It Takes Kids


If we are lucky, we end up getting more than we expect from something we undertake. So has been the case with the job I started back in December. Just a very part-time and simple one as a lunch room monitor in a very small Charter school, something I honestly felt might not fulfill me as much as my career as a paramedic, but took because of logistical reasons. As it turns out, this non-career position may end up being one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve ever had in some important ways.

I was asked a month or so ago by a co-worker if I would be interested in participating in a 5K race that a bunch of kids and staff members were doing. This race was a two-part thing: one a regular 5K to benefit the Girl Scouts, but the other was called Girls On The Run to get local girls to get psyched and get out there and see what they could do. My co-worker knew I worked out, so approached me and I said: of course! Not really knowing what I was supposed to do though, I registered for the Girl Scout part, which was timed.

Meanwhile, the girls at my school trained, and in the lunch room, we all talked about the upcoming day which happened to be today.

It was held in a lovely park right as the sun was coming up. I haven’t raced in years and planned to just speed walk. The girls were excited and it was great to see some of the teachers out of work.

When the race started, I held to my plan for a bit, but since I had been having a pretty good work out regimen lately (and I’m way too competitive), I thought I’d try jogging just a bit. The paved trail in the park was surrounded by grass, so I was able to jog on it for much of the time. Since the Girls On The Run race started 5 minutes later, a few of the kids passed me and we cheered each other on. One teacher (who had planned to walk too, but was running), passed me also as did a friend’s son. I ended up jogging slowly almost the whole way. It was a miracle.

At the finish line, we all had fun cheering the school in (and collecting thin mints). And it was really crazy when we found out some of us actually placed in our age groups; including me! I was second in mine! Pays to be old. Of course I was 10 minutes behind the first woman, but hey: as a famous woman runner once said, “A win is a win!”

But the really best part was having the girls calling out my name along the way and saying hi, having one teacher telling me how much she loved me (I actually thought she never noticed me), having the kindergarten teacher introduce me to her Mom telling her about how I’m in her class and just hearing from folks how the kids love me (I was asked to be one of the coaches next year).

I worked for 20 years as a medic and rarely got warm fuzzies. Maybe it just takes children and their natural ability for giving joy and love to finally make someone like me feel good in my place of employment!

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Poem: Walking In Dawn


Dark walking

with chilled breath

blowing ghostly visitation

while chilled bones

slowly warm

Shadow halos

stretch quiet in the glow

slapping footfalls

counting distances unknown

Sleeping houses

passing by

may be saving shelter

should fears come alive

And sun starts to rise

grasping at sliver moon

dangling in the gray sky

tendrils of yellow reaching up

making moon vanish

Now lone mockingbird

is joined by a chorus

Dawn has been

walked awake

 

 

 

 

New Wheels


Down here most every where I go is by car. The traffic is nuts and the drivers are crazy. I’ve read we have some of the worse drivers in the country and I can definitely say that I agree. They are impatient and rude and usually not safe. The roads are simply scary.

I moved down here with my beloved Bianchi racing bicycle, but never had the guts to ride it anywhere. You would never find me riding on these roads on that bike with these crazy drivers! No thanks. 

But I have missed doing some riding and I live in a great little community. So I figured if I could sell my bike maybe I could get something more suitable for just tooling around the neighborhood or going to the gym and pool.

Last weekend I lucked out and got a buyer who wanted it for actual riding not parts. I got almost the asking price and she got an amazing deal. Honestly I helped out a kid in need.

And today I got my new baby. Perfect for my new needs, although not as slick or fancy. Still it’s a great brand, a Trek, and the shop was very helpful.

So tomorrow I try her out! After all, I’m not as young  as I used to be,  so a sweet commuting/touring bike is perfect for me now!

Balance Beam


I feel as though much of life is lived as though on a balance beam–walking gingerly, one careful step in front of another, trying desperately not to fall off. It can apply to so many aspects of our daily lives: our emotional well-being, our physical self, our spiritual life, our relationships or even our financial standing. We balance so many things, each and every minute, we not even be aware of some things. We become like Olympic gymnasts training for some great event. The exhaustion of this perpetual feeling of being poised, wavering and anticipating a possible plunge can be utterly exhausting. This, in turn, produces stress to all of our systems both physical and mental, that makes toppling off almost inevitable.

Not only does every day life produce the possibility of losing one’s balance very great, but there is always the added factor of being pushed. When one enters any kind of relationship or friendship with another person–no matter who that person might be–the unpredictability of outside forces increases ten-fold.

