Goodbye December, Goodbye 2020

I did my 10000 today. And look at that daily average! I never would have thought it.

Thank you so much to everyone who read and watched from the sidelines this month. I definitely felt the needed pressure not to give up as I watched for views, comments and likes. You all were great! Zeb thought so too – he’s smiling and that hardly ever happens.

Doing a hard thing, on purpose, usually has payback. Challenging myself to be more active this last month has been hard but I have learned some things about myself that are good to know – even better to remember. Here they are:

Challenging myself publicly, does make me work and produce results. I can use this little bit of information to get all kinds of things done! I may not meet my goals perfectly but I go way beyond what I would do without a challenge. This is actually exciting stuff! I’m considering what next month’s challenge ought to be and the possibilities are wide open…

The excuse of not having enough time to do something probably isn’t true. I have often thought that I didn’t have time to put in 10,000 steps a day, and thinking that kept me from addressing inactivity. For a whole month I was able to find creative ways (and times) of meeting that goal most days. Over the month I averaged 3.5 miles a day. Needing that hour to walk had me looking for time wasters in my day, and I found them! They are gone and I don’t really miss them.

Physical activity helps me be more focused in areas of life other than the challenge area. There was a big project going on this December and I had the energy to get stuff done on it day after day, without getting discouraged. When I was home, I had to focus on cooking dinner, or housework. Not at home, I made my lists for errands and groceries and coordinating activities with other people. Mental focus is just a natural benefit of increased circulation to the brain, duh!

More things keep coming to my mind, but I think you get the picture. It’s not just about December either. Hasn’t this whole year been challenging? And haven’t you adopted some new and good practices as a result of being challenged? I have.

So, I’m saying Happy New Year to all. Twenty-twenty-one may turn out to be as full of hard things as 2020 was but it’s possible we could choose those areas where we want to see good work done in our lives. Some challenges could be of our own choosing. I’m going to pick some out while I’m waiting for midnight, just sayin’…

December Wreckage

I crashed. Taking off from my walking challenge was intentional Christmas Day. I don’t know what happened the day after that but no walking was done then either, (Oh, that’s right, it was the husband’s birthday. He got my walking time.) By Saturday night I was like wreckage. I sprawled in the recliner and looked terrible, felt terrible, and probably acted terrible. I was complaining and practically weeping as I tried to explain it to mom and my brother and niece. The frustrating part was not knowing why the sudden drop in energy, motivation, positivity. Was I sick (Covid, aaaagh!) or was I having endorphin withdrawal? Was that even a thing?

Yeah, two in a row. Not good.

I forced myself back on the treadmill last night and tonight. I guess I feel better, but it was really strange and I’m not completely out of that bad space yet. Honestly, it was having to report in here that kept me from quitting – and the fact that my family was laughing at supporting me and being sympathetic. Thank you guys.

After my pity party over at Mom’s I was walking back to my condo and momentarily all the bad stuff was forgotten. The snow that had been drifting in all day, and the dark, and the lights were so arresting I had to stop in the freezing cold and just look. The snowflakes were so large and flat that the light reflected off them everywhere. The dark sky was a complete contrast to the glittery, sparkles on the ground. Winter moments like these are the reason I can stand to live up here.

I wish pictures could do justice to what I saw. Not even close…

White and Cold

This morning the snowplows were running before daylight, when it’s still kind of hard to see where you’re plowing. I shoveled myself out and had coffee with Mom. My brother got off his snowblower long enough to join us and then went back to work.

But the sun did come out. Walking outside seemed a possibility and I did have some things to deliver at our church, which is only about a mile away. I put on every possible winter layer, including a mask which, for once, was a help, not an aggravation. There was a breeze which was chilly when I was walking into it. Our temp was about 5 degrees F.

I stomped into the church with frost on my eyebrows and semi-numb feet. I didn’t realize that I had arrived at the same time as the work party for the coming Christmas Eve event. By the time I delivered my envelopes to the office I had also been given a job. I had nothing better to do so I put up lights, erected a wooden menagerie of animals, and carried decorations here and there. Every time I took off my mittens, even for a few seconds, I was amazed at how fast the cold became painful.

Can you imagine celebrating Christmas Eve outside when it’s below zero weather? Blame COVID for that.

By the time I set out for home, my feet were more like blocks of ice but I hadn’t gotten my steps in for the day. Hitching a ride was out of the question. I knew I could make it, and I did, but it was the fastest section of my walk for the day. My app said I was walking 5.5 miles per hour at one point, but that would be more like running so I think it must be wrong. All I could think about was getting warm again… fireplace, hot drink, my “blankie”.

It is beautiful after a snow, and I did snap a few pictures because I couldn’t not do that. (There are times when nothing says it better than a double negative.)

I might rest tomorrow instead of taking a walk. It’s supposed to be even colder. Just sayin’… May you all find a blessing in your Christmas celebration.

