Comfort Zone

Sheesh! It’s been a week. Nothing noteworthy, just the usual junk. I started this blog for a multitude of reasons. 1) To allow an outlet for all the thoughts that crowded into my brain during and after a run. 2) To keep myself accountable, and, 3) To encourage others who are facing the same struggles that I do.

All of these are important reasons, but lately, the most important one seems to be to keep my head in the game. Which it hasn’t been for at least a month.

I’ve been looking for inspiration everywhere. My ITB issue has flared up again, and, I’ll be honest, it’s really pissing me off. There. I said it.

I read a lot of blogs and magazine articles, many of which I derive motivation and inspiration from. I read a blog by a local runner recently, though, that did nothing but discourage me. To be fair, I’m sure that wasn’t her intent. She began running in her 50’s, and this post was about some of her achievements. She has had many age group wins, as well as masters, and even a few overall awards. Now, I don’t begrudge her those awards (mostly), but it wasn’t really the motivational material that I needed at this moment in my training. I’m happy for her (I guess), but, in the real world, those of us who aren’t naturally gifted at this struggle. A lot. I’m slow and prone to injury. I’ve won a few age group awards, but they have generally been in small races where my age group wasn’t represented in strong numbers. I’m slow. Lately, I’ve felt that I’m old. And, I need a fresh dose of inspiration.

Enter my daughter. My beautiful, talented daughters inspire me often. But, this week, my youngest daughter breathed fresh life into a stale training program. I’m still struggling, but I have more motivation than I did before. Let me tell you why.

My youngest daughter is a lot like her mother. She struggles academically. Not in everything – like her mother, words come easily, so the liberal arts are a “gimme”. However, math and science are not. She is right brained; creative, artistic, snarky, wordy… all the things that go along with being the “creative” type. But, she has chosen for herself a road that is not easy. On a mission trip to Nicaragua a few years ago, God revealed His plan for her to be a dentist… Wait, what????

So, she went back to school, got a few semesters under her belt in a community college (where she excelled), and began her first semester at a four year institution this fall. She has a really difficult course load this fall, WAY outside her comfort zone, including trigonometry, chemistry, and biology (among other things, like Spanish 3). And, she’s struggling. Particularly with trig. This isn’t inside her comfort zone, and she’s having to stretch herself in ways that make her hurt. Being her father and mother’s child, though, she’s not giving up. She’s digging deep, looking for outside help, pulling out all the stops to be successful. She’s seeking God’s will in her life.

She humbles me.

I’m not a natural runner. I’ll never be on an Olympic team, or even a consistent age group contender. But, I love running. And, I’m looking for the magic that happens when I push outside my comfort zone. It hasn’t happened yet. But, I’m ever hopeful.

COMFORTZONE

Chicago

It’s been a fun, busy week, just now posting Chicago pics.  Didn’t really get a chance to take a lot, Delta & bad weather took a whole day out of our trip.  Of course, that just means we will have to go back, and with our metro cards still having $ on them, I think that’s a done deal.

As with most trips this year, Chicago was about following the Braves around.  When I heard that a remodel was in the works for Wrigley Field, I knew that we needed to make this trip happen, so we did.  We had several things planned this trip that we didn’t get to do, tickets to The Book of Mormon remained unused – still working on filing that insurance claim.  We also didn’t get to go to the Willis Tower or one of the museums I wanted to see, but we’ll do those things next time.   We loved Chicago.  The weather was fine, the walking/exploring was excellent, and Wrigley Field was all I hoped it would be.  Loved the Cubs fans.  They were gracious losers and awesome winners (the Braves took one & lost one of the two games we attended).  Couldn’t help getting caught up in the excitement as the Cubs won a hard fought game.  Really enjoyed my time at the ball park.  And, the deep dish pizza we ate ranks second only to the lobster roll from Fenway Park when it comes to ball park food.

I didn’t take as many photos as usual.   I left Big Bertha (my professional camera) at home, and relied on my iPhone to document those things I found noteworthy.  Here are my favorites from the trip.

Another selfie at "The Bean"

Another selfie at “The Bean”

Lakeshore

Lakeshore

Chicago River

Chicago River

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

My last trip to Chicago was made when I was 8. I only have vague memories of that trip. We rode the Amtrak there and back & I remember moments on the train. We visited relatives there and I remember my Uncle Jim walking with us through Chinatown, offering some very colorful language as we made our way through traffic. I remember a museum with a dollhouse, and I remember Buckingham Fountain.

