Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One hundred days of excellent excuses

It's been over three months since I've worked out.

Yep. You read right.

Over one hundred days since I've laced up the running shoes and hit the road, trails or yoga mat.

For those of you who know me, and what I do for fun and work, you may now bring your bottom jaw back up to it's full, upright and locked position.

"Wow! So how's that workin' out for ya'?" I hear you ask politely.

Not well.
Not well at all, my friends.
Sleep is not sweet.  I am not sweet.
Despite sharing a home with five other saints,
My hormone induced personality disorders are really not sweet.

There are lots of excellent reasons for my longtime departure from what I know to be good and right for body and soul:

  • I've been very, very busy stuff.
  • I've been lonely.
  • I've been out of sorts, off my game, upside down.
  • The roads here are a death trap.
  • Cars pass on the shoulder at 60 miles per hour.
  • My children should not witness their mother as road-kill.
  • I don't have a running buddy.
  • I don't have a workout group.
  • I miss All About Athlete Austin something fierce
  • It's been raining, a lot.
  • My fourth toe on my right foot really hurts.
  • I'm out of shape and kind of embarrassed.
  • It's really, really humid here.
  • The effort required to even think about interviewing/joining a gym is more that I can fathom.
  • I HATE running on the treadmill.
  • The cost of joining a gym here is more than David will be able to ever fathom.
  • Did I mention I've been really, really busy on the farm?
  • Just so, so busy.
  • Crazy busy.
  • Doing
  • Farm
  • Stuff

Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

As a coach, I've been sniffing out excuses masquerading as excellent reasons from thousands of athletes over the last decade.  Each person, including me, thinks she is the lone exception to the "make time for exercise" rule.  Our excuse feels legitimate and oh-so-important.

Let's just call a spade a spade, shall we? My excellent list of reasons for why I don't bother to exercise each passing day is a growing heap of lame excuses that's starting to get really moldy and stink.

So, today I have to coach myself.  This list may help you in an endeavor where you need a little push.

  • Start somewhere.  
  • Pick a place today and just start.
  • A little is better than nothing.
  • For real.  Ten minutes is better than no minutes.
  • It adds up.
  • People are always nicer than you think.  
  • Smile, be humble, be brave.
  • No one is looking at you.
  • No-one is that busy.  
  • Especially me.
  • Busy, productive people need exercise the most.
  • Stress will come out somewhere.  
  • Best if it comes out in streams of sweat instead of a huffy-puffy attitude.
  • My children really need a happy mom.  
  • My husband truly deserves a pleasant wife.
  • Deep sleep is one great reward of physical effort.
  • When I am sleeping deeply I don't think of the stink bugs under the dresser.
  • Exercise makes you think about what you eat and drink.
  • You do become more "health" conscious.
  • Because the effort shouldn't be wasted.
  • Don't wait for the right moment, feeling, weather report or personal invitation
  • Just start somewhere.

I'll let you know how it works out for me.  Will you?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Salty Sue

I seek out salty women, always have.  

Adding them to life's common ingredients brings out the true flavor of any daily grace, for me.  Women of flavor bring a memorable fusion of color, texture, tartness and depth to my table.  

This weekend, my heart's taste buds were bursting with the arrival of an old and true friend.

Salty Sue, I love you.

Got your tickets to the gun show?  Check out her arms!
Sue takes scraps out to the chickens.  Will they like jalepenos?

God saw fit to bring two teenage girls together in a small liberal arts college over twenty years ago and knit their hearts together for all time.  He knew then what we couldn't possibly begin to fathom; how each life would unfold and how each path would wind through love and loss, pain and health, loneliness and joy.

Sue's spicy husband (Frank) and sweet kids (Isaac and Grace)

And God continues to allow rare opportunities to encourage and refresh and delight in the on-going journey. What grace! He brings us together again, on an old farm in Maryland, to glimpse into each other's lives,  enjoy each other's children, and witness the grace lavished on each of us since last we met.

