Posts Tagged ‘injury’

And So Endeth The Streak

Posted: 2016-05-12 in Running
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483 days. Almost 1100 miles.

That’s how long my running streak lasted before I was forced to give it up.

A little over a month ago, while on one of my normal “1.5 mile minimum a day” runs, I had a stabbing pain in my ankle that shot down my foot and scared the hell out of me. I was able to walk on it, but running felt like someone was driving a nail into the top of my foot with every step. I limp/jogged my way through my last half-mile back to the house and iced my foot, hoping I just twisted something in a funny direction and it would be better a few days later.

As the days progressed, I still limped and I still ran. Nothing improved, and I had to go back out to Texas for work. Three weeks into my work schedule there (where I was on my feet at least 5-6 miles a day on top of whatever I was running), I decided it was time to seek medical attention before I did something really stupid and permanent to my foot/ankle.

The x-rays came back negative for stress fractures (what I feared was likely), but the Doc still was concerned and asked me to treat the injury just like a stress fracture, including 6 weeks of laying off the running, elevating and icing the foot as much as possible, and generally giving it time to heal itself before I screwed it up worse.

At one time, I would have said, “Screw it” to such advice, and kept my almost-16-months-streak alive. But older-and-wiser me started considering how I’d feel if I messed something up to the point where I’d be in agony every time I tried playing soccer with the kids, or hiking with the wife, or any of the million of things that are enjoyable but require you to be active on your feet. I decided, as disappointing as it would be to end my streak, it was a small sacrifice to make to get me back to normal.

So here I sit, icing my ankle & foot in the evenings, binge-watching Netflix and jealously glaring at random folks as they run past my balcony, carefree and happy, not knowing how good they have it. I was one of those people once, and hopefully in about 4 more weeks, I will be again. In the meantime, I’ll just try to make the most of the situation and keep my spirits up. (Sometimes, drinking the spirits down helps in that respect.)

So 483 days. It’s not a bad streak – over a year of running every day. Will I start a new streak when I get back into running? Probably not the same “run every day” type streak – that has proven to be a little too much for my bones to handle. But I’ll still keep running, and I’ll try to remember that each run is a privilage that not everyone gets to enjoy, and treat it as such.

Still, it would have been nice to hit 500.

You may have noticed that yesterday broke my self-imposed blog silence since last September.  (Well, not so much self-imposed as forced on me by a crazy work project schedule that left me virtually no free time to do anything but eat and sleep, but that's besides the point.)  My crazy work schedule is over, I'm back home, and that means, in addition to spending lots of time playing with my kids and hanging out with my wife, I should have some time to catch up on some projects here at home (which includes getting back into writing here and elsewhere).

So the good news? I'm back.  The bad news, however, is I came back about two weeks before I had planned, because I hurt myself.  More specifically, I ruptured my Achilles tendon.  And how, pray tell, did I commit such an injury?  Was I snowboarding?  Was I rescuing small children from a raging house fire?  No, it's much more embarrassing – I did it dancing.

Yes, that's right.  I now have to undergo surgery and a long, drawn-out recovery process because I went out dancing with some friends.  I wasn't even doing anything THAT bizarre – much the same stuff I'd do dancing with my kids at home, just a little bit wilder.  But apparently it was enough in just the right combination to tear my Achilles tendon through-and-through, leaving me hobbling to the emergency room.  And me without even a good story to tell about getting hurt! (Although I heard someone might have video of the incident, in which case I might have to get my hands on it to really embarrass myself.)

So I've got surgery scheduled for Thursday of this week, and until then I'm laid-up on the couch wearing this bulky-yet-strangely-comfortable boot.  I've got crutches and can actually get up and help out around the house, so I'm trying not to be too much of an invalid and at least giving my wife breaks from taking care of the kids periodically.  I'm sure it's a downer to her, expecting to get me home healthy in a couple weeks and finally have a break from the full-time stay-at-home-single-parent role and instead, getting the equivalent of a(n older) third child.  I'm trying to do all I can (and not doing too bad a job of it) but it's definitely not the same as having a healthy spouse there to help out…

The doctor says that the Achilles tendon, the biggest and strongest tendon in the body, has virtually no blood vessels amongst it, which means although it is insanely tough, it takes forever to heal.  I'm looking 7 days after the outpatient surgery before stitches come out, then back to the boot for 4-6 weeks.  Near the end of that, I'll start doing early motion and attempt to walk on it.  2-4 months after the surgery, I may be walking without any assistance, although I'll be weak and tentative with my walking.  (I foresee a lot of physical therapy, either structured or on my own, in my near future.)  The chances of a 100% recovery after this kind of injury and surgery are very likely, but it could be up to 12 months after surgery before I get there!  That means no running for a good long time, and the same kibosh on any other strenuous high-impact activities.  I may have to take up swimming at the Y just to stay in shape (and stay sane).

