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!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

November fitness goals

A couple of months back, my most-disciplined-exerciser-in-the-world husband asked me what my fitness goals were for the next few months.  I'm glad he asked the question because I've been rather hit or miss in the exercise department.  More hit than miss, but still, on my mapmywalk monthly workout summary, there are far too many empty spaces.  I feel it in my legs when I hop on the bike.  I feel it in my arms when I get in the pool.  I am neither as strong nor as cardiovascularly (is this a word?) fit as I have been in previous months/years. I needed the gentle nudge of Coty's question to get me thinking more seriously about my goals and formulate a plan to put them into action!

So, here are my November goals.  I'm planning to ...

1)  Exercise on a regular schedule:
Swim - twice per week
Cycle - twice per week
Walk/run - twice per week
That gives me one day off.
The key to maintaining this workout schedule will be planning ahead for swim and cycling days.  It's no big deal to get out the door and walk, but with cycling, weather is a much bigger factor so I'll need to look ahead at the forecasts and figure out at the beginning of each week which days will be my cycling days.  Swimming takes advanced planning, too, since it requires a bigger chunk of time.  I have to drive to the pool and back and there's changing and shower time included.  Also, I like to swim when the pool is least crowded (middle of the day) so I have to do it on a day when my mid-day is free.

2) Talk to the Masters Swim coach at the aquatic center and find out about swimming with the Masters swim team.  OK, this feels pretty scary to me.  I've never been on a swim team, never had any swim coaching or training.  Just community pool swimming lessons as a kid and lifeguard training at the Y in high school.  I have a LOT to learn.  I feel sort of intimidated by this and don't know if I'll do it.  The practices are from 5:30-6:30 AM.  It's dark then.  And cold.  And you have to go and jump into a cold pool.  After driving in the dark.  And the cold. I hope the lights are on in the pool.  But the water will be cold.  You get my drift.

But, this is the year of overcoming cold and dark wimp-hood for me.  I'm determined.  I'm going to embrace the dark ... and the cold.  My new motto, with thanks to a Minnesota friend, is, "It's never too cold.  You're just wearing the wrong clothes."  (I don't know how that works with a bathing suit. Not much you can do there, unless you don a full wetsuit, which I don't own or plan on purchasing. But I guess I can make sure I'm clothed sufficiently warmly on the way to the pool and back which, frankly, will be much easier in North Carolina than in Minnesota. Thank goodness for that).

3) Finally, in keeping with the above determination and my new motto, I plan on cycling through the winter this year.  I'm figuring out what the "right clothes" for winter cycling are for a small Southern woman who is cold from October til June.  I have thermal tights.  I have full finger cycling gloves and insulated lobster mitts.  I have a very bright cycling windbreaker. I'm looking at thermal cycling shirts, balaclavas and shoe covers. I have a warm house to come home to, hot showers, hot tea, hot chocolate, a heating pad, a space heater, a down comforter, a hot husband ; )  If I get cold, guess what?! I can warm up again.  I hope.   

So, that's it.  Those are my November fitness goals.  If I survive the month, I'll press on through the rest of the winter.  Hold me to it. OK?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Seattle, Portland and the gift of friends

After San Diego, Coty and I went to Seattle.  Ah, Seattle - this city and its environs and so beautiful.  All the water - the Puget Sound, the lakes, the rivers - and of course, the mountains - the Olympic range to the east and Mt. Ranier, such a majestic backdrop to the city (when you can see it ; )

We visited the Arboretum and, upon the strong recommendation of a friend here, the Japanese Gardens (thanks, Joy).  We went to the Ballard Locks and Gas Works Park and later in the visit, I got to go to the Museum of History and Industry.  We went to the top of Mt. Erie for the views and hiked near Deception Pass and Rosario Beach.  We spent a lovely day in La Conner and watched boats and seals in the Skagit River from our lunch restaurant deck.

Coty left after a couple of days to fly to Indonesia but I stayed for a nice long visit ...

As much as there is to see and do in Seattle, though, this trip was not mostly about seeing the sights.  It was about seeing my friends.  My oldest friend and one of my newest.

In the ninth grade, we were the new girls.  I had moved from Atlanta and she from Philadelphia. We went to a play with our English class and hit it off.  Then we were in the school play together, she the sophisticated northern girl, me the hillbilly hick.  Fitting.  The other morning when I came downstairs to her beautiful kitchen that looks out across the fields to a snow capped mountain, I told her I'd done the math.  We've been friends for 43 years.

I know how rare it is in this day and age to have a friend who's known you for so long.  One who knows your history and your family, who you love even more now than ever, a friend that you laugh with just as much as you did when you were teenagers, a friend that prays for you, and remembers birthdays and significant dates.  Such a friendship is a gift. A treasure.

And then, I got on a bus and rode for three and a half hours to Portland where I finally met, face to face, a friend that I've known via the internet for a long time.  A few people that I told about my trip thought it was a bit odd that I was going to meet and stay in the home of a person I had only known online and through a few handwritten cards.  Someone told me I was brave.  Others were curious.  It didn't feel odd or scary to me.  It was more like a Julia and Avis moment, I told someone.  We've corresponded at length and deeply for a long time and it was time to meet in person.  I was going to the Pacific Northwest anyway.  Why not take a trip to Portland and sit face to face with this dear friend, to fill in the colors of the line drawing of our friendship.

And so we met - on a city street, as I got off the bus.  There she was with her youngest son and we hugged and went to breakfast and shopped for books. A street poet wrote a poem for us. Then we drove the 45 minutes or so to her home among the trees and it felt just. right.

