I said okay.

When you work for a bank, and you are presenting a loan to your boss for approval, stop talking when the pen goes to the paper and scrawls out a signature. Just stop. There is no need to say a word more.

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Getting the Hurt Leg Fixed, Chapter 10

On June 7, we visited the surgeon. It was time for a checkup on my husband’s left knee.

To remind you, this story started on Christmas, 2016, when he fell down the stairs and completely severed his left quadriceps tendon. This serious injury cannot heal by itself and required surgery, done on January 6, 2017. He went home in a brace, unable to bend his leg for weeks or even touch it to the floor. He required assistance with every detail of living, and so I was fully occupied for months. Remember this scene from Chapter One – in the hospital awaiting surgery?

 

January 6, 2017.

 

As he healed, things got easier – first he could touch his foot to the floor, put weight on it, bend his leg in the brace, walk without crutches, and finally say goodbye to the brace itself. He has faithfully attended physical therapy and regained full flexibility in the knee.

Other changes have come about. This experience forced us to think about how we manage daily life, and some changes were made. For one thing, my husband moved his office to a suburban location for a variety of reasons, one being that it made his schedule easier for PT, but also added to our quality of life by making work more accessible and convenient. He also was able to work from home during his recovery and found that it could be done with good results. These changes are permanent and I like the new schedule – we have more time together. That means a lot to me.

We also were reminded how much we value being able to run, to hike, to take walks, to exercise. The recovery process for his knee will take about a year. Though it has healed now, it is weakened, as is the right leg, and it will take another six months or so for that strength to come back, as much as it will. Still, my husband last week ran about 100 yards on the track at the high school – a milestone. We do not know the final outcome, but we do know that with this doctor visit, we are ending one phase and beginning the next one.

But I’ve gotten ahead of the story. The doctor was pleased with the knee’s status. He said, “I could torture you with asking for another visit in three months, but I don’t think you need it.” We were very happy to agree and left the medical office building for the last time. I had a bit of superstitious worry about making such a statement, but I have decided to be firm with the fates and let them know we’ll do our part if they will do theirs!

So, take a look, as we wave goodbye. And end the story of the hurt leg here, with our characters driving off in the car toward home.

Doctor's office 6-7-17 small

Walking in Circles

Today is the last day of the Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) Senior Games, and that means it is time to walk.

This year, my plan was to accompany my husband on the course and go at his speed. We are celebrating his continuing recovery from his accident and knee surgery.

We arrived at Montgomery County Community College nice and early, about 8:15 AM. The day was cool but sunny, with clouds coming in for the rain tomorrow, but no precipitation today at all.

Montco, as it is nicknamed, is maybe 20 minutes from home and set on a spacious campus. I remember when the school was way out in the middle of nowhere, but 35+ years since I first saw it, it is now surrounded by houses and apartments. The event was taking place at the health sciences building, AKA the gym/fitness center. It’s recently been updated and it is beautiful.

We went inside for a few minutes, where the vendors for the expo were setting up.

Then we went back outside and got our names in for the event. The way things work, a group of contestants assembles at the start.

You take off down the walk, go out a bit (past the guy in the blue jacket to that lady in the green shirt, you’ll see her, just keep going), turn at the orange cone, come back, pass the start, go some more, follow that loop in the back of the building, and come back. Do that three times and the race is done. You went 1.5 miles. Oh, and to get your time, listen as you pass the finish line – the timer will call out the time. Remember that number and tell the scorer.

It’s all pretty casual, but it works. Here is my husband (left) waiting to start as a volunteer explains the deal to a latecomer.

Well, we got started on our way. I took this picture pretty near the beginning.

I am so happy and proud of my husband. All the hard work he has been putting in in therapy and in exercising on his own really shows. He was able to walk at a 17 or 18-minute mile pace, which I think is great. It is hard for me to believe that less than five months ago he was getting around with crutches and a brace, if he was able to move at all. Determination pays off.

Well, we finished. And then…you knew this story did not end here, didn’t you?

