My wife and I have been on an exciting, excellent path of late. We were well into 24-years of a good, but far from great marriage when my wife took her first paying job since before our daughters were born. I became the traditional breadwinner when my wife was ordered to bed rest for minor complications in her pregnancy – and they were only minor because she stuck to what was prescribed for her. When she gave birth to our beautiful daughter, she asked if we could try to make it on one income so she could stay home and raise our kids. I was fearful, of course. I wasn’t making all that much money, but I hoped we had a better chance of raising good children if we stuck to the older style of splitting duties. Divide and conquer.
We were not mistaken.
Over the years, my wife would complain every now and again that it would be nice if I’d call her at lunchtime to say hi and talk about my day with her. Going into breadwinner mode and making assumptions about how I should handle myself according to what I thought that meant, I focused hard on work – especially when I went out as an owner for 13-years. I tried to call my wife on a regular basis, but often would get lost in what I was doing and didn’t think beyond my work till I got home. Eventually, I learned to call my wife, but I never really understood the “why” of her asking me to. After all, I had dragons to slay and demons to banish to hell so I could make our money! I did well at the money part. We made enough that we had a humble but nice house, two cars, and a semi-comfortable life. [ED: Notice I didn’t put what I did on “society”? Blaming “society” is an excuse for an emotionally compromised person who can’t think their way into responsibility for their own actions and decisions – in other words, “society” as an excuse is a copout, best I can tell].
My wife learned to cope with the lack of connection during office hours. Even when I did call, it was rarely sterling conversation. She made the most of it, but eventually the lack of connection took a toll on her heart. She built barriers to protect her emotions and often “punished me” emotionally and otherwise for not understanding her needs better.
So far, if this sounds familiar, please give me two paragraphs to get to the good stuff.
I’ve recently come to find that I was something of a clueless narcissist. I had no idea, until I started listening to a YouTube series by Richard Grannon on the way to work on narcissism – thinking my wife was the narcissist (and she is, most certainly). So here I am, listening to this lecture, doing the “yeah, she does that, and she definitely acts like that“… until I hit a snag. The fourth item in, I did. Then the fifth and sixth… my jaw literally dropped. I knew my wife was a bit of a narcissist. The shock was, I was, also.
With the truth out in the open, I set about fixing myself. I broke down all of my defenses and let my emotions see the light of day for the first time in quite a while – and I was not prepared for what came next. I’m a big manly man, after all. I have command of my faculties and emotions, etc., etc.. Right? Nope. With my emotions now on my sleeve, having finally seen the light and realizing I could have done a lot better as a husband and father, I had a bit of a breakdown, but in a good way. I called my wife to talk about what had happened. I ended the conversation in tears, maybe the third time in 20 years I really cried – happy tears, like when my daughters were born, excluded. I’d broken my own heart, listening to a lecture about narcissism.
Now, fast-forward a month and with my wife at work, I find that I now need that connection while we’re both at our respective offices. All of a sudden I know exactly why the woman I love asked me to call her once or twice a day to make a connection – and I had a difficult time living up to such a simple request.
The realization of what I’d done was devastating. My wife, who had to build up emotional barriers over the years so she could go about her day detached from me was now, naturally, doing exactly what I’d done to her, and it hurt. All those years and I had no idea what I’d done to her. I built those barriers with my actions just as much as my wife did as a response. Man, it was eye-opening and brutal. In fact, it’s hard keeping from kicking my own ass for not understanding what my wife had to go through. It’s a lesson worth learning, though.
I didn’t have to worry about thinking outside of the box. I needed to think outside of the gray matter between my ears.
Hawthorn blossom in the park It didn’t all start with the failed fostering of Ernie the wonder hound. But he certainly was the actual nail in the proverbial. Ernie is a 40 kg greyhound, and we took him on a few months back with a view to fostering and possibly adopting. He didn’t so much […]Just a little leak — unironedman
Please have a look at my friend from Ireland’s post… The link above is the important part as he’s raising money for life savers… so they can have proper kit and training to save lives. Good stuff. Donate if you can, even if it’s a small amount.
