The more things change, the more I stay insane

A lot has changed in the past year.

And yet a lot has stayed the same.

One year ago today, I had heart surgery, so I’m celebrating the blessing of another year of life and health. (Maybe I’ll call this my heart birthday! Is there a name for the anniversary of someone’s heart surgery? 🙂 )

My life doesn’t look much different from the outside, but here are a few key changes that the world at large might not have noticed, unless the world we’re talking about is my husband, my mom and my dogs (and the Spice Dogs haven’t noticed much of it, unless it involved food, warm blankets or belly rubs):

  1. I got my mitral valve repaired. Awesome medical team (GP, PA, cardiologist, cardiothoracic surgeon, their staffs), relatively quick recovery (I was back at work in 3 weeks, although it took months and months to feel “normal” again) and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that turned me into a pampered diva (shooting a commercial for Baptist Health). I now have my own chauffeur (OK, Bruce already chauffeured me sometimes, but now he does it more often – and with attitude). The diva perqs pretty much begin and end there, though.
    Oakleys and silly runners 09-12-13
    Last pre-surgery run with the crazy people, 9/12/13.
  2. I got a wellness certification (we traveled to Colorado in April for the final 16 hours of training). I’m still pondering the best ways to work this new knowledge into my “life’s mission.” Motivational talks, one-on-one counseling, writing … those ideas are all part of the little bubble that hovers over my head at all times (and frequently keeps me from sleeping through the night).
  3. I started looking more seriously at ways to make my blog a little more … marketable. (In other words, I want more people to read it! Also, I want people to pay me to write for them.) I attended Arkansas Women Bloggers University last week (stay tuned for more posts about that awesome event!), and I learned a ton, networked a lot, made several new friends, ate too much and slept too little. But it was the most fun I’ve had all year! Bruce and I even got in an early-morning run with a couple of our new blogger friends, Jodi and Fawn – both super-nice people. In February, I paid a teenager to design the Suzy & Spice banner you see above. Didn’t he do an awesome job? (Hey, you can subscribe to Suzy & Spice by clicking here. It just means you’ll receive an email when I publish a new post. Don’t worry – we won’t spam you, sell your info or do any other creepy thing with your email address.)
    Stuff I learned about branding myself and my blog to get more writing gigs.
    Stuff I learned about branding myself and my blog to get more readers and writing gigs.
  4. I started incorporating “Awesome!” into my conversations a lot more. Don’t ask me why. I guess I thought it sounded … awesome. (There is no link for this.)
  5. I went up and down, back and forth, hot and cold (the latter, more figuratively than literally) with my running. After last year’s surgery, I got a little wimpy and had trouble motivating myself to lace up and hit the road. It was a lot easier when sunrise came earlier (that’s my favorite time to run), but I let the extreme cold and the oppressive humidity bench me too many times. I’m much slower than I was last year, and I was already pretty slow, although I was gaining a bit of speed with experience. Also, I’ve gained about 15 pounds since my surgery and am still trying to get a grip on that. I’m really angry with myself about the weight gain. But the first step (for me) is admitting it, and then going public with it (I weighed 173 this morning) and buckling down to do something about it. Because it makes me feel like a big fat hypocrite. But it also makes me human, and better able to relate to those I’m trying to help. (There’s a fine line, I know.) I guess you could say it keeps me humble.
    Bruzys_orange_shoes
    Photo courtesy of Hatch and Maas Photography
  6. I lost another dear family member (an uncle, less than three weeks ago) and got word yesterday that we may lose another uncle soon. He’s under hospice care, and only the good Lord knows when his time will come. This is in addition to our loss in 2013 of four cousins (on my side) – one of them the day before my surgery – and Bruce’s precious mother.
  7. I signed up for another half-marathon to raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, through the Team Challenge endurance training and fundraising program. This will be my third year to raise money for Team Challenge, but only my second time to get to participate in the race. The first half-marathon was 2 years ago this month, and I had been fundraising for the second one last September, but my surgery trumped that event. Bruce and I had decided not to plan another Team Challenge race for me this year because the fundraising is just too hard; because last year was emotionally and financially draining for us; and because I was still recovering physically from the surgery … but then I got an email in May about the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January 2015, and apparently I lost my ever-lovin’ mind. So, technically, I won’t be racing in 2014, but I am raising money again already. WHAT WAS I THINKING? (Oh, I know: I was thinking I STILL want to kick the poo out of Crohn’s disease. I guess that’s a good enough reason to kill myself doing something I hate: asking people for money.) If you’d like to help me reach my $4,500 goal before I take a nose-dive off the Cliffs of Insanity, please click here.
  8. Took my first yoga class in November. I’m talking live class, not read-a-book-and-try-to-figure-out-what-the-heck-they’re-talking-about, not watch-a-video-and-try-to-look-at-a-little-screen while figuring things out, but an honest-to-goodness class with a live – and very gentle and sweet – teacher. I’m telling you, yoga, while offering a calm respite from the cares of the world, is not for sissies. You feel great (awesome?) afterward, sometimes even during, but it’s a hurts-so-good kind of great. I learned some new words (and not all of them specifically yoga related, if you know what I mean), and I learned that I was really missing out all those years when I couldn’t find a class that a) I could afford and b) worked with my schedule. Fortunately, this new class and teacher meet both of those criteria. Just another stop on my wellness journey.
  9. Less than 3 weeks before my heart surgery, I had LASIK surgery. It didn’t give me perfect vision (my poor eyes are too far gone for that), but I no longer have to mess with contact lenses, solutions or reading glasses. I had already gotten used to mono-vision contacts (one lens corrects for distance and the other for close-up viewing). Post-LASIK, I have a bit of trouble on the road at night on occasion (a bit of glare from oncoming headlights), but that’s why a diva keeps a chauffeur on hand, right? The LASIK, too, falls under the category AWESOME.
  10. DrConley_Suzy_ChrisKane_Twitterpic091714
    Dr. Conley, yours truly and Chris Kane on “Good Morning, Arkansas” in February. (Yeah, I Tweeted Chris’ last name wrong.)

