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Author Archives: caverns of my mind

And Justice for ALL

Today I am sitting at the computer with a heavy heart and scraps of paper scattered all around me that hold my thoughts and feelings on the reactions to recent events in racial tension we’ve been seeing.  I’m trying to figure out where to begin.  I’m trying to compile related ideas. I pray for wisdom in saying what needs to be said and in doing it well. I want to say something profound, important, or inspiring, yet I’m pretty sure whatever I say will just get lost in all the current noise.  And this isn’t a normal noise either.  You know when two kids get into an argument on the playground and while one is trying to give voice to his side the other plugs his ears and sings “La, la, la, la, la…” or hums as loudly as possible so he can’t hear the other? Yeah, the noise I’ve been hearing is a cacophony of childish humming and singing. It gives me a headache and a heartache.

There’s just been so much hate lately, and the most noise seems to come from competing and extreme sides, making it hard to hear when you actually want to if you’re anywhere between. If you’ve ever had one political leaning or the other, that does not mean you have to automatically align to everything your side says. It’s not about picking a political side. Look to your own morals and guidance in that. Look to biblical foundations of loving one another. Educate yourself, and do so not by only reading or watching the news that conveniently reflects what you want to hear or what your politicians would have you hear. It’s one thing to not understand, but something else when you cover your ears and won’t even listen.  “La, la, la, la, la!” There is media that will align with any ideas out there, so we really need to be diligent in either finding the least biased information we can, or to at least allow ourselves to see both sides so we can make our own decisions. I have begun to wish we could do politics in more of an a la carte manner instead of having to choose either the beef or chicken entree. Maybe replace the cole slaw with the pasta salad? Or something else entirely. Maybe I just want pizza. Politics as they are are NOT working. While one side denies we have a real problem, the other uses a funeral for a shameless and obvious stunt to gain black votes.

All this hate I’ve been seeing seems to boil down to this: We’re afraid to have our rights stomped on, so we continue to keep our knee of the neck of another? It’s not an either or situation. We should ALL have the same rights. And I have heard and read some absolutely crazy excuses and deflections lately in order to avoid any accountability.  “La, la, la, la, la!” It’s hard to take a real look at what is ugly sometimes. I know because it has taken me 42 years to do it. No wonder we try to pretend systemic racism doesn’t exist. It’s human nature. We are more likely to see only what we want to see and then stop looking, because otherwise we may have to do something and/or face changes in what is comfortable for us.  But now that I’m seeing it, I realize just how hideous it actually is, yet I can’t look away. I just keep thinking, there has to be some way we can fix this.  But as I’ve said, politics are not working. I don’t put my faith in them. I put my faith in the God who sent his son to this world long ago to set an example of love and justice.

“Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people. But these oppressors know nothing; they are so ignorant! They wander about in darkness while the world is shaken to the core.” Psalm 82: 3-5

Oh, boy! Here’s another white girl being brainwashed by the leftist agenda. That’s the latest crazy defense I’ve heard. If a white person so much as considers the existence of racism, we are viewed as being forced into white shame. “La, la, la, la, la!” For the record, no, I’m not taken in by that bull either. I don’t feel guilty at all for being white. There’s nothing I can do about the color I was born. You should never have to apologize for something you did not get to choose, only the choices you make. And I won’t base my opinions of others on their appearances either, only on their actions. Hate speaks louder than words and it comes in all colors. Individuals make choices. I choose to stand up against hate.

You must remember that there is a time for all things, as in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

I’ve been hearing and seeing a lot of hate towards protesters lately. I was even sent a video of a man saying that Pam cooking spray stood for ‘Protesters Are Maggots’ and it could be used to spray the front end of any type of truck before you use it to plow down protesters. Sadly, I think this was meant to be humorous. It made me angry and hurt for our loss of humanity. These messages often come from people who claim they are patriots and say they want to protect their rights…as long as it’s convenient for them. An example? If we are going to uphold the 2nd Amendment (and I am a big believer in this- it’s about keeping the government from oppressing us, not just home defense), we also have to uphold the 1st Amendment which protects the freedoms of speech, assembly, and petition, which is what protesters are doing. Violent and destructive rioting is illegal, but peaceful protesting is not.  You may not like what these protesters have to say, but they have the right to say it. You know who was a great protester who stood up for justice and even threw around a few tables?  Jesus.  Yet I’ve seen quite a few fellow “Christians” lumping all these protesters together as bad people and not only discounting what they are saying without even trying to understand it, but spouting some pretty horrible language and generalities about them as well. I don’t think Jesus is very happy about that. One of my Facebook friends shared this amazingly well articulated article from a few years ago this week and I loved it. If you have some time and an open mind, please read it. It’s quite powerful.

