Friday, March 30, 2012

Maple bars, Dairy Queen, and safety nets

I learned another lesson this week.

Since our last fitness challenge ended one week ago, I have been in a free fall, eating with shameful abandon, and more lax in my exercise routine -- well there are reasons excuses for that part.  But I let myself fall into the world of ice cream and peanut butter because I knew there was a safety net below.  That net translates into our next challenge, which started today.  So after my week of falling, I am back on the wagon and you know, it feels good.  It feels safe.

Eating is one of my, your, everyone's greatest pleasures.  There is nothing like that first bite of a fresh maple bar.  But the pleasure is short-lived because I know that knee-buckling, deliriously-delicious experience comes at a price.  And the price I paid was a gain of nearly three pounds.  If I didn't have that safety net, I would have been in a panic.  Thank goodness for my net.

But, and here's the problem, my net won't always be there.  In fact 8 weeks from now, it'll be gone, and I will be released into Summer .... on my own.

Oh Summer.  I KNOW of your sweet deception.  I used to believe in you.  I used to think you meant great weather and LOTS of outdoor activity including group runs, relays, and bike rides -- burning LOTS of calories.  And that's true.  But you also bring sabotage in the form of picnics, BBQs, vacations, and those ever dangerous road trips.

Did you all know -- at the big truck stop in Troutdale, Oregon, where the gas prices are not quite as screamin' ridiculous as elsewhere, where we pass through whenever we head east, they sell AMAZING maple bars?  Oh yes.  They do.   And when headed on a road trip with Favorite Husband, happily anticipating time together, a maple bar is just the perfect start of a fun day.

Then there's Dairy Queen.  We don't do fast food ... except for Subway.  (I couldn't even tell you what is on the menu of Burger King or Taco Bell and not due to my own high eating standards.  Favorite Husband doesn't like them .... and when I'm out by myself, I don't eat.)   But Heaven's rays shine down upon every DQ I have ever met.  Not for the hamburgers or coney island hotdogs which I don't recall ever eating.  We're talking sundaes with extra hot fudge and peanuts.  And blizzards.  (Hint:  If you ask them to leave off the lid, they are more likely to pile the ice cream higher above the brim of the cup!)   I can tell you the location of every DQ within 30-40 miles of my house.  And I know of every DQ along the Oregon coast.  And a few up Washington.

All in all, no-one-no-where loves food more than me.  But as I have said before, being slim is better than donuts or a DQ blizzard.  I learned that several years ago.  And because of my weak nature, I have a HUGE need for structure, boundaries and accountability.  It feels good to feel safe.  And it feels good to take control and to KNOW the scales are headed back down.  THAT I learned ... this week.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A "run" back in time and a lesson on sacrifice

In the spring of 1973, I bid a teeth-gritting, heart-wrenching farewell to my boyfriend of two years.  I was 18 and he was 19.  He was choosing to honor his responsibility to the Lord and serve as a missionary on the other side of the country for 24 months.  I would not see him at all during that time, and phone calls would be very rare.  Email was non-existent then, and all other forms of communication, other than good old-fashioned snail mail, were unavailable.  He was my best friend and yes, I was as much in love as any 18 year old can manage.   The hardest part was that neither of us knew for sure if we would "make it", meaning would I remain unattached and would we still feel the same after so long with such minimal contact?  They say only about 10% of such couples do.  But in spite of those unappealing stats, we both knew what had to be done.

Now in all honesty, and even though I was supportive, if he had changed his mind, stayed home, and offered marriage, I would started sewing my wedding dress right then and there.  The responsibility to go was not stressed back then, as it is now.  So I wasn't such a noble and faithful giant.  But religious missions for the boys are part of my culture and heritage.  And I knew it was right.
A thin missionary and a very fat tie.
A good definition of a sacrifice, is giving up something of value in exchange for something better.  Not that I met anyone better that he.  But I spent those two years at Ricks College, an owned-by-my-church junior college, that sat on the treeless hills next to Rexburg, Idaho.   And while I was there I fell in love again, with life.