I had no intention of doing this, but I got to Montco and my competitive instincts kicked in. I can’t pass up a race. So before we went out on our joint tour of the course, I asked the officials if I could go around with my husband and then do one on my own. Sure, they said.

All right. My husband took these pictures. Here’s a quick commentary.

I went out with Group #2. Right from the start I identified my competition. And I don’t mean, for medals – there is no telling if these ladies are even in my age group. I just mean, right here, on this course. Let’s go. Here at the start it’s Pink Shirt, Blue Shorts, and me, in the black, behind them.

We zipped around the course. In Lap 2 Pink Shirt and I lost Blue Shorts. Here we are in Lap 3.

Well, I felt I could take this race and I planned my strategy. Soon as we came out of the loop, I put on some speed.

The drama builds. I’m ahead, but can I hold on? So much is at stake! The crowd is on its feet (there are only a few benches and they are filled up) and paying rapt attention (to the football throw going on in the next field, to the registration table, to the free shopping bags they picked up at the expo…you get the atmosphere). All right, my husband was paying rapt attention, and really, that’s all I needed.

At the finish, I prevailed. I have to tell you, I felt happy about it out of all proportion to the importance of the event.

Now, last year I practiced for this race. I had done none of that this year. Well, so what? It’s just walking. Now think about that and what a different context “just walking” is for me and for my husband. I have a lot of gratitude for what each of us can do in our individual ways.

Well, that’s the end of this year’s games. I have a lot of enthusiasm for next year, already!

(Take a look here for my other event in 2017, orienteering.)

 

Re-Orienting Myself

It’s early May, and that means that the Montgomery County Senior Games have rolled around again.

You may remember that last year I competed in several days of this week-long event. I did orienteering, running, and speed-walking. I wrote a whole series of posts about my experiences:

Let the Games Begin

Orienteering Myself

I Run as Fast as I Can on a Track

Walk This Way

In my introductory post for last year, I wrote about how I had set the goal of competing to help me start back into regaining my former fitness levels – I was a good runner and swimmer and loved doing those things, but my various illness, surgeries, bad antibiotic reactions, stress fracture in my foot – all of these had slowly stripped away my strength and almost all of my ability to pick myself up and try.

I wrote about how I hoped the event would be the beginning of returning to my old ways. Well, it wasn’t. I experienced more eye issues later in the year and then, when my husband had his accident in December, 2016, for the next four months I pretty much gave up – exercise came near the end of the list.

All right. Here we are today and I am saying the same thing – I hope that the Senior Games mark the beginning of returning to normality as far as my athletic activities.

This year, I decided to do just the orienteering and walking events. My motto was to be: Complete, not compete, meaning – finish the event, not try to bust a gut winning it.

With that in mind, I arrived at the Norristown Farm Park this morning, site of the orienteering event. My husband accompanied me – his new office is very close, and so this year he was able to attend. That was nice, to have his support. We had an absolutely gorgeous sunny day, a bit chilly, but just perfect for this event. Compare it to last year’s day and you’ll see why all of us at the event were thrilled. Here is 2016:

And now, 2017:

Last year I was a green newbie at orienteering, but I liked what I had experienced of it. If you don’t know much about it, you run around the countryside from point to point (called “controls”) following a detailed map, and you are timed. I am not really able to do trail running anymore because of my eyesight, so this sport really appealed to me as a substitute.

This year I am a slightly less green newbie, and I am game. Let’s go, I said. We got signed up at the pavilion and received the all-important T-shirt.

After some explanatory remarks, we headed over to the start. Now, how this works is simple. You get the map when you start, you take off looking for your controls, and you just keep going to the end. You have to go in order, but you can get from place to place any way you want to. You have a small device that you insert into a reader at each control – it keeps your time. The race starts for you when you click in at the start control.

In larger events, there are courses laid out for different difficulty levels over the same plot of ground. Competitors choose the level desired and get the map for that course. So, the people you see as you traverse your course may be doing a different course altogether – you don’t assume their control is one you want for your course.