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And while I’m addressing some of the absolutist ideals I’ve come across lately, here are a few more:

If you support BLM you hate police or If you are a cop, you hate black people. Neither of these ideas is exactly true. Whereas the Black Lives Matter movement certainly has its roots in and has focused on police brutality against Blacks in America, it really has morphed into more than that as it is beginning to bring awareness to more injustices as well. We cannot, without sticking our heads in the sand or putting on blinders, deny this is an issue. The converse of that is that we also cannot say that all police officers are bad people. I truly believe, because I do personally know and respect some of these people, that many become police officers with a heart to help and protect others. That being said, this profession can also draw those who have an agenda of holding power over others, and some are prone to violence. This is why, instead of doing away with police, I believe perhaps an overhaul of the system is needed.  It really doesn’t take very long to become a police officer in comparison to the schooling and training for many other careers, and if we are sending these people out with weapons to patrol our streets, there needs to be better and more thorough training, more psychological evaluations, and much more accountability. There need to be more opportunities for these men and women to interact in settings within the communities they are assigned to, in which both police officers and the citizens can get to know each other, so both sides can be more humanized.  I’m not sure what this may look like in all places, and I realize this idea may seem naive to some, but maybe it’s little meet and greet at a local church, a community barbeque, or a block party situation, but they need to be real and human to each other.

This whole racism thing is just made up because it’s an election year. Seriously?! “La, la, la, la, la!” This was happening under Obama as well. Police brutality spiked and black incarcerations were the highest in California under Kamala Harris, who is now the front runner of Biden’s VP search. Also, Nixon’s own Domestic Affairs Advisor actually admitted, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt their communities.” This has been happening throughout our political history, on either side.

Racism is a politically fabricated scheme so black people have someone to blame for their laziness and has been over since the Civil Rights movement.  “La, la, la, la, la!” I hope most of us can admit that’s pretty ridiculous, yet I’ve heard it.  We didn’t all just live happily ever after then with no remaining issues.  Racism has lived on in various forms. I wasn’t alive before the late ’70s , so I don’t know what it was like before then first hand. I know I don’t hear so much about lynchings and such, but what about Ahmaud Arbery? It took months for his murderers to even be arrested. The defense was, “I was afraid for my life.” Really? Because those were the words of a man whose dad came home and told him they needed to chase down this guy who looked like he may have fit the description of a burglar. Instead of calling the police, they grabbed guns and sought after him as he was out for a run. After Arbery had been struck by their pickup, this man got out of the vehicle and went towards Arbery with a shotgun in hand. When Ahmaud, who had been cornered and was unarmed, attempted to fight back to protect himself, this man was “scared for his life” and shot him… more than once.  There is no doubt that was racism.

You do you. I literally saw this pop up as a hashgtag for the first time yesterday and have already seen a whole message of apathy included with it shared several times over. On the surface it seems like a great idea. You don’t bother me and I won’t bother you. But it’s a cop-out. It’s indifference. According to Elie Weisel, a Holocaust survivor and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” He also said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” He spent his life trying to raise awareness of injustice, and he had a pretty good idea of what that was.

But it isn’t always so blatant, and it’s been ingrained into our society without us even realizing it. In school, I learned about MLK as a sort of hero, but in other places I heard him referred to as a trouble-maker; in fact, as head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover had declared him as “public enemy number one.” People had been afraid of him. This was a man who promoted peaceful protests, making a statement by standing up and having a voice other than the one that was supposed to be heard. This got him killed. There are stereotypes that say most black people in America are lazy, drug dealers, drug addicts, and criminals, but if it is true that these numbers are especially high in, say, black men, then we should ask why.  Are they really just bad people because of the color of their skin? Or is there something that has pushed them into this corner? If it doesn’t seem disproportionate that a third of black males in America will at one time be incarcerated, it should. This is why you should research and have an open mind.  I’m really only now learning about systemic racism and problems in our justice system, but I saw a little video I thought explained some of the basics of it.

 

“So at the heart of Biblical justice is the impartial application of God’s moral law within all realms of society, including economic, political, social or criminal justice. Any other definition of justice won’t suffice.”- Tony Evans

The problem of racism is not something we can fix overnight. It has taken generations to root itself into society. We can start by answering the “who” and “what” questions by trying to help each other listen. This creates awareness. Then we can ask “why” and learn more to gain our answers. But we don’t stop there. Once we know and understand there is a problem and its causes, we have to ask “how” we can fix it. If we can make it to that stage, we can work in our communities first, and eventually to the top.

Think back to any time you have ever been in an argument with someone and the other person was clearly not considering your hurt feelings, though you felt a very real pain. You just wanted him or her to listen to you, but instead your feelings were trivialized or completely ignored, maybe even mocked. You felt pretty frustrated, didn’t you? Who are you or I or anyone to disregard someone else’s feelings without trying to understand them? Your personal experiences are your own, but they paint your outlook on everything else. It is your responsibility as a human sharing this planet to remember the same is true of everyone else. In this, you must use empathy and you must try to understand one another. Be like a child and ask why about everything. If you see a problem you don’t understand, don’t discount that it’s a real problem. Ask why. If you still don’t understand, then ask why again, and again, and again, as many times as it takes.