Other than a couple of married cousins who lived nearby, I knew no one in Rexburg.  I moved into the upstairs of an old brick home-converted-to-apartments, about 1/2 block off campus, with several hand-picked-by-God roommates.  (Thanks to facebook, I found one of those roommates about a year ago and now get to see pictures of her grandbabies.)
(2011)   It's still a great old house.
The entire student body of about 5000, gathered in the indoor stadium for an assembly at the start of the semester, and we sang the "Mormon" children's classic, "I am a Child of God."  I grew up singing that song at church, but I will never forget the feeling I had at that moment in that stadium.  This was my first experience in a large group of LDS people of my age.  I had never before really realized the magnitude of that in which I had been raised.  I grew up in Oregon, in a school system where only about a dozen kids shared my religion.  I had experienced large church gatherings and conferences, but nothing like this.

Do any of you recall the children's story of the Saggy Baggy Elephant?  He felt he didn't fit in with the other animals because his skin was too loose and saggy.  He tried many ways to shrink his skin so that it would fit better, but nothing worked.
  Then he encountered other elephants.  Their skin was saggy too!  And it looked good on them!  And he realized he belonged to something much bigger and more wonderful than he ever knew!  Take the baggy skin out of the story, and I felt like that little elephant.  I had found something wonderful to which I had belonged all along.  I was home.

Those two years at Ricks College were truly God's gift to me.  The school has since become Brigham Young University - Idaho, but the "Spirit of Ricks" still wafts through the campus.  Among my generals, I focused on classes that would give me useful office skills - such as shorthand and the proper use of electric typewriters and carbon paper.  High tech for sure!  Computers were still big boxy things that only a handful of people knew what to do with.  And woven throughout every class was the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our instructors always found a way to tie spiritual growth to every aspect of an 18-20 year-old's life.  We applied the gospel to biology, English class, accounting, and even to an evening swimming class which, although it seemed like a good idea during registration, I quickly learned to hate.  (I still don't swim.)

I graduated with my two-year degree in the spring of my 21st year, about one week before the young man to whom I had said goodbye 24 months earlier, returned home.  We had both accumulated a sack-full of old letters that had traveled across the country, and the growing question of --- did we "make it"?

Needless to say, we were married about five months later.  This brings me back to that lesson on sacrifice.  Giving up something of value, in exchange for something better.  We both put our faith on the line, said goodbye, and stepped into the unknown.  He feared the infamous reputation of Ricks College for being a likely place to find one's spouse.  I knew that two years would be a very long time.  We both gave up something of value ... for a while.  In exchange, I was given two years of magic, and much-needed personal growth.  He gave two years of honorable service to God, and the blessings have poured in ever since.  And I have no doubt that his decision to go, and my decision to not stand in his way, did indeed give us both something better.  Something with which to teach our children.  Something eternal.

Friday, March 23, 2012

10 ..... wait, NOT the movie!

I was up two or three times last night, to make sure my bathroom was where I had left it, thanks to all the water I've been forced to consume in our fitness challenge.  (Actually, the water-drinking-rule isn't so bad if you don't forget and leave it till the end of the day.)  And each time I was up, I had a quick visit with the scales.  Why?   Because this morning was The Final Weigh-In (!!) and I was anxious for it to be a good one.  By dang, I have worked hard and I deserved it!   Results?  After 10 weeks ....... DRUM ROLL ...........   10 POUNDS LOST!  Exactly - to the ounce!  Oh yeah!   And Husband had an even more impressive loss of 11.4 lbs.

Did we win the cash prize?  Probably not.  But we won, all the same.  Husband is bicycling stronger (his goal) and running easier (not his goal).  I still have my random good and bad runs, but the clothes are loose, so who cares if I had to walk part of my four miler this morning.  It IS all about looking good, isn't it?  

