xmlns:og>='http://ogp.me/ns#'> Pedals & Pencils: February 2009

February 28, 2009

Cycling in February: Pedaling a little. Yelling a little. Raining a lot.

Dear friends and family,

What a soggy month February was!  I was desperate to squeeze in bike rides on the weekend, but Mother Nature had some different ideas.

  • 126.128 miles this month: As I typed that tiny number, it occurred to me that my total miles for the entire month of February barely even adds up to one century ride.  Rain, rain go away.  Or at least leave me a dry Sunday or two.

  • 2 deer: On my way to Shasta Dam, I saw two deer stopped in the middle of the road.  I looked at them.  They looked at me.  I imagine we were all thinking the same thing "I'll wait and see what you do so we don't get all tangled up in each other." I slowed from a snail's pace to a sloth-like cadence and the deer bounded into the brush right in front of me.  It was so cool.

  • 42 miles: My longest distance this month.  Next month I'm hoping to be up to 60 miles in one shot.

  • 35 MPH: My fastest speed this season

  • 3.7 MPH: My slowest speed this season.  On Feb. 28th, in a last ditch effort to get some miles in this month, I decided to cram in a 42 mile ride.  Due to rain, I hadn't ridden my bike a single time in the two weeks prior to that ride.  I mean, why not dust the cobwebs off The Rocket and toss in a long ride with lots of climbing?  Obviously my plan was flawless.  At mile 40 I faced the last climb home.  It was a relatively short, but steep climb.  I dropped The Rocket into granny gear and tried not to look other cyclists in the eye as they passed me.  There weren't any walkers on the trail which was good, because I'm confident they would have passed me, too!

  • 1 time I yelled at a colleague: When riding the River Trail, I looked ahead and saw one of my co-workers and his wife enjoying a peaceful walk with their dog.  My colleague was wearing a sweatshirt with his last name on it.  Perfect.  In the past, I've mistaken strangers for people I know.  It's not nearly as much fun yelling at strangers.  Since he was wearing that handy name sweatshirt, I was 100% sure I knew this person, so I didn't call out my usual chipper "On your left!"  Instead I yelled "Move it or lose it, McMahon!"  Seeing it was me, he yelled back that he was moving far, far out of my way.  He even ushered his wife to the edge of the trail and held up his arms to protect her.  It's a given that my superpower is crashing when there is absolutely nothing to warrant said crash.  He recognized, nay respected, my superpower and responded with the appropriate measure of caution.  Awesome.

  • 0 crashes this month: That could be because I was hardly ever in the saddle.  On another note, I'm pretty sure I tripped at least six times this month, but I since I never ate pavement, I'm calling it zero.

  • 1 case of bicycling jealousy: My friend, That Laura, and her father are currently on a cycling tour of Vietnam.  She is posting updates regularly and each time I read her posts, I am equal parts excited for her and riddled with jealousy that she gets to do such an awesome thing.  She also gets to ride an elephant while she's there.  The jealousy is starting to outweigh the excitement.

  • 1 photo: Redding's best ride is the Shasta Wheelman.  Being the awesome cyclist that I am, they sent me this year's ride brochure.  Ok, they might have just sent it to me because I'm on their mailing list.  Either way, I am now a super famous cyclist because they included a picture of some of last year's team, including me, on the inside of the brochure.  So what if the photo is only two inches big?  So what if I am smaller than the size of a dime within that two inch picture?  I am officially a Big Time Cyclist.  No, I do not have time to sign autographs.  I am too big and important.  And I am very busy trying not to crash on my bike.

