Life Cycles

During my evening walk, I discovered this joyous little sight:

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My first thought was – “and it begins again”.  This is very likely the first generation of Monarch Caterpillars in our area for the year.  We have been enjoying these many sights of Spring for the past 3 weeks here in Michigan:

The Monarchs though, they are more than Spring.  They are the ultimate representation of life and life cycle.  The promise of transformation and beauty that happens in each life.  True, you have to eat (and poop) a lot of milkweed; hang yourself upside down while you morph into a cocoon and drop your head on the ground, and then take a couple-week nap.  Then comes the magic!  Out of that tiny shell you emerge, patiently waiting while your wings fully open and dry – and your magnificence is visible for all to see.

To find this little cat today was especially sweet.  We had planned to do some clean-up work at our little cabin but decided to have a rest day instead.  A trip to the airport to bum around with Piper was the alternate plan.  What a blessing to run into friends and share an impromptu picnic and wonderful conversation.  To laugh, share a meal, and talk about life (not “the virus”, the riots and unrest, the economy) – just everyday things.  The kind of things that a few months ago would have been considered mundane.  Today – they felt like rare and precious jewels.  The time spent with Judy and Ray was a treasured treat.

I have been privileged to have several of these special times since returning to Michigan.  I have spent time with Mom – doing “stuff” (planting flowers, catching up on some computer stuff with her, cooking, grocery shopping, lots of talking, and making jam).

Bill helped me bring to life some plans I found for DIY planters for vertical gardens made from a pound of nails and 4 old pallets.  My brother helped by locating the pallets.  Bill provided guidance and some muscle; I pulled nails, drilled holes, cut boards, pounded nails – and voila – a vegetable stand and a flower/herb stand!  They are in our yard at the campground – a spot of green growing things for me to lose myself in.  We are planning to stay planted for the summer and part of the fall since everything in the world seems in a state of unrest.  Here is the before:

The “in progress”:

The finished product:

I am excited at the thought of posting “after” photos once the plants have settled in.

Lessons and Gratitudes from life:

  1. Family, friends, moments, kindness – this is what life is about.
  2. To Do Lists are great – don’t try to put everything on today’s list. Save some for tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.  Make sure that you have relax time on your list each day.  That way you can take time to look around and appreciate everything.img_0131
  3. Roots are a good thing – they are part of your foundation and tell a part of your story.img_0132
  4. Taking your vitamins and supplements to maintain a healthy immune system make your nails and hair grow! I learned how to give myself pretty nails (first time in my life I’ve had nails that aren’t peeling, broken, or ugly).img_0126-1
  5. I am so grateful for Mr. John – and am looking forward to seeing him in October. We will discuss flowers and recipes and life, and he will work his magic with my clumsy attempts to keep my hair short.  I am also grateful for Beth giving me a haircut while we were in Texas – that child is multi-talented!
  6. I spend more time looking others in the eye – really seeing them. Especially those wearing masks.  You can see beautiful smiles in their eyes.
  7. Speaking of masks…I see them as a sign of respect. Wearing them when coming into contact with others – especially store employees/health care settings/post offices – where they have to wear a mask – that is one small way I can convey my thanks for their willingness to provide their service – to show that I respect them and their family.
  8. Grace and gratitude – the ultimate attitude adjustment!

Stuff To Think About!

Hi!

How are you doing?

How are you learning and growing?

Some days it’s hard to wrap my head around everything going on, so I avoid the news and media outlets.  Most of the time though, it is so encouraging to read about the kindnesses that are growing out of this new time that we are in. We have friends that have had family members infected and joyfully recovered as well as those that have lost loved ones.

Have you noticed all the fitness advertising and offers on social media?  Kind of like New Years all over again.  Lot’s of “free” trial periods and “free” basic offers.  Word of caution from experience – beware of FOMO (Fear of missing out) – it gets really expensive.  So often, the program starts out great – and hey, you’re stuck at home with time on your hands and snacks, right?  Once you get into the program, you learn about add-ons, additional and improved – with extra techniques, etc. Of course, that comes at a cost.  I have been celebrating JOMO instead and counting my blessings.  (Joy of missing out.)  Realizing that although I have extra time on my hands now, that is likely to change.  Understanding that another person/entity can not promise me something that I am not willing to take personal responsibility for with regards to my health and fitness.  There is a program right now that is supposed to be free “forever” – of course it does come with additional levels that you can pay for (not recommended – but message me if you want more info).  Energy Up allows you access to a wide variety of exercise videos with different coaches and different modalities.  Just don’t get hooked by the extras.  This site is updated and new videos are added regularly and consistently.  Link at the bottom, and again, ask me if you have questions.

I am still looking forward to #NorthCountryTrailRun2020 – it hasn’t been cancelled or postponed yet.  Feeling a little nervous about being around a bunch of people but being back of the pack is kind of reassuring – a lot less crowded back there!  The view at mile 26 – that is what I think of each time I am out putting on miles.  I really like these two pictures – kind of represents me when I am leaving my safe zone (look closely at the first picture – can you see the raccoon?)

