Craving Normalcy

06.5.2008 | 12:00 pm

As we drive to her radiation treatments, Susan often looks out the window and says something like, “Look at all those people out there, living normal lives. They’re going to work, going to grocery stores, and driving their own cars. They don’t have any idea how great that is.” She finishes with her main point: “I wish I could be normal.”

I think I see what she means, from a couple of perspectives.

First, I share in Susan’s sense of the surreal. Last night I was doing the math, and realized it’s been about seven years since Susan and I have lived a “normal” life, when you consider that since the end of the first trimester of the twins’ pregnancy, it’s been one thing after another.

Normal, to us, sounds pretty darned exotic.

Second, it’s hard to picture how — with all we’ve got going on — anyone could be doing normal things, probably not even thinking about how good normal feels.

But then, this morning, it occurred to me: this is a filtered and constricted way of looking at things. While I’ve been thinking about all the normal things we miss, I’ve simultaneously still been taking for granted a lot of the really great normal things that we have.

So, today, here is a list of normal things. The ones Susan and I have, I am making an effort to not take them for granted today. The ones we don’t have, I’d like you to take a moment and appreciate having them yourself.

Normal Things We Miss

  • Easy sleep. For a while, sleep eluded Susan altogether. Now she sleeps pretty well, but that’s primarily due to a powerful cocktail of drugs I give her every night. I, on the other hand, have the ability to sleep at a moment’s notice and for any period of time. I no longer take the pleasure of nodding off for granted.
  • Automatic actions. Try this sometime: describe to someone how to tie a shoelace. Not easy, is it? And yet, you can probably do this — along with other sophisticated motions you’ve done thousands of times in your life — without giving them more than the briefest of thoughts. When Susan lost the ability to do these automatic, reflexive actions, I realized how difficult they are, and how many of these actions I perform in a normal day: fastening a seatbelt, rising from a chair, swinging a leg over a bike. We do some intricate stuff without ever thinking about it. Next time you tie your shoe, think about how nice it is to be able to do so. I know that Susan was certainly grateful when that ability came back to her after weeks of radiation.
  • Walking. Everybody, at some point in their life, winds up off their feet for a while. I don’t think I need to go into how much it makes you appreciate being able to easily get around.
  • Energy. The next time you do a little errand and then have energy to go do another one, relish it.

Normal Things We Have That I Am Trying to Not Take for Granted

  • A good job. When most people say they have a good job, they mean that they’re not in danger of being fired, and they can tolerate coming into work. I, on the other hand, have an honest-to-goodness good job. And furthermore, it’s at a good company, which has recently made considerable changes to its policy to not merely accommodate my situation, but to go a step further and help out.
  • Great kids. All four of my kids are healthy, with no special diet restrictions, allergies, or physical challenges. All four of them are gifted in some way: the oldest in computers and math, the second in all academics, and the girls in art. And all four have a strong ethical grounding — Susan’s most important gift to them.
  • Good friends. I look around at most men my age, and they don’t really have many — if any — close friends. I have the core team, which has shown itself to be much, much more than a group of riding buddies. Further, I have the enormous group of friends that make up the readership of this blog.
  • A good marriage. The only thing worse than something like this happening to Susan and me after twenty years of a good marriage is the realization of how awful it would be if we had not had a good marriage.
  • A good hobby. Everyone talks about their hobbies and what they do for fun. Cycling, though, is much more than a hobby for me. It’s a giant reset button. I can be having the worst day ever; after ninety minutes on a bike, I’ve got my balance back and am ready to take care of my wife, my kids, and anything else that comes my way.

This is just a start. What “normal” things are you going to take a moment to appreciate today?


  1. Comment by Lori | 06.5.2008 | 12:17 pm

    All those little things that happen on a daily basis – a kiss good morning from my husband, a call to my Dad, my dog’s wagging tail to greet me when I get home, etc….. Thanks for the reminder to be thankful for all of them!

  2. Comment by jill | 06.5.2008 | 12:18 pm

    I too am grateful for the unconditional support of my family, even though I don’t let them know how much I appreciate them nearly often enough.

  3. Comment by Lifesgreat | 06.5.2008 | 12:18 pm

    Every day I thank God for the “normal” things in my life:

    1. A good husband.
    2. Good kids.
    3. My health-physical and mental.
    4. My home and circumstances.
    5. My freedom to do as I choose.

    I do have things that are not “normal” and I try and thank Him for those things too.

  4. Comment by Marissa | 06.5.2008 | 12:24 pm

    being able to call my mom up at any moment and talk about “nothing” for as long as i wish.

  5. Comment by Joe Rosario | 06.5.2008 | 12:26 pm

    Funny and insightful blogs that give me a chuckle and help break up the day. Plus all the “normal” stuff: healthy family, good paying job that allows my wife to spend alot of time with my son, happy beagle, indifferent cat…

  6. Comment by Nina in Ohio | 06.5.2008 | 12:26 pm

    It is a sign of strength and an ability to see outside oneself when you can remember to give thanks for the “little things” during tough times.

    When my mom was fighting her way back from a traumatic brain injury, she celebrated every “little” step of the way back – walking a few steps again, feeding & dressing herself again, leaving in-patient rehab, getting some energy back. I can sympathize with the way Susan feels. Here’s hoping she gets more of those normal moments.

  7. Comment by matt | 06.5.2008 | 12:32 pm

    I fully understand on the taking things for granted. People forget what life is supposed to be really about. Even I at times.

    Cycling is a reset button for me as well. When the wife senses that I’m not “competent” then she suggests a ride. Almost all the time it works.

    You are very fortunate to have so many positives in your life of challenges. I think that your attitude is probably one of the biggest magnets of keeping as positive as possible.

