Multifunction dogs

Suzy with Pepper, Bruce with Salsa. Chase Race and Paws, Conway, Ark., March 10, 2012.

At our house, we have a multifunction printer. It does three things: prints, scans, copies – hence its model name, HP 750PSC.

But that ain’t nothin’ compared to our multifunction dogs, whose functions are too multiple to mention in one blog post – too numerous to sum up with a succinct model name. I’ll stick to the highlights.

In some ways, our canines’ services are similar and work in tandem; in other ways, they are different yet still complementary. A few examples:

Emergency Response System (ERS): The girls (or the Spice Dogs, as we like to call them) carry out this function in various ways, not all of them necessarily effective. Salsa (ERS Dog 1) barks a warning – loudly – when she encounters something she perceives as evil. In this category would be squirrels, cats, large flying insects, leaves falling from trees, vampire bats, snakes, representatives of the U.S. Postal Service and small children on bicycles. Pepper (ERS Dog 2), on the other hand, cannot be relied on in emergencies, as she barks at whatever moves or breathes in her general vicinity. That includes people entering the kitchen to feed her, people trying to have a conversation over her head (and many things are over her head) and subtle movements of the human body (for instance, crossing or uncrossing one’s legs, reaching for a tissue or taking a sip of one’s beverage – all perceived as evil acts that must be addressed. Loudly).

Pepper likes to make her opinions known. A lot. And you never know when you’ll get one.

Cleanup Crew: Both Spice Dogs are punctual and efficient at taking care of unwanted food, or food that has dropped to the floor, your lap or, in Pepper’s case, within 100 feet of where she’s sitting. When food falls, she’s Johnny on the Spot. I occasionally time Pepper when I feed the girls breakfast. When she was on dry food: 12 seconds to consume her little 2-ounce scoop (she doesn’t chew, she inhales). Now that she’s on canned food (very specific reason for that – more later), I’ve seen her suck it down in a flat three seconds. Right before she burps – loudly. This dog weighs 3.9 pounds and could put a third-grade boy to shame with one of her belches.

Pepper puts Salsa under the table, so to speak, when it comes to eating. In fact, helping Salsa eat is one of Pepper’s many food-related functions. When we got Salsa from the animal shelter in August 2005, it was hard to get her to finish her food. She’d rather play. The experts said to keep her on a schedule, putting her food away after a few minutes if she didn’t eat it. I established a twice-daily meal schedule and began following the suggestions. It helped some, but she’d still rather play and would leave her dish unattended. Same with Potty Outside. I followed expert advice, taking her out on the leash (even though our yard was fenced), walking her back and forth along a short strip of real estate and repeating “Go potty” over and over and over. In the summer, I often gave up after about 20 minutes. Too dang hot to stay out there trying to get her to poop.

The acquisition of Dog 2 changed all that. We inherited Pepper (long story) from relatives (who inherited her from other relatives) on Thanksgiving Day 2005 – three months after we got Salsa. Now, with Salsa and the bowl of food, there was the threat of another little dog stealing what was rightfully Salsa’s. So Salsa started finishing her food before being sent outside to potty. I’m not sure what did the trick on the Potty Outside, but that miraculously resolved itself with Dog 2’s arrival.

Pepper sleeping under her bed. Yes, that’s her tiny heiny peeking out.

Bed Warmer: If we ever worried about being cold in our house, such as during a power outage in the winter, those fears were set aside when Multifunction Dog 2 (also known as Our Little Space Heater) came along. The first night she was with us, Pepper slept curled up in a tiny ball right under my chin. I tolerated that for one night, but if you know me, you know that I have to have near-perfect conditions for sleeping, and having a dog for a beard ain’t one of them. The second night, Pepper slept curled up at my back so that if I tried to roll over, I’d have to disturb her beauty sleep or risk flattening her. Also not ideal, although I did come up with a work-around (which I won’t bore you with). Before long, I had the brilliant idea to put her little doggy bed on top of our king-size bed and pile it with fleece blankets. She burrowed under (under the doggy bed itself, actually) and was more or less content. She is a burrower. (Bonus fact: Pepper fits inside one of Bruce’s sweatshirt pockets.) She’d much rather be glued to a human being than in her little bed, but the bed suffices. Because if Mama don’t get no sleep, ain’t nobody happy. And lest I forget Salsa’s function in this category, let’s just say she, too, is happy to be a bed warmer but knows how to take a hint.

Party Animal: When we take the Spice Dogs to events (festivals, farmers markets, Nanny’s house [where the “event” is a treat they’re not allowed at home]), they get a lot of attention. Pepper gets most of it because she’s tee-tiny and can be picked up by small children and generally doesn’t mind being handled. (Our girls are people dogs.) Salsa is just too happy to be out among people, smells and the occasional dropped hot dog to care that everybody loves tiny little Pepper. Everyone loves tiny little Pepper because they don’t live with her. She may be cuter, but Salsa is by far the gentler, more humble (although not always the quieter) of the duo. When given a treat, Pepper will race up, snatch it out of your hand and zoom away to her treat-eating spot without saying thank you. She acts like it’s the last morsel of food she will ever receive, and you have to count your digits in the aftermath. Salsa trots up, looks at you for a second with her soulful brown eyes, gently (really: gently) takes the dog biscuit from your hand and trots away to her designated treat-eating spot. Which brings me to …

Creature of Habit. If ever we could learn something valuable from our dogs, it’s in the area of consistency. For instance, each dog has a precise spot where she likes to eat her treats. And Pepper can tell time with her biorhythms. She knows when it’s precisely 7 p.m. (the final evening-treat time) or any other time she’s entitled to get a free piece of food. Salsa knows when it’s 4 a.m. and time to be let outside to alert the neighbors to the presence of squirrels, falling leaves, vampire bats and what-not. And you never know when a kid on a bike may be riding past the house at 4 o’clock in the morning.

