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Last week I was in the midst of preparing my eleven-year-old daughter to travel three states away to attend camp with her entire sixth grade class. With my son in college and my daughter going away for the first time (other than sleepovers with friends), I wondered how I would pass the hours until her return.  I haven’t had that many free nights to myself since before her birth!  I challenged myself to not waste those nights, but to actually do something with my time.

Fast forward one week, and my daughter is back – safe, sound, and sleeping in this morning since she just got back around midnight last night.  She had so much fun on the trip, and arrived home full of stories and very happy to see her mama and her cats!

As for me, I had a slow start on my “empty nest adventures”. Work deadlines forced me to spend my first night at the office until way past quitting time.  By the time I got home, I was wiped out and turned into a couch potato watching old episodes of Criminal Minds.  But all was not lost.  On Day 2, I accepted a challenge my sister had thrown at me a few weeks ago.  I started the “Couch to 5K” challenge!  Shocking, I know, because exercise is very foreign to me. But I committed to doing it, and I have to say it’s actually been fun.

There are many programs available that offer to take slugs like me and get us off said couch and participating 5K walk/runs within a matter of weeks.  The one we are using is an app for our phones, and is so easy to do!  I enjoyed the first couple of nights so much, I have already roped a couple of co-workers into starting the workout program too.

As often happens, the thought of doing something can be worse than actually doing it.  It was hard for me to imagine I could ever actually run a 5K, so I had a “what’s the use?” attitude and kept putting off joining my sister in this program.  But after hearing her talk about her progress for several weeks, I was finally ready to say “I can do this!”.  I have a long way to go before I can actually pin a number to my t-shirt and cross a finish line. But I’m having fun taking it one day at a time.

race bib

What is something you have been putting off?  I challenge you to just jump in with both feet and go for it!  Good luck, and remember to have fun.

finish line

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It’s almost a new year, and there is much to look forward to in 2014.  But before the stroke of midnight tomorrow, I have been reflecting on the blessings of 2013.

2013

The biggest surprise has to do with my father.  We’ve had him for a full year, and last Christmas we were all expecting him to have only a matter of weeks left.  But the fact he made it to another Christmas isn’t what has surprised us all so much.  It’s the fact that his quality of life is so much better!  My grandfather was a Pentecostal minister.  I grew up hearing stories of real miracles.  I know that doctors are just God’s instruments, and that He ultimately decides the number of our days.  But to see my father off of oxygen, not using a walker any more, and actually planning a short trip to the hunting camp (where he’ll relax in the cabin – not in the woods 🙂  ) is truly amazing.  The disease is still present, but he is enjoying his days, and I am so thankful.

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I’ve got a new hobby this year, and I’m loving it.  “Hobby” isn’t the right word, but it’s as good as any, I suppose.  I’ve discovered the world of horseback riding!  No, I’m not taking lessons.  But my daughter started them at the end of summer and I go out with her every week.  The stables where she takes lessons are so picturesque.  The two story barn is gorgeous.  The acres and acres of pasture are vibrant green, with white fences around them and beautiful pink and red flowers planted everywhere.  The horses are so beautiful and strong.  After a tough week at work, I can’t tell you how cathartic it is to sit under a tree for a few hours and watch the horses and their riders as I take in the fresh air and the sounds of birds chirping, and the clip-clop of hooves.  It renews me every time.

My son continues to excel at his college experience.  He has made friends that I know will be lifelong ones, and he’s really gotten focused on what he has to do over the next three semesters until graduation.  He has a fresh excitement as he is already getting job offers once he earns his degree.  It’s surreal to watch his ease around “big wigs” that he’s crossed paths with, and to see him parlay those encounters into job offers is something I know I’d NEVER have been able to do at that age.  But he’s smart and charming and interesting, and it’s genuine – not put on.  I’m looking forward to finding out what the future holds for him.  I think the sky’s the limit.

Despite a real rocky end to 2012, by the close of 2013 my extended family has made amends and seems as close as ever.  Or almost anyway.  I’ll settle for almost.  I missed the ones who pulled away a year ago, and am grateful they have come to terms with the things that were bothering them and that they’ve been able to move forward and put it in the past.