I can be nostalgic at times, and I’ll admit to having a moment when we stood at Buckingham Fountain on this trip. I felt such a strong presence of my dad, and I stood and let the memory wash over me. I remember being cold, and my dad putting his coat around me. I don’t remember what the coat looked like, but knowing my dad it was a suit jacket. I do remember the tobacco and peppermint smell of it, and as I stood at the fountain the other day, I remember that little girl whose Daddy could do no wrong. Sweet memories. So thankful for my parents. We were beyond poor, but they still managed to give us an appreciation for travel and culture.

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

Stupid Braves fan not removing hat & talking on cell during National Anthem.

Stupid Braves fan not removing hat & talking on cell during National Anthem.

If Gary had not been with me, I would have had a “teachable moment” with this idiotic Braves fan who made us all look bad. As it was, I gave him the stink eye, but I left him alone. Didn’t want to start a fight that Gary would have to finish, but the old broad in me sure had to bite her tongue.

Scoreboard at Wrigley Field - notice top right flag - Braves lead their Division!

Scoreboard at Wrigley Field – notice top right flag – Braves lead their Division!

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Sculpture on rooftop of Art Institute Museum

Sculpture on rooftop of Art Institute Museum

Navy Pier - flags still at half mast after the shootings in DC

Navy Pier – flags still at half mast after the shootings in DC

Lakeshore at dawn

Lakeshore at dawn

Gary and I walked around Chicago on Friday and made a loose plan for my long run on Saturday, but we ended up just following our feet on that run. There’s really no better way to explore a new place that by running it. We started along the lake, ran up to Navy Pier, then headed north along the shore with about a million other walkers/runners/cyclists. I finished my run while Gary waited for me along the shore line, then we left the insane crowd of runners and went to Michigan Ave to walk the Magnificent Mile. Of course, there was a Starbucks along the route, and we rubbernecked like the tourists that we are.

Wrigley Field - checked off my Bucket List

Wrigley Field – checked off my Bucket List

Close enough to kiss Brian McCann.  I didn't though.  That would have involved an arrest & bail money & other unpleasant things.

Close enough to kiss Brian McCann. I didn’t though. That would have involved an arrest & bail money & other unpleasant things.

We stayed at the Jay Gatsby worthy “Palmer House”, but, for some strange reason, I took no photos of it. I really dropped the ball there, the hotel is truly a work of art.

Excellent trip, cut short by flight delays. I hope we’re able to return there soon. There’s a lot left to explore!

Polishing my faith

Airports seem to bring out the inner alcoholic that resides in each of us. Our seatmate from Jackson had a little Irish with his coffee. Okay, he had a lot of Irish with his coffee, and we departed Jackson at the relatively early hour of 7:50 a.m.

Into Atlanta-Hartsfield by 9:50 a.m., and the bars and cafes were lined with half drunk glasses of wine, mixed drinks, and foamy glasses of beer, all accompanied by people with wild eyed looks on their faces. I’ll admit, I was judgemental. It wasn’t even 10 in the morning, and everywhere I looked, folks were getting sloshed.

We encountered our first delay quickly, pushing our 12:15 departure time back until 1 pm. While we ate an excellent meal at PF Chang’s (you really can’t go wrong there), we encountered our second delay. This one until 3:07. Did I mention we have very expensive theater tickets tonight in Chicago? The wine bar near our gate is looking better by the minute.

Fortunately, this terminal has an Express Spa. How awesome is that? So, rather than tipple before 5 pm (my usual witching hour), I’m getting a pedicure. And, a mini massage. Beautiful Atlanta native, Freida, is gently polishing my worries away. Life is good, isn’t it?

We have a tendency to get frazzled when the least things go amiss in our lives. Flight delays, traffic snarls, long lines at the checkout with a whiny child in our cart (or the one behind us). We’ve become such a “fast food” society. If we can’t have it when we want it, we have a fit, show our road (or airport) rage, or take it out on some poor, defenseless kid just trying to make her way through college. Or, we turn to some external source to ease our frayed nerves. Whether your poison is alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, or food, they’re all equally harmful. What is the matter with us? Why can’t we learn to cope?

I think the answer is a pretty simple one. We always forget to turn to the one who can truly alleviate our worries. The only One who fills that God shaped hole in our souls. The One who can give us the peace to step away from that bottle or that cake; make us remember to allow others to see Him in us, and soothe our troubled souls.