Public Service Announcer: This is really Pepper’s function alone. She lets us know when Salsa should go outside, when Salsa should be let in or when Salsa is occupying her sister’s spot on the couch or the bed. And she is not above subterfuge. Pepper likes to sit outside on the deck in a sunny spot, or occasionally just inside the sliding door in a sunny spot on the carpet. When the sun moves, Pepper’s sunny spot moves, and sometimes action must be taken. If Salsa happens to be in Pepper’s newly positioned sunny spot, Pepper will helpfully let us know that Salsa would like to get up and go outside (or come inside). Sometimes we misunderstand, assuming that Pepper herself wants out or in, but we quickly realize that she just wanted the sunny spot vacated so she could take up residence.

Pepper also helpfully announces to us that she has just made potty on the floor. This is usually about 30 seconds after she has made an announcement that we misunderstood as a need to go outside to potty. It might be 2 a.m., but we’ve learned not to ignore her when she wakes us up like that – just in case it’s legit. We’ll go to the door, assuming she’ll trot right over and go out. She’ll stand 12 feet away looking at us, we’ll grumble and go back to bed (or back to whatever we were doing), and a half-minute later we’ll hear another announcement: “Hey, look what I did! I peed on the carpet! Again! Clean it up!” She’s very helpful and conscientious in that way.

Reminder of the Delicate Balance of Nature: In the aforementioned Cleanup Crew category, I alluded to Pepper’s switch from dry to canned food. My awareness of this necessity came quite by accident. Pepper had been sick, and the vet put her on soft food for a few days. One morning I noticed that when she ate the canned food, she didn’t run up on Salsa and antagonize her after sucking down her own food. It was almost vicious, this daily exchange over Salsa’s food dish. I would have to yell at Pepper in order to break up the fights, which almost came to physical violence sometimes. I thought the wet-food phenomenon might be an anomaly, so the next morning I gave Pepper dry food and stood by to watch. Sure enough, she “attacked” Salsa again. Morning 3: wet food, no fighting. So now we spend a little extra to buy canned food for Princess Pepper so that she will leave her sister alone at mealtime. Little twerp.

Morale Officer: When Bruce had his latest Crohn’s disease flare-up, his buddy Salsa may have saved him. She might not have saved his life, literally, but she saved his morale. In early 2007, Bruce had to quit working full time and before long couldn’t work at all. By October, he didn’t have a job. We had to sell his vehicle, so he didn’t have transportation during the day – even if he had felt like leaving the house – because I had to leave my work-from-home freelance job to get a 60-hour-a-week position with health insurance (but no overtime pay). The lingering effects of this flare-up lasted until 2010, so Bruce considered himself nothing more than a dog-sitter for a really long time. (Bruce literally learned to speak Dog. He could identify what was going on outside by Salsa’s different bark sounds.) And, yes, Pepper is a morale officer, albeit a more aloof one. She’s somewhat like a cat; if you can’t do something for her (feed her, keep her warm, toss her squeaky toy), she’s not always interested in your company. But she, too, is a constant presence and cuddly companion.

Loyal Buddy: We complain about soiled carpet, hairy furniture, middle-of-the-night prowl-fests, stinky blankets, loud barking and the fact that we can’t go anywhere for very long on the spur of the moment (it’s almost like having small children), but we wouldn’t trade our Spice Dogs for any amount of money, any material possession or any other creature on the planet. We’ve grown quite attached to the little goons.

The Spice Dogs. They’re stuck with us. And that’s a function with multiple rewards.

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Correction about Crohn’s donations

I found out today that I’ve been giving people incorrect info about where to mail checks for my half-marathon fundraising efforts.

To recap: I’m running my first half-marathon on Sept. 22 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. My goal is $4,000, and I have to raise $800 of it by Monday, July 23.

I had said that checks could be mailed to the processing center in Washington, D.C. That’s wrong. The fastest way to donate is by clicking here, but if you’d prefer to pay by check, write it to “CCFA” or “Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America” and mail or hand-deliver it to me.

If you leave a comment below, I’ll email you my address, or if you have my email address or phone number, feel free to contact me that way. If you live, work or attend church near me and would prefer to hand me a check, we can work out the details when you contact me.

I’m updating my previous two blog posts in which I gave the bad information. Sorry about that, everyone!

And thank you for any way you are able to support me as I run for a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

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On running and things

Sometimes I ask myself why I love running.

Actually, it’s a love-hate relationship.

A decade ago, I most definitely did not have a love-hate relationship with running. It was a hate-hate relationship – more like a chore, one that I was eager to escape when I grew up and could do whatever I darn-well pleased.

Trouble is, I was already grown up – and out. I was overweight and needed to run, or at least to do something that would burn lots of calories and whip my sorry behind into shape. I needed to run.

But, like many of the non-running people I talk to nowadays – now that the hate-hate has turned to love-hate – I didn’t think of myself as a runner. To be a runner means you’re fast. It means you endure, you suffer, you look good in athletic shorts and tank tops and you wear an expensive GPS thingie strapped to your arm.

