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’…

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!

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’…

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.

Let’s Have Some Light

Yes, let’s have some, even if we have to buy it at Walmart.

It’s dark here in Wisconsin for more hours per day than it is light. This is noticeable darkness that comes shortly after 4 in the afternoon and doesn’t leave until past 7 in the morning. It is no wonder that people begin putting up lights in November with all those dark hours to spend looking at and enjoying them. I found myself looking at the shelves full of lights in Walmart.

There was a display board showing the dozen different kinds of winking or not winking, multicolored or single colored, bright white or warm white, single string or multi, LED or not, decorative lights. I don’t like the challenge of stringing up lights, so I chose an LED net that I could drape over the cedar near our front door. I chose a single strand of blue LEDs to wind around a bush near the tree. I went home to light up my world.

Scrounging around for extension cords was a chore in itself, since the length had to fit my distance to the outlet, and there had to be multiple places to plug something in. I wasn’t real happy with the bright yellow one, long enough to reach the neighbor’s house, but I hooked it up. With the step stool, I hung the net, tied it in place, wound the string around the bush and plugged it all in. Nothing happened. No lights.

But I am resourceful and began checking all the possible faults. The outlet was hot, no problem there. When I unplugged the net, the blue bush lit up. I concluded that the net must be the problem. I hurried back to Walmart to return it. This time, after choosing another net from a box that didn’t appear to ever have been opened, I hunted for an outlet in the store and made sure I had a working product. And I bought an extension cord of appropriate length that would lie flat on the sidewalk and hopefully not trip people.

This is only half the story. I’ll finish it tomorrow. I’m going to quit here because I just got off the treadmill and it’s late. I’m going to have to figure out how to get credit for my daytime steps when I’m not carrying my phone, because this bedtime exercise thing is not my first choice. Once more, y’all made me do it when I wouldn’t have otherwise. Thank you.

420 calories does not even make up for the dessert I had at dinner, or the cookie after watching two episodes of “Madame Secretary”.
But it’s all about numbers, getting those 10,000 steps (and apparently a walking mate as well, although that didn’t happen.)