“ ‘Eating is an agricultural act,’ as Wendell Berry famously said. It is also an ecological act, and a political act, too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world – and what is to become of it.”
– Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Any time a bunch of women gets together who are passionate, interested or even just a bit curious about a topic I’m interested in, I get excited.
And just such a thing happened this morning.
During first service, a dozen or so women from my church met for an hour of gluten talk. At least that was the original topic when the class was announced, but by the time we had the meeting, it had become more of a “food group.” We talked about more than just gluten intolerance. Other food allergies and sensitivities were on the menu.
Those who led the group this morning (and, in case you’re interested, will again next Sunday – same time, same place) are:
- Anita Swanson, who shared her story of wheat intolerance, breastfeeding, children with allergies and her journey to figuring out how to keep her family healthy. Anita is married to our pastor, Brent, and they have three precious little boys who are a big part of Anita’s “food story.”
- Valerie Gunter, whose story is similar to Anita’s because of birthing babies, breastfeeding and having to figure out some food sensitivities and intolerances she didn’t realize she had – all because of her kiddos’ health problems. Valerie is married to Matt, a local veterinarian.
- Sandee Steiner, local farmer, real estate mogul and mom. She and her husband, Max, host the church’s annual fall festival on their farm, where the kids get to run around until they’re silly, hang out with cows and other critters, have hayrides and generally get themselves giddy in the autumn sunshine (yeah, some of the adults do, too). Sandee, an engineer, is concerned with all the crap (sorry, Mom) that American cattle farmers and chicken producers feed to and inject into their animals. Sandee offers kefir starter to anyone who would like to make her own kefir (Anita made us delicious banana and blueberry smoothies with kefir, and the ladies also let us sample two other homemade, gluten-free foods). Sandee also offered to teach us how to make our own cottage cheese.
And then there’s me. No, I wasn’t a host of the meeting – I’m just a loudmouth who’s always interested in learning something and passing along the “insights” I’ve gained. Yeah, I can be obnoxious about it, especially if you’re not at all into what I’m talking about.
I’ve been on my own “journey to fitness” for the past three or four years, and it has taken me until recently to get serious about what goes into my mouth and that of my husband (a Crohn’s sufferer).
Sure, I’ve lost about 50 pounds (and gained a few back), but it hasn’t always been with the healthiest, wholest, least-processed foods you can buy. That, however, has been changing, ever so gradually.
I’ve been getting rid of processed sugars, artificial sweeteners, wheat and other grains in the past several weeks and increasing my consumption of “good fats” and eggs. But that’s a story I’ll tell you another day. Another story for a later day: I’m training to be a certified wellness coach (online classes, plus a trip to Colorado next month for on-site training). And … all this food and research talk has gotten me to thinking about becoming a registered dietician (I waver between the nutrition part of fitness and the physical-fitness part – I got certified as a running coach in August and definitely want to do some continuing education – maybe a second bachelor’s degree? – in some area of fitness).
But let’s talk about some of the resources discussed this morning. The ladies in charge handed us a packet of resources (including recipes, not included here), and the ladies listening wanted some of those put together online somewhere. One even requested a dedicated Facebook page for the group. Until they’re able to make that happen, I’ll collect the list of resources here, updating this particular post as I have time to add them (I’ll send updates to the church’s Facebook page). And if you’d like to suggest your own resources or tell your story, please click the comment link at the bottom of this post.
Also, I was taking notes furiously for a friend who couldn’t make the meeting because she was cheering on her daughter at the Little Rock Marathon (go, Mary!), so I didn’t get to look at all the books on the table. So, for now, I’m going to hit the high points with the promise to add to it later.
Disclaimer: Not everyone agrees with every word or claim made in each one of these resources. They are simply offered as a starting point for more information.
Wheat Belly and Wheat Belly Cookbook by cardiologist William Davis. I’m reading these books (with apologies to the county library, which sent me past-due notices on them last week. I promise I’ll return them tomorrow, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to buy my own copies). Some in the medical field have criticized Wheat Belly, calling Davis’ admonitions about wheat and carbs “scare tactics,” but I find it interesting that a lot of these critics DON’T EAT WHEAT. One reviewer, a psychiatrist, takes issue with his “sloppy” work in some of his medical stories and analogies. I understand her point, but at times she seems to be nitpicking.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. This one is on my to-be-read list. I read Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto a few years ago. He has good things to say. His catch phrase: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I suppose I need to move Omnivore up on my list.
The Virgin Diet by J.J. Virgin. Don’t let the word “diet” scare you away from some of the good things the author has to say – this, according to Valerie Gunter, who recommended the book. (She had to give it a catchy name, didn’t she?) Virgin guides the reader through an elimination diet to help determine whether there’s an intolerance to certain foods.
MOVIES AND VIDEOS
Food Inc., a documentary that takes “an unflattering look inside America’s corporate controlled food industry,” according to the Internet Movie Database. We didn’t have time to talk about this movie today – just a brief mention.
“Unblind My Mind,” a TEDxYouth Talk by Dr. Katherine Reid (16 minutes; also search for “unblind my mind” on YouTube). I mentioned the video at this morning’s meeting, and I had a request to post the link. Reid, a biochemist and mom of five, started researching food additives and eliminating particular foods from her autistic daughter’s diet. Within a few weeks, she noticed a marked improvement in the girl’s behavior. The culprits for Brooke: free glutamate (think MSG) – which goes by at least 50 names – and casein, a milk protein. In the video, Reid talks about the gluten/casein connection with excess glutamate. She started a nonprofit organization, Unblind My Mind, to more fully explore the topic of food’s effects on our health.
Salad in a Jar. This is my own recommendation, although I didn’t have time to mention it at the meeting. On a Facebook group I’m a member of, I had complained about having to cut up one salad for work each evening (rather than a bunch of it days in advance) because of brown lettuce, and someone pointed me to Salad in a Jar. The site’s founder (who’s not selling anything) shows how to chop your salad greens ahead of time, vacuum seal them in mason jars and prolong the (refrigerator) shelf-life for several days. This not only saves time but money, as it helps cut down on food waste. (I bought a vacuum sealer, and I love it; if you’d like to borrow it, let me know.)
