You Wanna Make Me Cry?

I can cry on demand. Just give me five minutes and my imagination, and I’ll be able to do it. But you would never, ever guess what I can imagine that would bring on the waterworks. So by that token, you can rule out grief, loss, childhood memories, and fears about grief, loss, and childhood memories; it is so much more than that.

Years ago, I caught a clip on the news of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Do any of you recall that spectacular opening? The ceremony itself lasted four hours and cost $100 million dollars—double that spent in Athens four years prior. More than 30,000 fireworks were used. And 91,000 spectators were in the $423 million dollar stadium built for the event. When they say China took the world stage, they weren’t kidding. But the segment that resonated with me the most was the drummers—2,008 of them (get it?)—and the sheer booming sound of them drumming together in unison. I may have had my TV volume turned up quite a bit, but I remember the brilliant sound of the final beat, when all had played their hearts out and made such an impact performing together. It was a sound that could rock right through your body and put you in awe.

I’m not done, yet. That won’t make me cry, unless I have enough time to come up with a heartfelt story about how one of the audience members was there with the Make-a-Wish foundation and always wanted to be an Olympic athlete. Oh, man, I am getting a knot already.

A few years after I saw this drum performance on TV, and being that I am an emotional person who puts seeming random things together, I managed to link that sound to my favorite Scripture in the Bible. It’s Philippians 2:9-10: Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. According to the Population Reference Bureau, that would be 108 billion people who have ever lived. If 2,008 drummers can produce an awe-inspiring beat together, imagine the thunderous sound of every single human being who is living and every single soul who has ever lived being brought simultaneously to their knees. Imagine students in every classroom, workers in every business, patients in every hospital, everyone walking the streets of New York or London or Tokyo, every celebrity, every politician, every poor person, every rich person, and every driver on the road, stopping what they were doing and bending to their knees to pay heed to the very Creator of all things. The overwhelming power of God could be reflected in a sonic wave of pure awe and reverence for His name. Think about it. His name is simply a label; we can’t even fathom the endless power He actually has. That’s how big He is.

When I imagine that kind of power in God, I am so overwhelmed that I cry authentic, roll-down-the-cheek tears.

Usually when I tell someone this tiny detail about myself, they look at me like “oh, that’s nice.” And they probably walk away thinking I’m a bit odd. This includes my kids, who shake their heads at their silly mother. That’s okay. But surely out of 108 billion people who have ever lived, someone else has imagined that sound, too.

Maybe someday I will hear it. I just hope I’m well-hydrated.

 

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Use It or Lose It

The universe offers all kinds of advice about skills, but none so much as the need to practice whatever it is you are trying to be successful at. You want to be a good writer? Write every day. You want to be a good runner? Sign up for a race and then lace up your shoes. You want to play an instrument? Close your door so no one has to listen to it, but get going. You want to be a housekeeper? Sweet; give me a ring. It is a use it or lose it world, people, and the competition is fierce, which makes the advice to practice that much more severe, and then makes me fret over every lost minute.

On Sunday at work, I was assigned to sit with a dementia patient, who was very impulsive and at risk of falling and wandering. The TV in her room was set at a random station, and an infomercial came on with this millionaire who had a wonderful idea to sell! He discussed his theory about forming habits that are going to help you succeed! After all, every year, 1,700 Americans become millionaires! His advice was to study your day and look for the time/energy/tasks that pull you away from your life goals, and, of course, get rid of them! Awesome! Gives me my excuse to buy precut vegetables at the grocery store and expensive clothes that never have to be ironed. But I still had a question: what about competing tasks that are both helpful, but you only have time for one?

Well, my patient turned off the program because she thought the remote was her phone, so I’m not sure if Millionaire Guy ever talked about competing tasks.

My conundrum is whether to spend my limited (free?) time studying writing techniques & literature or just freaking write. With my shelves full of writing books, my bookmark tab overflowing with writing websites, an email folder full of unread writing advice, and a list of books I should be reading that would last me until I develop dementia like my patient, I am entirely torn. I have a desire to soak up all the writing advice, listen to podcasts, read tons of literature, and take online courses, but I wouldn’t be doing the very thing I need to do: Write!

In an alternate universe I could do all kinds of stuff at the same time, then come out of it with a mind-blowing breakout novel, faultless grammar, prose that will stun and inspire, perfect comp titles, and, finally, be able to discuss how all the important authors contributed to my writing. And then I’d create an infomercial! And convince everyone to do what I did! After all, 33 people can make it onto the NYT Bestseller list each year! And one of them isn’t previously published!

