It’s June

It’s June, only 20 days away from the longest day of the year. The sun was still quite a way above the horizon at 7:30 pm when I took the picture above. In spite of this, last week we had a couple nights below freezing. The night it got down to 28 degrees, my new potato plants froze. They had just gotten above ground and were looking so healthy and strong. Everything else in the garden got covered with tarps and sheets and survived. It is light now at 5:15 am so maybe everything will grow fast and produce before the short summer is over.

I took several walks this week. It is scary how fast the trees went from bare to fully leafed out. It’s like they know they have to hurry. The wooded trails are SO BEAUTIFUL! My walks go slow because I am always stopping to take pictures, or identify bird calls. It all looks lovely to me and is like medicine for my soul.

Even things that are nearly spent can be lovely (and that should be comforting to those of us who are nearly spent…)
Birch trees are so unique. White trunks just aren’t the norm.
The streams and marshes are full of water, flowers, reflections.
Who could refuse a path like this?
Looking a fern in the eye is kind of amazing.
Black water reflections captivate my camera (and me).
Canadian mayflowers are even a little late here. A natural garden in the pine forest.
Such a contrast from my winter trail. And to think that all this was just waiting in the cold ground and appears in its season without any help from us.

Yesterday’s walk was past a beaver pond and a large marsh. I pushed through the bushes to get a view of the water and watched a family of ducks swimming. The cattails started rustling and moving and out of them came the largest raccoon I have ever seen. It had a grizzled white head and was prowling through the marsh, probably looking for nests with eggs. Later I saw a pretty box turtle digging a hole in the dirt for her eggs

It was a good walk. I am still counting steps – 13,000 yesterday and 10,000 today. The last two weeks I have been working on getting the garden going instead of walking, but even then it was easy to get 5,000 to 7,000 steps tilling, carrying mulch and fixing fence.

Suddenly, it is summer in this crazy, wild, northern place.

It’s a good thing it doesn’t have to be a very big hole.

February Goodness: Persistance

I finished it today. Here it is Elaine.

Many people just don’t get into doing jigsaw puzzles. I am not one of those people and I’m not passing judgment because I know that they have various reasons for walking away. I walk toward, sit down and lose myself in the hunt, quite easily.

It might seem like a waste of time to reconstruct a picture from hundreds of tiny pieces, look at it (maybe glue it on a board and frame it), and then take it apart and put it back in the box. For me, the value is in the process. Each puzzle is different not only in the picture, but in the way I must solve it. An hour into a hard puzzle I can usually decide what the dominant method should be. I am not always fast, but I am persistent. There has only been one puzzle that I have not finished because it was so disgustingly hard as to not be fun at all.

I am almost sure that someday I will solve a great, important mystery because I have learned to do jigsaw puzzles. It’s mind exercise.

Exercise is another activity that requires some persistence. A few weeks back I was working on 10,000 steps a day and writing about the experience. I did cut back a bit after the self-imposed challenge was over, but am still aware of how important exercise is to my physical health, of course, but also my mental health.

I decided to investigate Noom, a strategy which injects psychology into the weight loss world. I have lost 10 pounds and feel much better about the body I live in. Exercise is part of the Noom strategy and yesterday I was given a strength training regimen to work on. Yesterday’s good thing was making it through the session alive. Now I know how much stronger I need to get, and I have something new to persist in. I also got in 7,500 treadmill steps, which is a decent amount for winter.

Persistence in doing good things will be what gets us through 2021. Let’s encourage each other whenever we find opportunity. Just sayin’…

What are you doing that you would like to be encouraged to persist doing. I’d like to encourage you.

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.

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.

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.)

Another Rich Experience

I have often calculated the number of really interesting people I have known and am amazed at the variety, and the richness of these relationships. So before I post my screenshot of my exercise day I want to tell about The Sisters and what I am doing for them.

The Sisters: Susan, Michelle and Judith Madison are very special ladies!

All of us who know them just call them The Sisters, even though we know their names and how they are individuals, each in their own right. I think we call them that because their predominant impact is as a unit. Their story is fascinating and international in scope (and too big to tell here.) They are everywhere together and they depend on each other. They work together, they socialize together, they live together and back in August, they moved to Florida together. They had come to Wisconsin from Florida twenty years ago. They were tired of the cold and went back to where it was warm.

They bought a house on the east coast and filled a Penske truck with the furniture and household things they needed to set themselves up. They honestly thought they would be spending winters in Florida and summers in Wisconsin, so they left their northern house fully furnished and filled with twenty years of acquisitions (they like to shop…). Many of us had doubts about their ability to be snowbirds – Michelle is 94, Judith is in cancer treatment and Susan does not drive. As we thought, it has become overwhelmingly apparent that the northern house should be sold. This is where I get involved.

