I made two promises to people yesterday and they weren’t tiny. They were big, really. If Brady Hoke had promised a UofM win against Ohio State this year, that would have been minuscule in light of the promise I made. I promised two people a better life with more happiness than they could currently comprehend. I made the same promise that was made to me more than twenty years ago now.
I was receiving my nine-month coin (I thought it was my sixth but I was mistaken, it was nine – I was still a bit flaky at six months), a coin given to signify nine months of continuous sobriety, given me by a man I had great respect for. During the presentation, in front of a whole room full of recovering alcoholics, he promised me that if I just kept coming back and worked a few simple steps to the best of my ability, my life would become so good that I would think it couldn’t possibly get any better… And if I just kept coming back and working, I would come to realize it had. It’s come to pass so many times that I can’t even recall all of the times I looked back at how good my life had become and thought it just couldn’t get any better, and it did.
2014 was an incredible year for me. It started out slow, coming out of our worst winter in recorded history but the last nine months were simply incredible.
I am at that most excellent spot in life again… but this year is better. This year I can see that my life can get better. I know it can, because it has so many times before. All I have to do is work a handful of simple steps, do the next right thing at any given moment and just make sure my eyes are open to see it.
There are a few prerequisites that come with this optimism though.
I don’t know what form “better” will take. I surely know what I think better will look like, I have a pretty good idea of what I want better to look like but the trick to this, at least for me, is that I have to seek only to do God’s will for me and let the details work themselves out in the wash. If I get too caught up in trying to manage every little detail I’ll trade happiness for misery. It’s a big picture/little picture outlook that I’m after. If I concentrate on being the best person I can, all will be well. If I concentrate on managing everything so every little detail “goes my way”, put a fork in me because I’m done.
Here’s the down and dirty: I am limited in my understanding of just what “good” looks like. If I try to manipulate every little detail to an end that satisfies my current “vision” of what I think I happiness should be, I’ll end up short of the greatness I can truly achieve because of the limits of my own understanding. This is where faith comes into play. When I try to micro-manage my happiness I get caught up in jumping hurdles and looking for the next hurdle instead of enjoying the journey. Life lived looking for hurdles to jump, enjoying the journey is actually quite impossible because I’m always looking for obstacles. How many times have we heard the quote repeated, “I can’t solve tomorrow’s problems with today’s thinking”? The same principle applies – I can’t understand tomorrow’s happiness with today’s thinking.
Today I have an amazingly simple balance and it is all based on one simple principle, one easy notion: Do the next right thing, at any given moment.
The next right thing may be “go for a ride on my bike”, it may be, “work on a new proposal” (for work), it may be “love my wife” or take my daughters to swimming or take my sponsee out to dinner to talk about how he’s doing and help him to better understand what his “next right thing” is… Sometimes it’s “take a nap”. At any given moment of any given day, there is a right thing to do. All I have to do is that.
Today, at 6:50 am on a Wednesday morning it was “write a post about the promise that was made to me decades ago and how it was fulfilled”. Two hours ago it was “quote a job for work”… After I publish this it’ll be, “write the proposal for that quote” and then, maybe, curl up with my wife for a little bit and let her know that I love her dearly. I don’t know what’ll be after that but I can promise you this: Whatever “it” is, it’s only hill and I’m a mountain climber.
May we all do the next right thing, at any given moment so that we can come to understand exactly how good “good” can be. Happy New Year. I can’t wait! Well, technically I can but you get the big picture.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 120,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.
*Apparently the “stats monkeys” were asleep at the wheel – that’s 125,000 and counting…
This has been a fun year for my blog, but a serious one as well. A few months ago was getting tired. I’ve written a little more than a post a day for near two years and if you take the full three years I’ve been writing this blog, then add reblogs (maybe one a week) and I’m averaging 1.7 posts per day. Folks, that’s a lot of writing on top of a big day job – and I’m picking up a second day job in 2015 (more on that later). A long story short, I thought about calling it good on the blog so I could concentrate on more pressing matters…and then I wrote a few posts on recovery rolling up to my anniversary month. Some of the comments on those posts made me think twice and I ended up deciding that I’d keep her going and if the worst came about I’d drop to one or two posts a week and just concentrate on the important topics rather than mess with whatever crossed my fancy. Well, that hasn’t come about quite though I haven’t worried about taking a day off as much as I once did.
