My Why – This Triathlon Thing…

JQN_0586-(ZF-5809-28111-1-001)I realize that’s it’s been a really long time since my last post. I have lots of reasons, or should I call them excuses, maybe. Busy… yes, just like everyone else, only I’m “retired”. All of those things that I thought I would have time for – well, I’m not quite sure what happened there.  I will say, what I am doing, I do love. No it’s not all fun and games, but I’m very grateful to have the opportunities that I do have. Thank you to my hard working husband for allowing me this freedom earlier in my years than most get to have it!

About this triathlon stuff, it’s not really the fun part of my retirement. While I’m trying to keep the positive thoughts going, I have to admit that it’s not easy for me.  If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that injury has been a huge part of my journey in this stuff. I’m embarrassed to say that after all of this time, injury is still a part of my journey. I posted a photo journal awhile back if you want to check it out. “Coping with Injury…” I haven’t had a break from physical therapy in over a year and a half now. It’s only been about six weeks since I graduated to bi-weekly rather than weekly visits. Even with insurance though, this stuff gets expensive! Let’s not forget to mention all the appointments with the specialists that keep sending me to physical therapy!

For those who might need the nutshell scoop to catch up, here you go. Just skip this paragraph if you’ve been along for the ride. Since my husband inspired me to start this athlete type activity about four years ago now, I’ve had just about every piece and part of this body from the neck down worked on. The list includes feet, ankles, calves, knees, hips, upper and lower spine, shoulders, arms, hand… The biggies that forced the cycles of extended time off followed by having to start all over again were: a stress fracture in the hip, two major abdominal surgeries, herniated disks with nerve impingement in the upper and lower spine, sciatica, a partial tear of the hamstring from the hip bone and bone contusions from a bike crash. Things that remain on going and cause flare ups along the kinetic chain include arthritis, sciatic nerve pain, bursitis, and tendonitis, as well as nerve pain from multiple cysts in the spine.

So really, who does this? Shouldn’t I be a poster child for something?

And then there is this thing you have to do at the very beginning of a triathlon called swimming. It’s been almost as The sky is not y limit
challenging for me as the injuries, or so it feels like it is anyway. I started taking lessons a year and a half ago and I am just now feeling like I’m starting to get it. Even still though, I feel anxiety every time I get in the pool. In the last couple months I had to start swimming in open water. That’s a whole new challenge I’m having to overcome in.

You might be thinking, “Give it up already, lady!” I admit, I do ask myself why I don’t give up. I ask it pretty often, too. So for both of us today, I’m putting it down in writing, so I can remind myself whenever I need to, why I do this.  Here goes.

  • Exercise is healthy for my body. It’s going to hurt regardless of what I do or don’t do, so why not let it hurt for my good.
  • It makes me stronger. My bumper sticker: “Strong is what’s left when you’ve used up all your weak.”WIN_20150601_130942
  • I’m happier with my appearance. Not too bad for a retired lady. My husband is happy, too!
  • It’s a way I can be good to myself.
  • I get multiple rewards from it, as you can see.
  • I get metals. I think I’ve become a metal junkie.WIN_20150601_132408
  • It gives me a goal to work toward. My first half Ironman, 70.3 miles, is in October this year.
  • It makes me mentally stronger. I have to get past the tough workouts in my mind before I can physically accomplish them. When my body says “no”, my mind says “go”.
  • I found an awesome coach who says she will never give up on me. If you’re looking for a coach, check out this bio!
  • I’ve learned I can do far more than my mind or anyone else thought I could. This is a huge reward for me.
  • I love the freedom I feel when I run and bike.
  • I get to watch the moon set and the sun rise when I’m out on my workouts.Sunrise
  • When I’m doing a workout I can meditate, refocus and regroup from whatever life is throwing my way.
  • I can sing, talk to myself and even throw my hands in the air like I just don’t care. Of course, I’m more apt to do these things when I’m in a deserted area.
  • It’s great stress relief. Yes, retired people still have stress.
  • I’ve made lots of new friends and they’re awesome!
  • I get lots of support and encouragement from these new friends. We’re all in this together.
  • It gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  • It keep me disciplined.
  • It causes me to eat healthier as I know my body needs fuel to function properly.
  • It causes me to be more sensitive about being sure to get proper sleep each night.
  • I sleep better!
  • I can reward myself with desserts on occasion and the calories don’t stick to my thighs!
  • It makes me feel younger.
  • It’s empowering.
  • My husband is proud of me. He likes the results, too.
  • It enables me to participate in a sport with my husband, giving us more time together.
  • We’ve been able to take several trips together for races. We’ve run in some beautiful places. Kona Tri Start LineSmith Rock Half MarathonMountains 2 BeachBarcelona

I’m sure there are more reasons that aren’t coming to mind right now, but you get the idea. I have many good reasons to keep doing this triathlon thing! So for now, the plan is to continue. I have days when I can’t do what I want or what’s on the schedule, but I do what I can, when I can. I am smarter about my training and recovery. I listen to my body and I do recovery in “beast mode”. I do my physical therapy exercises and stretches. I use my recovery tools – foam roller, rumble roller, PVC pipe and the stick. I ice and heat the different pieces and parts daily, sometimes multiple times. I’ve done injections, dry needling and nerve blocks. I even have a home traction unit and I use it!

My why? Because it’s worth it! I’m worth it!