That’s it for now, folks. It’s past my bedtime, so I’m stopping. Later I’ll add info on some of the places, local and otherwise, where you can buy some of the natural, organic, gluten-free or other foods talked about this morning.
If you or a family member is experiencing health problems that can’t be explained, cured or eased with traditional remedies or modern medicine – or if you’re simply interested in exploring new ways to be healthy by changing your diet – talk to Anita, Valerie or Sandee at church, or post a comment here and I’ll put you in touch. I’ll also be happy to share what I’m learning as I research healthful eating and foods. And if you’d like to tell your story at Suzy & Spice, let me know – I’d love to have you as a guest writer. I’ve already recruited Anita to write a post!
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This is the first time I’ve been brave enough to publish my “before” picture. Bruce took it 4 years ago. Photo on right courtesy of Hatch and Maas Photography.
I’ve been given an opportunity that I’ve been praying for a lot lately: the chance to tell my story to a bigger audience. (My blog has, like, three readers: my mom, my husband and our dog Salsa; the other dog can’t read.)
My hope is that my story, told from my unique perspective, will influence change – in my family, my workplace, even my community. I’ve written for about three years in this space about my “journey to fitness,” hoping to encourage those who need hope, those who think changing your life is only for a certain type of person.
The trouble with that line of thinking is that I believe there’s always hope, that determination (and a lot of prayer) can get you to a better place – if you want it badly enough. If you’re willing to put in the hours, the sweat, the mental energy, the sticktoitiveness to see it through, you can do it even if you’re “nobody special.”
You see, I’m nobody special – I’m just a girl who believes in prayer and hard work.
The problem with a lot of us (with me for so many years) is that we give up too easily.
We look at this marathon as a sprint, and if we don’t see results right away – or if we take a couple of steps forward and end up a step or two backward – we think we will never get it right. We’ll never reach our goals. Or maybe we stop setting goals in the first place.
We let the naysayers fill our heads with nonsense, and we start believing it: It’s too hard, I tried that and it didn’t work. It will never happen – I’m giving up. I could never do that.
One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I’m pretty stubborn. (It’s one of those good/bad things I inherited from my dad.) And, despite many attempts to change that ended in failure, I’m still standing. I’m still pushing. Still learning.
And I’m stronger than ever.
And because I’ve learned some lessons the hard way, I want to pass it on, maybe make someone else’s journey a little easier. Help someone know she’s not alone, that there is hope.
By the grace of God, heartfelt prayer, and much two-steps-forward, one-step-back-ing, I’ve lost about 50 pounds in the past three years. (According to my cardiologist, I need to lose a few more, but we’ll get to that.) It took maybe two of those years to lose the bulk of it (plus I’ve gained 7 back since heart surgery), and I’ve said here before that if it takes the rest of my life to get it all off, it’s worth it if I help someone else find hope and encouragement.
And my mantra – as a runner who will never be at the head of the pack no matter how much I want it – is, “Slow and steady wins the race.” (That may apply more to weight loss than it does to running footraces, but you get the point.)
Another thing I believe to my very core is that we learn – God grows our character the most – amid difficulty. We tend to forget about God during the easy times; we don’t rely on His wisdom and guidance when we’re cruising along through life thinking everything’s great because we’re great!
We learn the best lessons through challenges. And we lose weight and keep it off when we do it slowly and thoughtfully, when we learn why we turn to food when we shouldn’t. Sometimes I’ve had to learn the same lesson over and over, until I really got it. I’m still learning.
I’ve had what you might call challenges in the past three years, including heart surgery five months ago. But out of that particular challenge came a great opportunity:
I got to tell my story in a TV commercial that has been airing all across Arkansas since the Super Bowl, has aired during the Olympics, and will air for the next two years.
When I was asked to do it, someone mentioned that it would be scary to be interviewed on camera. My response: all the more reason to do it! It was so far outside my comfort zone, I knew it would be a new opportunity for growth – to depend on the Lord for my strength.
For a couple of years, I’ve been praying for opportunities to improve my very weak public-speaking skills. I didn’t know exactly why I was praying that, except that I wanted to be available – and not embarrass my family or die of fright – when those rare opportunities arose.
So maybe the interview segment of the TV commercial wasn’t my favorite part (the running part was much more fun and comfortable) but maybe my prayers made me just a little less fearful – bold, even – knowing that my desire was to bring glory to God through it all, and perhaps encourage someone along the way. Guys from the TV crew actually told me I inspired them. Go figure.
I started 2013 (a few weeks after I turned 50) with the goal of “getting to know God better,” deciding not to jump ahead of Him in figuring out the details of the next phase of my life.
I knew what I wanted to do – still want to do – and that may happen some day. My desire is to implement a healthy-workplace initiative at my place of employment. My CEO is open to that (we’ve talked), but I’m not sure he realizes all I have in mind! (I’ve learned to dream big.)
For starters, I recently registered (on my own, not through my job) to become a certified wellness coach. I’m taking online courses and will travel to Colorado in a couple of months for on-site training,
I’m not sure where this journey will take me, but I believe God put the desire in my heart and that He will bless it.
Meanwhile, Channel 7 in Little Rock (ABC affiliate) has invited me to appear on “Good Morning, Arkansas” on Feb. 17 as part of its coverage of Heart Month. My cardiologist, Dr. Conley, will be by my side if his schedule permits. I so hope he can, because he’s a big part of where I am right now.
I can tell you the exact date that I began my “journey to fitness” in earnest: April 5, 2011 – the birthday of our CEO. We had potluck that day, and I ate like a pig. By the end of the day, I was disgusted with myself, I wrote my “Going public” post, and things began to change.
It was embarrassing to admit on the Internet that I weighed 201 pounds (5 pounds less than my highest) and that I had been making a fool of myself with food. But if pigging out was what it took to make me wake up and smell the bacon, it was worth it.
