Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Riding, riding

We have had two absolutely gorgeous January days with afternoon temps in the 60's. Oh, I do love North Carolina. Snow is wonderful, for sure, and I hope we get a big snowstorm that sends everyone scurrying to the grocery store for milk and bread and closes everything down for a couple of days. I'd be just fine with that. But, goodness, what is not to love about these sunny, blue sky, warm-ish days right at the beginning of the year. Especially this year, when I am trying hard to bike through the winter. Sure has been easy this week.

I did a hill workout yesterday. We found brand new road only a mile away. It supposedly goes through a business park, but there are only a couple of businesses there yet, so very little traffic. Mostly, it is bordered by woods and a cow pasture. Along a one mile stretch of the road, there are a couple of substantial hills so it is the perfect place for a shorter, intense hill workout. That's what I did yesterday.

Today, Coty and I went on a longer ride. Well, longer for me. It was an easy ride for him. 19 miles on the country roads near us. We wore shorts. Horses in their pastures along the way seemed happy to be out in the sun. The chorus frogs were singing. Very little traffic. Coty wears a cycling shirt that says "enjoy the ride" on the back. It's nice to pedal hard behind him and see that shirt. I certainly did enjoy my ride today.

I'm getting used to my new bike. It is so much lighter and feels more responsive. I think it needs a few minor adjustments, but it's a real improvement over the Trek fitness bike that I started riding on in 2012.

I am beginning to feel a little more confident about the Tri Latta race in June. The swim should be fine. The bike portion longer than other sprint tri's I considered, but it will be OK. It's that run that has me scared. My couch to 5K program is moving along fine, but I'm still wondering how I'm going to run a 5k after cycling 17 miles. Training. It's all about training. Consistent plugging away at it in these next few months. Not hard at all on a day like today!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sewing, sewing, sewing ...

(sorry, fuzzy)

My machine's been humming away.

A few weeks ago, I decided to put together a quilt for Levi's birthday. I've been collecting cowboy fabrics for a while so when I got going, it came together pretty fast.

I started with a center medallion of fancy cut cowboy patches with blue sashing and a braided rope fabric frame. Then the flying geese, which I love, and a plaid from my stash ... and it just kept growing from there. I'm hand quilting it now. That's a new skill for me, but since I got a free quilting frame that was being given away at my last guild meeting, I figured it was time to learn.

The Cowboy quilt was "unwrapped" over skype on Levi's birthday on Monday. A bit more quilting to do and it will be on the way to that sweet grandboy.

Next up. Rice bag play.

I am experimenting with rice bags for the next season of Make Welcome sewing. Tote bags. Wrist clutches. It's been fun and I'm learning as I go. You'll probably be seeing more rice bags in the months to come. Our Burmese students eat a lot of rice and they bring their rice bags to class. So far, we've upcycled them into pillows and a few tote bags. We've only used the burlap ones so far but today I played with the plastic fiber bags. Ironing is tricky.  Too hot and it melts. We'll see.

Tomorrow I get to go and talk to a local quilt group about Make Welcome. What a privilege!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A winter ride

I wish I had pictures to show you, but alas, I don't. I went on a ride yesterday afternoon and all the time, I kept thinking how beautiful the winter afternoon was and what I had the privilege of seeing. And to think, I almost missed it.

My husband, ever faithful, ever disciplined, rarely deterred from exercising because of weather or anything else was getting ready for a ride. I'd been sewing all afternoon and was happily closing in on finishing a project. It was 42 degrees. I was feeling not exactly lazy, but just not up for going out, knowing I was going to be cold ... and you know how I hate to be cold. I was battling the inertia inherent in stopping one activity in which I was totally engrossed and starting another one which I knew would not exactly be pleasant, at least at the beginning. I was rationalizing not exercising by saying I needed to finish my project. But, I really didn't need to finish. It was just an excuse.

Coty asked if I wanted him to wait for me. "I don't know," I moaned. "Just go ahead," I finally told him, not sure if I was actually throwing in the towel for the day or not.

