Sunday, November 27, 2011

Serena's Bicycle Exploits, Part 2 (or The Great Bike Crash)

After Monday’s bicycle fiasco, I decided to read up on biking regulations. “Hey, Stace!” I called, “Look—we don’t have to wear helmets here. And look—if we want to go through a crosswalk, we have to get off the bike. We’re s’posed to stay in the road like a car.” Armed with my new-found knowledge, I went to sleep Tuesday night, prepared to bike to chapel the following morning.

I planned to arrive at school an hour before chapel to study. My hair was still curly from the day before, so I wound it into a loose braid and reached for my helmet. For a moment, I considered not wearing it—but I put it on, reasoning that my parents might be displeased if I smashed in the brains they had cultivated. It turns out that this was a very good idea.

I set out, trying not to think about the ride home later that day. I practiced a few braking techniques I’d read about, not really noticing a difference. “They’ll make you safer!” the website had promised. I stopped at stop signs (yes, you’re supposed to. . .) and practiced hand signals—cautiously.

I had just crossed the intersection of Anderson and Lawton (about a mile from the school) when I felt myself teetering. “Uh. . . Oh, dear!” I remember thinking. “I’m falling!” As I crashed to the ground and skidded along the pavement, my first thought was, “I’m sure glad I wore my helmet!” Then my bike collapsed on top of me and my helmet scraped the ground.

The impressive pattern from the bike chain
I laid there for a few seconds, stunned. “I think I’m going to get hit by a car,” I finally reasoned, and struggled to stand up. My right arm was curiously stiff and a teardrop-shaped rip on my hand exposed raw pink flesh—now beading with blood. The shredded skin hung limp, gravel-encrusted. I limped out from under my bike and tried to pick it up—but pain shot through my arm and stabbed my left pinky finger. I struggled to right my bike, but my arms didn’t work. I’m broken! I thought. I just broke both my arms!

I finally got my bike into an upright position, but the wheels stubbornly refused to move. I tried wiggling the handlebars, but the fall had forced them into a crooked position and the back wheel stayed put. Sighing in frustration, close to tears, I set up the kickstand and considered my options. I couldn’t leave the bike here, in the middle of the street. But I couldn’t pick it up, either. I couldn’t ride it to school or ride it home. I glanced up at the houses surrounding me. Across the street, a manicured, flower-speckled lawn surrounded a tidy yellow house. The driveway was only 100 feet from where I stood.

Still wearing my helmet, I walked stiffly up the stairs to the front door. I cradled my bleeding hand in my left, taking care not to touch the pinky finger, and bent my stiffening arm into a more comfortable crook. I stood in front of the door, sighed, and pushed the doorbell.

The lady who opened the door looked at me curiously, taking in my helmet and disheveled hair, my bleeding hand and knee, and the bruises slowly forming on my legs. “Hi,” I croaked out, trying a smile. “I just—I just crashed my bike in front of your house and I was wondering if I could—if you could keep it in your garage until I can come and get it.”
 Her expression didn’t change.
“I hurt myself.” I showed her my hand, which now looked like I had stigmata, wincing as I extended it. “And I can’t—I can’t ride it. It’s broken too, I think.” I managed to keep tears from my eyes.
The woman nodded, her expression one of efficiency. “I see,” she said, walking onto the porch. “Yes, yes. Of course.”

We walked down to my bike and I showed her the problem—the back brake had become jammed in the wheel when the bike fell. I couldn’t pull it out—my arms were still weak and pain stabbed through when I tried to use them. The lady ended up carrying my bike into her garage as I walked limply behind, thanking her along the way. We negotiated a pickup time and she returned to her house. Even I don't get it back, I thought. I really don’t care at this point.