I’ve been told from time to time, that I’m an inspiration. I’ve been inspired by others at times, but it’s usually an emotional reaction, not inspiration that moves me. I might be mentally stimulated to “feel, but the best kind of inspiration for me is inspiration that moves me to do, to act. My husband inspired me to start running. The joy and enthusiasm he had moved me to action.

Maybe you read my list and saw things that you would like for yourself. How often do we see what someone else has and we want it, but never take the steps necessary to get there. We have reasons, or are they excuses, as to why we can’t do the same. This can apply to many things in our lives.

Running 1There is nothing amazing or inspiring about me. I’m just like you. I have bad days, I have disappointments, issues, and times I don’t want to work out or don’t feel like working out. So how did I get here? One day at a time, one workout at a time. I overcame each negative thought, one at a time. I overcame each injury, each setback, one at a time. Each step in the right direction gets me closer to where I want to be. Progress is often slow, but slow progress is still progress.

What’s your goal? What’s that big thing you want for yourself, that change you need to make? What’s stopping you? If I can do it, you can do it, too. Anybody can do it! So why not take that first step? Take it now before you change your mind!Do it NowJust do it

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The Trial-Athlete

th_AthleteEverydayYes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but life certainly hasn’t been without adventure!  For the athlete friends out there, I’ll give a quick injury update.  Since my hamstring tear last October, I’ve slowly been moving back into running, swimming and biking.  Slow progress is still progress, but there have been a couple more setbacks along the way.   It truly has been two steps forward, one step back ever since the long string of injuries started.  So many pieces and parts of this gosh darn kinetic chain have been affected, it’s all starting to become a blur now. I was allowed to start doing some easy walking and biking in December.  I was able to start swimming with a pull buoy and add Santa Barbara Racewalk/run intervals about the middle of January.  I made gradual progress to the point that my coach was able to schedule my workouts in miles of running instead of minutes of running at the beginning of May.  Even though my longest straight run had only been 3 miles at that point, I was able to do The Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, which was May 10th, using run/walk intervals.  Even at turtle speed, it felt awesome!  I have to say, Santa Barbara was the hilliest 13.1 mile course this flatlander has ever done, but it was the most beautiful ever!  Add in perfect weather and the wine at the finish line, do I really need to say more?  No, but I will.  It was awesome! Cabo marinaThe Santa Barbara race was the start of our vacation, a great start!  We flew from there to Cabo San Lucas.  Did I mention the race was the hilliest ever?  The combination of hills from the race, walking the hills of Cabo into town and at least two beach walks in the sand each day, plus a few training runs around the marina…  I suppose I overdid it.  My calves were toast.  So there you have it, one step back. Cabo beach I was just getting back out on the road again last week, more so with cross training still, but my calves were recovering.  Last Tuesday I was enjoying a wonderful ride on my bike.  I’ve been happy that I was finally getting my average speed back up to where it was before the hamstring thing.  I like riding where there isn’t a lot of traffic.  The problem with that though is, there isn’t a lot of traffic.  If you run into an issue, you’re pretty much on your own.  The more desolate roads around the desert aren’t always the quality of the busier roads, either.  I was drinking from my water bottle, hit a bump, and swerved off the road into sand deep enough to bring my tire to an abrupt stop, thus throwing me into the road.  Isn’t is bruised legfunny how even in the middle of nowhere, you still look around to see if anyone saw you fall?  Yes, I did that first, before I got myself off the road.  After a few minutes catching my breath and examining my wounds, I decided I had to be tough and ride home, blood and all.  After all, isn’t that what athletes do, suck it up, ignore the pain and move on?  The problem was, my chain had come off and I wasn’t able to get it back on Josiah Racingwith my injured hand, so I had to humble myself and call my husband to come rescue me.  Thankfully, nothing was broken, no stitches required, just a very bruised, swollen hip, sprained hand and a bruised, road rash covered elbow.  Apparently, there was a benefit from the crash.  According to my son, a racing team cyclist, I now have something called “street cred”.   That’s respect among the cycling community, so I guess that makes up for the pain, right! My Doctor said it could take four weeks for the swelling to go down and the bruising to disappear.  The Physical Therapist said I can swim with the pull buoy still, aqua jog lightly for now, but NO running or even walk/run intervals until the swelling goes down.  And in my mind I’m saying, “But don’t you understand, I’m already signed up for another half in August and September?!?!”  You runners that have dealt with injuries are tracking with me, right?  You’ve been there too! And there you have it, one step back yet again! It appears that I will always have something to deal with, as most of my issues have been stirred up by problems with my spine and impinged sciatic nerves.  The doctor’s encourage me to continue, as it’s important to stay active and healthy and my activity is not going to cause my condition to get worse.  I will have pain regardless, but if I stop moving, I’ll stop moving, period and that isn’t healthy.  I do get injections and see a Physical Therapist weekly, however, as long as I can avoid medication or surgery, I will keep doing what I love. I’ve titled this post, “The Trial-Athlete”, but not because of me and my silly injuries.  I’m thinking way beyond what I’ve dealt with.  I’m not a minimizing my “adventures” here.  I’m just looking at them from a different perspective in this post. My mind is drawn to some unsung heroes in my life.  Let me just tell you a little bit about them.  I won’t name names today, so to those who know me, no reason to be nervous. lonelinessThere is the friend who has spent years, almost a lifetime dealing with her disease.  It’s very difficult to manage, as her body doesn’t want to cooperate as it should.  