The Goldilocks Saddle Status and the Position Proposition; Attaining True Perfection in Your Saddle Position – and Transferring That from One Bike to Another, Easily
Now, I’m going to keep this as simple as I can, for an insanely difficult and controversial topic. There are three things at play that pertain to positioning the saddle properly, and two that go to the size of the saddle that are absolute musts to achieve something close to perfection. Maybe “really, really close”.
First and foremost, I’ve never found there to be a saddle that corrects for a lack of saddle time. There are comfortable saddles, sure, but time must be spent in the saddle. There’s no way around this.
Before I get into locating the saddle, let’s talk about saddle size and style. The general rule is, the more flexible you are, the flatter the saddle you can comfortably ride. The less flexible, the more contour you’ll want in the saddle. The contouring of the saddle allows the hips to open up when you ride in an aggressive, road bike position. Getting the contour of the saddle to your liking is a big piece in this puzzle of perfecting the saddle.
After contour, there’s width. I’ve read, from much smarter people than I, that a saddle that isn’t wide enough is excruciating. This hasn’t been my experience at all. My problems have always centered on saddles that were too wide. Now, there are interesting things at play here. First, the more aggressive a position we ride in, the thinner the saddle should be. The more upright we ride, the wider the saddle.
I can comfortably ride on a 143 mm saddle on our tandem, but those are excruciating on my road bikes. I rub the insides of my of my pelvic bones on the edges of the saddle in an aggressive setup. On my Trek 5200 (below, left) I run a 138. On my Specialized Venge (below, right) I run a 128 that is pure heaven next to a 143.
After we get the contour, next we move to width. I was measured at a 143 mm width, but that works for an upright position, call it the tandem riding position I mentioned earlier. The more aggressive I ride, on my two road bikes, the less width I want. When it comes down the the bottom line, I don’t mess with what works and keeps my heinie happy. I just roll with it.
The best way to figure your saddle width is to get measured at a shop that has a proprietor or two who know what they’re doing. Make sure to let them know how aggressive your setup on the bike is (if they don’t already know), or take a picture – or even the bike – with you to get measured.
With that out of the way, we’re going to get down to the nitty gritty and position. I’ve been of two minds on this. For a while, I was like, “Yeah, saddle height is important, but as long as you’re close, say within a few millimeters without going too high, it’s all good”. I disagree with that point currently. I’ve got an exact number that works on all of my bikes – and by exact, I mean that word. Before we get height drilled in, though, I should get into the fore/aft positioning of the saddle, because we do this first because this affects the up/down location.
Simply stated, on a road bike, the fore/aft position gets a normal rider’s leading edge of their knee directly above the pedal spindle when the feet are clipped in and the pedals are parallel to the ground. I like to check this when I’m setting a new saddle by getting the height close to where I want it (my personal norm is 36-5/8″ on the nose, maybe a 32nd of an inch less). Then I warm up for a minute or two and check the level by setting my crank arms parallel to the ground and running a 4′ level from the pedal spindle up to the leading edge of my knee. That should be plumb, up and down.
With that set, I move to the height. I’ll go with the 36-5/8″ and give it a ride, preferably outdoors because the trainer just doesn’t do the real world feel justice. Then I set the tilt of the saddle, while I’m out, so I’m perfectly balanced and cradled with my hands down in the drops or on the hoods. Once that’s done, I can drill in my saddle height over the next few rides. 36-5/8″ is close enough, but I may lower it just a touch if something doesn’t quite feel right over, say, 100 miles in a few days.
And that’s how I get to my Goldilocks saddle height position. It’s not too high (any higher and I’ll have some form of pain), it’s not too low. It’s just right.
It’s a lot of effort, yes, but it pays off… in the end.
I couldn’t resist.
As a part of our marriage renaissance, I’ve been opting to ride with my wife more. Firstly, we simply weren’t as close as we could have been for long time and missed her terribly – I missed loving to spend time with her, and she with me. Secondly, well, see firstly. Thirdly, you get the drill.
And so it was, last night, my wife and I attended our daughter’s tennis meet a half-dozen miles from the start of Tuesday Night in Lennon. When I got home from the office, my wife was on the fence about riding, I was not – wheels were rolling at 6. I asked her if she’d ride with me and after some convincing, she agreed. I quickly prepped both bikes, aired tires, set water bottles, and laid out my clothes to get dressed after packing the bikes and our gear – helmets, shoes and shades.
