Simple pleasures

Today I’m thankful.  I try to live my life in a constant state of gratitude, but some days, God just fills me up.  Today was one of those.  Nothing huge happened.  I didn’t win a million dollars or suddenly drop fifty pounds.  It was just a simple spring day, filled with God’s goodness.  Beautiful, cool sunshine on a brightly colored canvas of a world.  A dental visit that removed two years of coffee and red wine stains from my teeth.  A lunch with ladies that I’ve come to know and love over the last few months, shared with some remarkably beautiful women from the ministry at the Fieldhouse for the Homeless.  A new calling on my life?  An afternoon portrait session with one year old and two and a half year old sisters that made my heart smile and reminded me how much I love photography.  The anticipation of an early morning run tomorrow in this sinfully spectacular weather.  Life is good.

And now, at day’s end, the simple enjoyment of my lake, my dog, a container of flowers,  a glass of red wine (got to restain those teeth, right?), today’s New York Times crossword, and a good book.  No supper to cook, no house to clean.  Yes, it’s all still there and dirty, but it’ll be there tomorrow, and I’ll clean it then.

I’m often too busy or too stressed to just sit and enjoy the simple beauty of life.  My man has been a good teacher over the years, simple pleasures are his speciality.  He’s taught and encouraged me to slow down, sip the wine, smell the roses, eat dessert.  So, I do.  And life is better because of it.  Listening to my fat, lazy dog snore at my feet makes me smile.

One of the things no one warned me about becoming an old broad is that sleep becomes a long lost friend.  I often awaken in the night after a few hours of fitful sleep and lay awake until just before my alarm goes off the next morning.  That’s the time of day I take back all those things I’ve so carefully laid on God’s shoulders, because, you know, He really needs my help in solving them.  I suddenly remember the form I forgot to fill out, the bill I forgot to pay, the worries of and for my kids, the friend(s) whose needs are urgent and dire.  I call it “The Midnight Hour” and it has become a time I dread.

A few weeks ago, I started counting my blessings during that time.  You remember, like your grandmother told you to do every day?  I just start saying (in my head, not aloud – the old man next to me has no trouble sleeping) I am grateful for _________________.  Some nights, all I can think of is that I’m grateful for my exquisitely soft sheets and perfect mattress, so I start there.  That leads me to that man softly snoring beside me, my healthy and mostly happy kids, work I enjoy, the ability to pay my bills, and on and on.  Usually, I only get to about 10 things, and then I remember no more until the sun comes up and a new day starts.

So, I’m particularly thankful for the blessings of this day.  Not a perfect day.  Just one filled with simple pleasures.

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I run because I know

conteffortRunners often ponder deep thoughts as we pound along, and, I guess, I’m no exception, although some thoughts are deeper than others. Some days my mind simply chases its tail as I plunk along, others it busily solves the world’s problems. Mostly, though, it just sits there in a receptive state, eager to grasp whatever little bit God may offer me, and chew on it thoughtfully.

Today’s run was one of those that I did only because I knew what it would do for me, not out of any innate desire to jump out of bed and meet the cold world head on.

So, I got to thinking about the reasons that I run, and I kept circling back to the realization that I run because I know. I guess having been a runner for several years, I have internalized some truths that keep me lacing up and heading out, even when I’m not particularly in the mood to do so.

I know:

* that on a quiet, cool morning, when the only sounds I hear are the animals rustling the dry leaves around me and my feet pounding along, is when God’s whisper in my ear becomes audible. God speaks to me often, but I hear Him most clearly when I run.

* that running detaches that little black cloud that hitches itself to my posterior all too often, and dispels the gloom it often leaves behind.

* that, even though my running won’t detach anyone else’s black cloud, it may make me a little more capable of dealing with them, give me some insight into their clouds, and help me to know what to say (or not say) that will perhaps shine a little light into their darkness.

* that perseverance trumps talent, discipline trumps genetics. I’ll never be that speedy old broad who sets world age group records, but I’ll be dogging her heels until they put me in the ground. Then, I’ll dog her heels on streets lined with gold. Maybe I’ll catch her then. An Old Broad can dream, can’t she?

* that the only way to combat the deterioration that age inevitably brings is to meet it head on, chase it down, and wrestle it to the ground.

* that my day will go better, my relationships/work/life will flow more easily on days that begin with the quiet contemplation of a run.

