Thursday, August 28, 2008

Living in a fog

Ever have one of those months where you kinda move along in a fog?  As I look back over the past new months, I think that I was so focused on my dad’s cancer treatment that I didn't pay attention to much else.  Now that the treatments are over, I feel like I am in a bit of a fog.  Oh, I have my moments.  And don't get me wrong - life is great.  It just seems that my mind has said – give me a second.  

One thing that I hope will pull me out of this fog is to continue to exercise.  For the past year or so, all that I have done is some sporadic exercise.  Oh, I ride my bike on weekends.  I do some yard work.  I take walks with my wife, but I never really push myself.  So I have joined a gym.  I plan on working out and pushing myself physically.  I plan on seeing what this old body can handle. :D  I have no intention of becoming a muscle head, or a marathon runner, but my goal is to be in shape.  To be toned.

Next step from there is the mind… :D ... what could that be... 

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Gang - Team Imagine

So here is part of the team… Baby Mackenzie in the middle beside Dad, Jason to the left in the blue shirt, me to the right and Rob on the end.  Kati (mom) is taking the picture.  Who would have thought that cute little Baby Mackenzie would start getting sick and infecting mom and dad… they missed two days afterward.

Me, well, I guess I am glad that I didn’t hold her.

Total raised to-date in online and off-line donations - $2300… next year the goal is $3000.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Team Imagine - My charity bike ride

I just wanted to take a moment to let you know how my ride in the Sunflowers to Roses bike ride on Sunday, August 17th went.  Wow what a day in terms of weather, number of riders, and yes once again number of hills.  The winds were calm.  The sky was sunny, and the temperature started out right around 65.  We had almost 400 riders – 400 men, women, and children. 400  riders all thinking about what this ride meant to them.  All thinking about what this meant to their family and friends. 

Last year, I started out by saying three words, wonderful, memorable, and hilly.  Then upon further reflection more words kept creeping into my mind, rewarding… humbling… and emotional…. This year, was no different – except the word emotional took on a new and bigger meaning.  In fact, for me, this whole year has taken on new meaning. 

With that said, I wanted to pass along a piece about the ride that has stuck with me.  

One of the riders on our team pulled his daughter behind him for the entire ride.  Up hills, down hills, and on long/short straight always.  He started out as strong as the rest of us, but as the ride continued he started to feel the impact of pulling his daughter along… but he never stopped.  He continued on. Since we were a team, we all hung back to offer our encouragement.  On occasion, one or two of us would blow out the legs a little (in other words – we got to go fast for a minute), but we would always come back to the group.  Near the end, he was really struggling.  The hills were catching up to him, yet he still did not stop.  In fact, even when we offered to take over and ride his bike for awhile, he would not stop.  He had set a goal to make it to the end.  He continued on.  So we rode on, kidding him and encouraging him, all the while watching for the finish line.  And when that line appeared, we crossed it together.

Why am I telling you this story?  Well, it reminds me of my dad and his cancer battle.  He was as strong as any of us in the beginning – actually stronger.  He kept up with us, but the hills of his battle took their toll on him.  He slowed down, but he never gave up.  All of us took our time to be with him. Offering encouragement, kidding him, just riding along with him to let him know he was not alone.  Along the way, we wish we could have taken over for a little while, but this was one ride he had to do by himself, but with a chorus of supporters surrounding him.  His goal was set.  He continued on.  When it was all said and done, we were able to cross the finish line together, we were finally able to stop and say how proud we are of him.  We can now say he is a cancer survivor.

So with that short story in mind, I wanted to let each of you know who Team Imagine rode for.  There are so many personal reasons why each of us did this, and there are so many things to say, but for us the names below say it all.  We rode for the families of those listed below, and more importantly we rode for the following loved ones…

We rode in honor of: Robert Johnson (my dad), Betty Lepper, Lucy Butler, Wain Sloan & Christina Campbell, Norma Monday, Manisha Kulshresta, Bryan Lee, Jan Condreay & Dottie Arms, Sonja Yngve, Louis F. Rhodes, Jr., Dick and Judy Russell, and all cancer victims and their families.

We rode in memory of:  Aunt Venesa (my aunt), Gene Hilt, James Stillman, Grandpa Rich, Herman Spain, Dorothy and Elsie Woodruff, Russ’ Dad, Paul’s Mom, Vina Lue Larson, Hema’s aunt who fought the 18 year battle against breast cancer, Meeta & Milan’s dear friend - Sameer & cousin - Uma Jiji, Ruth Morsbach, James A. Lewis, Louis Rhodes, Sr., Carol Kramer, Jean McClatchey, Wilma Young, and as a friend of mine said, “all my family members who have died from cancer and are too numerous to name.”

During this ride, I thought about each of you.  I thought about your loved ones.  I thought of our hope, our pain, our glee, and sometimes our grief.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for allowing me to ride for so many of you.  Thank you for allowing me to ride in memory/honor of your loved ones.

Take care my friends.


Monday, July 28, 2008

This was kinda a test weekend for the upcoming charity bike ride I am doing for cancer.  Those who know me, know that I dislocated my knee last year, and have been somewhat slow to recover.  Even with that, I still have been hitting the road lately – about 60 minutes or so is normal.  

Well the upcoming ride is going to be 66 miles, and it is only about 3 weeks away.  Because of my role on the Sunflowers to Roses board, I might only doing half the ride – 33 miles, but that is still to be determined. I mean, I am dedicating this ride to my dad who just finished his cancer treatment a couple of months ago. With that in mind I thought that if I plan on riding even 33 miles I had better test out the knee… push it just a little bit.  So last week, I road pretty hard for four out of five days.  I hit the hills, I hit the straight always, I joined the cars, and I enjoyed the heat, I road on average about 17 mph.  Not bad for a guy with a bad leg.  After last week's rides, the knee wasn’t to bad, but the lung and heart capacity are WAY down.  I need to build those up.