We all know that is hard enough to really understand ourselves. If we add any kind of mental instability, balancing on the beam becomes incredibly problematic. Doctors prescribe medication and maybe therapy, but one wonders if these may only tend to make us more groggy and unsteady? But trying to understand and getting to know the psyche of someone else can be utterly baffling, especially if they don’t know themselves? Then how does one predict anything?

One may present themselves as a certain persona, and this may be true. Or it may be what they believe to be true or it may be an utter lie. So we walk on the beam under the impression of a given set of information from this person. They may promise things, take vows and all may be true in the moment. But when the moment changes for that person, but not the other–we can’t help but fall off! And what if there is no safety net underneath?

Life hits us with so many unexpected things: health issues, car accidents, death of a loved one, money loss, divorce, affairs, getting dumped–you name it. The key is figuring out how to stay on the balance beam! This is what I’ve been trying to learn. In the past when I got knocked off, I would easily curl into myself, blame myself and go to a very dark place. In the more recent years, gathering inner strength through mediation, yoga and forgiving myself and others–has made it much easier to stay balanced when something comes at me threatening to tip me off. I may wobble and I may even do one of those fancy moves like an Olympic Star, but I stay on and simply say: I meant to do that!

It comes down to realizing that life will throw things at us but if we can remain strong: physically (by working out, eating right and breathing), spiritually (by practicing whatever works for us), emotionally (by being around loving and caring people) and intellectually (by continually learning, growing and striving for new things)–we may stay upright. It may take time to get physically strong–learning to eat right might be something we have to change and working out is not something we all long to do. But in the end, your body will thank you. Growing healthy and loving relationships can be difficult in this age of throw away ones. It may be hard to know who is real and who isn’t–some of the people we meet or work with may be the very ones who end up knocking us off the beam! Staying strong, being patient, believing in one’s self, being honest and true to one’s own feelings and trusting those ‘red flags’ go a long way in building foundations. Only time builds good friends–the ones who run quickly weren’t worth it anyway. Our intellect can be cultivated by anything that interests us: our hobbies, the news, reading, our job–as long as we keep nurturing our minds.

By staying balanced within ourselves, we should be able to walk with ease on the narrowest of beams. Even in times of deepest stress or troubles, picture yourself like the most toned athlete standing there on the end just getting ready to do some amazing move. They stand perfectly still and focus, they breathe and  believe they can do it–they picture the Gold and then leap with the picture of a successful landing in mind! We all too can do this on our own balance beams and come out winners in the end.

Chillin’


blog

As I age at two years shy of 60, my athletic prowess and drive seems to dim on a yearly basis. I was on the treadmill this morning and I began to wonder if age wasn’t the only factor that may affect one’s ability as we get on in years. My youngest daughter told me that my ex husband (who is 5 years younger mind you) just went on some winter hiking trip. I was pretty impressed.

He also still does some pretty hefty running races, bikes for miles and miles, did a few triathlons last year. While me, well, I didn’t get on my bike last year. And my desire to run and really waned. I walk/jog now. It just hurts too much. I seem to like quieter and easier things.

But I thought about some of the people I know that still have the drive; thought about the differences in lifestyles between them and me. My ex for instance is a software engineer. He makes big bucks, has a cushy job, big house, goes on lots of vacations, a wife and a nice lifestyle.

As a paramedic, I’ve never made great money. My hours are long, the stress is high, the work is physically and emotionally demanding. It has been for almost 20 years. While there are occasionally some sweet moments, they are honestly rare. I take few vacations, partly because money is tight, but also because of logistics where I work and the commitment I feel for my job and community. I live alone, so the burden of my household falls on me too.

It made me wonder the toll this has taken on me and my body and my psyche. How has this ground me down over the years? Coming home now I feel no great desire to rush out and go for a 3-5 mile run anymore like the old days. I work out before work, but even that is tough. I get up at 4:45 am in order to do my workouts and never miss a day. But they are much more mellow.

I’ve always noted that a triathlete’s lifestyle is one of luxury. One can hardly be a pauper and have the time, resources or money for races to be able to participate. It takes so much training and equipment even just to play at it! And every year it gets more specialized and commercialized with someone waiting to rip off the uninitiated.

Back in the day a race cost $5.00 or 10.00 for a running race and maybe $25.00 for a triathlon. Now you need to take out a loan! It’s nuts. I don’t even go anymore. Who needs another T-shirt and an orange just for the privilege to run 3.1 miles? No thanks–I’ll just do it on my own!

So maybe my body, my lifestyle, my poverty is all just rebelling against what I used to find so important. Those endorphins coursing through my body in massive amounts just seemed so necessary to my survival. Now I would rather sit quietly and see if I can meditate for more that 10 minutes.