I wasn’t any of those.

Running was a chore. And, after a season or two, I gave up.

My very fast husband thinks he was born to be fast. (Being sidelined by a crummy, gut-wrenching disease for five years never once dampened his longing to be out there, being fast, even when he couldn’t walk from the bed to the toilet without assistance.) I would go running with him, but only when he was going to the high school track down the hill from our house, because that’s the only place he wouldn’t lose me. We’d “jog” down there, where I could keep up with him because we weren’t going off into the wild blue yonder, we were only going around and around a never-ending oval. When he was finished with his workout, I could finally take my sweaty self home – up the hill. Bleh.

The entire thing was a chore – something I “had” to do, some penance for letting myself get overweight, I suppose.

That was then. This is now.

Now we live in a new town. (Well, not so new to me, but sort of new because until 2010 I hadn’t lived here in 25 years.)

And something has changed.

The hate-hate running is now love-hate running.

Or maybe instead of love-hate it’s hate-love, because I always joke that I love it when I’m done (but not until). Bruce always gives me a funny look when I say that.

My crowd understands.

My crowd – the Crazy Ladies of Running [my strictly unofficial nickname for us] – is Bruce’s crowd, too, but most of us are female and haven’t been running for nearly four decades (in fact, one of the Crazy Ladies is just 6 years old). Bruce is male and has been running for three-quarters of his 52 years.

Some of us Crazy Ladies developed our running addiction together. We met at the Women Can Run/Walk clinic last year. As with everything like that, some participants fell away early and some stuck with it. Those who stuck with it have become a small hard-core crowd of Crazy Ladies, who’ve been together through two clinics and feel we’re not complete without a group run at least two or three times a week. (It’s like crack – I told you we’re addicted.) Along the way, we’ve picked up extra Crazy Ladies – those we didn’t know in last year’s clinic but who moved into the crack house this year.

Bruce is our coach/mother-hen/enabler. We’re his baby chicks, his Brupies, his co-dependents – at least some of us. A few of the ladies have been running long enough that they don’t need a mother hen, but we all take advice from Coach Bruce. He’s fun to have around. And frequently useful. He’ll jog back and give me a drink of Gatorade sometimes because he knows I don’t like to be overloaded with stuff when I run (hey, it’s hard enough just doing it).

Bruce is always checking on his chicks. He wants to make sure we’re all OK. I love him for that.

When I think about why I now love running, I realize that there are lots of reasons, and many of them have to do with the other Crazy Ladies, Plus Bruce.

And there are crazy guys, too, but mostly I see them at races or the monthly roadrunners club meetings. They’re my crowd, too, but a different crowd with a different dynamic. We don’t run together much – just on race days, and usually then I’m eating their dust and congratulating them on their trophies.

I love to win, but I certainly don’t run for the trophies. I can count my running awards on one hand. And none of them had anything to do with being fast, but merely showing up. Once, early last year, I took second place in my age group in a 5k. (How many women were in my age group that day? Two. But I got a medal because I showed up.)

My two other top honors have nothing to do with being fast but with guessing. Our local race-timing masters, Ken and Michelle, came up with a New Year’s Day prediction run, and since I’ve had nothing better to do on the two New Year’s mornings that I’ve lived here, I entered.

(Actually, the first time it was a fluke. I took Bruce to the event, book in hand, prepared to sit in the car and read while he ran, and, 10 minutes before the race, a couple of ladies I knew talked me into entering. I had just taken up running again about six weeks earlier and knew I wasn’t going to be fast, but I entered. And won the women’s title. How? By guessing within 17 seconds how long it would take me to “run” nearly 4 miles. The second time, I was coming off knee surgery and hadn’t run in five months, so I predicted the exact same time I had predicted last year – 50 minutes – and was off by 18 seconds. I am nothing if not consistent.)

I’m still slow, but I’m getting faster, slowly but surely.

In some areas of life, I’m impatient. In running, I have no choice but to be patient. There’s no magic wand, no flux capacitor to propel me forward in time, to a faster me.

I just have to keep showing up.

And, lest you discount just showing up, let me assure you that just showing up is 90 percent of the battle. At least for me.

For people like Bruce, who have a love-love-love relationship with running – for whom dying in a race would not be an unwelcome thing – just showing up isn’t a struggle. Showing up is life.

For people like me, it’s a struggle. I daily have to remind myself that I always – always – feel better once I’m out there. But that “always” doesn’t come until about the second mile. Every morning, when I look into the mirror and say, “I really don’t want to go out there,” I have to reply, “But you always feel this way, and you always feel better once you’ve started.”

And it’s true. Once I’m out there (after the first mile or two), I feel better. I can count on two fingers the times I’ve gone out there and not felt better once I started.

I don’t necessarily need a scientific answer for why running works for me now. Some days I search for a scientific answer, and some days I tell Bruce that I don’t need his scientific brain to help me come up with the answer. I just like running (when I’m finished). And Bruce is enough of a running freak that this is one of the rare instances for which he doesn’t have to have a scientific explanation. He just loves to run.

I don’t necessarily need a philosophical reason for why it works for me now. This hate-love relationship sometimes defies explanation, and sometimes it makes perfect sense. It depends on when you ask.

Sometimes I ask myself why I love running.

And sometimes I just go out and run.

