“Back in the Day”

Back in the day…

Something about those words makes me cringe with premonitions of stories about how high the snow banks were or how many miles it was to walk to school. Now I am guilty of using it all too frequently as I write. Guess what – EVERYTHING has a back story. EVERYBODY has a back story. That’s what we call it today, if we are kind.  I think the back story is often crucial to understanding things about the present story.

A long time ago, in a land far away (Bradenton, Fl) the husband decided to buy a man toy called an E-Bike. He has always found gadgets intriguing, especially if they were energy saving and had some practical use. This bike was an early exploration into transporting oneself using electricity, much like electric cars are today. It was only available through car dealerships and was the social experiment of the day. It was pretty, shiny blue, feeling of quality and fully decked out with lights, various indicators on the handlebars, locking mechanism, gears, horn, and all kinds of gear bags made to fit. Sweet.

The plan was to ride it the seven miles to work, along a busy highway. I guess there was a bike lane in some places but it was often hazardous with broken glass and other tire-puncturing trash. The traffic went by, close and fast. It was often raining, or hot. The plan didn’t last long. But being the oddity that it was, the bike was pulled out pretty often and demonstrated to curious friends and family. It rarely left the driveway.

My own most vivid memory of using it was when I visited frequently with an elderly lady who lived five or six miles away, mostly through residential areas. I got some exercise, because I could pedal it like a normal bike. But, its real advantage was in the take off moment at intersections. Instead of having to go from my resting/waiting pose to that awkward effort of quickly powering through the crosswalk with dozens of eyes watching, I could just touch the little lever and smoothly zoom away with no effort at all.

The real reason I remember this time had nothing to do with the bike however. It marked the first time I lost a cell phone out of my back pocket and spent hours retracing the the route looking for it.

Years later, the husband gave the bike another chance. The office had moved and was not even two miles away so once again he was riding it to work. One day, there might have been a light rain making things slippery, he rode across a railroad track which crossed the road at an angle. The front tire got caught and he crashed and tumbled. It was a trauma for the husband and for the bike. Neither has ever been the same, although the husband has recovered acceptably.

For the past year or so, I have enjoyed biking frequently for fun and exercise. I would be doing so now except I have lent my $60 pawn shop bike to a friend who had no transportation. Not knowing when I would ever see my bike again, I turned my attention to the E-Bike, sitting forlorn and flat-tired in storage. With the heavy battery removed, and the broken parts held in place with a bungee, it actually rides pretty well. I was pleasantly surprised this week on my first outing with it. The seat had shock absorbers, the handlebars straightened up nicely, it went quietly, and unlike my pawn shop bike, the brakes worked. It’s a go.

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It’s still a pretty color due to hardly ever leaving the garage for years.
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A few covers missing, a couple bungees holding the empty battery compartment shut. It works.
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Some of the clip on instruments are missing but it still has a strangely “techy” look, I think. Looks are so important.

There is a satisfaction in bringing an unused thing back into use.  I also appreciate the back story of the E-Bike and the chance to think about other back stories, and the whole concept of histories and how they might inform the present. Just sayin’, “back in the day” might become a frequent theme.

Well, Imagine That!

It is cold chilly here in Florida today. We get a few days like this every year and although I like to be able to go outside without breaking into a sweat, I often use the temperature drop as an excuse to stay inside more.  But as I’ve written, I’ve been riding my bike lately and have actually been knitting a hat to keep my ears warm during my morning adventures.  I’m going out, cold weather or not.  I am encouraged and inspired by a blogger I’ve started following at www.bikelikecrazy.com.  My five miles in the sunshine doesn’t measure up to her daily 10 mile commute to work in snow and ice (yes, she does that).

I’m also thinking a lot about my imagination, which needs exercise as much as my body does.  It is a good thing to be totally present in the here and now, which is where I feel I have been for quite a long time.  Doing life, dealing with its circumstances and spending time with the people accessible to me, has been my focus.  Writing about life takes time and imagination, and has not been my focus.  I haven’t been writing.  The few things I’ve cranked out have been a struggle and I’ve not gotten much satisfaction from them.  I’ve told myself that this is probably a stage to be expected.  I should not be upset with it, but I should expect it to pass.

So, in my imagination I am writing a book, a very satisfying book.  It begins with people living ordinary lives, but with a sense of calling or higher purpose.  This sense carries them through difficulties of all kinds, and grief unspeakable at times.  This sense frames their everyday activities in a meaningful way.  It makes them examine every relationship with others with a keen eye as to what might be happening. The enduring quality of this “sense” means it is picked up by their children, and their children’s children.

Some of this I do not have to imagine because it is contained in the diaries and personal letters of my ancestors.  I am thankful for their attention to recording what they experienced. The things they have written have made a difference to me – one person, many generations later.  The thought that one person in the future might be encouraged by something I write is reason enough for me to be diligent.  My imaginative effort does not have to include fame, book deals and sequels in order for me to want to do the work.  However, it also doesn’t hurt to imagine those things since they are pretty safe there and it gives me practice not fearing them.

Someone in times past was inspired to write “now to the one who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine according to the power that is working among us”.  I think that inspiration came from a God who wanted us to imagine not just mediocre, impoverished imaginings, but big, creative and challenging ones.  Practice in doing that is what I need, and a good time to do it is while I’m on my bike.

