Suzy’s skillet supper

This is what I made for dinner tonight.

Yes, I need to come up with a less-Denny’s-sounding name for it, but it’s almost bedtime. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. In fact, the only reason I’m posting this tonight is that I’ll forget the ingredients if I don’t record them now.

My favorite thing about this skillet pasta dish is that I was able to use a couple of items from my own back yard: fresh basil and cherry tomatoes. Also, most of the ingredients were what I just happened to have on hand (I bought the broccoli, the spinach and the bell pepper over the weekend, and I opened my fridge and cupboards for the rest).

So here is the jumbly, hurried version of the recipe – for now. I’m going to let you figure out your own amounts, partly because I didn’t measure anything and partly because I’m about to go to bed. Also, I’ll clean it up and post it on my new Recipes page when I get a chance. (I haven’t formally announced it, but I created a page just for recipes; see RECIPES tab above.)

Suzy’s Skillet Supper

  • Whole-grain penne rigate pasta (or whatever kind you prefer)
  • Olive oil
  • A dash of chicken broth
  • Boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Fresh garlic (lots)
  • Red bell pepper
  • White onion
  • Fresh broccoli
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh baby spinach
  • Basil
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook everything but the cheese in a big ol’ skillet, saving the spinach and the basil until nearly the end, dish it up, grate the cheese on top, and devour.

Serves a family of four, or Bruce and one small child.

Bon appetit, and good night!


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Running on empty (verbally, at least)

I have had complaints from my vast network of readers that I haven’t written in a while.

OK, my vast network consists of about three people. And there was just one complaint.

But she was very convincing. And it wasn’t my mother.

The lack of posts is not because I haven’t had anything to say – it’s just that I can’t seem to pull my thoughts together in any coherent and compelling (and, most importantly, amusing) way. I’m just not very interesting right now. I’ve had a lot of irons in the fire – with work, with church volunteer stuff and personally. (So, really, “running on empty” is a misleading headline, but I have a headache and it’s all I could think of.)

My blog topic for more than two months has been my journey to fitness, and I know this bores some people. Heck, it would bore me if I were reading someone else’s blog about the same topic for weeks on end. Especially a topic that involves exercise, humidity and profuse sweating.

And, I have to admit, it’s been a little harder to stay accountable lately, possibly because I haven’t been writing about it. At each of the past two Friday weigh-ins at work, I’ve seen less than a 1-pound loss. But at least that means I haven’t gained, and I couldn’t say that before the “Going public” post. (For the record, at the last weigh-in I was at 187.8 pounds; that’s an 18.6 pound loss.)

I’ve been doing more exercising lately (seven days a week instead of three or four), so that should mean 1-2 pounds a week, but the past couple of weeks I was really hungry and ate more than I had been. I have healthy snacks at work, but my dinners have been difficult on the nights we do our 5K workouts. Some nights I just have a bowl of cereal because making a salad takes too much time and effort.

I’ve been taking it easy on my foot since the May 7 emergency room visit, and I have made my right knee worse by favoring my left foot. So I’m kind of schizo about my workouts. One day I decide I’ll just walk; the next I decide I have to do some jogging. Thursday night I ran the Lyon College course as though I were running it on race day (July 9, the Army National Guard 5K, which I finally decided I was healthy enough to enter – after discussing with Coach Bruce the advantages and disadvantages; funny, I don’t remember the disadvantages).

Saturday we did a timed Magic Mile because we hadn’t done one since the last week of the women’s running clinic. Between May 3 and June 25, I shaved 4 seconds off my mile, despite my bum foot and knee. As Bruce noted when he posted our times on his blog, we were running in more heat and humidity this time, too. Rah!

So, really, running on a foot with a pretty significant case of plantar fasciitis hasn’t slowed me down as much as I thought it had. And taking the 17 days off after the ER visit doesn’t seem to have made much difference, either. I’ve just learned to run with pain. I think the humidity has had more to do with my pace than the injuries. As for my knee, I plan to have that seen about soon. Because I’ve had this knee problem for a couple of years (it has just gotten worse since I started running again a few months ago, and still worse since I injured my foot), I have this fear that my insurance company is going to call it a pre-existing condition and I’m waiting for the one-year waiting period to be up (I got on my new employer’s insurance plan July 1). We’re still paying for Bruce’s “pre-existing condition” claim denial for the colonoscopy last summer (don’t get me started). Fortunately the hospital is giving us a year to pay for that portion; we have managed to pay off the doctor’s part. The total bill was about $3,500, so we’re careful not to do anything stupid like go to my annual cardiologist appointment – or have a doctor look at my knee – until after July 1.