“At that time I instructed the judges, ‘You must hear the cases of your fellow Israelites and the foreigners living among you. Be perfectly fair in your decisions and impartial in your judgments. Hear the cases of those who are poor as well as those who are rich. Don’t be afraid of anyone’s anger, for the decision you make is God’s decision. Bring me any cases that are too difficult for you, and I will handle them.'” Deuteronomy 1:17

A Middle-Class, Middle-aged White Woman Talks About Racism

First, no I’m not a Karen. But that is my gender and generation.

Second, there is no way I can comprehend what it is like to be black in America (that’s kinda going to be part of my point). But that also gives me a chance to speak to the others out there like me, or the Karens. Just because we don’t really know what it’s like, doesn’t mean we cannot add value to the situation. We can sympathize, empathize, and lend our voice to speak up for others. Changes don’t come unless people unite.

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I was born into a middle-class white family in the late ’70s. Picture me as a first grader, fascinated by the noise my corduroy pants made when I walked. My small world consisted of avoiding being threatened by my sisters when I sang all the songs from the movie Annie and trying not to wear out the zipper on the pocket of my Kangaroo tennis shoes. One day in school we are taught about a man named Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a brave and respected man who made a difference for a lot of people in something called the Civil Rights movement. Also, he seemed very exotic to me (not that I knew what that meant). We were told he was black. I didn’t understand why I got a stern talking to when I used an actual black crayon to color him in on my coloring page in school. I was just told he was black. You see, I’m sure I had encountered black people, but I didn’t realize what that meant. I took it literally. People looked all kinds of different ways, and I didn’t give it much thought. I doubt I knew I was white. I thought I was sorta peach or apricot.

So in the innocence of being a kid, I had to figure out that the colors of people weren’t exactly literal and that some time in the past people that came in different colors had not treated each other well. It seemed like it was now all okay though because of that movement this brave man had been part of. We learned it as history, not an ongoing struggle, and when you’re a middle-class white kid, it’s not something you really grow up understanding or seeing every day. For the longest time, I guess I took for granted that the Civil Rights movement of the past meant racism was over now. I haven’t been trying to ignore it all these years. This was not intentional. It just hasn’t been something I noticed in my life. If you’ve been living your life on the other side of the race divide, I’m sure that sounds fairly stupid. But it’s true. At least I’m being honest.

I like to think of myself as a compassionate person with a tendency to empathize well. I’ve even done some of those emotional IQ tests and scored high. Yay me! And no, I’m not asking for any cookies.

But maybe I haven’t been very observant. Until more recently. I grew up, went places, read a lot, watched movies and tried to observe the world around me better. Sometimes you don’t want to believe what you learn. It hurts to see others who are put down and treated unjustly.

I asked God once to break my heart for what breaks his. Don’t ever pray that if you don’t mean it. Several years ago now, I learned about human trafficking, which is modern day slavery. It makes me sick that people still own other people and the atrocities of what these slaves have to endure. People are NOT property. No race, no gender, no children should ever be owned. A body may be owned, but not the inner person… until it persists so long that they give up. They let go of their identity and die a little inside. I HATE this. What is happening in our country right now is not just the result of a case of police brutality, which may or may not be based on race. It is so much deeper than that. Slavery in the literal sense ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, but in many cases true freedom still has not been achieved. I believe it’s a deep seated cancer that got into society long ago. As with most things, this is not necessarily true for the majority, but it only takes a few to taint everyone. Not all white people are running around having secret meetings in silly white hoods. I would venture to say most white people are not actively condoning racism. Many of us are disgusted by it. And on the other side, we see a people that has been held down for so long that many of them have lost their hope. They are stuck in cycles they just can’t seem to break, not because they don’t want to, but because they’ve never really been taught how or given the means to do it. (More on this in a later post, I think)

I used to think things were different, and I used to think everyone had an equal chance, but it is so much more complicated than that. More recently, my husband and I have watched some things that raised up more awareness in me and made me think. All of these are either based on true stories or portray a reality. First we finally watched the series The Wire. Season four, the one about the school kids in Baltimore, brought me to tears and broke my heart. Then we watched the movie The Green Book. It takes place in a time of segregation, but it showed the development of a friendship between two unlikely men, one black and one white (it’s more complicated than just that though). Netflix made a short series called When They See Us, about the Central Park Five. And most recently we watched Just Mercy. There are more out there. Plenty of documentaries and books too. These are just a few things that haunted me.

I don’t have solutions that will change society overnight. But I am hopeful that we have reached a point where more people are opening their eyes. I hear people saying we can fix this at the polls. But it’s not about politics. It’s about individuals. There needs to be a dialogue. We all need to try to understand each other. Change will have to happen from the bottom up, not from the top down. We may look different, but beneath our skin color, we really aren’t. We have the same basic needs. We all want to be loved, to be accepted, to know our loved ones are safe, to know that we are safe. We all laugh and cry. We feel joy and agonize in grief. I am sure there are more people who want to do good and see equality than there are those vile people who want to poison and divide society. We must be a bigger number, united in love. As Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Speak out. But you also have to do it in love. I think sometimes we see problems as bigger than we are and think we cannot make a difference. Maybe not alone. But if we come together, light always wins over the darkness.