My view right out my front door. Clean, white, and cold, very cold.

Blizzard Blessings

Living in northern Wisconsin, I am used to winter starting early and ending late. We had a good snow earlier, but then it gradually melted. We’ve had bare ground for several weeks now.

Today Mom and I spent the whole day at the house we are helping to pack up for our friends. We’ve nearly got the upstairs conquered. Tonight, and by that I mean 5 pm, I went out in the darkness to put a couple things in the truck and was surprised and a bit alarmed at the weather. It had been raining, just above the freezing point, all day. The water had been dripping off the roof onto a pile of metal bound for the recycling station, making a loud sound like a running faucet. But now, it was snowing and the wind had picked up. There were two inches of white stuff on the ground already and clouds of it were being hurled around, blizzard style.

My truck door opened with a crack, breaking a film of ice. I hurried back in to help Mom out and once in the truck we wondered if the wipers would be able to clear the windshield. I have a scraper somewhere in the back seat but it was buried beneath the boxes of things we were taking home to sort out. We were able to see out the front after a few swipes of the wipers, and I lowered both front windows to clear them enough to see the lights of other cars on the street.

We live only about a mile from where we were working and I was glad of that. The road was snow covered and no longer had edges and lane markings. The few cars that were out were going slowly and following each other’s tracks. A deep enough layer of snow removes all boundaries and landmarks, making everything look strangely unfamiliar.

But it is exciting. Whereas we were having a relatively boring, predictable weather pattern, now, SOMETHING WAS DEFINITELY HAPPENING!!

The wind blew most of it off. The rest of it will melt and go down the drain.

We made it home without mishap. I was glad to push the button and see my garage door go up. What a blessing to have a warm, dry place to drive into. Tomorrow the blessings will continue because we will have a good excuse to stay at home and sort through the boxes and bags of our friend’s belongings. Staying at home will be restful, even though there is plenty to do. I need the change. For us, at least this time, the blizzard is our friend.

I got about 7,000 of my steps today going up and down the stairs where I was working. It was easy to get the last 3,000 on the treadmill. And now I am ready to turn out the lights and be snug in bed, listening to the howling fury outside.

On Riverside Drive

Yesterday’s steps were finished in the late afternoon. Today’s steps will be done this evening. I have already taken a long walk outside, in the cold, with fresh snow underfoot, so 8,000 steps are already accomplished.

Walking outside is much superior to walking on the treadmill (if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it more than once…). I am always stopping to look at something beautiful and hearing the “workout paused” remark, then “workout resumed” as I walk again. I’d prefer having a whole body along for the walk but a voice is better than nothing. I could mute it but sometimes it’s just nice to hear that my app is tracking me.

The walk today was a circle mostly done along the highway and small residential roads. Riverside Drive winds along the Namekagon River and has some remnants of tall pine plantation on either side with rustic looking homes tucked in here and there. I look at the ground a lot when I’m walking because the footprints are interesting. I measure my prints against the one other walker who has come since the last snow. It was probably a woman – the boot print is narrower than mine – and she had a dog with her. There are lots of rabbit tracks and deer prints as well. Winter walking is interesting when I look into the woods as well. The trees “bones” are laid bare and have lovely composition. Crows, hawks, and woodpeckers give alarm calls and fly away as I get closer than they would like.

An unusual pine. Had to take a picture.
Another “had to take a picture”.

I end up walking along a major highway and cut into the Walmart parking lot. I go in and pick up a prescription for the husband, then finish the walk by circling the store and opening the gate into our residential development.

It’s been a quiet, overcast winter day and the walk was very calming. I had a lot of time to think and pray.

Afraid

I was actually afraid I was going to lose momentum if I slacked off a day. I want being active to be so natural, desirable, and easy that I don’t have to struggle. But it’s hard. To be specific, it’s getting easier physically but harder mentally.

But this is today on the treadmill. I’m back.
And this is Zeb giving me a “high five” for my efforts. Maybe it’s a “high one“ if all you have is a hoof. I don’t know.

There were a couple good suggestions for naming my zebra and I was trying them both on for the right feel. Tonight, I’m finding myself mentally calling him Zeb, which is short for Zebedee. I’m not even thinking hard about it so I guess it’s a natural. He’s responding to it nicely.

Things were weird today. It’s not often that I find over $750 worth of coins that I didn’t expect to find. Okay, it’s never happened before and probably won’t again. I didn’t find it for myself and I know where it belongs, but it’s still crazy and a day to remember.

It was also a day when I got to talk to and look at both my daughters on a ZOOM call. They have interesting lives and are always doing something in their respective areas that keeps me in awe of them. It’s another time when I feel somewhat afraid – thinking about them active in their careers, still having much of life ahead of them and remembering when my life was at that stage. I could be envious of them and afraid of what comes next for me. But being envious and fearful takes far too much energy. I’d rather be proud of my daughters and content with walking into the future with a sense of adventure and God’s favor. I also have things to accomplish.