How my knee turned out.
Now what? Should I walk to school? Or go back home and drive? By this time, all the parking would be gone. I’d have to park in Lot J—which was closer to where I stood than home was. Besides, I didn’t think I could drive. Fingers fumbling, I unfastened my helmet and let it drop into the crook of my arm. Hand facing up to keep from dripping blood down my arm, I rested my other, quickly-swelling hand on the helmet. And walked to school.

When I kept my arm bent, it didn’t hurt so much. But the entire half of my left hand throbbed painfully no matter how I positioned it. I bet it’s broken, I thought calmly. And I’ll have to wear a cast forever and I’ll probably miss chapel. At a crosswalk, a man wearing a Loma Linda ID pushed the button.
“Excuse me, sir,” I began. “But I think I just broke my hand.” My voice clogged with tears, but I cleared it and continued. “Do you know where I would go?”

He looked uncomfortable. “Um,” he began. The little man showed up on the crosswalk sign and we started walking—he at an impressively rapid speed. I doubled my pace to keep up. Seeing I was still there, he sighed. “I guess you could go to Urgent Care.”
“Where’s Urgent Care?” I asked.
He sighed again. “It’s maybe a couple miles up that way.” He pointed vaguely in the direction of the street.
“Oh. I don’t—“ I began, but we had reached the other side and he was already rushing away. Sighing, I continued on.

As I walked, I vacillated back and forth. It’s broken. It’s not broken. My arm is broken. No it’s not. My hand stopped bleeding. But the other one’s broken. But it’s not.

I finally got to the church. It was still nearly an hour before chapel, so it was empty. Looking in the mirror, I examined my arms and tested their range of movement. My right elbow could extend from forty-five degrees to ninety degrees with little pain. Any farther in either direction and I involuntarily cried out. My left hand was already swollen and a reddish-purple tinge was beginning near my wrist.

Exhibit B (enjoy the spoon)
I washed the blood from my knee and hand, finding that my palm had not, in fact, stopped bleeding. I pressed paper towels into it. Then I sighed, took out my phone, contorted my arm into a position that could hold it, and called my mom.

After she had convinced me that I probably wasn’t broken (at least, not in the literal sense), I went back into the deserted church, wrestled off my backpack, and managed to extract my notes.

Several sweet people offered to drive me home that day, but Staci had already offered to help me pick up my bike at the lady’s house. I made it through the day with lots of help, little movement, and a bunch of ibuprofen.
Staci and I arrived at the yellow house just as the lady’s car pulled in. She got out, then assisted an elderly gentleman, who pointed at Staci and spoke to the woman in Spanish. “Me gusta la camiseta!” The lady smiled in embarrassment and told Staci, “He likes your blouse.”

She opened the garage door and Staci and I went in. Deftly, she extracted the brake from the wheel. “I can probably ride this home,” she stated.
“Even with the handlebars crooked?”

She moved it out the garage door to take an experimental ride, when we found the elderly man still staring at us. The lady tried to hurry him inside, but he said to us, “You have a key to the garage?”
We looked at each other, confused. “Uh. . . no. No, I just left my bike here because I crashed it—” I pointed toward the other side of the street. “—over there.” I smiled.
He returned the smile. “But, you have a key to the garage?”
“No, this is just—I don’t—we have our own garage.”
Staci put in, “Yes, we won’t need to use your garage again.”
“Thank you!”
He kept grinning. “But you can have a key. Then, you put whatever you want.”
The lady gently tugged on his arm, whispering to him in Spanish. He ignored her.
“No, sir. Thank you. We won’t need to use it again.” We moved toward the street. The man watched us go, then allowed himself to be led back into the house

So, was I broken? Well, I had trouble moving my arm for a week, and it took four weeks before I was off ibuprofen. Nearly six weeks later, I still feel twinges now and then. But I have some magnificent scars, an excellent story, and a garage whenever I need it.

My hand--the before picture was a bit gruesome. :/

My lovely new knee-scar

Friday, October 21, 2011

Serena's Bicycle Exploits, Part 1

I need a bicycle.