This has been quite an amazing time for reflection – and I know that many others feel the same.

My heart goes out to the heroes taking care of patients in the hospital, and to their families as they support them and worry about them.  I have known the worry and fear of caring for patients with life-threatening illness that is contagious – thoughts of transmitting the disease to my own family, other patients, or to myself.  For the most part, though, those cases were not overwhelming in number, and family could be with them.  I have held the hand of dying patients that didn’t have anyone to be with them – and remember wanting to put everything else on hold so there was someone there with them.  For the families that can’t be with the patients – I can’t even imagine the pain and heartache – worrying and wondering.

I continue to split my walking activities into at least two parts – for mental health.  At least one of those walks is a meditative prayer.  My prayer life has grown and blossomed well during this time – one of many gratitudes to evolve.  Walking allows me to be intentionally aware of my surroundings – situational awareness if you will.  With additional time, my walks have changed from “need to get it done” to “looking forward to seeing what I can find”.  For my northern friends that are still grappling with winter scenes – I’ll share some Florida spring:

It has been pretty cool to discover that I don’t have to be busy all the time.  It’s okay to sit and knit, chat, or just watch nature happen.  I know what it feels like to get enough sleep, and that alarms don’t need to be set.

Today’s grace thought:  Scrutinize this moment – scour it and locate every bit of good you can find.  Celebrate everything good.  Look closely at the not-so-good – are you sure there isn’t something to be learned?  [Definitely NOT trying to minimize the gravity of our current situation, just suggesting that there might be some good somewhere!]

Energy Up:  energyup.co

Wear Your Masks, Wash Your Hands, Work On Your Goals!

It is really amazing to think that we are living some really incredible history.  This time will be talked about far beyond our lifetimes.  It is so uplifting to see the many acts of kindness that are being committed in so many places.

The latest addition – wearing masks.  So many conflicting opinions and feelings out there.  The important thing to remember is that wearing a mask is to be used in conjunction with handwashing and social distancing.  Masks aren’t a guarantee or a ticket to violate the stay at home order (if you’re under one).  I love one of the explanations I heard related to mask usage:  I will protect you from me – and you will protect me from you.  What we aren’t hearing much about is the correct way to put them on, take them off, and sanitize them.  Medical folks learn early in the infancy of their career.  It doesn’t come naturally – and using them correctly takes some practice.  Take some time and check out CDC (or other REPUTABLE source) recommendations for putting them on (donning), taking them off (doffing), and sanitizing (cleaning) them.  Also, be aware of little things – like you don’t touch them while they are on, or pull them down off your nose to breathe better, still don’t touch your face, etc.  There is a correct way (you’ll find directions depending on the type of mask you have) to remove them so you don’t contaminate yourself and others.  Wash your hands!  Wearing gloves – again there are mixed reviews.  Just realize that wearing gloves isn’t an invitation to touch your face, or your mask, or guarantee you won’t transmit the virus.  Again – check out videos/printed instructions for correct use – when, how, how to take them off – and wash your hands!  Masks (and gloves when necessary) are just more tools in the toolbox to fight this.  Hand sanitizer – same.  Doesn’t replace the need to WASH YOUR HANDS – with soap and water – for 20 seconds.

Enough of that.  Look for opportunities.  What can you do to bring a smile to someone?  I’ve seen some really cool rocks painted and placed around the base on my walks.  Lovely chalk art on sidewalks, beautiful artwork displayed in windows, signs lovingly lettered and strategically places, and the opportunity to notice all the glorious signs of life that I often miss in my hurry.  Sunsets and moonrise, thunderstorms rolling in, and the beautiful myriad of colors in the sky.

Make a gratitude list of things you take for granted.  Hugs from a friend, easy access to stores for something you just want on a whim, freedom to do/go wherever you want.

Work on your goals.  If you aren’t sure what they are, you might have time to consider that.  One of my current projects is working from a To Do list.  Bill does it quite successfully.  I haven’t been very good at it – but am making progress.  I’m still logging miles – and found another challenge to join to help keep me on track.  As of now, the North Country Trail Run is still planned to go on.  The view I will see from mile 26 is burned into my mind – that is what I am chasing.  The rest of the distance is literally all downhill from there.  But mile 26 is breathtaking.  It will be the cherry and sprinkles on the hot fudge sundae.

In the meantime, I am making good progress knitting Walt’s blanket.  Then I will start on my sweater.  As a reward for nailing my 1st quarter goals, I ordered a yarn assortment from Done Roving Yarns.  It was mailed today.  It will be like Christmas when it arrives.  I may find something fun to make before I start my sweater – or have 2 things on my needles.  If you’re a yarn sister – check out Done Roving – some beautiful fiber!

So, wash your hands, wear your masks, wash your hands, work on your goals, and explore your gratitudes – and commit numerous outrageous (big or small) random acts of kindness in whatever form you choose (prayer is a magnificent option)!