Salty women of the future (Colvin and Grace, age 6)

He treats us to an undeserved feast of friendship, and I get up from the table well-fed and with great thanksgiving.

"For you are the salt of the earth"

Make it delicious!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

That kind of woman

"The best way to run faster... is to run faster." I bet I stated this at some point in every speed workout the last decade.  How annoying if you were at every one.

Sorry 'bout that.

Sure, there are plenty of techniques available to tweak running form and improve speed, but at some point, you must get out there with all your light feet and perfect strides and run wildly faster than you are comfortable running.

For those of you who dislike rigorous exercise or sweating, even, running fast is scary and requires much of you. Running really fast uses all the life-giving systems in your body and can mess with your mind and even your instincts.

You'll rarely be more nervous, nauseas and sore than before and after speed workouts. Chills and cramps, throwing up a little, feeling light-headed and overwhelmed are just par for the course.

Sounds fun, huh?  Makes you just want to skip on out the door in your Nikes?

I remind myself of these truths as I am eye-balling two new challenges at the moment.

1. "The best way to become a better to write".
2. "The best way to become a better to be a better wife".

You might have one to add to the list?

In regards to the first challenge, I now certainly have the time, the space and the quiet for writing.  Lots of space.  And time.  And quiet.

Yesterday my eldest, overly observant son looked at me and and noted brightly "I'm glad to see you did your hair today! It's been awhile and... lately... you've let your" He wasn't wrong, and bravely soldiered on, "...but I know it's just because you don't have anyone to meet or anywhere to go".


I have to borrow a paragraph from my dear friend, Christa Well's blog, that I couldn't write any better.

"...within a few days, I was sure the silence would swallow me up whole.  No friends.  No work.  No idea what do do with the songs I was accumulating.  No place to be.  No family around.  And a painful distance between even the two of us.  Every week was blank, looming at me like open jaws of a great  abyss..."

In the writing realm, I'm timidly lacing up my writing shoes, warming up ever-so-slowly around the outskirts of the track, stretching and taking nervous pee breaks.

To be a better writer, I need to write.

As for becoming a better wife, this takes all of me. The best way to be a better wife is to be a better wife.  I know what a better wife looks like. I know how she speaks gentleness and leans in when she listens. I want to be that woman. How hard can it be to have a warm smile when he returns home?
Apparently for me, impossible.

My wifely techniques are scrubbed and shiny. Family dinners on the farm are nutritional and visual beauty. I clean the splintery oak floors with lavender scented water (no one notices, but I truly don't mind). I grow pretty flowers and crunchy vegetables, tend chickens and birds.  I send the kids off after a hot breakfast and lots of kisses.

Better skills and techniques don't interest me in this moment.  I want to be a better wife in the deepest and most honest places, to run the race long and well, inside and out.

Psalms 119 cheers from the bleachers.

"The unfolding of your words gives light;
It brings understanding to the simple"

Oh, that my heart may be melted and changed through the unfolding of the words that bring life.

Understanding and light to the simple.  Tonight, how will I greet him at the door?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hear and appear: Defending the weak.

"Titus." I whisper urgently.  "Go get your gun."

Could there be any more thrilling words in a ten-year-old's day?

I am still stunned that no matter where that boy is on the two hundred acre farm, he hears and appears, a breathless apparition, squinting up towards the silver sky at the hunting hawks circling low and slow above our chickens.

Four weeks ago, twenty seven day-old chicks arrived at our country post office at 6am.  Having hatched a day earlier in Iowa,  they were rudely examined to determine their sex, placed in a shoe box, and overnight shipped to our Maryland farm in less than twenty four hours.

There are not many things in the world cuter than day-old chicks, except the look on a sleepy six-year-old's face when she awakes to a shoebox of chicks cheep-cheeping on her pillow.

Five weeks later, the chicks are now free-ranging teenagers.  No longer timid, they strut their latest feathery fashions along sparkly chicken wire.  The adolescent girls gossip in giddy groups under the shady vines, all the while terrorizing the local insect gangs.  