It’s not only challenging, it’s risky, even life threateningly dangerous at times.  Her husband died several years ago and she remains home alone most days, missing him terribly.  She doesn’t remain home alone by choice.  You see, she’s had a series of falls, eleven of them!  Each has resulted in bad breaks of her arms, legs, hips and pelvis, each requiring surgery and rehab.  It’s now very difficult for her to get around.  Yes, she has times she gets discouraged, very discouraged, yet each time I see her rally her will and her mind to stay positive and move forward, even if it’s through tears that she does it. There is the friend who found herself a single parent with more children than most of us have.   Any of you who have been single tear fallingparents can relate to the difficult challenges that this role presents to an already wounded mom or dad.  That wasn’t her plan when she married him.  Life wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  This wasn’t her dream for herself or her kids.  And if that isn’t enough, imagine if it were you as the parent and one of your children were handicapped and now a teenager that you have to do everything for.  This has been the case for 15 years already and will be the case for a lifetime.  Somehow she does it.  She’s not just trying to survive.  She is putting herself through school at the same time.  She does it well!  Even if it’s through tears. There is the friend whose career dreams were brought abruptly to a halt by a serious accident before she could even finish college.  Severe spinal injuries have caused her a lifetime of pain and suffering as a result.  Years after the first accident, a doctor was finally able to do a surgery that enabled her to walk again.  Her dreams had a chance to be reawakened, as it appeared she had been gifted a moment of hope that life could return to normal again.  Within weeks, those dreams were violently torn from her grasp when she became the victim in another serious accident.  Not only would she not be able to walk normally, she returned to a life of constant pain with many other complications to numerous and graphic to describe here.  While she has every reason to be angry and bitter, she is one of the sweetest, kindest, and most loving people I’ve had the privilege to share life with.  She just wants to love people, even in pain, even through tears. There are others who have had their lives drastically and tragically changed in an instant.  The friend who lost her son…  I just can’t imagine how devastating that would be.  The friends who have lost spouses… parents… other loved ones…  Those are life altering events.  You live with the aftermath for the rest of your breathing days. That’s the type of unsung hero I’m talking about.  Talk about an ability to endure!  When the accidents and surgeries are past, when the diagnosis has been given and the torturous treatments are ongoing, when there is never going to be any relief for the pain, when the funeral is over, the obituary archived and everyone has gone home, these heroes are left to live with their lifelong “new normal”. Runners work hard to train for the Marathon, really hard.  Triathletes work hard to train for the triathlon or the Iron Man, really hard!  They spend agonizing hours alone out there on the road or in the water, keeping those tired, heavy arms and legs moving forward.  Training is often in the dark, before or after work or through inclement weather that we don’t even like to leave home to drive our cars in.  Yes, they certainly have endured when they cross that finish line and they deserve that medal!  They’ve built up an pats run finish lineincredible ability to endure and that strength and endurance carries over into other areas of life.  It leaves them with a sense of achievement.  They’ve accomplished something beyond what they thought months before they would never be able to do.  It’s an incredible feeling!  And yes, you get addicted to it, so most of us do it to ourselves over and over again.  The thing is, we do it by choice.   Our race has a date and a finish line. The unsung heroes I’m talking about never would have chosen the circumstances that brought their pain.  Yet they do it day after day, month after month and year after year and they survive.  There aren’t crowds cheering for them along the course or people handing them water and nourishment every few miles.  Some are lucky enough to have a good network of support around them, but unfortunately, most do not.  Their race involves more than just a few hours of their time.  There is no medal to display in their home.  There is no finish line for them, at least not as long as they are breathing the air of this world. grace quoteTalk about an ability to endure!  These unsung heroes have it!  That’s a special gift.  I call it a gift of grace.  That’s how they survive.  They live day by day, one day at a time.  They live on the grace or the strength they have for that day.  Most days they don’t “feel” strong.  They might not even want to be strong anymore, yet they make it, one more breath, one more step, one more day.  And while it may appear that they do it alone most of the time, the friends I’m talking about, know they aren’t alone.  They know where their help comes from.  Their help comes from the maker of heaven and the creator of this world.  Yes, they have unanswered questions as to why, yet they trust their God for the strength to make it.  They trust in a God that enabled them to overcome and push through tragedy, disease, painful suffering and heartache.  Anger and bitterness have been exchanged for kindness, forgiveness and love.  They are true trial-athletes! Many are inspired by the athletes who train and compete in a race for finish lines and medals.  Look around at the forgotten, shoulder for cryingunsung heroes you share life with.   They are still running their race, often injured and their finish line is still years down the road.  Their legs and arms get tired.  It’s hard and it hurts.  They shed tears out on the course.  Keep cheering for them.  Step up and pass them a cup of cold water or nourishment from time to time, whether it be just a smile, a card, a text or phone call, a hug…  Let them know they are heroes in your eyes and that you’re sticking with them for the long haul!  By doing so, you will have entered yourself in a race.  It’s a race with no finish line and no medal on this earth, but the rewards are far better!  You will become that special gift in their lives and you too, will build an ability to endure.  Just watch out though.  You might become addicted!  I hope so!

Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honor by the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1 – 2 (TBL)

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Cor. 4:17 (NIV)

Following My Dreams

Follow Your DreamsWow!  Could it just be so easy?  To wake up each day and have the freedom to let the day carry you, to follow your whims based on how you feel each day.  To wake up and be “there” already, that place you imagine will keep you happy for the rest of your life, no difficulties, hardships, no struggles to push through.  It’s just there, given to you right up front, waiting for your toes to break the surface of that refreshing water.  Oh, to be able to lounge on that raft, floating through the white puffy clouds into time and space in perfect peace for the rest of your time on earth.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  Wouldn’t the world be a happier place if we could all just do that?  Follow your dreams…

Honestly, I’ve been trying to follow my dreams for more than 50 years now, but it just hasn’t been that easy for me.  How unfair is that?  Why is it that some people just seem to fall into their dream and others have to work so hard to get there?

Statistically speaking, the number of people who get to fall into their dreams early in life can be counted on fingers compared to the vast billions that have to work long and hard toward them.

There is something to be said about the struggle to get there.  The struggle isn’t a separate entity from the dream.  It’s a divine part butterfly.coccoonof the dream.   Remember the caterpillar, the cocoon and the butterfly?

There’s something to be said about the rocky road, the crooked path, the twists, the hairpin turns, the unplanned detours, the flat tires.  They aren’t just part of the road you travel to reach your destination.  The journey and the destination are one.  You can’t have one without the other.

crooked pathThere’s something to be said for the difficult people placed along the path in your dream.  Human nature would dictate that you circle around and avoid such people.  Don’t waste your time on them, you don’t need the drama.  Who do you think makes you a better person?  They do!  Iron sharpens iron, so go ahead and rub shoulders with the cold hard ones.

An ancient history book says that trouble and suffering are good for us.  They lead us to have the strength to endure and persevere.  Endurance develops our character.  Character gives us hope.  Good character helps us reach and keep that which we hope for.  It’s a progression.  It’s the way life works.  You can’t have one without the other.   (Ancient history book, aka The Bible, Romans 5:3-5, James 1:3-4)

Follow Your Dreams.2

That said, in actuality I’m already “there”.  I’ve been “there” all along, even when it didn’t appear so, feel so and I didn’t think so.   Whether it be good times or bad on this journey, all the circumstances and events have been working together to make me new and better day by day.   I’m living the dream and choosing to enjoy the ride.

“A Fall Apart Just Waiting to Happen”…

fall apart puzzelYep, that’s me!  You’ve probably heard people describe someone as, “an accident waiting to happen.”  Well, “a fall apart waiting to happen” is kind of the same thing.  I’ve found myself feeling this way on occasion lately.  You know, those days that all of us feel at some point, no matter how positive we try to be.  Not one of us walking on this planet is totally immune to negative thoughts and feelings that attack our mind and emotions. 

If you’ve read my blog, you may already know of the ongoing struggle that I’ve had with running injuries.   I talkedfall apart poster about the last MRI report in a post called, “Coping with Injury, a Photo Journal”.  I did have a little fun with that post!  It’s been about three months since then and I’m just starting to get back into a few easy workouts each week.  My body sure doesn’t want to cooperate, though.   Add the ongoing spine and sciatic nerve issues into that hip and hamstring mix, and right there you have what sounds like an old lady just complaining about all her ailments.  I sooooo, never wanted it to be this way!     

Gumby stretchesI’ve had some other minor health things creep in on top of those I’ve mentioned.  It’s so frustrating when you go to your Primary Care Physician and they have to send you off to other specialists.  I’ve got six different doctors I am seeing and a seventh I’m avoiding.  Well, maybe I’m avoiding the sixth one, too.   Regardless, I feel like I’ve been pieced and parted out in so many directions.  The healthcare system must think I’m like a Gumby figure and each doctor is stretching a different body part in their direction.  Gumby meltsFrankly, even with all the stretching, I’m just not that flexible!  And then you have all the specialist’s higher copays!  I’ll stop right there with that discussion.  The state of our healthcare system is not the hot topic than I wanted to get into today.  Let’s not make Gumby have a melt down!

The point is, I’ve had a few days when I wake up feeling like all of these little irritations and inconveniences have been combined together into this huge glob.  The ugly glob is present, just waiting to greet me when I open my eyes.  It sits on my chest, its weight causing pressure, its toxic gases filling my lungs, its fog clouding my vision and infiltrating my thoughts.  For whatever reason, this day, it’s difficult to shake off.   I feel consumed by it.  I stumble through the dark to the kitchen to make coffee.  The shadow follows.  Maybe the caffeine will help.  I turn on the Fear.1computer.  Maybe there will be something positive and uplifting in my inbox or on Facebook.  But before I can even have my first sip or sign in to anything, an all too familiar fear creeps in.  It’s been awhile, but I’ve felt this before.  Its fear of some impending doom, some catastrophe that’s just waiting to knock on my door.  My cell phone rings with an unknown number.  This is it that call I knew would come… 

Tell me I’m not the only one!  You’ve been there, too, haven’t you!  It doesn’t happen as often anymore, but there was a long season in my life, when this was the way I felt most days.  I would eventually be able to shake it off, but only to have the glob visit again the next day. 

One of my son’s has become very interested in cycling.  He joined a racing team and had his first race this past weekend.  I was photo (34)excited for him as we made the hour drive to the race location.  The course was about a mile loop that participants had to circle many times.  A good part of the course was out of our view, and the multicolored kit clad riders were going by so fast.  I had a hard time seeing my son each time he made his way past our vantage point.  Twice during the race, the announcer shouted over a speaker, “There’s been a crash on the course!”  Can you guess where I’m going with this story?  There it was that feeling of impending dome.  Thankfully, my son was not involved in either of the crashes and there were no serious injuries, but those minutes spent waiting to see him go by were pretty intense for a mom.