    The things I’m going to take a second longer to appreciate is
    1-my wife & marriage
    2-my health in all aspects
    3-place to call home
    4-my senses, goes with health, but sight smell hear touch taste.

    Win Nelson family, win Susan.

  8. Comment by Boz | 06.5.2008 | 12:35 pm

    You are very a very fortunate guy. Very few can ever say they have it all, all at the same time. I have never had them all at once, some never at all.But one can work towards them.
    Win Susan!!

  9. Comment by Mrs. Coach | 06.5.2008 | 12:41 pm

    I miss those same normal things. Due to this freakin pregnancy I no longer sleep well, I can’t tie my shoes let alone sqeeze my swollen feet into them. I’ve lost the ability to walk, I now waddle. And any energy I have is apparently being pumped into my growing melon-belly.
    Yeah, I’ve got 4 weeks left and I’m pretty sick of this!

  10. Comment by NW | 06.5.2008 | 12:59 pm

    After reading your post, I am grateful for the tasks I am able to do and not think twice about it. I have my health and should never take that for granted.


  11. Comment by leroy | 06.5.2008 | 1:00 pm

    Just the other day I read an informative article on the internet about how to suck in one’s gut.

    Very much appreciated.

    Expect to exhale shortly.

  12. Comment by Al Maviva | 06.5.2008 | 1:01 pm

    1. I appreciate the fact I’ve never bitten off a thumb during an eating binge. You may laugh, but you’ve never seen me drunk, eating Dominos.

    2. I appreciate the fact that either my wife loves me a lot (completely undeservedly) or, alternately, the she hides her Loathing-Beyond-Measure behind a credible imitation of a great wife & mother.

    3. I appreciate the fact that Elden runs this blog. It’s a daily stop for melancholy uplift, laughter, or side-splitting howls. Stopping here to see what Elden says today is a normal thing and I miss it when it’s not there.

    4. I appreciate the guys I ride with. They’re solid guys and good friends. I’d say more but that sums it up and is all that needs to be said.

    5. I appreciate living in the best damn country in the world (no offense meant, Oz) living a carefree middle-class life in what would be classified as opulence in much of the world, and near wealth elsewhere. What we take for granted as normal is *incredibly* exceptional compared to historical standards anywhere and current standards most places.

    6. I really, truly appreciate being able to get a good beer at the end of the day or after a ride. When I was growing up, they didn’t have good beer. Really, Pabst or something was at the bottom end, Bud in the middle, and Heineken was at the top. Beer used to suck. Now, we can readily get good beer that is tasty. Trust me and Ben Franklin on this – “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

  13. Comment by Heatherann | 06.5.2008 | 1:02 pm

    I’ve had this subject on my mind a lot lately. It seems like over the last week I have had a thousand things to remind me of how good I have it and I am trying very hard to be very appreciative of those things, especially the health and energy one. Thank you for another reminder!

  14. Comment by Katie | 06.5.2008 | 1:12 pm

    I work at the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and it has always helped me to keep the good things in perspective. I frequently stop to think that, no matter what my problems are, any day that I am neither patient nor visitor is a very good day.

    WIN Susan!

  15. Comment by joel | 06.5.2008 | 1:13 pm

    I’ve never really understood how “May you live in interesting times” came to be considered a curse until reading all of the normal things that have vanished from your life. As Matt says above, I will be taking the time to notice and enjoy my normalcy.

  16. Comment by jt | 06.5.2008 | 1:16 pm

    I appreciate the normalcy of good health, mine and my family’s, more than I ever have before.

  17. Comment by BurkeInTheOzarks | 06.5.2008 | 1:16 pm

    Great topic, Fatty.

    And AMEN, Al, on all points, especially the good beer comment.

  18. Comment by usimpto | 06.5.2008 | 1:17 pm

    I have my health and the ability to do anything I want physically, and I will use this to go on a lovely bike ride after work, without thinking twice about it. I try to regularly be thankful for this but it’s nice to be reminded.

  19. Comment by bikemike | 06.5.2008 | 1:17 pm

    Elden, what you may not realize is most of us have to live “normal lives” because if we had something happen in our lives, like you’re dealing with, we probably wouldn’t have the support group there to pitch in. I’m guessing that you’re some kind of Superman and your relatives and friends are from Krypton and Susan is probably the luckiest women on the planet. Normal is a relative term and just the fact that you listed so many positive things at the top is proof that you are in a league of your own my man.
    what was the question?

  20. Comment by chtrich | 06.5.2008 | 1:18 pm

    I love being healthy and being able to do any physical task.

  21. Comment by Marla | 06.5.2008 | 1:39 pm

    I am grateful for my Dad still being around after everything and everyone’s health right now. I watched and helped my Dad recover, learn to walk again and other things. So, yes, I am happy just to be able to do the “mundane” things of everyday life. And a spin on my bike after work really changes my mood!

    Best to all.

  22. Comment by 331miles | 06.5.2008 | 1:43 pm

    I love the normalcy of a having a family that happily greets me when I arrive home after a long day of work, cycling, or whatever.

  23. Comment by Jot | 06.5.2008 | 1:47 pm

    I try to never take for granted the ability to breathe through my nose. Because when it is taken away from you by sickness or allergies, you’re miserable.

    Yes it’s petty. :)


  24. Comment by KanyonKris | 06.5.2008 | 2:00 pm

    The human body (and all life) is a miracle. And Susan’s health problems have only increased my awareness of this.

    I’m an engineer who designs products. I have to pay attention to a lot of details to assure the thing will work when it’s built. And even then I usually find I’ve missed something. So when I think about all of the complex systems in the human body (electrical, chemical, mechanical, neurological) I’m amazed there ANY healthy people, let alone those who do amazing feats of athletics, endurance, survival, academics, etc.