    I didn’t intend for this to be a “top 10 things I did last year” summary, but it looks like I’ve come up with 9 already, so let me think of a 10th. … OK, here we go: I gained confidence this year. I had prayed last year for a bigger “audience” (maybe like the Prayer of Jabez: “Lord, expand my territory”). He listened (doesn’t He always?) and gave me a wider reach. Two occasions in particular stretched my faith and built my confidence: In February I was invited to appear on Channel 7’s “Good Morning, Arkansas” with my cardiologist for Heart Month, and in August I was invited to speak one Sunday (for “no longer than 2 minutes”) at both services at my church. Both were topics dear to my heart: 1) literally, my heart, and 2) Perspectives class). So I jumped at the chance in each instance, and I survived both!

So, while a lot has happened inside, not a lot has changed outwardly. And, as always, this I know:

God is good, and He is faithful. I give Him all the praise and glory for the past 365 days, and I hope I live to serve Him for at least another 365.

Wouldn’t that be … awesome?

 

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Top 10 Tuesday – book characters at my lunch table

Today’s post is inspired by The Broke and the Bookish. Here’s my list of the “Top Ten Book Characters That Would Be Sitting at my Lunch Table,” listed in no particular order:

  1. Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. (Does that count as three?) Not only did I read as many of these mysteries as I could get my hands on when I was in grade school and junior high, I faithfully watched the corresponding TV shows in the late 1970s. Remember that? Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy Drew, and the dreamy Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy as Frank and Joe Hardy. A weekly must-see TV! Runner-up: Trixie Belden, another girl detective (remember her?).
  2. AnneOfGreenGablesCoverAs Tara mentioned in her Running ’N’ Reading post, Anne Shirley of the Anne of Green Gables series. That Anne (“spelt with an ‘e’ ”) sure could get herself into some messes, couldn’t she? (Remember the green hair?) Anne was certainly braver than I was at her age, but I grew into the stick-your-foot-into-your-mouth habit quite nicely, thank you. “But if you only knew how many things I want to say and don’t.” Love that girl! (I still wouldn’t walk the ridge pole of a house, though, no matter who dared me!)
  3. LittleWomenCoverJosephine March of Little Women and Jo’s Boys. Jo was a tomboy (jumping fences, whistling, running through the woods), but she loved her very feminine sisters fiercely. Her affection for young Beth was heartwarming, and Jo’s book “My Beth” was a big sister’s tender tribute after the family’s loss of the shy and timid “Bethy.” And could anyone forget when she cut off her beautiful long hair to pay for Marmee’s trip to visit the wounded Father away at war? Another girl who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, Jo demonstrated a courage to stand alone in a crowd.
  4. ToKillAMockingbirdAtticus and Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Yes, I loved Jem, too, but Atticus and his precocious daughter, Scout, really stole my heart (besides, Scout is the narrator). The entire family was colorblind, but the book is really told from 5-year-old Scout’s perspective, so we get more of her courage (again, speaking her mind, but in a more innocent way) and, of course, her observations shined light on the actions of her hero daddy. I love the scene (maybe just in the movie – not sure about the book) where she meets Boo Radley up close, says “Hey, Boo,” then walks over and takes his hand. (Am I getting that right?) I may invite Boo to lunch, too. He was a kind soul.
  5. Cynthia Kavanagh of the Mitford series. She always had a positive attitude. In fact, her husband, Father Tim (a bachelor until he was in his 60s), would often say to her, “Is there anything you don’t love?” I’d delight in having lunch (church potluck, perhaps?) with the entire small town of Mitford, N.C., including Tim’s big ol’ Scripture-loving dog, Barnabus. It’s been several years since the last book in this series came out … or so I thought. While fetching a link for this post, I discovered that a new book in the series became available TODAY! Woot! (Note to husband: My birthday is nearly three months away; you need not wait that long to shower me with the gift of another Mitford book.)
  6. Fahrenheit451CoverGuy Montag of Fahrenheit 451. Guy was a firefighter who used to seek out and burn books (it was his job), but then he decided to read one, and it changed him – as books tend to do. Once he realized that he’d rather read books than burn them, he became a fugitive. His actions took much courage. If you haven’t read this book, read it. It will make you think.
  7. PrideAndPrejudiceCoverLizzie Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. Is it OK for me to admit that I’ve never read the book but have seen at least two movie versions of Pride and Prejudice? (No one said I had to read the book to love the character!) Elizabeth Bennett has been a well-loved literary character for decades … and, gee whiz, I just realized she’s another well-spoken, albeit a quick-to-speak-slow-to-listen chick. I guess I like that type of girl! And, gee whiz, I guess I need to visit the library and get this book! Like, right now!
  8. EBWhiteBoxSetCharlotte of Charlotte’s Web. How many spiders do you know who would give their lives for a friend – even a pig friend? And Stuart of Stuart Little – a little guy with a big heart. Both of these are E.B. White characters, and if you haven’t read the books, do! The Trumpet of the Swan is good, too, but for the life of me I can’t remember much about it. I just remember that I liked it. It is part of the E.B. White boxed set that includes Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. (Just had to include a plug for the boxed set – even if my memory is terrible!)
  9. TheGivingTreeCoverThe apple tree in The Giving Tree. “Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.” If you haven’t read Shel Silverstein’s classic children’s book about the tree that sacrifices itself for a boy’s pleasure, please check it out. I don’t want to spoil the story, so that’s all I’m going to say about it, except this: It reminds me of Jesus’ sacrificial love for us.
  10. TheVelveteenRabbitCoverThe velveteen rabbit from The Velveteen Rabbit. Again, a story about an inanimate object (or is it?) that loves a boy, even when the boy grows too old to play with it. “ ‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ ”