Work is still stressful, but the last few months have seemed better.  I don’t know if they are actually better or if I’ve just gotten better at letting the little things slide.  But whatever the reason, I’ve had a better time of it on the job lately, and that’s something I am very thankful for!

job

My mom turned 80 this year, and she is still so in love with life.  She is active, has a huge circle of friends, and is the glue that keeps our family together.  We all love her so much, and we rely on her to be our listening post, shoulder to cry on, keeper of all secrets (what happens on Berwyn stays on Berwyn!!), and prayer warrior.  Oh yeah, and to make the dressing on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day (nobody does it better).

I could go on and on.  It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong in life and miss all  the things that are right.  But once you stop to actually think about the good stuff, you can quickly realize you’ve got it way better than most.  At least I do.  I am blessed. And I know it.

 

 

 

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windy day

I’m going through withdrawals.  Due to high winds in the area where I live , my satellite dish has shifted just a smidge.  Most channels still come in clear as ever, but a few of the HD channels no longer pick up.  Normally I wouldn’t care about missing a few channels.  With my choice of over 300 other options, there should be plenty of alternatives.

There is one problem though…This is the Christmas season, and the Hallmark Channel is one of the ones I can no longer tune into. And I lost the signal prior to Thanksgiving.   All those lovely holiday romance made-for-TV movies, and I haven’t been able to see a single one!!!  Last year, this became my addiction.  I would record them so I didn’t have to miss any of them, then delete them only to make room for another week’s worth.  This past summer, there was a brief “Christmas in July” sort of thing going on with Hallmark, and they replayed several of my favorites.  I watched them all again.  But now, as the season revs up to high gear, I’ve  watched nary a one.  It’s scandalous!

working out

I’ve been forced to look for distractions, to keep my mind off the lovely stories I’m missing out on.  For one, I have actually started going back to the gym.  This development had the potential to provide a very nice boost right here at the end of the year to help me reach a personal improvement goal I’d set back in January.  However, it was totally offset by the fact I’ve also had time to start my holiday baking.  And with baking comes the requisite taste-testing.  Totally counteracts the time spent at Planet Fitness!!

baking

I’ve also killed time by doing my Christmas shopping.  I’m WAY ahead of schedule on that, with nearly all of it already completed now.

I’ve spent more time with family, fixing meals to share with some of my older relatives who don’t get out as much.  What nice visits we’ve had when I’d show up unannounced with a foil wrapped plate of food to drop off.

Oh, yeah, and as of Friday night, there is the second offering from The Hobbit trilogy.  Kate Patrick and I made sure to go on opening night, and it did not disappoint!  Richard Armitage and Aidan Turner provided a generous amount of eye candy to keep us in a festive mood.

Smaug

My husband has been promising to get up on the roof and reposition the satellite for me.  Hmmm, I’m having a lot of fun with these other diversions.  Maybe I’ll tell him to hold off for a few more days.

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I haven’t written anything new in ages.  Shortly after my last blog post, the school session began again for my daughter as she started middle school, my son went back to college, there were changes at my job, and life in general got crazy.  Oh yeah, I also wrote a new book.

math

So what inspired me to get back into the cyber world?  Was it to promote my book?  Was it to compare stories with other mothers about the trials and tribulations of trying to help a child with math homework when the methods they teach now are nothing like what we ourselves learned (what the heck are alternative algorithms anyway??)?

Nope, I’m inspired to write again because of a football game.  How I’d love to enthrall you with a tale of how our team pulled off a hail Mary in the last minute of the game, to score a win and advance to a championship game.  But no, that wasn’t our team yesterday…that was the opponent’s story.  Our team lost.

I love college football.  LOVE it!  And as much as I love to cheer for my team, I have never understood how some people act like winning is a matter of life or death.  I still don’t get that.  But I’m having a very hard time shaking the sadness at having witnessed our defeat yesterday.