The least we can do is try to understand. Then we have to find a way to “be the change we wish to see.” That’s going to look different for everyone. But once you see the injustice, you have to do something. Start by following the command to love one another. Much will fall into place and healing will begin if we can do that. Loving means we must listen to each other and respect each other. And let’s please all agree to stop letting an irresponsible media further divide us. Let’s listen to each other, not them.

So come on, Karen. Put down that bottle of wine, cancel your nail appointment and channel that anger over the sign in the supermarket being in the wrong place into doing something good, something that makes a real difference. Become a Karen with a cause.

Working WHILE Working… a follow up

Four weeks ago, I posted that I was on furlough at work and had decided to dedicate myself to getting back into shape by working out and eating better. I needed to smartly kick-start my metabolism and had found a challenge to run/walk at least 75 miles during the month of May.

It is all finally working! I have been tracking my health, food, and weight on the MyNetDiary app since mid-March. I like it because one can track meals fairly easily and it provides a pie chart of my macros so I can see if I’m balanced or not. Also, by adding my calories burned by exercise, it adds that to my caloric intake goal for the day. There are all kinds of pretty visuals and helpful info.  When I logged my weight this morning, I had lost 7.6 pounds since I started, and 5 of those are actually from the last 4 weeks. It wasn’t showing much if any effort before I declared changes were going to happen.

Then this Miles de Mayo challenge turned out to be an amazing boost for me. I was pretty sure I could pull off 75 miles, and kinda hoped I could reach 100. I wasn’t working when I signed up, but went back to work the second week in May. I was afraid that would make me lazy on that front, but I am proud to say it just means I got up extra early, strapped on my pepper spray and reflective and light-up gear, and I ran my neighborhood in the dark. This is Florida, so it’s a relief to not run in the sun anyway. The humidity is stifling at 5 am, but that’s peak time for the deer to be out and about, so that helped. My husband had also signed up for the challenge and we incorporated several evening, after dinner walks. This was great for working in small amounts of miles and burning calories after a meal, but also was a great way to spend time together just talking. Having him in on all this with me certainly helps. The challenge also provided a Facebook group community that has been wonderful. Everyone is at different abilities and paces, but everyone is incredibly encouraging of one another. I made it to 100 miles on Memorial Day and am continuing running in hopes of making up for what I know were walking miles with running miles. They all count, but it’s a little extra challenge for myself.

I’ve been eating healthy, yet still enjoying a few beers and snacks here and there. Tracking it all helps me keep perspective. We even managed to spend a couple days that involved eating out last week in celebration of our 20 year anniversary.

One bad thing happened. The app I have been using to track my running and various other workouts for 10 years has become unreliable, so I had to start all over on another app. This makes it harder to see my true progress, but I know I’m making it because I see and feel the results. When this mile challenge is over, I will continue to run, just maybe not as much. Then I will increase some of the HIIT and strength training I’ve also been doing. This will help my running in the long run as my endurance is getting better, but my speed is still in the sloth range. My muscles are finally beginning to show themselves in places other than my arms and my energy level is up. I have a goal to lose five more pounds and then to maintain. I even have a relay race with some friends in the fall that I need to keep on my training radar. There are a lot of virtual races these days too with all the COVID closings. I’m considering finding a half marathon to sign up for around that same time.

Most importantly, I am feeling encouraged and healthy. As long as I have goals, I see no reason I should go backwards.

You Decide for Yourself and Get Your Own Questions

I’m not going to tell people what to believe. Who am I to do that? But I am going to tell you to ask questions and seek answers. One thing I have learned in life is that if you have two greatly differing opinions, the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.

I don’t know if I believe the numbers we’re being spoon fed by the media on Coronavirus are accurate. Where are they all really coming from? Are they being altered or skewed? Are doctors being encouraged to attribute more deaths to COVID-19 than there really are? Without enough proper testing, how can we rely on any of the numbers anyway? Where have all the other illnesses gone? Are people miraculously cured of all of them in the midst of this virus? I still have allergies, so I imagine people are still suffering from other health issues as well, yet people are dying more of COVID-19 than any of these now. This seems curious to me.

If we go out in public without a mask are we all indeed murderers, as I keep seeing/hearing being said? I don’t go out much, but I have been complying with the mask suggestion, not because I think it does a bit of good, but because I know it eases the fears of others. I try to be courteous. Will I continue to do so when it reaches July and August in Florida and the real feel outside is over 100 degrees? Honestly, probably not. But I’m hoping by then this mask thing will have eased up.

You see, I am ok with erring on the side of caution with the unknown, but I refuse to live and make decisions out of fear. That’s why at the start of all this, I didn’t have a problem with a few weeks of social distancing. It seemed like we could all make a little sacrifice and then go back to normal. Now people are talking about “the new normal” and I’m getting pretty sick of hearing it. I am not ok with this if it isn’t temporary.