I guess I got a little mushy toward the end of my list, eh? 🙂

Update 9/3/14, honorable mention: As I made my Top 10 list yesterday, I wanted to include one of my childhood favorites, A Dog for Susie, but I couldn’t remember the dog’s name. But as I ran this morning, I was listening to the last few chapters of an audiobook that I was supposed to finish for book group this week. Wouldn’t you know, in the last 2 minutes of the book, the main character’s husband brought home a great Dane, a rescue dog named Rufus.

“RUFUS!” I said to myself. “That’s the dog for Susie!” In fact, in the book, Susie had the same reaction when she finally came up with a name for her own “rescue dog” (a mutt she stumbled upon): “RUFUS!” So Rufus from A Dog for Susie gets an honorable mention, but if I had remembered his name sooner he would have been in the Top 10. 🙂

What book characters would you love to have at your lunch table?

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Catching up

I really want to come up with a catchy title for my catch-all posts. My friends call theirs such things as “friday faves,” “In the Pipeline,” “Friday Five Link Up” and so on.

One of these days it’ll come to me; I’ll have my own catchy title. Meantime, here’s where my head is right now:

Four days until #AWBU – Arkansas Women Bloggers University. I am beside myself with anticipation! Not only will I get to see some of my friends from North Little Rock who blog (and many of them are leading workshops), I’ll meet a bunch of the chicks whose blogs I’ve been reading the past few months but have never met. Yippee!

This will be my first year at AWBU, which began three years ago. I had never heard of it until two years ago, and by then it was too late to register. Last year I had some type of conflict (can’t even remember what). But this year, no excuses – I’m going! The fun starts Friday and ends at noon Sunday. Today I finalized (well, sort of) my picks for the workshops I want to attend.

Most of the sessions have three workshops to choose from, except for a couple that have just two. I’ve made my picks for all but two sessions. And, darn it, wouldn’t you know that some of my friends are leading workshops and I won’t get to participate. There are A, B and C tracks, and I’ve picked mostly from the A track, which is more about the business side of blogging. Track B seems to be mostly about the writing process, and Track C is more techy (side note: spellcheck prefers “techier” here). I’m fairly confident in the B and C areas but so want to beef up the business side of my blog. I’ll tell you more about that in a later post (it’s not as mercenary as it sounds).

I can’t wait to come back next week and tell you how much I’ve learned and been inspired by!

The fall semester of Perspectives started last week, and I’m so excited to be an alumnus this time (no homework pressure) and part of the Coordinating Team (the group that has worked to bring the class back to Batesville this fall).