This event, though, has only one course. So it’s possible to follow another competitor and get to the controls without orienting yourself on your own. Remember this point – it matters in my story!

Here I am at the start point:

And looking over my map, having just clicked the start. You can’t review it beforehand.

And, running off down the path.

The trick to this sport is to stay focused and continue to adjust and re-orient yourself as you go along. Watch your map closely. I try to plan out what next landmark or location I need to hit in a series of moves to get to a control point. A straight line is not always the best route!

Well, I was zipping along. And very quickly I realized that another woman near me was, well, she was watching my moves. Plain and simple. And given how the course was set up, I could do nothing about it. Several times it was clear to me that she would not have found the control if I had not led her there.

Well, complete, not compete, went out the window. I guess I wasn’t surprised. I’m pretty competitive. Yes. So I got a little aggravated and that put some speed into my feet. Down paved roads, dirt trails, crawling up a trackless hill – we did it all. She was ahead of me at the last control but just a little; that cranked up the aggravation level and I took off for the finish. Hard. And I got there first.

I’m the tiny black speck. I don’t know who that man is who was caught up in our drama.

Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a small thing, but I felt as if I had done something big. I didn’t give up and I didn’t back down. Makes me feel that I am really on my way in this new start.

Thanks for reading. And Happy Orienteering, if you try it.

nothing is allowed

The oracle speaks. Was it speaking to you?

nothing is allowed

nothing is allowed

You Are Not Lost if You Know Where You Are on the Map

Here’s another chapter in the saga of me and my new exercise activity, orienteering. My husband and I decided today would be great for trying out the permanent course at French Creek State Park, where we had gone a few weeks ago for a competition. (I wrote about it here.) So we put on our outfits, picked up a couple of sandwiches and some drinks, put them in the cooler, and set out for the park.

It was an absolutely perfect day for being outside, quite warm and very sunny. The park was full of activity, but it was concentrated on the lake and picnic areas.  We located the start of the course and parked the car right there, having arrived about 10 AM after a pleasant drive into the countryside.

Start French Creek small 5-29-16

The permanent course (as opposed to one set up just for a competition and then taken down) circumnavigates Hopewell Lake. It covers about 2.5 or so miles with 8 controls, plus three optional ones. My husband had printed out the map on good paper and enlarged it. Detail is important.

Map French Creek 5-29-16 small

So we set off. I fell down crawling up the side of a ditch, so I got that over with – I have to settle in a bit, I’ve found, before I concentrate well. There is always a fall to be taken before that happens.

And remember, I have a lot of trouble matching the map details with the terrain. I find orienteering very challenging because of this, and I check my position a lot. I am good at reading the map, though, and my husband is good at reading the terrain, so together, we get along great.

We worked out way through the course. The woods are not as they were originally – this area supplied fuel for a thriving iron industry in the past, and at one time this forested area was cut bare. Now it has a lot of small to medium trees and significant undergrowth. Trails and roads wind through it.

Fernch Creek #2 5-29-16 small

There is also a significant amount of loose rock everywhere, making footing difficult.

Fernch Creek 5-29-16 small

It was pleasant and shady in the woods. We really made good time. Here is what one of the controls looks like, in its position near Hopewell Lake.

Control 5 French Creek 5-29-16 small

We had nice views of the lake at many points.

Hopewell Lake 5-29-16 small

We also passed the dam that created the lake. Here we are at the small spillway.

Dam Hopewell Lake 5-29-16 small

Right after this location, we got over-confident. And the pictures stop, but I’ll give you a short word-picture in tanka form:

The steep hill. A slope
that runs straight into the sky.
The climbers scramble.
The trail fades. They make their own.
Hilltop. A road appears. Go.

To put it plainly, we decided to try for the optional A, B, and C controls. We took a faint trail cutting up and across a steep high slope. It gave out after a while and we found ourselves thrown back on our map and our wits.