___________________________________

I’m running my first half-marathon on Sept. 22 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. My goal is $4,000, and I have to raise $800 of it by July 23. If you’d like to donate, click here or mail me a check. Write your check to “CCFA” or “Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.” If you leave a comment, I’ll email you my address, or if you have my email address or phone number, feel free to contact me that way.

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Running for a cure

I’m about to run the race of my life.

In a few months, two of my worlds will collide: running and Crohn’s disease. On Sept. 22 in Nashville, Tenn., I will run my very first half-marathon, about three times as long as I’ve ever run in competition.

13.1 miles – woohoo!

(Pray for my mother.)

If you’ve read my blog much, you know that I’ve been on “my journey to fitness” for more than a year. In November 2010 – about a decade after I first tried to become “a runner” – I caught the running bug for real. I started walking/running with my sister-in-law, and when her life got too busy to continue, I did it without her. It was harder to motivate myself without a buddy, but I knew I needed to do it for my health. Next thing I knew, two opportunities came along that would help me stay committed: a weight-loss competition at work, and the local women’s running clinic. I lost 28 of the 206 pounds that I started with. (In August 2011, a pesky surgeon had to operate on my knee, sidelining me for a few months, but on Dec. 31 I got back on track with the running. It took longer to get back to healthy eating.)

One of the reasons – no, dozens of the reasons – that I now love running has to do with the people.

First, there’s Bruce.

Besides Jesus, Bruce is the love of my life. He loved running way before he met me, and he has taught me so much about it. I used to go to races and watch him be fast. Whether I competed in those races or not, I was always watching Bruce be fast. God just made him that way.

And I was slow.

But not long ago, the tables turned and Bruce had to see running from my perspective. He took a five-year sabbatical from running, but it was not self-imposed. He was sidelined by Crohn’s disease. He had a flare-up that began in early 2007, and this one hung on for a very long time.

My very fast husband had to learn to stand on the sidelines and cheer while I competed in races, dragging my slow butt across the finish line from near the back of the pack. Witnessing this spectacle has been a lot less fun for him than it was for me, I can tell you. But he has kept a smile on his face, cheering and encouraging me at every opportunity.

Meanwhile, he has become quite the ladies’ man. (My husband, the chick magnet.)

At last year’s running clinic, we were short on coaches, and one evening I roped Bruce into volunteering. (It didn’t take much convincing.) When the clinic ended in mid-May, he was still volunteering and his love of running had rubbed off on the rest of us. Some of the ladies didn’t want to lose their momentum and suggested we keep going throughout the summer. Coach Bruce to the rescue!

We ladies – young and old, tall and short, plump and thin, brown and pasty-white – kept running. And running. And running.

We ran when it was 101 degrees and humid, the sun causing sweat to blind us. Sunshine or rain, we ran. We ran when we didn’t feel like running. We ran up hills – we love hills! (inside joke) – across bridges and overpasses, around tracks, through neighborhoods and even in the middle of the woods. Before long, we were running when it was cold again and our legs were so frozen they never warmed up, even after we ran 3 miles. (Anyone remember that 12-degree February morning at the river? Or the day it was a balmy 19 degrees?)

One hot day in early spring, a bunch of us even ran two races in one day. (I call us The Crazy Ladies of Running, Plus Bruce.)

And, all the while we ran, Coach Bruce was trotting along, doubling back, making sure his baby chicks were OK.

We were OK – mostly because we had a coach who cared about the slowest of the slow as much as he cared about the leaders of the pack.

No wonder the ladies love him.

Bruce has started being able to enter races again, although he will never get back the stamina he once had. Crohn’s disease has just taken too much out of him over the years. But he is our Coach Bruce. (He even has Brupies – get it? Bruce-groupies!)

Coach Bruce, pretty in pink.

And what’s great about it is that he makes it fun. His enthusiasm for running is infectious. For him, it is play, not work. (If you still don’t understand this, listen up: This man refers to hills as “speed bumps” or “extended passing zones.” He’s the crazy one!) At our women’s clinic pre-graduation pasta party this year, his Brupies presented him with a pink and black wig to match his clinic shirt. He wore it proudly, saying he hadn’t had that much hair in years!

At our running club’s Christmas party last year, Bruce won the Spirit Award, voted on by club members. He might not have been able to run in races, but he volunteered and he supported the club and the sport and the runners. (And since I was busy with work and school and never got around to writing the post I wanted to write about that, I guess this is that post.)

Bruce’s love of running and his enthusiasm for helping others to love it … this inspires me.

And so I will run the Nashville Women’s Half Marathon – my very first long-distance race – not for my love of running, which is strong, but for my love of Bruce, which is even stronger.

Crohn’s disease and its companion, ulcerative colitis (collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD), are hideously devastating diseases. If you would like to help find a cure for this demon that plagues more than 1.4 million adults and children in the United States, please support me with monetary donations, encouragement or simply your prayers. I have to raise at least $3,200 before the race in order for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America to pay my travel expenses (at least 75 percent of the money I raise will go to research and education).

I said I was going to run the race of my life, but it’s really the race for Bruce’s life. He needs a cure for Crohn’s disease. We all do.

Let’s race together toward that goal.

Here are the ways to make a tax-deductible donation:

  • To donate online, click here.
  • To pay by check: Leave a comment here, email me, find me on Facebook or call me and I’ll give you my address or arrange to pick up the check from you.

To learn more about the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s work, visit the CCFA website.