* that my interactions with strangers and the world at large, the one that is filled with evil and selfishness; will be kinder and gentler if I start my day off at a trot. Somehow, I like people more after I’ve sweated and gasped for air a while. Strange how that works out.

* that in the long term, my health (mental and physical) will be improved by incorporating movement into my days.

* that in the short term, I just plain feel better when I run consistently.

* that running keeps me moving forward, on the trail and in life.

challenge

Forever the Comeback Kid

start_finish2014 was a year of rest for me.  Not complete rest. But, no races, no set training goals, just learning to love running again and focusing on staying injury free.  After injury prone 2013, burn out, and even worse, doubt, crept into my training and combined to make me forget how much I love this sport.  So, I took the year off.  I ran when I felt like it, walked when I didn’t;  cycled a lot; hiked with my man from the mountains and beaches of the Big Island, to the urban intensity of NYC and New Orleans, and multiple spots in between.  And, guess what?  I ended the year injury free, and renewed my love affair with running to the point that I’m ready to hit the ground running (pun intended, lame as it is) in 2015.

To that end, I’ve set some goals.  I usually set my yearly goals on my birthday (in October), but I even took the year off from that last year.

Fortunately, I’ve been a runner long enough to know that comeback is the name of the game.  There will always be another injury or illness to recover from, always be down time to rev back up, always be another race down the road to make up for the one you bailed on when you had chills and fever.  New years, new challenges, new goals.  I live in conscious and constant thankfulness for that truth.

As always, my goals are simple.  I’m a pretty uncomplicated gal.  Unless you ask my man.  So, here are my goals, for what they’re worth.  I’d love to hear some of yours in the comments.

1) Get back to racing form/weight/endurance.  As I think back over decades of struggles with weight, I realize that the desire to be “thin” left me when I started running.  That’s weird to think about now, but my goal has gone from being that “perfect” weight that society or some doctor decreed was “normal” to being the optimum weight to feel good, run well, and race faster.  I would share my goal weight here, but it’s a constantly moving target as I move forward and decide what feels right.  The number isn’t that important to me anymore, the way I feel is.  And, of course, I would like to be faster.  I heard or read the other day that for every pound you lose, you shave 2 seconds off your time.  So…  losing a thousand pounds ought to be just about right.  😉

2) Remain injury free.  I’ve learned the best way to do that is to ease back into a training plan and listen, listen, listen to my body.  I’m not a runner who can race a lot, for whatever reason, so I have to be very conscious of selecting races/training plans that challenge me, but don’t require me to run myself into the ground. Because I love the half marathon distance, I don’t sprinkle many 5k’s or 10k’s in my year.  I hope one day to run another marathon, but I have some very specific criteria for myself about deciding when or if to do that.

3) Read more.  I have at least six books stacked on my shelf, calling my name, and a list of titles on my iPad at least 5 times that long.  So many books, so little time.  So, I’m going to use my time more wisely.

4) Connect with friends more.  I tend to be a solitary soul, given my choice.  But, whenever I connect with my friends, I remember how much I love good company. I have terrific friends and I’ve joined a couple of groups toward that end.  More on that later.

5) Seek God’s presence in my day to day life in a more intentional way.

6) Accept where I am, dream of where I want to be, work like heck to get there.

Simple list.  Ongoing goals that I’ve set before, and come back to again and again. Yep, forever the Comeback Kid.  I’ll take that.

impossible_effortless

Love the one you’re with

To be honest, I never liked that song. If you can’t have the one that you want, love the one you’re with? Really? No, get over yourself and go for the one you want and let the one you’re with go find someone who appreciates how amazing they are.

…Anyway…

faith_human nature_marathon

This past weekend, my man took me to NYC. You may remember, this blog started during my training for the 2011 NYC marathon. The first Sunday of November each year in NYC finds thousands of runners of various abilities pounding the pavement through the five boroughs of NYC, aiming to win, hit a personal best, or to simply finish. I was one of those brave souls then, and I’m proud of my less than illustrious finish, even if it wasn’t the time goal that I had originally sought. For me, it was about setting a goal and finding the mental strength and the determination to see it through to the end.  I did that.

This year, when I learned that Meb would be running NYC after his historic Boston finish, I knew I wanted to go watch him run. So, my man and I booked our trip, and last Friday , we headed to one of my favorite places to watch one of my favorite races and try to chase Meb through the boroughs. We had a blast running around Brooklyn, trying to find the best spot to see the elite men and women, then hopping back on the R train and heading back uptown to try to catch them again.

