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’.

Real Conversations, Real People

December continues with the dual (and totally compatible) goals of writing and walking, although not at the same time.

The weekend is always refreshing because I have the opportunity to interact with the world and reassure myself that there are still real people out there. Breaking news! We are not just talking heads on computer screens, figments of our imaginations and the internet. I was able to identify several people by their eyes and hair (or no hair, whatever…). Today I had three or four socially distanced, but meaningful, conversations with friends. Today, I went to “in-person” church.

Yep, hair and eyes, people. That’s all we’ve got. Frightening.

The husband also looks forward to going. We’ve been talking this week about the value of face to face, eye to eye, contact and how good it is for the brain to be stimulated that way. Evidently, imaging studies have shown heightened brain activity with this kind of contact. I think we knew it was important for babies to have eye contact with their caretakers for bonding purposes, but this goes farther.

Supposedly, the only other animals, other than humans, that show this response is dogs. The person I heard this from was very apologetic to cat owners, but perhaps they need to do more studies. My cat looks me right in the eye and I know she’s thinking. I am also trying to think what she might be thinking, which means we both have heightened brain activity. I really like dogs too and am in awe of the uncanny knowledge they have of their owners. Dogs have the eye thing down, perfectly, I might say.

My cat wants to bond with me every time I sit down, but her whiskers tickle too much.

So we went to church and were reminded that this is a natural time of the year to be nurturing our sense of hope. Not just hope that pandemics end, but hopes that there is a real God and that he came once, and he has plans to come again and make all bad things good.

Following that I spent another afternoon packing boxes and bags, helping my friends who are selling their northern house. And then, of course, the 10,000 steps on the treadmill, while listening to two hour-long podcasts. I’m listening to writers, authors and editors talk about various aspects of writing. Even online, this kind of connecting gives me ideas (and makes the time on the torture machine go much faster). Maybe you’ve noticed on the sidebar of this blog that I’m a Hope*Writer. It’s a valuable group for all kinds of hopefilled reasons.

Last but not least in any way, my accountability pic of the day!

The Next Steps

Yesterday was a different kind of exercise day. None of my steps were expressly for the purpose of getting exercise. They were all “on the job”, and included upper body and balance work.

I didn’t get an exact count but I carried 30 plus boxes of various sizes and weights down 15 steep stairs, through the house and garage and deposited them in a trailer. Stairs can be tricky, and these did not have a very wide tread and I tried a couple different methods, depending on the size of the box and whether I could see over it. I really didn’t mind the work, knowing that I was working on two different goals at the same time.

Six out of the last seven, yay me!

Yesterday wasn’t a 10,000 step day, it was 5,000, but that is fine. The thing that I love about being the age that I am, is that I can be flexible, and I can give myself grace when I don’t meet my own benchmarks. Today, December 12th, I am back on track with 10,000. Overall this month, I’ve exercised some every day, and made my goal for six days. There were a few days at the beginning before I started using the phone app to track progress, so it might have been more than six days. I am good with that.

As the month wears on I’m becoming more aware of exercise as just one part of life. It’s important and it takes effort to plan it into my schedule. Some days are full of appointments, responsibilities, and the demands of living a balanced life. There are other activities necessary to a happy life that get postponed when I’m on an exercise kick. Early in the day, I have to think about where to fit in that walk. Because it’s dark so much of the time, that walk might have to be on the treadmill at some weary time of night. Adopting this level of activity as a permanent lifestyle is going to be a challenge. It will probably be altered from time to time – thus my philosophy about giving grace. I like being kind, to myself as well as others.

Even this moving stream ices over on the edges.

I walked early this morning around the wetlands and it was cold. Most of the wetland trail is on open land around the edges of an extensive marsh. There aren’t many windbreaks and today the breeze was from the north, off an iceberg up there somewhere. I was warm enough under my coat but it wasn’t a long coat and my upper legs got tingly and then numb. I kept my hat pulled down and my collar pulled up and didn’t lift my head to look around very often. All of that and the steady cadence of walking does something to fire up my creative neurons (all half dozen of them). I get all kinds of ideas to be excited about. Walking does that and it is one of the best reasons to walk.

Today’s Four Good Things

There were four very good things about this day. They were good things to me because they made me feel very alive and stimulated by new insights. They spurred me to action.

The earth is still spinning in space. It’s a good day.

The first was seeing an amazing sunrise, with my favorite morning people. I love watching the sky, the clouds and light doing their thing at the beginning and the end, like bookends of the day.

The second thing was a set of lessons on recognizing and understanding more about shame and the part it plays in people’s lives. It was so enlightening that I finished nine lessons. I couldn’t stop. Thank you Dinah Monahan! I would sit in any class you were teaching.

A third good thing was hearing an interview with a very insightful writer who said so many profoundly helpful things about writing. Everything she said was meaningful and gave me ideas about collaborative writing (and about life in general). I wanted to try new things right away. I had to take action and buy her book immediately on Kindle. Thank you Diana Glyer for your “Bandersnatch” book and I hope I have time this weekend to read it.