Daydreams aside, time must be spent wisely because we don’t get any of it back. If tasks are competing, I’m gonna pick one for today and go for it with everything I got and then do the same tomorrow. Readers, I hope you are all pursuing your goals with tenacity, and I wish you all major success.

I am going to go write and see where it takes me. If you find me wandering around, though, it might be time to adjust my goals.

 

Service with a Smile (and a twitching eye)

Yesterday, a patient of mine stayed in my mind for much longer than she ever intended, I’m sure. She lingered in my brain hours after the shift ended, straight through the next morning, was the number one reason I praised God that I was put on-call, and then she later inspired this blog while my head still pounded with an ache the size of Alaska. So, what could make someone so genuinely memorable? The sheer volume of requests.

I am a pretty happy nurse when I clock in for the day. I’m even known for my smile, and I enjoy offering comfort in the shape of a warm blanket, a fresh cup of coffee, a witty joke, a trip to the bathroom or pain meds before a patient has to hit their call light. I always tell my patients, well, if you gotta be here, you might as well have a positive experience! And when I can be a part of that, I find satisfaction in my work.

But every so often there is an individual who can take my full bucket of patience, poke a hole in the bottom of it, and drain it for twelve hours until only frothy bubbles remain.

The gown is too big. Milk needs to be warmed up. Not warm enough. They didn’t bring me Splenda. Need a straw. Walk to bathroom. Pull-up is too small. Wipes are too cold. Need warm blanket. Can’t find toothpick (we looked everywhere). Need another blanket. Trip to bathroom. Wipes are too cold. Gown is too big. Four blankets is too much, just three. Trip to bathroom. Gown is too big. Four blankets instead of three. Lift blanket to scratch leg. Blankets are wet (they weren’t). Need warm blanket. This isn’t what I ordered for lunch. This needs more salt. Can’t find toothpick. Blankets are wet (nope). Lift blankets to scratch leg. Table is touching knee. Trip to bathroom. Gown is too big. Need warm blanket under the other blankets.

She was in isolation, too. Gown and gloves every time you enter room.

I would try, almost plead, (with a smile!) is there anything else (before I leave the room)? Nothing? Okay. Take off gloves, take off gown, wash hands. Four minutes later . . .

Call light.

Anyone who has worked in a line of service will probably relate, or perhaps even if you have had to live with or eat with or room with or sit next to a needy individual, you know what I’m talking about. The extremely needy people in our lives probably have no idea that they fall into that category. They probably have no idea how exhausting they are to be around. And in some circumstances, their requests may be just as much about securing human interaction as it is about managing their comfort. But, phew, it’s a lot for us to handle.

I tend to think of myself as low on the maintenance scale. I have a very hard time asking people for anything, other than my kids who are learning discipline and chores and not to take Mommy for granted. Does this make it harder for me to serve those on the other end of the spectrum? Or easier? I don’t know. All I know is that I need a whole lotta Holy Spirit to stay at peace around them, and by the next day my head hurts.

How do you deal with needy needy? How do you refill after a complete draining of patience?

And do headaches manifest as new gray hairs? I better go check.

Uh, Too Rushed for a Title

RUSH. What a great word today; makes me think of my life in terms of pacing. Like many people, I am perpetually in a rush to get something (usually multiple things) done before the end of the day. I rush through workouts, work, errands, cleaning, cooking, writing, editing, emails, eating, reading (sometimes), and getting the kids out the door. There are only a handful of things I do not rush through—perhaps within these are clues to some metaphysical, spiritual plane I’m supposed to be able to find.

Things I do not rush—

  1. Good cup of coffee. If it’s the perfect, dark blend and currently not too hot and not too cold, I really want to savor it. Whadya know? I’m having one right now!
  2. Eating last Cadbury Cream Egg from my Easter basket. Unlike some consumers, I make myself wait until Easter for these, and then I am very sad when I get to my last one. BTW, I have one left. (Sigh)
  3. My drive to work. Unusual, right? It’s because I have so much to ask God for in this 13-minutes. It’s hard for me to feel ready to face a shift without being completely spiritually and mentally prepared. Alas, God really needs me to do the work and not just spend all my time preparing for it.
  4. Reading books to my kids. I have one child left who reads books with me at night, and I cherish those moments with her. I don’t rush through a book just to get to bed. Oh no. Reading books is like putting on a play—the characters, the voices, the timing, the tone; all aspects have to be considered.
  5. Usually I have a song that becomes the highlight of my iPod for a while, and I look forward to hearing it when I run, and I don’t want it to end, so before the device moves on to the next song, I’m hitting replay. Right now (don’t laugh), it is the theme song from The Never Ending Story. Yes, the 1984 movie. C’mon, you all know it, right?