This is where having a goal that you've stuck to for a while helps. That two walks, two swims, two bike rides a week goal that I set back in November has become more or less routine. It is so much easier for me now to rouse myself to get out there and walk, ride, or swim so that I will stay on track with my goal. I don't have a perfect "streak" but I've been sticking with it. So, I went upstairs and changed into cycling clothes, found a hood to wear under my helmet to keep my ears and neck warm, and headed out.

A little observation - the act of changing into workout clothes means I've won. I've overcome the inertia and will soon be out the door.

As I expected, I was cold. I know that 42 degrees isn't frigid. It's really pretty pleasant for early January, especially if it's a gloriously clear and sunny early January day. But remember, when you ride, there's "wind chill." Pedaling faster at the beginning means I'm going to be colder. Speeding up as I go downhill means I'm going to be colder.  And you know how I hate ... yea, I said that already.

It took two miles for me to warm up. Fingers and toes stayed cold the whole ride, but the rest of me was fine. And then, I started noticing things like ...
  • the crisp, clean feeling of the winter air on my face,
  • the way the slanting afternoon sun turned the siding on the houses I passed to lavender, salmon, and pink,
  • the stillness of a hawk on a phone line, perched, watching, waiting,
  • the beauty of a field of dried grasses waving in a slight breeze
  • the winter sun and its halo and then in the last mile, a sundog
I had decided when I started on my ride that I would not concentrate on time or pace. I was just going on a ride with the intention of overcoming the cold aversion and enjoying myself. I did. 15 miles of pleasure. Further than I intended to ride. It just felt good to keep going.

The memory of yesterday's ride will help me keep going through the remainder of this winter. There will likely be colder rides. I will likely battle inertia again and likely complain about the cold. But I'll try to remember the lavender houses, the hawk, and the sundog, and then slip into my thermals and head out.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy anniversary to us!

35 years ago today, we made a covenant with each other.  A mere two years after making it, we were on the verge of breaking it. Selfish, self-centered, focused on our own agendas, completely ignorant of how to work toward unity, we were headed in a very dangerous direction. But God in his infinite mercy turned us around. It is rather terrifying to think what life would have been like had we not been rescued by the overflowing love of a gracious God. Through the joys and vicissitudes of marriage, through children and moves and job changes, through happy seasons of ease and light, through times of uncertainty and dark seasons of pain, we have walked and grown and learned what it means to be one.

I am more me and he is more him and we are more us than we have ever been. Unity in marriage has not diminished our personalities in the one, but made us more completely who we are as individuals as we have experienced the perfecting work of submitting to each other in love.

This is hard work.  The flush of young love wore off long ago.  It has been replaced by the patina of years of coming through together, of looking back after traversing a particularly treacherous passage and realizing we'd made it in one piece, we were stronger, and we could actually laugh in joy and triumph together.

This is rather a mystery, how you can become more yourself, more who you are meant to be, as you become more united with another. But then, the God who rescued us as a young, headstrong, foolish, selfish couple tells us it is not just a mystery, but a profound mystery. I have pondered often this image of marriage as a reflection of Christ and the church. Christians are not subsumed into the Godhead; the church, the body of Christ is not obliterated by union, but sanctified, made more complete, more who she is meant to be.

I am a complementarian. Some of you will know, or at least think you know, what I mean by this. For those of you who don't, I simply mean that I understand marriage in the way it is described in Ephesians 5. (Go read it). There is a headship and submission in marriage that is a reflection of the headship and submission between Christ and the church.  I run the risk, I know, of being lumped in with the caricatured version of this picture.  The macho, demanding, unswerving, harsh "head" husband and the timid, weak, mousey, victimized, "submissive" wife. But this is merely a caricature and could not be further from my experience or further from what I think the biblical picture truly is.

I have come to see that the caricature has arisen because people have not truly understood unity; not truly understood that the goal in marriage is not to be good at performing some sort of role, but that the goal is to be one. I am thankful for that insight that became more clear after teaching together on marriage at a seminary in a small town in Cameroon in 2001. I am thankful for that insight that we found so beautifully described by Tolstoy in Anna Karenina (I'll copy that selection to the comments in case you'd like to read it).

We've been married now for 35 years. There were some wonderful things that we did in the first two years, but they were mostly tearing down and learning by mistake years. Since then, for the last 33 years, Coty and I have set our hearts and minds and wills to work toward unity. By God's grace and with his enabling, we will continue to strive for it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

We did it!

