An Unfortunate Miscalculation In Cold Weather Riding Apparel

A cyclist frozen in an ice cube but still riding

I drew a sketch of a frozen cyclist. It is not meant to look like anyone we know

This past Saturday I went on a little bike ride with my sister. My crazy sister is turning 60 years old next year, and decided she wants to ride 60 miles on her birthday. She asked me if we could train together sometimes, and I thought, “Lady, I could ride 60 miles before breakfast and again after lunch.” (I don’t struggle with pride. I am just awesome.)

I was a little late to Laurie’s house and we began our ride at 3pm. It was 51 balmy degrees. I wore two long sleeved shirts and a jacket on top. I wore fleece lined tights on the bottom. I thought, “I am going to roast out there.” And I would have roasted, if it were 51° at 3pm in June. But it was November 27, and the sun was laughing and saying, “Look at the idiot in the yellow windbreaker. I am going to bed soon, and he is going to be a popsicle. (Hey, why is that hot chick riding with freaky, yellow, twig man?)

We started out heading north through Winona, Minnesota, and after a few miles, I noted that it felt cooler than I thought it would be. I kept telling myself, “I can feel a little cool for a couple hours.”

When my sister’s phone announced, “You have gone 10 miles,” my torso announced, “I am freezing.” I was glad I wore my winter gloves. I thought back to when my sister asked if I was going to wear my fleece jacket… my beautiful, red, fleece jacket that right now was hanging uselessly on the back of a chair in my sister’s dining room. Why hadn’t I worn the jacket?

The sun was in South America now, and the temperature was dropping fast. I was trying to hide my frigidity from my sister. Around mile 15, I swung my arms around trying to force blood into my frozen fingertips. My sister asked if I was cold. I confessed I was getting cold. I asked, “Are you cold?”

She said, “No, I’m fine.”

How was she fine? She had no windbreaker and she was wearing thin, leather driving gloves. I am the seasoned cyclist. Why am I the one hurting? And I had no idea where I was. Were we 10 miles from home, or 2?

A few minutes later, we rode up to Winona Lake, and I knew we were close to done. My sister asked, “Do you want to ride around the lakes, or head for home?”

I said, “I think I must head home.”

Oh the knowledge that we were on the “downhill side” of this ride gave me renewed strength. I was the great explorer headed home for a hero’s welcome. I was going to live!

Three miles later, my bike was leaning against the garage door at my sister’s house, and I was running for my street clothes. With my ice cube fingers, I put on every bit of clothing I had. My sister made hot coffee, and after I drank that, she fed me hot chili.

I drove home with the heater on full blast, drinking more hot coffee.

My Take-Aways

  1. Do not trust natural fibers! Trust chemicals. Wool long-sleeved jerseys do not keep you warm. Wear the polyester Polar Fleece.
  2. Don’t leave your neck gaiter in the car, Sir Edmond Hillary! Stuff it in your jersey pocket, just in case.
  3. Always bring coffee money!

 

Bee Stings Don’t Hurt That Bad

I want to apologize to my children for every time I thought, “Come on! It’s a bee sting. Get over it!” I was stung as a kid, and it wasn’t that bad.

Today, I was riding with the high school mountain bike team. I was dominating from the back, as usual, when someone stuck an ice pick in my forehead. I realized I had been stung, and, man, did it hurt? I wanted to ask the other guys, “Does anyone mind if we stop so I can curl up and cry for a while?” (I didn’t. I kept riding and trying to look tough.)

man snarling but thinking about crying

I’m not crying… on the outside

The pain grew and I kept thinking of my kids and how little sympathy I have for them when they have a run-in with a bee.

Now I am blogging, with a throbbing red forehead… that itches! And I am getting less sympathy than I deserve.

I am sorry, kids. You are right. It hurts.

Epilogue

After deciding to press on with the ride and not cry, I was doing my usual thing where I drift farther and farther off the back of the group of fearless young people. I felt a drip of sweat slowly running down my eyebrow. A moment later I realized that it was actually my six-legged assailant crawling down past my eyeball. I smacked him off my face in a reflex action and also sent my glasses flying off into the forest.

I stopped… fell farther off the pace… found my glasses… and resumed the chase.

Tiny

Bug reading under a mushroom

The illustrationFriday.com word of the week is “Tiny.” I have been checking out mushrooms on my walks with Jack the Dog. I was glad to finally have an excuse to draw one.

Formula for an Awkward Conversation

  1. While checking out a customer, laugh at his email address because it is pw.schmuck@something.edu.
  2. Notice too late that the domain is .edu
  3. Realize in horror that .edu addresses usually involve real names!
  4. Glance through customer profile and see that indeed “schmuck” is the nice man’s name.
  5. Change subject to the color of the customer’s shirt, while you pray that the ceiling caves in so you can stop thinking about what a SCHMUCK you are!