What on earth does that have to do with loving the one you’re with? Let me explain.

I love NYC. Since my very first trip there in 2006, it’s been my favorite city to visit and explore, and I’ve made trips there at least once a year since then. Each trip has various goals, but some goals are the same every time. I always want to: see at least one Broadway/off Broadway show; run a new route; visit at least one new historical icon; run in Central Park; eat lobster ravioli in Little Italy, a hot pretzel, and a Nathan’s hotdog at least once each; go to a new museum; and simply walk the city as much as possible. We achieved each of these goals (some more than once), except the Nathan’s hotdog. That’s ok. I’ll eat two on my next trip. 🙂 And, I’ll spare you a pic of the half dollar size blister on my heel from walking around the city.  You’re welcome.

New York City was one of the first trips I made when I began running again. I visited with my sister and got up early (while she talked business on the phone and blew cigarette smoke out the window of our No Smoking room) to run in Central Park, by myself, with no fear and tons of amazement. I ran a bit, took a few pictures, and dreamed. I dreamed of being a faster runner, of running new paths, of exploring the world through running, and of becoming the woman that I envisioned – one who pursued her dreams while raising her family and being the woman that God wanted her to be. Big city, big goals. I’m still working on those goals, all these years later, but one of those goals I met in 2011 – to run the NYC marathon. It wasn’t pretty, but it was fun, and I finished with a smile on my face.

This year, as I watched the amazing athletes (elite and real people) run the boroughs and reach for the stars, I was awed and humbled. We made the journey to see Meb run (hey, you have your celebrity crushes, I have mine), and were able to catch him at the beginning of the race (around mile 2 in Brooklyn), and close to the finish (around mile 24 in Central Park – geez, those dudes are fast). We were able to see some of my other celebrity crushes, Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher among them, as we waited for the elite men to zoom through.

Elite women in Brooklyn (around mile 2)

Elite women in Brooklyn (around mile 2)

Elite men in Brooklyn (pic by my man since my phone was dead; and yes, that is my Medusa hair as I shot with my GoPro)

Elite men in Brooklyn (pic by my man since my phone was dead; and yes, that is my Medusa hair on the bottom left – the wind was brutal!)

Deena Kastor, mile 24.  God bless the Old Broads.  Although, at 41, she barely qualifies.

Deena Kastor, mile 24. God bless the Old Broads. Although, at 41, she barely qualifies.

Kara Goucher

Kara Goucher

Then, came my favorites, the real people. The ones like you and me, the ones whose eyes aren’t set on winning, but on a dream, a goal. One that’s personal and private. One that makes them feel like they’ve accomplished something, one that makes them believe in themselves. One that reminds them that, as bad as life can sometimes be, there’s always hope. These are the people I love. The ones who know that life really only has the limits that you allow it to have. The ones who understand that nothing is a given; life isn’t always easy; that a life worth living is filled with dreams and hopes, even when it’s hard; and the only person who can fix it/achieve it/fulfill it is themselves. I love these people. Watching them race on Sunday; some with grins, some with grimaces; all different body types – some looking like runners, others looking like me; some in obvious pain, others with a smile of wonder on their faces; some fast, some slow; some walking, some running;, some crying, some laughing; some singing, some barely hobbling along: these people are my people. The ones who know that dreams are achievable, borne to us on the wings of hope, faith, and pain. The real people. The ones who make marathons sing with joy and hope, overcoming pain and sorrow, disease and trouble. My inspiration.

Real people, the ones who really deserve our applause

Real people, the ones who really deserve our applause

And, that brings me back to loving the one you’re with. One day, several years ago, this old broad decided it was time. Time to reclaim my life, my health, my sanity. Time to reach for the stars. In a life only marked by mediocrity, it was time to reach for my own personal definition of success. To embrace the body I was in and begin to seek good health, sanity, a life lived well. If I had waited to start running when I was thin enough, or fit enough; if I had waited for that perfect moment in time when it all came together, I would never have started.

It’s still a struggle. I have good days, weeks, months when running seems effortless; then a long, long string of bad ones. I struggle with injury, with losing weight, with finding time. I struggle with speed, with endurance, with motivation. I just struggle.

Still, I run. I’m taking the body I have and I’m moving it forward in pursuit of the body I want. It’s an ongoing pursuit, a never ending battle. But, I love the one I’m with. I’m content in my pursuit.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0501.

