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Category Archives: Inspirational

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.

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.

The Body is a Temple

Studies conducted by “they,” once upon a time, and probably in a galaxy far, far away, show that writing things down makes us very much more likely to do whatever it is we write down. I agree. At least I have found this to be true in my own case. So, whether or not the 12-13 of you who may stumble upon and read this blog post hold me accountable, I am hoping I will at least be more accountable to myself.

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Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

I truly hate getting caught up in the beginning of the year hype of resolutions and such, but I have been on a similar cycle the last few years, and this is where the pattern brings me. Every January or February my husband and I do a 21 day fat flush diet and then keep fairly decent habits for the rest of the year, or until the holidays roll around. It’s not some crazy diet where it’s all about cramming in weird chemicals that will “cleanse” our insides. It really is a diet plan that has us eating a lot more fruits, veggies, and fiber. Nature takes care of the rest. Good food, high in vitamins and minerals go in, and the bad stuff comes out. Our bodies do need a good internal deep clean once in a while. We use this as our kick start to better eating, though we don’t commit as hard core after that initial phase.

Then there’s the workout cycle. I usually set a race goal sometime early in the year to train for, and then I give it my all until I actually achieve it, or I injure myself, get depressed and give up. It’s good to have a goal, but I’m such a goal oriented person that this can actually be a huge stressor in my life, sort of canceling out any of the good I otherwise achieve. If the weather (which I cannot control anyway) is bad and I cannot get out to run, I panic. “Oh, no! I’m missing one workout. Now I’ll have to make it up. But when? Maybe I will just skip that fun thing I was going to do or get up another hour earlier…” Yeah, it’s not good. By the time I either injure myself or accomplish the goal, I’m a frazzled mess and so burned out that I just stop completely. Usually this is somewhere between my birthday and Thanksgiving.

So… between November and the next calendar year, I binge junk food and sit around not burning any more calories than necessary to breathe or walk slowly…to the fridge. This is an unhealthy cycle. I’m not doing it again.

There. I wrote it. It shall be as I say. I have reflected on my failures in food and fitness, and I will do better this year.

Tomorrow is the start of the 21 day fat flush. Every time I do this, I become more tolerable of foods that used to terrify me, like asparagus. I still refuse to eat broccoli though. The mushrooms are pushing it. But once I get started, things change quickly. I find I have more energy, my immune system gets stronger, and my clothes fit like they’re supposed to again. I even find I like some of the dishes, and my jaw gets stronger because I have to chew so much.

Last year my goal was to get back to my early 20’s weight, which I was certain would happen when I was in half marathon training. Thing is…I injured myself. Yep. I was doing 4-5 workouts a week, on top of the mileage I had to run each week. I was feeling great, and then all of the sudden, I just felt old. I overdid it. I know older people than I who are in way better shape than I’ve ever been, but my body had reached its limit, and I flailed after that. When this happens, I get depressed. Then I make excuses.

So this year, as I begin the fat flush, I am only going to start with 3-4 morning workouts per week, and not crazy hard ones either. When the flush ends, I’ll go full on P90X, lean or classic, I haven’t decided. We will continue on a basic 40-30-30 eating schedule (I found a great site to help us with meal planning, etc. FormulaZone), because that really does seem to be scientifically the best all-around plan for truly being healthy in food choices, rather than extreme diets that cut out one part or another that your body actually needs to function best. Once I get through the 12 week workout plan, I’ll incorporate running into my life again, but with a balance of strengthening and cardio. If it rains, I won’t stress. I live in Florida- it’s going to rain! If I want to sleep in one day, I will. I won’t beat myself up or run myself ragged.