Yes, I do believe we have a real illness out there. I do believe people are dying. I know some say it’s all made up, but I believe it. I worry about my elderly parents (whom I also miss because I don’t know when it will ever be deemed safe to see them again) and my dear friend who has MS. I love them very much. I would never want to contribute to making anyone else deathly ill or to see my loved ones contract this virus. I know that would be irresponsible. But the converse to that is that keeping everyone caged up also feels irresponsible. Is it fair that healthy people are being forced to go hungry or lose their shelter because they cannot work (government aid is not working for all of us)? Or that some of those who are sinking into depression because of loneliness and the constant barrage of bad news are considering taking their lives? Or to those who are suffering immune-system-deteriorating-anxiety because of all of the above? What is the right answer? I wish I knew, but I don’t.

When I taught high school English, one skill I tried to teach my students was to think for themselves and to always check the validity of their sources. Sometimes we have to dig past the first things that pop up on a Google search. Just because it’s on the internet does not make it true. Who is saying it? Why are they saying it? Is there bias? Are there facts to back up what is being said? Where are those “facts” coming from (and there is also a difference between FACTS and TRUTH). If there is evidence for only one side of an issue, has information from the other side been sought out and considered?

And that is where my distrust comes in. I am not necessarily siding with the conspiracy theorists (I’m not sure I believe the government has much to gain by controlling us if our economy has also collapsed and it’s not just our government going through this- just to touch on a couple points I’ve seen). I do, however, find it interesting that any views contrary to what the media has been beating us over the heads and dragging us out to the curb with seems to disappear once it gets attention. That’s censorship. What needs to be hidden? Are we not meant to analyze the information in order to think for ourselves? Historically, before censorship, commoners, slaves, and women, to name a few categories, were kept from learning how to read? Why? Was it because it was seen as a waste of time for them to learn or because knowledge was gained by reading, and the less they knew, the more they could be controlled? So the censorship that I’ve seen going on is not sitting well with me.

I feel a bit like now that time has gone on and more is being learned, perhaps if it is seen that the frenzy was unnecessary, people who made these decisions will look bad for their early decisions. So maybe it’s just about about saving face. Maybe Bill Gates really is the anti-Christ. Maybe it is actually a nefarious plan to turn our country to Socialism. Who knows? I don’t. I will likely continue to use caution and care with others (If they are living in the fear this disease has caused they’re already suffering so why make it worse?). I really do not wish to contribute towards the suffering or illness of others. But I will also continue to ask questions, to seek answers, and to give both sides of the argument consideration. Never just take in the information that is freely given. Truth takes work. Scully and Mulder searched for eleven seasons and a movie.

Working While Not Working

This title may be a little misleading. This post is about what I’m doing while out of work for social distancing, but it’s also about aging and the challenges of taking care of myself (I’m not saying I’m old, but I am older than I was). I guess with more time alone each day I’ve had a chance to contemplate and try to understand it all a bit more.  I really want to grow old gracefully and be healthy for years to come. I want to stay active into my old age and die peacefully in my sleep one night, not from some preventable disease. I want to “rage against the dying of the light.”

Like many others right now, I’m not working. But I’m also not sitting on the couch, binge-watching Tiger King with a family-size bag of Cheetos in my lap. In fact, I still only watch tv in the evening, and then I try to exercise my brain with a puzzle or something stimulating while I sit.  I still set an alarm, just in case I don’t wake up early on my own, so I can get up and work out before I start my day. As my weeks at home have stretched past a month, I am also putting more time into my daily workouts.

Why? Once I blew out the candles on my 40th birthday cake, it really was like a switch had flipped. All my life, I was always the thin girl who people tried to make feel guilty for it. And no, I really didn’t have to think about what I ate (other than being a bit hypoglycemic); I did not gain weight from chocolate cake or second helpings of pizza, or anything, really. I just had a really good metabolism. But just like all the curses I used to receive, such as, “Just wait, it’ll catch up with you one day,” warned, when I hit forty, my luck ran out, I guess. I gained at least 10-15 pounds, and it does not want to go away. My running pace and my metabolism both suffered at the kickoff of my fourth decade on this blue marble, and I’m a couple years into it now.

I used to be able to just work out a little more or eat a little better and see huge results and quickly.  It’s just not that easy anymore.

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I am not at all comfortable posting anything where I don’t have make-up on.

These pics of my arm muscles (please ignore and don’t get too judgy about the sweaty no-makeup mess that is the rest of what you see of me in the pics) might lead one to believe I’ve got a rock solid body to match. I will be honest. I only took pics of my arms because they tone and show definition much faster than the rest of me (and I do laugh when I cannot wear the shirts I’ve had for years because the sleeves and shoulders are now too tight). I do not have it all together, but I’m working on it. This is my progress in the last month. I think I finally figured out how to speed up my metabolism a little. I try to mix and balance cardio and strength training. Most people think just cardio will do it, but when all I do is run, it is not enough. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest, so you can get even more out of those cardio workouts if you also have muscle, right? I do know my energy level has increased.

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I ramped up the calorie burn in April and am off to a good start for May.