 

 

A few images of our fun weekend in NYC:

I love Brooklyn

I love Brooklyn

Finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  My man has NEVER been able to walk the line.

Finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. My man has NEVER been able to walk the line.

Central Park run -  the Reservoir

Central Park run – the Reservoir

The skyline as I left the MOMA

The skyline as I left the MOMA

Central Park in the fall

Central Park in the fall

9/11 memorial

9/11 memorial

And me, keeping the faith and learning to love the one I’m with.

Central Park, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir; Fall, 2014

Central Park, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir; Fall, 2014

Body Conscious

 I was in a never ending checkout line recently, and in a shopping cart a couple of people ahead of me was a young child, being entertained by his mother.  He was having none of it, though, so she lifted him out of the cart and he snuggled into her shoulder with a sigh of contentment.  I marveled, not at the beauty of the child (even though he was absolutely delicious), but at how wondrously designed our bodies are.  The curve of the mother’s neck was perfectly proportioned to accommodate the baby’s sleepy head, her shoulder nicely rounded to accept his fat little arm, her shoulder blade smooth and flat to feel the tap, tap, tap of the baby’s gentle pats.

The beauty of that moment made me forget the impatience of the checkout, my long list of errands, the pile of work waiting on my desk. I remembered with a smile the long ago days of my daughter’s childhood, the feel of her sweet head curved into my neck, the pat of her fat little hand on my back.  And, I remembered with regret that I didn’t truly appreciate the divine design that made those moments possible.  Instead, I wished I were ten (or thirty) pounds lighter; that the cushioning that had nurtured her into being would fade away and leave me with a “perfect” body.

 Why did it take me a half-century to understand the absolute perfection of the woman’s body?  Why have I taken my own amazingly designed body for granted, not appreciated the divine plan of the temple God created in me?  This woman’s body, the one sculpted to nurture a baby, then toddler, then child is also designed to respond to her husband’s touch; to feel joy, pain, grief, and desire; to feel powerful; to feel fatigued.

 The human body is truly a marvel.  It is designed to alert us to impending danger, whether from a bear chasing us, or an illness overtaking us.  When did we stop listening?  When did we stop marveling?  Why is it so easy to spot the flaws and overlook the perfection?

 We live in a world that judges beauty by harsh and unrealistic standards.  We see images of women that have been altered by technology to the point that they’re often unrecognizable, and we think that’s how we should look.  Never mind that the subject of the photo doesn’t even look that way, or that it is usually physically impossible to achieve that look.

We live in a world that’s conditioned us to accept fast food as an acceptable eating plan. A world that’s designed to keep us imprisoned in a chair facing a computer screen or desk for hours on end.  One that encourages us to give too much of ourselves to mindless entertainment, zoning out and allowing our minds to deteriorate along with our bodies.  One that discourages intimacy and allows relationships to be technology based.

 Was it the world that caused all this, though?  Wasn’t it our choices and decisions that brought us to this place?

It’s time for a change.  It’s time to take back our lives, our health, our bodies, our minds.  It’s time to remember that our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, designed to last us a lifetime.

 It’s time to marvel at the beauty of a baby perfectly curved around his mother’s body.

embrace your body

Wintertime Blues

There comes a time in most relationships when passion wanes and you begin to operate on autopilot.  You forget what drew you to each other in the first place, your mind starts to wander, you may even seek a diversion outside your partnership.  No, I’m not talking about marriage (even though I’m sure that’s true of some), I’m talking about running.

Over the last year, my passion for running has cooled.  I’ve struggled for motivation, dealt with injury, looked forward to tapers and time off with a little too much relish.  But, because I’m no stranger to long term relationships, I know that this, too, will pass.  That eventually the passion will return and I’ll remember why I fell in love with running.  I’ve learned that the secret to overcoming that lack of passion is to “fake it til you make it.”  In other words, keep moving forward.  Find your motivation anywhere you can, race a new distance or location, set new goals, maybe find a running partner.  Run even when you don’t feel like it, when you see no discernible difference in your speed or endurance, or when your mind screams,  “Stop!”  Just keep running.  Maybe throw in some cross training, but if running is your heart’s desire, then you just have to run.

An enduring relationship with running is just like any other relationship.  It takes work, discipline, mental toughness, and sometimes, creativity.  Why keep going?  The same reason you stick it out in any relationship.  It’s part of who you are.