This what I told myself as soon as I got to Loma Linda. I told everyone I met. "I need a bicycle!"
They'd nod knowingly. "Yes, you do."

Bikes are good for a lot of things. They're cheaper (eventually) than buying gas. You can ride them (almost) anywhere. You can (usually) find parking. Biking is good for me. So I needed a bicycle.

Craigslist--that haven of cheapskates, bargain-hunters, bankrupt students, and scam artists, seemed a logical place to start. "Bike--cheap!" the ads would say. Also popular were "Bicycle, in good shape" or even "good bycicle" [sic]. Only $50, I'd muse, clicking on the link. But often than not, the picture depicted a heap of scrap metal. A couple had intact frames--"only needs wheels, a seat, and handlebars!" those posting would proclaim. What a deal! Others, perhaps saner (depending on your definition), posted their Walmart second-hands. While ostensibly intact, these enterprising individuals listed them for $200, $300, $400--more than twice the bike's value.

After slogging through Craigslist postings for weeks, I had nearly given up. "Inexpensive bicycle" seemed to equal "broken bike" or "shifty scam" in most people's minds.  About to break down and get a bike from--horror of horrors--Walmart, I asked my dear friend Frances for advice. Immediately, she swarmed my phone with links to Craigslist posts. Of bikes. Perfectly intact bikes for reasonable prices. I'll never know how she did it. I picked a gorgeous shiny teal one, negotiated a price, and named her Ynez.

Skip to this past Monday. Helmet donned, bike lock stowed in my backpack, I set off to class. Although nervous at first, I began to grin as I sped down the streets, scarcely needing to pedal. At school, I proudly proclaimed my accomplishment to Adrianna. "It wasn't even hard--I thought it would take me a long time, but it was easy!"
"Uh, Serena. . ." she began. "Don't you live on a hill?"
"Uh. . ." I thought about the streets leading up to my house. I remembered the easy ride to school--the fact that I hadn't had to pedal. Because it was downhill. "Oh, dear. I'm gonna die."

I put off going home for as long as I could. I sat in the library, trying desperately to fill my brain with Psychometrics. Instead, I saw towering mountains, my house a tiny speck at the top. Finally, unable to study, I sighed and packed my things.

At first, it wasn't bad. I can do this, I thought, pedaling up a slight incline. It's not so bad. I stopped at a red light. Cars sped past at the speed of light. I tried to remember what to do at intersections. Am I a pedestrian or a motorist? Should I be in the crosswalk? The light turned green and I jumped, trying to step on the pedals. I slid backwards, but finally managed to propel the bike up the hill--just as the light turned yellow. I can't stop! I panicked. I was now halfway through the intersection, pedaling as fast as I could--but the incline was increasing and I felt my legs going more slowly each rotation, sluggishly moving me through the angry stares of the drivers. "I'm sorry!" I called out, still in the path of their now-green light.

I made it through the intersection and sighed in relief. Until I saw the mountain in front of me. I just rode down it this morning. I glanced sideways at the street. How did I not notice how freaking tall this thing was? Heart still pulsing rapidly from my brush with murderous drivers, I sighed resolutely and continued my trek. Must. . . push. . . pedals. As it became more and more difficult to force myself forward, I tried changing gears. Now my feet spun in rapid circles, but my bike slowed to a wobbly crawl, barely inching up the hill.

I stuck out a foot and caught the ground, then stood panting in front of a well-kept lawn. As I gasped for air, the sprinklers began to squirt cool water just out of reach. I took a few unsteady steps and tried to get back on my bicycle, but I couldn't keep it steady long enough to move more than a few inches. Heart beating hard, this time from exertion, I slowly rolled my bike up the hill. Cars passed, drivers glancing at me quizzically as I labored on.