That said, I have a lot to look forward to in 2015. As long as I do what is right and in front of me, it’s going to be a good and busy year. One day at a time.
Thanks to everyone who came along for the ride.
Cycling in the Cold: A Noob’s Guide to what I’ve Learned About Staying Warm when Your Snot Can Freeze
The All Seasons Cyclist prodded me for almost two full years to ride when the temps dipped below freezing. My first year of cycling, 45 was too cold. My second, 40. This year, I’m down to the low 20’s and I can go colder (we just haven’t had temps drop that low, consistently, yet.
Interestingly, I haven’t added much in the way of new clothing that would make that much of a difference though there are a few key light pieces that you’d never guess would make as big a difference as they really do. I’ll get to the clothing in a minute though…
First, speed matters. The faster I go, without overheating, the warmer I feel. 18 mph (average, which means speeds consistently above 19) feels great down into the 20’s while 15 feels chilly up to 35 degrees. This is a little counterintuitive as the faster you go, the more the cold bites but the friction created by movement makes up for it… Unfortunately, there is one exception (at least for me). My legs. Leg warmers are great and tights work right but I still have a tough time keeping my legs warm enough to work right without binding them up with too many layers.
Second, too much speed and too many layers means sweat. Put simply, in extreme survival situations; “you sweat, you die”. So sayeth Survivor Man. While cycling is nowhere near an “extreme survival situation”, I’ve found the same principle to apply. Too much sweat and you will freeze your bagingas off before long if you slow down… Here’s the equation: 🚴 (XS+XC)*T*Sw=💀
Third, while I can (and have) maintained an average north of 20 mph below freezing, it ain’t easy. All of those clothes , especially if they’re tight, slow me down quite a bit. I had to learn to accept slower speeds and fewer miles in the cold. On the other hand, slow outdoors sure beats fast indoors on a trainer.
The last non-clothing related item I’ve picked up has to do with, if you can believe it, the bike setup. I’ve written before about the fact that I ride low. It turns out that, if the boys get a little chilly from too much, um, direct frontal wind(?), then all I have to do to warm them up is ride in the drops for a couple of miles. With the wind blocked, it’s all good… Seriously, try it, it works.
Now for the clothing…
First, too heavy is just as bad as too light. I had to learn to trust that lighter, in certain areas, is okay except in the legs, as long as I ride fast enough.
The cap (or tuque for the Canucks)
Not to be confused with a toque, which would be ridiculous, a tuque or cap, in the absence of a wind breaking helmet cover, is a must.. I’ve got three I alternate and they all work well… A high-tech running cap that I picked up at a snowflake 10k more than a decade ago, a New Balance running cap that I just picked up a month ago and a cycling specific Specialized Element Windstopper™ cap (below). Now, as you might guess, the Spec hat is (obviously) a little better than the running cap but not enough to cheer about. For me, the important part is covering my melon and ears. While covering the ears can be tricky when it comes to hearing traffic, if I don’t cover mine, there will be no cycling in the cold, can’t do it. It just takes more vigilance when listening for traffic.
We’re not talking food here, not Baklava, a balaclava. I’ve got a very light balaclava that’s about the same thickness as a light tee shirt. It works excellently well down to the low twenties – not quite freezing but close. There are thicker models on the market, especially from the big cycling companies for seriously cold weather but I haven’t had to bother (yet). When it comes to cycling in the cold, balaclavas are sexy baby. When it comes to the full cover though, I prefer lighter around the neck so my balaclava is only good for a very specific range of temperatures,
If I want a ride in temps below 40-ish degrees to suck, all I have to do is leave my neck and chin exposed. Two years ago I bought a bicycle magazine that offered a 3-in-1 balaclava-cap-neck warmer for free (it came wrapped up, with the magazine). It sat in my cycling go-bag because I couldn’t figure out how to manipulate the thin, stretchy material into a balaclava. After picking up my caps this year I pulled it out and just used it as a neck warmer that I can pull it up over my nose when I’m at the front of the group. Instant non-sucky cold weather riding and the material is only about the thickness of a tee shirt. It’s fantastic well below the 20’s and has become one of the best cold weather pieces of clothing I own. My wife uses a fleece one but I’d worry that would be too warm.