Andrew and I signed up this week for the Tri Latta Sprint Triathlon in June so we have five months to get ready. The race includes a 750 meter open water swim, a 17 mile bike ride, and a 5K run. I've certainly got my work cut out for me.  I'm psyched ... and a little bit scared, wondering what I've gotten myself into.  But mostly, I'm psyched and eager for the increased rigor of training with a focus. Working toward a goal.

My husband, always eager to encourage and enable my athletic endeavors gave me a new, much lighter, road bike for Christmas. It's taking a little bit of getting used to - new shifters and a different posture on the bike, but it's sure nice on the hills!  I can tell quite a difference.

Tri-training 2015.  Here we go!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

26 years ago, I woke in the middle of the night (2:15 AM, to be exact) and didn't feel so good.  I was nine days past my due date and soooo ready to give birth.  I called the midwife and told her nothing was really happening yet.  In the middle of the call, she sensed a change in my voice and said she was on her way. Less than two hours later (4:05, to be exact), we held our baby boy in our arms.

His birth came fast and was a bit more, shall we say, exciting, than we had expected. A slow heart rate momentarily during labor and the cord tight around his neck at birth were just a bit scary for us, but our midwives did what midwives do and delivered him with care and skill.  That baby boy got his name the next day. "He looks like a Thomas," I said.  Named after his father, he's the one that most resembles Coty in looks.  He takes after him in many other ways, as well.  He's planning to run his first marathon in March.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

He became a father this year, as you faithful readers know.  One of the great joys for me in 2014 has been watching my son care for his son.  He is a very good father, a very involved father, not a bit afraid of his newborn or tentative like some new dads.  I watch him cuddle his little boy, watch him change diapers, tickle and toss his baby in the air with confidence and joy.  I am filled with delight and gratitude.

Happy birthday, Thomas. It's been quite a year, hasn't it!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Exercise Goals Update

Back at the end of October I set some ambitious exercise goals for myself . I'm pleased to tell you that almost three weeks in this month, I'm still on track.  2 bike rides, 2 swims, and 2 walks each week for 3 weeks now (well, I've got one more walk this week, but that'll happen tomorrow morning, early).  It hasn't been as hard as I had thought.  I've watched the weather, tried to get my bike rides in early in the week if the weather's good and enjoyed getting back into the water on a regular schedule.

So how's it going?  I feel stronger, especially in the pool.  I've been able to pretty quickly up my laps and my times are getting faster.  All good.  I love the pool.  Love. love. love the pool.  I haven't talked with the Masters swim coach yet, but I did email him and I did ask at the front desk.  So, that's something, right?  I'm still not altogether sure that training at 5 AM is for me, but still thinking about that.  

Cycling is good.  The longest ride so far has been 19 miles on a lovely fall day on the American Tobacco Trail.  Today I did a cadence ride.  That's a shorter distance at a higher cadence - aiming at 90-95 revolutions per minute.  I felt lethargic before I started and didn't really want to ride because I had lots to do, but I pulled on my thermal tights and that was the cue ... get going!  So, I did.  And I'm glad.  It always feels better to have exercised when you don't feel like it than to skip it because you're feeling lazy or tired. 30 minutes and 6 miles later with six reps of my cadence distance and some easy cycling before and after and I felt much better.

I haven't run a step. I'm walking ... briskly, and thinking of trying one of those couch to 5k training programs.  I can walk forever, but I'm not a runner.  A program like that might help me up my pace a bit. Since I've started thinking about a sprint triathlon with Andrew in the spring, I need to be able to run a 5k.  So, we'll see.

Some of you know that I have rheumatoid arthritis.  After some tests that indicated that my RA was really out of control and aggressively affecting my joints, and after a long heart to heart with my rheumatologist back in October, I have started on a new medication.  She pointed out that I had likely forgotten what it felt like to not hurt all the time.  She was right.  The constant pain had become my normal and I thought that was just how it was going to be.  With some trepidation, I decided to heed her recommendation and begin this new med.  People ... I am amazed.  I didn't know I could feel like this.  Didn't know I could sleep through the night without frequent painful insomnia.  Didn't know I could wake up in the morning and not hobble across the bedroom and painfully make my way down the stairs.  Didn't think I could ever do push-ups or planks again.  Didn't think I'd ever get my favorite ring back on my finger.  I do not typically advocate medication.  I don't like it.  I am still nervous about it.  But it has made a big difference in how I feel.  So, I'll stay on it for now which also means, I am able to exercise more and feel better in every way!  