And now I’ve made that “pre-existing” condition public. I hope no one from my insurer is reading this. It’s fortunate I have only three readers. 🙂

My time lately has been spent working, running, editing (and sometimes writing) the church blog, trying not to go off the deep end with my food choices, and making feeble attempts to spend time with my mom, who lives half a mile away but doesn’t see us as often as she should (our fault, not hers). But in about six weeks our Biggest Loser competition at work will be over, and I won’t be wogging (walking/jogging) seven to nine times a week. (Yes, that may seem extreme, but I don’t work out that hard each time – just Tuesday and Thursday evenings with the group.)

And I got new running shoes yesterday. I needed more stability to help correct problems I didn’t realize I had until recently. Who knew I had high arches and I overpronated with my right foot? (Actually, Bruce noticed the overpronation recently, but it had taken us a few weeks to find the correct shoe.)

Aches, pains, grunts and crunchy knees. Getting old is not for sissies.

I’m going back to bed.

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Just checking in

I am still alive. I’ve just been busy – and tired.

My week has been a bit difficult, foodwise. I have strayed off the path a bit – not too much, just enough to make me a little annoyed at myself. Stress will do that.

Tonight I wanted to write a longer post here but had to write my Thursday post for the Connect+Scripture blog at my church, then edit the Friday morning post and get it ready to publish. This is time consuming, and, even though I love Connect+Scripture, it sometimes causes me to neglect other things I need to do (such as sleep).

Last week’s weigh-in at work had me close to my 20-pound goal. I’m rethinking my reward. Instead of sandals, I’m considering a chin-up bar that will hang in the doorway (I need to work on my flabby arms). Or getting a replacement for my favorite necklace, which I lost nearly three weeks ago (ironically, because of the Biggest Loser contest! It was in my purse instead of on my person in the minutes leading up to the weigh-in, and it fell out somewhere along the way). But I may save the necklace for my 40-pound reward; it costs nearly $40, and the chin-up bar is $18. On the other hand, I may have to make my rewards ones that don’t cost money; we’re still trying to sell our house in North Little Rock, so pennies are still being pinched around here.

I’m so tired tonight I’m bordering on incoherent, so I’m going to sign off and crawl into bed with the very good book that I’m reading.

Good night, sweet friends.

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These mountains that they call hills

“Well, we’re stuck here in these hills that they call mountains.”

– Lyrics from Meet Me in Montana

Let’s begin with a summary of a few facts, some established in previous posts and some new:

  • Runners are crazy.
  • I have become one of them.
  • Some people talk to God while they run. My friend Stacy uses her time to listen to praise music and pray. I told her the only praying I can manage when I run is, “God, please don’t let me collapse and die.” (He seems to be listening.)
  • Bruce and I participated in the 10-week women’s running clinic – as trainer and participant, respectively – that culminated in a 5k race in Conway on May 7.
  • Some of the ladies from the women’s clinic “caught the running bug” and wanted to continue after the clinic ended; Bruce agreed to be our coach. We’ve been running the routes of some of the upcoming races.
  • The group is composed of a handful of members of the women’s clinic, the Run for God Bible study and the White River Road Runners. Bruce and I are members of all three, and our hybrid group has become a tight-knit little family unit because of our common goals.
  • Wog means walk/jog. That’s a term used by our Run for God teacher, Phyllis. (For me, running and jogging are interchangeable terms, although they might not be to “serious runners.”)
  • We’ve taken on a mantra: “I love hills … I love hills.” This came out of watching a video at our May 5 prerace pasta party. The young woman in the video completed a marathon, all the while smiling and repeating, “I love hills.” For our group, it started as a joke but has become a mental tool to fool ourselves keep one another motivated.
  • Bruce refers to most hills as “bumps.” But it is a proven fact that Bruce is insane, so no further comment is necessary, except this: He changed his tune slightly after we ran the Army National Guard 5k route Tuesday night in 92-degree heat and 1,000 percent humidity. Now he admits some hills are closer to “humps.”
  • Since I injured my foot, I have been doing more walking than jogging. This leaves enough oxygen in my brain to write blog posts while I walk (although I was running while I wrote my New Year’s Day post – much of it while climbing the hill pictured above).

So … on to these mountains they call hills.

Bruce and I moved here from North Little Rock. From the Park Hill neighborhood. From a street called Cherry Hill. There are plenty of hills in North Little Rock. Now we live in Batesville, home of plenty of hills.

The point is, we know hills.

Until this week, our group had been training on the White River 4-Mile Classic route, which starts and ends downtown on Main Street. The race route is now clockwise, and this is a good thing. When Bruce and I ran the Classic in 2001 and 2002, it was counterclockwise, and the start and finish were both uphill (previously established fact: Ending a road race uphill should be a felony).

The race route isn’t merely a reverse of the old course. It’s now strictly downtown and around west Batesville. This keeps runners off the busy U.S. highway. And, in keeping with future federal statutes (I can dream, can’t I?), both the beginning and the end are downhill.