I finally reached the top, breathing hard, red-faced. Water bottle sucked dry, my mouth seemed filled with cotton balls. At five pm, it was still hot and sweat beaded on my forehead. I'm gonna be stuck here forever, I thought hopelessly. I'm gonna die half a mile from home. I thought about walking my bike the rest of the way. No. I can do this. I straightened my backpack, flipped my braids over my shoulders, and climbed back on my bike.

The last tiny incline before my house nearly killed me, and I walked the final ten steps to the driveway, but I made it. I staggered into the house, peeled off my sweaty clothes, and fell into the shower, turning the faucet to ice-cold heaven. Afterward, I laid on my bed, still feeling waves of heat emanating from my body. Why did I want a bike, again? Oh, yeah. It's good for me. Right.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wheels and Viruses

"Oh, boy!" I rocked the table back and forth. "It's got wheels!" The two students in the back of the classroom didn't look impressed. I tested my new-found toy, pushing at its legs. It lurched forward like a drunken rabbit, then halted abruptly. I squinted at the wheels. "Hey! They've got those brakes on them--like on shopping carts!" This got their attention. Sort of.
"Huh?" one asked, looking up.
"Shopping carts! Actually, I'm not sure if the ones now have brakes on them anymore. . ." I closed one eye in thought. "But I remember from when I was little. They're so the cart doesn't fly away with your kid in it."
"Oh, that explains it," said one, returning to his notes. "I only shop at places that hate kids."
I grinned. "Oh, yeah? Like where?"
He didn't look up. "You know, 'We Hate Children,' 'Kid-Haters 'R' Us,' all the usual places."
"I see." I nodded as if this made perfect sense.
The other spoke up. "Oh, I know those places. I hate them! The food from there always tastes terrible!"
"Hmm. . . I've never had that problem," mused the first. "Maybe you're going to the wrong ones."
The second student thought for a bit. "Yeah. . . The ones I go to always have viruses in the food. Like, a lot of viruses."
"Well, that certainly would make it taste terrible," the first agreed.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fantastic Face

Not wearing makeup has long been a point of pride for me. I don’t need makeup to feel pretty, and wearing it too often feels deceptive. But now I’m in grad school. We’re supposed to be professional. And part of professionalism is wearing makeup. Or so I’ve heard.

Grad students wear makeup.
Serena is a grad student.
Therefore, Serena wears makeup.
Assessment: Valid.

I hoped I was better at syllogisms than this guy.

And besides. . . Makeup made me look nice. Big eyes, flawless skin—what’s not to like? So putting my prejudices aside, I slid liner along my lids and fluffed powder on my nose. And I did feel prettier. Maybe this is all right, I thought.

But by week two, I felt trapped. Running late one morning, I almost forgot to line my eyes. I’ll look awful if I don’t! I thought, whisking out the brush. The whole week I kept seeing my reflection and thinking, This isn’t me. I don’t really look like this. But I shook it off, consoling myself that I looked better than me.

On Friday, I looked in the mirror and grinned in recognition. I looked normal! Then I realized it was because I wasn’t wearing makeup. I paused.Who in my class did wear make up? I couldn't even remember.

I looked critically at the naked face in the mirror. My eyes are fine just the way they are, I mused. I stuck my tongue out at its pink reflection. And my face is fantastic.

Some graduate students wear makeup.
Serena is a grad student.
Serena must wear makeup.
Assessment: Invalid.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


". . .the things you used to own, now they own you".  ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 5

I'm taking a hiatus from my challenge until further notice. Sigh. I really like to follow through on things, but our family has a new challenge that is absorbing most of my time.

We are cleaning.

For most families, this probably means picking up socks, throwing out ratty old rugs, and steam-cleaning the dining room. For my family, cleaning--real cleaning--includes an all-day trek to The Pit (a creepy ole' storage space under our house) to sort through the hundreds of boxes lurking there. And so we set off, armed with courage and lemonade.

A sample of what lurks in "The Pit"
After four hours, we had found money (two dollars and a buncha quarters, in my case), chocolate ladybugs (which had been decimated by weevils, the true "chocolate bugs"), my little sister's old bath towel, and tons of old papers, letters, and toys.