Blob.1I’m no psychologist able to say what causes a person to feel this way, but I can speak from my own experience.  That fear of impending dome, the feelings of some foreboding evil hovering nearby, just waiting to swoop down and pounce on my head, that kind of fear was learned over time.   The situations in life that were real, such as living with an abusive alcoholic and addict that did cause physical harm, actually being the victim at the end of a knife or sawed off shot gun, receiving those dreaded phone calls with bad news, living through an emergency medical situation with my body being the one transported in an ambulance or having to many visits to emergency rooms with people you love…  When it happens enough, you learn fear.  When you combine those real situations with the ones that you begin to imagine and then come to expect, well, there you’ve just created the ultimate Halloween cocktail!  And let me tell you, it’s a fear filled, seductively strong drink!

Fear isn’t something to be messed with.  Fear is destructive, even devastating.  It will hold you down, even suffocating your very last breath.  Fear keeps us in a dead, dry place.  It keeps us from really living.  It keeps us out of healthy relationships.  We won’t take the risk to care and love.  It holds us back in our careers; it keeps us from reaching our goals and even keeps us from daring to have any dreams to chase after.  It keeps us small, keeps us invisible and unnoticed.  Fear is an evil prison guard that keeps us locked in a very cold, damp and dark place.

Courage poster.1

So how do you get out of it, break free?  Like I said, I’m no physiologist, so what works for me, might not be the same as what worksBravery.1 for you.  First of all, you have to be able to recognize whether the fear you feel is the healthy kind that keeps you safe or if it’s a fear that’s debilitating to you.  If it’s hurting you, it needs to go!  Recognizing that it’s an issue is a huge victory in itself.  You have to recognize something is broken before you will attempt to fix it.  Even taking a risk to consider it might be an issue takes courage.  Be brave.

I have to break in for important practical advice right here.  If you are in an unsafe place, like an abusive situation, get out now.  I know it takes great courage to take this step.  It may require knowledge of resources available to help.  Know there is help and there are safe places to go.  There are agencies that can help online.  Find them where you are.  You have to protect your physical body from harm before you can work on your emotional wellbeing.  Please, be brave!

Once you recognize that fear is something that is hurting you, it’s not like you can just tell it to go away.  You can only do that when it first makes an ugly appearance.  Once you’ve allowed fear to move in and stay with you, you’ve fed it and allowed it to grow, it’s Cat couragenot so easy.  The truth is we all need help with things like this.  We were not meant to do this life alone.  Other people were put on this earth so we wouldn’t have to be alone.  I don’t care how independent you are.  It might be fear that made you feel a need to be such an independent person and if that’s the case, fear has just succeeded l in keeping you in prison.  I’m saying this, not to cause anyone to feel under attack, but as one who allowed the ugly life situations cause me to put on, “Miss Independent”, as a banner across my chest for a good number of years.  I remember one occasion just before entering into my third marriage.  I can still see myself standing outside on a dark driveway, screaming into the face of my soon to be spouse, “You’re not going to make me your slave, you’re not going to tell me what to do…!”  It’s amazing that he still married me after that little explosion.   My point is, don’t try to break free on your own.  Positive, encouraging friends with wise advice, churches or professional counselors, they are all there for you to get help.   Take the risk to join the human race again and connect with other people to help you.  This too, takes courage.  Be brave!

Since I wasn’t intending to write a book today, I’ll wrap this up.  My almost last piece of advice would be this.  When you first see Courage.1that glob trying to make another appearance, whether it be a little thought, feeling or a little action to pass it a tasty morsel and feed it again, immediately stop yourself.  You have to stop it dead in its tracks.  Don’t entertain it, not even for a second.  If you need help to do this, then make that call or send that text.  Fill yourself with all the positive encouragement and support you can get your mind, eyes, ears and hands on.  Your life is on the line here.  All of your relationships, goals, and dreams have one thing in common.  They need you to be healthy in order to have them to the full extent that they were meant to be had.  It’s worth the effort and you are totally worth it!  If you blew it yesterday, today is a new day.  Be brave!

Lastly, I’m no longer going to think of myself as “a fall apart waiting to happen”.  Yes, the health issues seem to continue, but I’m Strong and Courageous.1choosing to focus on the good.  I have supportive friends and family.   I know that I’m in the good hands of doctors who will do the best they can within our healthcare system; to do what’s right for me.  Best of all and what brings me the biggest strength, I believe I’m in the good hands of a loving God who is big enough to take care of me in this broken world.  Bad things do happen, but he works it for good on my behalf.  It takes courage to let go of control and trust an unseen entity with the details of my life, but my experience tells me, God is really good at what he does.  He’s always come through for me, every time!   I can be strong and courageous because I’m not doing this alone.  Yes, I will be brave!

Embrace Your Joy!

photo 4Christmas is one of my absolute favorite times of the year and it’s obvious when you look around my home.  I’ve just spent the last two weeks decorating, so yes, it’s very evident that I love Christmas!  The holidays bring me great joy!

Joy is an appropriate topic for today’s post because after all, tis the season!  My post is inspired by a few things.  One of those inspirations is Nelson Mandela.  People who spread love and good will in our world are a great source of inspiration and much can be learned from the legacy that this man left behind.  While the world mourns his passing, those closest to him are dealing with intense grief at the moment.  Joy is the farthest thing from their minds.