As I sit and enjoy sweet Freida’s ministrations to my feet, I’m reminded that Jesus tended to the feet of His disciples, much to their consternation. But, He was teaching them and us a lesson. Giving a reminder that we are here to serve others, not to allow our temporary discomforts to become impediments to their knowledge of Him. How often have I been guilty of letting my frayed nerves make my tongue sharp? Way too many times, I’m afraid.

Whatever your troubles today, take a breath, step back from it, say a prayer, and allow God to give you peace. Go get an unplanned pedicure. Go for a run. Walk outside and look at the sky. These are temporary troubles, anyway. And, in comparison to a world filled with pain, my troubles are small and insignificant. My theater tickets are actually insured against flight delays.

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I even had time to let the polish dry.

Memories and milestones

We all remember where we were this day twelve years ago.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, the memories are still so fresh.  It’s important to remember, to have days set aside to honor those who lost their lives to vicious attacks by mad men.  But, it’s equally important to look forward with hope and joy.

I’m not a huge fan of Facebook, but one of the things I do love on days like today are the tributes people post as they remember and honor on this day.  They’re all beautiful and eloquent, but my absolute favorite was by a long time friend and client.  Her beautiful baby girl turns one today.  On a day that so many of us remember with horror, that sweet family has been given a special gift.  A reminder that there is joy, hope, and renewal, always.  Here is her post (their names have been removed):  Today, our country remembers those we lost 12 years ago, and my family celebrates the one we gained – Beautiful Baby Girl – was born at 12:19 a.m. one year ago today! Praise the Lord for His goodness and for creating a day of blessing for our family on 9/11/12. We are so grateful for our little sweetheart!

As I read this, I was reminded that there will always be evil on this side of heaven.  There will always be mad men and women who do truly abominable things.  Satan seems to win too many battles.  But, there will also always be joy and hope.  Life continues and can be lived always looking for evil and doom, or always lifting our eyes to heaven and looking for good.  As sad as this world sometimes makes me, I choose to live my life looking for and believing in the good.  It’s not always the easy way.  Somtimes, like it was on 9/11/01, it feels impossible.

My training plan called for speed work this morning.  If you know anything about me, you know that me and speed are not good friends.  I’m a slow, easy runner who likes to stop and smell the roses, rather than run for them.  I’ve been known to stop dead still in the middle of a hard run, whip out my iPhone, and snap a picture of something that made me smile.  But, I am trying to get faster, so occasional speed workouts are part of the plan.  This morning’s run included a one mile warm-up, then six one minute intervals in zone 4 (or, as I’ve renamed it, zone vomit), with two minute recoveries between.  Ten minutes to cool down, and I’m done.  Simple, huh?  I actually did seven intervals, as I thought I turned my timer on, but somehow didn’t, so had to start them again.  By the last interval, my coffee was threatening a violent reappearance, but I got it done.  And, as  I cooled down, I was rewarded with the most spectacular sunrise, which I captured inelegantly on my iPhone.

IMG_1374

As we remember the people we lost on this terrible day, twelve years ago, I pray that we celebrate the simple, joyous milestones that fill our lives as well. The ability to run three miles and be rewarded with a magnificent sunrise. The birth of a beautiful baby girl. Earlier this week, Gary and I celebrated a huge milestone in our lives – he is one year post broken leg. We celebrated in the way we usually do, low key and with activity, me by running, him by cycling. In fact, it wasn’t until later in the day when I was paying bills that I remembered the date, and posted a before/after pic on Instagram. He’s running some, too, but cycling seems to be the best fit for him right now. I have to say, he has frustrated, aggravated, infuriated, reduced me to eye rolling, and inspired me (sometimes all at the same time) with his pig headedness perseverance.
Composite

I guess the point of this post was this. Don’t let evil win. Remember to celebrate with joy, abandon, and gratitude – even the little things. Like almost throwing up during a speed session. I celebrate that I was able to start my morning with coffee, a run, and the ability to praise in the sun drenched morning.

Portrait of a perfect day

I’m a simple girl.  You might argue the “girl” part of that, but I am easy to please, for the most part, and try to find beauty in every day and appreciate every moment.  But, of course, some days are better than others.  I mostly enjoy my life.  I have family nearby that I love, work that I enjoy, spend most days with my man,  and travel a lot.  Then, there are days like today.  What does my perfect day look like?