For one thing, my son and his friend (who spent Thanksgiving with us) were watching it with me.  I got to see how much the game meant to them.  They actually KNOW many of those players, so the loss was not only a major letdown for themselves, but they could only try to imagine the disappointment their friends – the players – were feeling.

After the game ended, we headed out to see my ailing father.  It was a somber mood at his house, too.  We sat together and exchanged a few brief comments about the game. But we were all pretty much suffering in stunned silence, so the room got quiet pretty fast.  But then we turned on ESPN and started watching the next matchup.  Another team still had a shot at a national championship and was fighting for it with everything they had.  The outcome no longer matters to me…my team lost the chance to go, so I don’t really care who wins.

birds singing

But this morning I got up early to start working on month-end closing for the company I work for.  And as I sat at my laptop, doing the final billing for the month, I noticed that outside the window birds were chirping.  The sun was rising, and it had all the makings of a beautiful day.  And my father has lived to see another Thanksgiving, which no one would have bet on a year ago.

Losing a ballgame is hard to take.  Losing one that puts you in a position for your team to potentially make history is heartbreaking.  But you know what?  Life goes on.  The world keeps turning.  There are so many things to redirect your focus toward.  And in focusing on those other things we can remind ourselves that games are, after all, just that – games.  There will be another season.

gridiron

And in the meanwhile, remember that miracles happen all around us every day.  Not just on the gridiron.  Don’t fail to recognize the miracles in your life, and to be thankful.

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Well, the month of June brought two miracles into my life.  First, my father survived the month and is still with us.  His birthday was at the tail end of June and he’d been warned by the doctors that it was unlikely he’d live to celebrate it.  But he set a goal that he’d make it, and he did.  And boy did we celebrate – complete with a band and a backyard bar-b-q!  What a fun evening, and the band was amazing.  (The fact it was my son and his friend didn’t make me biased at all!!!  LOL).  Before the night was over, we’d gone down a whole list of upcoming events and told Dad those were his new goals.  His will to live is spectacularly strong, and he may surprise us all and stick around to participate in each special occasion with us.  I certainly hope so!

 

The second miracle came when I actually motivated myself to go join a gym.  Yes, you read correctly.  I joined a gym.  And with all the attention on my dad setting goals, it was time to set some for myself.  Now (obviously!) my goal is to lose a lot of weight. But realistically, I know I need to set smaller, more quickly achievable targets.  So these first couple of weeks it has been to stay on the elliptical machine for one minute longer each day than I did the previous one.  So far I’ve been able to do this each time.  I am also trying to add a new machine to the workout each week.  It’s been fun, and even moreso because  I have a friend who also belongs to the same gym.  Kate Patrick and I try to go together whenever we can because we’re much more likely to go if we’re able to encourage each other.  We laugh and talk about silly things so our minds are too occupied to focus on “the burn”.

I’m so blessed that my dad is still with me, and that we can sit and listen to his stories for a little while longer.  He’s pretty much pain free (though not without some discomfort), so that’s a blessing too.

And I’m thankful that I’m actually to the place that I look forward to my workouts.  I know progress will be slow, but at least I feel like I’m taking baby steps toward reaching a new goal.

 

For those of you who have said prayers for my dad, thank you.  I know prayer is what has helped him keep fighting this fight so bravely.

 

 

 

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Twenty four hours.  One day.

Some days pass uneventfully and we hardly notice them.  Others bring surprises – sometimes good and sometimes bad – that leave a lasting impression.

The twenty four hour period between this past Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon was full of unpleasant surprises for me.

First, my cat was involved in a totally freakish accident.  I won’t go into the gruesome details, but let’s just say she managed to get herself into a predicament that was a first for our veterinarian’s office.  And she had emergency surgery that very night.

Next, as I arrived at the office Friday morning, I found out a co-worker had unexpectedly died that morning at around 5:00.  Only a month ago he’d been told his cancer was in remission.  Cancer that had been first diagnosed less than a year ago.  Now, suddenly, he was gone.