But with every successful weight loss, comes the post-diet-horror of gaining it back again.  Therefore, in one week, I'm starting another challenge with a few changes in the "rules".  (No water-drinking rule because I get to be the Boss this time!)  This one will last eight weeks, ending right before June ... AKA summer ... AKA the dreaded Swimsuit Season.  Although most of our group will pursue the popular goal of dropping pounds, this time I will be tackling an even bigger beast ...... called .... Maintenance.

Consider yourself invited.

P.S.  Thank you Ellen, for being the best challenge-leader ever!

Monday, March 19, 2012


I'm pretty sure I've mentioned earlier that I run 20 miles each week.  (Don't think I can't hear the collectively bored  S..I..G..H.. and "Yes. We know.")  ........... Anyway, I try to "gitter done", (as my adorable red-neck brother would say) in as few runs as possible.  Usually it takes me four times out, and sometimes three.  It's best to put in a strong effort on Mondays with a good seven to eight miles, or at least six ... five minimum, and hopefully by Friday, there are only a couple of miles left to do.   Dodging the rain and coordinating the other elements of My Life, adds challenge to this routine.  Then I "relax" over the weekend, filling my exercise time with walks or maybe a bike ride, and start over again the next week.

Today, being Monday, I did exactly seven, and it was one of my better-feeling runs which just happen randomly.  I carry almost 10 lbs. less than I did a couple of months ago and either:  1. It's helping ... or 2. The stars and/or planets are aligning themselves again.  When I hit the 6.2 mile mark this morning (10K distance) I noted my time.  1 hour, 7 min.  Not great by any means ..... I've certainly done better, but I wasn't really trying that hard either.  So I'm okay with it.

According to those mysterious people called "They".... who SAY a lot of stuff....   research has shown that, on average, runners get two seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose.  So, for example, a 10-pound loss would shave about one minute off your 5K race time.  Not bad, eh?  But in three and a half years, I've only run one official 5K and I don't keep track of my 5K pace.  I focus more on 10Ks.  T'would be really nice to just do a 5K, but I never sign up for them.  Reasons:  There's usually a 10K offered in the same race for the same price, and my frugal nature demands I get the most for my money.  Plus, I know I CAN run 6.2 miles.  Plus my beloved running-friends all go for the 10Ks.  So there it is.  (I might have to recruit some new calmer-and-less-crazed friends because some of my current ones are pushing past 10Ks and I just don't want to get caught up in the momentum.  Been there.  Done that.)

Well, this certainly was a boring post but hey, it's Monday.  However, when you read that I've lost "almost 10 lbs.", it SHOULD have snapped you to attention!  'Cause I'm dang-pleased about it.  More on THAT soon.  
Just something pretty from my yard.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chased by slugs

Okay, here's the thing.  In all honesty, my major motivator to run has been to stay ahead of those 20+ pounds that I lost over three years ago which have been chasing me ever since.  I literally run from them.  If I stop or slow down, they WILL catch up and attach themselves permanently onto my pear-shaped lower half.  My minor motivator has been an effort to stay within a certain range of fitness so as to be able to participate in running events in an acceptable manner because those events are!   And that's it.  Do I run because I love it?  No.  Only that I LOVE what it does for me.

Since the advent of our 10 week fitness challenge, just over 9 weeks ago, I have been successful in losing approximately 8 pounds so far, placing me solidly in my pre-30s weight range.  Yes!  Ta-da!  But my brain has wandered onto the thought that I don't NEED to run as much.  The fitness challenge works!  If I just stay in a fitness challenge forever, who needs running?  I could just walk - which is much easier and actually IS fun to do, regardless of the benefits.