I want to help others by telling my story. Some won’t like it, won’t agree with it, won’t see it. They’ll think I’m being egotistical. I can’t help what people think.
But should I let the Negative Nellies keep me from trying to help someone else?
I could never do that.
To find a Women Run Arkansas running and walking clinic near you, click here.
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December has been a month of busyness, but not of the Christmas variety, exactly.
Last weekend we shot the commercial for Baptist Health. That took several hours Friday and most of Saturday. We froze our frannies off in the windy 30s on Saturday by the White River. But it was SO MUCH FUN, and I do plan to write more about it. (Didn’t get much in the way of photos, though.) We had several wardrobe changes because they plan to run the campaign throughout the next two years (starting with the Super Bowl), so even though it was shot in December, it is supposed to depict several seasons.
This weekend was our alternate date for the White River Christmas Half Marathon & Relay. Sure, it happens at Christmastime, but it’s more indirectly related to Christmas than the typical holiday festivities – shopping, cookie baking, gift-giving – unless you consider that our half-marathon elves (race co-founder Sara and her helper elf, Becky) shop for the families that benefit from the race proceeds. And then the gifts are given to families chosen by a tenderhearted woman at a local agency.
We postponed the race on its original date (Dec. 7) because of ice storms. Makeup date: Dec. 21. Again, dangerous weather intervened. We got up this morning and decided that the threat of lightning and the flash flood warnings made it too risky – so we called, texted, emailed and Facebooked all those who had preregistered, telling them we would try again next year.
It was a huge disappointment, but we raised a good amount of money for needy families (entry to the race is free, but we encourage donations and most people do give).
Disappointing, but also, for the Oakleys, a day of much-needed rest. After we had contacted everyone and Bruce put a sign on the church door for any potential race-day registrants, it was under the electric blanket for Pepper and me and onto the sofa for Bruce and Salsa. After rest time we went to Mom’s to watch Hallmark Christmas movies (even Bruce likes them), and we veg’d for several hours.
Back home again, and I want to write about deep and thought-provoking topics, but the best I can come up with tonight is a roundup of some of the things I’ve been reading and listening to in the past week or so. I’ve been planning to do this regularly – these favorite-pick posts – but we’ve been half-marathoning and Christmas-partying and otherwise running ourselves ragged for several weeks. (Can I tell you I skipped a free yoga class Thursday night at our church because of race planning? That’s some kind of irony.)
So, without further delay, here are some randomly ordered but thoughtfully collected links for you to ponder:
First up, you’ll be thankful that I condensed what was going to be an entire post about the pitfalls of Christmas spending (I tend to get preachy) to a mere reference to some wise words from my favorite debt-proof-living guru, Mary Hunt. Read about Mr. Diderot and His Red Robe – good advice for any time of year.
And while we’re getting introspective about our habits and thought processes, here’s a little C.S. Lewis to get you thinking. From a letter on “the slow process of being more in Christ; and on doing one’s duty, especially the duty to enjoy.”
I get an email each morning with a C.S. Lewis reading excerpted from his books, letters, essays and other writings. To subscribe, visit Bible Gateway by clicking here.
I have long loved the books and sermons of Chuck Swindoll. So when my friend and fellow runner Betsy forwarded this link to me with a reference to Olympian Wilma Rudolph, I took notice. (When I was in high school, I wrote a book report on Ms. Rudolph. I wasn’t a runner then, so all I can remember about the book was that her story was inspirational.) As soon as I listened to the sermon, “What’s Necessary for Victory?” I logged onto the Independence County Library’s website and looked up the books on this woman; I plan to check one out soon. The entire sermon on Christian victory is good, but if you want to skip ahead to Wilma’s story, start at 9:30 minutes.
Next up – because it’s the perfect season for recipes and inspiring food stories – a couple of shout-outs to my friends.
I’ve linked to Alison’s blog a few times over the years, but today I was catching up and read a reposted story about her sister’s new-ish restaurant outside Chicago. I’ve long known that Anna was an awesome baker and cook, but now she is celebrating a year as a restaurateur with her husband, Bob. They opened in December 2012, and you’ll have to read Alison’s description of the cafe and her sister. And if I’m ever in Glen Ellyn, Ill., I’m making a point to stop in at Blackberry Market.
One more food-related link: A friend tagged me in a Facebook post this morning, and I clicked through to discover a conversation about a food blog, and then a reference to my childhood friend Liz’s very own food blog – a site I immediately clicked to and which I love! Light and fresh recipes made from the heart – who could resist? (Plus, I’m a little jealous of how great it looks, especially the food photos, which I’m terrible at.) I love food blogs, but the bonus here is that this one is by someone I know; that makes it extra-special. So come delight with me at Elsie’s Kitchen 101 (read the About section to find out where it got its name).
This list barely scratches the surface of the interesting things I’ve been reading, listening to and watching, but I think it’s enough for now. Except this one last link.
In the spirit of Christmas, I’m going to leave you with a schedule of the aforementioned Hallmark Channel Christmas movies (they’re showing all December long!). Go ahead and watch a few. I won’t tell.
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Me and some of the gang after a riverside run on Sept. 12, 2013, just 5 days before my heart surgery.
Apparently my cardiologist likes me. And for some reason he thinks I’m at least passably “intelligent and articulate.”
That’s what the Baptist Health folks asked for when they were looking for people to be in their next ad campaign, “Keep on Amazing.” They were looking for “success stories” – fairly well-spoken people who had been treated by Baptist Health and lived to tell about it.
Well, you know – not only survived but thrived.
Apparently the facts that I’ve gained 10 pounds since my heart-valve surgery and that I’m not yet back to my normal race pace didn’t deter the PR people from thinking I’m a “success story.”
(We won’t tell them about the 9 mini Tootsie Rolls I just ate while writing this.)
(Wait a minute. Make that 10.)
Apparently the mere fact that I was so eager to get back into running (that I talk about it every time I visit the heart doctor) is enough for them to think I have some atypical story to tell. Or at least the doc thinks so. He’s the one who told them about me when they were lookin’ for folks.
