Getting Stronger

Oh how I hate and love this move!

Oh, Jillian Michaels, how I hate and love this move!

I’ve been really diligent about exercise the past two weeks. I had been in such a slump for most of this year that I didn’t really think I could get back on the bandwagon. But the more I work at it, the more motivated I am to keep it up. I’d forgotten how good it feels to push past my limits and earn that sense of accomplishment for the day. I’d forgotten how the aches that tend to follow are a welcome kind of pain because I know they mean I’m getting stronger again. And the best part isn’t even the numbers on the scale or seeing the promise of the shape in my midsection again, (although I am in no way complaining!) The best part is the mental impact. Strength in the body seems to translate to a feeling that I can handle anything. It permeates into every aspect of the day.

Why was it so easy to forget how good this is for me?

All summer long I set my alarm clock to wake me in time to do some physical activity before I had to get ready for work. As the weeks wore on, that alarm would go off and my body would sleepily protest. My eyes didn’t want to open. More often than not, the weariness inside would win and the alarm would get postponed for another hour. Still, I couldn’t ever seem to get caught up on my sleep. I felt mentally and physically drained so much of the time.

My turnaround came slowly. A couple of months ago, I attended a birthday celebration for my former morning gym buddy. Near the end of her pregnancy, her gym visits had dwindled. After her baby boy arrived, there were a few months when escaping the house at 5:00 am just wasn’t possible. The night of the birthday party, she informed me she was back in routine and was hoping I’d start joining her again. Working out with a friend always makes the work feel so much easier! I started getting out of bed with the alarm and going to the gym to meet my friend a couple of times a week.

A few weeks ago when I began to set weekly goals, exercise was a big one. Just having set the goal and telling others about it went a long way in pushing me to follow through. And seeing my parents’ health issues take their toll is a painful reminder that exercise isn’t just a nice thing to do for myself, it’s necessary to keep the effects of aging from coming on too soon. The more I work out, the more I want to work out, the more I want to eat better, the more I believe I can be healthier. I’m climbing out of the slump and it feels so good.

Life is Good – 2/2/2013

Life is GoodIt’s that time of year that I knew would inevitably come, when winter feels as if it’s been here long enough already and there’s no end in sight. This kind of winter is what I know, gray days and bone chilling cold at times. It’s not the season itself that really bothers me so much. It’s what I let it do to me. When I can’t seem to stay warm, I slow down. I stay inside, doing still and quiet things, like reading books or watching movies. My motivation  to get these muscles moving fades away. I can’t seem to get enough sleep.

These aren’t bad things, when I allow them in moderation. And lucky for me, I always seem to recognize when enough is enough. And this has been that week.

I’ve been guiltily joking about falling off the exercise bandwagon lately. Sure, there were contributing factors in the past couple of months – varying illnesses and a back strain that left a weeks-long ache in my hamstring muscle. But those things have long subsided. I said I couldn’t run outside. It was either too cold, too icy or too snowy. And as for the treadmill in the nice warm gym, it was getting boring. And the gym was packed with new bodies anyway. I felt crowded by all of those enthusiastic exercisers hell-bent on honoring their new year’s resolutions. And each day that’s gone by without any attempt by me to keep my body strong has gradually added to my pile of guilt. The guilt became too much this week, but I knew I needed something new, something to make me enthusiastic again.

I’m exploring the world of yoga! Thank you, Cable T.V. for your on-demand fitness programs that are tailored for everyone from beginner to advanced. I am once again starting the day in a healthy way. And don’t worry. I’m not giving up running – just taking a little break.

The good mojo seems to have worked its way into my work life this week too. I’ve found myself steadily busy and productive, just the way I like it. There’s been no word from the CEO about the headline contest, but he did send me another assignment yesterday. Seems he wanted a press release for a new product that’s up and coming. He gathered all of his thoughts and ideas on the subject and spewed them into an email which he then sent to me. He asked me to give it a good work over and “tighten it up” and I found myself with company approved time to just sit and write.

Brad Diploma 2Things are all good with the family. Our winter laziness has at least inspired Mark and me to do a good amount of home cooking, which feeds right into my ongoing goal to eat better.

