So here’s what happened…

Posted in Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 by squawky

Rather than try to explain a lot of times, figured I’d try to tell some of the story here… and hopefully keep up with updates.

A bit over two weeks ago, after coming home from a fun conference, I decided to take the afternoon and head up to the barn to ride.  Didn’t even bother to drop my luggage at home, went straight from the airport… the weather was too nice to spend driving around.

I’d warmed up and had been riding for maybe 15-20 minutes (and took a little break), and then decided to do some more.   There were some little barrels lying on their side, set up as a nice little fence to jump (1 foot, honestly – maybe 18″ at a stretch).  Jumping is something we both enjoy, so it seemed like a fun way to get back into gear.   My horse was perhaps a bit too excited – he sped up a little bit and maybe jumped a bit too high, and then either bucked or tripped after the fence and pulled me forward over his head.   That’s how I fell off – am pretty sure I somersaulted and landed on my upper back.  The torque (not the gravity) caused the damage to my spine.

I was wearing a helmet.  I always wear a helmet.  I have no head injuries, no brain damage.  Enough said.

Luckily there were people nearby to call 911, call my family, make sure I didn’t move around, etc. – I went from the barn to a nearby hospital to meet the helicopter to go to the hospital where I ended up.  Surgery a couple days later – two titanium rods to stabilize the spine – ICU for a few days, and now in a rehab facility to recover and get back to life “as normal”.

I am overwhelmed by the support from everyone – especially during the first few days (the days waiting for surgery and those right after): the Facebook posts came via the iPod my family brought each visit, along with the cards and well-wishes.  The hospital delivered electronic wishes given via their website as they came.  We had the cards and wishes posted in the ICU and have run out of room for them here – good reminders for those days that are harder than others.  I’m told that my situation has been remembered in prayers in churches, synagogues, Buddhist temples and reiki circles – which I find comforting and even a bit amusing (that my friends are so diverse that I can say this, as if sampling from a religious “buffet”).

I am going to try to preserve those Facebook posts, as time permits, in an easy way to revisit them in the future, as I have saved the cards and letters.  Again, I know I will need them.

Many thanks to everyone who has stopped to visit – many days I found it tiring to read even a few pages of a book or a couple of emails… but I could talk with someone for an hour without needing a break.  The mental exercise is just as important as the physical!

For the future – this is what I know now:  the break in my spine was fairly traumatic and likely severed most of the cord.  I have no feeling or movement below my chest at this point, and likely will not regain much more than this.  I have 100% use of my arms and upper trunk, however, and should be able to return both to my condo and work (with a few modifications here and there).

I had a lot of time to think, the day this happened, from lying on the ground waiting for the paramedics to a rather long MRI session.  My “science brain” (to contrast with a friend who blogs about the irrational reactions of the ‘lizard brain’) kicked in right away, to immediately tell me that this is not the end of the world (screaming irrationally solves nothing) but merely a change – and an opportunity to maybe take my work in a different direction.  The science brain has been working hard now and again to keep away the dark thoughts, too.

I fully expect to be angry, to despair, and to have those “I can’t” moments – but I know I’ll have help when I need it.  It’s too bad that we don’t always realize how supportive and wonderful our friends and family are until something like this happens… but it’s so important to be reminded when they do occur.  I don’t think I ever appreciated the meaning of “thinking of you” so much before.

I am a glass half empty person – always have been – but I don’t see this as the point.  It’s not how much you have in the glass that matters, it’s what you have (and if the glass is empty, what you choose to refill it with….)

Hoping to update soon….


It’s the best of times, and the worst…

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2009 by squawky

It’s that time of year again – the time between semesters, when there’s no structured time in the day.

It’s a good thing, because I can work whenever I feel motivated to do so – and without fear of interruption.  And it’s a bad thing, because… well… I need that motivation.

Maybe it’s the winter blahs, maybe it’s the lack of structure, or who knows?   My brain finds scattered tasks to do, but not the important ones.  It’s also the time when I feel like there’s  no point in doing the work I do – it won’t matter, it’s not publishable, no one will bother to cite it anyway, someone else will do a better job, etc.

How to get out of a funk like this?

I’ve tried a few procrastination techniques (organizing my office – a task that I need to do but gets boring after while; writing class syllabi – a task I hate more than just about anything besides grading exams), writing blog posts (see!  I can do this!), updating web pages, etc. etc.   But the creative brain still refuses to engage.

Will give it another kick in the butt, another cup of coffee perhaps, and we’ll see what runs from there….

Need I say more?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 2, 2008 by squawky

La Playa

Field holiday?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 30, 2008 by squawky

Part of the difficulties of combining research with a teaching heavy position (I have 2 classes this term, one with a lab – and this is my light semester) is that it is difficult to find time to do field work.  I’d love to be in the field for 2-3 weeks consecutive, but with a southern hemisphere field area, this conflicts with classes.

So I’m cutting my field time back to a week – and the week that worked out best with the rest of the team was Thanksgiving break – only missing one class (the other class and labs were cancelled during the holiday week).    But I’m ambivalent about this “give up your holiday to do field work” thing….

The field work is done, but I’m exhausted, and have a 24 hour plane trip home (including layovers and customs and such) – and then right to university to catch up with classes.  And the piles of grading, and the piles of paperwork.

And the piles of rocks – I officially am bringing home more rocks than other stuff, I think.  But there’s enough samples for at least one student to do a project this spring/summer, and one more funded field season left (so I can hit the other sites I’ve missed next year).

Now I need a vacation….

To go hi-tech, or not to go hi-tech…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2008 by squawky

Like many of us out there, there are a lot of demands for my time… and I keep putting off some of the high-tech “upgrades” I want to make at work.

The question is, are they really worth it anyway?

I should have a nice webpage – I should have my cv. online (plus links to publications), and current course syllabi and links to notes and useful webpages.  But is it worth it?  The university pays a significant amount of money to run a Blackboard system – which does more than my webpage would ever do (discussion forums, say) and is secure enough to post grades on.   I could get away with just a formulaic page with contact info and a cv… right?

Should also help update the department webpage with an nifty RSS feed to help promote our public events.

But they seem like more trouble they then are worth – updating my webpage requires logging into the university VPN to access FrontPage (I’m a Mac user – and a PPC user at that, so no Parallels-ing into Windows land for me).  Would love to add an RSS feed, but am I capable of keeping up with updates?  Isn’t it just easier to do things the old-fashioned (non-internet) way?

Yeah.   Might happen someday.  Probably not.  You can see how well I’ve done with blog posts….

Test… Test… Is this thing on?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 3, 2008 by squawky

(At this point, some roadie is supposed to come out and try to play Stairway to Heaven after tuning the guitars, right?)

I’m trying a first post here, just to see how this works – I’ll put something substantive up later.  Promise.