These ladies are dear friends of mine, and they need someone to pack up and store, donate, sell, or throw away all their “stuff”. It’s a complex job. When I moved two years ago, I was packing and disposing of my stuff for months before the move, and I still wasn’t fully ready. The realtor here is already showing their house and it would be best if it didn’t look quite so… well, occupied and full. Packing up for someone else is complicated. I have to consider the sentimental value of their belongings and balance that with the cost to transport things. Throw in the fact that their southern house is already full and they don’t need any of what’s up here in Wisconsin. It’s a four bedroom house and I’m averaging about half a room per day. And I’m out of boxes…

All this to say that I was there a good five hours today. I came back and made supper for the husband and myself, and then I remembered my exercise wasn’t done yet. Instead of walking on the treadmill for half an hour and one podcast, I had to do a full hour two podcast session to get my 10,000 steps. But I did it BECAUSE… I didn’t want to have to tell any of you guys that I messed up already. See, that’s how accountability works! Isn’t it cool? My legs really hurt.

There’s no date on this, but it really was today, no lie.

Help Me Be Determined

So what exactly does that mean, helping someone (me) to be determined? I guess it’s another way of describing the call for accountability. I am at my top weight ever, and I am determined it will not go higher. Having some watchful eyes on my efforts might just help.

There is something about the start of a new month that inspires me. A month is a long enough time to establish a habit and really make a difference. December is a new month, or at least it was five days ago. I dusted off the treadmill and took a walk, and it felt okay. I did the same thing at the same time on December 2 and 3. I want to do this at least five days each week, and maybe get in a pleasure walk outside a couple of times too. Outside = pleasure, treadmill = not pleasure, for me. But I can make it work. I have to make it work. When I’m at my top weight, my blood pressure starts to go up and since there is a family history of hypertension, I am being scared into action.

December is a great month to do something for health’s sake. I know, it’s a holiday month and for many that means holiday food is everywhere, but this year might be different. Pandemic December is not ordinary December. Why wait until New Years Day to start a project that could eventually save my life?

Is anyone else doing something different this year, something that is good for you? Getting more sleep, eating more vegetables, intentionally pursuing good humor, daily brain stimulation, learning something new, doing good deeds? Not everything, just one thing. That’s what I want to do, and I’d love to be held accountable through the month of December, as I share progress here. Help me.

I promise to faithfully share this screen (Samsung health app) no matter how much it embarrasses me. Goal talk coming tomorrow.

Face Yoga?

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed I came upon an ad for face yoga and a small survey. One of the questions was something like “what is the first impression people get of you based on your facial expression?” I rejected happy, depressed and several others and finally settled on serious. But when I asked Mom what word she would use to describe me, she said “tired”. I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

In spite of the fact that if left sitting and unoccupied for more than three minutes I will fall asleep, I have not often thought of myself as being tired. In my mind, I am always up for whatever is suggested, ambitious, energetic and ready to go. It’s actually alarming to me that people see me otherwise. What if after I’m gone, when they’re wondering what epitaph to put on my stone, they just settle on “She was tired.” What a legacy.

The result of this scare is that now I’m often aware of my facial expression. I’m telling myself to raise my eyebrows and open up my eyes. I’m thinking happy thoughts and hoping they make the corners of my mouth turn up instead of down (their natural direction). I stop short of doing “fish lips” because that is the one thing that looks so unnatural to me that I can’t abide it. As the face yoga lady says, “there are lots of muscles in your face. Why would you not exercise them?”

You can see why face yoga would be interesting to me. I want my face to stay functional, to show a variety of emotions easily. I want people around me to be able to know that I’m thinking kindly of them and find them interesting. I want to look peaceful and non-threatening. I think of how important that is in this day and age when we hear of people being arrested/assaulted just because of a perceived attitude – the expression on their face. I want it to be clear that I’m not up to anything nefarious.

My first impression of tiredness probably started years ago. I’m putting my hand written journals into digital form (what a project!) and a repeated theme over the years seems to be pain and fatigue. There’s this entry from 2007 that sums it up pretty well.

“I would say I’m about as miserable as a person can be who has nothing seriously wrong with them.”

Is it possible that years of muscle aches, joint pain, headaches, and crazy physical work and activity have gotten together and come up with a mutually satisfying expression – tired?

The face yoga lady gives me hope that I can take years off my tired face by giving those muscles some exercise. I can will to avoid the “nursing home look” of having given up. So, if you see me with my arm stretched over my head, pulling on the corner of my eyelid, while letting my tongue hang out, please don’t Baker Act me. I’m exercising. Just sayin’…