Nascar Carpool Mom

Drawing of Nikole in old time driving gogglesDear Mrs. Hale,

Can you explain the following quote to me?

“Wow, Dad. Your speed is a lot different than Mom’s.” Your daughter Claire uttered this quote as I drove down sleepy Farnam Street. Another of your daughters stuck up for me, saying, “Lighten up, Claire! He’s going the speed limit.”

Here is another quote I enjoyed: “Dad, why are you driving so slow? Mom would floor it and then screech to a stop in front of Isaac’s house.” Note to my readers: this exciting depiction describes the first forward motion of the car, and it takes place in a 50-foot trip down our gravel alley.

Finally, as I rolled serenely to a stop in front of the high school, Claire said, “Dad, that took you six minutes! Mom gets us here in four.”

Why do I share this story?

I think you should know there is a menace on the road. He drives the speed limit. Be careful you don’t rear-end him as he placidly drives down West Avenue.

Disclaimer:
I have the best wife ever… she bakes, she sews, she teaches. I just think a woman that amazing needs to be teased now and then.

Why I Am The Best Dad Ever

12 Reasons I am the best dad.

  1. I was not angry when three little girls woke me up way too early and invited me to breakfast with them. (Mother and teenagers are gone for the day.)
  2. painted-eggsI helped the little girls blow out eggs, so that later we might paint them for Easter decorations. Poking holes and blowing out the contents of an egg takes much more time than cracking the shell on the side of the pan. But I endured. After all, I am the best dad.
  3. I let the girls pour syrup on their scrambled eggs.
  4. I let the girls bring another girl child into my house for the day, because “it has been so long since we have had a play date.”
  5. I made cheese quesadillas. (Even though an evil doctor has prohibited me from eating cheese, I will make you cheese filled delicacies and watch you eat them.)
  6. After lunch, I taught a session on drawing the human face in profile.

    Four pencil drawings of a girl's profiles

    A spectrum or illustration stretching from youngest to oldest student (except for the instructor’s example on the left). Claire wants me to tell you that the drawing on the right is by 10-year-old Ruthie.

  7. Later, I let my Bethany realize her dream of teaching me how to make marbled paper using shaving cream and food coloring. Because there were four students in her class, I was obliged to donate my last can of shaving cream. I don’t mind growing a beard. Many good dads have beards.
    Girls making marbled paper

    Four girls wasting one man’s shaving cream

    Marbled Paper

    The fruits of our labor

  8. I could have started my homework. I could have worked out. But instead, I took the girls to the library. We checked out picture books.
  9. When we got home, I vowed I would get to my homework. But we had new books. I just had to try a few out to see if they were any good. We sat on the couch and read books.
  10. In the evening, Bethany and Lydia made “mailboxes.” A mailbox is a handmade envelope, taped to the wall. (I envision a 24 inch circle of plaster falling off the wall when those mailboxes are pulled down someday.) Into this mailbox a sibling might tuck little notes of appreciation. As soon as the mailboxes were hung, I was waylaid by Lydia. “Dad, how do you spell ‘best’?”
    “How to you spell ‘sister’?”
    “How do you spell ‘ever’?”
    “Thanks, Dad, now I’m going to draw a picture on this side.”
  11. When they had finally gone to bed, I had my chance to get to work. But, I was drawn to the mailboxes. I found scrap paper and made little cards. Of course a card needs a hand-drawn illustration on the cover. I wrote notes thanking my two youngest for the fun day. (I left out the part about keeping from my work and fitness goals.)
  12. It was 11pm. The day was done, but I set up my indoor bike trainer and readied some reading material. As I was about to mount my bike, my son came down the stairs and said, “Dad, did you forget you were going to come up and read to me?” No. Of course not. The book was very exciting. We had to read two chapters.

So here I am at midnight. I should give up and climb in bed. But, in stubbornness, I insist on doing one thing for me. I will write a blog post so that all my selfless acts today may be turned selfish and scream, check me out! Best dad ever.

I Forgive You

Portrait of Jack the Dog
A post by guest author, Jacko Nagurski

Reflections of a beautiful dog

Drawing of an angry dog

I know you don’t hate me because you are evil. You hate me because you have no other way of coping with my great beauty. You look at your reflection in the water dish and see a dogface. Then you look out the front window and see me walking by, and you feel rage. You see a dog whose lips hang down and cover his teeth, as is the fashion these days. You see hair that has the decency to grow around, rather than over, my eyes. Every morning, I climb out of bed ready for the cover of Field and Stream Magazine. While you… even after hours of expensive grooming, you could elude the dogcatcher indefinitely by laying next to a mop bucket. But your scrub brush appearance is not your fault any more than my super model body is my own doing. So, I will not judge you. I will not return your scorn, for I know it comes from a broken heart. But take heart, my friend. Someday in Dog Heaven, you will live for eternity with a perfect body — one like mine.