So they’re coming to town next weekend to film me telling my story. And running. With a bunch of my crazy friends.
Running buddies, I need you to help me tell the story (because you’re a crucial part of it), but first let me back up and give a bit of the history of this heart thing. I’ve told it in a little bit of detail on the White River Roadrunners’ Facebook page and on the Roadrunners website, but haven’t told it here. So grab a cup of coffee – I’m going into detail. (If you’re a running buddy and only want to know where you come in on the aforementioned “help,” skip to the bottom. Otherwise please indulge me because I haven’t told the whole story in one place, and some people have been wanting to hear it.) Here goes:
I was diagnosed in 2008 with “mitral valve prolapse with mitral regurgitation.” Basically, the valve didn’t close properly and puked blood back into the chamber where it wasn’t supposed to. I visited Dr. Conley in North Little Rock once a year to check it. (We lived in North Little Rock for the first couple of years, and we moved to Batesville in 2010.)
Until this year, in July, no one was too concerned as long as I didn’t do anything crazy, things like what the doc called “burst activity” – such as the time back in May when I sprinted to the finish line to try to beat that guy who came up behind me at the Rock Run 8K in Little Rock. That would be considered burst activity, a big a no-no. Plus the dude beat me by 0.42 seconds. Not worth how my heart pounded later that night. (I’d ask you not to tell my mom, but I’ve had the thing fixed since then so it’s OK.)
So in July, some criteria for deciding whether to do surgery changed, and Dr. Conley sent me to a cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Beyer, for his opinion. I saw Dr. Beyer on Aug. 1. He told me I’d definitely need surgery, but he wasn’t sure how soon. He asked me to keep a diary for a week. The diary included things like lethargy, lack of motivation to run, mild symptoms of depression, a relapse into “stress eating” …
Once he read the diary, his nurse called and scheduled me for surgery.
I had already been scheduled for LASIK surgery on the day they wanted to fix my heart, so we put off the mitral valve repair a week. (I was later able to move up the eye surgery so that the surgeries wouldn’t be seven days apart. Wish I could say the LASIK was as successful as the valve surgery, but that’s a post for another day. Or not.)
I had the mitral valve repaired on Sept. 17 at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock. With the top-notch surgeon and some newfangled equipment, they were able to do a “minimally invasive” operation. In other words, they didn’t have to hack through my sternum to get to my heart and then bind the bones back together with twist ties like some people get.
Instead, the doc made an incision under my right breast (plus a bunch of other holes in my torso that I wouldn’t know about until I woke up – I still don’t know what one of them was for) and went across under there to the valve on the left side of my chest.
I watched an open-heart surgery on YouTube a few weeks earlier, and I’m really glad mine was “minimally invasive,” despite all the extra holes. However, the doc said this to me a couple of days after my surgery: “No one has ever proved to me that this surgery is any less painful [than open-heart].” I told him I was glad he didn’t mention that before I went under the knife! Because, friends, it was plenty painful.
But at least I won’t have twist ties in my chest for the rest of my life.
So. Over the next few weeks I had follow-up visits – one with Dr. Beyer and two with Dr. Conley.
Dr. Conley, the cardiologist I see every year, and who hears me talk about running every year (and who gave me a thumbs-up – literally, although my mom didn’t believe me – when I said I was going to run a half-marathon to raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in 2012), and who always tells me the same two stories about his other mitral-valve patients (one who nearly died showing off in front of his kids and the other who’s practically a superhero), said at my October checkup that if I was concerned about what going “all out” in running would do to my heart, he’d do a stress test.
A few weeks later, in mid-November, they did an ultrasound and then stuck a bunch of electrodes to my chest and put me on a treadmill. At first it was too slow, but they wanted to build me up gradually. They didn’t want me to jog; I just needed to walk fast. And then a little faster. And a little faster. (By then I was jogging.) They kept upping the incline and I kept muttering, “I hate hills,” but they weren’t really listening. They were just watching their little machines. Eventually, when I was at, like, 10 miles per hour (just kidding), the doc asked me how I was doing.
“Not bored anymore,” I said. I was out of breath and he said I could stop. My heart rate was high enough for him to know what he needed to know. So the tech quickly did another ultrasound – while my heart rate was still up – and let me get dressed.
Side note: Earlier, when I was changing into my paper gown, the tech told me that Bruce wouldn’t be allowed in for the testing because they were having to use a smaller room than usual and there wasn’t room for him. I told her that he was skinny and wouldn’t take up much room, and that he gives really good feedback, makes good observations and really needed to be there. (What I didn’t say out loud was that there was no way he wasn’t going to be there for this running test. I won.)
Also? She wasn’t going to let me keep my sports bra on for the treadmill test. I said there was no way I could run without wearing that support system. “We may not get you up to a run,” she said. I told her the entire point of my visit was to see how I would do RUNNING. I would definitely be running on the treadmill, and I definitely could not do it without my industrial-strength bra, especially since my right boob was still sore from the surgery. Bouncing would only make it worse. (I won.)
When the bra conversation was repeated to Dr. Conley, I told him, “If no one else has ever balked at having to take her bra off to run on the treadmill, all your previous patients must be really flat-chested.”
“Or mild-mannered,” he smirked.
I love my heart doctor!
So after all the melodrama of the stress test, during which time the doc called me grumpy (it’s OK – I got to return the favor), he asked whether I’d be interested in helping the marketing people by telling my story.
I was so hoping he meant by writing a short testimonial or something. So I gave him my card with phone and email on it. A few days later the “brand marketing coordinator,” Dana, called me and conferenced in the ad agency person.
I said I’m fairly good at telling stories on paper, not so good with my lips. I lose my train of thought, ramble and forget words.
Nevertheless, after a 30-minute phone conversation about my life, they still wanted me.
So next weekend, I get to tell my story. On camera.
I just hope I don’t do a Cindy Brady and freeze up the minute the cameras roll.