 

Thank you in advance for any way you are able to help. Together we can do this.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

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A good week

So many things to tell:

  • Saturday morning, I get to have coffee! It’s the first Saturday morning coffee I’ll have been able to drink since the running clinic began in February. Why can’t I drink coffee before running? It’s the pee factor. I mentioned it in an earlier post, and I’m not gonna tell you again. (You’re welcome.)
  • My employer is open to the idea of a healthy-workplace initiative! We met Monday morning, and he started telling me some of the things we’ll implement (such as putting fresh fruit in the main break room in addition to the Friday morning doughnuts, all courtesy of the bank). I’ve done lots of reading on the initiatives in other workplaces, and it has got me excited all over again! I had no idea there was so much information out there, much of it from folks who are doing it right.
  • The reason I get to drink coffee tomorrow morning is the same reason I can’t run the local 5K that all my women-running (running-women?) friends – and some male friends – will be participating in: It’s these darned crutches and “the boot.” I should be rid of them soon, but I’m trying not to overdo. And running another race this soon would certainly fall into the category of overdoing. And I never overdo – just ask Bruce. (On second thought, don’t.)
  • We have the Crohn’s fundraising walk in Little Rock on Saturday evening (yes, evening. Why evening? I have no idea). Click here to donate to our team (Team Taylor Trotters) if you have a spare dollar or two. Any amount will be appreciated.
  • I plan to watch a lot of Food Network tomorrow morning, too – until I have to go gas up the car and run a few errands before we leave for LR.
  • Today was the second week of our second round of Biggest Loser at work. I lost a pound. I wonder how the other ladies did. Great, I hope. I made myself a spreadsheet and projected out several weeks – even beyond the BL challenges – to see how long it should take me to reach my goal. I’ll share more about that later. BUT I’m only 7.6 pounds from my next reward: summer sandals. And I will have the ER doctor’s endorsement of the kind I want – a cute pair of wedges, perhaps espadrilles, which have come back around in style (I know, it’s shocking that I would mention wanting to buy something that’s in style in the same decade that it’s actually in style). Anyway, Doc told me to wear high heels to help my plantar fasciitis. Go figure.

It’s bedtime, so that’s all the happiness I can talk about for now. More later. Gotta get up early and drink that big cup of coffee!

 

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How to win a race without really trying

This post was supposed to be titled “Fun run – an oxymoron,” but by the time I had wrestled the computer from Bruce, I had written it on paper and the story had evolved. Bottom line, though – 2011 has started off great!

Here’s the scenario: Someone in my household had signed up (without his housemate’s permission) to run the New Year’s Day Resolution/Prediction Less Than 4 Mile Fun Run/Walk (whew!) in downtown Batesville. After finding out, I eventually made my peace with it, because that someone just itches to run (he itches because he runs, too, but that’s a story for a Crohn’s-related post).

I went to take that someone to his less-than-4-mile race this morning, ran into some friends and, at their urging, ended up registering at the last minute. And I won the women’s division, as you can see by the above photo of the first running trophy I’ve ever won (and probably ever will)! John “The Penguin” Bingham, author of the two most recent books I’ve read (No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running and Training for Mortals: A Runner’s Logbook and Source of Inspiration) would be so proud!

Here’s how to do it:

1. Stay up hours past your bedtime the night before, not to watch the ball drop in Times Square but because A&E is showing a New Year’s Eve marathon of a TV show you’ve recently become obsessed with.

2. Eat two pieces of cold pizza for breakfast, washed down with diet Coke, about an hour after consuming a mammoth cup of coffee.

3. Wear clothing you normally would do your walking in, but not an athletically appropriate undergarment suitable for the type of bouncing a “full-figured” woman does while running.

4. Don’t take the race seriously because:

a) There’s no registration fee.

b) You weren’t planning to enter in the first place.

c) Success is based not on how quickly you can complete it but on how good you are at guessing ahead of time how quickly you can complete it. (You’re not allowed to wear a watch during the run, because the whole point is to make your prediction before the race and hope you know your own pace; in fact, the race director said he would have the cops beat you up if you wore a watch. He was kidding. I think.)

d) They call it a “fun run.” (The precise meaning of fun run is a story for another day.)

5. Drive your housemate to the race with the intention of either:

a) Reading the book you stashed in your purse “just in case there’s no one to talk to while I wait for him to finish” or

b) Walking/jogging around the block a few times to get your day’s exercise in, just in case there’s no one to talk to …

6. Let some  friends you run into before the race talk you into registering 10 minutes before the start time.

7. Hurriedly fill out the form and make a wild guess at your finishing time because, frankly, you haven’t been wearing your stopwatch during the get-back-in-shape walk/runs you’ve been doing the past six weeks. Or even really paying attention to the exact distance you’ve been walking/running because you weren’t planning to get serious about it until the new year.

8. Don’t stretch, warm up (unless you count going back inside the heated building) or do anything remotely racelike ahead of time.

9. Spend the entire 3.75 walking/jogging/bouncing miles writing the inevitable blog post in your head (isn’t everything in life a potential blog post?), telling yourself things like “Don’t forget to mention the two dead cats in the gutter on Water Street” and “Wouldn’t it be funny if I actually won this thing?” (the thought that occurs right after this one, as you’re struggling to make it up the course’s most heinous hill: “Hey, there’s Mom’s street. I bet she’s up by now. I could just cut across here, go into her warm house, use the bathroom and maybe have a cup of hot tea. Then I could cut back over to the race course and finish up”).