So I’m gaining muscle, but my body weight is not really changing. I hope this is because muscle is more dense and maybe I hadn’t been trying quite hard enough until about a week ago, but I really need to get rid of my gut and the flab in my thighs. I had no idea it would be so hard. So there I was in mid-April, thinking I should be looking better with more workouts and fairly healthy eating, except my husband works at a grocery store that carries amazing chocolates and cookies, and it was Easter candy season. Basically, if it’s in the house, I WILL eat it because I like yummy stuff and because I’m super cheap and will make sure my money has not been wasted. So he brings it home, I eat it. I told him to please stop. We have agreed on that. Also, we had to slow down the beer drinking. I’m not a drunk, but I do enjoy a tasty beer, or a few of them. Limits. I must have limits! We eat well all week, and we allow ourselves a cheat day over the weekend. We have just implemented this…again.

I refuse to partake in any diet that cuts out any of the main macro-nutrients (fats, carbs, proteins). Our bodies were meant to have a balance and there are far too many health risks involved in cutting out all of any of the above. Our bodies were not designed to function at their max capacity with these deficits, especially not if we are also exercising. If you have found a quick diet to lose weight, it is probably damaging your body in a way you just may not know yet, and the weight loss will not be lasting, though the damage to your organs may be. I want a diet that isn’t a diet, but a way of life. But when I do settle down in the evenings, I like to snack. No more of that. I have decided to have tea in the evenings instead. Hopefully this little Jedi mind trick will work. And I’m eating more, but smaller meals. I learned long ago that this helped with my hypoglycemia, but I got out of the habit. It is also supposed to help your metabolism work more efficiently.  I already drink and pee a lot of water all day, so I’m good there.

Goals are important, so I have come up with a number I would like to see on my scale ( I will not share that here). But I am mostly looking to attain goals in the inches I can lose and where I can lose them. As I build muscle and lose weight, my proportions should change. I’ve always weighed more than people thought, so that number is not the important one. I want to carry it well. I also signed up for a challenge to run as many miles as possible in May. I believe I opted for 75 miles as my goal, but my real and secret goal is to reach the 100 mile mark (shhhh). I like to have a goal, but I don’t want to beat myself up over it either, so a secret goal is good for me. If I hit it, I look like an overachiever, but if I only hit the slightly lower goal I still know I accomplished something good.

So now I’m running more. The past couple times I increased my mileage, I also injured myself. This made me realize I need to create a better balance in the types of workouts I’m doing and to let certain muscles rest more between. Part of me just wants to be a beast and run five miles every day while also doing an hour of weight training. But I know I cannot do that without hurting myself in a bad way. I need to cross-train, but I don’t need to die. This morning, I ran a mile as a warm-up, did a twenty-ish minute upper body workout, and finished with a half hour of yoga stretching. I didn’t want to go that easy, but my muscles had been so tight, I knew I needed it. I felt amazing when I was done, and I’ll be ready to move and burn calories tomorrow without injuring myself.

These are my struggles and self solutions. Maybe this can help someone else. I’m just being honest about me. We are all different. I do recommend a couple resources though. I love the workout selection at fitnessblender.com and it’s not too late to sign up for the challenge to run, walk, or treadmill (boring-zzzzz) as many miles as possible in May. You can enter your miles up to two days behind and it’s only the 4th now. You get a cool shirt when you’re done and the feeling of accomplishment. Plus the Facebook group that goes along with it is so supportive. https://runsignup.com/Race/FL/Deland/MilesdeMayoChallenge?fbclid=IwAR3el7TzZbG9DsqENrZ-mc5pXsH3mzb5vNGUCSl2A2kZzympMRfjOcqXKgo

How a Non-essential is Coping During COVID

I am not an expert in anything except my own struggles, but maybe some of you just need to know that even though you are currently encouraged to be alone, you aren’t really alone.

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Is anybody else struggling knowing that you’re not an “essential worker”? Or as I had come to see it, actually being non-essential? Because if you’re not essential, you must be non-essential, right? And, wow, are there a lot of feelings of lacking self-worth that go along with that. My husband is essential, and seriously, I thank God for that because it means we will not starve as I wait (without holding my breath or I’d be dead already) for Florida to figure out the unemployment system. And even though his essential status means that he’s at risk of picking up this virus every day, I guess I’m a little jealous. Jealous of his importance, not the catching the virus thing; if he gets it, I’d likely be right there with him because he’s the only person I have contact with. This is also why I don’t get to have in-person contact with other humans right now at all. I don’t want to put anyone else at risk, even in groups smaller than ten. But so far so good, though there was a bit of a scare last week that turned out to be nothing.

I have a job, but I’m not working. My industry has to do with manufacturing goods used in the entertainment of people in large crowds. I mostly think my job will still be there when this ends, but I don’t know what it will look like yet or when it will happen. It really all depends on the actions of one other particular and rather large company. So we wait.

Honestly, I was excited at first. As an introvert, I thought this would feel like a vacation, and I was getting paid for the first two weeks, so it kinda was. I knew it would end up being longer and unpaid, but I think that news was harder on me than I realized it would be. That’s when I began to question my worth. I am used to having a full time job, frequent meetings in the evenings, and a dog to take care of. Then my dog died, meetings got cancelled (including meetings to prepare for a mission trip we were to go on this summer which was also cancelled), and I got furloughed.