But I’ll have Bruce at my side during the talky parts and my other buddies at my side for the running parts. We’ll do the interviews Friday afternoon and the running stuff Saturday.
That’s where you come in, faithful friends.
They want you to run with us Saturday, on camera. Many times.
There are a few tricky parts. Here’s the scoop:
They’d like to air the commercials (ours will be one of five stories) throughout the year in 2014, which means they want it not to look like dead of winter in every single shot. They’re looking for areas that aren’t covered with snow and maybe have some green trees. Also, they want all of us to show up with 2 or 3 different jackets so that we can change our appearance slightly as we change locations. Also, the extra jackets are in case too many people show up wearing the same color. They’d like variety – and the brighter the better. But no plaids or “busy” patterns. (No problem, right?) Also, no glaringly obvious logos – they don’t want to deal with unintentional product endorsements. A small logo is OK, just not a huge statement across your chest, OK?
This part is a little more difficult: The schedule is to shoot us fake-running between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday. We film the first footage at 9 a.m. on Main Street, but they want us in a couple more locations and I’m not sure what those times (or exact places) will be. So we’ll have to be somewhat flexible.
It doesn’t have to be the exact same group in each location, but if any of you has a flexible schedule next Saturday (and multiple jacket colors!) we’d love for you to be at as many of the locations as possible – but especially on Main Street by 9 a.m. They also want to film us running “across the bridge on Main Street,” and I can only assume they mean on the Golden Overpass after we turn off Main. The person telling me this was not one of the ones who came up here last week scouting locations, unbeknown to me. (Why they didn’t ask us for suggestions is beyond me. They have us filming Friday’s interview portion in some retreat place in Locust Grove.)
They’ll also film all of us fake-running on Chaney Drive where there’s a gazebo. Since they don’t want Christmas lights and probably don’t mean Riverside Park, I wondered if they meant the cemetery. Dana wasn’t sure.
I’m not sure whether there’s a third fake-running location, but they also want to film us in front of “storefronts,” and I don’t believe that involves running. Therefore I’m not sure whether it involves the running group or just the Oakleys. I’ll find out early next week and let you know.
I guess we will all get an education as to how big-time commercials are filmed. The key is to be patient and flexible. We can do that, right?
So, basically, I’d love for you all to be there, and I think I’ve covered as many of the details as I possess at the moment. Except this:
The ad campaign will debut during the 2014 Super Bowl.
Pretty cool, eh?
To let us know whether you’re available to run with us on Saturday, Dec. 14, please post a comment below, text me or email me (if you have my info). You may also post a comment on Facebook, but I would rather that be the last place you reply. Thanks to all of you who can come out and help us.
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Gosh, I didn’t stick with my November commitment to blog every day. Not. Even. Close.
And December will be even busier. But it’s starting off well, because I’m writing and this is only the 1st. So think of this as a BEAUTIFUL start to my month.
I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, those of entrepreneurs, businesspeople, thinkers, creators – people who took a risk and did something bold with their lives! You’ll find the word beautiful in a lot of these descriptions, because the artsy, creative sites are the ones I’ve been reading for several days.
These are a few of the sites I’ve found interesting, informative or inspiring, in no particular order:
- James Altucher (don’t ask me how to pronounce it). Frankly, I don’t know how this guy has succeeded, but he’s got something that works. He’s a combination of bad attitude and hopeless optimist, it would seem. He has succeeded and failed and succeeded again at more ventures than you can count on both hands. For some reason I keep going back to his advice (taking some of it with a grain of salt). He has written several books, including the most recent bestseller, “Choose Yourself.”
- A Beautiful Mess. These are creative types who found success in doing something they love. It’s “a lifestyle blog focused on creating a beautiful life.” Their website is quirky, funky and … well … beautiful. One of the things I love is that the co-founders, especially Elsie, seem to be so generous of spirit. They post lots of tips, such as ways to take better food pictures (much needed by me), how to start a blog and other helpful things. This site’s a keeper.
- Arkansas Women Bloggers. I joined this group a few months ago and have barely scratched the surface of its awesomeness. It’s a community of – you know – women bloggers from Arkansas. Lots of tips, creativity and support. I am SO going to their retreat next year.
- The Pioneer Woman. You’ve seen Ree Drummond cook on Food Network. Her blog is not new to me, but I’ve gained a new appreciation since I’ve been looking at ideas for making my blog more beautiful and improving my photography. Her photos are beautiful, and the tone of her writing is light and fun.
- Michael McGaha’s Flickr page. I grew up with Michael (we called him Mike back then), and he has a lot of photography know-how (and equipment). He takes beautiful pictures. When I told him I wanted to upgrade my camera, he graciously offered to let me borrow one of his before I decided which model to shell out for. I’ve been drooling over his Flickr shots for a couple of weeks, staying up way too late one night just dreaming of how I could even come close to matching his skill.
- Alison Chino. Alison’s was the first blog I read on a regular basis, starting in the mid-2000s. She’s the daughter of my former pastor, and she and her husband and four kids moved to Scotland recently so Taido could study for his PhD in theology at the University of Aberdeen. Alison has become quite the successful blogger/photographer, being published on sites that have readers all over the world, including The Huffington Post. Alison has an adventurous spirit. Example: the dreadlocks she has worn for five years. (That’s bold for a white girl.) She takes great photos and writes even better. I’m jealous.
- Sarabeth Jones. Second blog I started reading regularly a few years ago, and I’ll never forget Sarabeth’s comment when I tentatively commented that I “thought” I was nearly ready to start my own blog. She said, simply, “You are SO ready.” Sarabeth and Alison are friends, and I met them both several years ago at Fellowship North. In fact, Sarabeth is the resident drama queen at FN (just kidding – she’s in charge of the drama and other artsiness that goes on there, and does a – shall I say – beautiful job). SB takes stunning photos and, being a “creative type,” writes beautifully. Again, jealous.
I owe a big thanks to Sarabeth for the encouragement, even after I took the first faltering steps at blogging. I’ve always had to fight against comparing myself to her or Alison because they’re such good writers. I know that I’m unique and have my own message and way of telling my stories. It’s just hard to remember that sometimes.