    So every day I’m grateful for the body I have and that most it works well. For one, it allows me to experience riding a bicycle – from roads to trails.

    But just living healthy wouldn’t mean much without relationships. My wife first, then children, siblings, parents, in-laws [most of them ;-)] and friends.

    And there’s plenty more abundance I take in every day that makes my life pretty darn good.

  25. Comment by rexinsea | 06.5.2008 | 2:13 pm

    Normal things I’ll be appreciating today:
    First and foremost – A wife that I love and that somehow puts up with me… even when I’m cranky.
    1) GREAT Family life. Healthy twins and a healthy son who is working really hard in school and on swim team.
    2) Ability to ride my bike to work on a very pretty trail.
    3) Awesome neighbors who care about us and vice versa.
    4) Great lake, a new (to me) ski boat on which to enjoy it.
    5) You have to live in Seattle to appreciate all the different shades of green during spring. It’s stunning. Add song birds in the morning and a nice trail through the woods and it’s a little slice of heaven.
    6) An aging mid-live body that has not given out on me yet.
    7) An awesome blog to visit to make me think about how to appreciate live and my love of cycling.

    Wow Fatty, you really have me thinking. I could go on but won’t here. Thanks for the excellent post.

    I think you have it right, ‘normal’ is what you make of it. The lesson I never learned as a child is that there are many bumps along the road. Yours are particularily large right now but you are certainly handling them well. Your are example to work towards.

  26. Comment by Ashbygirls | 06.5.2008 | 2:19 pm

    I’m glad that a normal day for me means being home with my kids. It’s really quite a luxury, and that’s easy to forget. In honor of Susan, I’m going to turn off the computer and go play with them!

  27. Comment by KT | 06.5.2008 | 2:20 pm

    Good discussion topic, Elden/Fatty.

    Here’s a short list I just thought of:

    1- my boyfriend, and the incredibly awesome relationship we have. I don’t know how it all happened, but we’ve been together 9 years now– and he still changes my flat tires for me. What a guy.

    2- my dog. Yes, it’s weird. He’s 9 this year, too, and I know he doesn’t have many years left in him, but I’m grateful that we get to be a family together. My Solomon dog. Champion shedder.

    3- my large and complex family. We stick together through thick and thin, and there’s not many families in this world that do that anymore. Plus, Dad gave me a job 11 years ago out of the goodness of his heart (and he needed someone to answer phones and put together tax returns and I was free)– I have a lot of freedoms at work that I wouldn’t have anywhere else. And a lot more responsibility. It’s great.

    4- everything. That’s not very specific, but there’s so many things I take for granted that I shouldn’t, and they’re usually the things I don’t think of. So this hopefully covers those things.

    Thanks for giving me something to do at work besides work, Fatty/Elden! (Still working out a consistent name to call you. Fatty sometimes seems… mean. Elden sometimes seems… too formal.)

    :) Win, Susan!

  28. Comment by Chakra | 06.5.2008 | 2:22 pm

    Elden, I’ve been reading and lurking for about 3 weeks now, and wish I had found you sooner! Like everyone else, I’ve been moved to tears and laughed so hard I’ve snorted tea (the Assos post was a joy).

    You’ve been so inspiring. So helpful. I didn’t think I took a whole lot for granted, for a lot of painful reasons, but you know, I do. I am grateful for so much. Here is my list:

    My kids are healthy, and we get along. They are young, so I get the lovely snuggles, the open joy, their complete presence.

    My marriage – 11 years married, together 13 – and I cannot imagine what it would be like to face losing him, but you face it daily.

    My health. I can get on a bike (okay, 20lbs overweight, and yeah, lycra is NOT my friend) and my balance is good, my energy fine, and I can do more than one errand.

    My mind. I like to think it is clear, and am fortunate not to have had too much evidence to the contrary (or everyone is really making allowances…)

    Your blog, which has given so much to so many, with such grace, humour and insight.

    Blessings and love from the Five Jordans. WIN SUSAN, WIN!

  29. Comment by barry1021 | 06.5.2008 | 2:22 pm

    My top four would be

    1. great family health (knock wood)
    2. Great family health (knock wood)
    3. GREAT family health (knock wood)
    4. OK well, I have a great elimination system, if you know what I mean. I go in to do my business, I am done, I am gone. It’s normal, and it’s important. You should see the size of my wife’s crossword puzzle book. I am not into reading or writing on the throne.


  30. Comment by Keith | 06.5.2008 | 2:53 pm

    I’ve recently realized how much I love having morning coffee with my wife. It’s an important part of our daily routine.

  31. Comment by monkeywebb | 06.5.2008 | 2:59 pm

    Cool, clear, water.

    And great friends who also happen to ride bikes.

  32. Comment by Rufus | 06.5.2008 | 3:05 pm

    Thanks for the gift of this topic, Elden. What a great exercise…here goes:

    1. Getting to marry my best friend: my husband and I both work at home, and most every morning have a cuppa together before heading to our respective offices. What an incredible blessing those few quiet moments are.
    2. The love and support of our huge extended families, and that our families enjoy spending time together (my parents and my husbands’ parents just got back from a 15-day cruise together…wild…we suspect they enjoy each other’s company more than ours)
    3. Eyes that see, ears that hear, a heart that beats, and hand & feet doing just what they’re supposed to.
    4. Simple joys- the rain on the maples, watching my cat dream, the smell of the grill on a warm summer evening
    5. This blog

    (Hey, the 2:01 just went off here in Seattle… prayers for Team Nelson!)