On top of that, 3 weeks until the Sunflowers to Roses charity ride…yikes… so yesterday I hit the road ago, and decided that I need to ride at least 33 miles. 33 miles of hills, roads, trails, dodging dogs and cars and potholes.  Riding is my outlet... my stress relief.  It gives me time to think about nothing other than the scenery, churning those pedals, and the road ahead (oh, and the occasional  dog or yelling driver of a car).  Then if I can ride for a couple of hours I am in heaven.  This particular day gave me some nice away time.  With that in mind, here is the break down of that ride:


  • Time: noon start
  • Temp: 94 when I started
  • Wind: mild
  • Cloud cover - noon

Miles 1 – 10 no problem.  I road at about 18 mph, but had to watch my heart rate that was hanging out in the 160s.

Miles 11-15.  Not much of a problem  - about 17 mph, and I still watched the heart rate.  The heart rate jumped up a bit due to some hills – mid 170s – ugh.  I need it in the 160s or less.

Miles 16 -23 I kinda hit a wall for this stretch.  There were a lot more hills, and a totally new area, as well as some trails that I took.  Average mph was down to 13 and the heart hit a max of 193.  The heart still hung out around 180 for this entire period.  Not fun – and lactic acid is not something you want to build up in your legs or you will hit a wall for sure.

Miles 24 – 33 I was back to semi-normal.  I averaged about 17-18 mph and I felt good again.  The heart rate dropped, but only to about 174… still to high.

I came home, ate some food to refuel, cooled down under a ceiling fan and in the air conditioning, and let the legs relax for a few minutes. 

What's next?

Recover ride today if the weather holds.  Longer rides this coming weekend. 

Riding dedication for the week – 

  • For the body - better food intake, better liquid intake, and very little caffeine.  
  • For the ride – During the week – 2 or 3 20 mile rides, Saturday 40-50 miles, and Sunday 40 miles.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Grandma Gray - I still remember...

When I heard that Grandma had passed away, the first thing that I thought of was how she touched so many lives and became part of us as we grew up.  I wanted to tell everyone what she meant to me and show them at the same time.  That is why I have decided to write about my Grandma.  She was the family quilt. 

I know that my aunts and uncles, mom and dad will understand why I can think of Grandma as a quilt.  Each of them created a block of themselves and their family that created a quilt representing their families. I feel that the quilt they created is an extension to the quilt that Grandma started a long time ago. A quilt she hand sewed.  A quilt that shows she touched so many. 

In my mind, Grandma’s quilt starts in the middle with a big red heart.  Right beside that heart is a big solid block that represented Grandpa.  Surrounding both of them are eight wonderful, multiple color blocks that represent my mom, and each of my uncles and aunts.  From my point of view she wove each into her heart, and made each feel special.  She wove them into her heart with tenderness and caring, and most of all love. 

Right now I only want to look at my small piece of the quilt, and it looks like this:

Connected to my mom’s block is my small block.  I see her picking pieces for my block as she always did from some old shirt or bed sheet.  I think that mine started as an old flannel shirt and grew from there.

Various pieces in my block include memories that are from my earliest childhood.  Memories that started in the Independence, MO house.  The strongest of which is her rocking chair with a quilt hanging on the back with a flat pillow.  The rocking chair that we all loved to sit in, but I loved to see her in it more.

I see a piece that shows her laughing and giggling.  She always seemed to be smiling and laughing with all of us.  As her laughing grew, we knew that shortly thereafter she would make a quick dash to the bathroom, and this made us laugh and smile that much more.

I see a brown piece that represents her coffee.  For whatever reason, this brown piece probably shouldn’t be brown…I think that coffee was the smallest part in her cup.  There are also pieces that represents memories that range from all of the books that she read, to the canning that she did, to the first chicken meal she made when I first introduced Deepa to her and Grandpa, to the gooseberry and rhubarb pies.

There are pieces that represent all of the Christmas trees delicately decorated.  All of the memories of these times together with both Grandma and Grandpa mean so much to me.  Over the years, all of the thought felt gifts are now the ones that I have grown to appreciate even more the older I have become. 

There is also the piece that represents the quilts that she made for me.  I am lucky to have two quilts hand stitched by her.  I remember that she asked me to use them rather than just let them lie about on a bed.  With that in mind, one quilt has been with me on every picnic or cold night under the evening sky at Theatre in the Park.  When I spread the quilt out, I see her hand written name on the back corner and remember…I am doing what she asked me to do and I know that she would smile.  It is somewhat tattered, but still holding strong.  The other quilt is lying on my bed at home, all red and white.  While I may not be using it in my daily life, it is so beautiful I just look at it and smile.

I see another piece that represents her church.  Whenever I spent the night at the in Independence home, Sunday morning meant Church.  Part of what I learned about faith and God came from her.  From that I know that she is now happy and free to be with God and Grandpa.

I can go on and on, but these are just a few of the hundreds of pieces that are included in my small block.  Before I knew it, I became part of her quilt.  Woven into her quilt with my memories and her love.  Connected to so many others…family and friends.  From all of these pieces and blocks we have her life.  The stitches may have not have been as even or as perfect in the end, but the underlying batting, backing, and vivid color were still there.  She was the Quilt that surrounded each of us and we surrounded her.  She made us feel comfortable, loved, and special. She was the heart in the middle.

We will miss you Grandma…With all my love.  Michael