Rhymes that keep their secrets
Will unfold behind the clouds
And there upon a rainbow
Is the answer to a never ending story
Ah
Story
Ah

Darn it, in my rush to get a blog done and converse with my husband who called in the middle of writing, my coffee got lukewarm. Now I have to rush to finish it. And come up with a title for this blog before I move on to laundry. Perhaps I will play the song, though, and just set it to repeat. After all, rushing through the day is the never ending story of my life.

Midwest Run, a poem

(I posted this poem back in January, but it’s appropriate for today’s word: Frigid!)

 

Only a true runner knows how it feels

to breathe in deeply when it’s eleven degrees,

and witness the whiteness, swirl of snow at your heels,

the cracks in the puddle post freeze.

Toes are like blocks for a moment or more,

but the rhythm of the run is addictive.

Nose trickles, cheeks sting, hamstrings are sore;

the gust of chill wind quite vindictive.

But the image of an iced lake is unique;

the glistening icicles on roofs pointing south,

contrast deep brown branches, frozen creek,

a pillow of white breath from your mouth.

Only a true runner who has undertaken the course

into winter air, find internal reason

to pursue this pleasure, witness, can discourse

the thrill of the run in every season.

 

No Less a Twin

The word identical has always made me cringe. Why? Because I have a fraternal twin, not identical. But where the textbooks will claim we are no more alike than regular siblings, I vehemently disagree. We really need to take a fresh picture of us side-by-side, but here is one of Liz and I from two years ago.

Now, c’mon, we are much more alike than two random siblings. I once sent her to go pick up my paycheck in high school, and we shared a driver’s license to use for an i.d. at a bar in college when I forgot mine at home. We have always had similar interests, just not in careers (number crunching in a cubical? Mmm, pass). We even have the same voice!

Growing up side-by-side is a different experience than most siblings get to have, it’s very unique. How many people have had their names switched on their pictures in their high school yearbook? How many people can take calculus with their twin and take turns nudging each other awake during class? How many people were picked out of an audience at a rock concert for being twins and invited backstage? (hee, hee) How many people can run off to college with their sibling, unafraid of roommate woes and of having to share a 12-by-12 foot dorm room for a couple of years? And a car! And a wardrobe!

Now, I don’t know if being identical would have changed us much, but I am glad we aren’t those type of twins who still dress the same and get matching hairstyles. Can you imagine? I think my husband would have bowed out a while ago if we did this:

Eh, but at least they look like they are loving life, and that’s what I get to do, too, as a fraternal twin.

My sister and I live in different states, but we look forward to each other’s company every year over Spring Break–NEXT WEEK!!!! Look out, Liz, I’m coming to N.C. and we need an updated photo! (Perhaps in matching outfits.)

Ode to a Treadmill

When you’re stuck on a treadmill

In winter to run,

Your view is at standstill—

Not quite that much fun.

But at least as a writer

I find an escape.

While my hamstrings get tighter,

New plot twists take shape.

I may not cross bridges,

Or run trails lined with trees,

Jump over dirt ridges,

See birds, gnats, or bees.

But I hear voices, see people, in my head they move.

With patience (and luck) my speed will improve.

Abs, Squats, and Anticipated Pain

So, I happened upon a fellow blogger’s 30-DAY ABS & SQUAT CHALLENGE today. (Thank you, craptrunners.com!) Me, being curious, intrigued, clear of any running races planned in the next 30 days, and a bit competitive in nature (with myself, of course) thought: Why not?

I have never done one of these uncompromising challenges that are probably nowhere close to being based on sound scientific evidence, especially concerning long term benefits other than: Active = good, Sedentary = bad, but completing it might be fun/challenging/crazy. So, how many people stick with these things the whole 30 days? And if you miss a day, can you still say you completed the challenge? Eh, not in my Type-A mind.

So, here goes. Day 1 was good, maybe even a little easy, but since my hamstrings are tighter than an extra small sports bra, I am okay with starting easy. And looking at the 30-day goal of 40 sit ups, 100 crunches, and 100 squats, my prediction is pretty simple: Not Easy.

So, who’s with me?

Laugh-worthy Expectations

You know what it’s like to think something is going to be easier than it actually is? Take that online course, work from home, decorate a beautiful cake, have a baby, etc. Well I thought trail running would be easy in a this-is-so-cool-and-it’s-so-much-fun-that-I-am-not-even-thinking-about-the-pain-so-I-ought-to-be-fast kind of way. Keep in mind, I’ve been running on roads since I was fifteen, and I’m (cough) fwwwy. Fwwrrrty. Okay, forty.