We headed to my daughter’s meet and watched her win a grand match. It was fun to watch.
After, as the wind started picking up, adding an unsettling chill to the already cool air, we loaded into the car and headed over to the church parking lot where we meet up. We’d missed the warm-up and headed into the church to change into our cycling kit. Once changed, I unpacked and readied the bikes to roll and let my normal riding buddies know my wife and I would be riding together. We also picked up Jonathan and Big Joe. We rolled out shortly after the A/A-Elite mixed group headed out.
I took the lead into the headwind. My original intent was just to set the pace so my wife could hang at the back and catch a decent draft without being too taxed but as the miles ticked by, I decided to stay up there and eat the first four miles of headwind. The pace was lively and just right to be fun and taxing but nothing too difficult.
In fact, it ended up turning into one of the more enjoyable Tuesday nights in recent memory.
On the homestretch, we were in a tight bunch with a decent tailwind and were pushing around 22 to 24-mph (35 to 38 km/h). Jonathan was up front and started pulling away, with me in second. I could see Joe’s and my wife’s shadows start to fade off, so I slowed down to wait for my wife. Jonathan was about ten bikes up and my wife said, “No! Go play. I’m okay”. I said no, that I was staying, but my wife insisted. I went off to chase Jonathan down. He’d slowed down to wait but as I got within earshot, I told him to “go-go-go” and he picked up the pace. He pipped me earlier at the Vernon sign by drafting me till the last minute – I had nothing left to match his challenge. I did the same to him. I rode him like a rented mule at 26-mph (decidedly faster than a mule will run, btw) and as we rounded the corner at the farmhouse I waited till I knew keep full gas on all the way to the City Limits sign. When I hit the spot, I launched from 26-mph to 31-1/2. Like me at the first sprint, all Jonathan could do was watch me go by.
Up the road a short way, I turned around and waited for my wife and Joe to get across the line. We joined up again and had a few laughs as we took it easy for the last mile to the parking lot.
We turned out a little more than 25 miles and we crossed the City Limits sign at 18.5-mph for an average. It was a great night.
I got home from work a little late last night. Not terribly so, only about ten minutes, but I’m usually like clockwork. The Michigan State Flower, affectionately known as the Road Construction Barrel is out on the first third of my expressway ride home and traffic is a little silly until I start heading north. I have another way home, if I choose, but that route is a little less than enjoyable so I’ve avoided it.
My wife was going to be working late and there was a slight chance of a popup shower or two so I readied the Trek. I had big plans of 23-ish solo miles. My riding buddy is out of town till this afternoon and there was plenty to do around the house so I decided to throw my high-minded goal out the window and do a nice little recovery ride before heading home to attend to some things around the house.
At a touch past 5 I wheeled my Trek out the door and threw a leg over the top tube. Right pedal, easy push off, fumble with my left foot for the pedal, snag the loop, lock in and I’m off. I don’t know when that little quirk happened, the fumbling with my left foot, but it makes me laugh every time it happens. I do know why: A lot of time on the tandem with my wife. We have two-sided mountain pedals on the tandem, so it’s vastly easier to line up a cleat and mash down on the pedal, rather than line up the toe to the loop and push the loop forward to engage the cleat.
All that time on the tandem this spring has paid dividends on the single bikes, as I hoped it would. I was a little slow heading north, but with a west-northwesterly wind, a little slow wasn’t surprising. I also had a design of a much needed active recovery ride. After three hard days on the tandem, I probably should have taken a day off, but the opportunity to ride solo and easy don’t present themselves too often. I turned left at the intersection to get some of the headwind out of the way early… and dropped like a rock from an easy 18-mph to struggling to hold 15. The headwind actually made me laugh as I rounded the corner after clearing traffic.
A mile west, then one north, turn around and back south… and then the fun part. Three miles heading east. 25-mph was fairly easy. 27 took some effort. A couple of miles south, turn around and two north, then two east and one south to the driveway. Just enough to keep the legs spun up for tonight. It was better than taking a day off, that’s for sure!
Incidentally, my daughter was cooking us a chicken taco dinner and needed a bunch of stuff from the grocery store she hadn’t counted on needing. I barely got anything done that I needed to because I had to run out shopping. Ah well, the chicken tacos were amazing. Worth it.