Brad received his college diploma this week and sent me a text message to let me know. “Turns out I graduated after all,” he said. The day of graduation, he was joking that he might be cutting it close and wouldn’t know for sure until days or weeks after the graduation ceremony. I never doubted it though, and I told him so.

Kacey texted me several times this week from school. Once was to let me know that two of her friends had mentioned they were craving some soup that I’ve made on several occasions. It’s nice to know that my cooking skills are adequate enough to generate requests for a repeat performance.

Kacey also texted me to let me know she and her friends have signed up to do the Polar Bear Plunge – a fundraiser to support Special Olympics Minnesota athletes. Kacey and her team will be gathering pledges and in order to collect on them, they’ll be taking a plunge into Lake Calhoun on March 2nd – which means they’ll be taking a plunge into a hole cut into the ice and dipping into the frigid water! I think they are brave, and I am proud!

And I actually saw Jake this week and spent time with him for about an hour, while he was wide awake and in good spirits. He’s been working a lot, so time with him is often hard to come by.

And this morning, after a long, dreary, cold week… it is still cold, one degree outside as I write this. It was snowing as I left work yesterday afternoon, big, fluffy, lazy drifting flakes. The snow continued into the evening and left the landscape clean and fresh. It’s the weekend and the sun is shining.

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Temperatures are predicted to rise up into the teens today. It’s better than single digits. I’ll take it. Life is good!

Miracle

From my place in the cubicle farm, I could hear Lori answer her phone.

“Well, hi-eee,” she exclaimed! “How are you?”

Clearly she was excited to hear from somebody. I returned my attention to my work, but a few moments later, Lori poked her head into my cube as she was breezing by on her way to the front entrance.

“Lisa’s here,” she whispered loudly.

I stood up and wandered out to the open area in front of my cubicle watching Lori make her way to the locked entrance doors.

“Lisa,” I asked? “She’s here? Now?”

“Yes, right now!”

I looked around as Lori waited to meet Lisa at the door. It seemed everyone was busy at work. No one was milling around. I wanted to run through the office and spread the news that Lisa was here! But I waited. I didn’t want to disappear just as Lisa was arriving.

Lori was opening the door and there she was. Lisa was here! Lori was explaining how she wasn’t going to hug Lisa because she’d just come down with the cold virus that’s been making the rounds. I’ve long since put my share of viruses behind me. I wasn’t holding off on the hugging.

Soon word had spread that Lisa had arrived and my coworkers had formed a circle around our unexpected guest. Every face held a beaming smile. Everyone was clamoring for a hug. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that not a one of us was sure we’d ever get to see Lisa again.

She looked beautiful! I was struck by how bright and blue her eyes were. I don’t know why I’d never noticed it before in all the years we’ve worked together, but her eyes were striking. In a way, she reminded me of a cancer survivor. But it wasn’t cancer that robbed Lisa of her hair. Her long brunette locks were gone due to the brain surgery that was necessary after she suffered a brain aneurysm in late November. Her hair was just beginning to grow back in, no longer brunette but salt and pepper gray. Again, I was struck by how beautiful she looked.

She told us her story and everyone was murmuring about what a miracle it was that she stood before us today. In a more private moment, I asked when she might come back to work. She thought two weeks, if all goes well between now and then. I told her how much we’ve missed her and her eyes welled up with tears, not for the first time. She said what a gift it was to be standing there today and the word miracle came up again.

“I don’t know why me,” she sniffed, wondering out loud why her life had been spared.

“Why not you,” I asked?

“Because there are so many others whose lives have been cut so short. It’s not fair.”

I didn’t have any words for her at that moment, but just reminded her how glad I was that she would be able to come back to us. Some of us are close friends around the office, but we don’t make a habit of getting too emotional. But today, the professional boundaries were set aside for a while as happy tears were shed and hugs abounded.

After Lisa left and the excitement died down, it wasn’t long before it was time to pack up and go home. Only then did I begin to realize why her. I’m sure there are many reasons why she’s still on this earth. One of them might be to remind us that nothing is a given. As I thought about Lisa, I realized, I’m not entitled to anything. What’s important is not whether I have all that I want in life, but that I can appreciate all that I already have.

Do you believe in miracles? I do. I saw one today.