  33. Comment by aussie kev | 06.5.2008 | 3:10 pm

    friday night i take for granted is “wine and cheese with good friends”, its seems so simple yet not having it would make fridays “uneventful”.
    unwinding over a glass or two, i shall not take for granted tonight


  34. Comment by Ms. Moon | 06.5.2008 | 3:14 pm

    Man, I fully realize how blessed I am to have so much sweet, luscious, miraculous ordinariness in my life.
    My healthy kids, my precious husband, our home, our garden, our love.
    Mostly all the love and the ability to enjoy it in so many everyday ways.

  35. Comment by Dr Codfish | 06.5.2008 | 3:14 pm

    The up side of (ab)normalcy?:

    I don’t envy you and I am sure you would much rather not be in this situation but your circumstances cause you to see life, relationships, the big and even the little things with a degree of focus and clarity that we ‘normals’ can only appreciate when you share that vision with us. That’s where you’d be if you were ‘normal’.

    We forget that if that wife or child were not there to be dismissve to, we would actually miss them. We forget that there is so much more that is positive than negative in almost evey family relationship, because ‘normal’ people are preoccupied with ‘normal’ dissapointments: The coffee is not warm enough, the bus was late, I didn’t get the raise I wanted, I got a flat tire. In your situation, how bad are these things compared to a memorable exchange with a loved one?

    Normal has it’s downside too, not the little things that go wrong, but the fact that we forget the value of living on the planet, and taking in a breath. I thank you for helping me to get a glimpse of life through that focused vision that is a necessary accomodation for your abnormal circumstances. you gently remind me that I should rejoice in all the every day things that I take for granted.

    Yr Pal Dr Codfish

  36. Comment by Leslie | 06.5.2008 | 3:27 pm

    What a wonderful post. And yes, why is it so hard to remember to be grateful for tiny (and not so tiny)graces? As a cynical, tough-as-nails, 20-years-plus East Coaster, I appreciate the reminder.

    Too much of my life is bogged down in tedious errands so it was sobering to ponder being physically unable to do them.

    I will think about the mockingbird I heard singing this morning in the wee hours when I couldn’t sleep. How grateful I am to have heard that song.

  37. Comment by pipebaum | 06.5.2008 | 3:29 pm

    My daughter will go another day without a seizure. Thank god for brain surgery.

  38. Comment by judi | 06.5.2008 | 3:33 pm

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention Fatty. Some of the things I will not take for granted are:

    My energy level (people say I need to bottle it up and sell it).

    My dogs (they are my kids).

    My job (the hours are awesome).

    My b/f who loves me for who I am and was.

    Fatty – please give Susan a hug from me.


  39. Comment by Medstudentitis | 06.5.2008 | 3:47 pm

    A few weeks ago I took my grandparents, who are both over 80, to my parents’ house for dinner. Between them in took over 5 minutes for them to fasten one seat belt. They just couldn’t get the correct piece in the correct hole the correct way around. It really made me pause and appreciate my dexterity.

    When I’m at work in the hospital these days, my patients are mostly comatose or babies. Therefore, I crave conversation. I am so thankful to be able to have a chat with a neighbour or a stranger that I meet in the elevator.

  40. Comment by AlicesYellowPorsche | 06.5.2008 | 4:01 pm

    Seven weeks ago, my dad was in a motorcycle accident . He is recovering now, with no permanent damage, and no spinal or brain injuries. For the first 3 weeks, he was held in a chemically induced coma, and for a week and a half after that he had a trachea tube in and was unable to communicate. Now, I am so grateful when I call home and he answers the phone, and listening to him talk to my mom.

    Its so sad that it takes a tragedy to appreciate the things that really matter.

  41. Comment by Clydesteve | 06.5.2008 | 4:12 pm

    I appreciate my routine interaction with the family dog in the morning:
    -ecstatic greeting as I let her out
    -serepticious kisses as I wipe her feet off to come in 12-1/2 minutes later
    -tossing her toy for her to fetch for a minute
    -her going back to the bedroom and pestering my wife to wake up at 6:30, when my back is turned
    -her insistance in going out the house when I leave to escort me down the driveway on my bike

    And, you know what, there are a lot of little routines with the human members of my family every day that, truth be told, don’t tell the dog, are even better.

  42. Comment by Slowracer | 06.5.2008 | 4:15 pm

    Hey Fatty,
    Great blog today (frankly,I haven’t seen a bad one!)
    Just back from a 2.5hr blast on a hill with good pals in the most foul of ’summer’ conditions.
    You always make me think………..and I really appreciate that.Keep up the good work man.


  43. Comment by Rocky | 06.5.2008 | 4:22 pm

    Isn’t there just so much to be thankful for? It’s surprising that we recognize as great gifts the seemingly mundane things that we are so adept at taking for granted, when those things are temporarily suspended from our easy access. I would not know where to start with a list. Watching your saga unfold these past years, as others play out around me, I am dumbfounded at what a fantasic experience life is everyday and how grateful I am to you and to your lovely wife and your good children for reminding me often of how good life really is. Thank you.

  44. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 06.5.2008 | 4:30 pm

    Dude, you picked the wrong guy on the wrong day for a “normal” discussion.

    I went to bed last night at a time such that as I was in my twilight, drifting off, I was startled awake by my wifes alarm clock going off for her to go to work. Neither of us are shift workers.


    Yesterday daytime was 8 hours of revising quantum physics and relativity for a 3 hour end of semester exam today. Then home to referee the kids for a couple of hours before leaving for 5 hours to be the “logistics manager” at a $5000 criterium my club organises. Then home for a bit more physics revision before falling into bed at the aforementioned 4:45am. It’s now 8:20am and I’m up again and have already made 3 lots of school lunches, made 2 phone calls about the race and am now leaving to visit my mum (who had a knee replacement last week) before I dive into my physics exam at 10am.