Friday evening date night with my man that included a little history (Hank Aaron museum), a little baseball (Mobile Bay Bears vs Mississippi Braves), an excellent (and seldom enjoyed) hamburger, a little wine, and an early evening.  An early morning run in beautiful, historic old Mobile with my man running beside me.  Weather that makes you feel like you could run for days, with just the barest hint of fall in the air.  A surprise encounter with a photographer/running friend I met at Texas School who lives in Mobile and was out for her early morning run.  Running clothes that look like I’ve fallen into the pool at the end of a seven miler.  (I do like to sweat!)  A delicious breakfast followed by coffee from Starbucks to accompany us as we travel home.  Riding with the top down in my sweet little pony car and Aaron Neville’s silky voice at full volume.  An afternoon stretched ahead of me with nothing to do but write a little, watch a few Big Bang reruns, and read while the ballgames play on our TV.  Simple things.  Things that make me smile.

top down

I hope your day is filled with simple pleasures, too.

goodday

I am who I am

challenge

If you’ve ever been to an Atlanta Braves game, you know that one of the highlights of the game is the “Tool Race.”  I wish they would dial back the commercialism some, but it is fun in a silly way and a nice break from the tension of the game.  Home Depot is one of the sponsors, so each of the “runners” is a tool (with appropriate logos emblazoned strategically):  “Two Bit” (the drill),   the hammer, the paint brush, and the paint bucket.  The bucket has replaced the saw this year, I think, because I don’t remember seeing him before.  And, I would have noticed, because, as it turns out, he runs a lot like me.  Slow and unwieldy instead of sleek and fast: he pounds along.  He used his cunning in one of the races the other night, and either pushed down or tripped all his opponents to win that race.  Of course, that came back to bite him the next game, when hammer and Two Bit clotheslined him and he fell.   Maybe I would win more races if I knocked all the old broads out of the way and steamrollered through.  Hmmm….I’m not crazy about the karma thing, though, so I guess I’ll keep plugging along and concern myself with keeping my own body upright.

I’m training for a half marathon at the end of November and just entered week 3.  This morning’s run called for an easy six miler, and I accomplished it with the appropriate amount of energy, ending with a nice feeling of accomplishment, and without leg pain, so it’s a win.  It was slow. Excrutiatingly slow, actually.  But, all my runs are, it seems.   I sometimes let that eat away at my self esteem, feel less like a runner, or compare myself unfavorably to other runners, which further erodes my confidence.

As I ran this morning, I plodded along.  Slow and steady, trying to put miles on my legs while staying injury free.  About mile four, a young woman ran by me,  passing me like I was standing still.  The inevitable comparisons started in my head, and I tried to quiet them by concentrating on the podcast I was listening to.  Believe it or not, it was about that very thing.   Comparisons.  Andy Stanley’s messages offer Biblical solutions for real world problems in a way that exemplifies exactly what Jesus taught us to do.  This podcast was from his  “Your Move” with Andy Stanley section, which takes sermon series he’s done in the past and replays them.  It was entitled, “The Comparison Trap – The Land of Er.”

I loved it because it encapsulated exactly what I was feeling.  I want to be fastER, strongER, thinnER, fittER than I am.  All those things, in themselves, are okay.  It’s when I allow the inevitable comparisons with other runners to eat away at my motivation and make me feel less than I actually am that the trouble starts.   The young woman who blew past me this morning was at least 25 years younger than me.  I look at other runner’s times, and think “I’ll never be able to run that fast, why am I even trying?”  My head tells me to stop that, and lists reasons why someone may be faster than me (age, sex, genetics all play important roles), but my heart is heavy with the “Er” factor.  And, your head can say all it wants, until your heart understands, it’s tough to reconcile.

So, I’m working on eliminating the “er” from my life.  I will always want to be faster, stronger, thinner, and fitter, but the only comparison I’m going to make is to who I was yesterday, not who the runner in the corral next to me is.  I am who I am, God’s perfect creation, struggling to be who He wants me to be, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  But, it’s my journey, no one else’s.

Don’t think that means I simply shrug my shoulders and accept that I’ll always be slow.  Quite the contrary.  But I don’t have to be the best or the fastest runner, I just have to be better than I was yesterday.  And, just when I think about quitting or giving up on one day being marginally faster than I am, Diana Nyad gives her 28 year old self the finger and swims from Cuba to Key West with no shark cage at age 64.  Geez.  Talk about an “Er” moment.  She gives me hope and is a reminder to never give up on yourself or your dreams.

4 Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
5 “Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin.” 6 And yet,“Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.”

Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 (NLT)

I’m running with one hand outstretched, asking God to fill it with ability, contentment, strength, and peace.