But every cloud has a silver lining – I'll still be working (as soon as I'm recovered from the surgery) but it's unlikely that I'll be back up to the Minnesota plant site any time soon, since it'll be difficult to walk around there in my recovering state.  So back to the office, working 40 hour workweeks, which means plenty of time to hang out with my wife, my kids, and of course, all of my Vox blog buds!  Look out for some new posts from me on stuff I've been meaning to write about, and I'll be cruising around and leaving comments here and there as well.  It's good to be back folks – I missed you all while I was away!

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Last month, I decided to try my hand at being a handyman and install a ceiling fan in place of a fluorescent light fixture located in my kitchen.  In the end, I finally got the ceiling fan up and running, with only minor injuries and time wasted.  Now that I'm a so-called "expert" at installing ceiling fans, I thought I'd share my recently-gained wisdom with the world, so everyone else knows exactly how (not) to install a ceiling fan.

This set of instructions assumes you already have your ceiling fan and any downrod extensions you plan to have for the fan, as well as all tools needed. 

Allocate one extra trip to the hardware store per item you do not have, as you will most likely forget to buy them all at one time and need to go back again and again for each thing you do not have.

Step 1:  Read ALL the installation directions. 

  • This is vitally important.  Even if you think you know all the steps, read them anyway.  The worst that will happen is you'll have wasted 5 minutes of your time.  At best, you'll save yourself from doing something stupid (more on this later).

Step 2: Determine whether you need to install a new ceiling box to hold your fan. 

  • If you have a ceiling fan in place already, you probably don't need to do anything.  Skip to step 4, unless you like to hurt yourself.
  • If you have a light in the place where you're installing your fan, you're probably going to have to take the old light down to find out if you need to do anything.  If you're like me, this will involve much cursing, dropping of screws and screwdrivers, and will result in a trip to the hardware store to buy a new junction box and mounting kit for a ceiling fan. [HARDWARE STORE TRIP #1]

Step 3: Install the new ceiling fan box (if required).

  • Turn off power to the old light via the appropriate circuit breaker.  Make note of which breaker this is – you'll need to know  for later.  Remove the old light.
  • This step may involve cutting drywall to create a hole the size of your new box.  This can be done by using a sheetrock saw.  [HARDWARE STORE TRIP #2]  Please note that the sheetrock saw is sharp on the tip to puncture the drywall and serrated on the edge to cut through the drywall.  DO NOT continue to saw through the drywall after you have cut your finger on the sheetrock saw.  At least, not until you have bandaged yourself up.  Blood is hard to get off of the ceiling, so this is a very important step to follow. [INJURY #1]

  • Use the screws enclosed with the ceiling fan box to securely attach the box to the ceiling joist. 
    • Realize about halfway through that the pilot holes you drilled weren't deep enough. 
    • Strip the screws with your electric drill as you realize this.
    • Spend 5 minutes manually unscrewing them with a pair of pliers, then drill the pilot holes deeper. 
    • Scrounge for more screws long enough to do the job, and use these in place of the ones you stripped.
    • As you realize halfway through screwing in these new screws that your drill's battery is dying, plug in the cordless drill's battery to recharge. 
    • Swap out with the spare battery, only to find that it is completely dead.  Curse loudly in your best impression of a sailor.
      • Start to curse silently when you realize your toddler has been learning some new vocabulary from your overuse of certain expletives.
    • Finish screwing the screws into the joist manually using a screwdriver and a pair of pliers to give you extra torque leverage.  Don't strain any muscles in your arm trying to force the screws if you can help it. [INJURY #1.5]

Take a break and have a beer+ – your ceiling box is installed.  You're about 1/8th of the way to having a new ceiling fan in place!

Step 4: Install the ceiling plate into the fan box. 

  • This involves more pilot holes.  This time, make sure to drill them deep enough into the joist the first time around.  You may have to wait for your drill battery to charge.  Have a beer in the meantime.+

Step 5: Assemble the fan for standard mounting.

  • Insert the downrod through the canopy and canopy trim ring.  Feed the wires from the fan through the downrod.

    • Figure out off of the parts list which items are the canopy and canopy trim ring.  Don't confuse with the low profile washer plate, which looks like it should fit but actually doesn't.
    • Spend 10 minutes trying to get super-flexible wires through a 2 foot long downrod.  End up tying a flexible measuring tape to the wires, threading the tape through the downrod, and then pulling the wires through.
  • Screw the downrod into the fan body.  Tighten until it doesn't screw in anymore.

Step 6: (Optional) Determine that the 2 foot long downrod is too long for your ceiling.

  • Hold the ceiling fan body up to the ceiling plate and realize that anyone over 6 feet is going to have to duck whenever they walk through the room.
  • Attempt to unscrew the downrod from the fan body, only to find out that, according to the instructions, "the adapter has a special coating on the threads.  Once assembled, do not remove the downrod".
  • Curse over the importance of reading ALL the instructions BEFORE following the steps.  (See Step 1, above).
  • Use a pipe wrench to unscrew the downrod, fervently hoping that the hardware store won't notice the scratches on the threads and will allow you to do a swap for a shorter downrod. [HARDWARE STORE TRIP #3]

Note: If you performed Step 6, repeat Step 5 with the new, shorter downrod.  Pray that you didn't ruin the special coating on the threads and that your ceiling fan won't come crashing down on your wife or child when they least expect it.