I have a Specialized Element (thermal) jacket that, for cycling in the cold, is freaking amazing. As long as I keep my speed up, all I need is a decent long-sleeve base layer underneath. It is not a cheap jacket. If I remember correctly, I paid $150 for mine, on sale, two years ago. The newer model (the 2.0) runs about $250 but as comfortable as I am in mine, it’s worth the cash, even at $250.
The All-Important Guns…
I still have work yet to do when it comes to the legs as what I have is woefully inadequate. Currently I use my cycling shorts with a Brooks compression short beneath (below 30 degrees is the only time I wear anything beneath my cycling shorts), my thermal leg warmers and a pair of light-weight running tights over everything. The problem is that by the time I put all of that crap on, it hampers the movement of my legs. Eventually I’m going to pick up a pair of thermal tights but I have to do some leg-work to figure out what I want.
Very simple: Wool cycling socks, Bontrager foot covers. No problem.
Gloves, at least so far, have been pretty simple even though I’ve seen plenty of thick, hi-tech cycling gloves… I use Specialized Deflect gloves with a thin base layer glove when temps drop below 40… I’ve been out riding with temps down to 23 and never worried about my hands being too cold. For temps above 40, the Deflect gloves are plenty fine by themselves.
Now, as I wrote earlier, I used to think 40 degrees was too cold but I was missing out on some very decent outdoor cycling opportunities. The real trick to getting my clothing right for the really cold stuff was my neck. If my neck and chin are exposed under 40 degrees, I’m pretty much miserable. If I’m sufficiently covered, I feel quite good down to the 20’s. This is why I’m so keen on that silly collar that I got with the cycling magazine… Who’d have thought that such a simple little thing would make such a big difference in whether or not I can enjoy a bike ride on a colder day, certainly not me, but such is the case – for me, it’s all about my neck.
It wasn’t much, of course. It’s freaking cold outside!l, baby! But still, 65 miles in three days is nothing to spit at when we’re normally buried in snow.
I’d have been at almost 80 but the truth is I bowed out early when Brad decided to cut about 13 miles out of our 40 miler. I went with him rather than risk aggravating my cold…
Now that I’m home and showered (and napped) up, I’m a little bummed that I didn’t stick it out but it would not be wise for me to dwell too long there though – I am getting over a cold after all and I know it was the right thing to do. Another 13 miles would have worn me out to a point I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy bowling tonight and might even have gotten sicker now that I’m starting to feel better.
Thank God for our abnormal lack of snow so far this year!
Oh, I should add for those who don’t know… Last year I wouldn’t ride a bike outside unless it was warmer than 40 degrees (F). It turns out, I can handle much colder weather than I thought, comfortably. The cold is not so bad when I dress for it. Technically this post probably, in hindsight, been entitled: My best December (outdoor) week on a bike, Evah. I’ve always ridden on the trainer through the winter but never this much outside.
I did not get expensive presents this year – I got something much more special, I received gifts that were tailored to me, to who I am and what I like… It’s as if everyone understood me this year, and for that, I am exceedingly grateful.
I’m really quite stuck as to my favorite.
In the useful category, because my wife has one of those water warmers for tea that can make perfect, piping hot water in minutes, my French Coffee Press has been wonderful! As a coffeephile, I have enjoyed some of the best coffee I’ve tasted, ever, this weekend. I love my French coffee press (thanks Josie).
In the “my eleven year-old daughter truly gets her dad” category, and probably the gift that makes me feel the most “special”, Bella got me a Hamilton Beach breakfast sammich maker… The way I understood it, my wife and daughters were at Bed Bath and Beyond and Bella points it out to my wife and says, “we should get this for daddy”. A week later, shopping with my wife for my sister-in-law and I saw that very same display… I pointed out the same sammich maker to my wife and said something to the affect of, that’s the coolest thing ever. It was already tucked in the closet waiting to be wrapped. [ed. I misunderstood how this really went down… My wife was out shopping, she saw the sammich maker and called my daughter for her opinion. She told Mrs. Bgddy that she loved it and that she should buy it.]
Then my wife bought me the coat I’d wanted and also picked up a chain for my dog tags – one an AA circle and triangle and the second says “It is what it is” – one of my favorite refrains (my old chain had busted a year or two ago).