#northcountrytrailrun2020

#donerovingyarns

#CAPnationalwalktoMars

Home

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Flexibility and Fear, Hope and Spring

There are no words to describe our world right now, or are there?  Fear and worry seem to come to mind most easily.  I realize how much I like to be in control of every little thing, and today, I realize that I have NO control over what’s happening.  The only thing I can control is my response.  Some days, it’s good – some days, not so good.  The mental/psych component of this pandemic is huge, and it’s not being mentioned much.  I am trying to put myself on a media diet – limiting the times I check the news, and then only focusing on a couple areas that are most pertinent to us.  I’m not hiding my head in the sand, just trying to not be buried by the sands of speculation and a barrage of opinions and interpretations.

Flexibility is becoming more comfortable.  Because we live in our rig, we don’t have the security of a home base as such.  Right now, home is Osprey Cove.  We are grateful for every day that we are able to stay here.  That is not guaranteed – if conditions change, there is the potential we could have to leave.  We’ve had experience with that from hurricane Matthew.  Unfortunately, our home campground in Michigan had to close.  We have contingency plans that we are working on.  The really uncertain part is the travel between Florida and Michigan.  On the other hand, there is comfort in knowing that if we have to travel, we have a bathroom that is clean and familiar, a bed that is safe and warm, food and a place to cook.  The only unknown is having to stop for diesel – and we have a few gloves and wipes to manage that.  In theory, the only stops will be for fuel and comfort, and won’t require much human interaction.

In our efforts to maintain optimum health, we have quit setting alarms.  We wake up when our body says it’s time.  We spend more time setting outside.  We are still getting our daily walks in, maintaining distance from others.  We are eating healthier – when I buy groceries, my focus is on nutrition, and essential food stuffs.  Unexpected bonus – I’ve been losing weight!  Closer to my goal weight by about 8 pounds and counting.  We haven’t eaten take-out in at least 3 weeks, maybe longer.  I don’t mind, I have enjoyed experimenting with my cooking appliances, and trying new recipes.  I am practicing self-compassion more.  When I recognize that I am feeling stressed, I acknowledge it.  Sometimes talk to Bill about it.  Often walk it off.  I love that I am more intentional in my prayer time – I never walk alone, I am in frequent conversation through prayer.

As I reflect on the changes, the positive ones are those that I have long wanted to incorporate into my life – but felt, for whatever reason, that I couldn’t/didn’t have time for/would do someday.  The fear, though, I have to work on that more.  I had to go grocery shopping on Tuesday.  I spent all day Monday worrying about it – and planning how to best mitigate the risk.  Although our rules are a little different because we live on base, Bill falls into the category that was asked to stay at home and avoid crowds in the civilian sector.  He did drive me, we took the big truck instead of Casper – and I was nervous enough about shopping to not want to worry about the truck.  He stayed in the truck.  I debated about wearing a face mask and gloves – worried what others might think.  Bill told me to do it anyway.  I was so relieved to get into the store and see others in masks and gloves!  How ridiculous – to consider opinions more important than potential health threats.  We’ve pretty much decided to wear masks any time we have to leave home.  Right now it’s personal choice based on some reading and research.  I hope that soon it becomes the recommended standard.

I miss close interaction and the freedom to hug others.  Never realized how much I appreciated that privilege.  The awkwardness that is now present when you meet someone else out walking – you don’t step closer and exchange greetings – but it is so nice to meet their eyes and share a smile in passing.  It is disheartening to see the people that have total disregard for the advice of distancing and staying home.  A relatively short period of inconvenience in exchange for the health of the population.

In the midst of all this, Spring is appearing in all her glory.  Seeing the birds migrating, the flowers blooming, and everything being painted the yellow/green of pollen – all reminds me of hope and new beginnings.  Yesterday, this beautiful butterfly stopped by my basket of flowers.  Another reminder of transformation and new beginnings.

I am trying to focus of the good things – the lessons I can learn now and work to remember them when life starts to speed up again.  Working on incorporating these changes to be with me permanently – like slowing down and appreciating time.  Sitting outside with Bill and Piper and watching the world.  It really is a beautiful place, so much to see and observe – when you slow down.  Taking the time to try and consider what someone else is feeling – with less judgment and more understanding that everyone struggles with something.  Making prayer more a part of my life – and knowing that God will never get tired of hearing from me.  Interestingly enough, I find myself including more gratitudes, and making my prayer requests less personal and more global.

This truly has been a grace lesson of unimaginable magnitude for me.  Stay safe, be well, and wash your hands!  (And wear something over your face when you go out!)

 

 

Potential – A Huge, Graceful Amount

What a time for reflection!  As I was knitting yesterday, my mind wandered over the events in our world.  I could see parallels in training for a running event.  The outcome is largely dependent on preparation, or lack thereof; as well as the mental component and dealing with ego.  It’s the journey/training – that’s where the important stuff happens.

