Ode to a cuppa joe

Disclaimer: I am not a poet, and this is not poetry. (This will be shocking news to some, I realize.) I’m just trying to find little wisps of joy in my everyday life. And a cuppa joe produces a giddy kind of joy on an otherwise mundane day.

Besides, the only kind of award I could win with my “poetry” is a spot in the Bad Poetry Contest hall of fame. If they had a hall of fame. (Do they?)


The trouble with TV
It is two-dimensional
Ask my dogs.
Folgers, Maxell House
Even “Hal and Duke”
Can’t make me want a cup of coffee.
They can’t make me a cup of coffee.

But my pals at MorningSide can.

They know me.
No whipping cream, save the sleeve
(While saving the planet)
Grande, whole milk, the real deal.

The aroma as we waft to my car
On the air of a precious Friday morning
Makes me want to stop right there and sip.
No … slurp!
It makes a workday morning seem …


The aroma can turn a steaming cup of brew
Into liquid gold.

It can turn a cuppa joe into
A transcendental experience,
Spur me to write bad poetry.

Behold, the elegance,
The power,
Of a good brew.

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Blogging from A-Z – kids and running

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “K.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)


RunningIsFunAt my small rural church many years ago, folks would file out of the sanctuary after the sermon and congregate on the lawn, the sidewalks, the parking lot … anywhere just to talk.

Or, in the case of the little kids, to run around and just be kids.

I didn’t realize how seriously the kids took this playtime until one day I heard an exchange between young Adam and his mom, who on this day apparently didn’t have the usual time for chitchat. The family just needed to load up in the car and leave.

Carol: “Adam, we have to go.”
Adam: “But I didn’t get to run!”

Simple enough. In Adam’s mind, post-church fellowship meant burning off energy outdoors.

For a kid, that’s what running is. It’s not the chore that we adults sometimes make it (me included). For kids, running is a joyful, freeing experience.

Funny thing is, they don’t think about it much.

Like the adults do. Obsessively.


One of the great things about being part of a busy running community – especially one with young families – is getting to see the kids run … for fun. Some of them – lots of them, in fact – win medals or trophies, but I imagine that most of them do it for fun, at least when they’re younger.

So, in honor of the kids in the White River Roadrunners club, the kids who run in our local races (around Batesville, Ark.) and just kids in general, here are a few scenes I like:

Erynn finishing the Kids Mini-Mile at the Go! Mile, 2014.
Shawn Jr. getting ready for the Prediction Run, 2014.
Clara, Darcy and Mom Amanda at the women's running clinic, 2012.
Clara, Darcy and Mom Amanda at the women’s running clinic, 2012.
Keira and mom Marie.
Keira and mom Marie.
Ashley Beller and her brood, from left: Millie, Esther and Elijah, 2014.

“There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life. But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint. So, too, are you. Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be.”

– George Sheehan


Monday: L is for C.S. Lewis.

Follow me on twitter: @OakleySuzyT

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Blogging from A-Z – Highland games and Scottish heritage

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “H.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)


Arkansas Scottish Festival 2015My dad used to say bagpipes sounded like “a squashed duck.” It was one of the few things we disagreed on. I’m in love with the instrument, which is most commonly associated with Scotland. (No, I don’t play it – I just enjoy listening.)

As we get ready to welcome the annual Arkansas Scottish Festival to Batesville this weekend, I’ve had some of the traditional bagpipe melodies running through my head.

My second-favorite part of the festival is the Parade of Clans and Bands, which happens at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the courtyard of the Lyon College campus. During this time, festivalgoers gather to watch all the pipe bands march in together, playing as one.

I have “Scotland the Brave” coursing through my brain even as I write.

The festival is one way Lyon showcases its Scottish heritage. Folks come from all over the world to celebrate Scotland.

Oh, the kilts.

As I think about the part of the festival that’s long been my favorite, I get a bit melancholy.

Alex Beaton, whose music was a popular part of the festival for many years, was paralyzed in an accident in 2011 and is no longer able to travel to the festival. You can read more at Alex’s website.

Even though he won’t be there, he’s a part of the festival’s history and I want to share a little bit of him with you.

Alex is a storyteller and has entertained crowds all over the world with his beautiful Scottish ballads, but his sense of humor also comes through in songs such as The Scotsman. This clip from another festival contains that song, along with “Mary Mack” and a song I’m not familiar with (“Come Along,” perhaps?).


We miss Alex and wish him the best. Say prayers for Alex and his wife, Linda. He recently endured a five-month hospital stay and seems to have continuing health challenges. (I know a bit about that, as I had a cousin who was a quadriplegic. There always seemed to be something to deal with.)

Here’s another clip where his personality shines through, and it also contains another favorite sad song of mine: “The Massacre of Glencoe.” I hope you enjoy Alex as much as I do.

But bagpipes and balladeers aren’t the only things you’ll enjoy at the Arkansas Scottish Festival. Besides food, traditional music and a British car show, there are dogs! …

Sheep dog demonstrations – another favorite part of the fun. You just need to go and watch.

… and there are contests – bonniest knees, dance, piping competition, caber toss – a feast & ceilidh, a Sunday morning church service outdoors, a book sale and much more.

This year they’ve added a Highland Adventure Race, which I would totally do if I weren’t a wimp (people, I would turn myself over in the kayak and drown). But it sounds like so much fun! (Can someone please explain the Asparagus Toss to me? Please don’t tell me it has to do with “losing your lunch”).

There just isn’t room to list all the fun, so you’ll have to go see for yourself (or click here to download the schedule and map). Take your dogs; they’ll love it too.

And did I mention that admission is FREE?

