Driving and Biking in the Big City

Posts Tagged ‘tennis

“Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”

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I was standing in the grocery store the other day when I noticed I was standing in the grocery store.

At a crowded meeting, I started looking for an empty chair and realized I didn’t need to sit.

I was looking for my kitchen step ladder when my brain told me I could climb up on a chair instead — like I always used to do before step ladders became a way of life.

When I walk my dog, Tucker, I actually am walking him the two miles or so. I used to say this but actually was biking while he ran along beside me.

Recently I jumped for witnesses in the hardware store, and they applauded. It was only about six inches off the ground and felt like I was lifting two bulldozers, but both of my feet were off the ground at the same time for a nano second.

hallwayMy office is down a long hallway that seemed, for many years, to be miles away. Today, it feels like only a few steps. I willingly go back to my car in the parking lot when I forget something. Unheard of for the last 10 years.

My first surgery to replace my right knee took place a year ago. Happy birthday, Righty.  My left knee surgery is four months behind it — so, by the end of the year, surely I will start writing about commuting again and stop giving you such an awestruck and amazed accounting of this journey to health.

One of the biggest surprises in this replacement of two knees in four months is the power of the brain and thought. My brain is such a partner to me in all my physical intentions. It is a miraculous machine, giving me sudden signals and changing realities every day.

My path appeared shorter when my walking skills were improved. My hobbled habit told me I  wanted a chair when my legs told me I was OK now and could stand awhile. Lately, my brain has been giving me signals on my walks to run a bit — something I honestly never did in the past. So I don’t know who my brain thinks I am but it certainly thinks I can run some.

Lately, I’ve tried standing in front of a mirror to kneel. My knees are still numb and I can’t really feel it when I kneel. It makes it hard to do and, honestly, the only residual pain left since before I got my bionic knees. So I’m trying to trick my brain into recovering feeling in my numb knees. My doctor and nurse tell me that this is a trick used to teach people with lost limbs. If your missing leg is itching, it sometimes helps to stand halfway in a full length mirror so that you appear to be whole again and scratch the remaining leg. Who knew? But, I’m thinking it’s helping me recover feeling in my artificial knees — both of which have remaining areas of numbness.

long_staircaseI get up from my desk job and walk several times a day now. I take the stairs instead of elevators and recently walked up 10 flights of stairs, according to my health app.  I walk to lunch spots that were drives for me in the past. I can keep up with even the most fast-walking of all my friends.

Oh and I’ve even taken a few tennis lessons lately. Tennis is one of the main reasons I had terrible knees in the first place, and I hadn’t played much for 10 years. I see other women on the courts with various forms of knee braces. That was me before. But now, these bionic knees won’t be helped by a wrap or a brace. They are the only thing on my body that doesn’t hurt after a tennis lesson. I’m not saying I’ll get back in the game entirely. I’m still wearing old lady tennis shorts and using  borrowed racket. But it could happen for fun.

Think I might could even travel and do some sightseeing. Last time I took my kids to Washington, D.C., they can tell you what a lug I’d become on a vacation. Who knew? It was the beginning of my realization that my lifestyle had changed because of chronic knee pain.

“Don’t it always go to show, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” But you certainly know when you get it back, Joni Mitchell.





Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

September 13, 2016 at 11:11 am

A dog walk is not a person walk

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When I got home from work today it was after a thunder-boomer that had dumped a few inches of rain on my ’burb and clogged my traffic for all 30 miles home from Houston. My Tucker-hound had been mostly housebound and certainly en-fenced all day and was ready for a change of scenery – no matter how hot and sticky his human would get. The waves of vapor were coming off the greenbelts and concrete streets like wintertime gutters in my Michigan suburbs, outside of Detroit.

As I looked back across the throbbing mist at the beginning of our outing, I felt a change in perspective that was new-dimensional. I decided to go with it. Go with Tucker. Let it be his walk, not mine.

Dog professionals say that hounds smell scents as distinctively as humans see colors. We see a rose stand out in a field, and he smells a rabbit from its morning trail. Tucker decides our path, sets our pace and stops and stops and stops along the way.

Now that I have aching knees from too much tennis and racquetball, I bike while he walks. He is on an extended leash because we are on the streets and greenbelts and not on the water-logged banks of the gully. Blue Streak is the perfect bike for this because it goes as slowly as Tucker. It has a wide seat for sitting and waiting while he sniffs down to the last scent from last year or maybe two years ago.

He pauses longest on the path to the park. Does he still smell our Patsy-girl, gone now for four months? How about Andy-dog from a few years ago? He wouldn’t even know ol’ Barney, the Dalmatian who walked those roads near Detroit as well as another neighborhood in Kingwood.Tucker on the hunt

The smells must be like photos in an album to Tucker. He is reminded of old friends who used to be his companions on this walk. We stop longest at the decorative logs where every four-legged friend leaves a calling card. He smells a rabbit, a stinky boy walking home from the pool and maybe a squirrel. He has the taste of squirrel in his mouth from last week when he caught two on consecutive days, leaving squirrel tail feathers in his mouth.