Back to Work

Well, I felt decidedly more human this morning so I showered, got dressed and went back to work.

And my coworker who became ill half a day ahead of me called in sick again. So I win!

Not really. It’s not a contest. Recovering from illness is not a competition.

But really, I kind of felt like I won a contest.

I was welcomed back and it was nice to know people were concerned about my well-being. One person expressed surprise that I had returned so quickly. I know I could have easily claimed illness one more day, but honestly, I was sick of lying around. I had many conversations with coworkers about how “everyone” is getting sick right now. And as if to prove us correct, a chorus of coughs and sneezes periodically rang out around the office. I was grateful I’d just had a quick stomach virus and not that nasty cold and flu stuff that’s making the news.

While I was home sick I missed a lot and also did things I don’t normally do. Kacey went to a reunion with the softball girls and I was completely unaware. When I wasn’t completely unaware of things, I watched a lot of television. I could easily become a regular viewer of Ellen.

This looks like good daily fun, right?

This looks like good daily fun, right?

When you’re sick and if you have cable, you discover all the television shows you used to enjoy and realize they’re still on during the day, usually marathon style. I watched a whole bunch of episodes of Judging Amy. I’d forgotten about that one. I used to really like it and thoroughly enjoyed it again yesterday. Until I fell asleep again.

And I saw a lot of news reports about the flu and how it’s become almost an epidemic in some places. I would like to avoid the flu if I can, so I paid attention. It was said that to prevent the spread of germs, you should try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. I made a conscious effort not to touch my face at all today, which made me more aware of how often I touch my face as I work.  Which is approximately a hundred times an hour! I used my hand sanitizer each time I caught myself touching my face.

sneezeMy boss is kind of a germ-o-phobe. He approached me and said, “Hey, welcome back! How you feeling?”

As I was saying, “Much better, thanks,” he took a precautionary step away from me. I wasn’t offended, but I decided not to tell him about my sanitizing efforts.

And later, when he was in a meeting, I sneezed on his keyboard.

(Not really. You know me better than that!)

(But it’s fun to think about.)

 

 

 

My Little, Fuzzy, Yellow Godsend

Connor took a bowling class at college last semester and has become somewhat of a fanatic. I can’t say I’m displeased! We got him a bowling ball for Christmas.

Mark’s bowling ball suffered some damage from a ball return recently. He had it repaired but was told not to expect the repair job to last forever. I got Mark a new bowling ball for Christmas.

I’ve been complaining for a year about needing new bowling shoes. While at the pro-shop buying Connor’s Christmas present, I pointed out to Mark a pair of shoes that I liked and thought I might buy after Christmas. Mark got me new bowling shoes for Christmas. (We should be on the preferred customer list at the pro-shop now!)

We’ve got all this new stuff. And Connor has been suggesting for a few days that we should all go bowling. And since he and Kacey are home on break from school right now, the four of us went bowling last night.

The only one not all that interested in bowling is Kacey. She inherited my old shoes, but other than that has none of her own equipment. And whenever she bowls, she complains afterwards that her fingers hurt. And still, she bowled a 165 with a house ball and beat all of us in one game. Connor and Mark are just getting used to their new bowling balls. That was their excuse. My new shoes were great, but I am still struggling with pain from my recent back strain and so I blame my substandard performance on muscles that refuse to relax.

My chiropractor says I’m suffering from Sciatica, most likely the result of a pinched nerve. Last week the worst pain was in my lower back but over the last few days it has moved to the back of my leg. While at the chiropractor, I learned some stretches that are supposed to provide some relief, but so far, they haven’t done much. I was miserable as I bowled my first game. I could barely bend over to release my ball and was limping around in pain. I was almost ready to call it quits when I discovered something about the hard plastic seats that surround each set of lanes. While I was sitting and waiting for my next turn, if I sat forward just so, the edge of the seat dug into the back of my leg and put pressure on my strained muscle in such a way that felt SO amazingly good. Finally, finally something that provided a reprieve from the radiating ache that hadn’t let up for ten days. I wondered how I could get that chair home with me…

I was so happy to sit there, stretch my leg forward and bounce it up and down on the seat edge that I stopped paying attention to the game. Kacey finally asked me what I was doing and I explained that I had discovered a way to (at least temporarily) help me stop being such a whiner.