The fourth good thing was that I made my step count for the day once again. It was a combination of treadmill, walking outside, and just getting around doing life. I’m finding that it’s a commitment that’s not always convenient. For instance, it means getting sweaty two or three times a day and having to decide whether to shower and change clothes – yeah, that’s right, I don’t always do it.

You might think this picture is too big. That’s okay, you can think that. It makes me feel good to look at it.

But I feel like it is doing me some good. I’m sleeping differently because I’m physically tired at the end of the day. I’m starting to get some lower blood pressure readings, and although I’m not usually in a bad mood, I feel my mood is better than usual. It feels so good to have done something challenging.

Today as I was walking outside, sweating underneath my winter coat, and hoping my phone wouldn’t run out of battery, I kept getting texts from some poor scammer. Whoever it was (and I don’t think it had to be a woman), they used the same tired story of wanting me to be their Mary Kay consultant and help them with a big order for a daughter’s wedding. I don’t know why I get pleasure out of playing with these people for a bit, but I do. I tell them they can order off my website, which is where they got my phone number. And then it branches off into why they can’t do that, followed by how their boss is going to cut me a check for the product. Their boss? It’s such a lame story that it always amazes me.

The good part is that I did get home before my phone (and exercise app) ran out of battery. I’ve also taken a shower, finally, and will be ready for a clean start tomorrow. Just sayin’…

Old Feet

Today brought more lights.

And more steps. I’m 7 days of walking out of 9 in December and still going.

I’m noticing something about my feet as I continue to try to do 10,000 steps a day. For a while now I have a felt lump on the middle of my foot, right on the pad next to my toes. I used to take my shoe off and look for a rock, but now I know I won’t find one. It’s called Metatarsalgia, which just means pain in the metatarsal region. It hurts for the first half mile of walking, then it kind of flattens out and may not bother me the rest of my walk even though it makes my foot feel kind of round on the bottom.

In fact, both of my feet seem a bit rolly polly on the bottom and I sometimes lurch to one side or the other and have to make a correction. On the treadmill where the path is quite narrow, I can’t get off too far to the side or I’m losing balance and doing a bad thing. I have to focus on stepping “just so” whenever I’m not holding on to the grips. You have no idea how old this makes me feel, unless you’re having the same thing happen, of course.

Mom has been remarking about the same thing happening to her for years now. She thinks it’s neuropathy, and there probably is some of that involved. She prefers to go barefoot as much as possible, so she can feel the floor or the ground. When she wears shoes she can’t balance very well and worries about falling. The shoes feel so weird to her.

My siblings and I all have some version of whatever this is. Sometimes it’s numbness and tingling, and sometimes it’s pain. We are all hikers or work in physical jobs where we need our feet so this is disturbing. It looks like it’s an inherited trait, and I don’t think there is a remedy.

This isn’t really a story, but more of an observation and an inquiry. Does anyone else have information about Metatarsalgia?

Let’s Have Some Light: Conclusion

In the month of December I’m combining story telling and exercise in hope of making one more of a habit, and one less boring.

It was a great relief today to walk outside for all 10,000 steps. December 8th and I have 6 winning days toward my goal.

And here is the rest of the story.

After my hasty trip to Walmart, I hooked up my new extension cord, with a new 3 plug adapter, and plugged in the new net of lights BEFORE I put it up on the tree. It worked, a tangled bunch of wires and lots of little white lights. Great! Thinking I had the problem solved, I plugged in the set of blue lights as well, and both sets of lights went out again. This happened over and over as I tried different cords and configurations, and finally I was too cold to think about it anymore. I quit.

Two mornings later, I mentioned my problem at morning chat time with my brother and Mom. My helpful brother walked over to my condo, plugged in my lights and got them both to work without doing anything special. We couldn’t decide why they had been healed of their electrical problem. Actually, the net was only halfway lit up, which was still a disgusting problem, and since it wasn’t on the tree yet I let it sit for another day. Ignoring it worked once, why not a second time? Those light strings are like naughty children, kind of.

A day later I picked them up and brought them in to examine the troublemaker. The plugs on lights have little sliding doors on them with fuses inside. Extra bulbs and fuses were wrapped and taped to the string so I got some out and replaced one fuse, and then the other without success. Half of it was still dead. I had it on my lap, wondering what else I could try, sharing my frustration with God (nothing is too trivial for him) and I noticed an empty socket! A bulb had fallen out, and when I put in a replacement there was light everywhere.

Looks a little like an alien invasion, but it’s not as dark anymore in this one small spot.

I went out and hung it on the tree, very carefully I might add. What a lot of trouble for a relatively un-artistic result. I might not be done yet but I need a break from decorating. There are plenty of dark days ahead, I can do it later.