Unsure whether this philosophizing was worth posting but it was on my mind. I kind of learn who I am by writing my mind and processing as I write. And this is my space to do it, and your space to read and recognize that you’re not alone if you do it too. Just sayin’…

A Less Than Stellar Day

Ooh, that look again! He is not sure he wants to be my cheerleader.

It was not a bad day by any means, except one. It’s 9 pm and I do not feel like getting on the treadmill for an hour. I have only 2,234 steps and I kind of don’t care. I’m going to take this as my day off. I’m into a small rebellion and watched three episodes of Madame Secretary instead of walking, but it was fun. I’ll get back on track tomorrow.

My Newest Friend

My focus areas are writing and walking (being active) and I believe in having cheerleaders. You’re probably doing something too. I think you also should get a cheerleader, to cheer you on!

December 15th. Today I was tasked with finding a home for some toys, a large size garbage bag full of interesting dolls and stuffed animals. Right away there was the problem of wanting to keep them all because they were so cute! My inner child was having a heated conversation with my Marie Kondo conscience about where these “items” would live in my house. I did the right thing and decided to donate them, but this one little guy would not get back in the bag. We have already bonded.

He looks a bit like Eeyore with stripes but I sense his inner excitement. He is going to be my cheerleader when I’m writing. He will sit on my desk and say nice things, like “you are absolutely flying across that keyboard!” and “that emoji couldn’t be more perfect”. Welcome my new friend. I’m searching for a name for him. The tag (which I cut off) on his butt was so worn I could only make out the letters MADEIN, but that’s not going to be his name.

I did learn some useful things in the podcasts I watched today. Thank you Anna LeBaron). I learned that the number one rule in using social media is to be social. I can’t remember the exact quote, but the heart of it was that if you aren’t having fun on social media, you are doing it wrong. I like that. I love reading others on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter who are having fun with what they write. The fun keeps me engaged so I’m there when they sneak in something profound, encouraging, genuinely helpful and thought provoking. Fun is so good, and it can change lives. I think that’s in the Bible somewhere.

Also life-changing, my 10,000 steps have been dutifully performed. My cheerleader friend was there giving me “that look” of his. I’m wondering about his hooves which definitely need a trim. Or maybe he’s not really an equine? Anyway, looking at him made me thankful I could walk, and that’s just what I needed to get it done.

“That look” gets me all fired up for exercise!

Talking about My Brothers

The interesting thing that happened today, in addition to getting my 10,000 steps

was a phone conversation with my cousin who loves to study and talk with others about relationships. I had to think about how to express what she loves to do, and I’m not sure I’ve got it just right. She wants to learn what it takes to have good relationships with other people in order to love well. She and her husband have helped others through Marriage Encounter workshops, and she is also the person who comes to any family event armed with questions to spark discussions. She likes hearing what others have to say. And don’t we all feel good when someone wants to hear us?

Today’s question worth thinking about was “what does it mean to be a good sibling?” I have four brothers, and I would call all of them good. It was an interesting exercise to define and talk about what “good” meant.

We are not above wearing cheesy reunion T-shirts for the sake of family togetherness.

Although we Smiths grew up together, we have gone our separate ways, lived our very different lives, in different parts of the country. We all have families of our own. Because we are talking about siblings, not friends or business associates or any other connection, making family of origin a priority has to be part of the definition. I love that my brothers, from time to time, have all taken the initiative to connect with each other, with parents and with me. We visit each other and make it a priority to be at family reunions and landmark events. We don’t stalk each other. We don’t demand to know every detail of each other’s lives, but when there is something to talk about, we are pretty sure we can find a family member who will take the time to be a good listener. We want to help each other when there is a crisis.

My Dad died a few years ago, and I love the way my brothers have taken care of Mom since then, each in their own special way. My youngest brother’s wife died this year and there we all were, wanting to share the loss and grieve together. One of my daughters had a pandemic wedding this fall and once again, family showed up to help and witness the special event.

Because we have met often over the years, our children know each other and have a special regard for family as well. They try to make sure that no one gets left out of the “cousin club”. I am so proud of all my nieces and nephews for their efforts to stay connected even as they have started their own families and gotten very busy.

Proud of the way the next generation of cousins has stepped up to honor family.

My brothers and their families are all interesting people and we have a common history. Those things should be more than enough reasons to want to know each other, to initiate and pursue connection. We aren’t doing it perfectly but we are learning as we go. It’s fun.

I would wish that everyone could have the blessing of good relationships between siblings, or other family members. I know sometimes it isn’t the case because living as family is a complex, and often messy business. I am glad today that I took time to think about how I can be a good sibling to my brothers. It is a topic worth much thought, just sayin’.