We talked and talked over coffee and tea, we cooked together knowing that we share such similar thoughts and tastes about food, we walked in the woods and along a trail that was familiar to me because I've seen pictures from this place for years.  The rain came in the night, the pellet stove warmed, the ducks quacked, the cat crawled on my lap.  This friendship, too, is such a gift.  This woman, a treasure to me.

Sitting here, thinking about these friends who are physically far away but oh, so near in my heart makes me miss them, makes me wish they were closer, makes me wish we could just drop over for coffee or share a meal together, but, dadgummit, there's a whole, big country in between.  Why do we have to be so far apart!  Ah, well - let me be glad this morning.  I'll not bemoan the distance, but give thanks that I've been given the sweet gift of deep friendship, two times over out there in the Pacific Northwest.  Looking forward to my next trip some future day and urging them both to come soon to North Carolina!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

These beautiful hands

Posting at Make Welcome this evening, thinking of the beautiful hands of the women and children that come on Fridays. Hands that have "seen" so much, now crafting beauty out of scraps, growing in skill and confidence.  Hands that teach and guide.  Hands that help children.  Hands that play.  All these beautiful hands ...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

About time

It's about time for me to stick my head in the door and say hello.  Really, it's way past time - poor neglected blog.  I do wonder if anyone is still out there reading.  If you are, thanks for bearing with me and checking back in from time to time.  I'm still here but my energies are spent in other places and ways than writing here.  Gone are the days, it seems, when I wanted to post a few times a week. The words come less easily these days, but who knows, maybe a change in the season will signal a change in my proclivity to write.

It has been, so far, a rather busy, eventful fall.  Erin, Clara, and Levi were here for three glorious weeks.  There was no rushing about to fit everything in.  We celebrated birthdays and swam every day til it got too chilly.  We went to the library and the playground.  We had family company two of the weekends. Clara practiced riding her bike, discovered Tinker Toys and Legos, and dressed up in her mom's old "ball gowns."  Levi clapped and waved and smiled and ate and ate and ate.  We read books and sewed, colored and cooked.  We went to the Raptor Center and the shoe store and ate frozen yogurt at Sweet Frog.

Three short days after Erin and the kids left, Coty and I hopped on a plane and headed to San Diego, where we attended a meeting/retreat of the Treasuring Christ Together network of church planters.  It was a sweet time of hearing stories of God's work, and getting to know these folks of whom I've heard so much.  In addition, we got to visit with our old friends, John and Helen, and meet their new baby girl, Ariel.  What a treat!

The second morning we were in San Diego, John picked Coty and me up before dawn and took us to La Jolla Cove for an open water swim.  I almost chickened out. The prospect of cold water on a chilly morning and swimming in the open water with seaweed and seals (!) gave me pause.  But thankfully, my adventurous side won out.  We arrived at the cove to the not so fragrant stench of seal and seabird excrement (sorry), walked the long flight of steps down to the gravelly beach, and stepped into the chilly waves.  There was nothing for it but to dive in and start swimming.  We couldn't see the quarter mile buoy when we started swimming, but after a few yards, the slight panic left and was replaced with wonder and excitement.  I'm actually doing this.  Wow!  I loved it the rest of the way and am so glad we went.  It's an experience I won't forget.  Thrilling, really.

This is where we started.  Right where that little person is standing ...

We swam out toward a buoy a quarter mile away, which we could barely see ...

 partway across the cove,

while seals and seabirds watched.

So very glad to have done this swim!

 Then after our breakfast meeting, we headed to the bay and the beach with a very fun group of TCT folks,

 for a paddleboard race between the San Diego and Charlotte pastors.

The old guys won in a photo finish! Yay for Coty and Fred!

And then a few of us women gave the paddleboards a try.

Then a block's walk to the beach for games and swimming and more refreshing conversation and fun.

What a sweet time with our TCT family.

On Thursday, Coty and I headed to Seattle ... but I'll save that for another day!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Birthday dinners

I had the very great pleasure of cooking two birthday dinners this week.  Erin was here with us on her birthday for the first time in a very long time.  I asked what she wanted and she just said, "Something I don't usually have."

So, I made Thai Tom Kha soup and Pad Thai.  For her birthday dessert, we had gluten and dairy free pumpkin pie cupcakes 'cause that's how she rolls - gf and df right now.  The cupcakes were topped with coconut cream with just a bit of sugar, and they were delicious.

We all loved the Tom Kha soup, but I think baby Levi was the biggest fan of all ...

He just kept eating and eating and eating ...

Tuesday was Andrew's birthday. His dinner included Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac n Cheese, Black-eyed peas with avocado cilantro salsa, and garlicky sauteed kale.  For dessert, a Hummingbird Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese frosting.  So good.

Tonight ... we ate leftovers!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Porch time

Porch time is, for me, a treasured time.  We move to the screen porch after the dishes are done and light only candles. Crickets humming as background music, the squeak of the porch swing chain marking the slow rhythm of our conversation, we tell stories, laugh, sit quietly, and then by ones and twos, drift inside and to bed.

Clara was introduced to porch time tonight.  She heard stories about her Uncle Joel getting seven shots at once when he was six years old, her Gramma hooting like an owl in answer to the next door neighbor boy's owl calls, her Mom and Dad's early conversations and house designs when they were but teens in Cameroon.  There were a few jokes.  She told one about cupcakes in the oven and we all laughed.

The porch is a special place.  We all feel it.  We all love it.