  • 1 "CLANK!": On February first, I headed up to Shasta Dam.  It's so pretty this time of year, but the headwind was wicked that day.  I passed several flags sticking straight out in the air towards me, mocking me for heading into such an unforgiving wind.  Up, up, up to the Dam I went.  And what goes up must come down.  The last part of the downhill curved around so that I was again riding into the wind and had to continuously pedal in order to even inch forward.  So unfair.  There I was pedaling downhill, trying not to be bullied by the wind, when I heard a distinct "Clank!" from The Rocket.  I looked down.  Brakes intact.  Chainring intact.  Wheels intact.  Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, I continued to the Dam.  At the Dam I stopped for a slug of water.  Removing my water bottle, I saw that my metal waterbottle cage had spontaneously broken itself.  I removed it and took it to Sports Ltd. for a stronger replacement.  I showed it to the salesboy.  He pointed me in the direction of new ones and uttered "I've never seen that before."  I replied "I know, I wasn't even touching it at the time.  I was riding downhill."  Salesboy said "I assumed you crashed.  I've never even heard of a waterbottle cage breaking like that on it's own."  I just smiled and nodded at innocent Salesboy because my life is full of "I've never seen that before.  I've never even heard of that before."

  • $500 donated so far: Thank you Jean P., Amy & Steve P., Tracy H., Jeff W., Anita J., Carmen L., Chris F., and That Unicycling Guy.  I appreciate your support and generosity.

  • $1,500 until I reach my fundraising goal: If you'd like to make a donation, click here to donate online.  You can also write a check to The Lance Armstrong Foundation and I'll make sure it gets to the right place.

Thanks for all of your support and interest in another season of cycling adventures!



February 23, 2009

The Bouncy Ball Game

A few years ago my husband and one of his friends invented a game.  The game involves bouncy balls, the ones about the size of a quarter, and driving.  To play the bouncy ball game, you drive an unoccupied street with at least several handfuls of bouncy balls.  Then you roll down the windows and start throwing.  The object of the game is to get the bouncy balls to do different things.  For example, you can toss the bouncy balls so they hit the hood and bounce over the car.  If you're driving a truck, extra points are awarded if you can get the ball to land and stay in the truck bed.  Another way to earn points is to throw the ball and catch it.  Catching a thrown bouncy ball is a rare and hallowed experience.  Of the thousands of bouncy balls that have been thrown over the years, I'd say only about 20 of them have ever been caught.  Go ahead and look at me like I'm nuts, but the bouncy ball game is a tremendous amount of fun.

Today I spoke to a group of teachers about upcoming writing workshops and the NCWP Summer Institute.  I passed out three different fliers on opportunities they have to better their writing instruction.  I talked about how attending the summer institute enhanced and changed my writing instruction this year.  I talked about how it improved my personal writing.  I raved about the generous stipend Summer Institute participants receive.  I talked about upcoming Saturday sessions and what a great opportunity they are to learn from colleagues across grade levels.  Then I asked if there were any questions.  There were.

Are these all in Chico?  Aren't there any sessions in Redding? Yes, these are all in Chico.  Myself and another colleague are available to present locally.  I'd love to talk with your principal and/or curriculum director about that.

You really want me to sacrifice three weeks of my summer? Well, technically it's only fourteen days and you're provided housing and reimbursed for groceries.  For me it was more of a gift than a sacrifice.  But if you're unable to make it to the Summer Institute, then the Saturday sessions might be a better fit for you.

You really want me to give up some of my Saturdays and drive to Chico to work? Well, yes.  You can also stop by Trader Joe's, Jon & Bon's and The Bear while you're there.  I promise it will be worthwhile and the working part will give you a chance to reflect on your teaching.  So, it will feel less like work and more like a really great Saturday.

Yikes.  It was like my inaugural try at the bouncy ball game.  When my husband first introduced the bouncy ball game to me, I made the rookie mistake of throwing an entire handful of balls all at once.  They were pinging off of the windshield, ponging off of trees, dribbling down the sidewalks, and not a single one of them landed in my hands.  I felt the same way today.  I tossed all of the information and I'm hoping at least one or two of the teachers will take me up on my offer to participate in at least one of these opportunities.  We'll see.

I've yet to catch a thrown bouncy ball, but in my living room there's a gross of bouncy balls waiting for me.  Game on.

