Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Memories

It's funny, everyone always says the first Christmas after losing a loved one is the hardest as all the memories surface. I grant you, my Dad only passed over last week, and his mind had gone over years ago, but I was half waiting for the memories to overwhelm me. The haven't.

When I sat back to figure out why, it occurred to me that I have very few Christmas memories with my father. He was a police officer and worked virtually every Christmas. He would sometimes roll by in his black and white Police Cruiser in his tan Police uniform and stay a few minutes, but inevitably he would roll on out again to do his job.

That made me pretty sad: to think I had no real Christmas memories with my dad. But then I remembered WHY he worked Christmas. He did it so that he could take his vacation in the spring. He took his time off around our Spring break and he would take us on a road trip.

I'm not saying these road trips were all lightness and joy! Two adults, six kids tossed together from two families and vehicles in poor repair can add up to some, let's just say interesting times. (We weren't allowed to say Texas for YEARS!)

But I remember the time we all almost died because the exhaust was filtering into the homemade camper, I remember going through Biloxi and Gulf Port the year before and the year after Camille; I remember going to Cleveland and seeing my cousins, one of whom would become my best friend despite the miles between us. I remember walking on the beach of Kennebunkport, Maine, standing in the splash zone at Niagra Falls, and walking across the Boston Common. I remember getting to see my mom's parents in Virginia, and the halcyon days spent in Florida with Dad's. We went to Tarpon Springs, to St. Petersburg, and fed oranges to the cows.

These are just a few of the memories my dad bought us by working Christmas.

And those are amazing memories to have!

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I need to stand up, get dressed and run a nice little half-marathon distance. I don’t really want to do this today. I ran a 5k race yesterday. I am going to the movies later this morning. I have to stop by and see my mom at the physical rehab facility. It’s going to be a busy day after a busy week, after a busy month, after a busy summer, and before another busy week, and I really just want to have a nice, peaceful morning. I’m not sure if my Walkman is working again (it didn’t yesterday) and that’s a long way for me to run without the motivation music gives me, especially a training run.

My daughter, somehow, convinced me to sign up for a trail 25K in two weeks. My shoes are about shot and that style is no longer made and I haven’t been able to find another pair of shoes that works for me. Being a female minimalist in a small town comes with its own problems.

But those problems are nothing to how I’m going to feel in two weeks if I attempt this 15 mile run without having gotten the 13 miles or so under my belt today.
And it’s dark still. Did I mention that? We slide inexorably into autumn after a summer that I lived through but didn’t experience, having slipped out of time chasing everyone else’s problems. Also slipping was my training schedule. That was not my doing and I’ve been trying desperately to regain some of the ground I lost moving people to other states, helping other people pack to move to another state, and sitting, sitting, sitting in hospital emergency rooms, hospital ICUs, hospital rooms, and physical rehab rooms.

And I read that back and feel like a whining little snivel. I have my health, I’m in relatively good shape. None of those hospital stays produced the ‘worst case scenarios’ they so easily could have. I am not hungry and living on the streets. Although not too far above eking by, especially in the face of our advancing ages, I can afford not only to eat & take in the occasional film, but can afford to purchase my daughter the birthday present she wanted. I have a home that needs some work, but is mine; I am not fleeing my homeland in desperation towards the homes of others who don’t want me.

And here I come to what The Dao continuously reminds me : Everything is relative. It is what it is. And what this morning is is a platform for me to train for a run I want to do with my daughter because she asked me to because she needs help meeting her own goals, and because I can.

And on that thought I see the sky begin to pale towards day. The time is now.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


They say time flies
And it can, and it does
But it also twists and turns, it spirals and it burns. 
Time flies.
It flies on the wings of eagles and doves
On the wings of mosquitoes and laughter and love.
Time flies.
We awake one morning fresh and new
Then night falls and find life flew.
Time lives.
Time dies.
Time flies.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Asleep at the wheel

Music is one of my greatest loves in life. When people ask what’s the best thing about living now, my answer is always “that I can have music at the touch of a button.” Think about that. Think about the days when you either had to make music yourself, or had to go somewhere to hear music. You couldn’t have a string quartet follow you down the road, or out in the fields. Music had its own place and time. 

Now we can listen to what we want when we want. It really is a miracle.
Some people don’t like running with music. Sometimes this is for practical reasons like the inability to hear what’s behind you, and some just like the silence. Some believe that music restricts their efforts at better run times because of our tendency to run with the beat.