Do I tend to overreact?  Probably, especially according to a few people.  Let me share a bit of history.  I became a registered nurse in May 1981.  In June 1981, the first US case of AIDS was documented.  At the time, wearing gloves for patient care was frowned upon – to the point (at least where I worked) of shaming the nurse for wearing them.  Gloves were for surgeons.  Think about it – all of us health care workers were cleaning patient’s bodily fluids (and solids) with bare hands (that were washed frequently and often dry and chapped at best).  As the concern for the unknown AIDS spread, gloves finally became acceptable, as well as the use of other personal protective equipment (PPE).  That contributed, I am sure, to the prevention of spread of many other illnesses at the time.  It is a standard component of healthcare now – known as “universal precautions”.   Shortly after I started working, I experienced my first patient death.  I found him in bed, not breathing.  As I was taught, I started the CPR sequence and called the code.  On the first compression, (I had trouble getting breaths in) I was surprised by a literal geyser of blood spray.  (You guessed it – no glasses, face mask, or gloves.  That wasn’t acceptable.)  He had esophageal varices due to alcoholism and a host of other diseases.

A couple years later, working in pediatrics, I had another experience that illustrates the need to be proactive.  By this time, isolation procedures were more widely used – especially in the pediatric population (think meningitis, infectious diarrhea, chicken pox, etc.).  I was the shift charge nurse, and it was a quiet night.  We were notified of an admission – a little guy with fever of unknown origin.  This was a fairly common diagnosis, so no big deal.  I chose to do the admission instead of assigning it to someone else.  I was developing a pretty decent “gut instinct” by this time – and it told me to isolate this child.  He had a faint rash, but otherwise appeared to be a happy, healthy and very hungry little boy.  Long story short – the rash progressed very rapidly and he deteriorated even faster.  Six hours later, he died.  After our shift, all of us that had been in contact with him went to a 24/7 pharmacy to pick up prophylactic medication that we were on for several weeks.  Autopsy revealed that there was nothing we could have done to change his outcome, although he was likely very contagious before he even got to the hospital.  Fortunately, I listened to that “God whisper” in my ear and protected the other patients on our unit from what could have been devastating for them.  This didn’t make me a hero – it meant that I over-reacted to symptoms, and ended up being the right thing to do.

Since then, I have known the concerns over MRSA and VRE – both infections that are resistant to many antibiotics; the concerns over hepatitis, influenza, RSV, H1N1, Swine Flu, SARS.  When these were relative unknowns in healthcare, there was fear and anxiety.  Some people (just as we are seeing now) criticized the “over-reacting” behaviors of isolation, use of PPE, immunizations, and distancing.  I wonder if it ever occurred to them that those very acts decreased the impact of the disease and gave us the tools we need to manage these entities now?  Was it really over-reacting if we accomplished our goal?  We saved people and resources.  Those measures that were shamed or criticized as over-reacting are now part of our infection-fighting toolbox.

My healthcare career is minor, I really get this.  I haven’t had extreme experiences, but I have longevity (yeah, I’m old!).  We’re going to learn a lot from this.

One of the big lessons for us is ego.  The part of us that says:

  1. It won’t happen to me. (Why not, you don’t have an impervious shield of protection?)
  2. I’m young – I won’t get too sick. (No, likely not. How many people will you infect though?)
  3. God won’t let me get it. (God gave you brains, intelligence, choice, and other people with other gifts to offer guidance. Use ALL the resources he put in your life.)
  4. I don’t have time for this. (Make time for your health (as well as your family’s health) or you will be forced to take time.)
  5. It’s just over-reaction, it’s an election-year thing, it’s a conspiracy…whatever your excuse is. Great – just cling to those!  Get real – this is here and it’s going to be here for a while.  Whatever the cause, you can’t hide your head in the sand and think it will go away.
  6. I don’t want to change my plans (wedding, vacation, graduation, etc.). In the grand scheme of things, is it worth the risk?  Sacrificing a couple months?  Saving lives?

It is my sincere hope that we WILL be accused of overreacting, and the impact of COVID 19 will not be severe.  Although, to anyone that loses a loved one to this virus, the impact has already been severe.  Realize this – it is the overreacting that will lessen the impact.  I covet the opportunity to hear you say to me “I told you so”.  Let me clarify my idea of overreacting:  NOT hoarding supplies!  It is by social distancing, by staying home for a couple weeks (YES, in spite of the economic impact), by cancelling events and non-essentials.  Hand washing, normal, reasonable infection control measures.

Getting through this, controlling the virus and developing treatments and vaccines, those are victories.  There are many collateral victories we can make happen.  Learning from this experience, developing new technologies and techniques.  Some of the biggest will be the smallest, though.  Being good humans, caring for each other however and wherever we can.  Sharing our gifts and abilities.  This will bring out the best in most people, and the worst in some.

Give yourself grace.  God’s grace is already abundant.  Acknowledge your fears and concerns, realize that others share those same feelings.  Build each other up, share joys, check on each other.  Use this moment to shine!