As a matter of fact, this season is one that many can’t find joy in.  Accidents still happen.  People lose their lives.  Disease is still diagnosed.  Employees lose their jobs.  Bills still come in the mailbox.  Families break apart.  Depression and suicides increase.  Life doesn’t suddenly change to cookies, glitter and snow angels when Macy’s Santa arrives in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Transforming my home and singing carols is more apt to cause people in these situations to be even more depressed.

So, how can I write about joy when there is so much pain and disorder around me?  You knew I was going to answer that, didn’t photo 5you.  My own life hasn’t been all happy and joyful, nor have all of my Christmas seasons been filled with gifts and shiny things.  If you’ve read my blog before, you know that.  I’ve experienced Christmas with accidents, loss, illness, no money, bills, break ups and brokenness, so I understand how difficult this time of year can be.  No, I wasn’t happy with my circumstances during those times, but I was able to be grateful for what I did have and look for the bright side of whatever the situation was.  I’ve always found someone or something that inspires me to find joy.

Another source for my inspiration today is a member of the running team that my husband and I belong to.  I’ve photo 5 (2)never met her in person, but I’ve seen enough of her posts on our team website and Facebook, that I feel like I know her and for that, I am grateful.  Honestly, I’m grateful for all of our team as they all are wonderful people who encourage and support each other in all of the highs and lows that come with injuries, recoveries, victories and defeats.  We all need people like this in our lives.  Today, while I am not diminishing the rest of our team in anyway, I want to highlight one.  And here I go naming names again and this time I actually have permission.  My inspiration today is Nancy.

photo 1 (2)Each day, Nancy posts a little personal story and how she was able to find joy in her day, no matter if it was a good day or a bad day.  I’ve come to look forward to reading her, “Go embrace your joy” messages.  I want to share what she posted on facebook last week.  I’ll just copy and paste exactly what she posted, as I can’t say it any better.  Here you go:

“Your destiny is to fulfill those things upon which you focus most intently. So choose to keep your focus on that which is truly magnificent, beautiful, uplifting and joyful. Your life is always moving toward something.” ~Ralph Marston

“A few days ago I shared with you all that after having fallen into a funk in my life I sought the guidance of a therapist–a person who helped me develop the tools to carry me through the obstacles–to change my perspective of this incredible and many times challenging journey we call life. 

There are many who perceive anyone seeking help as being weak or unable to cope. Sadly seeking help for a photo 4 (2)broken bone, a headache, blurry vision, even a toothache has never been questioned by my friends, but the minute they heard that I was in therapy, some friends became quite uncomfortable–giving me a side-way glance or total silence as if my problems were contagious–as if may I have a screw loose or that I am nuts. The truth– I believe the judgment from others is one biggest reasons people do not seek intervention–they don’t want people to think they can’t figure out life on their own. But sadly this perception is so unfair.

What I have learned over the years is, if I already knew everything I could about life, than there is nothing more I could learn. There would be little or no reason for me to change, to evolve to transform my life. Unfortunately, unlike your car, we aren’t born with an owner’s manual to guide us through the trials–what to do when our own internal check engine light comes on. We learn to do what we have to do just to survive–that is what we are wired to do. 

With each passing year I worry less about what others think of me, something that I spent way too much time and energy doing in my past, electing to focus more on what I think of myself and the nurturing friendships that bring me joy. Am I a good person? Am I a compassionate person? Am I kind? Loving? Giving? Do I bring joy to others?

The truth is–not everyone will like me–my goal in life is not to give up who I am to be loved by others, to be liked by others–as long as I am kind and respectful, you get me in all my whacky doodle ways. I love to have fun–I find being happy and joyful takes far less work than being miserable and angry. And as I have come to believe there is joy to found every day–sometimes you have to look far and wide for it and other times it’s right before your eyes. 

HAPPY SATURDAY FRIENDS–GO EMBRACE YOUR JOY!!!!”

Nancy started writing her posts about joy when her therapist gave her a homework assignment to find at least one thing that bringsphoto 2 (2) her joy every day, even on the dark days.  She said that some days, it was just finding a penny on her run, or seeing a rainbow after a storm, or a smile from a stranger.  She wrote this about finding joy in another one of her posts.

“Finding joy is a choice– it’s about rewiring our brain to move from negativity that can became such a part of our lives, to finding joy in the simplest of things. Certainly I would love to take full credit for my epiphany, but life in all its ups and downs is meant to be shared. More times than not, the joy does not lie in others, but is buried deep within our own hearts–we just have to open our eyes, hearts and minds to this amazing gift.”

This blog is named what it is for a reason.  It’s my own quest to become more of a real person, not one who puts on the socially accepted mask, flashes a fake smile and pretends my life is like living in a rose garden every day.  While I do like shiny things and I’d like to make you think that if it were even possible that I would ever pass gas, I would emit tiny puffs of glitter, we all know that’s not really how it is.  I want to share in the real life journey we are all on, because we all need support and encouragement.  We all need the encouragement of people around us during the difficult times, like my running team does for me.

photo 3 (2)Nancy is being real.  She’s sharing what is uncomfortable, but what she is really doing is encouraging others to be better people.  Because she chooses to be authentic, I’m encouraged to listen.  Her words speak to my heart, therefore, I’m encouraged to grow and I too, can find joy.  Maybe she’s not doing it on the scale that Nelson Mandela did, but she’s doing her part to spread love and good will in our world.