February 18, 2009

Growing Taller

Oh, I can barely say the words.  In fact when I try to eek them out, my lips curl up under my teeth and refuse to enunciate the two words that are every teacher's dark cloud of dread.  Inside recess.  My very insides twist at those two little words.  It has been raining for so many days straight that animals are pairing up just in case.

Yesterday afternoon was another god forsaken day of inside recess.  During inside recess my little ones can do puzzles, read, create stuff from the recyclable paper box, play with building blocks, write in their journals, play board games, or watch a movie.  My class has a favorite movie.  It's the home DVD of the musical my class puts on every spring.  The kids sing and "rehearse their moves" along with the DVD.  It's cute and, hey, they're singing and dancing.

After a peaceful lunch full of adult conversation, I walked down the hall toward my classroom and heard music.  Loud music.  Loud familiar music.  I turned into the first grade pod and sure enough, the musical was blaring out of my classroom.  I stepped into my class and stopped in my tracks.  Although the bell had rung, my children, all of my children, were still busy at play.  And the DVD was so loud I had to plug my ears as I approached the T.V. to shut the darn thing off.

Oh man, I was peeved.  I'd trained my students to clean up when the bell rang.  I'd trained them to be ready for instruction as soon as my shadow darkened the door.  And yet, here they were STILL PLAYING!  They know better than this.  I'd taught them better than this.  Fuming on the inside, I remained cool on the outside.

One of my students, a blond pixie with a smattering of freckles across her nose, innocently asked "Mrs. McCauley, what are you doing here?"  What am I doing here?  What am I doing here?  Oh children, this isn't going to end well for you.

In my calmest, best attempt at faking Zen voice, I said "The bell rang.  Recess is over.  It's read aloud time and we're not ready."

The pixie, with absolute shock on her face, exclaimed "The bell rang?  When did the bell ring?  We didn't hear it."  This was followed by twenty students scrambling to clean up as quickly as possible.

"I'm not surprised you didn't hear the bell.  You had the TV up way too loud."  I scolded, opening up the read aloud book, a clear demonstration that I wasn't going to waste a minute more.

At this age, my little ones will do anything, anything to avoid disappointing the teacher.  It bothers them tremendously.  Especially when my disappointment is unjust.

The pixie continued "But Mrs. McCauley, we couldn't find a yard duty teacher to help us and we're not tall enough to reach the volume button on the T.V."

I couldn't help it.  My face broke into a grin.  "Oh, I see.  I'm glad there's more to the story.  I'm sorry.  Let me show you how to control the volume with the remote so that you'll know what to do next time."  Their faces beamed back at me, glad that justice had been restored.  As the rain drummed on the roof, we enjoyed a peaceful afternoon of thinking and working together.

This morning I peeked out of my bedroom window, praying the clouds would hold off, hoping sunlight would cut through.  It was still raining.  It was the day of the trimester writing assessment.  Of course it was raining.  I'd deliberately scheduled my writing assessment around all of the holidays and in fact planned to do it right after recess, so that all of their wiggles would be left on the playground.  No such luck.  Not today.

And yet, I did not fear.  We'd been sinking our teeth into the narratives of Patricia Polacco and Cynthia Rylant.  We'd talked about the characteristics of a personal narrative and they'd each brought in a photo of a special place to write about.  They've been incorporating vivid verbs, metaphors, and similes into their writing on a regular basis.  And, let me tell you, these kids can write.  They love writing.  They are constantly writing notes, songs, poems, reports, whatever they can get their hands on.  Teaching writing this year has been so much fun!  They are playing with words like never before, finding their voices, echoing great authors.

So here we were, the day of the writing assessment.  They'd been counting the days until they got to write.  After inside recess, two of my little girls rushed up to me, waving papers in their hands.  "Look, Mrs. McCauley, we wrote personal narratives at recess."  I smiled.  They were ready.  I read the prompt and gave the directions.   Then they orally shared their story with a partner.  I listened in on their stories.  Stories of finding crabs at the beach, winning a trophy at a go cart race, going to a baseball game with Dad.  My feathers puffed up like a proud peacock.