Poor, poor bugs.

A few things we've learned about chickens:

1.  They eat stink bugs whole.
2.  This has greatly reduced the stink bug population on my pillow.
3.  Chickens deposit odious, copious amounts of stink bug poop everywhere.
4.  They attract ominous hungry hawks and very large black snakes.
5.  They bring out the most protective instincts in 10-year old boys.

So the protector of his flock takes aim and lets the hawks know who's boss.  The birds of prey are free to hunt all the farm field mice they can eat in our fields.  They may swoop down on jackrabbits in the meadow and groundhogs in the corn...but these chickens are mine.

While he hasn't hit one yet, this is going to be a true test of wits.  A young man protecting the weak, defending the vulnerable, and caring for those entrusted to him just like his earthly father and his heavenly one.

Game on.  Bring it.  Amen.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

His eye is on the sparrow..and Ella

The rain continues to pelt the farm.

We slosh and slog and brave the muddy farm road to go buy another umbrella and I scratch the itch to complain.

Simultaneously, ironically, the fires continue to devour my thirsty Texas town. Fatigued firefighters and neighbors labor shoulder to shoulder; fighting for their parched, precious homes and land.

What they would all give for the clouds to well up, fat and black, and spill over the hills.

Ben Godkin Photography

My throat feels raw, and I am a thousand miles away, not even breathing the ashy air.

Outside my kitchen window, a sparrow clings to a whipping branch in a driving downpour.  How can such a small creature withstand nature's deluge?  I realize now that the sparrow is singing.  Singing!

On Treehaven Lane, Ella and her family cling to the Tree of Life.  How can mere mortals withstand such unrelenting fury on body, mind and spirit?  It is too much fire and floodwaters for any saint.

Faux-Toes Spitting Images (Without the Mess) (Kristin Roedner)

My hope in this raging storm is that He who cares for my sparrow cares infinitely more for Ella.

This creator and sustainer of all life came to save, not condemn.
His purpose is to heal ravaged bodies and raped lands in this life and the next.  
He does not seek to destroy, but to set wrongs right and make all things new.

He doesn't wish to make peace with death, he intends to destroy it.

Of this we can sing while we cling to this precious gift we call life.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

We don't need flowers there, anyway.

"Oh dear.  She's really let herself go".  

We've all thought this, maybe even whispered it out loud, but none of us want to be that person, our physical demise the subject of so many post-reunion dinner conversations.

As you may know, I currently live in a house that has, for lack of a nicer description, "fallen into disrepair".  Over the past several years, untamed roots and vines have greedily devoured wood, brick and mortar.  Brambles and wild, woody weeds have been busy choking out the farm's gracious beauty, hogging all the light, all the soil, all the life.

With each consecutive sunrise on the farm, I grow more convinced that people and things don't just "fall" into disrepair.  Neglect is not passive.  It happens one excuse after another.

As a new caretaker to a longtime neglected farm house, and as a coach of people, the similarities in what is required for vibrant health and enduring beauty are astounding.

We have to weed.   
We have to get dirty and tired.  
We have to TEND.

We make room for beauty and life by ripping out the root of what is only going to devour us in the end.

Take for example this wretched weed.  Above ground, it was almost two stories tall when we arrived.  Below ground, I do believe it's roots reached all the way to China.

We hacked and whacked for hours that stretched into days and hardly made a dent.  Then, finally, hooked up a borrowed chain (from Larry, of course) to our ancient TRACTOR to pull out the root of all evil.  

Neglect is not passive.  

Neither is beauty.

The honest, salty and difficult endeavor of making room cares for the dying crepe myrtles, prepares a sunny home for the butterflies and blue jays, and a creates a fertile space for the baby fall vegetables to call home.

Excuses leave the stubborn, underground root alone.  It's too hard to rip out after all, it requires too much of us.

Excuses do not make room.

Excuses say "We don't really need flowers there, anyway."