Personally, I find that committing to get some kind of physical movement is very helpful.  My daily walks have now become two walks.  Knitting is soothing.  Cooking is a way I can help us be healthy.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed.  Take a breath, focus on something good, wash your hands (but conserve toilet paper 😊).  Pray (meditate, send good vibes, send good karma – whatever your thing is) – often and a lot.  You’ll have time.  And think of all the stories you can tell future generations.  Mostly – be a good human and make God proud!

 

 

Joy/Fun Goal – North Country Trail Run 2020

(This is a post in progress and will have periodic updates.)

Finishing the North Country Trail Run in 2020 fills me with joy and anticipation.  Wonderful things happened last year there (after I got started) and I just know that this year will be more spectacular.

I want to keep a log of what I’m doing toward that goal, with side abouts about the joy I am finding in the journey.  You’re welcome to follow along…

August 31, 2019 – I signed up for the marathon distance.  Just a week after I finished the 2019 event.  Initially, I told Bill it was a “one and done”.  Within the next few hours, I was already reconsidering.  I took him to the view near the end of the course a couple days after the event, and I knew I wanted to see that view again – at the end of 26 miles.  NCTR sent out an email that registration was filling rapidly and would be soon sold out.  We talked about it, and I decided to do the half.  As I was filling out the registration, my mind kept saying “you know you can do the whole 26”, and then I heard another voice – Bill’s – saying “you know you can do the whole 26…”.  Enough nudges!  26.2 is it!

September and October – We embarked on an epic journey through northern Michigan, into Canada, and then the New England States.  We found several trails to hike – with elevations – getting a jump start on training.

October through March – Settled in Florida for the winter.  I have been diligently practicing in the beach sand for those sandy hills on the course.  Increasing my daily mileage is helping me prepare for distance.  I have had some awesome buddies training with me – Bill, Jay, Kathi, and the Jacksonville Team RWB.  All of these key partners have added inspiration and joy to the journey.  You can bet they will be in my heart and mind on August 29.  I’ve done a few events to help me prepare as well – the Amelia Island Zooma Challenge – running back-to-backs, the Space Coast Half, and the Mud Girl Run.  Each event added an element of joy that will prepare me for August.  Coming up – the Color Run this month.

March has given me a few challenges/lessons about flexibility in changing plans, listening to my body, and modifying.  To date, I’ve logged 383 miles this year.  Pretty much on track, I am still hoping to stash a few hours in reserve for just in case times.  I am on a 349-day streak of logging 10k steps a day.  Over a year of logging at least 1 mile a day.  More endurance work!  I am also working on mental readiness.  The attitude of gratitude for the ability to do this stuff, for friends that join me in the journey, and for the love and support of my family.  Bill is excellent in helping me make sure I hit the 10k steps.

I look forward to taking my work towards the NCTR goal on the road.  Pretty soon, it will continue in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Kansas – and then en route to Michigan.  This is exciting – it lights me up – fills me with anticipation!  I can already feel the smile and joy bubbling over when I cross the finish line!

3/22/20

So much has changed.  Activities and events cancelled, so much uncertainty.  One thing is very certain though.  I must (not need, not want, not should) get daily activity.  It is a big ferocious tool in my mental arsenal.  I have 362 days in a row – a streak – of 10k steps per day.  Over 14 months of logging at least a mile a day.  Silly little goals?  Maybe – but not from my perspective.  I have a  newfound appreciation for the mental resiliency I am building.  Each day, one day at a time, one step at a time.

#joyinthejourney

#northcountrytrailrun2020

#northcountrytrailrun

#goalfun

#goaljoy

Joyful Goals, Joyful Things

I am reading a book that has changed my thinking about setting goals.  A couple years ago, I was setting goals based on the “if your goal doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough” theory.  I let myself get burned out and decided not to set goals, instead to set milestones.  Although I understood that the real value of the goal was found in the process of accomplishing it – more so than attaining the actual goal – I was put off by the idea.  I found myself disappointed when the goal was met – and anxious over setting the next “outrageous” goal.  I felt that it would have to surpass the previous goal in complexity and outcome.

 

The book I am reading now actually dares to suggest that joy or fun be incorporated into setting goals.  I chewed on that for a while.  What a concept!  I looked at one of my current milestones for 2020 – logging 2020 miles of intentional walking/running.  I considered my reason for wanting to accomplish that.  Guess what came to mind?  The joy I find in walking, running, or a combination of the two!  Instead of thinking that I need to walk an average of 5.5 miles a day for a year, I actually consider it a daily gift that I give myself – 5.5 miles alone or with a friend, time without other commitment, time to consider, reflect, pray, meditate, appreciate my surroundings.  It’s the same 5.5 miles – but which is more appealing?  As is true with most things, it’s a mind game.  I understand this.