They moved to their desks and began to write.  All heads were down, pencils scrawling.  Everyone was hard at work.

A few minutes later, one of my most skilled writers, told me she was done.  I looked at her writing.  All two sentences of it.  That's right, two measly sentences.  I encouraged her to use the remaining thirty five minutes to make her story better.  She included a few more details and turned out an acceptable story.  As I walked around the room I noticed more acceptable stories.  Acceptable, but not great.  Stories full of simple words strung together into simple sentences.

I was peeved.  I'd taught my students to think of themselves as writers.  I'd taught them to be writers.  And yet, here they were STILL PLAYING with passive, flavorless words!  They know better than this.  I'd taught them better than this.

Where was the thoughtful word choice they'd shown the past few weeks?  Where were those metaphors and similes that showcased their unique writing voice?  Where were those ideas on infusing feeling into their narrative?

The thing with first graders is that their learning comes in waves.  The idea washes up, recedes, washes up a little further, recedes, and washes up a little further until finally it's high tide and the idea or concept has taken up residence in their mind.  Practically, that means what they know one day, they might be unsure of the next, only to understand it fully the third day.  It is a constant rising and falling.

As I took a closer look at their writing, I saw evidence of attempts to grasp powerful words, to paint a picture for the audience.  Sure their writing would meet the benchmark, but in my mind, it fell short.  Oh, my dear little ones were on their tiptoes, stretching for words to convey meaning.  Today they were just a little beyond their reach.

Wouldn't it be convenient if I could just grab a remote control and say "Next time, push this button and it will make your writing all better."?  Even my youngest writers know that good writing doesn't work that way.  There is no magic button.

There is grappling with word choice.  There is mulling over thoughts.  There is choosing order.  There is searching for big, beautiful words that speak to the audience.  There is erasing until it sounds just right.  And there is reaching.  Reaching until they are tall enough writers to grab onto all of those things.

February 13, 2009

Bathing Suit Season. Ugh.

Today I read a blog post ending with the phrase "It's going to be an interesting summer."  Summer?  What?  I checked to see if I'd accidentally clicked on archives or something.  Nope. February 10, 2009.  Just in case, I checked the date on my computer to see if I'd fallen into a coma and just happened to wake up the day after the last day of school.  Nope.  February 14, 2009.

The person preparing for an interesting summer resides in Chicago, and unless Chicago recently relocated to to Australia, it's not summer there either.  The wind, rain, hail and occasional snowflake have confirmed it's not summer here.

So this is the only rationale I can come up with:  She went to Target and saw the parade of neon bathing suits in the women's section and deduced that it must be summer.  I'm clueless as to why Target whips out the bathing suits the day after Christmas.  Really, how am I supposed to buy Christmas candy marked down a kajillion percent with bikinis staring me in the face?  It's all very confusing.

So, here's a little public service announcement to help everyone out.  Bathing suit season is not synonymous with summer.  Thank God.  The dry heat of the summer will come soon enough along with the daunting task of digging my bathing suit out of the bottom drawer.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to revel in piling on the sweaters, scarves, slippers, and blankets for as long as I can.  I'm going to cuddle up with good books, drink hot cocoa, slurp tomato soup for dinner, and ride my bike in air so crisp it turns my nose pink.  It's going to be an interesting winter.

February 12, 2009

That Laura is That Cool

Ok, I've mentioned my friend, That Laura, before.  Well, That Laura leaves for a bike tour of Vietnam in six days.  She and her father are going together.  On a tour of Vietnam on bicycles.  I know I already said that, but it's so cool it bears repeating.  A bike tour of Vietnam.  Ok, I'm done saying it.  I've really got to get a grip on my jealousy.