I could write a country song.

With no routine and no sense of purpose, I started to feel depressed. I missed people, but I just didn’t want to talk to anyone at that time. And the sarcasm in a text I received right in the middle of feeling suddenly worthless was, “You have quite a busy schedule…” Yep, that hurt deep. Because I realized that in the midst of having no routine, I have been trying to create a routine. I need it. I want to make my life feel as normal as possible. And that means scheduling my day. It’s not like I break it down minute by minute, but I have given myself chunks of time designated for different activities, and it is really helping me. But that comment felt so mocking. It came from someone who has the ability to work from home, AND thus, has a steady income, so she couldn’t understand how empty and unimportant I was feeling. She also said it to hurt me, and it did.

But I am learning to cope with this mess better and better every day. I work out and/or run first thing every morning, have my coffee while spending time doing devotionals on YouVersion, and I do my Spanish all before I take a shower. The rest of the days have been broken down to cleaning and organizing (I have to feel I am earning my keep somehow and I never had the time or drive before), then maybe reading, then preparing dinner, and ending the evening with my husband. This week I decided I need to add something else back into my life…writing and organizing previous writing. So here I am on my blog. There are a few other projects I am working on that have sat untended on the back burner for a long time. I even had a virtual meeting with my church’s local mission team last night, and it was great to have that scheduled and then to see everyone in their little designated Brady Bunch boxes. It gave me something to look forward to and helped me remember I am still part of things outside of my house and outside of my brain. I also have a standing weekly virtual wine date with my best friend who is three time zones away. This has been one of my favorite things about social distancing and a wonderful thing to look forward to each week.

This is a lot like when I had summers off as a teacher, except that I still had an income then and I knew when I would start back at work each year. But I just needed to find my rhythm. I’m not sure how much longer this will last and this Friday will be my first with no paycheck, but this is why I spend time doing devotionals every morning and talking to God. He has always been there in the struggles of my life, and I’m still here. If you are struggling now and feeling non-essential, find your rhythm and a place to put your trust.

My “Furrever” Friend

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Dearest Sir Dylan,

Today we say goodbye. You’ll be joining your sister soon. I know you’ve been missing her. We all have.

You were our first dog together and we had so much to learn about dog-parenting. Thanks for being patient with us, but gently letting us know when we needed to do certain things… like that day I went to bed to nap off a migraine and you let us know you were essential on our bed, especially if I didn’t feel well. You were right. No dogs on the bed was a silly rule.

We adopted you into our lives because Robert wanted a dog. Honestly, I wasn’t really sure at first, but you let me know early on that you were also an essential protector as well as healer. How in the world had I been answering the front door before you had come into our lives? Certainly it was only a matter of time before someone with a package, wearing a uniform or a hat (or a uniform with a hat), or a kid selling magazine subscriptions was going to murder me if you hadn’t been there standing between us, immovable. Once you knew you could herd Girl Scouts they were ok. By the way, it was a nice touch when you raised up on your hind legs like a bear and put up your Wookie arms in the long window next to the front door. One time a delivery person actually just threw my package towards the door from the walkway and ran off.

You’ve been extra lovable since we had to say goodbye to MJ. I just wish you had been comfortable enough, physically, to put that love into cuddles more often. But that’s the problem: you haven’t been able to get comfortable for some time now, and pacing is the only thing that seems to help. But those back legs just aren’t moving like they’re supposed to anymore.

Knowing when it was time to let your sister go was hard, but now with you, it’s been nearly impossible. You’ve lived a long, happy life with us. We were worried about how you would do without MJ. It hasn’t been the same since. You’ve been more lonely and depressed. So have we. Thank you for sticking around for almost a full year after her passing to make sure we would be ok.  We will…eventually. You’ll both always be part of us, but we’ll keep missing you both forever. Eventually we’ll have more dogs, and we’ll love them. But you’ll always have been our first and most alpha of our dogs. Just as you walked into a pet store or dog park and ruled the place without having to do anything but be there, you ruled our hearts immediately. Thank you for giving us thirteen of your fourteen years and for being part of our family. You have given us so many cherished memories and all of your love.

You really haven’t been able to hear me sing to you for a while now, but here’s our song, one last time.

 

Once Upon a When

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In the fractured sharpness of the day

the stranger came.

Nobody could say when it happened.

It was as if he’d always just been

there.

So vital was the presence

replacing an emptiness

that once hung in the air.

Then after the steady fading of light,

a scream broke the silence

and pierced the night.

 

The Long Forgotten Blog

I wrote three posts in 2019.

That’s it.

I used to call myself a writer. I don’t say that much anymore. After only three posts last year and really nothing else written, calling myself a writer would feel like a lie.

I haven’t felt inspired in so long.

What I have had is a few people tell me I should write a book about the wreck that was my life a few years back. But after all that, I just want to escape reality, not dwell on it and bring it back to life.  No, not yet anyway.