In my role on the team, I won’t be needed in class after tomorrow night, but do you think I would dare miss a night of it? The speakers are too dynamic, the topics too challenging for me to sit home and miss out. And, as a graduate of the course (2012), I won’t feel pressured to take notes – except that I’m sort of compulsive about that; I think I retain things better when I write them out. I think every follower of Jesus should take Perspectives, and I’d love to tell you more about it. Let me know if you’re interested in knowing more.

Today was a holiday, and I didn’t work (I didn’t run, either, but we’ll skip that part). After two decades in the daily-newspaper business, I never knew which holiday Bruce or I might have off in any given year, and even though I haven’t worked full time for a newspaper in 10 years (and 7 for him), we’re still not used to having holidays off.

So he and I took the Spice Dogs to Mom’s to watch the Cardinals and the Pirates, and I ended up watching four hours of Food Network! There was some type of Pioneer Woman mini-marathon, and I’m just now realizing (as I write this) that I watched eight straight episodes! Two years without TV at home (no Food Network for Suzy) means I gorge on it when I have the chance. It’s like going without your favorite food for a long time and then stuffing yourself when you finally get a bowl of it. Or something like that.

Then Mom wanted an ice cream cone, so we piled into the car and drove to Sonic. She and Bruce had ice cream and, although I really, really wanted a Sonic Blast, I got a cherry limeade.

AllGirlFillingStationBookCover

I’m almost finished with the September book for my reading group (The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg) … and today I realized I won’t be able to go to group tomorrow! (Why? See Perspectives above.) The library’s only hard copy of the book was checked out, so I got the audio version and have been listening to it on my long runs. I normally don’t use my ear buds when I run, but I wanted to kill two birds with one stone. This month’s book was a good story – another book that has forced me to read fiction this year since joining the reading group. I haven’t read much fiction in the past 20 years, so fortunately the last couple of books I’ve had to read are good ones. Flagg is a good writer (remember Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café?), and this story was compelling and really sucked me in.

However, I’m ever so glad that I got to pick the October book. I chose Night by Elie Wiesel. I read it about 20 years ago (about the time I started really getting into non-fiction), and I can’t wait to start reading it again.

Both books deal with World War II but in vastly different ways. Part of Flagg’s story is based on actual events (the WASP program of female flyers), but Wiesel’s story is 100 percent true. It’s his account of surviving a Nazi concentration camp when he was a boy. He is still alive today, by the way.

My favorite book, as I’ve said many times before, is The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Corrie was a Christian; Wiesel is a Jew. Both books are first-person accounts, and I like pondering the different perspectives of the Holocaust. Can’t wait to find out what the other ladies think of Night.

I also got to pick the reading group’s first book of 2015, and it was written by my friend who recommended Night to me so many years ago. I’ll save the details on that for later. (Sorry – you’ll just have to stay tuned.)

 

He's why I run
He’s why I run.

I’m running again for Team Challenge, the endurance and training program of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. I want to cure Crohn’s disease, which my husband (in photo above) suffers from, so I have to raise a bunch of money this fall. In January I’ll get to run the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, and it’s a pretty big deal. So big, in fact, that our fundraising minimum is higher, the perqs are a little less and our fundraising deadlines are a little tighter than for a typical Team Challenge event. I’ve been struggling with doing long runs in the heat and humidity. We haven’t started the official training plan for Disney yet, but I started a RunKeeper half-marathon training plan in early May, so I think I must not feel compelled to stay true to the program with the team training coming up. I totally blew off the scheduled 9-mile run this weekend, and of course I’ll have a 10-mile run coming up in a few days.

Typically I do the long runs on Saturday mornings (at daybreak, before it gets really stinkin’ hot), and next weekend I’m going to be out of town (see #AWBU above). So I feel like a total slacker, and the only thing that has saved me is the cheap treadmill we bought at a yard sale a few months ago. I’ve done a couple of hourlong runs on it, and last night I even considered doing the 9-miler but just could not bring myself to do it.

I didn’t bring this up to make a pitch for donations, but I have so much yet to raise (nearly $3,000 of the $4,500 total – note: I’ve set my goal a bit higher than $4,500 just for good measure), so I will shamelessly give you the link to donate to Team Challenge.

Also, if you’re a runner or a walker and use any of these apps – fitbit, Nike+, Jawbone, RunKeeper or Moves – please join my mission at FitCause, which is a NO-COST way you can help me reach my fundraising goal (and cure Crohn’s disease). The challenge is to “run a marathon in a month” – or 26.2 miles by Sept. 11 – and you still have more than a week to do it! You don’t even have to run/walk 26.2 miles; any number of miles will help. Thank you for any amount (miles or money) you’re willing to donate! 🙂

Tell me at least one neat thing you’ve done, read, planned or pondered lately.

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