Because I will miss her while she's gone and also because if you think someone is awesome, you should tell them about their awesomeness publicly, I'm blogging about That Laura today.  Here are the top ten reasons Vietnam is lucky to host Laura for a few days:

10. Laura rode the STP without a team last year.  That's 200 miles in 2 days on her own, folks.

9. She recently adopted a cat.  The cat came with a name: Little Baby Jesus.  You just can't make stuff like that up.

8. She kayaks on the lake and isn't even afraid of sturgeon.

7. She takes me kayaking and doesn't make fun of me for being afraid of sturgeon.  Have you seen those things?  Those are some freaky looking dinosaur fish monsters!

6. She has an awesome movie theater bag.  It can hold a full Big Gulp and has ample candy space.

5. She seems to attract animals in need and always finds homes for them.

4. Laura is authentically nice.  This quality typically drives me nuts, but Laura's genuine nature is like a superpower.

3. Laura is one of those people who is up for anything.  Kayaking?  Yes.  Cycling?  You bet.  Movies?  Sure.  Games.  Yup.  Throwing bouncy balls from your bike?  Absolutely.  Whatever you've got on tap, Laura is game and happy to play.

2. She watches Scrubs and Flight of the Conchords.   I think sometimes TV compatibility is underrated in friendship.

1. Laura signed up for the LiveStrong ride so I won't have to ride alone.  Mathematically you would think that a team of two would be only be twice as great as a team of one.  As it turns out, it's an exponential math problem.  A team of two is like a hundred times better than a team of one.

So, Vietnam, take good care of That Laura while she's visiting.  On a bike tour.  With her dad.  Darn, there goes jealousy rearing her ugly head again.  Maybe I will have tamed my envy while she's on a bike tour.  With her dad.  In Vietnam.  Oh, I give up.

February 11, 2009

Stuff White People Like #61

A friend recently routed me to stuffwhitepeoplelike.com.  Go ahead and fire off those angry e-mails about stereotyping.  Some stereotypes are true.  And some stereotypes are funny because they are true.  Naturally when I discovered that #61 on the stuff white people like list was about cycling, I was intrigued.  The stereotypes mentioned in #61 are hilarious because they are true about me.  So here is #61 in all it's hilarity with a few observations of my own thrown in.

A good place to find white people on a Saturday is at a Bike Shop. Bike shops are almost entirely staffed and patronized by white people!  There also seems to be a tattoo minimum requirement in order to work at my favorite bike shop.

But not all white people love bicycles in the same way, there is much diversity. First up, we have the younger urban white folks who absolutely love their fixed gear bicycles. These are seen all over college towns, Silverlake in LA, Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Queen West in Toronto, and Victoria, British Columbia. Fixed gear bicycles meet a lot of requirements for white person acceptance. They can be made from older (i.e. vintage) bicycles, thus allowing the rider to have a unique bike that is unlikely to be ridden by anyone else in town. They are also easily customizable with expensive things Aerospoke rims, Phil Wood Hubs, and Nitto Parts. The combination of rare bicycles and expensive parts makes it easy for white people to judge other white people on the quality and originality of their bicycles. This is important in determining if someone is or isn’t cooler than you. I don't need to ride a fixie to establish this.  Everyone is cooler than I am.  Except unicyclists.

White people also like Mountain Bikes because it lets them be in nature. It’s really not more complicated than that. I also find that Frank hands out regular lessons in humility.  Man, imagine how big my head would be without Frank chucking me to the ground every now and then.

And finally, they love expensive Road Bikes and the accompanying spandex uniforms. This enables them to ride long distances and wear really tight clothes without any social stigmas.  I love me some Spandex.  Especially if I can top it with a jersey so bright that even the shortest of glances in my direction causes retinal bleeding.

These types of riders will spend upwards of $5,000 on a bicycle and up to $400 on accessories, but will not ride to work. Perhaps because they cannot wear the spandex. You'd be surprised how comfortable Spandex are under work clothes.  It's actually the helmet hair and the necessary change of shoes that keep me from riding to work.

It is important that you never question why someone needs a $5000 bicycle since the answer is always “performance.”  The Rocket cost far, far less than five grand.  She may not be fancy, but I'd give her performance an A+.