As my whole life seems to move more and more towards less and less, it seems this is true even in the physical realm of my life. I once considered myself quite the adrenalin junkie. Not that I would say I’m in bad shape for an old lady, but I’m quite content now taking it all a bit more slowly.

 

Photo: My Missing Fitbit


image

Here’s what’s left of my fitbit one that I lost last week!  Well that’s not totally true~ the main part is now junk. I found it tonight on my walk with the dogs. It was smushed into the ground having been run over more than once! I’m sure it was rained on too! Odd that I walk by there twice a day and only found it today. Boo! Much sadness. Now I need to decide if I’m brave (or stupid) enough to buy another one? Surely I will have a new theory about how and when I wear it from now on! The next time will be the washer I’d imagine…sheesh!

Do You Know Me?


Yesterday my youngest daughter, now almost 20 came over to visit me. She has recently started college close by. Her boyfriend came over a bit after she did. It was an interesting and informative visit–as are many visits with young adults. This time she had some homework to do and parts of papers she had written that she wanted me to read. The contents of these papers are the subject of my blog tonight, as well as some behaviors exhibited by these two.

Apparently she had to write a bio explaining her growing up, her future desires etc. I was pretty shocked when she read to me her first line that stated that she was a product of a divorce! The fact that this was important enough to have started her bio was amazing to me. I would never have guessed that she considered this a defining factor in her life. Knowing her, there are so many other fabulous things to say about her (which she did go on to say), but this just hit me right in the face.

I too grew up from divorced parents, but don’t feel like it defines me. Or at least, it wouldn’t be the first thing I would say about myself anyway. But I suppose, we are each different and entitled to our self assessment.

It went on to compare the attributes she gained from her father and from me: Dad was self-discipline and responsibility and I gave her a free spirit and spontaneity. Here I was surprised how someone could know me for so long and be so wrong! Or maybe her definitions are just misplaced.

I am actually not spontaneous at all! I’m incredibly OCD and need a routine. It makes me crazy to just do something that isn’t planned honestly. I’m extremely self-disciplined having been a vegetarian for 36 years and an avid athlete for that long too. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it! I’m responsible to a fault also. I’m not saying her Dad isn’t, but he has been the one to be much more a slacker about things interestingly. As for being a free-spirit, well I suppose I march to a different drummer. I’m more a non-conformist I would say.

The point is, I’m not sure if my daughter was using poetic license or if she just has me pegged all wrong? Is that possible? I often think my kids have no idea who I really am deep down even though they are now young adults. We sadly don’t spend much time together, I often feel like they don’t want to bother to know who I really am either.

And the other thing I observed is that this American generation seems so whiny. I made a simple comment about what the two of them were eating–yes it was slightly sarcastic, and bam, they were up and leaving because I hurt their feelings. Sheesh! Of course, when they made fun of all the ‘raw vegetables’ in my fridge that they didn’t want to eat when I offered to make them dinner, they make no connection to that being commentary also.

Adults now are supposed to constantly praise and can never speak any kind of negative truth for fear someone’s boo-boo feelings will be hurt. But one’s kids can continually say rude things, only call when they need something, never come around or be sullen when they are around and those behaviors are supposed to be accepted without comment!

Well, I’ve decided my time of being OK with this sort of stuff has come to an end! My ‘free-spirit’ nature has taken flight and my sense of responsibility tells me they need be taught that everyone has feelings, not just them. It  may mean a few difficult words or some days of silence, but hopefully in the long run, something sinks in.

My Mom always said by the time they’re 30 or so they will figure it out! Oh goodness….I’ll be in the nursing home by then! With any luck, they’ll figure it out sooner!

10 Things Swimming Has Taught Me


swimming

I’ve been swimming for many years. It all started when I wanted to complete a triathlon. Running had been starting to wear me down and my husband at the time suggested we try this new event: run, bike, swim. Unfortunately, I really couldn’t swim! Especially in a lake with 100 other people who couldn’t swim! But I started to practice and jumped into my first one and came out just about last out of the water. Thus began my swimming career.

Now I am primarily a swimmer! No more running and no more triathlons! The running has stopped recently when I picked up yoga, and I stopped competing in Tri’s a couple of years ago. Partly because the swim portion was so scary. I hated the feeling of being surrounded by thrashing, desperate athletes pawing their way in open water–all willing to crash into anyone in their way! No thanks!