    At 4pm today I’m again the logistics manager (commonly mistaken for the race directors gopher), this time for the Tour de Sunshine Coast, 4 days of pain for which the term logistics manager must be considered interchangable with “general dog’s body” and/or “co-defendant” if the s&$t hits the fan.

    All of which pales into insignificance compared to your “normal”.

    I give thanks for my wife and 3 children who love me and each other.

    I give heartfelt best wishes to the battling Nelsons and bow down before your ability to perform “normally” in the face of your current challenges.

    WIN Susan.

  45. Comment by Nytro | 06.5.2008 | 4:39 pm

    This is such a great post. I love that you are so centered with everything that’s going on in your life that you can sit back and realize these things. Bravo.

    What I won’t take for granted:
    - Health
    - Wonderful marriage
    - Roof over our heads
    - The ability to see the joy in little things
    - Being able to work in a job that fulfills me.

    My heart is with you and your family as you continue on your journey. You’re an inspiration.


  46. Comment by Jules | 06.5.2008 | 6:22 pm

    Things to enjoy the normalcy of and be thankful for:

    A wonderful, caring, sensitive, strong husband who means the world to me, and a wonderful, nutty, busy life with work and school that we have together.

    A fabulous set of parents, still married after many years, who are healthy and happy, who I have a great relationship with and I could call anytime, and they’d be there for me.

    A wonderful brother!
    A great job.
    A home to go to at night.
    We’re not struggling to pay the bills.
    We’re in school, working for a better future as a professor for him, a CPA for me. Its tough, we’re tired and overworked, but we can physically, mentally, financially do it.

    Ultimately, above all, I’ve got faith in an incredibly loving Creator that has sustained me in things that were normal, unfair and unhappy to endure.

    I’m glad you’re blogging. Thanks for letting me get this out. God, please strengthen Susan right now and fill her with health and peace. Bless Fatty’s family!

  47. Comment by Dorothy | 06.5.2008 | 6:35 pm

    Again, thank you for the PERSPECTIVE!
    I echo the thoughts of so many before me.
    Children, parenthood, supportive and loving family and friends, the ability to take in a full breath of air, the thrill of riding my bike (something we never out grow), the ability to love.

    WIN Susan! Our prayers are with you and yours.

  48. Comment by Jen | 06.5.2008 | 6:46 pm

    I’ve been lurking for a couple of weeks now, but this post brought me down and then lifted me up. I am thankful for the “norm” of breathing and the “norm” of knowing my husband and daughter are home safe and sound with me right now. I am thankful for the “norm” of using the bathroom without help. I am thankful for the “norm” of falling asleep with nary a thought other than “I’m tired”. I am thankful for your insightful words which make me stop and actually remember that the “norm” I take for granted becomes difficult or impossible for some people and I should be grateful for where I am in life and the love I am surrounded by. You write beautifully and I wish you and Susan and the kids many peaceful moments on this all too hard road.
    Win Susan!

  49. Comment by sk8ermom3 | 06.5.2008 | 6:49 pm

    Ahhh, “normal”. Welcome to your new “normal”. I’ve had to redefine my “normal” several times over the past 20 years due to debilitating accidents, the loss of a child, and most recently job losses and teetering on the brink of bankruptcy! ( I will never sell my bikes…) I basically gave up trying to get back to the normal I once knew, and now I just go with the flow, appreciating what comes my way, but I agree with you, looking out from inside your bubble of pain makes you aware of loads of things other people take for granted.


  50. Comment by Saddletramp | 06.5.2008 | 7:01 pm

    The last thing I want to do is imply that your life is not difficult, even more difficult perhaps than most. In addition, I totally understand that by “normal”, you mean those routine daily activities that most people do that do not involve the unique challenges that you face.

    During my own period of not-normal life, my eyes were opened to the amazing number of folks that are going through their own struggles. Before multiple years of not-normal, I was not aware of the extreme challenges so many people faced everyday. Whether physical illness, mental illness, broken relationships, financial crisis, or lifelong handicaps, many (maybe most) of us are dealing with something. One might say these things are a normal part of living.

    To someone else pushing their shopping cart across the parking lot thinking about their pending divorce, you look just like someone taking a normal drive to run a normal errand.

    Now that things have improved for me, my prayer is that I can help someone like so many who have helped me. I appreciate those everyday opportunities to serve others close by that are going through the normal struggles of life.

    May God bless your family.

  51. Comment by Karen | 06.5.2008 | 7:13 pm

    Thank you for your honesty in sharing what you are going through, your humor, and for reminding us what is important.

  52. Comment by Yukirin Boy | 06.5.2008 | 7:18 pm

    It is amazing what we all take for granted.
    I can say a number of times recently I have read
    your blog and everyones comments and thought how wonderfulthe normal things in life are.

    WIN Susan

  53. Comment by Cheryl | 06.5.2008 | 7:22 pm

    Thru the struggles of raising 5 sons and one daughter…I have often said to my husband..”When are things ever going to be normal??” He looked at me one day as we were riding thru the mountians and he said..”Um….What IS normal?”

    We have faced the everyday challenges head on with each others support and love. I do understand where you are coming from…it must have been so heartbreaking to see Susan unable to complete small tasks that were once so simple and that we all too often take for granted daily.


  54. Comment by Richmond Roadie | 06.5.2008 | 7:53 pm

    I’m always mindful that God blessed me with a lovely wife and 4 wonderful children (often, my eyes water up with joy just looking at them0.

    A concience and a sense of humor are nice to have as well.

    Thank you for your insight!