10. Tell yourself that you must make it clear in your blog that you would never seriously entertain the thought expressed in #9 – that it was just a fleeting lapse in judgment, something to joke about later. Yes, folks will get a chuckle out of that!

11. Run significantly faster and longer (more jogging than walking) than you have run these past six weeks because:

a) In your haste to register (and predict your time), you probably were a little too confident in your abilities. Fifty minutes for nearly 4 miles? At this early stage in your training? Are you kidding me?

b) You at least want to finish before those last two ladies bringing up the rear, one of whom foolishly passed you early on, before you got your head out of the clouds and got down to business.

12. When waiting for the winners to be announced, tell yourself you were only joking when you said it would be really funny to win (what you meant is that it would be really great to win), but, after all, this is just a “fun run” and at least you finished before those last two ladies.

13. And finally, in shock, go up and accept your trophy for predicting better than any of the other women how fast you could do this.

How fast? Not very. But my 50:17.3 was only 17.3 seconds off, much closer than the second-place woman’s prediction. And we don’t even remember her name, do we?

Sign up for your own race at White River Road Runners. See ya there!

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Fighting Crohn's disease

Anyone who has read this blog in the past couple of years knows that Crohn’s disease has been a major part of my 12-year marriage to Bruce (he was diagnosed in December 1998, just before our first anniversary). (Click “Crohn’s disease” in the category cloud at left to read some of the archived posts.)

Bruce has had three flare-ups in the past 11 years, the most recent of which started three years ago and lingers still.

Crohn’s has taken Bruce’s job, a lot of our money and a good deal of our energy (I never thought I would be this tired at 47!).

With a disease like Crohn’s, you feel helpless much of the time. Its cause is a mystery, its cure nonexistent. Today.

Tomorrow, we will find a cure.

Today, we are working toward that cure, not as scientists but as advocates – for education, awareness and research.

Because, in some things, we are not helpless. We have choices. We can decide.

I have decided to fight.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I made myself a goal for 2010. This year, I’ve committed to helping bring to Arkansas a chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

The nearest CCFA chapters are in Dallas, Tulsa, St. Louis, Nashville and New Orleans. A little too far to drive, if you ask me.

CCFA is dedicated to finding a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and “to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases.” Read more about CCFA’s mission here.

It is one thing when your 39-year-old husband is diagnosed with such a devastating disease. It is another when your cousin’s 10-year-old son is given the same diagnosis.

Ten percent of the more than 1 million Crohn’s sufferers in the United States are children, including my young cousin, Spencer. He was diagnosed last summer. He’s 11 now, and his little brain has had a lot to absorb in the past several months.

Spencer has probably done more research on Crohn’s than many adults have. He’s super-smart and ultra-aware. He knows stuff that an 11-year-old boy shouldn’t have to know about himself and his body. Not yet.

But maybe Spencer will be the guy to find the cure someday.

Meanwhile, he’s part of the movement to bring a CCFA chapter to Arkansas.

On Saturday, May 15, at 5 p.m., we will walk for Crohn’s and colitis. Read more here about the Little Rock Take Steps Walk. It will be a casual stroll (less than a mile) in a family-friendly, festival-type atmosphere.

To join Team Taylor Trotters (Taylor is the maiden name of Spencer’s mom, her sister and me) or to donate, click here. Our team goal is $5,000. Every donation of $5, $10 or more will help us reach our goal.

To all of my cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, sibling, future sibling-in-law and friends around Arkansas: April or I will be contacting you to walk with us, but feel free to post a comment below (or click the above link and join) if you’re ready to get on board now! (And if you are a designer, we need help with a T-shirt design. We’ll have Team Taylor T-shirts, but we haven’t gotten that far yet. We’ve been busy working on tomorrow’s Walk kickoff party in Little Rock.)

2010 is the year that Arkansas will establish its very own chapter of CCFA. Be a part of it!

Today.

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Take steps to stamp out Crohn's disease

On May 15, 2010, I will walk in the Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis Walk. Take Steps is the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s evening walk and celebration and the nation’s largest event dedicated to finding cures for digestive diseases. It is a 2- to 3-mile stroll to raise money for research, bringing us closer to a future free from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. More than 1.4 million U.S. adults and children are affected by these digestive diseases.

Your donation will help support local patient programs and important research projects. Because my husband, Bruce, has suffered from Crohn’s disease since 1998 and my cousin’s young son was diagnosed several months ago, this cause is very important to me, and I appreciate your help as we fight for a cure.

If you would like to do more than donate money, considering joining me at the event. There will be food, music and children’s activities. The more money we raise, the closer we will be to making life more manageable for patients who live with these diseases every day.

Please join me May 15 at Riverfront Park in North Little Rock or click here to donate to my efforts to support CCFA in finding a cure.

To read about some of Bruce’s struggle with Crohn’s disease, visit some of my previous posts: November 2007 and December 2007.

Thanks for your prayers and support.

Suzy

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Remembering before they’re gone

My dad was already 10 years gone from us by the time I started writing a blog two years ago. So everything I’ve written about him has been tinged with the golden glow of memory. Most of what I’ve written about Dad has been about what a wonderful man he was – with a note or two along the way about the not-so-desirable traits I inherited from him (we won’t get into that in this post). Even though he wasn’t a saint, from my daughterly perspective he hung the moon.

But his death is not the only one to have touched me deeply in the intervening months.

Three days ago I attended the funeral of the second of my mom’s brothers to die this year – my Uncle Charles.