The hilliest parts are in the neighborhood where my brother and mother’s houses are, so I had wogged those streets many times before we started training for the 4-mile.

Here’s the part I find ironic: The hilliest hill (the one we hate [and by that of course I mean “love,” because we love hills!], the one where I wrote a chunk of my New Year’s Day post) isn’t Hill Street, and it isn’t North Heights. It’s the street that’s difficult going up and going down (it’s hard on your lungs and calves going up, hard on your knees and your sore toe going down). This hill is not a hill to take lightly. It’s not the steepest hill in the neighborhood, but it’s longer – a relentless incline. It’s one where you do some serious talking to Jesus before you reach the top, and then you thank Him when you get there.

But, no, the hill is not North Heights or Hill Street – it’s the hill that connects the hills. It’s Craig Street.

I have renamed it Craig Mountain.

Our pastor in North Little Rock is a mountain climber. He takes church groups to climb Colorado’s “fourteeners” (mountains of at least 14,000 feet), and I believe he has now climbed all 53 of them. Bruce and I went with him in 2001 and climbed the sixth-highest, Uncompahgre.

To say Craig Loibner likes to climb mountains is like saying that I “like” chocolate. It is a huge understatement. His entire family is into this mountain-climbing thing – wife, children, grandchildren, in-laws, outlaws. It seems to be in his blood. It’s one of the many gifts God has given him.

Craig not only is an outdoorsman, he is a gifted teacher, and he doesn’t waste a good gift by going to Colorado merely to climb mountains and sit by the campfire telling stories. He uses each trip, each mountaintop experience, as a teaching tool. He has dedicated his life to teaching others about God, and he is building a legacy.

There’s no telling how many people, young and old, have gone on to do the same because of Craig’s commitment to sharing the good news of Jesus. I could never list for you all the things he taught me in the 16 years I attended Fellowship North, but it would include the ability to take on mountains, both physical and spiritual. (After all, without the hills, we wouldn’t appreciate the flats.)

Bruce and I have loved Craig Loibner and his family for many years. I say a prayer for them every time I traverse that hill … or hump … or mountain.

Craig Loibner would look at Craig Mountain and laugh. For me, it’s a mountain. For him, it would be a mere bump in the journey. He wouldn’t break a sweat.

And thus I dedicate my wogs on this little mountain they call a hill … to Craig and his family.

I'll let you know when the city gets the sign changed.
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Things I’m thankful for

These are things I’m thankful for this morning:

  • The glorious weather. I know it’s hot, but that’s why I like to do my workout (walk/jog) at sunrise; the weather is actually cool for about an hour, until the sun rises high over the houses. Today there were just enough wispy clouds to create a soft pastel scene just above the horizon for a few minutes. So peaceful. We’ve had no rain lately, either, meaning I have to remember to water my own tomatoes and herbs (small sacrifice), but that also means I don’t have to wear special gear to exercise outside. Another reason to be thankful.
  • City road crews. The dead ’possum I experienced yesterday morning on Hill Street was gone this morning. It was a fresh kill yesterday, so I’m really glad I won’t have to look at it every day for two weeks like we did the armadillo carcass. Not sure who picked it up, but I’m grateful to that person. For the record, any time the subject of “jobs I would never want to have” comes up, No. 1 on my list has always been “the person who cleans up road kill.”
  • New friends, Part 1. At the moment I’m thinking about my new running/walking friends. Since I joined the women’s running clinic in late February (and recruited Coach Bruce a few weeks into it), I have made some lifelong friends. The group is amazing in its enthusiasm and support of one another. Many of us had been couch potatoes for far too long, and we’re now spurring each other on in many ways. This particular group is a hybrid of the women’s clinic, the Run for God Bible study and the White River Road Runners group.
  • New friends, Part 2. Bruce and I have been Batesville residents for 13 months now, and we have felt so embraced by our community. We have friends at church, at work, through volunteering and because of family connections. There’s not enough space here to explain it all or to express our gratitude and sense of belonging.
  • Old friends. I’m thinking of Lynn in particular right now. It’s been so nice reconnecting with her over the past couple of years, and now we live closer to each other and are able to have face-to-face meetings every now and then. She has been an encouragement to me, as well as an encourager. We’re on similar journeys to physical fitness although our personal circumstances are quite different.
  • Family. We moved here because of family. I haven’t seen as much of my brother and his brood as much as I would like these past few months, but my mother and I talk nearly every day by phone or in person. We share rides to work sometimes (she lets us borrow her car when Bruce and I both need to drive somewhere), she feeds our dogs when we need to go out of town and she lets us come over and watch sports on her big-screen TV – very important things! We live less than a mile from my brother, J.T., and Mom’s house is a stone’s throw from his. We love being so close to them.
  • Good health. I have minor physical ailments, but they aren’t enough to keep me from continuing my fitness journey. I have finally embraced the idea of moving every day in a way that’s making my heart stronger, both physically and spiritually. I can’t say when I will breathe my last breath, and I try to remind myself to savor each day as it comes (some days that’s easier said than done, but I still try).
  • The little deck on the back of our house. Yesterday after my wog (our Run for God leader’s word for walk/jog), I took my Bible outside to the deck to read the first five Psalms (next in our through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan). It was perfect that Psalms fell on the day I was able to spend time outdoors, not worrying about the clock.
  • Trees and birds. You notice them more when you walk the streets early or sit on the deck in the morning. The birds’ songs are melodious and soothing.
  • Good books. I’m reading one right now that I’ll review for BookSneeze when I’m finished, but I would be telling you about it even if I didn’t have to. It’s called “Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me” by Ian Morgan Cron. More later.
  • Chocolate. No explanation needed.
  • The dogs. I’ve talked enough about them in the past, so I won’t bore you with that this morning, but I’m grateful for them every day. They make me laugh.
  • Bruce. He’s my sweetie pie. I love him for so many reasons – too many to express here and now. I’ll just tell him to his face.
  • My job.
  • Home. My favorite place.
  • God. He bestows so many blessings on my life. I will never find enough words to express my gratefulness.