So what do I write about? And when do I find the time to do it? I know I still haven’t finished Drew’s high school experience, but she really requires time and attention, which I just don’t have these days. (and I’m not saying Drew is needy, but she’s special and deserves my best efforts)

My new goal… write some kind of post at least once a month. That’s right, I’m putting it here for all five or so of you to see. That should make me more accountable, right? And maybe I’ll start to feel the inspiration again.

See you in February.

Never “Just a Dog”

Thursday was one of the worst days of my life. I lost a piece of my heart. I had to say goodbye to my MJ, my sweet Mara Jade, forever my puppy.

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MJ’s last outing to the beach.

Sometime early last fall we thought she had a uti. Through a series of vet visits, prescriptions, homeopathic additives, and tears, she still did not seem to be herself. Eventually, this lead to a visit with a specialist and a surgery that lead to a biopsy, which proved positive for urethral transitional cell carcinoma. Our baby was in the 1 percent! That’s about how common dog bladder cancer is, and hers was even more rare as it was actually forming where it would eventually prevent her from even being able to pee. It also turns out it is an extremely aggressive cancer, with no cure, and a life expectancy of about 6 months if untreated, maybe about 8 with chemo. She had already been sick since at least October. We opted for mostly pain management, I researched a diet for dogs with cancer, and we got her special vitamins.

We loved her as much as we could. We wanted to fill her remaining time with adventures and quality time. She wasn’t up for as many adventures as we had hoped. Her energy faded, and even with her extra healthy diet and an appetite that was still strong, her body was using all those nutrients to fight and she was quickly losing weight, and her battle.

From the first night after her surgery that we felt she was healed enough, she not only slept on the bed between us, but she often stretched herself the long way against my side or back, as if she was soaking up or radiating into me as much love as she could. Her last week or so, nights were bad for her. She couldn’t get comfortable, and she was panting so hard she shook the whole bed sometimes. But she slept right up next to me, even on her last night, and I’ll never forget her looking at me with those ever intense eyes of hers as the light started to pervade the room. We knew it was the day. We had set up the appointment days before. I think she knew too. She didn’t want to move around much and just settled on a towel on our screened in back porch, staring into my eyes as I just talked to her.

I wanted to be able to write a beautiful tribute for MJ when her time came, but I knew I’d be the blubbering mess I am now, unable to focus or make much sense. What I did was write a little something from my heart about a week before we put her down. I knew it was coming, and I think she was trying to let me know too. This is what I had written before I even had the nerve to tell Robert I knew we were close.

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When Dylan first accepted MJ as his baby sister, he let her snuggle with his best friend, Green.

She will never have been “just a dog.” She is…

  • the reason we have tile instead of wood baseboards, and tile around our front door.
  • the dog who attempted to eat an electrical cord as a puppy, shot across the house from the dining room to the foyer, messed herself, and still just wanted her mommy (she also ate a Blackberry phone, a remote control, Robert’s glasses, and probably an inedible Nylabone we never found).
  • the dog who figured out if she barked at the front door, her brother would get off the couch to see and she could steal his spot.
  • so intense that if she did not catch her “flippy” (frisbee) before it hit the ground she would pick it up, fling it back and forth in her mouth, and growl at it…then bring it back to us bent like a taco in her mouth.
  • the dog who started trouble with other dogs at the dog park just to watch her brother come running to her rescue.
  • the dog who came back slimy and green from having eluded us and running into a swampy canal behind the neighbor’s house… twice.
  • the dog who could bend herself in half and walk at us sideways when she was happy to see us, snarling the whole time (a frightening sight if you didn’t know it meant she was happy).
  • the dog who leaned on everything.
  • the dog who scratched my arms every day when I got home because her love was so intense and she was trying to become one with me.
  • the puppy who ran down the hall carrying a large bathroom rug in her mouth, shaking it and tripping over it.
  • the devious dog who could duck into the shadows of the hallway and wait for the cat to fall into her trap, but then realize she was terrified of the cat.
  • the dog who was unaccustomed to kids and the noises they make. When Linnea first moved in, she was scared, then curious. She would spy on her from a distance and check on her while she slept. Then she decided the little person needed her protection and they became the best of friends.
  • the dog who still checked on Linnea’s room even when she stopped coming to visit us.
  • the dog who practically jumped into my lap to cheer me up when I was sad because we found out she had cancer. Her level of empathy far exceeded most of the people I know.

MJ will never have been “just a dog.” She was our fur baby, our little girl, our puppy, our family. She loved unconditionally, and she loved hard. I know her time is coming, and coming faster than I thought it would. I don’t want to cheat her out of any of her quality time in joy and love, but her bad times are becoming more frequent now, and I also cannot drag out her pain and suffering. I don’t ever want to say goodbye, but I know it’s coming. I cannot imagine coming home to a house without my MJ greeting me. And I cannot cry in front of her because she feels so much that I feel. I haven’t had much loss in my life, thankfully, and I just don’t know how to prepare for this.

There is no way to prepare, and I know she’s now gone, but it still just doesn’t feel real yet. I’m glad we said goodbye in our home, where she was comfortable. I’m glad her brother was there and that I got to pet her as she went to sleep forever.