For the most part, these rules have been unisex. But there is a special category of bicycles that appeal far more to white women, the European city bike (pictured). White women have a lot of fantasies about idealized lives, and one of them is living in Europe and riding around an old city on one of these bikes. They dream about waking up and riding to a little cafe, then visiting bakeries and cheese shops and finally riding home to prepare a fancy meal for their friends who will all eat under a canopy with white Christmas lights. This information can be used to help gain the trust/admiration of a white woman, especially if you can pull off a lie about how your mother told you about how she used to do all of these things when she was younger. I can't tell you how many times I've wished I had a basket on the front of my bike with a giant loaf of bakery fresh bread in it.  Around mile 65 I will eat anything that's not nailed down.  A loaf of hot bread would definitely do the trick and might even tide me over for another 1.7 miles.  Then I'd be back to scavenging through my seatpack for year old Clif bars.

And of course, it goes without saying that white people who ride bikes like to talk about how they are saving the earth. If you know a person who rides to work, you should take them aside and say “Hey, thanks. Sincerely, The Earth.” Then give a thumbs up. That white person will ride home on a cloud. Ok, this is especially funny to me.  Sure, I recycle.   I prefer a blanket to turning on the heater.  I wash my clothes in cold water, but I don't consider myself to be an environmental activist.  People assume I am an environmentalist ALL THE TIME.  I drive a hybrid.  I enjoy walking to work.  I like riding my bike.  It just so happens that the things I like are environmentally friendly.  So, sure give me a thumbs up.  As for riding a cloud home, it sounds awesome, but I prefer to walk, thanks.

February 7, 2009

8 Somewhat Interesting Facts & 17 Mediocre Ones

I was recently tagged to write a 25 Things meme about myself.  At first I thought 25 things?  25 interesting things about me? I'm only thirty one, so that's close to one interesting thing a year.  That's a lot of pressure.  So, I'm going to say that only like 8 of these are interesting and the other 17 are mediocre at best.  You be the judge as to which is which.

1. My very first bike was a bright pink Schwinn with a white banana seat.  My dad bought all the components and built it for me by hand.

2. As a kid, I loved making molasses taffy with my Grandpa.  The feel of hot taffy sliding through my small, buttery hands is tied to my memory of his face.

3. In third grade I won a spelling trophy.  I still have the trophy.  Oh, and I can spell words backwards.

4.  In fourth grade I won my first writing award for a poem about the Earth.  That meant I got to attend the Literary Festival where I sat in on classes by real authors.  I entered the contest and won each year through my junior year in high school.  The Literary Festival was by far the coolest day of the school year.

5.  I make a mean balloon animal.  I learned how to make balloon animals in preparation for a missionary trip to Mexico when I was 15.

6.  I married Terry when I was the ripe old age of 19.  He was 23.  I count it a real blessing to have grown up together within our marriage.

7.  When I was 30, I attended the NCWP Summer Institute and it's enhanced every facet of my writing, including how I foster a love of writing in my young writers.

8.  Every July I spend a week volunteering at a Youth to Youth conference with a few hundred of my favorite teenagers.  It's a fantastic week and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

9.  A newly hatched dragonfly once landed on my nose in front of 40 first graders.  The feel of the dragonfly tiptoeing on my nose along with the squeals of delight from my little ones will always make me smile.

10.  When I got married and changed my last name, I moved my last name to the middle so that I would always be connected to my brothers.  You should see the looks I get when people ask what my middle name is.  I guess Wheeler isn't a popular middle name, especially for girls.

11.  I watch Gilmore Girls every weekday.  Oy, with the poodles already!

12.  I play electronic Yahtzee almost daily.  My husband currently holds the top score and my jealousy is palpable.

13.  I once visited a town in Eastern Europe that is home to many, many storks and their monstrous nests.  It was terrifying.

14.  I'm a Mac.

15.  I have a huge laundry basket of cards, notes, and special things written by my loved ones.  If I ever have to evacuate my house, it will be one of the first things I grab.