On this gorgeous day, with Spring blowing a playful kiss of 60 degrees through the February air, I set out to the Whitney State Forest just south of Warrenton, VA. Being a non-native to this area/state, I didn’t even know this treasure existed until I was looking at Google maps one day and wondered what the hell is that green blob just south of the city? Why have I not investigated something green on the map? According to the Virginia Department of Forestry website, this piece of land is 147 acres with 6 miles of winding trails and a great place for bird watching and deer spotting. Or horseback riding—so, watch your step.

I don’t run with my phone, so I took the chance that I could find my way along the trails with the posted map at the parking lot and the color splotches on trees. I wanted to run in the vicinity of 5-6 miles, so I took the longest perimeter trail (dark blue splotches), a trail which did a fair amount of winding. It was a blast! Roots, mud, rocks, wet leaves, tough climbs, rapid descents, small creeks to traverse, logs to jump over, a perilously wedged fallen tree to run under. Weeee!

The outer loop was 2.6 miles; I ran it twice. With the first loop, I’ll admit to a certain level of intimidation—I can’t afford to twist an ankle, I was trying to avoid a true foot-soaker in the streams, and I was on the lookout for horse droppings—which were underneath the leaves—a fascinating discovery that was determined a few steps too late.

With more confidence on the second trip, I was certain my mile splits would be, yes, a little slower than road running, but still respectable. Running the trails was like being in an action movie! I was outrunning the villain while crashing down the gnarly trail and grinding uphill with bared teeth, encrusted with splashes of red Virginia mud, the true badges of boldness and vivacity!

I wore a Garmin, but refused to look at the mile splits until just now.

Here’s where you can laugh.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to.

Despite my childlike energy stoked by the fresh air and wild environment, I averaged a full 2 minutes slower per mile than my easy/moderate days on the road, a full 3 minutes per mile slower than my tempo speed.

But I am a hopeful optimist; most experiments in life are, at the very least, worth evaluating. I can now look at trail race results with a whole new perspective. I can now appreciate that there are shoes manufactured for purposes of trail running. I can now appreciate the fact that I tried something new and, despite the splits, found rather enjoyable. And I found a new site for training that will challenge me for the next decade or so.

Will I still be jumping those streams and hurdling trees when I’m fifty? (Chest puffed, eyes narrowed) I’ll be there. And not only that, I’ll know how to find the horse poop.

 

 

 

If You Were Given A Free Gift (of Time)

If you were given an (all expenses paid) extra week sometime this year, what would you do with it?

Take the kids back to Disney World the week of the Disney Princess Half Marathon and be sure to include one full day of writing at the resort where I will create the next Disney Princess—Willa Baker, the only chubby princess who wears chucks and has a smart mouth and a dream to be a cake decorator who’s pretentious mother proved through a DNA test that they are descendants of royalty. Cool, huh?

If you were given an extra day what would you do?

After running the “Extra Day 10K,” I’d have a pancake brunch at IHOP with the family, of course. Then take the kids hiking on some nature trail that includes ruins of some sort (gotta love ruins), and afterward sit on a picnic table with a notebook and pen and write a short story that incorporates the ruins in some mysterious or creepy sort of way, then out to eat again—anywhere that features ridiculously large cocktails that basically taste like fruit juice, but make me feel warm inside.  And, knowing me, I’d still like to go to bed on time because I know I won’t get any extra time the next day—that’s just unreasonable.

If you were given an extra hour?

On work days, that would give me 12 extra minutes with each patient—wow, how I love that idea. I know for sure I’d be walking the ones who could walk and have a meaningful conversation about something other than medication side effects and recent lab work.

On a non-work day, I’d tune into a (FREE!) writing lecture, like the ones hosted by Michigan State (http://cls.matrix.msu.edu/celebrity-lectures/). I’d start with John Irving, then Margaret Atwood, then Maya Angelou, then Kurt Vonnegut, then Terry McMillan; oh my, there are 31 writers to choose from, I need more than an hour!

An extra 10 minutes?

I’d stretch after running. I normally skip it to save precious time which is probably why my hamstrings and calves like to throw hissy fits.

One free minute?

Breathe and meditate. I almost typed medicate—huh, that’s weird.

One free second?

Wink at my husband. Of course then I have to explain for 600 seconds why that spontaneous gesture occurred.

C’mon readers, what about you? What if you were given a free gift of time? BTW, you are not allowed to say sleep, let’s assume that you are either well-rested or buzzing on caffeine.