Never did find A, though we were close. I saw a couple of little toads hopping along and if we had been in a fairy tale, they would have helped us, but we were not, so, no luck. They went on their way and we went on ours.

I am able to climb well, but going downhill is not very easy for me with my balance issues. So, we checked the map, and we decided to keep going up in order to make for a fence, follow it, and we’d come out at a road. Which we did, with me clinging to the fence to keep from rolling downhill. I would have to say not many people try to reach these controls, since the trail was so faint and unworn – lack of traffic, certainly.

Anti-climatically, we found both B and C along this road, as we had known we would from the map – A was always going to be the hard one. Sigh. We finished the course, and had a nice picnic lunch in the shade near the car. All told, we spent about two hours on the course. You know, I really enjoyed the experience, except for about 10 minutes when I wondered how we would get out of this mess. Well, we did, didn’t we, and that’s what counts.

Inextricably Intertwined

When people say the phrase “inextricably intertwined”, they usually mean it figuratively: events or interests or fates or feelings might be the subject. I use the phrase literally. I got interested in trees and vines and their relationships earlier this winter when I photographed some trees for the Sunshine Project, and since then I’ve been paying attention.

At this time of year it’s easy to see the details of vines and trees. There are no leaves or other greenery to interfere. To me, there is something vaguely unsettling about vines circling tree trunks or bases; it always seems to me that one is a predator and the other the prey. A determined vine has the power to bring down a large tree, if enough time is allowed for it to do its work.

The complicated forms the relationship takes, though, are eye-catching and often graceful. That’s what I was thinking about in these pictures that I have collected over the past weeks. Take a look and see what you think.


 

These trees are cedars along the closed portion of Jarrett Road, Horsham, PA, part of the Power Line Trail park, in February, 2015.


These pictures are from the same site. The vine looks reptilian, I think, and seems to be crawling up the tree in a sinister way.


A knotted tangle encircles this tree, also from the Power Line Trail park.


A bit more lighthearted, these two vine/tree relationships seem to me; I like the swirly twistiness of the vines and they don’t look to be strangling the tree. Yet, anyway. These are also from the Power Line Trail park.


I saw this tree and its heavy tangled partner in the Fort Washington State Park along the Green Ribbon Trail in March, 2015.


This tree supports a fascinating tightly-coiled thick vine. It’s also from the Green Ribbon Trail.


This view shows the trees and vines along the Pennypack Trail in Huntingdon Valley, PA, in March, 2015. Honestly, the vines are as big as the trees and maybe even more numerous. If you are a vine I would advise trying some other location; this one seems to be full up.

Trees and vines Lorimer Park 3-31-15 small

Sunshine Project – Day 36, Park, Ambler, PA

Snow yesterday and snow tomorrow. And yet my thoughts turned to summer, and parks, and fountains.

Bench in the snow 1-25-15

In particular I was remembering a run I’ve often done and that I’m looking forward to returning to when the weather permits. It’s a varied course starting at a local high school about 15 minutes from my house.

The route includes some neighborhood streets, a stretch through a park, a cut-through the parking lots of a condo development, a trail in a protected nature area, and back on to the high school grounds. I’ve recently learned that I can start off at the YMCA, where I go to the gym, and run from there and pick this loop up. The whole trip, excluding the extension from the Y, is about 3 miles. I do it twice or I can cut off a portion of it to make 5 miles.

Pen Ambler Park sign

Thinking about the route I remembered the park section. Though it’s short, it’s one of the places where I always need some encouragement. It’s uphill and exposed to the sun. But – there is a little fountain at the crest of the hill. I feel I’ve achieved something when I get to the plaza where it is and I see the blue water and, if the wind is blowing, get a little blast of spray to cool me. The fountain always seems to give me energy to keep going.

So today my husband and I went to the fountain and I set a sunshine on the edge of it. I had to clear a space in the snow.

Fountain Pen Ambler Park 1-25-15

The sunshine is set in that little cleared space.

 

This park is well-used even in the winter, as the number of footprints shows me – I see people feet and dog feet! So I think the sunshine will get some attention sooner or later.