To round things out, I visited my dad in the hospital that afternoon.  He told me that the doctor had spent a lot of time with him shortly before I got there.  It seems it is now very unlikely that Dad will make it to his birthday at the end of this month.  He had been soldiering on in his own war with cancer for a little over a year now, and looks like it’s almost time to raise the white flag.

It was a very emotional and “heavy” twenty-four hours for me.  Life is like that…it can throw you curve balls in a split second.  If you’re not careful, they can knock you down.

I will choose to look on the bright side of things.  My kitty’s appearance is now forever altered.  But she survived, and she’ll always be adorable in my eyes anyway.

My co-worker was a Vietnam veteran, and lived his life fully.  I mean VERY fully!  Despite his “hell’s angels” appearance, he was surprisingly very cultured and into the arts.  He also had an incredible talent for finding steals while antiquing with his wife.  He’d bring these diamonds in the rough (that he’d bought for pennies on the dollar) home and then refinish them to their original beauty.  Having once experienced the horrors of war firsthand (he’d been a sniper!), this handyman’s hobby gave him years of therapeutic tranquility and a peaceful end to a remarkable life.  He will be missed.

Finally, just over a year ago, I was told my dad only had a matter of months to live.  He more than doubled what we had anticipated.   And cancer can be a very cruel way to go.  But Dad has enjoyed what time he’s had, and has been miraculously pain free with it.  Sure, it hasn’t been a cake walk. Weakness set in pretty fast and he’s been more or less housebound except for doctors’ visits and trips to the hospital.  And he’s had a lot of discomfort in his body for various reasons.  But it hasn’t been overwhelming or unmanageable.  And his mind is sharp as ever and he hasn’t taken the first pain pill in over a year.  I am thankful for these blessings.  And when the end does come soon, there will hopefully be a peace about his passing, even as it leaves a huge hole in the hearts of all of us who love him so dearly.

So when you wake up each morning, take a moment to appreciate the gift of life and good health.  Don’t aimlessly wander through the day, using up precious moments that you’ll never get back.  Make the most out of each day, and hope that everyone has a good surprise in store for you.  If you make the effort to notice all the great things that life has to offer, then maybe it will help us handle the unpleasant things a little better when they come our way.

 

 

 

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A lot can be said about time.

time...memories

For very young children, it goes by at a snail’s pace – especially when they are looking forward to Christmas or their birthday party.  For those more my age, we never seem to have enough of it.  Our lives are so busy and we’re so focused on moving from one task to the other that we don’t even take the opportunity to appreciate what is going on all around us.  And for the older generation, time moves by at lightning speed, and in the blink of an eye another year has passed.

Today marked the 85th birthday of one of my dear aunts.  I sent her a very early morning email to express my hope that she had a great day, and that I knew my cousins would be surrounding her with love today. I told her she didn’t look a day over 60, but she responded with good humor and informed me that she did indeed feel very much her age today.  🙂  I think we’ll just blame that on the weather (which has been rainy for a couple of days now), because she certainly would fool anyone who looked at her and tried to guess how old she is.

I have also been thinking about my dad, who found out he had cancer on May 1st of last year.  At the time, I was told he had months to live.  Months…what does that mean?  No one could really say.  So I was left to wonder, does that mean three?  Maybe six?  Would he make it to Christmas?   Could I dare hope it meant eighteen or twenty-four?  Could he beat the odds and make it another five years?  That’s only 60 months, not that much when you compare it to a lifetime, really.

I’m no closer to finding out the answer to that riddle, but I don’t really question it any more.  I have been blessed to have him for another year, and he hasn’t given up yet.  Every day has been a gift, and it’s only sweeter because he isn’t in a lot of pain and is still very much himself mentally.  If I ignore the fact that he is much bonier when I hug him, or that his so-beautiful mane of thick silver hair has now noticeably thinned, I can fool myself for a brief while that nothing has changed.

But one thing that has definitely changed is that I realize the value of a day now, more than ever.  And I am trying to not get so bogged down with life’s problems that I fail to enjoy the moments I’m given each day.  Time is the one thing that once spent, you can never get a refund.  So we should all choose wisely how we spend each day.

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