I’m striving to make my writing and photography better – and having more confidence in my abilities. Reading these blogs definitely has boosted my confidence level and my determination to grow and continue to learn new things.
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Six years ago last week, Suzy & Spice was born. It was a tentative venture into the blogging world, and I was nervous as I compared myself to friends who blogged. (I still tend to do that, although my confidence in my writing and storytelling has grown.)
This afternoon I have a cake in the oven that makes me reminisce about that first blog post, so I thought I’d hang out on memory lane for a few minutes while I share it with you. Here it is, the inaugural Suzy & Spice post:
Arsenic and Old Spice
(P.S. I am not noted for my gorgeous food photography – I try, but I usually miss; besides, my blog host seems to have done something odd with the size and shape of the cookie photo.)
But I can’t leave you with an archive and nothing else. Here’s the cake I’m about to take out of the oven. I hope they like it at small group this evening:
Spiced Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Citrus Glaze
I usually make it with my pan that makes miniature bundt cakes, but today I’m pressed for time (nap time, that is). Today it’s a big bundt cake. I hope you enjoy it!
Suzy & Spice trivia: The name of my blog was supposed to be temporary. Those cookies took a long time to whip up, so I thought of something quick and slapped it on there until I had time to think of something better. It turned out to be one of those things – you know, good intentions with no follow-through. I did try to think of something new, but by the time I realized I wasn’t that creative, the name had stuck. Where did it come from? 1) The spice cookies I was making that night and 2) our dogs, Salsa and Pepper. We call them The Spice Dogs.
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I’ve been neglecting Suzy & Spice lately. No longer. I’ve committed to writing in this space once a day through 2013.
I don’t know how it’s going to look, as I’m certainly no less busy than before, but I’m going to give it a whirl.
Just so you know, I’ll totally be stealing Sarabeth‘s “friday faves” idea. Not only have I always liked her Friday posts, it will take some of the pressure off, once a week, to come up with something original.
Here’s to creativity.
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Bruzy and the Spice Dogs after the Chase Race & Paws in Conway, March 2013. At the Paws portion of the event in 2012, Pepper had to be carried the entire way, so in 2013 she and Suzy decided to serve as cheerleaders while Bruce ran the mile with Salsa.
When Pepper came to live with us (her third family), she came with a set of rules. So did Salsa, but hers were much simpler. Here they are:
- I require a minimum of five daily feedings (two full meals and three snacks), proportionally spaced throughout the day. I will begin letting you know (loudly and persistently) at least 45 minutes before each designated mealtime.
- I am Cute, and I know it. I will use this fact to my full advantage. Deal with it.
- When we visit Nanny (aka The Pushover), I will not let anyone have a conversation until she has given me a snack. If we’re there for more than two hours, I will require a second snack. Don’t worry – I’ll give you at least 45 minutes’ notice.
Pepper with her original family, December 2004.
- I must be kept warm at all times. If you are using the heating pad on the bed and get up for any reason (say, to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, let Salsa out), you forfeit your right to use the heating pad for the next hour, or until it’s time for me to exit the room and make poop on the kitchen floor. If you try to extract me from my heat source, protect your fingers. (Also, I’m aware of your attempts to trick me, such as sliding the heating pad out from under the covers beneath me. Be aware that I don’t approve of this tactic.) If Rule #4 bothers you, buy your own heating pad.
- When you feed me a snack, be sure to wear protective gear on your hands. And don’t expect any thanks.
- I like to burrow under my fleece blankets (it’s a trait of my breed, the miniature pinscher). I’m tiny, so it’s hard to tell whether that lump is me or just a fold in the blanket. Any time you sit down, make sure the lump is not me. You could kill me.
- I shall be picked up at my discretion only. Should you attempt to pick me up of your own accord, wear protective gear.
- When we go for our little Princess Rides, which you insist upon calling “walks,” I must be carried after the initial 12 feet (in other words, before we reach the end of the driveway). At certain moments during a Princess Ride, you might get the impression I’ve been carried long enough (or you’re getting sweaty where my body is in contact with your torso) and you might try to put me down. Do not mistake any movement on my part as an indication that I want to walk.
- When we’re in public, small children will ask permission to pet me, pick me up or feed me. Permission granted. (Just don’t let them drop me on my head.)
- In private, I will tolerate the little nicknames you give me – such as little space heater, pest, poop-head, terrorist, little rat, min-pinhead – as I will hardly know the difference (God gave me a tiny body and an even tinier brain). But don’t call me these names in public; I have a reputation to uphold. (When it’s mealtime, don’t call me; I’ll call you.)
- If the outside temperature is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, I will not go outside to potty. Do not be concerned; I have plenty of places indoors to potty.
- I do not like sweaters. Do not attempt to put one on me, even when it’s cold. I will keep warm using a person’s lap, my fleece blankets, your heating pad, a basket of clean towels or a combination of the above resources.
- Referencing Rule #12, it should go without saying that I do not want to be dressed up in costumes, no matter how cute Nanny thinks they are.
- When I want to play with my pink squeaky toy (the one that still squeaks), I will let you know that it’s time to fetch it for me. Once you throw it, I’ve chased it, squeaked the life out of it and I’m ready for you to throw it again, you must get up and retrieve it from wherever it is (usually right next to me). You will repeat the process several times before I walk away in disinterest.
- When it’s time for Salsa to go outside, such as when she’s in my sunny spot by the glass door, I will let you know. I will continue to alert you until she’s safely outside.
- In my role as Emergency Backup Dog, I will assist Salsa in emergencies of Level 3 and above. Examples: falling leaves (Level 3), children on bicycles (Level 2), squirrels (Level 1). Cats: RED ALERT!!! In the event that Salsa’s Emergency Alert System fails to alert you (such as when she’s not home), I will assume sole responsibility for the safety of our household. I ain’t big, but I’m loud.
- When in doubt as to which rule takes precedence, refer to any of the above that relate to Food. Remember that Food is vital to my existence. And world peace.