This new thought is a bit unsettling.  I KNOW of the power of motivation.  It drives everything I do.  Without it, I would most surely turn into a big useless SLUG.  And I'm not just talking about diet and exercise ..... everything I do is because I'm motivated to do it.  Think about it.  It's true for you too.  And we can only hope that our motivation is good, meaning we're not motivated by greed, pride, jealousy, etc., and instead we are motivated by integrity, love, righteous desires, health, size 6 jeans, and so forth.  Therefore, losing motivation to do something good, is not good.

Another motivator is habit.  They say to develop a habit, do it everyday for 30 days.  Yeah right.  For BAD habits, yes, it works quite well.  But good habits -- not so much.  I'm not sure how long one must do it for it to become deeply embedded in one's routine, but a month is definitely NOT enough.  I think we need to bump up the timeframe to a number ending in years.

Having been a runner for 3.5 years now ..... is it enough?  Have I developed a habit strong enough to carry me?  I don't know.  I WANT to be a runner for as long as I physically can, but I don't know if I'll want to RUN that long.  There IS a difference, you know.  I want to BE it, as opposed to wanting to DO it.  But wanting-to-be is also a motivator.

So even though I'm not currently being chased by unwanted pounds, I will always be chased by slugs.  Particularly a certain BIG one with my name on it.
Ee-yew ....  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rah Rah RUN !!

If I like something, surely everyone else MUST like it too, right?  And when I'm passionate about something, then why the heck are you all just sitting there??  Let's feel it!

I'm again attempting to whip up enthusiasm in a group of non-runners, or I should say, pre-runners as I present to them reasons THEY need to run.   So let's put our heads together and figure out how I can inspire some pavement-pounding calorie burn.

Who is this group?  20-somethings who have recently landed in my world, who are still feeling pretty invincible and for the most part, have no clue of the evil that awaits them around the eventual corner of their 40th birthday.  Namely loss of youthful stamina and the dreaded middle-age spread, among other obnoxious things.  How do I motivate them to head off the problem before it shows up?  How to I make them want to run?

Regular exercise is the BEST prevention of dementia, heart disease, obesity, depression, bone problems, diabetes, etc., not to mention ... early death.  But when you're barely out of your teens, who cares about 20-30 years in the future?  They WANT that video game and cheese burger now.   They probably don't even know what dementia IS and surely their knees with carry them forever.

But I'm gonna try.  I'll give it my best because I just KNOW that if someone had tried to inspire me to run about 30 years ago, I would have been all ... over ...... it ........... okay maybe not.   So I'll poke, prod, and pep-talk them out the door and onto the sidewalks.  And maybe, just maybe, a budding runner will emerge from the pack and make us, and all future cardiologists, proud.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cross Training in the weeds.

The problem that I have with yards, more specifically my backyard, is that three out of the four seasons, I'm either working in it, or feeling guilty for NOT working in it.  That's one of the FEW things I like about winter -- no yard work and no guilt.  Well actually there's always guilt .... it just shifts inside to, among many things, my bathroom shower and the clutter in my sewing room.

Spring hits western Oregon in March although the weeds have been thriving for a good month before that.  Since the calendar still says Winter, I try to ignore the glaring evidence of several-months-worth of neglect for as long as possible.  But after three sunny days this week, I had to go assess the condition of what's enclosed inside my back fence.
In our previous back yard, we foolishly planted maple trees.  And after years of dealing with the mountains of leaves they drop, I declared Never Again.  So of course in this yard, we planted maple trees.  Lots of them.  Japanese maples.   I reasoned -- the leaves are little.  They'll helpfully dissolve into mulch before evaporating entirely.    Not.  This morning I raked until the bin was full with the first of many loads to come. 
Behind it you can see the lawn mower that refused my attempts to awaken it from its winter slumber.