 

Another (mental) roadblock I found with goals was the need to compare myself to others.  What a joy stealer!  I started thinking about what really “lights me up” – ignites my passion (besides Bill).  I absolutely love doing things for others!  Not in showy, ostentatious acts.  Little things that would add joy to their day.  Perhaps even doing them anonymously when possible.  Seeing or imagining a smile on their face is like a huge burst of sunshine in my heart.  It truly fills my cup of joy to overflowing.  This is true, to the point that when I start feeling down, I know that I can get a “hit” of happy by doing something nice for someone else.  On occasion, they were received and acknowledged in a very condescending manner.  That used to bring feelings of shame and embarrassment – I was doing something from my heart and wasn’t good enough for the recipient.  It was almost enough to make me quit doing what I enjoyed.  Then I considered the recipients.  I decided they either didn’t have that happen often (receiving “just because” or “from the heart and thinking of you” gifts), or they felt superior and not in need of generosity (of heart).  Now I just chalk it up to experience and move on.  At one time, setting a goal of bringing happiness to others would have felt “less than” since it didn’t require extensive training, sweating, or pain.

 

I have this tendency to associate things (visual reminders) with people.  I see an eagle and think of my dad, cardinals remind me of my godparents, donuts – my aunt and uncle, butterflies – my Mom, sand dollars – Paula, hearts – Kathi, knitting – Jay, and on it goes.  Even though some reminders bring unpleasant memories, they are an important part of who I am.  When I see the visual reminders, I think of the person they represent with joy and gratitude for the lessons I have learned from them.  One of my goals (with joy and fun in mind) include expressing that joy and gratitude tangibly with a note or conversation, or with a prayer.  Prayer is a powerful goal.  A while back, I was choosing a person or persons, and praying for them for 30 days without telling them.  I grew a lot from that experience.  Most of the growth came when I added people who were challenging for me to pray for.  It’s so easy to pray for those you love and care about.  Try adding someone not in that category.  There was no fairytale ending – no relationships were mended.  But it was a healing experience for me.  And I know that good things happened for the recipient.

 

Now I am reviewing my goals (yes, goals) for 2020 – I still have 10ish months – and polishing them up to make sure they include “fun” and “joy”.  I am not really concerned with how they measure up to anyone’s standard but my own.  I am, however, delighted with how much more aligned they are to my core beliefs.  I don’t have to rely on anyone mapping out a plan for me.  I just respond to the God nudges when they present themselves.

 

Grace Lesson – believe that you are worth setting goals that include your own joy and happiness.  Make them fun.  Remember – God created you – which makes you an incredibly beautiful and valuable person.  Share the gifts He blessed you with and pursue the passions He instilled in your soul!

Mud Puddles

 

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This past Saturday, I participated in a Mud Girl Run in Jacksonville.  I was blessed to have Kathi as a partner in crime – and am really grateful because she was the instigator.  (Always nice to have someone to blame 😊).  20 obstacles over 3.5 miles, mud, mud puddles, piles of dirt and mud (at an Equestrian Center…think about that for a moment), climbing obstacles, balancing on webbing, bouncing on giant inflatables that resemble swiss cheese, lifting weights, trail run surfaces, paved surfaces, inflated tunnels that dumped into a lake, fording a river/creek and a lake, inflatable slides, scaling cargo nets, and hundreds (at least) of women not caring one little bit about the dirt.

 

Then we all showered together in public in Dr. Bronner’s magical shower tank (think car wash for humans).  MGR supports Breast Cancer Research and promotes empowering women (of all ages).

 

The event was not timed, there were no bibs.  We just lined up and started in waves every 15 minutes.  Let the fun begin!  The first little bit, there were no obstacles (many 0.1 – 0.2/mile), but there was a little mud puddle.  It was funny to see everyone carefully walk around it – and later see them more than knee deep in mud and yuck.  As I mentioned, the event was held at the Equestrian Center, and some of the dirt was really black and healthy appearing (definitely not beach sand).  Can’t help but consider the composition of the mud.

 

In the start corral, we were encouraged to at least try all the obstacles; but reminded that if it presented a safety/health issue, to just walk around the obstacle.  I could see the very last obstacle before the finish line and knew that it, coupled with the tall slides would likely be my biggest fear challenges.  Putting that aside, I was determined to take each challenge as it came.  I am really proud of the fact that Kathi and I did every obstacle.  Even the ones that really challenged us.

 

I climbed inflatable slides.  The first one was tough – not the climb – but making it to the top.  The young man at the top was very encouraging, but my mind was screaming “go back”.  I was really afraid to let go of the hand grips and stand upright on the top.  That feeling, though.  The one when I stood up and looked down and realized how high up I was.  I climbed it and didn’t back down.  How sweet that victory slide down was.  More mud separated us from the next slide.  The climb was easier this time.  The slide down was even better.  We did a cargo net climb/crawl thing…then on to the last obstacle.  The idea was to climb on webbing up and over the walkway into the starting zone, the back down the other side and to the finish line.  I hesitated, heard “the voice” starting to screech about climbing and falling and not making it over.  I decided the only way to the finish line was OVER, not around, and it would be one webbing strap at a time.  Crawling up wasn’t so bad.  Crawling across the top was terrifying and turning around to crawl back down the other side was almost paralyzing.  By the time I was on the ground on the other side, my legs were shaking so bad I wasn’t sure I would stand – and my arms were like noodles.  That lasted just until I realized what I had just accomplished.  For me – this was huge – totally worth the cost of the event.