My goal is not to train for anything other than enjoying being healthy and fit. I refuse to add the stress. This way, when my birthday rolls around this year, I will be a fit and happy 42 year old, still on track with my workouts and diet. I may never get down to my 20 year old weight, but then again, I was on the scrawny side then and not as strong. The Bible says my body should be a temple, and I need to treat mine better. Also, my life expectancy looks pretty high, so I might as well be healthy for all those years to come. There’s a lot of this beautiful planet I still want to see and so much I still want to do. When other 60 year olds are putting around Walmart on the electric carts, or shuffling around complaining about whatever ailment they have that was avoidable by lifestyle choice and diet, I want to be hiking an autumn trail, building houses in Guatemala, riding roller coasters, or any number of things I don’t even know about yet in places I’ve never been.

It’s super cliche, but true: If you take care of your body, it will take care of you. Oh, and I plan to keep my brain sharp too. People laugh at me because I read all the time. I also love puzzles, and thinking games. A good diet and exercise helps brain functionality. I want to be that person that is way older than anyone realizes.

The Morning After

20181207_200612As a kid, I remember making construction paper ring chains to count down the days until Christmas. It was such an exciting time of year. My sisters and I would skulk around the Christmas tree and shake the gifts with our names on them. My mom made  amazing sweets, and in great quantity. I remember the decorations and how warm the house felt.

We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve evening and got our stockings Christmas morning. My grandmother was usually staying with us for most of the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas and on Christmas we usually went to one of my aunts’ houses or a few would come to ours for a day of feasting, games, and more presents. I was by far the youngest in the house, so was not always included in game playing, but I still enjoyed just being there in the chaos. The day after Christmas seemed so quiet and subdued after all the excitement that had lead up to and culminated on Christmas day. I had all my new stuff to play with (and if I was lucky enough to have been gifted a book I could read for hours), but somehow there was a sadness that the experience was over.

As I’ve gotten older, my Christmases have gotten smaller and we don’t generally have many gifts under our tree, but the warmth, the decorations, and the love are still precious to me.  And sometimes the day after Christmas still seems sad. Now that looks a little different to me, because I have realized the warm feeling at Christmastime wasn’t as much of a physical warmth as the feeling of love. People are generally kinder to one another, including strangers, during the holiday season. Somehow it is easier to put aside differences and see each other as fellow human beings. Charitable donations and acts of kindness are on the rise. The idea of “peace on earth” seems almost possible.

And then Christmas is over. Slowly, the kindness and warm feelings fade and we all go back to our normal lives and our routines, and many forget until somewhere around the end of the next November.

The thing is, Jesus was the greatest gift ever given, and a gift that is everlasting. Those feelings of love and joy are intended to be kept all year. We are commanded to love one another, and I doubt that was meant to be a part-time job. Love takes work sometimes, and we get frustrated and tired, and life happens, distracting us. But let’s try to show love and kindness, even if only in some small way, each day. Be on the lookout for those opportunities. When we bless others, we in turn are also blessed, and then it is easier to keep it going all year long.

How to Be Thankful

Three years ago, I should have been in a dark place. Maybe I was actually in a dark place, but there was a light in the darkness.  And light overcomes darkness. As long as I knew the light was there, even if it seemed dim, I knew I could go on.

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2015 started with a startling surprise that left me questioning my life and marriage and set us up financially to lose everything.  Only by God’s grace did we make it through that, and without once failing to pay a major bill or even damaging our credit. I won’t go into details, but none of it made any sense on paper. It was truly a miracle. Then as the year came to a close, we found out we would lose the little girl who had been the biggest part of the light we’d had through all that. The girl we had never known we needed, and now didn’t know how we could could live without, would be taken from us. And if we weren’t careful, we may never see her again.

I was living through a nightmare, so deep in stress and heartache I sometimes had trouble breathing, and I was on the verge of tears at all times. Nothing in my life had ever felt so difficult before. I can’t even remember all the details anymore- maybe I blocked them out- but I know we faced car issues, emergencies around the house, and any number of financial and emotional surprises during this time that made me feel like I was down and getting kicked in the ribs every time I struggled to get up.

