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.

Twice Blessed

It just so happens that I have two men in this present stage of life that are near and dear to me. It just so happens that they are both named Dennis. It just so happens that they both have birthdays this week. Isn’t that a little odd?

The husband’s serene smile.

The one that I’ve known for the last 49 years is the husband Dennis. We are together still and figuring out life together, one day at a time. He will be 75 on Friday. His birthday has always been a little anticlimactic, being a day after the birthday celebration of the Savior of the world. He’s always seemed very accepting of being in the shadow though. It’s fortunate for him that he doesn’t put a lot of stock in birthdays in general, his or anyone else’s.

My brother even goes geocaching with me (well, once…).

The second Dennis is my brother. I’ve know him for all of his life. He came on the scene when I was ten years old, the youngest of my four brothers. His birthday is tomorrow, Monday. He might as well have been born on Christmas, since the holiday lasts nearly a week for all practical purposes. It’s easy to get overlooked in a very busy season.

We who write, read, and blog – we’re kind of a community, aren’t we? I’ve shared my two Dennis’s with you because I have an “ask” to put out there. If you have time, and just want to put a kind, happy surprise in the life of someone you may not even know, would you wish them a happy birthday? I haven’t tried this before so I don’t know if Facebook lets you say happy birthday if you aren’t on a person’s friend list, but I love experiments. Feel free to tell me if it doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter if you do it on the exact day either. Thank you so much! I love these guys.

Brother Dennis can be greeted here: https://www.facebook.com/dennis.l.smith.739

The husband Dennis can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/dennis.r.dietz

Yes, I did my 10,000 steps!

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.

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.

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.