever every eight hours seem to be giving him enough relief that he can function. Though I have work backed up, I decided to get some sleep, try to catch up some so I can function a bit better. I think I'm gaining ground. The stack of papers on my desk, though, is daunting and I'm now avoiding it.

Tomorrow is a 40 miler I've been looking forward to for several months; well, I was until the past few days. I'm going to go ahead and ride, and it will be fun since Hubby will be with me this time, but I just keep thinking about the work I need to get to (and am avoiding even now by writing this). A part of me just keeps saying "relax--it always gets done no matter what." And it does.

Now I'm going to pick five papers off the stack and begin reading/responding. When I finish with those, I'll do five more. Then five more. Then . . ..

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Unwanted Time Off

Monday and Tuesday the winds blew so hard, up to 30 mph hard, so I didn't ride each of those days. Today the plan was to ride after class. That plan was interrupted by my youngest having to go to the doctor, a follow-up exam after last evening's visit to the ER. Both exams provided no answers to the severe chest pain and difficulty breathing, accompanied by screaming and crying complaining of said chest pain and difficulty breathing, so we learned nothing about what caused the whole scenario. Our job is to keep a calendar of symptoms for the next two weeks or so to see if a pattern develops. At this time the pain is less than it was, thank goodness.

So no ride today with all the tension, the lack of sleep last night, and the general feeling of discombobulation. I just couldn't get things on track today. I did go to each of my classes and collected the first drafts of papers, so that much of my routine stayed in place. Not much else, though, followed the calendar I had put in place for today. After the doctor appointment, I came home and crashed for almost two hours. I couldn't stay awake, and I'm not one to try and push through fatigue, sleepiness. I have to sleep.

Hopefully tomorrow will see things back on track. Maybe a short ride in the morning before going to school will help make the day go smoothly, make me feel like things are as they should be.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Long Ride Sunday

Well, not real long but long enough when the hills and the wind are factored in. I rode 31 miles early this morning. I had seriously considered going for another hour or two, but after ten miles of wind in my face, keeping my downhill speed to a mere 15 mph, I decided to call it a ride. My legs said muchas gracias, and even my shoulders said ahhhhh when I pulled into the driveway.

Had a first on this ride, too. A skunk ambled its way across the road, and by the time I skidded to a stop, it was less than ten feet away. In horror, and with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I waited for that burst of stink to cover me. Thankfully the critter just kept on going, paying no mind to me whatsoever. I let out a long breath, got back in the saddle and high-tailed it out of there. What a moment.

I haven't decided if I'm riding tomorrow. I want to, but I kind of feel like I should take a day off. I found a training program I'm thinking of following to see if I can increase my speed a little more. I usually average right around 15 mph. I'd like to see 16. This program has intervals mixed in, a definite requirement for any kind of speed improvement, so I might just give it a go. Couldn't hurt, right?

I'd love to have Sundays like this all the time as it has just been a lovely day all the way around.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Back in the Saddle

From last Sunday until Thursday, I imposed a time-off period for myself. With the kids starting school and me settling into my school schedule, I thought it might not be a bad idea to take a few days to focus on just a couple of things rather than a bunch of things. I parked the bike and put the running shoes under the bed, giving myself a small training break. I even allowed myself to eat foods I haven't touched in months, like a quarter pounder with cheese, fries, and a cola. While they tasted good, I found I no longer feel the need to eat these foods let alone want these foods. I kind of like being in the position of taking or leaving.

So yesterday I got back in the saddle and rode 11 miles. I didn't go for speed. I just went to enjoy being out. The winds have found central Illinois again after being absent for quite a while, and I battled 20 mph winds for much of the ride. Along with the hills along the new route, the ride turned out to be tough. My hubby laughed at me at one point, saying the grin on my face was too funny. He doesn't get why I love the wind and the hills. Heck, neither do I other than both are a challenge. I want to face the challenge, get better at handling them.

Today we went almost 20 miles. Still windy, but no hills to contend with other than one long slight incline. I've ridden this hill many times, and today, even with the wind coming at me from an angle, I managed to maintain 17 mph going up. The first time I tackled that hill back in March I barely managed to keep 12 mph registered on the bike computer. No way was I not going to grin over this.

My last grin came after arriving home, showering, and pulling on a pair of jeans I haven't worn since May. I don't like to step on the scale, so I really don't know if I've lost weight. I just go by the way my clothes fit. The jeans are now a bit on the baggy side, especially through the hips and thighs. I was surprised with how much different they fit, pleasantly surprised, but I'm okay with it. Sort of helps alleviate the fear of the scale I have.

Being back in the saddle feels really good. I'm glad I took the five days off; those days helped me just be, helped my mind sort through matters and make sense of them. I feel refreshed, in a better position to take on work, family, and training.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Letting Go of Summer

The clouds the last two days have been beautiful. A dark gray blankets the sky, with fluffy, lighter gray clouds piling up at times as they drift in from the west. I just sit and watch. So many days have passed with no rain, no clouds, no wind. The grass was drying up. The flowers were drooping from thirst. In just twenty-four hours, the lawn is greener and the flowers look refreshed. Now lightning is flashing across dark skies. Thunder rumbles. Feels like fall is fast approaching.

I started cleaning the garden yesterday evening. The cucumbers have pretty much finished up. We ate cucumbers until we couldn't eat anymore the last month and a half. The green peppers are still producing. They've been on the small side, but I think that's actually because they're from organic seeds, and they've not been touched by pesticides at all. This is the size they're supposed to be, I imagine. And the tomatoes are on their last legs. I'm still getting one or two every couple of days, but I'm pretty sure the ones that are green are going to stay green. Maybe I'll get a couple more over the next few weeks, which would be great. I do still have some herbs going strong, some basil and rosemary. Perhaps a basil, tomato and mozzerella sandwich is in order for tomorrow.

It's hard to let go of summer. In a small way, though, it's always good to say good-bye to the hot, humid days and nights. The crisp, breezy days and nights of fall contain their own energy that offers a chance for slowing down, resting, both of which being exactly what the soul needs this time of year.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Second Rainy Day: No-Go

Woke up this morning to a downpour. I knew the forecast called for rain, so last evening I searched for the hooded poncho I have somewhere around here. Couldn't find it, so this morning I caved and drove to work, feeling guilty all the way. It had actually stopped raining before I left to drop the boys off at their school. For a few minutes I entertained the idea of returning home to grab the bike, but the sky looked like it could open up any second. I decided to drive on to work.

I knew there'd be times I'd not ride my bike. That's just a reality of life. I do have other options which need me looking into how to actually make them a part of my travel plans. I just need to follow through to fit these into my life.

Driving this morning did help me relax a little about trying to go no car completely. I figure each day I don't use the car is a good start, and if I can string days together, going three or four days of biking or walking, that's not bad. Eventually, I'll start seeing how these three, four, maybe even five days will make a significant difference in what we usually pay for gas, and perhaps my health, as well.