Happy Sunshine.

Sunshine, January 25, 2015.

Sunshine, January 25, 2015.

If you want to know more about the Sunshine Project, you’re in luck – look here, or search under the category “Sunshine Project”.

Sunshine Project – Day 27, Building, Glenside, PA

This afternoon I decided to drop off a sunshine at this location – a former theater turned office building.

Theater turned office building.

Once a theater, now an office building.

I don’t have any connection to this place. I don’t know what kind of businesses are in the building and I’ve never been inside it. It’s just one more structure located just off an intersection I drive through almost daily. I’ve taken walks here in the neighborhood for years, and my hairdresser and my dentist (site of an earlier sunshine drop-off — I checked and the sunshine is gone…) are across the street from the building. Somehow this building has attracted my attention. I always take note of it when I am here. I check on it. I feel somehow connected to it.

The building in its setting. I am standing on the sidewalk in front of my dentist's office to take this picture.

The building in its setting. I am standing on the sidewalk in front of my dentist’s office to take this picture.

Why? For one thing, I like its looks. It’s never been a theater since I’ve known it, although it’s obvious that’s what it once was – I’d guess one of those built in a Moorish or Spanish style popular in the 1920’s or 1930’s. It’s not very big – probably just a little neighborhood theater here in this small commercial area.

It’s had a recent sprucing-up, which pleases me. I am happy the building is being cared for.

You see, I think of buildings as having personalities, life, feelings. I have always loved architecture and I especially love old buildings that have persevered and adapted. I am sure that the builders of this theater did not anticipate its use as an office building today, but then – I would hope they would see that their work led to a structure that has been useful and appreciated all this time.

It just seems very important to me that I recognize and acknowledge the presence of endurance wherever I see it. Survival is everything.

Sunshine in place.

Sunshine in place.

If you come from the parking lot, you'll walk right down this sidewalk and pass the sunshine on your right.

If you come from the parking lot, you’ll walk right down this sidewalk and pass the sunshine on your right.

Happy sunshine.

Sunshine, January 16, 2015.

Sunshine, January 16, 2015.

Here is an explanation of the Sunshine Project.

Sunshine Project – Day 12, 5K Run, Swarthmore, PA

To start off 2015 in a good way, my husband and I decided to do a 5K run in Swarthmore, which is about 30 miles or so from my house. We’ve done this event before, but not since 2012. My health problems kept me from doing much running in the past couple of years, but I used to race a lot and I had reasonable success at it. I enjoyed competing and I really liked the feeling running gave me.

Now I just want to run. Slow, fast, run/walk – I don’t care. And participating in a race is exciting. It seemed a really nice way to begin a new year.

As background, the race starts at the Swarthmore College track – we go 1/4 mile around it, run through the nearby town, and then back for another 1/4 mile on the track before finishing.

Map of the run. I set the sunshine down afterwards in the starred location.

Map of the run. I set the sunshine down afterwards in the starred location.

My goal was to run the whole way, and I did. Made me feel just great! And the beautiful weather made it a pleasure – though it was cold, 34 degrees, and windy, the sun was shining and the sky marvelously blue. It was a colorful sight when all the runners moved off away from the start.

At the train station, the volunteer manning that spot told us runners, “Only 90% to go!” as we ran outbound (causing a lot of groans), and when we passed by at the end, he was saying, “Only 10% to go!” (now getting some cheers). Funny what a difference a couple of miles makes.

When the race was over, my husband and I went into town to set the sunshine in place, and chose a building along the strip of stores we had just run in front of, less than an hour before. Now the street was quiet and empty.

Follow the arrows and you will arrive.

Follow the arrows and you will arrive.

These orange arrows were painted on the street to direct us through the streets and show us our way. I found it very comforting to see them as I went along; it was almost as if they were waiting for me, encouraging me on. Going in the right direction!

Happy 2015!

(If you want to know what the Sunshine Project is about, look here.)

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