I can run without music, but I find that hamster wheel unappealing. I’ll either get a musical phrase stuck in my head (and I dare you to get “Straight up now, tell me do you really wanna luv me for-ever –oh, oh, oh!” out of your head once it’s there!) or I grab a metaphorical stick and pound away and a metaphorical dead horse. And THAT’S usually about work which is one of the things I really try not to think about when I run. 

I have always lost myself, and found myself in music. Oh and lyrics. The music reels you in, and in some cases that’s enough to catch you, but lyrics, words sculpted into rhythm, that’s the true hook that will keep you on the line.

10 Years is one of my favorite groups to run to. The urgency in their songs lends itself to pumping legs and driving adrenaline, and the under-line, if you get my drift, tends to follow my natural breathing patterns. Oh, and then there are the lyrics. 

Running yesterday the song "Soma" came on. I've heard it a million times, a billion times, but never really heard it. Or at least, never really took the words on board. But yesterday they got through. Yesterday the song hit my headphones about the same time I realized that I’d made the appointment at the vets for that very day even though I knew I was working and that I couldn’t get to the vet’s that day. My dogs’ jabs are overdue and they need them, like, NOW! And right then 10 Years sang :

“Stay asleep at the wheel and never
Care enough.
The crash is coming.
Are we destined to see a tragedy?
Look away.
The crash is coming”

And as often happens when music and lyrics join hands, an epiphany occurs.

At that very moment I realized that I have been “asleep at the wheel” for a long time. Really, that part of it wasn’t like being struck down on the road to Damascus. I had figured out that I was just treading water in my life in a lot of ways long before, but that metaphor of what happens to us when we ARE asleep at the wheel, that was the light bulb moment.

Life is dangerous, scary and sad enough without abdicating what control we do have.

If I am not doing the things I know I should be doing to get out of the situation I’m in; if I’m willing to let things go undone knowing it will be more work down the road, or letting someone else choose my course, then I have no one to blame but myself when the crash occurs. And no one else to blame if, as often happens, others are hurt as well.

It is time to get back to basics. Back to Mindfulness. Back to Thornton Wilder and living life ‘every, every moment while we live it.”  It’s time to wake up and take back control of my life.

Or as 10 Years might put it “Wake up dead fly!”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Scientific - esque trial

Okay, so I’ve had a bit of a zeitgeist here. I’ve read the information. I’ve understood the information, I just didn’t put 2 and 2 together.

I have been part of a Biggest Loser type competition at work off & on for the past year. (The competition has been off & on, my participation has been consistent.) Any road, since not everyone at work wanted to lose weight, and since some of the people in the challenge wanted to boost their weight loss by setting and meeting specific goals, we also have had what we call a ‘lifestyle’ challenge wherein we set two specific goals and then record how we do.

Piece of cake, right? Well, one of my specific goals has been to eat my full 5 servings of fruit and veg. I could do 4 no problem, but sometimes getting that 5th serving was pulling teeth. So I found a way to rectify that. Fruit. Because fruit is easier to eat than veg for the most part. Grab an apple. Grab a peach. Throw some berries in a bowl. Easy, peasy.

Over the past year, my 5 helpings of fruit and veg have become more like 4 servings of fruit and 1 of veg. And over the past year, not only have I NOT lost weight, I have steadily re-gained 20 of the pounds I had already so laboriously shed.

But this week all the nutrition reading and advice and thoughts just percolated in my head and, like that proverbial lightning bolt, I thought, “Hang on!” Fruit is good for you, yes. But fruit has fructose. Fruit has sugar. Lovely fiber, yes, but lots of sugar.

So I started looking into it and sure enough the literature is very clear. 4 veg and 1 fruit is going to do much better for you than 4 fruit and 1 veg.

Here’s the deal : If you are giving your body sugar, whether it’s sugar straight from fruit or sugar derived from fruit (or cane or beets or a chemical lab) or whatever, then your body is using that quick sugar for energy and never has to tap into your fat stores. Why bother using that stored fat when you keep feeding it all the quick sugar it needs?

So. I am going to do a scientific-ish trial. Over this weekend I am going to start the transition to 3-4 veg and 1-2 fruit servings a day. On Monday, 26 May, I am joining Running World’s streak challenge to run at least one mile per day from the Memorial Day holiday through the 4th of July. That Monday will be the start of my trial as well.

I am going to measure, weigh, and take pics at the start. Then I’m going to continue to eat as healthily as I have the past year, with the only changes being that flip to more veg and less fruit, and if I DO eat 2 servings of fruit, one of them must be accompanied by protein to help slow the effects of the sugars. (nuts or yogurt with the fruit, for example)

To help on this, I am going to check in here weekly with all results.