I don't think the medication is the only answer.  Diet and exercise are key.  I am mostly gluten free and eat a very healthy diet (except when I'm having a family celebration and then I relax the rules quite a bit).  Lots of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables.  Pretty low carbs. Very little processed food. Very little sugar.  But I was doing that before I was on this new med and while I'm sure it helped, it wasn't enough. My joints were not just hurting but were being destroyed by my immune system.  That's what RA does.  Now, I think ... I hope ... that joint damage is being minimized.  Inflammation and pain are greatly reduced.  I feel, at times, like a new person.  And that's pretty exciting.

It was important for me to set the bar high.  More than once, I've made myself get out the door, made myself pull on the goggles and slip into the water.  Every time I do it, I'm thankful.  

A full cupboard

I just finished reading, The Full Cupboard of Life, the fifth book in Alexander McCall Smith's delightful #1 Ladies Detective Agency series.  I love these stories of the doings of Precious Ramotswe, a lady detective in Botswana.  I also love the narrator for this audiobook series, Lisette Lecat.  She has the perfect voice, diction, intonation, inflection, and accent for these books.

But, I didn't really intend to write about the book this evening. It's the title I'm thinking of and how right now, it seems very apropos to my own life.  I have both an empty nest and a full cupboard.

Matthew and Kailie are coming this weekend.  They got married in May but our NC friends and many of our east coast relatives were not able to make the trip to Colorado so we're having an NC reception/party on Saturday.  I've been baking and baking and baking.  Double ginger gingerbread cake, mini pumpkin cheesecakes, salted caramel apple bars, chocolate meringue stars, lemon bars, coconut pound cake, biscuits and more biscuits and yes, I'll serve our family favorite, pimiento cheese biscuits with pepper jelly and bacon. (It is true that there are dissenters in the ranks who think pimiento cheese is just weird, but they are vastly outnumbered by the lovers of this particular combination).  Anyway, two freezer shelves are full-up and I've still got to make the warm turnip green dip and the artichoke crostinis.  It's gonna be good, friends.

But, I wasn't really thinking about my literal full cupboard (or freezer).

I was thinking more about the fullness of these days.  I am not interested in a crazy-busy-frenzied fullness like a disorganized, overflowing pantry full of past dated canned goods, stale crackers, and moth infested corn meal.  I want a well-stocked-pantry fullness, with the necessary staples and spices in their place and enough room between the jars, boxes and bottles to see what's there and reach for what I need without digging to find it and upsetting the whole cupboard in the process. Full enough with what is needed with gaps in between.

I do stay pretty busy these days. There are rarely (perhaps never) days when I wonder what to do. I often wonder about the order in which I need to do things, but the what is never an issue. Some of those days involve what looks like busy-ness - errands, sewing classes, lab class. They appear more busy than the other days, those "gap" days, the quieter ones when I sit longer with my coffee in the morning and read another chapter.  It is a luxury, perhaps, to linger like this and I feel guilty sometimes. I tell myself, "Get busy.  Get to work.  Be productive. Get a job!"  Or to assuage my (false) guilt I tell myself, "You've earned this.  You raised six kids.  You homeschooled for twenty-five years. You worked hard. Now relax."  And part of me buys one of those lines or the other. But thankfully, the gray haired, sager part of me says, "The value is not in doing things.  It's not about earning anything.  That was a season and this is a season and the quiet, extra chapter days are for fullness, too."

So, my cupboard is full of doing and not doing.  Of items and spaces; of activity and gaps.  I could list some of the activities, show you what a day looks like and maybe you want to know, but it will not be a prescription for anyone, only an accounting of this particular life.  Let's save that for another day, though, for a discipline for me, perhaps, to show up in this space a bit more often!