Bruce and Salsa, 2005.
When you adopted me, no one knew whether I had been mistreated, but it’s possible. As a terrier (part Manchester, part who-knows-what?), I’m a high-energy dog, but I have a tender heart. Here are my rules:
- Give me food and water each day, have at least one rasslin’ match with me every evening (more on weekends), and give me lots and lots of belly rubs.
- Love me with all your heart.
And we do. Both of them.
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“Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day.
“Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way.”
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx“Monday, Monday” – the Mamas and the Papas
There’s a reason Mondays are the stuff of hit songs the world over.
It’s a universally known fact: Mondays suck.
Well, maybe not all Mondays, but some of them stand out so prominently that they skew the statistics in their favor. Mondays sometimes have a mind of their own.
Today was such a day.
For starters, I had possibly the most disturbing dream I’ve ever had. It was worse than any of the dreams I used to have after my dad died. Those were just emotionally draining and made me sad for a while after I woke up. This morning’s dream made me wonder, “What in the world made me come up with that?” and “What is my subconscious mind trying to tell me?” I’m not even going to tell you what the dream was about, because I don’t want you to call the police. Or the men in white coats.
I don’t sleep well in general, but this dream interrupted my early morning sleep in a whole new way. So I got up really tired.
I didn’t get up until 6 a.m. because my leg is injured and I haven’t been able to run in nearly two weeks (except for two feeble attempts that sent me back to the heating pad and the ibuprofen). I’m training for a half-marathon and trying not to freak out that I’m in Week 6 of my plan and haven’t done a “long” run of more than 5 miles. If this weren’t a fundraising half-marathon (to try to cure my husband’s disease), I could blow it off (which, who are we kidding, really isn’t in my nature). But I can’t.
So I didn’t get up until 6 – my first mistake. (Or maybe the mere fact that I got out of bed was the first mistake.)
The next thing I had to do (besides putting in my contacts and then putting on my reading glasses) was clean up Pepper’s tiny poop in the kitchen. But that’s nothing; I pick up tiny dog poop in the kitchen every morning, and it shouldn’t even be worth mentioning. Except that it’s kind of symbolic of my Monday.
Then, while the microwave was reheating my coffee (I prefer day-old to fresh – I know, weird), I checked on the washing machine, which is a computerized front-loader with a mind of its own. (Remember HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey”? Kind of like that. Except HAL had a more extensive vocabulary. And a creepier voice.)
The washer has had its own issue with poop smells lately. I had put off calling a repairman because I was able to make it limp along and continue to wash clothes, although not without a lot of cussing (from me, not “HAL 2,” which merely whined). But last Sunday night, all HAL broke loose. The #*&@%^ bucket of bolts refused to complete a cycle without taking multiple coffee breaks (or maybe they were Snuggle breaks), refused to spin the water out of my load of bathroom rugs, and refused to let me OPEN THE DOOR. (“Open the pod bay door, HAL.” Remember?)
I couldn’t get rid of the “Door Locked” message on the control panel. Translation: “You’re just out of luck, sister. Love, HAL 2.” So I left it alone and decided to try to relax for the last little smidgen of my Sunday evening. (I think I heard it chuckling as I exited the laundry room.)
For the next few days, I attempted to make it spin water out of the rugs. HAL 2 would give it a try, make its usual clicking sound (“Tsk, tsk” or “Cough, cough,” I don’t know) and give up.
And then I got busy and forgot about it until Friday evening. I tried again, but still no luck. That’s when I decided I couldn’t put off calling a repairman any longer. I let Mom know I needed to bring my mountain to her house to wash. No problem, she said. And it wasn’t. Saturday, we sorted piles and put her machine to work. (Got one of our white bathroom rugs clean and back in place Saturday evening, and Sunday morning there were two Pepper peepee spots on it. Pepper has survived as long as she has because she’s cute – in a tiny dog sort of way. She has a lot of people fooled.)
I’m about to leave out a lot of detail from the next 36 hours (you’re welcome), but bottom line is, by the time I forced myself to deal with the load of rugs in the undrained washer (after having to leave the machine unplugged overnight, to show HAL 2 who’s boss), I got the door open this morning, the water smelled like untreated sewage, and I probably will end up throwing the rugs away. I was going to pump out the rancid water but had to leave it for Bruce. Even leaving that task undone, I was five minutes late for work.
OK, so. That was the washing machine.
I also had been enduring a disintegrated pipe under my bathroom sink (I stood over the tub to brush my teeth every day for a week) and finally called a plumber to come out and fix it. Why? Because Bruce and I are both weaklings. The pipes were so old, they apparently had transmogrified into one unyielding mass of metal, and we couldn’t even turn the valves to get the water off. Recalling a similar experience trying to loosen old plumbing in our previous house, which caused us to miss the entire first half of a Notre Dame football game, I didn’t let it get that far this time. After I spent a final 15 minutes wrestling with it, and Bruce spent another 10, I said, “Nevermind; I’ll call Charley tomorrow morning.”
Those Oakleys – they need professional help.
So this afternoon, the plumber fixed the bathroom sink, the appliance guy replaced the pump in the washer (I guess I won’t be using Shout Color Catcher sheets anymore), extracted the old icemaker from our fridge (would cost more to fix or replace than it’s worth) and gave opinions on why our dishwasher isn’t cleaning the dishes (maybe because it’s really old), and we were back in business. At least with the plumbing.
Take that, HAL 2.
Meanwhile, I had run out the door in the morning without breakfast, so I stopped at Sonic for a gallon of tea (which saves me from committing crimes on stressful days) and a breakfast burrito. With bacon.
(You know my stress level is high when I allow myself to eat bacon. But it was good. Normally I wouldn’t have stopped for breakfast when I knew it would make me late for work, but this was a particularly special morning. I needed bacon.)
At work, I texted my eye doctor about my latest trial pair of SUCK EGG contact lenses. We’ve been fussing with prescriptions, lens types and fuzzy eye-charts for weeks.