Running for me has been a dream maker, a companion, a comfort, a cathartic release, a creativity boost, a way to iron out problems in my mind, a time to grow closer to God.  It’s carried me through the illness and death of my parents, family struggles, financial woes, the sting of criticism and rejection, and the ongoing journey to discover my way.  It feeds me, nourishes me, punishes me, disciplines me, humbles me.  It allows me quality time with God, a time to hear God’s voice and meditate on His promises.  It threatens revolt when I don’t eat well and kicks my butt accordingly. It makes stair climbing easier, gives life to my legs and lungs, and enables me to live a life filled with adventure.  It gives me strength and makes me stronger, it strips away all pretense and reminds me that I’m not Superwoman, I’m just an old broad who runs who can accomplish whatever she sets her mind to.

I’ve been watching the Olympics along with the rest of the world, and even though I like the summer games better (with its track and field events), I’ve really enjoyed watching the athletes as they compete in their disciplines.  It takes a great deal of mental toughness to make it to that level and I want to soak up as much of that by osmosis as I can.  Watching Noelle Pikus-Pace’s silver medal skeleton run and her heart warming reaction at the end reminded me of the other bonus in my life that keeps me running and helps with mental toughness.  My family.  I’ve watched the video multiple times now and I’m not ashamed to admit that tears flowed each time.  Knowing that others believe in us and are willing to sacrifice to help us accomplish our dreams helps give wings to our feet and brush the cobwebs from our minds. Knowing that the legacy I want to leave for my girls is one of strength and fitness keeps me lacing up those shoes, even on hard days.

I know running and I will get through this relationship crisis.  We’ve gone too many miles together to stop now.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

 Isaiah 40:13

challenge

Are you an Old Broad?

You may or may not have noticed a recent name change on the blog.  For the last several years, this blog has been titled “Faith and Fitness at 50”.  I started this blog several years ago as an accountability journal when I was training for the NYC marathon, and quickly realized that writing was as much a part of me as running, so I continued after the race.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I realized that eventually Faith and Fitness would be 60, so I decided to rename the blog now, and do the upgrades required.  I’ve called myself an “old broad” since before I was actually one chronologically, so that was the obvious choice.  The new blog address is oldbroadsrun.net, but never fear, you can still get there from the old url, as well. If you’re a follower (and if you’re not, what’s wrong with you?), you followed me right on over to the new web address (thanks to an extended phone call with my friend and mentor, Steve Kozak).

I thought I would give a little characterization of who exactly qualifies as “Old Broads,” because you may be one and not even know it.

Old Broads…

… are not defined by a chronological age.  You may be a 30 year old and celebrate many of these qualities.

 don’t take themselves too seriously.  I realized a few months ago that I had truly achieved “Old Broad” status after cooking a meal of lamb chops for my family for the first time.  Lamb chops really aren’t Southern staples.  After carefully cleaning his plate, my man brought it to me in the kitchen where I was cleaning and said, “Thank you for supper, I enjoyed it.  Now, please never cook that again.”  A comment that, in my youth,  would have inspired gallons of tears, multiple slamming doors, broken dishes, and a three day sulk.  This time it just cracked me up.  And, I haven’t fixed them again. Although,  he may get them for Valentine’s Day.  😉

… don’t care if you see them without their “face” on.  I ran in the rain this drizzly morning with no hat and no make-up, then went into the bank and the grocery store unashamed.  I am who I am, and I know that when I do clean up, I clean up well.  I don’t really care if you know it or not.

… are active. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, as well.  We’re always seeking our best life, for ourselves and our loved ones.

… are good listeners.  Okay, I’m working on that one.

… accept the inevitable signs of aging with grace and equanimity.  I sometimes look in the mirror in the morning and see my grandmother.  Not her 52 year old self, whose skin rivaled any 20 year old’s, but her 80 year old self.  With Medusa hair.  But, with a little work, my Fleur de vie skin care, and some imagination, I tame the beasts and go about my day.  I remind myself that all those wrinkles, sags, and bags represent a life well lived.

… use their life experiences to learn.  I pray that every trial I face, every time I stumble and fall, each triumph over loss enables me to file away a little nugget of truth.  That I use all my years of experiences to fill me with wit and wisdom, and that I’m unafraid to share that wisdom with those who need it.  I pray that God brings people in my path who can teach me and who are willing to learn from me.  People who will inspire and encourage me, and those that I can motivate, as well.

I pray that I become an Old Broad who leaves the world a little better than she found it.   I’m humbly thankful for the opportunity to become that old broad.

age of heart