A path we cleared
We managed to clean out one storage area, the entrance to The Pit. It actually looked quite nice.

I sorted these boxes. :)
However, much of what we cleared out is now sitting in an enormous pile in the middle of our basement. The mounds of trash have been hauled off, but stacks and stacks of boxes and crates and chairs and bookcases remain, making it look like we're a family of hoarders. (I really hope we're not.) We plan to have a garage sale, but that means we need to sort through everything *again*. Yeeg.

I've also been working on my room. I haven't done an extensive overhaul since I graduated from high school four years ago. And. . . it definitely shows. Sure, I've cleaned it, but I haven't searched through the drawers and ruthlessly discarded half my stuff in a while. It's scary--what if I need that fifth pair of tweezers? Couldn't I use three identical pairs of flip-flops? However, I've found getting rid of things to be freeing.
My room in the middle stages of the purge.
Let's say you're like me. Now, remember those corduroy pants--the ones that are slightly too long and a little too. . . brown? And that polo--the one that never fit you quite right (and besides, you wore it in high school). And let's face it, you'll never wear those shoes Aunt Agatha got you, although they're a fascinating specimen of mustard and chartreuse plaid. Your room is filled with kindly-meant gifts, impulse buys, clothes that still have tags, all hidden in corners because they're just too. . . embarrassing to remember. 

Now really, why do I need these?
Get rid of them. Seriously.

It's incredible to realize that you'll never again have to see all those guilt-inducing things. Don't like those pants? Why keep them? And you'll never have to feel bad about those shoes if you don't have them reminding you every day when you walk into your closet. So au revoir, stuff! Auf wiedersehen. Have a nice life--without me.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I laughed when I saw today's word: erubescent (the spell-checker wants to change it to "pubescent". . .). It means "becoming red or reddish; blushing."

A blushing peach!
Excellent. That's a challenge in and of itself--make something blushing. I'll edit and post when I've got it.

Later that day. . .

It's even got a leaf for "natural" effect!
All of the gorgeous colors
  A peach. I made a peach. I grabbed four random colors of yarn and hobbled together this hacky sack full o' beans!

It turned out a little weird, but I'm pleased with the overall effect. Now I just need to find someone to teach me how to play. . . O_O

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fifty Days of Challenge

I've been slacking off. Sure, I've been working at camp for the last seven weeks, but that's no excuse. I had my yarn and crochet hook, but all I did after finishing my mukluks (I'll post pictures at some point) was give yarn to my girls to make parachutes. So. . . Bad me.

(In case you couldn't tell, this is lonely, neglected yarn. It has a sad face.
True, I was a bit burned out--I finished eight huge flower scarves right before I left. They were lovely and they made me a lot of money. But they were also insane and repetitive, and I made all eight of them in a week (O_O). So it's no wonder I haven't worked on any projects for months--right?
One of the eight monstrous scarves
Perhaps. But now it is time to start anew--with a challenge! For the next fifty days, I will create a randomly determined challenge, complete it, and post the creation on Etsy. To account for unforeseen circumstances (such as surprise parties, ogres, and lady-eating sharks), I'll give myself two extensions per week. Yes.
A rather more pleasant interaction than expected
Challenges will be arranged by taking the word of the day from ( and constructing a challenge fitting that theme. So, for instance, the word today is "feign." So my challenge for today (presuming I would undertake it with only an hour remaining) would be to. . .  Create an object that appears to be one thing while actually being something else. How simple!

Is it a doorway with two people or an elderly man's enormous head? Oh, dear. . .

If you wish to join me in my quest, please do so! I would love to see how others respond to the prompts. Even if you don't knit or crochet, you might make jewelry, draw, paint, sew, write, or do any number of creative things. Feel free to post pictures and descriptions of anything you make. :)