Uncle Bill died in March in Yuma, Ariz., where he had lived for more than four decades, including much of my childhood. I never even started writing about him because I just didn’t know how I could say what was in my heart. I didn’t think I could do our relationship justice – Uncle Bill was very special to me.

Because I didn’t get to see Uncle Bill the last time I had an opportunity (something I will always regret), I made sure I saw Uncle Charles two weeks ago, when it was apparent the end was near.

I was expecting him to be so medicated on painkillers that he wouldn’t recognize me, but when I got to his bedside and Mom said, “Suzy’s here,” he smiled. Didn’t open his eyes – just smiled. I stood there a few minutes and just stroked his shoulder. Then later, when Mom and I stood to leave, I took his hand and he squeezed mine.

Such a little thing, but so profound when you know it’s probably the last time you’ll see someone you love so much.

Uncle Charles died Monday, Oct. 26, in Batesville, Ark.

He, too, was a special uncle to me. One of the two pastors who preached his funeral on Thursday talked about what a sweet spirit he had, the other about his being a good friend and wise counselor. Okay, yes, those things were true. But what overpowers my memory about Charles Taylor was that he was mischievous. His antics – like licking his finger and swiping it across your eyeglasses, or pulling your hair ribbon that your mom had tied just-so – were what we talked about after the funeral, my aunts and cousins and I.

He was a mischief-maker and all-around fun-loving guy. But the truest thing that was said about him on Thursday was that he loved his family. No doubt about that. He doted on his wife and daughters and grandchildren.

But what I thought about as we were pulling out of the church parking lot on the way to bury my Uncle Charles was not about the dead, but about the living.

About how much I love my brother.

About how I don’t need to wait until someone’s gone to express my feelings.

I’m not sure whether JT noticed that I hugged him a little longer than usual the last time I saw him – the weekend I said my unspoken goodbye to Uncle Charles in the hospital.

Maybe Bruce’s illness has hit me harder the past couple of years than I have spoken about. (Bruce might disagree that I have left anything unsaid.) We have decided to move to Batesville to be closer to Mom, JT and his girls, not to mention the aunts, uncles, cousins and church family I left behind 23 years ago in search of adventure.

That was half my life ago (I will turn 47 this month). And half a life is enough time to start appreciating the good fortune I had to grow up in a small town (two small towns, actually), where the people at the bank not only know you by name, but they’ve known you since before you knew you wanted to leave them for “bigger and better things.”

The good fortune to grow up with parents who stayed married to each other to the end, with a brother who – even amid sibling conflict of sometimes-epic proportions – still managed to love his little sister in ways that surprised her.

My brother and I are polar opposites. He makes friends easily and I have to know you awhile before I trust you. He goes on gut reaction, while I psychoanalyze everything before making a single move. He can’t sit still for more than five minutes, and I’d spend an entire day reading a good book if I had the time. Et cetera.

Despite our different approaches to life, our basic moral values are the same. After all – despite opinions and theories to the contrary – we came from the same womb.

We were raised by the same two parents, who taught us both to love God, country, apple pie and baseball. (Although the subject of baseball, in itself, casts suspicion on that conclusion – he’s a darn Yankees fan!) [Note: Since reading this post, JT has made it clear that, while he does enjoy a good Yankees slugfest, his veins bleed Cardinal red.]

My bubby is a real guy. He hunts, watches sports ad nauseam, plans Friday-night card games with his friends, mans the grill when we get together for barbecues. And, even though he has two daughters, he doesn’t quite get all that “girlie stuff.”

That’s all okay – in fact it’s the way it’s supposed to be – even though he is not exactly like me. (Would our mother be able to handle it if he were?!)

Like Uncle Charles, and Uncle Bill, and Dad, my brother JT loves his family. Even though the ways he demonstrates it may be subtle at times, it’s an undeniable fact. (He has a big heart, but he’s more likely to express his feelings in deeds than words.)

He calls my mother, his next-door neighbor (actually, their back yards adjoin), every day. When he’s on the night shift, he calls her from work before her bedtime. When he needs to know (or tell) something, he calls her. He is protective of her, as he should be. He buys her groceries for her, mows her lawn, drives her to work when the streets are icy. I’m grateful, because I’m too far away to be of much help with those everyday, practical things.

JT and Mom are so much alike, just as Dad and I were alike. They “get” each other in ways I’ll never understand. I’m glad. I’m glad to know she has him to take care of her in ways big and small.

And when Bruce and I move to Batesville (Lord willing), my brother will take care of us. And we’ll take care of him.

Isn’t that the way it should be?

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Random thoughts 09/12/09

I got e-mail from my cousin Teri tonight, and she mentioned that she still checks my blog for news occasionally. I’m surprised anyone still checks, because I haven’t been posting much lately, mainly because I don’t have a lot of time to devote to one particular subject.