A Saturday With Wet Feet

The YMCA Frostbite Swim Meet

Drawing of ed on the edge of the pool with a stopwatch

Drawing of a nervous man. Is he holding a bucket and a piece of cake? Or a stopwatch and a clipboard? It depends on which of my kids you ask.

I volunteered to do timing at my kids’ swim meet this weekend. It was -2° outside. But after entering the Y in my Inuit costume, I changed into shorts and a t-shirt to brave the tropical pool room. I wish the kids could learn to swim without splashing. I’m like, “Hey kid. I’m giving up my Saturday to help out at your race and you thank me by launching eight ounces of pool water onto my foot? You’re lucky I brought a change of socks.”

Timing for the prestigious Frostbite Swim Meet is tense. I kept saying in my head things like, “Okay, this is a 200 meter race. That’s eight lengths. Okay, he’s on his sixth length, I think. Oh crud, my lane is in the lead! I can’t look at the other timers to see if they are getting ready to hit the stop button. Okay, okay, I will try to discern if he is setting up for a flip turn or a reach for the wall. I HOPE THIS TWERP DOES FLIP TURNS!” I needed muscle relaxants by the time my morning shift was over.

The Hale Family Christmas Letter 2015

Six Annoying Children, A Good Looking Man, and A Woman on the Edge

This summer, we drove to Colorado for a Hale family reunion. We picked up some old guy hitch-hiking just outside La Crosse, and he turned out to be my dad. He enjoyed a long, loud ride out west with his grandkids. After we got back home, we didn’t see him for a month.

The Hale family in front of the Rocky Mountain National Park sign

The Hales in Colorado, in front of the Rocky Mountain National Park sign.

Hale Family in front of Rocky Mountain National Park sign

There were a lot of Hales in Colorado this summer. And some Maedkes, Haases, Henrys and Wardens

Chicken Man

I realized a lifelong goal this summer, when I raised chickens from eggs. I told the kids the chickens would like us, if we were the first thing they saw after they hatched. They are grown now. They hate us…  and run when we approach.

Nikole holding a yellow chick

Nikole with one of my homegrown baby chicks before said chick understood he should hate humans.

Helen with several teen-aged chicks in her hands

Teen-aged chicks are not pretty. This was about the last time they thought we were okay.

The end of home school (for the big ones)

Home school was so lame, we decided to send our kids to a brick and mortar school. The kids were so distressed to leave home (except for sane Helen) that we feared they might have a cumulative nervous breakdown. But after three months at Aquinas Catholic Schools, they find they enjoy being socialized.

Four kids on the first day of school. Claire looks grumpy

Some members of the family were less than enthusiastic about going to school this year.

Lydia

Lydia (5) is cute. She mostly lays on the dog and sucks her thumb. She will play the piano, when forced. She is home schooled. This year, Lydia learned to swim – like really swim with her face in the water and turning her head to the side to breathe. She also learned to ride a bike, which you can do anywhere, unlike swimming which requires a pool.

Lydia laying on Jack the dog

This is the scene every day, at least once a day.

Bethany

Bethany dressed as a witch

My photo curator, Claire, promises this is the best photo of Bethany from 2015

Bethany (7) is cute. She mostly does crafts and lays on the dog. She likes Barbies. She is home schooled. Bethany enjoys crying on the piano bench, just like her older siblings did. Bethany likes swimming on the swim team, and looks forward to the competitive meets.

Ruthie

Ruthie holding pumpkins

Ruthie purchasing two Halloween pumpkins when most kids are satisfied with one.

Ruthie (9) is cute. She mostly likes to read books. It is all she does. She mostly reads when she should be doing something else like clearing the table. She is in 4th grade at Blessed Sacrament School where she has fooled the teachers into thinking she is a good kid. We regularly get reports of her angelic behavior, hard work and attention to detail. At home, the mask comes off. Her countenance glazes over when we give her a directive. I am convinced that when she is told to do anything, her soul leaves her body and reads on the couch. If I say, “Ruthie, clear the table.” She looks off into the distance, moves toward the table as if to obey, then turns and joins her soul on the couch.

Edward

Edward in a cowboy hat looking serious

I told Edward, “Look serious off into the distance.” Nailed it.

Edward (12) is not cute. He mostly dribbles basketballs — in the house — when we have decent folks over. He also does tricks on his scooter (outside) and rides his bike. He can only do homework between the hours of 10pm and midnight. Edward is in the 7th grade at Aquinas Middle School. He also has fooled his teachers into thinking he is a good kid, to the point that he was named student of the month in November. Edward was recruited onto the middle school basketball team by a coach with very poor judgment. He dominates the floor the way Michael Phelps might dominate Kobe Bryant. Yeah, he plays like his dad. Marble runs and Legos are still big with Edward. In nice weather, he rides with the middle school all-city mountain bike team. I would say he rides for the mountain bike team, but that would require his father to fill out forms, make deadlines and leave the house and drive places.