Shear Tandemonium! 120 Miles in Three Days on a Tandem; Better Than a Kiss on the Cheek from My Wife…
My wonderful wife and I rode the tandem all three days, well, both weekend days and Friday and it was fantastic. In fact, it felt a little off riding my Trek at the cycling club’s annual new member ride yesterday.
Part of the positive nature of riding together with my wife on a tandem is that working as a team on a bicycle translates to working well together off the bike. Even better, working together on the tandem helped remind us how our marriage should be when we weren’t working all that well together off the bike.
I’m thinking about how special this weekend was. My stoker wife rode that tandem like she meant it. I could feel a little more effort up the hills – a few times I really had to put some major watts down to ensure she wasn’t pedaling through me. It was awesome. We also developed a code for coasting and riding over tracks so she wouldn’t get caught sitting on the saddle over rough train tracks, and we developed a series of silent gestures to let the other know they were doing well, were appreciated, or just a simple, “I’m having an awesome time with you. I love you” as we led the pack out.
Our rise to tandemdom has been an effort on both our part. In the process, especially in the last couple of months our marriage went from good to stellar. We set a wrecking ball to our emotional barriers, fears and insecurities. We learned to, rather than argue, work together for actual, real solutions. We choose that rather than make demands and damage the relationship… which leads to more emotional barriers, fear and insecurity. That effort off the bike made it all the more wonderful on the bike. Things that used to baffle us are quickly turned into solutions. There’s so much love in our house, are daughters often break down into tears when they talk about the profound changes.
In fact, I’m thinking this actually may need a Friday series because I feel the need to share this miracle. I get the idea I may be meant to… I’ll kick the tires on this.
Anyway, as my buddy, Mike likes to say, “A tandem is either a marriage maker or a marriage breaker”. Our tandem helped make our marriage what it is today by showing us, but me in particular, how to work together for a decent goal.
This has been the wackiest year of cycling since I started riding in 2011. The weather all spring was ugly and uncooperative and I don’t know anyone up in miles from last year. No one.
That said, the weather has taken a turn for the better and improved significantly to where we’re out in shorts and short sleeves. I’m up to something resembling normal week numbers – after Saturday’s 49-mile ride on the tandem, I was sitting on 177 miles over the last seven days.
In addition, my wife and I have been doing significant work on our marriage and we’re happier together than I can ever remember. That blessing translated even to bike choice. In previous years, we’d either choose single bikes and let the tandem sit, or only ride the tandem on Sunday mornings. We’re choosing the tandem every time we ride together. In fact, after some rudimentary math on the way out on a 50-mile out-and-back route, I realized I’ve got more miles on the tandem this year than I do on the Venge and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Jess and I are actually talking about trading in our Periscope for a new Co-Motion Robusto – a significant increase in quality and a massive decrease in weight. The changes also meant less time for cycling, but the benefits vastly outweigh missing some time on two wheels.
At this point, I’d rather ride with my wife on a tandem. So why not do that on something that would compliment our speedy nature rather than act as a boat anchor? We bought our periscope so that we could have something that would fit a stoker as small as our young daughters, or my wife. With the one of the girls off at college and the other halfway through high school (and neither enjoying cycling), it makes sense to get us onto something that fits us properly.
In the case of my wife and I, a friend loves to say a tandem is a marriage maker, or a marriage breaker. We made our marriage… then brought the tandem to the party. For us, the tandem perfectly compliments where we are at, mentally and physically, in our marriage. The better we’re doing as a couple, the more we enjoy riding the tandem.
I never thought I’d choose a 43-pound boat anchor over a 16-pound aero race bike. But I do, and for that I am grateful.
Step Eleven: Sought Through Prayer And Meditation… How I Started to Make Meditation Work for Me – Without the Buzzwords and Jargon!
I’m going to be extraordinarily clear here; I wasn’t much for meditation. For 29 years I chose a different route for my thoughts, and especially my emotions. I treated many thoughts, again, especially inconvenient emotions I didn’t find useful as “garbage”. Much the same as it’s said dreams are the brain’s way of taking out the garbage in the subconscious, I treated my conscious mind the same way.
It was very efficient and very safe. But there was a massive down-side to all of that efficiency and safety… and that is what meditation showed me I was missing.