I suddenly remembered this little wooden ladybug that we had at home. It is supposed to be used for giving massages but no one ever uses it and its whereabouts were uncertain. I thought about how good it would feel to jam that wooden ladybug  into the knot of muscles in my leg and I asked Kacey if she knew where it was. She said, “Maybe in the upstairs linen closet, or maybe in the downstairs linen closet, or maybe in your bedroom closet.”

“So you don’t know where it is,” I stated. She shrugged.

“You should book a massage at the chiropractor’s office,” Mark said.

“I don’t want to spend a hundred dollars to have a stranger dig into the back of my leg,” I said. “Besides, I’ve already paid for two chiropractic visits that have been marginally helpful.”

I was beginning to accept that the chiropractor was right. I’m getting older (just a tiny bit) and things like this are just going to take longer to heal than they did a few years ago.

“You should sit on a tennis ball,” Kacey suggested.

I felt my face light up. “That’s genius,” I said! I knew it would be perfect, and I just so happened to have a container of tennis balls in the laundry room at home. (That’s where you keep your tennis balls, right? You know, for putting in the dryer with down jackets and such!)

Once at home, I immediately grabbed one of the fuzzy yellow balls and positioned it underneath my thigh as I sat in my recliner. Such a simple little object was the answer to my prayers. Two visits to the chiropractor, many sleepless nights and plenty of complaining and it turns out that all I really needed was to sit on a tennis ball.

I slept well last night for the first time in almost two weeks. The first thing I did when I woke up was find my little yellow masseuse and take it with me to the chair to loosen things up again. I was happy, happy, happy!

Apparently this is a well-known remedy. WHY didn't anyone tell me this sooner?

Apparently this is a well-known remedy. WHY didn’t anyone tell me this sooner?

As I prepared to leave for work today, I put my tote bag on the kitchen floor and tossed in some things to help get me through the work day – a big bottle of water, my lunch and… (light bulb!) my little, yellow masseuse. Bella was whining for some attention, so I scooped her up and carried her to Kacey’s room so she could snuggle up in bed with her. I came back to the kitchen and grabbed my bag and almost headed out the door when I realized that Lucy wasn’t on my heels like usual and pleading with those puppy dog eyes for me to take her along. In fact, it occurred to me that as I’d descended the stairs to the foyer, Lucy seemed oddly content,considering my impending departure, as she stretched out on the living room floor, playing with one of her toys.

I made a quick trip back up the steps to check on her and make sure she was okay and not eating something she shouldn’t be eating.

And she was just fine! While I was busy making sure Bella was happy and comfy, Lucy had taken advantage of my moment of inattention. She stuck her face into my tote bag and stole my tennis ball! I couldn’t help but laugh, even though she looked up at me sadly as I rescued the ball before she could remove the cover from it, which would have happened in short order had I not realized what she’d done.

At work, I laid claim to a good chair that seemed like it needed a home. And then I happily sat on my tennis ball all day long. Happy, happy, happy!

Off to a Decent Start

Two days into January and I’m happy to report that I’m making good on all of my resolutions so far this year! I only hit the snooze on the alarm clock one time this morning. Resisting the temptation to give in to the desire for an extra hour of sleep, I ventured out from under a pile of warm blankets and warm dogs and braced myself for the cold morning air. I got dressed in my workout clothes, pulled up my hair, grabbed the iPhone and some ear-buds and drove off to the gym.

There is typically only a handful of vehicles in the gym parking lot when I arrive at 5 am. Today there were many more cars than usual. Normally, I recognize the same familiar faces during my early morning gym visits. Today there were new and ambitious faces. Said my friend Scott, who chats with me for ten minutes or so while he warms up on an elliptical near my treadmill before he heads off to the weights area, “It will be interesting to see how many of these people come back tomorrow or even next week.”

I knew he was probably right in his expectations but I secretly hoped that the New Years Resolutioners would stick it out. I remember how hard it was for me to keep going back at first. Some sort of encouragement would have made it a lot easier. I think everyone should have a friend at the gym to help keep them motivated. Maybe there should be an online service to match people up with a gym buddy. You know, you never feel as awkward trying to figure out how to adjust a foreign piece of weight training equipment when you have someone there to feel dumb with you or to laugh with you as you give it a go and realize just how out-of-shape certain muscles are.

