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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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

Define yourself

success

I’m mostly a fan of social media. Like everything, it can be used for good or evil, so monitoring it and setting limits on myself factor highly in my accessibility. I hide those people whose posts are mostly negative, and I seek out those who motivate me.

One of the pages I look at daily offers motivational quotes for athletes, primarily runners. One recent post was by elite marathoner, Deena Kastor. She talked about how we grow as humans and athletes by training when it’s difficult, and she closed with a simple quote by her “seldom without words” coach as she headed out to run the Chicago marathon in 2005 (which she won). He simply told her, “Define yourself.”

Those words resonated with me at a time that I’m struggling. In training and in life, it’s been a dicey time for me. What’s strange about this time is that my struggles are ALL mental. There’s nothing wrong physically and my life is much the same as it always is, but still, I’m struggling. So, I took those words to heart. Who exactly am I? Where do I see the next phase of my life taking me? Deep thoughts for a nice fall afternoon.

I don’t think we ever truly know how others view us, but, unfortunately, I think we all too often decide who we are based on our perceptions of others’ opinions. So, as I define myself, I don’t want to consider who others think I am.  The only opinions that factor are mine and God’s.

Who am I?


I am a woman defined by faith.
My relationship with God trumps all the others, but not in a “so, there” kind of way. My faith defines me, it makes me look at others with compassion, understand the true meaning of love, and reach out to those who aren’t like me. I’ll always be a work in progress, but I’m humbled by the fact that God loves me, warts and all.

I am a wife. I’m so unbelievably thankful that God knew what I didn’t all those years ago when He brought me my man.  I was a really dumb kid, and God came through.  Love. That. Man.

I am a mother. My girls mean the world to me. They are strong, independent women that I take great pride in, even if I had very little to do with who they have become.

I am a runner. Running is so much a part of me that when I’m not able to train, or when my training isn’t going well (like now), my whole world seems slightly skewed, a little off color, not quite balanced.

I am an artist. Whether through the camera lens, or through my writing, art is a huge part of my definition. I’m not proclaiming greatness, photography and writing are simply the ways that I express myself. I make no apologies for my art, it may or may not be your cup of tea. What others think doesn’t matter in my definition of me, my thoughts and creative processes are my own: hop aboard and ride along, or simply turn it off, that choice is yours.

I am a woman who:

loves deeply; is a loyal friend; tells the truth easily; lies badly; likes wine a little more than I ought to; runs very, very slowly; is strong in a crises, but breaks down afterward; loves the outdoors and marvels at the creation of an all knowing God; argues passionately about those things that matter and tries not to argue about those things that don’t; loves her extended family as though she gave birth to them; sometimes worries too much about split times; cries too easily, especially during cheesy movies; sometimes wants to quit, but finds deep reserves to keep on keeping on; loves to laugh; appreciates beauty in multiple forms; often sees beauty where others don’t; sometimes shuts out the world with a good book (or reruns of Big Bang – hey, I never claimed to be perfect); falls a lot, but has learned to pick herself up and keep moving forward; often doubts her own abilities, but is learning to lean on God during those times; stands at attention, hand over heart when the National Anthem is sung, and sheds tears easily when “God Bless America” is performed at a ball game; believes in miracles and the power of prayer; understands the role doubt plays in faith; hates confrontation, but stands up for what she believes; will pray for you when you are hurting, and will listen when you need a friend; hates “selfies” and what they say about the self involvement of the next generation, but enjoys looking at images that spread joy; looks at our next generation with wonder, awe, and concern as I see the world we’re handing down to them; encourages those who need a boost, but seldom willing to let others boost her (a HUGE failing on my part); knows her failings much better than she knows her strengths.

As I seek to define myself, I know that my gaze has to be heavenward. Sometimes that’s hard for me, I have a stubborn propensity to want to do it all on my own. How goofy, yet how human. My prayer for the upcoming year (I had a birthday last week & haven’t set my yearly goals yet) is that I will turn to God more frequently in prayer, I will listen more quietly and with less petition, I will heed His word and His will for my life.

self doubt

In running, in life, in all that I do, I pray that I will reflect God’s definition of me.

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!

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