Working with a friend and professional recovery counselor, he had me start looking into “centering prayer” made famous by a monk, Thomas Keating. Rather than throwing out uneasy emotions and thoughts, Pete had me start to look at them seriously. He asked me to start paying attention. What were my thoughts telling me? What thoughts were based in fear? How did that fear take shape in my life and in my interactions with my wife, kids and friends?
It took me two days to realize that I had entirely walled my heart off from everyone – something I lied to myself. I’d convinced myself it made me a better man, husband and father. I had lied to myself and the lie was so complete, when I started meditating with a purpose, I was aghast. The eye-opening event was profound and shocking.
I immediately took to rectifying this. I dissected every thought and emotion as it popped up during meditation sessions and even when a random thought would just pop up.
This is what led to the massive life changes that I’ve been writing about in my recovery these last two months. I remember the day I allowed myself to feel emotions again, vividly. I allowed to crumble all of the defenses I’d built up over the years – and I mean that literally, I could feel the walls crumble and fall away. It was shocking, horrifying and glorious all at the same time. With my wife, it almost felt like I was that young, awkward man and we were courting again.
My heart would skip a beat when she’d call. You know what it was? This just occurred to me as I was writing, it’s like I’d been dying of thirst and when the walls came down, the water that had just been a small trickle I’d let in to keep me alive, rushed in to fill the vacuum.
It took me a full month to wrap my head (and heart) around this event.
This wasn’t perfect, though. With those emotions came a lot of fear that I’d blocked off. Chief among those was, “how could my wife possibly have lived with me like this for 25 years”? It hurt me to my core. The next couple of weeks were tearful for me. As I realized how much better I should have been doing, as my heart filled with love and compassion for my wife and kids, I changed. God changed me.
When I started this walkabout two months ago, this is vastly better than what I’d hoped for. I am so impossibly head-over-heels in love with my wife, I can hardly contain it… and my wife changed with me. Her actions that led me to build my defenses completely stopped and turned 180 degrees. This isn’t to take the focus off me, where it belongs, but to say my wife, recognizing the massive good that could come from these changes, worked with me to come back.
Meditation has been amazing for me, and I will be attending to this function of “the program” much more regularly so I can keep growing and walking the path I’m on. I only thought I loved my wife and family a few months ago… or maybe to say, I loved them as best I could a few months ago. I’ve been opened to a whole new world I didn’t even know was there.
And it is beautiful.
Last night was a Thursday night ride in Fenton, the Lake Shannon Loop, and I wasn’t there. In the last decade+, with a perfect evening for cycling like we had last night, I never would have missed that ride.
Earlier in the day, I’d gone to a meeting at one of my jobsites a couple hours before lunch. Then over to my wife’s office fifteen minutes up the road where I completed some paperwork that needed to be completed for another, just up the road. She was in a Zoom meeting with her colleagues, so I stayed out in the car and worked until she texted me the meeting was over. I got a lot done sitting at one of the spare desks in the open office room – enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about working much the next day. Then we went across the street, holding hands, to get lunch.
My wife and I have been married 25 years and we still hold hands everywhere we go. We both love the connection.
We finished our lunch and I headed over to look at another monster of a job we’ve got nearby. I walked that one and talked to our workers on site, walked with the superintendent, then checked out a second building we’re just starting on the same site. That went well and when I was done, I headed back to my wife’s office to finish up my work for the day.
At a quarter past 3 (I work 6am to 3pm for an 8-hour day in 9 hours), I kissed my wife goodbye. She had some late work to do two towns north and I headed to my daughter’s tennis match. She was not expecting to see one of us at her meet. I’d texted her sister earlier to let her know if she came to the meet I’d fill up her gas tank. She jumped at that offer but was running a little late. My youngest was warming up when I walked over to her court and stood at the fence. It was a sunny, warm, beautiful Michigan afternoon and as she turned and it dawned on her that she recognized the lone person standing at the end of her court, her jaw dropped and her eyes welled up with happy tears. I just nodded and said, “I love you, kiddo”.
My girl played her heart out. In between sets, I spoke with our older daughter about things I’d done wrong in my marriage to her mom. I told her about building up fear-based defensive walls to protect my emotions – and more important, I told her why and how I broke them down, hopefully for good (God willing) and what that meant for her mom and I. I don’t think we’ve ever been as happy, and sustainably happy to be together.