I told the doc my story of woe – how with my new distance-only lenses (vs. the multifocals my tired ol’ eyes had been wearing) I couldn’t see anything closer than 5 feet from my face, thus making mascara application a tragicomic event; how I had nearly strangled myself in the car trying to untangle the cords of my reading glasses and my sunglasses; how a second opinion on laser surgery was probably a waste of time; how he probably shouldn’t bother ordering the next trial pair of contacts if he hadn’t already; how I was afraid I might go blind or die within the next 5 minutes if he didn’t calm me down; and how the only bright side to these new lenses was that I no longer saw the dog hair covering every surface in our house.
He texted back, in part:
“I can’t quit laughing.”
So much for moral support from your trusted medical professional.
It’s a good thing I didn’t die in the next 5 minutes. The good doctor might have been held responsible by my heirs, who surely would have used the texted conversation as evidence in court. (I’m archiving it just in case.)
He saved himself by calling and talking me down. (But not before laughing at me again.)
I spilled tea on my khakis. And my blouse.
At that point I figured I might as well go back to bed, but then I remembered I was at work and they frown on naps between 8 and 5. It wasn’t even 9 a.m.
So I decided to tackle a file I needed to image. After restarting my computer four times (yes, four), I got the file imaged. At 12:04 p.m.
(Don’t tell my boss I spent three hours imaging one 59-page file. Because, unlike HAL 2, he is my boss. So just don’t tell him.)
During this time, my officemate proceeded to tell me about a TV show called “1,000 Ways to Die,” helpfully sharing examples. Thanks, Ben.
Eventually 5 p.m. came, and I innocently assumed I would make an uneventful trip home.
I headed for my car, got ready to unlock it and noticed that most of the remote was missing. The side that attaches to the key ring was in my hand, but the circuit board and the rubber skin that protects the circuitry were gone. I began to retrace my steps but then thought to look in the side pocket of my tote bag. There was the circuit board. I dug around some more and found the rubber thingie. Whew! For a minute I thought I was going to have to open my car door manually. (Life can be cruel.) At least the car was still there. I bet you thought I was going to say it had been stolen.
Ten minutes later, I was home safe, and I immediately locked the door behind me. So far I’ve been afraid to make eye contact with HAL 2 or the dishwasher, although I have washed my hands at the bathroom sink. I’m waiting for Bruce to get home so I’ll have backup. If the appliances go all HAL-9000 on me, Pepper is not big enough to stick up for me. Except for the extremely loud barking – which she has perfected – but I don’t think HAL 2 would be intimidated. Salsa, on the other hand, could do some damage. Her hair alone could jam its circuitry. But even that might not be enough. After all, HAL killed everyone on the ship except Dave.
I bet it was a Monday.
“Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.”
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxHAL the computer – “2001: A Space Odyssey”
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As books tend to do, Altar Ego: Becoming Who God Says You Are by Craig Groeschel came at just the right time for me. When I received an email from the publisher describing the book, I had begun a time of seeking: God, what do you have in store for me? How are you looking to mold and shape me so that I can carry out Your mission? What is my part in Your plan to make Your name great among the nations?
In part, the publisher’s blurb said: “Discover how to trade in your broken ego and unleash your altar ego to become a living sacrifice. Once we know our true identity and are growing in our Christ-like character, then we can behave accordingly, with bold behavior, bold prayers, bold words, and bold obedience.”
My ego (pride, holier-than-thou attitude, judgmental spirit) tends to get in the way of a lot of things, but fortunately God has been working on it through the years. (He has a big job!) So this book was one more step toward my being molded in His image.
The book has three parts:
- Part 1: Sacrificing Your False Self for Your Sacred Identity in Christ.
- Part 2: Sacrificing Cultural Relativity for Eternal Values.
- Part 3: Sacrificing Self-Justification for Passionate Obedience.
Part 1, while completely relevant, seemed like yet one more recitation of things I already knew: “You are God’s masterpiece,” “You are God’s ambassador,” etc. I appreciated the lessons but didn’t get as much out of it as I did the two other parts.
Even Part 2 was more or less a rehash of a lesson on proper living (things my ego tells me I already have a handle on!). So, again, relevant but not as compelling as Part 3.
I highlighted many passages in all three parts of the book, so it would be unfair to say that only the last section spoke to me.
But finally, in Part 3, the author gets to the meat I’m interested in chewing on: “Bold Behavior,” “Bold prayers,” “Bold words,” “Bold obedience.”
And, while I’ve heard over and over that we are to be bold for Christ (if you don’t believe me, read the Book of Acts – 28 chapters of boldness), it’s a lesson I can hear every day and not get enough of.
By nature, I’m an introvert, and I used to be excruciatingly, painfully, embarrassingly shy. I would beg God silently to send people to me – rather than me to them – to be my friends, to pay attention to me (even though I hated being in the spotlight!). I had a screwed-up idea of how human interaction is supposed to work, especially for one who claims Christ as Lord and Savior, someone who’s supposed to share the Good News with everyone.
At some point, I realized that I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and do some work. I started allowing God to put me in situations where I was uncomfortable, where I would be forced to put myself out there, meeting people, talking to them, actually interacting. In other words, being vulnerable. To be honest, I still don’t like it, but I’ve gotten used to it and now seek out situations where my human-interaction muscle can stretch and grow stronger, little by little. It’s a circle: As I step out, my faith grows. As my faith grows, I’m more willing to step out.
So the section of Altar Ego on boldness really hit home with me. Like I said, nothing too new – although said in a new way with illustrations unique to the author – but a challenge to continue building on the foundation God has laid for my life.
My life is not my own. I want to lay it on God’s altar, and I must – every day, every hour, every minute. Only He knows the perfect plan for my life, and yours. Let’s allow Him to lay it out for us, and then grab His hand as He leads us on the great adventure.
Let us be bold.
“ ‘And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness” (Acts 3:29-31, NLT).
This review is part of my agreement with Thomas Nelson through its BookSneeze project. It allows me to get free books in exchange for my honest review, whether I like the books or not. To learn more, click here.
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