Experts say that the sense of smell is the most significantly linked to memory, and I wish I could sniff as powerfully as Tucker and call up a full blown memory of Patsy walking beside us. Her hound ghost would walk beside us and maybe we’d be joined even by Andy dog from my three-dog days. Those were wild and out of control walks. Andy was an incredible specimen of canine magnificence, strong and physical yet mild mannered and easy going. He would lull me into a smooth, relaxed walk only to jerk me, face down into the dirt when he spotted a cat under a car. He fooled me every time. Bloodied and bruised me many days.

Patsy also kept both Tucker and I on our heels wondering if we would be dragged into the bushes, attack some unsuspecting neighbor or make a mad, powerful dash for parts unknown. She was a mischief-maker, unlike Tucker who is so easy that I’m inclined to take over the walk and make it human. But I won’t. This is a dog walk and not a human walk.

I compare my sights to his smells and know we have absorbed just about everything possible in this mile-long, 30-minute walk. I see the deep green of the newly watered leaves and yet spot the moving lizard as it jumps from one thin trunk to a wider one. An orange butterfly catches my eye and a mushroom blooms from the earth. Tucker, on the scent, pauses at a bush to sniff and move deeper into the woods to sniff again. Could this be Romeo, the aptly named hound whose owner allows him to roam our neighborhood most nights? Now that Tucker and I walk the gully most evenings, we don’t see Romeo as frequently but we know he’s making his rounds.

We pass up the park where we hear kids shouting and playing and choose, instead, to take a singular path that backs up to few houses and gives us deep breaths of peace. Tucker trots counter clockwise on the roundabout – like my own preference when I’m not forced to obey traffic laws. He pauses once to look up at me with curiosity, and we discuss whether or not he needs water in this humidity. Of course, I have plenty and offer him some. He takes a little but then gestures that it’s time to go home.
In the end, the sweat drips into my eyes and blurs my vision again, reminding me of the heat that originally had altered my view. We are nearly home and I lean forward and unleash my powerful companion. I ride, he runs for home.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

August 4, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Dreaded phone call: In honor of commuting mothers

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When I first decided to take a job in the big city and start making the daily drive from the ‘burbs, I was concerned about the welfare of my two children who would be faced with the lag time of a commuting mom. Like most moms, I had fielded many calls to bring lunch money, forgotten homework, PE clothes, choir clothes, etc. Typically and because I worked closer to home, I would have it to the kids before they even knew they missed it. At the very least, I would high tail it to school before they could get points off.

So, after my first few weeks of commuting the one hour each way, I was not surprised when I received the dreaded phone call from my son who maybe was 13 years old at the time. Lunch money? Homework? A visit to the office?


Instead, he whispered into the phone from inside the school office, “Mom, I forgot my jock strap.”

What could be more classic? It was the day of the big game, and my son was out there without his usual support.

I knew the drive itself would have taken me too long. I didn’t even have Vinnie to drive yet, much less Clarence. I was still driving my mom-mobile van that was the size of a living room and perfect for hauling carpools and tennis teams. Plus, I was still new enough on the job that I didn’t want to take a mini-break from the day-to-day grind for a jock strap run.

I calculated that I had only a couple of hours to solve this dilemma. After several tries, I did not reach his dad. And, frankly, I knew John would have the same problem. Could his son’s athletic support compete with a big lunch with customers? Maybe, but more likely, not.

My thoughts then went to my loyal friends. Those who said they would be available to my children and myself through this new phase in our lives. I started calling.

A commuting mom's first line of defense -- her tennis teammates.

A commuting mom’s first line of defense — her tennis teammates.

The hero of the week was my tennis buddy Jan. No one could have been more perfect. Not only is she the mom of a son but she also has her own big, rowdy dogs. To get into my home and to my son’s jock strap, she would first have to make her way past my two spoiled dogs in the backyard.

The only issue still holding me back was my own personal humiliation. By Thursday morning, the dogs were the least of my worries about the condition of my home. As a matter of fact, I even suggested my friend look for said item on the couch where laundry had been located most of the week.

It was much like a “Mission Impossible” episode when she called back. “I’m in,” she said, announcing her arrival passed the dogs and inside my home while I whispered back from my office phone.

Then, she proceeded to walk around my house, cell phone in hand, while we tried to find support for my son’s future in athletics. She rummaged through laundry on the couch and — of all places — the laundry room.

I felt certain I would have to guide her to (YIKES) upstairs — an area of the house I seldom see except on weekends. Should she have to face the stairs, she also would have been facing (DOUBLE YIKES) my son’s room where I know there are no clean jockey straps. As a matter of fact, there also could be some items in his room that are even more unspeakable than unwashed under clothes.

However, we were both saved from further embarrassment. She found the item — and I would like to mention that it was brand new and not quite as disgusting as this sounds. It was found, however, on the dining room table. (READER’S NOTE TO SELF: Accept no formal invitations for dining at Denise’s house.)

My friend put the necessary item in the proverbial brown paper bag and brought it to the middle school office.

Meanwhile, my son had become concerned and called me again. While he may have forgotten a few thousand items in his school days, he is quite aware of distances and the time it takes to cover distances.