I really (REALLY, REALLY, REALLY) hope this is where the problem is. If not, I’ll keep searching, but one trial at a time!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Using my head

In Tai Chi we teach that we "Use the yi, not the li" which means to use your head, and not to react to things with brute strength, or without thought. 

In commenting on someone’s page today that thought came to mind, and it makes me think about how often we eat in response to something. About how much we eat is in response to something. Although not a big emotional eater, I have let the cold weather around me be an excuse for poor choices lately. “Ar, it’s freezing out. Have another cookie!”

There is a meme going around Facebook, a quote really, by Heather Morgan, a life coach and nutritionist. It says, “Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.”

This one really caught my attention. Deep down. Not just a passing thought. We’ve had a few health crises around here over the past few years. As many of you know, my husband’s colon exploded nearly three years ago, putting him into ICU for three weeks. His reconnection surgery didn’t take so he was back in the hospital two years ago for another extended stay.  Fortunately, last May he was able to be put back together again and is doing well. 

While we were going through all this, my son-in-law was diagnosed with testicular cancer, my mother went into the hospital, first with blood clots in her legs, and more lately with blood clots in her lungs.

Now, I know that not all of this is a direct link to what we eat. My mom has a genetic disorder that pre-disposes her to blood clots, for example. But the fact that she started just sitting around and not getting up and exercising made that propensity a reality.

My husband’s colon had some physical problems, and we will never know how much of that came from poor food choices over the years. Eating better could have save him that ER and ICU visit, however.

And cancer? It just sucks the big one.  There still seems to be a lot of debate about the correlation between food and cancer, but I will say that the better shape you are in, the better your body will be able to tolerate the cancer treatments.

This thought is haunting me a little. Not in a bad way. I’ve written a lot on here about choice, about will, about taking charge. Since reading that quote, every time I start to cook or eat something I stop and take a second thought. I do not just make something because it is simple after a long and stressful day. I use my yi : Will this meal feed disease? Will it nurture the dark side? Or will it help me fight off any potential for disease? Will it keep me strong? Will it add to or aid my fitness?

I want to be fit to live my life. I want to be fit to face the future. I want to be fit for me.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Nature of Habit

What is it they say? If you can do something for 28 days it becomes a habit and is easier to continue? 

Last year I decided to create a Gratitude Jar.The idea is to write down, every day, something for which you were grateful, fill this jar and have something visual to remind you of all you have to be grateful FOR, and at the end of the year, spill it out and go through it as a memory of how great your year was.


Although notoriously bad at journaling, I thought this was a good idea. Every night before bed (so the last thing in my mind was a positive thought) I would scribble something I was grateful for on a snippet of colored paper, and drop it into a quart-sized Mason jar.
I will admit, to my shame, that there were days when the best I could be grateful for was my dogs or having a roof over my head. My problems are definitely first-world problems and feeling like there just wasn’t much to be grateful for without straining made me feel guilty and bad. At that point I expanded the scope of the jar and decided to include good things that happened that day: positive things that happened, which is always something to be grateful for in the end.

THAT worked! And my jar filled. And filled. And filled. I ended up with smaller and smaller pieces of paper and ended up shoving the slips in, but there they are. I only missed a few days out of the entire year, and I have to admit I feel pretty good about that.
I have yet to turn last year’s jar out and go through the slips. I know that was supposed to be part of the project, but for me, keeping tabs of my days, well, keeping tabs on the BEST bits of my days was what became the important part of the exercise. 

Then came 2014 and a decision. I hadn’t emptied the jar on 31 December. Did I want to just keep cramming paper into that same jar? Start a new jar? Put those 2013 pieces of paper somewhere and then use the now empty jar? Or did I want to give up the practice? Make it a one-year thing?

The entire month of January passed with me faithfully scribbling on little slips of paper and dropping them into the pen-holder on my bed table while I tried to make a decision. 

The truth is, I had trouble dropping into bed without taking that moment to reflect and find something good out of my day. Even one of the WORST days I’d had in a long time, when I was feeling pitiful and angry at bedtime, I was able to find something for which I was grateful, something which had made me happy. And if I DID lie down and pull up the covers without filling out a slip? I felt edgy and had to sit back up and do it. 

But the slip of paper thing was bumming me out. I’m not sure why, but maybe because I knew when it DID come time to look through 2013, I’d have to dig and sort and shuffle to go from January to December. So for 2014 I’ve decided to move this newish habit into something I thought I wasn’t good at : Journaling. 

I bought a little journal. Just a little one. I don’t PLAN on writing more than the snippets I did for 2013. But on a very good day (and this is still a gratitude/good thing journal) on a VERY GOOD day, I may write a little more, and a new habit may be born. 

I’ll let you know in 28 days.