But then I took a look at all we had made it through and all the people who had been there to love and support us. I began to actually see where God had been, even in the middle of the worst year of my life. I could not make it through this on my own. I knew that. I just wasn’t strong enough in my own power.

And that’s ok. I wasn’t supposed to be. God wasn’t bringing these things into my life and standing above me laughing. He was allowing them because He knew I would reach out to Him in this time and that He would be the strength I needed to make it through. Even as some new calamity would strike, it always seemed there was something equally good that would happen, often in unexpected ways. He was letting me know He was there, and though I could not see why I was experiencing these hurts or how they would turn out, He had the big picture and was making it all work for my good.  I even began laughing when disaster would strike. What else could I do?

I prayed so hard for our girl to stay with us, but in the middle of 2016, she had to leave. We had done all we could to prepare for that, but I had still been in denial. I thought God would come in with some crazy miracle at the last minute. He didn’t. I was angry about that at first. I couldn’t understand, and still often don’t, how her new situation was a better place for her. But maybe that’s not what it’s about. She loves God, and maybe she needs to learn how to trust Him in the difficult times too. Maybe this is the building of her character, because while I was praying for God to make a way for her to stay with us, I also prayed that if that was not part of His plan, that she would be given the strength she needed and it would make her a better person. It is also a reminder that though she had been placed with us for a time, and we cared for her as our own, ultimately, she is a child of God and He will care for her. I had to give her to Him in that time.

It has been hard. The blessing is that we do still get to be part of her life and she spends every other weekend, and some extra time here and there, with us. To others, she refers to us as her aunt and uncle, but when she’s with us, we are still Mommy and Daddy, and I think it will always be that way. She has been out of our direct care now longer than she was with us, but the bond remains. It’s hard having her less than part time. Our lives had to “go back to normal” to some extent, so weekends with her turn our routines and our “normal” upside down. The disruption can be difficult emotionally, because our lives are on hold at those times… but having that time is precious. She’s still a light. She is our sunshine.

If it had been up to me, I would have wanted to eventually adopt her and to never have experienced most of 2015 and 2016, but then I would not have been able to grow. Neither would she, or my husband. It was awful, and we are still in a constant state of recovery from all of it, but we were blessed through it too.

I’ve realized that bad things happen to everybody. Some people just dwell on the bad more than others. Perspective and optimism go a long way. Everything I went through in that time changed my overall perspective and helped me find HOPE. Sometimes I still have to react emotionally, and even cry it out. But then I remind myself to look to God and all that He has done to take care of us.

Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Be Something Better

There has been so much to tell over the last few years. I decided I would one day write a book and meant to be writing about all the details as they occurred, so I wouldn’t forget. The problem is that as one heartbreaking moment after the next took place, actually reliving it to write it down while it was still raw became increasingly difficult. Somehow, having a running tally of the wrongs my little girl suffered while I could only watch brought me heartache and suffering on her behalf (not to mention the mire I was wading through in other areas of my life). But it’s time to begin to use this and time to begin to tell the story.

Recently, I was told I couldn’t understand a hard life because I “came from a different world” from this other person… this person who has no idea where I’ve been or the life I’ve lived. That is a careless assumption. And coming from a hard place is no excuse to stay there and drag others along who could otherwise have a better life. How selfish!

This is not an excuse for a lack of humanity, ethics, or sense of responsibility.

Yes, I grew up blessed to always have what I needed, but I never took that for granted. Having what I wanted was usually a privilege I had to earn, and I thank God I was taught old fashioned values, responsibilities, the importance of hard work, and how to apply common courtesy in my everyday life. I was taught to appreciate what I had, to put others first, and to keep my word. I was taught that “things” are not what is important, but people and loving them are.

I have struggled. I have made mistakes I had to learn from. And I have been beaten down by others even when I didn’t deserve it. I never expected the whole world to pity me because of it or that anybody owed me because of it. I learned to look to God, prayed, and let Him pick me up and carry me through it.