Step 7: Hang the ceiling fan from the ceiling and connect up to the wiring.

  • Since you're dealing with electrical wiring, make sure the circuit breaker powering the wires you'll be hooking the fan up to are turned off.  Optionally, turn off other circuit breakers in your attempt to find the right one, resetting your computer, DVR, and/or clocks in the process.
  • Clip the wires to the appropriate lengths and strip off enough insulation to be able to join the wires together with a wire nut.  Be aware that the wiring in the house is a pretty heavy gauge wire, which means it will be VERY SHARP on the ends after you clip it.  Be careful not to let the sharp pointy tips of these wires stab you while you're working with them or you might have to stop to get another band-aid.  [INJURY #2]
  • Once all the wire nuts are in place and properly secured (you did use electrical tape to make sure those wire nuts won't come loose, didn't you?), hang the downrod from the ceiling plate and do all the stuff you need to do to get the canopy and trim ring looking nice.  Yay, we're over halfway there!

Step 8: Install the ceiling fan blades.

  • This has to be the easiest step of the whole process.  Just install blade grommets if your fan has grommets.  Attach the blade to the blade iron using blade assembly screws.  Remove blade mounting screws and rubber bumpers from the motor, and mount blade to the motor using the blade mounting screws.  See?  Simple as pie.  (Actually a lot more intuitive than the directions make this step out to be.)

Step 9: Install the light fixture assembly (if required).

  • Install the "upper switch housing" to the fan body.
    • Figure out which remaining part is the "upper switch housing".
    • Feel your heart leap when you realize the "upper switch housing" is not in the pile of parts and pieces you took out of the box.  Scramble through the trash in the box until you sigh with relief when you find the "upper switch housing" buried underneath a mound of styrofoam pieces in the box.
    • Spend 10 minutes cursing as you try to install the upper switch housing onto the fan body.  Exclaim loudly (even though nobody is present at the time) that "They didn't make these damn screws long enough to install this piece of &@#$@#."
    • Realize you've spent the last 10 minutes trying to install the upper switch housing upside down.  Thank the heavens above that nobody was around to witness you doing this.
    • Flip the upper switch housing over and install in 30 seconds.
  • Plug the light kit into the proper plug.
  • Install the "lower switch housing" into the "upper switch housing".  Grumble to yourself as you belatedly realize that by the very nature of its name, an "upper switch housing" implies there is a "lower switch housing", and you could have saved about 10 minutes if you had tried to fit the two together before trying to install the upper portion upside down.

Step 10: Install the light bulbs, pull-chains, and glass bowl.

  • Open your pack of lightbulbs only to realize that while the boxes containing the ceiling fans in the store all seemed to indicate that the fan took regular light bulbs, you happened to grab the ONE BOX of a slightly different model that takes B10 candelabra bulbs.
    • Curse quietly as you search through your junk drawers and light bulbs and realize you have no B10 candelabra bulbs.
    • Decide to finish installing the rest of the fan before running out to the hardware store again, on the off chance that you need to pick up something else along with candelabra bulbs (this may be the smartest thing you've done yet this day).
  • Install the glass bowl, cover plate and finial.
  • Remove the glass bowl, cover plate and finial, install the pull chains, and then reinstall the glass bowl, cover plate, and finial with the pull chains threaded through the finial.
  • Realize that the pull chains are going to be about a foot shy of being reachable by anyone under 7 feet tall.  Put down pull-chain extenders on the list to buy along with B10 candelabra bulbs. [HARDWARE STORE TRIP #4]


Step 11:
Bask in the glow of a job well done.

  • You should, by this time, have a ceiling fan that operates.  You could spend some time making sure the blades  and fan body don't wobble, touch up any remaining holes in the drywall near the fan, clean up the mess you've probably made, and then show off the ceiling fan to friends and family.  Or you could settle back on the couch with a beer and smile at the fact that you made it through the installation without having to take a trip to the emergency room.  Even if the emergency room IS closer to your house than that #$@#%@ hardware store.

Total Trips to the Hardware Store: 4
Total Injuries: 2 and a half
Total time spent during installation: About 2.5 hours
Total time spent (including trips to the hardware store): About 8 hours
Total curse words said (out loud): About a billion
Total curse words said (internally): About twice that

Amount of time you'll spend before again deluding yourself into thinking that a ceiling fan installation somewhere else in the house is "a piece of cake – I'll put that up in an hour or two": About 1 year.


+DISCLAIMER: I actually did not drink during the installation of my ceiling fan and am not seriously recommending you do so, either.  But you'll probably wish you had, by the end.

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