It was an amazing evening.
I met my daughter at a gas station and filled her car up, as promised and she went off to see her new hunk of a boyfriend, a transferred rugby player from Rutgers. I drove home alone, a smile on my face, but a dark cloud loomed over my soul… my wife was working late out of town, from 6pm to 8. She never leaves an event like that on time and we had plans to talk about for the wedding/renewal while she drove on the hour-long drive home. This was why I built up the defensive walls I wrote of earlier. I’m the least important person when she’s in a crowd and that hurts. I tried to stay positive. I prayed about it. I prayed hard…
And shortly after 8pm I got a text from my wife that she was on her way and on the phone with her mom and would be calling me when she was done talking to her mom. Now it was my turn for the jaw drop. My wife rarely cared enough to do something like that. She’d always defaulted to, “Meh, he’ll be okay”. I never was. See, I’ve always been excited to see my wife, and it hurts when she’s late and doesn’t bother to call (something I do in the rare case I’m running late). And everything I’d emotionally prepared for, this time, was wrong. She left on time and was going over plans for the wedding renewal so her mom could come down for the festivities next month.
True to her text, my wife called a short while later and we made our plans for the event until she was almost home. I took her choice for dinner out of the fridge and heated it up for her so she could eat as soon as she walked in the door. And I was waiting at the door, dressed to the nines in my best business casual, when she pulled in the driveway – exactly how she likes to see me. I kissed her passionately and told her how much it meant that she texted to let me know she’d call soon, that it felt good to matter enough to warrant the small gesture. She looked me up and down and accused me of flirting and said that I always mattered, but she could see why the text helped. She told me how much it meant to her that I took the night off the bike and went to our daughter’s tennis match.
This is a first for us – to think about the other, and the family, in such depth – it’s those little things that are deep; anyone can be there for the big things. For my wife, just a simple text to let me know she’s on her way and talking to her mom. For me, taking a night off cycling (or whatever hobby of the day I’m into) so I can be there for my daughter.
After my wife finished dinner, we wandered off to bed and fell asleep in each other’s arms, smiles on both our faces. My wife and I had a good marriage. When we think of the other enough to go out of our way, well it’s good times and noodle salad, folks. As good as it gets. The difference between good and fantastic.
I was out on a bike ride with my friend, Chucker last evening trying to come up with something to do for my wife for our 25th wedding anniversary.
We’ve gone through a complete transformation of our marriage in the last two months. We went from being committed and together to something truly special. We, almost simultaneously, went from battling each other to “win”, to doing the least amount of damage possible in a disagreement and negotiating for peace. We went from both of us losing to working things out to a level of satisfaction that was previously rare at best. From there, we were able to love each other more deeply than I thought was possible. It’s scary, I won’t lie, but it’s good.
My biggest regret is that I didn’t start this sooner. But it takes what it takes to get us where we need to be, so I’ll have to find a way to make my peace with it.
That line of thought led me to an idea. While Chucker and I were heading around our normal loop, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for my wife for our 25th anniversary. Now, she’s exceedingly particular about jewelry, so another ring is out. Her wrists are taken up with bracelets she likes, and she’s got quite a few necklaces. That got me to thinking; the events that have unfolded over the last couple of months are a small miracle. Going forward, things are going to be very different. The changes we’ve made are built on an entirely new, solid, foundation that began with our Higher Power (we call that HP God to keep it simple).
I made a lot of mistakes in the first 25 years. I built up protective walls that seemed like a good idea at the time but got in the way of loving my wife fully. They needed to be torn down. Once they were gone I realized just how much better I could have been to my wife and kids. “Should have” might be better. That realization changed me to my core and our marriage changed for the infinitely better almost immediately.
We have come to a place where I know for a fact, the next 25 years are going to be much better than the first 25. And so the next thought brought a smile to my face that lasted the rest of the night.
I could ask my wife to marry me again to start the next 25 years so I can give her the marriage she deserves. Not just good or passable, but great.
And so I asked my wife to marry me again in front of her dad and our daughters. Down on one knee, just like it should be done. I promised her the next 25 years would be much better than the first.
She said yes with happy tears in her eyes.