  55. Comment by Cathi | 06.5.2008 | 8:37 pm

    Oh sweetie, what a beautiful thought out post.
    Our life changed forever 7 years ago, and a few
    months, and in that moment, I’ve stopped using
    the word norm’l .
    I appreciate what your wife said about people doing
    things like grocery shopping, and all those ‘chores’
    that now would become somewhat of an accomplishment,
    to me, as well.

    I’d read here for a long time,(quietly) and without doubt,
    this is my favourite post. I still think in terms
    of right now is what we have, and we are trying so
    hard not to think of life b.a. and a.a. (before and
    after accident) How is it possible to not let it
    affect you – for me, every minute means something so
    much more than it does to anyone having perfect health. I hope everyone of them appreciates whatever it is, from moving arms, legs, going down
    stairs, not taking medication, the pain, how it
    affects everyone around.. I could go on and on, saying that for me I give those thoughts 5 seconds
    to invade my personal brain space, and then I replace that thought with something positive now.
    I’m a better person for this, and although I never
    wish ANY one any chronic nor terminal illness, for
    the many people I’ve met, so many would not have
    become the simply wonderful human beings that I surround myself with, and it isn’t always family,
    although that is the best, yes, you and your
    family truly are the best. Thank you.

  56. Comment by RachelGio | 06.5.2008 | 8:44 pm

    Sorry, Fatty but I am so gonna have to steal your “cycling is a giant reset button” cuz it is priceless and maybe my friends will understand better.

    When things suck, I try to see the good things I still have. Perspective is a blessing. I’m glad you still have yours and hope you can keep it.


  57. Comment by Wine Dog | 06.5.2008 | 8:51 pm

    I don’t take it for granted, but I am thankful everyday for my health.

    Win Susan.

  58. Comment by ricky | 06.5.2008 | 9:29 pm

    Been thinking a lot about this since FallMoab2007 (or 2008 if you’re working off the fiscal calendar). Sitting between Dug, who had been informed that his employment was terminated the day before FM07, and Fatty woke me up and made me start thinking about how good things are for me and my family. Right after FM07 I got sick. What should have been fairly routine got ugly and painful. I’ve changed lots of things in my life since then.

    Normalcy is a relative state. Change disrupts normalcy. Change is hard. From time to time we get reminders that help us understand how much we have and how quickly it can be taken. I’m trying to reset what’s normal in my life more frequently and get better at adapting the constant changes that happen. Thanks for the reminder. And thanks for including us in your journey.

  59. Comment by Born4Lycra | 06.5.2008 | 9:35 pm

    Another FC Blog another lesson in life. Won’t bother you with what I come up with but will thank you for making me think about it.

  60. Comment by VA Biker | 06.5.2008 | 9:40 pm

    I tend to take for granted that I’m pain-free in my mid-40s. Sure, I’ve had moments of experiencing pain (bike wreck, dental work, a broken bone, etc.), but I don’t have life-altering, debilitating, constant pain the way some folks do. I have great empathy for anyone who experiences such pain.

    I take for granted that my daughter’s asthma-suppression medications work every time, on demand. Luckily, she doesn’t need them often. I really don’t know what we’d do without them.

    Here’s to the united strength of the Nelsons; they are something else to see from the blog reader perspective. Pretty amazing, really.

    Win Susan.

  61. Comment by Triflefat | 06.5.2008 | 10:17 pm

    Been lurking for a while, but drawn out by this Fatty insight.
    I’m thankful for a loving wife and family, including the sweetest grand-children in the known universe.
    I have a job I can tolerate and that keeps the wolf from the door.
    The friends my wife and I ride with are those we socialise with. As a group we celebrate our blessings often. (To acknowledge that, we have just started jointly loaning to – check it out, it’s a great idea!)
    If no-one tells Al Maviva, WE live in the best place on earth. It’s called Australia and it’s a bloody beauty. And we still spell offence the right way Al!!

  62. Comment by tonia conger | 06.5.2008 | 10:21 pm

    1. Finally finding my great husband after looking for him for a long time. We met when I was 34 and I had honestly come to terms with what it might feel like to never connect with someone. especially someone so perfectly suited for me.
    2. A job that challenges me. I’ve had jobs that bored me to tears. Jobs that left me feeling empty and frustrated and depressed. My new job stretches me in all the right ways and forces me to learn really hard, really valuable lessons.
    3. A healthy body. I never seem to happy with the size or shape of it. But when I say, “stand”, it stands. And when I say, “run away from that big dog”, it does that, too.

    Hi Elden. This post had a great way of putting a lot of life into perspective. Thank you for that.
    Tonia C

  63. Comment by pinkbike | 06.5.2008 | 10:30 pm

    “The New Normal” is a great term my horse trainer taught me when my beautiful mare Belle started showing signs of age and she and I couldn’t do the things we used to. Our shorter rides and lighter work are our “new normal” and I now apply this very useful term to myself quite often, as I (ahem) also age and continue to feel the affects of chemotherapy and various meds I have to take. To me, it’s accepting what I have now and rejoicing in whatever is good.

    But I remember how, after my surgeries and in the middle of chemotheraphy, I could barely lift my head off the pillow. Even having a conversation was exhausting. My life was needles, bandages, doctors appointments, feeling sooo sick. Meanwhile the rest of the world was going along. I was in a separate reality. So I get what you’re saying.

    But cancer is so lame. It can’t take away love and faith. So hang in there and keep rejoicing – and fighting. Win, Susan. We’re keeping those prayers heading your way from So Cal.

    PS Tom and I wore our Fat Cyclist jerseys on a fun breakfast ride last weekend with both cyclists and equestrians (that’s Pasadena for you) and told everyone about you, Susan. So now the horse folk are praying for you, too.