I guess I do come from a different world than yours. In mine, I didn’t make myself a helpless victim. I didn’t make up excuses to not make an effort. And I will never let my girl see herself as a victim either, even though you have helped make her one, because I will teach her to be strong and to know her worth and value. I will teach her that “things” don’t matter, but people do. And I already marvel when I see how strong she has become. With this I also see that she can break your cycle, and that she can one day use this to grow and be a powerful woman who seeks justice for others. I pray she will not use this as an excuse, but instead as fuel. Her seeing both worlds will help her to see that she has a choice. We will continue to show her the better side because she is better, and she has a future.

 

 

 

Beauty from Pain: Reflections from Irma

So much is on my mind, but so little time is available to write about it.

I continue to watch the increasing devastation in almost numb disbelief- Harvey, Irma, earthquakes in Mexico, wild fires burning Montana and Idaho, and now Maria. What a pounding. There’s a morbid fascination in watching and reading news clips and images. It feels surreal, like an over-the-top movie. But this is real and there’s an aching to help, but I feel so small.

My home and my immediate neighborhood, aside from loss of power and freedom to flush for about a week, came through Irma well. But families in other areas of my community, my county, have lost everything: their homes, their vehicles, their momentos, and their sense of security.  But I do hope they’ve felt a sense of community and love in the outpouring of local high school sports teams, volunteers for disaster relief organizations, local church groups, and just good samaritan individuals, their neighbors, coming together to help them tear out soaked carpeting and furniture, tarping their damaged roofs, and feeding them.

You never know when you will be the one who can serve or needs to be served. It happens so fast. Where do they go from here? How do they, how do any of us, get back to a “normal life” after this? Is it even possible?

My husband and I fluctuated back and forth for days on whether or not we should leave before we finally decided to take our animals and go. Nobody could tell where Irma was going, other than she was the size to cover our entire state no matter where her eye went. There was stress and confusion. Once people decided to leave, where was it going to be safe to go? Nobody could tell where Irma was going after she left Florida. But she was a big storm, and we were offered a safe place, so we took it. We boarded up our windows, moved as much as we could off the floors, packed up our smaller valuables, and headed out in the still dark hours that Friday morning, praying and hoping for the best.

I stayed strong throughout. What could I do anyway? I was worried for my sister in Tampa and relieved when they missed the brunt of the storm. Our side of the state took the tornadoes and had a major storm surge, and all I could really do was check Facebook for updates as my freinds all rode out the storm in the middle of the night, with the noises of howling wind and “things” they could not see hitting their houses. Some managed to sleep; most did not.

Then it was over and where I was we began to see images on the news of the destruction. Even then, I was shocked, but I shed no tears. After a few days passed (we had some tropical storm type remnants in our haven), we headed home. I still had not cried, which is probably unlike me. I tend to be much more emotional than I like to admit.

Upon heading home, it became much more real. On I-95, there is generally a good mix of out of state cars with Florida cars. On the way out, almost every car was a Florida car. I’m sure everyone else had already left. On the way back, the personal vehicles belonged only to Floridians, and I wondered where exactly they were headed and what they would find when they got home. Would they even have homes? But there were also caravans of out of state trucks and vans heading down to restore our electricity, our internet, and to help cut and haul away our debris. The National Guard was bringing drinking water by the truckloads.

And that is when I cried. When we passed the “Florida Welcomes You” sign and I looked at all these people coming to help us, I cried. It didn’t matter to them what religion, race, or political affiliation these Floridians they were coming to help belonged to, but their fellow man needed help so they left their families behind and came.

Thankfully, my power is restored, and our home suffered only a few broken shingles from a palm tree that snapped in half, but so many others have rebuilding to do. I hope they see the love of others who have been and continue to come together to help. I hope they can see this as a chance for a new beginning, even as they mourn what they have lost.  I hope and pray they can find beauty from the pain.