Claire

Claire at Riverside Park

One of the many trials Claire was forced to endure at her “real” school was the Homecoming dance.

Claire is 14 years old. She mostly swims. I mean she is really into it. She would miss parties, meals and family fun time, to go swim back and forth in a cold pool. She is sort of fast. She was the big holdout on going to an out-of-home school. Now she is the one rushing the others out the door to get to school on time. (For Claire, “on time” means 30 minutes early.) She enjoys gym class games that involve throwing balls at other kids’ heads. She nails the other kids in the head and looks innocent to avoid doing punitive push-ups. She shows no signs of success in high school. Claire gets good grades, but is only on the lame honor roll. She is not on the high honor roll, which vexes her greatly. She is on the all-academic team. Claire was also named Rookie of the Year on the high school swim team, and, she lettered in swimming. (We’re praying she adjusts to school.)

The Eldest Child

Helen at La Crosse Community Theater

The famous actress, Helen Hale, back when she was a nobody in the Missoula Children’s Theater.

Helen is 16 years old. She mostly does social. She acted in the Missoula Children’s Theater play this fall. She attended Christian camps this summer. She joined the Art Club and the Journalism Club at school. When she is not social, she is doing homework. She loves to read and draw. Helen is also a swimmer who won all her events at the prestigious Winona Invitational International Swimming Championships Preseason Opener. This summer, Helen water skied to please her mother. To the astonishment of everyone, she dropped a ski and slalom skied, just like her mom at 16.

The Matriarch

Nikole is beautiful. She mostly does family maintenance. She teaches elementary home school. She is constantly (no exaggeration) driving one of the kids somewhere. She somehow finds time to cook gourmet meals, because no one else in the family can cook, as they are too busy swimming and reading books. This summer, the formerly broken Nikole chose to tempt fate by water skiing again. Fate lost and Nikole won, returning to shore every time with nothing broken and all her joints in-place. Nikole just keeps getting fitter and fitter. She gets up early and goes to the Y to exercise with the other Catholic school parents. We all laugh at Nikole, because if any of us say, “I met a kid named such-n-such today.” She will say brightly, “Oh, I workout with his/her mom!” She works out with everyone’s mom. Nikole continues to be the glue that holds us all together.

Zellmanns, Rouxs and Hales by the Zellmann cabin

Some of the Zellmann clan at West MacDonald Lake. The lake that tried to break Nikole, but failed.

Pa

I am a pile of worthless. I mostly avoid work. Not when I go to work… then I work fairly steadily. But at all other times I try to stay far away from anything that might make me think, struggle or sweat. If not for dog walks and an occasional kid-taxi mission, I might never get out of bed. I help kids with homework. I would enjoy doing other things, like working-out with Catholic cyclists, but I am up too late doing my children’s homework. While my wife gets more chiseled, I get softer. My artist muscles are weakening too. I can barely draw a stick figure anymore.

The Dog

Jack running and looking crazy

I searched to find the most flattering photo of Jack.

Jack the dog is dopey. If Nikole is the glue that holds the family together, Jack is the Valium that holds my sanity together. Every morning when I want to roll over and cry, “What’s the point?” Jack is there to tell me how much he loves me and that I am the best thing that ever happened to him. He insists I take him on a long, morning walk. As we walk he goes on and on about how beautiful are the leaves, the trees and the sky. His favorite verse is “The heavens declare the glory of God.” He repeats it over and over again as we walk. Outside, I am forced to say positive things like “Good morning” to neighbors, and soon I may begin to think it is good. When I leave for work, my dog pretends to be sad. When I come home from work and am about to curl up on the floor and cry, “What’s the point?” Jack is there, telling me that his day was a black pit of despair without me there. He reminds me again, that I am the light that makes life worth living. He insists I take him on another long walk, during which he barks at children, little old ladies and anyone else who appears to be completely innocent. And when I go to bed, he tells me, “Dad, I love you, and I promise I will not go upstairs and sleep on one of the human kid’s beds.” He is a liar.

Jack the dog in the yard

Jack the dog looking fairly normal for a change.

As I proofread this, I thought, “All my friends are going to wonder why he hates everything and gets joy only from his dog.” Rest easy, my friends. My kids also do a fairly good “Welcome to the Morning” and “Welcome home from Work” greeting. And a kid who wants me to read a book can get me out of the fetal position. The Hope of Heaven also gives me great peace, as do Christmas movies, bicycles and my supermodel wife.

We hope you have a good year with kids less weird than ours, a house cleaner than ours, and a dog who sleeps in the dog-bed you bought him. Merry Christmas.