The past several days, we’ve been privileged to hear more about Nelson Mandela’s life and what he stood for.  We’ve also heard many inspiring words of wisdom that were uttered through his lips.  They were really an overflow of his heart.  This particular quote got my attention.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.

If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Nelson Mandela 

photo 1Nelson Mandela was authentic, the real deal.  He spoke in a language that could be understood by all, because he spoke to something that is buried deep in the hearts of all.  It’s love and goodwill that speaks to us.  That’s the language of the heart.  So in this world where all that glitters isn’t gold, where it’s hard to find the true meaning of the season in the frenzy of activity and plastic trees, I’m hoping more of us will open our eyes, hearts and minds to look deep inside ourselves and others for those real gifts that are real and authentic.  Spread some of that love and goodwill around.  Go embrace your joy!

Thanks Nancy!

Let the Future Begin!!!

Red_Desert_ButtesYou’ve heard, “kids say the darndest things”, and indeed they do!  Having raised four children of my own, I can vouch for that.  I have to tell you about a particular little 7 yr. old boy that I met last week.  I’ll call him Jaxson.  I’ve been thinking about him ever since.  He was super sweet, yet kind of shy, and he had the roundest chubby cheeks framing his huge, playful grin.  As I talked, I asked him questions to get to know him a bit, but he would just quickly bob his head to respond.  He didn’t say much but, he did say one thing to me that I’ve thought about ever since.

He was telling me that he enjoyed reading.  His Grandma had given him a Bible for Christmas.  A Bible isn’t your average 2nd grade reading material, you know.  While his was a version designed for kids, it still has a hefty volume of text for a 2nd grader to wade through.  Jaxson said he had been reading his Bible, but he was having a problem.  He said, “Every time I start to read, I have to start over again because I don’t have a book mark”.  I had an urge to laugh, but just smiled as I explained that he could just use a piece of scrap paper for a book mark.  I wonder how many times he’s reread the story of creation.   “In the beginning…”  He couldn’t get past the beginning.

Jaxson’s little confession also caused a tear to well up in the corner of my eye, from a different place than where the laugh came from.  I baby hand with fatherwasn’t quite sure why.  Maybe I was just touched by the sweet innocence that was expressed by this child, but something about my experience with Jaxson had touched something deep in me.  His statement taunted me this week as it played over and over in my mind.  Now I know why it resonated with me.   Jaxson was stuck at the beginning and so was I.

Perhaps you’ve read some of my earlier posts where I have talked about being raped at knife point as a teenager and being physically abused in a previous marriage.  If you have personally experienced rape or abuse, you understand that the after affects can be extremely damaging and far reaching.  While I have previously gone through counseling and participated in recovery groups to find healing over the years, I am currently involved in yet another round of group therapy sessions.  I’m doing this as part of a training program to be able to facilitate support groups for women who have been abused, as I have.  By going through the sessions as a participant, I not only gain experience with group dynamics, but I’m forced to take an even deeper look at myself.  It seems that each time I go through this, still another elusive wounding is unearthed from the rubble of my past and I become more whole.  That’s a good thing!  It makes me a little easier to live with, so my husband should appreciate that.

Monument ValleyIn our recovery group, we have homework assignments to complete between sessions.  As a part of the homework this week, we were instructed to draw or find images that would serve as a visual prompt, a reminder of our healing, like a monument, a stone of remembrance.  I love stones!  I know that sounds strange, but there is just something about them that draws my gaze.  When we hike, I always take a stone from the trail home with me.  I live in the rocky state of Arizona.  The rock formations that may be drab to some are fascinating, even beautiful to me!  I was excited about this assignment, or so I thought.

Images of things that would serve as my “stone of remembrance” came to mind very quickly, but all the thoughts surrounding my stone lighthouse in wavemonuments were emotionally exhausting.  Today, my tangled mess of thoughts seemed to jell together to form a realization that sparked excitement.  It was an excitement that I once had, but had forgotten.  I had some moments of enlightenment that I won’t go into detail on in this post, but I can give you the bottom line.  Tough seasons of life over the years have dulled my expectations for my future.  Goals and dreams that I had imagined for my future hadn’t totally disappeared, but it was like I had placed the goals and dreams up on a very hard to reach shelf, in a perpetual place of waiting.  I truly believed in my heart they would happen someday, but not now and not anytime soon.  I would have to wait and wait and wait…  I had forgotten some of the lessons of the past.  I didn’t have those stone monuments in place to help me remember and I realized that I’ve been stuck.

I’ve been living my life like Jaxson has been reading his little Bible.  Each day, instead of moving forward to my future, I begin in the very bookmarkssame place, waiting…  I’ve spent years looking up at that shelf, longing for the day when I could take hold of those things.   Here I am at my age, still in the creation story and there is so much more ahead that I’ve been missing out on.  It’s like, I didn’t have a bookmark!

Going through another recovery group, yet again, will be my ladder.  I’m choosing to hoist this ladder through the darkness, through the dust and the cobwebs, as I ascend to that very hard to reach place.  I intend to take hold of that box, those goals and dreams.  This blog post will serve as as one of my stone monuments, my bookmark.  It’s not over yet, not even at this age.  I say, let the future begin!