I’m putting on my hat and getting to it. WIN_20160207_120517

On Riding a Bike

When do I really get serious about taking care of my body?  I’m asking the question because I really don’t know.  So many years have gone by when other things came first on my list.  There was only so much time and other things were urgent.  And didn’t I get enough activity in the course of daily living? I wasn’t a couch potato.  I lifted, pushed and pulled, walked and ran and stood up most of the time.  I had a young body and it took care of itself (because it had to).

Time has changed a few things.  Specifically, my blood pressure is higher and I think it’s having effects on other systems, like my vision.  I don’t want to start medication and deal with all those side effects, and of course, there’s the problem of my hating to swallow pills which I avoid by never remembering to take them. But I can exercise. Walking would have been my first choice but after feeling a few twinges of pain in my right knee, I’ve switched to riding my cheapo bike.

Because I am on the way to being more serious about exercise (I’m not totally there yet…) I give the bike ride a priority place in my “somewhat retired” daily schedule.  Morning, right after the gate to the nearby mobile home park opens for the day, I strap on my fanny pack, turn on the health app on my phone and get going.  It’s a fairly safe place to bike a large loop and not surprisingly, I am one of the fastest things moving on the road.

Biking in the mobile home park reinforces my desire to take care of myself seriously.  There are lots of people there who are trying to be active.  Many of them have been “not serious” longer than I have judging by the fact that their exercise consists of riding to get coffee and donuts at the clubhouse in their golf carts. The other bikers I see are usually stationary, talking to their neighbors.  Lots of people are walking but it’s the kind of walking where you can hold hands with your walking partner and take long looks at scenery.  And today I saw an elderly woman, probably the most serious exerciser I’ve seen there in a long time, who could barely stand upright and had a decided list to the right.  But she was moving as best she could.  Every time I think, “get serious now or this is the next version of you”.

I’ve had people (the husband) say “well, you’re not getting much exercise riding a bike here in Florida where it’s flat”.  But they are wrong.  First of all, it’s not flat.  I know there must be some kind of incline when I ride east.  I imagine there might be one riding north as well (because north is “up” on the map). And then there is wind resistance.  Pushing air is exercise and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  It’s true that wheels make moving easier but they don’t move by themselves – as evidenced by the husband’s bike which has not moved an inch in months.  I push hard and go fast and I feel the burn.

Which brings me to the part where I challenge myself, to keep it interesting.  My health app SHealth, Shea for short, is my co-conspirator in getting serious about my health.  In fact, she nags me to the point of irritation.  I’m always being asked if I want to record my sleep, or add a meal.  And she gets downright bossy when it comes to exercise.

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Yeah, just be more active yourself!

Shea gets on the job when I’m biking and talks me through the whole painful process, starting with a little five second countdown.  At each mile she announces my progress and tells me how long I have to keep going to reach my goal, which is five miles, at my present speed.  Behind the scenes she is mapping where I’ve gone and the places where I’ve gone the fastest.  And in a world where I will take any little bit of encouragement I can get, I love hearing her sweet voice at the start of the last half mile “Almost there – you can do it.”

Today I broke a speed record with my fastest ever average of 10.6 mph.  I found out that several of my gears actually work and I really booked it (going west, remember the incline) which brought it up, along with the fact that I didn’t have to wait 5 minutes to cross the highway before getting to the gate. If I get much faster I’ll have to leave the park where the limit is 15 mph.

I sweat when I bike so don’t tell me it’s not a workout, and do encourage me to keep it up.  It only takes half an hour and I’m breathing hard the whole time.  It’s better than a pill for my blood pressure – certainly doesn’t have as long a list of adverse effects – and it does make me feel a little more serious about taking care of myself.  (But it doesn’t mean I’m not looking for a used golf cart. Those things are handy.)

 

Changing My Mind

Changing My Mind

My mind needs to change.

I have been of the mind that serious health problems belong to other people but not to me. I have always worked activity into my life effortlessly – I love to move. I have grandparents who lived into their 90’s and parents who are still living independently. I have weighed the same, within a few pounds more or less, all my grown up life. I don’t worry about what I eat, am seldom ill, am probably a type A multi-tasker, go years between doctors appointments. To all appearances I am a healthy person.

My human nature doesn’t spend a lot of time focusing on the diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and cancer in my family history.

Last week I decided to fill out a health survey. One of the questions was to compare blood triglyceride values from past years to the present. I didn’t like what I saw. I went on to look at cholesterol levels, HDL, and LDL. Again there was an alarming trend. I have also noticed a rise in my blood pressure from my usual quite low reading to a higher “normal”. I don’t know how much of this, if any, is normal for me as I age. I’d like to think these changes could go away.

I think I’ll start by admitting that the better eating habits we’ve been adopting aren’t just for the husband, they’re for me too. No more hiding stuff to eat after he’s gone (did I say that, really?) No more reminding him not to eat what I’m eating. And now I’ll not just be walking the husband, I’ll be walking the self for exercise.

The thing I’m really worried about is butter. I’m a little worried about Half and Half in my coffee but I’ve already decided that cutting down a bit on the caffeine would be better for me so that tablespoon of cream is not too bad. But butter, hmm… I love butter.

I read that overuse of NSAIDs can affect blood pressure and that’s another thing I’ve done in the last few years. Ibuprofen has been my friend and how I miss it when I lay off for a few days! But I’ve already decided to get used to hurting a little bit more and maybe taking things a little easy to avoid some of those hurts.

My goal is to see those numbers in my lipid panel improve.  And I’m pretty sure it starts in my head, with a change of mind.  If anyone out there has done something that really worked well, please share it with me.