 

I am so grateful that Kathi asked me about this event, and that we did it together.

Later, Bill and I were talking about it.  He mentioned that most of the participants appeared to be younger (in age).  This event is probably targeted to a younger audience, although the advertising encourages all ages to join.  My guess was that not many women were going to voluntarily pay to play in the mud.  I also told him that my guess was that while that might claim they were too old, or that it wasn’t for them – there was most likely a part of them that wondered what it would be like, or perhaps would really like to try it but “what would people say”?  I would say – do it.  NOW.  It doesn’t matter what people would say or think.  What does matter is what you think.  There were a whole bunch of women playing in the mud, climbing dirt piles, and channeling their inner child with little concern for the opinions of others.

I have friends that would be absolutely horrified at the thought of getting muddy – never mind being in it up to your neck.  Actually higher…the only dry part at the end of the run was the top of my head.  And that was only dry until the group shower.

This was a very large lesson in grace.  Everyone had their own reason for participating.  I have had family and friends affected by breast cancer.  I have experienced the growth that comes from obstacle events.  My biggest reason was selfish and personal.  I wanted to meet the version of me that would be crossing the finish line.  I am really proud to be that person, and more than I believed I could be.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the other grace lesson from this.  My personal cheerleader and support crew – Bill.  He encourages and supports me, believes in me (when I don’t believe in myself), and tolerates waiting around for me to toe the line, and cross the line.  I don’t know what I did to deserve that man, but am so grateful that God engineered this.

Farewells and Welcomes

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I am having a ridiculously hard time saying goodbye to two articles of clothing.  (As my daughter would say – “first world problems, Mom”.)  The first pair of what I considered “skinny jeans” that I bought when I lost weight – they are threadbare in more than a few places, and they are loose.  But they feel so good – all soft and comfortable – and remind me of what I accomplished.  We’re at the point though, that instead of bringing good memories if I wear them much longer – it will be embarrassing memories!  The second piece of clothing is a pair of athletic pants that are in the same condition.  Actually – there is one more – my first pair of Altra running shoes…I have worn through the treads completely and into the middle layer of the sole – but they still feel absolutely amazing and comfortable (just like the pants).  The shoes – they have a proper send-off planned.  I will wear them for the Mud Girl Run for one last hurrah.  The pants…*sighing* – maybe I can just wear them around the house?

We said goodbye to the sailboat on the beach on Tuesday.  I watched as it was dismantled, the heavy equipment dug it out, and then…it was gone.  It’s kind of empty on the beach now – at the same time, the peaceful beauty is undisturbed – just like it never happened.  I will carry the boat lesson with me for a long time.

Sunday was a disappointing day, a real struggle.  It was the 2nd Saratoga Classic Half Marathon – and the finishers medal was absolutely awesome.  I was willing to battle the bridges for it.  I had everything ready – clothes out, fuel and fluids ready, all of it.  I woke up Sunday with a sore throat, sore ears, headache, everything ache, and a funky sense of balance.  Bill suggested I give it a pass.  I kind of wanted to give it a try.  Bill encouraged me to NOT give it a try, listen to my body.  Since he is generally right, I acquiesced.  Then I spent the day second guessing myself and mourning the loss of the medal (after all, it’s all about the bling, right?).  Bill did take me for a couple walks so I could get my 10k steps in and not break my streak (which is over 300 days now!  Closing in on one year 😊).  After a short mile and a half walk, I was ready for a nap – so I guess he was right.

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So – it is time to welcome some new “stuff”.  I am not a fan of clothes shopping generally, although it is really delightful to know that I can look at smaller sizes in clothing.  In my mind, I often (although less often now) still see myself as the larger version that I was.  Bill often sincerely compliments me on my physical changes, and it is very hard to just say “thank you”.  I am proud of what I have and am accomplishing – just having trouble wrapping my head around it.  Ordering new shoes is exciting – and the thought of wearing them out is just as thrilling.

Other new stuff to welcome in 2020:

Fitness Challenge while we’re here on base – I’m a member of “TeamFreddy”.  It’s fun, and I’m experimenting with some new fitness classes.  Did that just yesterday – and today I am proud to say that I can blink my eyes and they don’t hurt!  I can also identify individual muscles that usually don’t make themselves known.  I never realized just how many ways you can exercise with kettlebells.  But hey – the class was fun!  Freddy and Isabelle rock some pretty mean fitness classes – and Mia makes it better with Yin Yoga.  Seriously – these three are really awesome fitness trainers that go above and beyond to assist with your fitness plans.

Mud Girl Run – going to do this one with a camper friend here in Jacksonville.  It’s a 5k with a bunch of obstacles and a whole lot of mud.  Looking forward to what I will learn about myself on this one.

Milestones – I am working toward walking/running 2000 (or 2020) miles in 2020.  This translates into an increase in my daily mileage and thinking time.  Slowly adjusting to the increase.