  64. Comment by Little1 | 06.5.2008 | 11:45 pm

    hey fatty.

    thanks to the 2:01 time call i have found myself spending more of my prayer time being thankful for what i have and asking my higher power to bless those who do not have all that i have, be it a stressful day at work, at least i have work and at least that is the worst part of a day for me, to just being thankful i have started another day on my bike with a glorious sunrise.

    being thankful is a much better place to be than any other.

  65. Comment by schmutzie | 06.6.2008 | 12:11 am

    You are being featured on Five Star Friday:

  66. Comment by Amy | 06.6.2008 | 3:36 am

    Thanks for the wake-up call! Its so easy to get stuck in my problems. I am thankful for:
    1 – Normal, healthy kids.
    2 – A huge backyard.
    3 – Happy news – like 2 of my friends working on their marriage instead of bailing out. Or my husbands steady return to normal after a back injury over a year ago.
    4 – Good health.
    5 – Being raised so that I haven’t become bitter, but have tried to learn from my circumstances and be a better person.
    6 – My husband – how did I find someone who knows me (and all my failures / flaws) so well, but still loves me?


  67. Comment by buckythedonkey | 06.6.2008 | 5:03 am

    Children: my darling wife (never taken for granted!) is heading to a school reunion so I have my girls to myself for the whole weekend. I am on a mission to make it the best Dad-only weekend ever.

    Beer: I’m with Al, good ale is should never be taken for granted for a bad pint is never far away.

    Weather: living in a wet country gives one an acute appreciation of good weather. When it is good the sky here seems to go a perfect shade of blue.

    Hobby: I was a fat git with a limp four years ago. I fixed the ankle (not before one quack told me it should be fused, which got me thinking about a shift from normal) and bought a bicycle. I was inspired by many things including a funny American chap with a bike, a big gut and a blog. Today I am a cyclist, a rouleur no less. Once again, thanks for the part you played.

    This evening I get to combine these four wonderful things: it’s a beautiful day so we three will ride to somewhere green, horse about a bit and have a couple of scoops (ice cream for them, a pint of something for me). Notwithstanding one absentee: perfect.

    Normal? Yep. Taken for granted? Oh, probably in the past but not ever again. I promise.

  68. Comment by FliesOnly | 06.6.2008 | 5:43 am

    Normal things I appreciate? Wow, until reading this post, obviously I never really considered it. Thanks, though, for making me sit back and take a few moments to truly appreciate the simpler things in life we all too often take for granted.

    For me, the list would have to include:

    Walking with my wife and our dog through the woods and fields surrounding our home. And I know I would miss this terribly because both my wife and dog are “out of town” until mid July, so in reality, I do miss this.

    Riding my bike. Just being able to hop on and go is something I would normally take for granted. Now I’ll try to remember to appreciate having this ability.

    Playing darts. I love playing darts. Aiming for, and actually hitting the double bull, is a great feeling.

    Making a cup of coffee in the morning along with (and I owe this one to you, Fatty) a bowl of steel-cut oats.

    I would remiss if I didn’t also mention the joy of a good IPA or Stout.

    And as much as it frustrates the hell out of me…playing golf. As a matter of fact, shortly after I send this very message, I am off for a weekend of golf with a bunch of friends.

  69. Comment by Walt Roscello | 06.6.2008 | 5:43 am

    You’re right about taking sleep for granted – back problems mean I always wake up stiff somewhere now, and sometimes it feels like I only got 2/3 the amount of sleep I actually did.

    You do seem to have some great kids and good friends.

    The normal thing I most appreciate is all nature. I’m always amused on Sunday rides to see people headed into churches, a man-made building, when the God they wish to thank has already given them a much more enjoyable place to appreciate his work.

    The other thing is living in the First world. Besides the standard of living, as Al pointed out, there is the fact that we can go about our lives without fear of war, revolution, tribal violence, or forced takings of property.

  70. Comment by carolyn | 06.6.2008 | 6:11 am

    I wish all of normal wasn’t quite so long ago and far away for you.

  71. Comment by jsv | 06.6.2008 | 6:30 am

    I am thankful for the hear and now, we often live our lives looking forward to things or mile stones. I am thankful for today and every normal thing that will happen.

    Thanks for reminding me of this!

  72. Comment by Kate | 06.6.2008 | 6:32 am

    I broke my leg once and found is so frustrating for the first week because I had the worst time doing stares (and my bedroom is on the second floor).. I had a hard time doing crutches. I literally lost 20 lbs because I couldn’t get around to get food so easily! Plus my body was working harder to get me around. So I do have a small idea of how we take some things for granted – until that point I had taken for granted just rising out of bed every morning and being able to move around.

    I love reading what you wrote. I don’t know how to put into words how it touches me. But thank you!


  73. Comment by Ka_Jun | 06.6.2008 | 7:01 am

    The look of my sons when I speak to them and attempt to listen to how their day went, the fact that when I emailed my wife an article, her email back to me was exactly what I was thinking, my folks still being around to enjoy their grandchildren, a sunny day to cycle in to work. The ability to read MetroDad’s blog and realize that fatherhood has a lot of universal experiences that I would have never imagined. I hope that a sense of normalcy returns to you and your family.

  74. Comment by Sarah G | 06.6.2008 | 7:48 am

    This counting of blessings is something I try to do every day. Thanks for a prompt today. I give thanks for:

    My beautiful wife and the freedom to be in a family with her.

    My amazing son, his optimism and his joy.

    A beautiful place to live in the city that I love.

    Good food to eat and clean water to drink.

    A community of people who really care.

    The earth.



  75. Comment by Annie in Minneapolis | 06.6.2008 | 7:51 am

    I don’t think anyone’s life is normal. I think most of us would be surprised as to what goes on in anyone else’s lives. You see someone at the supermarket and thing there lucky to have a normal life but they may be struggling with more than we can even comprehend.