16.  I love the movie Dirty Dancing.  My copy of it lives on the floor in the corner of my living room behind a chair because my husband insists on proving that he puts Baby in a corner.

17.  I know all the words to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song.  Be nice to me or I'll sing it.

18.  All other responsibilities fall away during Shark Week.

19.  My favorite color and my favorite song are one in the same: Green.

20. I would like to become fluent in Spanish.  Once I had a dream in Spanish.  I'm positive I conjugated all of the verbs incorrectly.

21.  Psalm 121 is my current favorite chapter of the Bible.

22.  I've got funny stories galore, but I can't tell a joke to save my life.

23.  My nephew, Landon, makes me all mushy and giddy inside.  He also compels me to do stupid things like chase him around on all fours with Cars slippers on my hands.

24.  Laurie Notaro's books make me laugh out loud.

25.  I have ridden 112 miles on my bicycle in one day.  I hope to top that this season.

February 4, 2009

The Best Gift

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of having my heart repaired.  I actually thought it was seven years, but when I pulled out my old, jagged EKG, I discovered it's only been six.  Time flies when you've got a heart like mine.  Here are some of my memories from that time in my life.  I know Valentine's Day isn't here yet, but I celebrate it all month long.  So, Happy Valentine's to my friends and family.  I hope your heart is as full as mine.

You lay on the operating table, sleepy from the icy drugs running up the veins of your arm.  The doctor enters and asks "What kind of music do you like?"

"Anything but country." you slur, the words like marshmallows in your mouth.  You close your eyes and try to block out the jerky beep, beep, beep of the EKG.

It is that very beep, beep, beep that brought you here.  The room is cold and the air wisping through the opening in your gown sends chills tiptoeing down your arms and legs.  You are wearing funny, striped socks on your feet.

You keep your eyes closed and then country music bleeds through the speakers.  The EKG fires in stacatto. Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep!

"Now." the doctor says as he threads the wires through your leg and into your heart.  You feel the wires squirm.  Twisting.  Searching.  Repairing.  Your chest is made of bricks, heavy and stiff.  Your body lurches violently with each heartbeat.  A rogue tear slides down your cheek, taking your brave face with it.

The country music is whiny and unbearable.  The EKG is an alarm sounding, a code red noise.

"Country music is literally going to kill me." you think.  Your mouth tastes like metal.  You are sure that this is what fear tastes like.

The wires weave.  Your sweat from every known gland.  Your heart beats so fervently it feels like it it has no other choice than to simply give up any second now.  All of the air has been sucked out of the room and you're sure that you are not going to make it.  Your heart hammers.

You smile at the thought of dying in funny socks and have a moment of pure gratitude for your life.

You do not hear the EKG anymore.

You only hear the doctor say "Okay."  He slowly pulls the wires out, like pulling a loose thread from a sweater.

The EKG returns to a steady rhythm.  You breathe again.  The bricks are gone.  And, thank God, THANK GOD, a nurse finally turns off the country music.

You lay still in the recovery room.  Your husband, who has paced the entire time, holds your hand.  You lay with your legs elevated in a 'V', a ward against blood clots.

You are told "Lay still.  Do not move.  At all."  After several hours every part of your body, including your hair, aches from all that stillness.

Sometime, maybe the evening, maybe the middle of the night, maybe the next day, you are allowed to go home.  You ride with your legs resting on the dashboard and your husband's hand warm on your own.

A week later, you ride your bike on the river trail.  Your stitches send a pinch of pain as you swing your leg over the crossbar of your bike.  You pedal loopy, slow circles.  The frost nips at your fingertips and there is a perpetual drip from your nose, but your legs are sure.

The blood in your heart looks for ghost pathways, but your heart is strong.  And strength is what matters most.  Maybe all that matters.

Your heart is better than new.  It is stronger than you ever imagined it could be.

It is Valentine's Day and you know with every cell in your body that you, the girl in funny socks, have been given the best gift of all.