I had no expectations this Christmas. I was too focused on giving to worry about what I wanted… I ended up getting the best gift of all: My wife and daughters showed that they really “get” me. Coolest Christmas ever.
Where has my drive gone? When did I get so cranky? Maybe this fantastic run is over and it’s time to embrace chubby. Maybe I just don’t have the desire to put my time in on the trainer anymore… Dammit. Maybe I should take a winter off and try to get it back come spring time…
It’s just past noon, yesterday. The sun is shining, a bit windy but it’s 44 magical degrees outside. My Venge and Mrs. Bgddy’s Alias are pumped, and ready to go. We’re both still feeling a bit under the weather but I’m starting to feel better.
We decide we’re going to ride up to the shop, our 16 mile loop but two miles in my Mrs. Wonderful asks if we can cut it short and just head directly to the shop and back home… I’m more than okay with this because when we get back, I’d planned from the start on doing that 16’er again. Three miles from the shop and my wife finds her stride, hitting 22 mph. I say to the wind, but quiet enough that she can’t hear, “ni-i-i-ice”. We spend some time and a little bit of money at the shop and head home.
I see my wife into the driveway, run into the house to use the restroom and head straight back out… I hit my stride in the first thirty seconds. 18 mph, 19, 21, 22. I’ve got a breeze at my back and from the left and I feel good. The next mile is into a crosswind but I maintain 19-1/2 pretty easy. Then north and the low 20’s again. A mile later, through a stop sign and I’m in the mid 20’s feeling good. Another left and I’m into the crosswind again. Then one south and another west. Now I can feel my energy start to drain… “Damn cold”, I think to myself. A mile north and uphill and I’m breathing heavy again. I tell the melon committee that we’re going to be pushing it till we get to the home stretch so they better suck it up. Then west for three miles with a nice cross tailwind. After a short 1/4 mile-long hill, I’m back on the gas and between 23 & 24 mph. Through town and I’m running low on gas, I should have eaten something more than just a bowl of cereal at breakfast-time.
I hit the final stretch and dial it back to 17-18, spinning easy and enjoying the sunshine. Less than three miles from home and I see my friend, Mike coming toward me. I haven’t seen him since the last Tuesday afternoon in October… He turned around and we caught up over the course of a very slow mile, after which he turned and headed back into town and I continued home.
I have absolutely no idea how long that 16 miles took, probably between 50 and 51 minutes, but that really wasn’t what I was thinking about when I walked in the door… I was thinking about how nice it was to ride with my wife for eleven miles before kicking my ass for another thirteen. I was thinking about how good that last three was. I was thinking about how much I love cycling and my bike, and my wife and my kids and my job and house and my hometown. I was thinking positively again.
It only took 27 miles to get me turned back around. Man, I needed that – all of a sudden I love everything more. Best money I ever spent, on those bikes.
Also important, I want to be fast. I must be fast – and to do that I can’t get to a point where I lose the “s” in “fast”.
My wife, commonly referred to as Mrs. Bgddy to protect her anonymity, made a huge leap yesterday and, to be quite honest, I’m a little jealous.
My jumps in bike class were fairly gradual – used mountain bike, used aluminum road, used carbon road, new race bike… My wife, on the other hand, followed the same path until the road bikes… She inherited my Cannondale but then I bought her my accountant’s Specialized Secteur (2010), a very nice aluminum bike with a carbon fork and 105 components. She leapt from that Secteur to a full-on, carbon fiber women’s-specific-design race/triathlon/road bike. Not that her old bike (now her gnarly weather bike) was all that bad but going from aluminum to CF is a huge difference in comfort.
Add to that the fact that the attention to detail on the paint and finish of the bike is simply ridiculous and my wife just went from, “meh, pretty good” to “next-level-super-awesome” instantly. It was excellent to watch as an interested spectator, I can tell you that… Watching her go through the range of realizations – I could see each one flash across her face, it was almost humorous… My favorites were:
“Oh s#!t, I told you not to buy me a bike” which was almost instantly replaced by “Oh my, that’s beautiful” and “I hope I like it”, then to “does it come in another color” and finally settling on “Holy $#!t-snacks, my man is awesome”. That last one was my favorite, obviously.