  76. Comment by Boz | 06.6.2008 | 8:27 am

    All these comments made me rethink mine. I really do have a lot more to be thankfull for than I thought. I guess the bad takes more of one’s time, so it seems to block out the good. Kinda like Rocky said.
    I’m really greatfull that we have so many great advances in science and medicine. In my own life, diabetes drugs have allowed me to live a somewhat normal life, if at times inconvenient(shots, pills, eating ect..)
    Also, surgical techniques have advanced to the point a few days after knee surgery, I’m back on the bike with little drop in performance and little pain. Cortizone shots in the shoulder and that pain is gone, with range of motion restored. Thanks to people that care and think about how to advance everything they do to higher levels, we all live better.
    Another tech advance is right here, the internet. When I was a kid, I could never imagine meeting all the great people I have in cyber space. Many I know better than my neighbors, even though I have never met them. It’s now part of my “normal day” to visit several sites and see what’s going on in other’s lives.

  77. Comment by Don | 06.6.2008 | 9:07 am

    You know, a while back I was asked by a friend “How ya doing?” My answer is something I continue to use to this day, “Better than most, not quite as well as some.” I was having a hard time with work and, in turn, with family. It seemed like my life was popping apart at the seems. The cool, though my wife may have questioned my sanity, part of it is that I was unusually “OK” with it. I took it like this; No matter what the problem it’s nothing that, by the Grace of God, I can’t get through. I thought about how lucky I was to have my awesome wife and kids, how we had the means to get by for a while, and how awesome my life really was. Bottom line was there was no way I could complain, especially when so many people have it so much worse. I too feel like I have a great close knit group of friends, my family would all die for one-another if we had to, awesome wife, great kids, what the heck more could I ever want? Add to all of that that Susan, you and your family have been a huge inspiration. The way you’ve (you’ve being the family) handled everything that’s been thrown at you is truly an inspiration. I only hope and pray that I could be so strong, and so appreciative. Thanks for the excellent post, Elden!
    PS: I’d still kill to know what it is you do! I equally love my job/employer and the opportunities I’m afforded by what i do.

  78. Comment by Amit Behere | 06.6.2008 | 10:46 am

    The fact that I can sleep easy at night.
    WIN Susan!

  79. Comment by bolder | 06.6.2008 | 10:59 am

    thinking of you and your wife.

    and wishing i could help…


  80. Comment by Denise | 06.6.2008 | 11:06 am

    I am thankful for:
    1. my wonderful husband…not many would put up with me
    2. my 2 beautiful daughters
    3. my extended family and small group of close friends
    4. my dogs and cats
    5. our health
    6. having a job, not fulfilling nor very profitable but it does assist in providing the means for life’s necessities
    7. a nice home with a large backyard, in a good neighborhood
    8. this site….Eldon, you and your family have touched my heart and inspire me
    9. the wonderful community here that I love to visit daily…. you all feel like, dare I say family? yes family, this is an amazing place with amazing people from all around the world and we have you to thank for bringing us together Fatty!

    Thank you again accepting me into the fold! Prayers and love coming from Missouri. WIN SUSAN!!!!!!!!!

  81. Comment by Julie | 06.6.2008 | 12:44 pm

    an incredible husband is what i am most grateful for. if not for him, i could never make it through even the normal days.

    you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

  82. Comment by blinddrew | 06.6.2008 | 3:19 pm

    well, tuesday i got knocked off my motorbike so this week i’ve mainly been grateful for the fact that, apart from a three-day-headache and a bit of dizziness, i’ve still got a normal at all.
    Today i’ve been particularly grateful that i can stand up without the room wobbling!

    Win Susan

  83. Comment by Lisa | 06.6.2008 | 3:41 pm

    Normal things:
    1. My husband’s job, that lets me do my job (housewife), and my husband himself.
    2. Tasting, eating and enjoying food.
    3. Playing with my children
    4. Feeling frustrated with the mess from my children :)
    4. Being able to walk through the parkland that backs up to our house.
    5. Sleep
    6. Our health

    Win Susan!

  84. Comment by Mrs. Coach's Mom | 06.6.2008 | 5:22 pm

    I don’t think anyone privileged enough to bring life into this world should complain like that!! I remember when she l-o-n-g-e-d to be pregnant :-) I try to be grateful everyday that I have a bed in a home without fighter planes flying overhead or bombs dropping nearby; that I can drive or live wherever I want if I work hard enough at it; that I love all of my kids (even Mrs. Coach) and that they all live nearby; that my love of God inspires my love of family, and my love of family inspires my love of God; I try to admire all the leaves on the tree that I don’t see because they are behind all the leaves I DO see. I choose to be happy however I can.

  85. Comment by Pioneer Woman | 06.8.2008 | 8:39 am

    This is a beautiful post. Give Susan a hug for me.

    Ever since watching footage of Bosnian refugees in the early-mid 90’s—pregnant mothers walking for days and days, unable to feed their children, unable to sit down and rest—I always go back to that in my mind and am struck with how normal things are for me. As long as I can feed my children and have a place to lay my head at night, I’ll try not to complain.

    When my mother-in-law lost her son (my husband’s brother) when he was a teenager, she talks of going through years and years of thinking how trivial everthing and everyone was. She couldn’t be around anyone who engaged in idle conversation about recipes or shopping; she couldn’t handle the contrast to her world being ripped apart.

    Time healed that, though, and now she can talk about shopping without recoiling. ;)

  86. Pingback by » Blog Archive » Searching for Normal | 06.8.2008 | 2:46 pm

    [...] and his family.  He is funny and wise and profoundly moving.   On June 5, he wrote a post about craving normalcy.  I totally get what he [...]


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