 

I'm here to PUMP you UP!

I’m here to PUMP you UP!

 

I didn’t run today since I’m still nursing a pinched nerve or muscle strain or whatever it is in my back that I am impatiently waiting to move on. So far the ache has only moved down the back of my leg. But it felt good to move while I was moving, even if it felt tight and painful again as soon as I stopped. I hope I’ll be running again soon. And since I’ve yet to try out my new racquetball racquet, and since my pal, Lori just got one for Christmas, we’re both anxious to get back to our new sport.

As for doing more reading, I read a good bunch of a new book before going to sleep last night. My blog pal, Kimberly McKay recently published her second book, Facing Redemption and kindly sent me a copy to read. So far, I’m loving it and plan to post a review here when I’ve finished reading it.

And I cooked! Well, technically I cooked. As we drove home from our joint chiropractor appointments this evening and spying the golden arches, Mark said, “Should we just swing through McDonald’s and grab something to eat?”

“Eh,” I said as he turned the corner.

“Do you want McDonald’s,” he asked?

“Not really,” I replied and so he drove on by.

At home, without a meal plan and it already being dinner time, I offered to make pancakes. He turned me down. I offered to make omelets. He turned me down. (All this turning me down and yet he offers up no suggestions as to what he would actually like to eat. Typical. And what is wrong with breakfast for supper? I love breakfast any time of the day!)

But since Mark was turning up his nose at all my ideas, I went to the downstairs freezer to browse the selection of foods within. I spied a container of White Chili that I’d made and frozen a while ago. I hollered to Mark, “Do you want chili?”

“I would eat chili,” he agreed.

“You’d better,” I warned him! And so I cooked heated up the chili, sprinkled on some shredded cheese and added some heat and eat dinner rolls smeared with butter on the side. And it was way better than McDonald’s, I’ll just say.

Two days down. Only 363 to go!

Dorks Playing Raquetball

I had my first racquetball lesson tonight. It was good!

My friend, Bill plays racquetball. My friend and coworker, Lori had suggested a while ago that we give the game a try – you know, for a change of pace from the fitness classes and running and stuff. Bill said he would be happy to provide instruction.

Leaving work tonight, I asked Lori, “So what are you going to wear for racquetball tonight?”

“Oh my gosh, I was just going to ask you the same thing,” Lori said.

I don’t know why we were concerned about what to wear. I see guys playing racquetball at the gym. They’re not concerned with their attire. As it turns out, I wore a tank and capris. I should have worn shorts. I sweated more than I thought I would.

First Bill passed out racquets and safety goggles. Then he talked us through the basics, like where to stand when you serve, and when and where to hit the ball. Then we started playing. He showed us how to hit short balls and how to deal with the long ones. During the two hours we played, we started to get the hang of it.

And we also missed a lot of balls! I mean a lot! Lori said she thought there was a hole in her racquet.

When the ball was in the back of the court, we’d be in the front.

When the ball was in the front of the court, we’d be in the back.

Bill remained patient and maintained a sense of humor.

I rolled my ankle and fell flat on the floor. When I opened to my eyes to see if Lori and Bill were laughing hysterically at me, I saw that Lori was on the floor too. I’m not sure how she got there. Bill told me he fell on the floor once or twice before too.

I slammed my body into the side wall. My right shoulder and elbow are going to hurt tomorrow.

And Bill had to keep reminding us that when the ball is coming hard and fast, you’re not supposed to cower in the corner in fear of getting hit. You’re supposed to watch the ball and attack it! He also had to remind us not to be so polite because if we both step back so the other can play, then no one is going to hit the ball.

Google Images

But I managed to get the hang of a serve that just rolls back along the side wall where it’s really hard for someone to hit it back. And we hit a lot of balls. And Lori is really good at the back hand. And we laughed our butts off – which felt SO good because it has been a very long, very trying week.

And to anyone outside the court looking in, I’m quite positive we looked like newbie dorks with no clue how to play this game. But Bill is willing to commit to another lesson. And we had fun. So we’re gonna do it again!