Well, we braved the excessive cold and our own minor colds to take her new steed out for its inaugural ride yesterday. First, we had some tinkering to do with the setup – I’d set the saddle height when I brought it home the other day but I still had to slam the saddle back… Next was the stem (and a beautiful one at that). On the bike as it was, it looked like a mountain bike stem for crying out loud, so I took the front end off and flipped the stem so it sits almost exactly parallel to the ground. Once the front end was back together and properly adjusted to my ridiculously exacting standards, she pulled her pedals from the Secteur and I put them on the new bike while my wife changed clothes.
Once the tires were pumped we were ready to go…
The ride wasn’t long, nor was it intended to be, but getting to ride with my wife for the inaugural, on her brand new tri/road bike and to hear all of those familiar descriptions common with jumping from an entry-level bike to a legit race bike, coming from my wife as her wonder over how much smoother and nicer the new steed is, turned to excitement at the realization it’s hers built to a creciendo… Well, it just made my day.
Merry Christmas my friends, and a Happy New Year to you and yours from me and mine. May we forever remain grateful so the misery of the mistakes in our past remain ugly rather than begin to look attractive again (the recovering drunks in the crowd will know exactly what I’m talking about).
One of the most enjoyable keys to happiness is to remain grateful. I maintain a veritable grocery list of things I’m grateful for, however in this season there are a few special items I’d like to share…
I’m grateful for my wife, and for Bill Thompson who taught us how to (and that we could) be happy together.
I’m grateful for my kids, they are the best thing I’ve ever done or had happen since choosing to get sober and my wife.
I’m grateful for my sobriety and that God saved me from the Hell I created.
I’m grateful for Christmas Eve at my mom’s house, for seeing my sister (home from LA for a few days), my other sister and her family and for my brothers and their families…
I’m grateful for my friends. Sober and otherwise.
I’m grateful for 24 Hrs of A Christmas Story and for finally buying a copy of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.
I’m grateful for cycling. For Matt Assenmacher, Mike, Phil, Brad and Chuck. I’m grateful for my wife’s enthusiasm for getting into triathlon (and for my daughter being old enough to babysit this year so neither one of us will have to miss a ride for the other’s plans).
Finally, I’m grateful for prosperity and for being able to afford this, for my wife, because every triathlon chick should have her a tri bike:
I’ll be sure to put up a review later but I’m here to tell you… It’s an AMAZINGLY beautiful bike. The attention to detail is astounding.
One final item… I’m grateful that giving is more enjoyable than getting.
Really. Christmas Eve and I’m good for the year. I’ve gotten what I wanted and had my fill:
They’re my mom’s coconut cookies. I’d post the recipe but she uses some kind of voodoo magic to make them. They are, without exception, my single favorite food item on this planet. I can die a happy man – until next Christmas Eve.
If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a PSA out there showing a kid stealing his mom’s pistol out of her dresser drawer (who is that stupid with kids in the house?), taking it to school and dropping it on the desk asking the teacher to take it because he doesn’t “feel safe with a gun in the house”. I wonder if he’d feel better with a criminal with a knife in the house and no viable way for his mother to protect herself. Remember kids, gun control is saying it’s better to find your mom raped and strangled with her own pantyhose than to find her explaining to a police officer how her attacker ended up with all of those holes.
Never mind the fact that the idiot places his finger inside the trigger guard, on the trigger, when he boosts it from her dresser, never mind that the kid would be expelled and doomed to repeating, for the rest of his life, the all important I didn’t graduate line, “You want fries with that”? Technically that’s unfair to fast food employees because even that job requires a diploma or equivalent… I digress. Never mind that, when the dip s#!t pulls the pistol out of his backpack to give to the teacher, he puts his finger back on the trigger… You know, there’s a theme here. Leave it to Lib/Regressives to teach a kid how to handle a pistol in a manner which will get his balls shot off (twice), steal from his mother, lose his allowance for the next three years to pay for a new pistol (and a good safe, c’mon ma) and get expelled, dooming himself to poverty for the rest of his life, once he gets out of jail for illegally transporting a firearm… All in less than three minutes. That’s Public Service for you. Look at the bright side though… While he’s in jail, he’ll meet plenty of great people who can teach him how to make a living selling drugs! Woohoo!
And you wonder why I don’t want them anywhere near my healthcare?