Then there are the grape vines which fill us with hope each year, that they may actually produce a grape someday.
We waited seven years for deck stairs to be built and this plot of dirt under and around it patiently sat empty until post-construction when it could be filled with hostas and other shade loving plants that will hopefully thrive on neglect. 
On a happy note, this lovely little thing called a daphne, blooms and smells wonderful in the early spring, when I'm rarely out there to notice it.  
This is the aftermath of a Christmas castle that lived for a month in our basement.
Speaking of neglect, here is my little up-and-coming patch of tulips that bloom their pretty little heads off in a spot that, like the daphne, seldom gets seen.  
Husband Dear got the mower to wake up and do its thing.  
A pile of leaves to be carted off, lots of weeds, my little blueberry patch in the corner that produced an impressive crop last year, and a couple of our fruit trees that produced a lot of wormy fruit.  (This year we plan to fix that problem.)
Last summer I managed to ignore my yard other than mowing the grass and yes, there was guilt.  But this year, with the stairs finally done, I plan to get my rear in gear and bring it back to its former glory.  New bark dust, more flowers (that I will hate by late August), and BBQ plans.  Yes!  This will be the year!  Oh and I might add, we discovered the brilliance of hiring a landscaper, AKA someone-who-actually-LIKES-yard-work.  (!!)

And what, you ask, does this have to do with running?  Not a thing.  Except that after I've done my daily run, I seldom have energy to do much of the above.  So I've decided that yard work, although not aerobic, IS exercise and shall be counted as such in my mental checklist.   Cross training?  Absolutely.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Fortunately I handle change quite well .... particularly when it's my idea.  Too often, I'm impatient for it to happen.   I am notorious for gazing wistfully at the grass on the other side of the fence, forgetting to notice how luscious and green it is where I'm standing.  But then, after a change comes along and another page is turned in my own Book of Life, sometimes the passage of time causes the grass in the old pasture to appear more and more green.  The nauseatingly cutesy phrase, "Bloom where you're planted" is truly advice meant for me, in case the rest of you were wondering who the heck it was talking about.  And you may also be wondering what the heck I'm talking about here.

Change has reared its head again in my world.  But this time it was NOT my idea.  My entire church life has been uprooted and moved to another town and to another congregation.  Husband and I are leaving, for a few years, our comfy old congregation in which we've been nestled for over three decades.  In said comfy congregation, AKA "ward" in LDS terminology, we have evolved from baby-toting newlyweds, to our current gray-haired status of grandparents.  (And many thanks to Revlon for  keeping the gray under wraps.)  In the LDS lifestyle, one's ward is almost literally an extension of one's family and demands a great deal of time and focus in one's life.  Our ward-family helped to raise our kids and for that we will always be grateful.  It has also loved and befriended Husband and me, and has tolerated our attempts to serve in its midst.  We, in turn, have happily returned the favor.  

But now we will make another attempt to serve by providing some leadership in a ward comprised entirely of a precarious subgroup of the human species called Young Adults.  Unmarried Young Adults, I might add.  Eons ago, I was one of them in a similarly unmarried state, attending such a ward when I was living away from home at college.

Husband tends to go from busy to busier to off-the-charts busy in his church responsibilities; usually transitioning from one to the next without a moment to catch his breath.  He will lead this new ward and although at first he felt entirely overwhelmed at the prospect, no one of whom I can think is a better fit or better prepared for the job.  And I'm not alone in that opinion.  My role on the home front, has always been waging the battle of insisting that he take care of himself and to make sure there's always a clean shirt in his closet.  Hence my ironing board is always up and ready.  Plus I will do whatever is needed to help hold things together at church which, to my dismay, will likely involve frequent trips to Costco and baking truckloads of brownies that I will try NOT to eat.  Yeah, as if.

Fortunately, our old comfy ward will still be there when we come back.  And it will be there as we return for visits.  But for now, and for the next few years, we will have to step up our pace to keep up with this new group who will probably add more gray for Revlon to hide.   And it'll be my choice to love this change and not only to bloom in this new pasture, but to also, along with the brownies, toss a little fertilizer on those younger sprouts who will be blooming with me.

And ..... there will be running.