North Country Trail Run 2020 – I know I said “one and done” – but that only lasted a week.  I signed up for 2020 within the week after NCTR 2019.  This trail run is special, and I aspire to eventually do the 50k or 50-mile version.  For now, I am sticking with the marathon.  From sign-up to follow-up from the race director – this is amazing.  The support and encouragement is palpable.  The setting is beautiful.  The challenge is addicting.  This week is 30 weeks from the event, and I am starting to train.  I am aiming to beat my time last year, but even more – to be one of those great encouragers that I often encountered on the course last year.

Travels – On The Road Again – we are going to knock off the 4 remaining states on our map.  See the Grand Canyon, visit Truth or Consequences, visit Mike and Kathy, visit Beth, explore New Mexico.  We’ll spend time in Michigan at Heart of the Forest Campground.  We’ll plan our next adventures.

Space Coast Half 2020 – This will be #3 of a 4-year series.  It’s all about the bling…and the setting.

Taji100 – a quick challenge for the month of February with Team RWB.

Team RWB – speaking of RWB – I am enjoying this group here in Jacksonville.  They are doing local runs on Sunday mornings on Jacksonville Beach.  Looking forward to doing these while we are here.

Circle of friends – we have the privilege of being part of a second family – our Mayport family – here on base.  Every year we add new friends – we are richly blessed.

 

Grace Lesson – Gratitude!

 

#Altrarunningshoes

#mudgirlrun

#Saratogaclassic2020

#NorthCountryTrailRun

#SpaceCoast2020

#Taji100

#TeamRWBJacksonville

#TeamRWB

New Decade

Starting a new year is always exciting (so is starting a new day every morning!) – and I find that it is also a time for reflection.  That reflection is a little more substantive when you throw in a new decade.  So much has happened in the past 10 years.  Good stuff, bad stuff, sad stuff, happy stuff.  It has all been a learning and growing experience – and continues to be.

The sad:  losing my Dad, my Godparents, an uncle, and my brother-in-law.  Realizing that life is short and is to be celebrated every day.  It is a bitter-sweet lesson.  Certainly, I would not have wanted these dear loved ones to linger on in pain, just as certainly I would have told them more often how important they were – no – ARE – in my life.  Their presence and influence lives on, and the memories are sweet.

We’ve watched our children mature into adults that we are in awe of and so proud of.  They are amazing, and it is a joy to know that we are a part of their lives.

I’ve watched my Mom adjust to a new stage in her life and marvel at her strength and her faith.  My brother has grown through our challenges.

Bill is my rock – he continues to lead me in adventure and encourage me to explore my strengths.  Leaning on his strength inspires me to find more of my own.

Us – huge changes!  In the past 10 years, we have transitioned from escaping winter in Michigan for a couple weeks to selling the house and not buying another one.  Traveling and exploring at will.  Selling our beloved Tomahawk and exploring options for our next aviation adventure.  Visiting the doctor a little more often, and being more conscious about our health.  Throughout it all – unbelievably blessed over the past 10 years.

I’ve spent considerable time thinking about the changes in me.  I can honestly say I never would have guessed I would be the “me” I am now.  I am at the lowest weight I have been at in almost 30 years.  I am in the best physical condition I have EVER been in.  I still look in the mirror and am surprised at the changes in physical appearance.  When I look into my eyes in the mirror – I like the person I see looking back.  I’m not sure I have ever been comfortable enough in the past to even look directly into my own eyes.  I am more confident, more willing to step out of the comfort zone, and more willing to be seen (actually – that’s not true – I just care a whole lot less about what others think – and more about what I think).  I discovered that contrary to my previously held belief about exercise and physical activity – I truly enjoy it – crave it – and actively seek it out.  I have transitioned from hiding out in the basement and exercising in secret (and not believing it would help) to jumping in on group exercise classes and working one on one with fitness trainers (and relishing the experience).  I love “dragging” others with me and trying new options.

I’ve learned that you don’t have to have a brick building (or wood) to have a home.  What you do have to have is your tribe (2-leggers and 4-leggers).  Wherever your tribe is – that is home – even if they are spread out from the east coast to the west – and everywhere in between.  You go to them, they come to you – it’s home.

I’ve learned that the harder you try to “be” what/who you (or someone else) think(s) you should be, the easier it is to lose who you really are.  I don’t want to be perfect at anything, because perfect isn’t.  Far better and more exciting to just be me and remain open to ALL the possibilities.  God is in control, and I don’t have to see the whole plan.  It’s going to be an amazing adventure – I know this because of what I have already lived.  I know that tomorrow I have the potential to be so much more than I am now.  I am capable of so much as long as I take the next step.

In 10 years, I have added some incredible people to my “tribe” and am so grateful for the blessings they have bestowed upon me.  I am thankful for the lessons I have learned that were hard and not so pleasant – because I did learn from them.

I am so excited for the “2020’s” – it is going to be a decade filled with adventure and blessings that will far surpass the 2010’s.  My life is overflowing with grace – and it stems from an infinite source because of His grace and mercy.

 

Fasten your seat belts….it’s going to be a magnificent ride!