The “Doright” Muscle – Work it!

bike at sunriseThis morning was beautiful here in AZ!  We had a brief, very brief, reprieve from our normally hot summer temperatures.  Our lows were in the 70’s this morning!  Normal lows this time of the year are upper 80’s to low 90’s so, yes, this was NICE!  I had a bike ride on my workout schedule today and the cooler temperature just added to my enjoyment!

I love my rides, almost as much as I do my running.  I don’t wear any headphones to listen to music on my rides.  It’s just safer that way.  I find that without music blaring in my ears, I’m much more focused on my thoughts.  Of course, family members and friends are always at the forefront of my thoughts and today was no different.

Another thing on my mind this morning was my workout schedule and how important it was to make sure I get my strength training done.  It’s not the focus of my workouts, but it is necessary for me to maintain the thing that is my focus, which is running.  Without the PHX Halfstrength training, all the supporting muscles won’t be able to handle the load that I put on the muscles used to run.  You know, how the leg bones connected to the hip bone.  I can have a strong leg, but the hip has to be able to support it.  If the supporting muscles aren’t strong, I run the risk of injury, which means no run at all.  Being on the injury list is extremely frustrating for a runner.  I speak from a place of a lot of experience on the subject of injury, so, no matter how busy the schedule, the strength training must be done.  It’s the right thing to do.

“What’s the point?” you ask.  Those two strings of my thoughts this morning; family, friends and muscles are closely tied.   You see, I know people who struggle with things and some of them struggle with their own will and doing what’s right.  Of course, we all have our struggles and we’ve all struggled with doing the right thing, but I see a relationship between them and muscles here.

When I started running, just over two years ago, I was over what the ideal weight should be for my build.  Like everyone else, I had tried all kinds of diets, cleanses, pills and exercise plans, for years actually.  I would have seasons of success, but before long, the weight would be back and whatever muscle I had gained, would disappear.  When I started running, I wasn’t doing it to lose weight or get healthy.  My only motivation was to be able to run so I could spend more time with my husband, who had started running.  Yes, I did lose weight and yes, I did get much healthier and I did love the result!

The benefits that came from running were great motivators to help me keep up the good work, but my focus wasn’t on fewer calories, burning fat or building muscle.  Running made me want to eat healthier meals, so my muscles could have the proper fuel they needed to help me continue to do what I wanted to do.  I wanted to run, so I took the steps needed to help me do it.  Eating healthier was the next right thing for me to do.  I started reading about running to gain knowledge.  That was the next right thing.  I got a coach to give me direction and help me improve, another right thing.  A workout plan came with having a coach, thus, I had a workout schedule.  Skipping a scheduled workout on days when I didn’t feel like running wasn’t an option, even though there were days I had lots of good reasons to not run.  I had a coach to answer to, so I ran.  I had to exercise my mind and emotions, stretch beyond my perceived ability and develop a new mental toughness.  My focus was on running, the thing I wanted to do.  All the resulting benefits of doing the next right thing, were just icing on the cake.  Oh, and running lets me have my cake and eat it too!

Let’s jump back to the family and friends who struggle with doing the right thing.  What do you think about shifting the focus here, much like my focus shifted from losing weight to just doing what I wanted to do, which was run?  If the focus were on doing what we really want to do and we do the next right thing in whatever the given situation, instead of focusing on the thing that we don’t want to be a part of our life, it seems that the results would just fall into place as part of a natural progression.  If we focus our time and energy on the goal we want to achieve, instead of the mess we may be surrounded by, we are looking ahead to a better tomorrow, a better future.   Keeping our focus on the mess or the thing that’s become a monster with the power to destroy our lives, is like spinning our wheels in the mud.  We waste a lot of fuel trying to move forward and we might move a little, but we sink right back in.  We get nowhere and we stay stuck in our rut.

1-4-man_flexing_muscles_21ed3It’s going to take some strength training to get us where we want to be.  I like to keep things simple, so my suggestion sounds really simple, but it’s not so easy to do.  May I suggest that the focus be on exercising the “doright” muscle?  That’s pronounced “do right”, and the meaning is simple.  It just means that the focus be on doing the next right thing.  You focus on the here and now.  Even if you find yourself in a very dark place and you can’t see any way out, there is almost always one right thing that you do know to do, so do that.  Stop looking at the darkness or the impossibility of the situation.  As you do it, you strengthened the “doright” muscle.  Often doing the first right thing will help us see what the next right thing should be, so how about another rep.  Do it!  Maybe that’s all the strength you have for today, but tomorrow is a new day.  Plan to wake up and only look at the next right thing to do and do it.

All those little “doright” reps, are just small individual movements, but when you keep doing them, you achieve something much bigger Donkey_1_arp_750pxand you get to the place you wanted to go.  It reminds me of the story of the donkey who fell into a deep hole.  The farmer couldn’t get him out, so he decided to bury him.  As the farmer shoveled dirt into the hole on top of the donkey, the donkey shook it off.  He made a little movement, a small step on top of the dirt that was supposed to bury him.  After many repetitions of those small steps, the donkey found himself in a new place, outside of his hole.

Over time, it’s going to get easier and easier to work the “doright” and before you know it, that muscle will become more toned and defined.  People will start to notice the change and compliment you on it.  Before you know it, you will have moved forward.  You’ll be in that new place now and find it’s not so dark anymore.   You’re stronger than that monster from your past and he’s no longer a threat.  You’ve become an athlete!  And what’s an athlete do?

Give me 100 “do rights”!  Now let me see you flex!      woman flexing