Beautiful weather tends to make me sentimental, hence the spontaneous gratefulness post. I think it’s important to stop and count my blessings every now and then, though. It helps me slow down from the busyness of life and remember the Source of all that’s good.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

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Glimpses of light

Some days I want to reach my weight-loss goal now.

Some days are easier than others in “sticking with the program.” One of my stated goals in this journey, however, was to encourage others to make positive changes in their lives, too.

God gives me glimpses of light in small slivers sometimes. Today He gave me this glimpse, one I have seen in other areas of my life but hadn’t associated with my physical-fitness journey until now: If I lost all the weight I needed to lose as fast as I wanted to lose it, I wouldn’t learn nearly as much as He wants to teach me along the way. (And how physically unhealthy would that be? We’re not even gonna go there.)

I’m trying to get a healthy-workplace team established at the bank where I work, partly because I need a community of fellow sojourners to help me stay motivated, and partly because I want to be an encourager to others. This, too, will take time, and I’m okay with that.

At the rate I’m losing weight – about a pound a week – I will reach the 160-pound mark (goal weight, not pounds lost) on Feb. 10, 2012. Lots could happen along the way. I could get injured (oh, yeah, I already did!), I could get sick, I could lose my focus and veer off the path (for the umpteenth time). Heck, I could even change my goals. All sorts of things could happen to sidetrack me. No one knows the future, so I’m trying not to take that February date too seriously. I’m trying to learn as I go, gaining insight as I lose inches.

A few years ago, when my previous church set a God-sized goal to pay off $1.2 million of facility debt in 15 months, one of the members of a small-group study I was leading expressed skepticism (or, dare I say, cynicism). Among other things, he thought the church was setting its sights too high and asking its members to sacrifice too much. I urged him to consider what God was going to teach us in those 15 months. It was an exciting, encouraging time for our congregation, and so many wonderful stories came out of it. The last Sunday morning of December (15 months after we started), a relatively small last-minute donation (just after the church service ended) helped push us past our goal. Needless to say, we had a huge celebration.

God did teach us a lot that year. He taught many of us ways we could sacrifice, big and small, that didn’t necessarily cost us a penny: Maybe we raised money by doing something good in the community. Maybe we taught our kids that the family’s weekly movie night could mean watching a DVD and popping our own corn instead of piling into the car and spending big bucks at the theater. Maybe it meant not spending 4 bucks on a cup of coffee at a retail store every morning (and perhaps realizing we needed to give up the habit, anyway), then keeping tabs on what we were saving and dropping it into the offering plate come Sunday morning. Or maybe it did mean shelling out money – but the emphasis was on giving, not spending. And maybe some of us hadn’t been giving anything to God but started doing so during this emphasis on living beyond ourselves. Many of us learned the true meaning of sacrifice and obedience that year.

And if we had not experienced that 15 months as a community – the body of Christ – we wouldn’t have learned nearly as much about God, about ourselves and about our capacity for giving, and trusting. And we wouldn’t have the stories we members and former members still tell about that time in the life of our church.

So this journey I’m on – the one revolving around getting a healthier body – it’s not just about me. If you’ve been reading my posts these past two months, you know it often seems as though it’s all about me, but it isn’t. God gave us each other and told us to help one another along in the journey of life. It’s not just about me.

The Father  gives me glimpses of light when I keep the eyes of my heart open. Sometimes He has to pry them open, and sometimes I open them just enough to see what He’s teaching me.

Today my eyes opened just a slit, and I think I got what He was trying to tell me.

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