“Mom,” he said in his loudest whisper, “I got to have it!”  He said, worrying that I was still at my office desk an hour away.

“It’ll be there in about 20 minutes,” I responded.

And, after a pause where I could hear his mind whirring, he screeched, “WHO’S BRINGING IT?”

However, no names were mentioned so that my friend can continue to greet my son in public places without any awkward pauses.

With that I bid a happy Mother’s Day to all you commuting moms.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

May 10, 2013 at 8:12 am

Christmas kitsch

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Yoda uses the Force for Christmas

Yoda uses the Force for Christmas

What is it about the holiest of Christian holidays that puts some folks over the top? I admitted last column that I’m one of those people and that I struggle every Christmas season to stay on the tasteful side of Christmas kitsch. But I know I’m not alone. I see it in decorations all over my neighborhood and yours, and I love it.

I’m the first to buy a dancing Santa hat, a Christmas-carol singing bass, a jolly St. Nicholas who does the hula to a country song. When I played a lot of tennis, we had a Santa with a tennis racket as part of our outdoor decorations. Now, that same Santa drives a sleigh fashioned from wire and is accompanied by four matching reindeer. They have been white, lighted and now are spray painted a much classier copper color.

Pink flamingos -- festive for all seasons

Pink flamingos — festive for all seasons

I have been drawn to clever Christmas decorations since I was a child and my dad was such a kid at Christmas. He bought a big bag of race cars one year and gave one to every friend and neighbor who came to the door. My childhood girlfriend’s dad was the same and always put the letters to NOEL backwards on his garage, spelling instead LEON. Ha!

Then, we had a house near the park in my hometown where the owner made a production of adding a new string of lights every year. By the time I left home at age 18, folks would come from all over the county to see the glow of the over-done lighting job.

I have never understood this ghost but he shows up every Christmas.

I have never understood this ghost but he shows up every Christmas.

Sponge Bob. Hmmm.

Sponge Bob. Hmmm.

When we first moved to the suburbs of Houston, every street had its own theme – ours was Care Bears. Every house had a 10-foot Care Bear in the yard, each one a different color. One new neighbor had a template for cutting a new one for neighbors as they moved in. Then, when it came time to light up the neighborhood, someone would come around and plug in the Care Bears for anyone who was out of town. It was quite a sight. When we moved to a new neighborhood, it was wooden Christmas trees in every yard. Others had candy canes, angels, stars or cartoon characters like penguins and teddy bears.

UT fans over the top

UT fans over the top

Some of what I consider kitsch this year may simply be the changing times. Sponge Bob and Yoda are today’s versions of Mickey Mouse, Charlie Brown, Winnie the Pooh, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and 101 Dalmatians. I see those classic decorations, and I don’t give them a second thought. I see Yoda with his light saber on a neighbor’s roof with twinkling lights around him, and I stop for a photo.

Lucky for me I have friends and family with better taste than me. They keep me from overdoing it and put my offensive purchases in the pile for white elephant gifts.Elvis

When I hung my second Elvis ornament on our Christmas tree this year, I had a vision of a tree decorated solely in ornaments of the King. Feels like that might be over the line – unless I stick with young, skinny Elvis.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

December 29, 2012 at 7:12 pm

In search of the Yeti on Kingwood bike trails

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When the kids were younger and we all were biking from the same starting point (home), I devised a game for our competitive souls. It was a point system based on the uniqueness of the creatures we might see along our bike rides. The goals were to keep us biking more, to help us stay alert to our surroundings and, as is the Hensley way, for someone to win.

Bizarrely, my family full of athletes and varsity players from an extremely competitive school system consider me to be the most of competitive of all of us. How can that be true? I never played anything but intramural sports in school and women’s tennis in Kingwood. Oh, that’s right. Women’s tennis in Kingwood might be more competitive than all of the sports in the school system. We won’t even mention the tough neighborhood block of hellions who raised me – the youngest of them all and a girl to boot.

On really slow and hot bike rides, the Hensleys had a version of this game where we couldn’t head back to the house unless we saw a certain number of bunnies. Two would be a short ride; four even longer.

To play our bike riding game, we first had to devise a list of expected sightings. Deer being the rarest and, therefore, the highest scoring. That is before we spotted the coyote on the gully with an innocent bunny in his mouth. We listed bunnies and turtles, of course. Snakes were big point earners. Nutria and possums. I once saw a family of raccoons, mama raccoon and two babies, holding hands and walking under an underpass. Game over for the other Hensleys.

We ruled out people and dog sightings because those are so common. Then, we decided that birds were too numerous to count. Of course, we gave points to more unusual birds like egrets, herons, falcons and hawks.

Finally, we kept an empty blank at the bottom of our score card for incredibly rare sightings of whatever that all of our family members could agree would be worth the points. Then again, our family has never truly agreed on anything, so I’m not for sure this caveat was ever used.

These days it’s mostly me and My Precious (my smart phone) along for my bike rides. I’m still looking and when I come home with a tall tale, I like to show my proof.

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Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

August 27, 2012 at 6:57 pm