I’ve had a lot of ideas but none that could be summed up briefly in a post that wouldn’t put you to sleep. So tonight I’m just going to share snippets of what’s been going on in and around me lately:

  • My good friend Lynn’s husband, Doug, died this week. He was only 41 and left behind a wonderful wife and two kids, Doug and Jake. They’re still in shock; pray for them. (Lynn’s mom died last year, so this must be doubly devastating for her.) Lynn and Doug would have celebrated 19 years of marriage next month. Bruce and I had only just met Doug six months ago, when Jacob was in the state spelling bee (he took 7th place). Bruce had met Lynn only once – at Dad’s funeral in 1997. But when we got together for lunch after the spelling bee, we all hit it off, especially Bruce and the kids. The boys are very smart, and it was obvious their dad was very proud of them.
  • Two couples from my church family lost sons this week. One died in a car wreck, and I’m not sure about the other, as that family had begun attending Fellowship in Little Rock and I had lost track of them. Losing a child comes with its own special kind of pain – pain that I can’t even imagine. Pray for the Holaways and the Carltons. Another friend from church lost a sister. Pray for the Palmers.
  • My high school typing teacher, Mrs. Seibert, died this morning. She was a unique character and well loved by her students. If you were on her good side on a particular day, you were a “dumplin’,” but if you messed up you were a “donkey.” No matter which name she called you, you knew it was a term of endearment. I can still hear the way she said it, in that throaty voice with a Southern twang. Click here to read a tale one former BHS student told about Mrs. Seibert last year. (You’ll have to scroll down a bit to find his March 12, 2008, post.)
  • We had to pony up $2,100 on car repairs this week, and the guy who fixed it recommended another repair that will cost at least a few hundred more. ARRGH! On the bright side, this was the first major repair we’ve had to have done on this car, which is eight years old (we’ve owned it for three). And a repair bill sure beats monthly car payments.
  • I haven’t posted about this because life was too hectic at the time, but I started working on a second degree this summer. My hope is to get a bachelor’s degree, or at least an associate’s, in business (so I can find a job in Batesville and we can be near my mom, brother and lots of other family). I took Accounting I at the local community college, and I enrolled in Accounting II but had to withdraw the first week of classes because …
  • In early August I started experiencing some heart problems related to my October 2008 diagnosis of mitral valve prolapse. They strapped a bunch of electrodes on me for 24 hours of EKG monitoring, but that didn’t tell them enough, so now I have a monitor that I keep with me for 30 days and record any “event” that I deem significant. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you consider that they charged me more than $900 for it the minute it was in my possession), I stopped having the major pounding episodes within 24 hours of getting the 30-day monitor. I still have a couple of weeks to go, but the worries have stopped. All my “episodes” the past two weeks have been mild – no worse than the usual ones I’ve been having for a long time. I think most of the recent symptoms were stress related, partly because …
  • Bruce has been fighting a urinary tract infection and prostatitis for the past couple of months. We spent a few hours in the ER on July 3 (because it was a Friday before a holiday weekend and all his doctors’ offices were closed) after his temperature hit 103. He’s been taking antibiotics and another new drug (new to us) ever since. He’s been having to give blood and urine samples every couple of weeks.
  • One of Bruce’s maintenance meds, Cimzia, may soon become a thing of the past for us. We had been getting it at no charge because after he lost his job our income plummeted and we were considered a charity case. Now that he has started drawing Social Security, the drug company may drop us from the program. But even though our income has gone up a bit, we won’t be able to afford the once-a-month injections, which cost $1,800 (yes, $1,800 for one shot in the stomach once a month!).

I guess that’s enough depressing news. What’s something cheerful I can tell you? Um …

  • I’ve been baking again. That makes me happy! 🙂 (I have to tell you, I feel a little guilty about the happy thoughts, in light of all the sad news around me this week.)
  • Bruce’s birthday is Tuesday (9/15). He’ll be 50! Mom, J.T. and I pitched in and got him a 12-string guitar. He’d been wanting one for a long time, and we gave it to him early. He’s been so happy playing that thing; he has played it just about every day since he got it. And I found the perfect T-shirt to go with it. It has a little stick man playing the guitar and smiling hugely, and it says “Life is good.” The shirt came in just one color: green, which is Bruce’s fave. And the skinny little stick man looks just like him!
  • On the recommendation of my cousin Pam, I checked out a great book from the library: “Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces.” It’s the sequel to “Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens.” It has made me start thinking about growing plants (both flowers and vegetables) that I’ve never grown before. I went to the local garden center first thing this morning and just walked around and took notes, then I went to the library and checked out some gardening encyclopedias and I came home and started doing some Internet research. Oh, but before that I bought a couple of pretty pots and a couple of new mums. I bought a pretty little pot and a little bronze-colored mum for the kitchen, and it looks so sweet in there, because …
  • We got new kitchen counter tops this summer. Yes, after 10 years of looking at those 1972 green counter tops that we had been planning to replace ever since we bought the house, we finally had the money to do it, because …
  • We refinanced the mortgage and used a little bit of the equity to make a few home improvements. We not only replaced the counter tops, we bought paint. Bruce is painting the kitchen cabinets white (before-and-after photos to come, but not until it’s all finished and beautiful), and we painted the laundry room, because …
  • We got new linoleum downstairs in the laundry room, spare bathroom and hallway. Maybe I’ll post before-and-after pictures of the laundry room when I’m not so tired. It looks great down there, too. The old flooring was also from 1972 (gold and dirty). The laundry room was yellow, and now it’s blue (my favorite color) and white, and it looks so clean and bright. I replaced the really old curtains with a nice, crisp white pair. I love it!
  • Our women’s group at church is starting a new Beth Moore Bible study on Monday. I’m so excited, because it’s about my favorite book of the Bible: Esther. The last Beth Moore study I got to participate in was on Daniel, and it was awesome! I can’t wait to dive into “Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman.”

And that is where I’m going to end this post – on a happy, positive note. Because, despite all the hard things that have happened this year, I know I can still put my trust in the One who said, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

God is good.

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