My style is more a heated pool, plugged into my music (see picture above) doing my laps (fast or slow depending on the beat), to prepare for my day ahead. I often have stream of consciousness thoughts and realized my swimming has given me much….and so…I bring you this blog:

1. Finding a sense of community in an individual sport. While many swimmers join master’s swim teams or school teams, my swimming is purely for me. But within this solo sport, I have found a whole community of swimmers that join me in the pool almost every day. And we know each other very well! Getting naked in a locker room is a very good way to become close to someone quickly! And even walking around next to naked in bathing suits lets your inhibitions down! It strips us of our pretenses. We share our life stories about our families, our lives, our past, our future. We talk about politics, our work, our joys and sorrows. It’s a wonderful group. They set me on the course of my day. And when one of us miss some time, we all worry. While most of us don’t get together outside this swimming time, I feel they are all my friends.

2. Movement like dance defying gravity. I am so often struck while I’m swimming how it feels like I’m flying. The only other times I remotely have felt like this is in dreams. But this is real! I’m really doing it. There are moments when I am floating along (although I’m always working very hard) buoyed by the water and it’s such an amazing feeling. Where else can one be horizontal, holding on to nothing, suspended… Once, when I was swimming outside in Florida, with the sun sparkling on the water, I think I had an out-of-body experience.

3. Finding a sense of peace. Because we were born in water, being surrounded by water, I always feel a sense of serenity. Learning to relax took some time, but once one gains that skill, there is nothing like the water to sooth all that ails. Whenever I’m stressed out, my swim always relaxes me if I just let it. By the time I’m done, I always feel a sense of peace, without the tight muscles I felt with running. Much like the yoga now.

4. Breathing. I learned to be able to breathe slowly, mindfully, on both sides during the crawl and at the right time. Breathing incorrectly when you swim can be disastrous as we all know! Panic during swimming is what gets most people in trouble. If someone doesn’t know how to swim or tread water and their breath gets out of control, they are most likely lost. Interestingly, the mammalian instinct takes over, and often drowned individuals are found with no water in their lungs. One must always remember to keep the breath even, steady, long and drawn out. It helps above water too!

5. The water accepts all. It loves large, handicapped, injured, dense-boned and frail and rocks us all in her womb. She makes us all feel as if there’s no gravity and we can all be athletes within her arms. She shows no prejudice the way those sweating on the earth find. Slogging the way through a run, or someone missing a leg might find, or coming back from a back injury or an elderly person–the water is a gentle cradle. Sometimes it’s the person with more mass that is the better swimmer! They can relish this sport and not feel at a disadvantage as gravity doesn’t pull as hard.

6. It will take me to old age. So many sports seem to wear on people’s joints, back, hips. Not so with swimming. I see many seniors still religiously doing their laps and loving them. The water is easy on them and yet gives them a sense of self, allows them work the muscles and heart. There are many that still race! It’s a sport that is kind.

7. Working my body without pain. I used to feel ‘no pain, no gain’. But I’ve learned in my older age, that this isn’t so. Swimming is a whole body workout. Every muscle group is used from the turning of one’s head, moving one’s arms, moving one’s back muscles and kicking one’s legs. And of course one’s cardiovascular system is pumping all the while. One can work as hard or as easily as you want. But the resistance of the water always makes you work, even if you are doing gentle aerobics in the water. It’s a built-in ‘machine’ to work against.

8. To each her own. I tend to just swim 1 mile the crawl. It made me feel rather guilty for a while. Others were doing intense speed workouts. They had written workouts given to them by coaches. Even the lifeguard told me I should shake it up a bit. But I had many years of those kinds of workouts and I felt done. I didn’t want to be told what to do anymore. Now I simply go for me, to do my own thing and stay in shape. I listen to my underwater MP3 player. When a fast song comes on, I swim faster. Then I take a break on a slow song. It works for me-no pressure.

9. I like what I like. In the summer there are many of the swimmers that move to the lakes. Thank goodness. The ‘pool’ crowd is always grateful because then we get lanes to ourselves. Yup, I prefer a lane to myself and I’d rather not share. Certainly I will if I must, but it’s so much nicer when the water isn’t choppy and you aren’t getting hit by accident. I also like the water warm. The lake swimmers like the water cooler too because they are usually the faster swimmers. I’m a wimp and like it above 82 degrees. What can I say? I’m fussy and in a rut and my swimming brings out my OCC/ADD nature.

10. I’m me. I’m an athlete and always will be. I’m paring down now that I’m older to the things that give me true pleasure and enhance my life. Swimming is one of those athletic things. It brings me peace, community, strength, joy, breath, health and energy. It doesn’t hurt my bones or pull my muscles. I’m grateful to have a pool on the way to work!