Arkansas Scottish Festival and highland games
April 11-12
Admission: FREE
Lyon College
2300 Highland Rd.
Batesville, AR 72501


Tomorrow: I is for “Intentional Walk,” a book review.

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

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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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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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Only half the BS, but twice the fun!

One of my favorite things about being married to Bruce is that we laugh a lot. We laugh at our dogs, at each other, at life – at pretty much everything. We’re pretty silly people, and we love to laugh.

Laughter is healing. Just two weeks ago, we attended the memorial service of a dear friend … and we laughed. The chaplain and the loved one’s son – both of them spoke at the service and told funny stories of the person who had just died. In the car on the way to and from the service (a six-hour round trip), Bruce and I, along with my mother, reminisced about our friend … and laughed. Barney would have liked that.

While Bruce and I are similar in many ways (both analytical, pragmatic, left-brained types, both trained journalists [it’s how we met], both lovers of words and books), we are also very different in some ways (the key difference being our approach to matters of faith; I’m a born-again Christian, and he’s an atheist).

And while we have similar senses of humor, there are some differences: He’s more into things like Monty Python than I am. I’m more into a toned-down version of MP; give me Food Network’s Alton Brown any day (he’s the best comedy writer on TV, in my opinion). Bruce likes AB, too, but I am more likely to watch a Good Eats marathon, while he is more likely to watch all of the Monty Python movies or TV episodes without moving from his spot on the couch – while I do a few loads of laundry, pay some bills, balance the checkbook, bake something, paint my fingernails, write a blog post, check my email and catch a few episodes of Law & Order on the other TV. (But the division of household labor is for another post … which, in the interests of marital unity, probably will never get written.)

Bruce and I are both “writers.” At the art and craft of writing, he is the more elegant. When we were copy editors at the same newspaper, he could write me under the table when it came to headlines – still can. He has a way with words, both written and spoken, that I don’t possess. I plod along, hoping to make someone think, or do, or laugh (and a combination of the three wouldn’t hurt); my writing kind of disappears into its pedestrian nature. (The same could be said of our running styles. He is efficient, light on his feet, can finish a workout in no time flat, and I’m there plodding along, just trying to get enough oxygen to my lungs so that I don’t collapse before the finish. I wear shoes marketed to “heavy runners.”)

Sometimes he and I follow the rules, and sometimes we break them, but usually not the same ones at the same time. I’m more likely to be rigid and legalistic in how things should be done, and more likely to be frustrated with him for not following said rules … until it’s the other way around. Sometimes he chooses to be the good boy, standing in contrast to my rebellious streak.

And a lot of the ways we communicate, with others and with one another, are different. That can be frustrating at times (he’s sanguine on some topics that I think are important and worth some effort, and I try to put a positive spin on things sometimes when he tends to be negative; we both can get defensive and a little testy when we’re tired or stressed, but usually it’s not at the same time – there again, we tend to balance each other out).

With the “positive spin,” you never know which pole one of us will be sitting on. OK, sometimes you know. For instance, when our merry band of runners (I’m talking about the remnants from the women’s running clinic, not the local, official running club we belong to) gets together on a new course for the first time, the ladies always ask Coach Bruce the route. “Are there a lot of hills?” is one of the first questions.

I quickly figured out – and I try to spread this gospel – that when you need information about hills, you don’t ask Bruce. Talk to Suzy.

Bruce has been running for three-quarters of his 52 years. He refers to hills as “bumps.” Suzy will give you the straight talk. She is a newbie like you, overweight and overstressed, physical ailments, job pressures, crunchy knees, whiny attitudes and all. Coach Bruce is not trying to put a “positive spin” on hills; he actually believes they are MERELY BUMPS. We have established in previous posts that he is insane (I believe he was brainwashed in running school), so we know that when you want to talk hills – unless you’re in a gas-powered vehicle – talk to Suzy.

So when we were wogging (walking/jogging) this morning, I by myself because my surgically “repaired” knee was feeling funky, I got to thinking about hills, and the different ways that Bruce and I approach them (not so much physically but philosophically).

And I came up with this handy formula that pretty much fits the way we approach most matters of communication:

(B + S) / 2 = A

In words: Take what Bruce says, add what Suzy says, divide by two, and there’s your Answer, somewhere in the middle.

So if you just remember that simple formula, you’ll get only half the BS but twice the fun. And you’ll be A-OK.

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20 pounds and then some

Before I get to today’s news about me (it’s always about me, right?), I want to give a special shout out to Chelsea Willis, a young Batesville woman who has won two gold medals this week in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece. (She won golds in the 400- and 800-meter relays.) Way to go, Chelsea! You are showing us what can be accomplished with hard work and determination, and you are making Arkansas proud.

Today at our weigh-in at work, the scale showed a 2-pound loss. Finally! The past two Fridays I had lost less than a pound and was a bit frustrated. When we began the first Biggest Loser contest in February, I didn’t care whether I won or lost – I just wanted to have the accountability. By the end, when I had been in the lead for a few weeks, I wanted to win it (and I did). Now, in this second go-round, I definitely have become competitive about it. But I’m really just competing with myself – I have no idea how anyone else is doing, except for one co-worker who recently started sharing her successes with me. She has lost about 22 or 23 pounds to my 20.6, but she had more to start with so my percentages are better. And Biggest Loser is about percentage, not actual pounds.

So, back to the exciting news of the day: I’ve met my 20-pound goal, and then some – a total of 20.6 pounds, to be precise (and we all know I like to be precise).

Of course I have to maintain the 20-pound loss for a week before I can reward myself (in case it was a fluke, or some kind of scale malfunction, or I pig out next week and gain 6 pounds). I’ve changed my reward from a pair of sandals (more expensive than my new idea, plus I’m not sure my injured foot is ready for wedge sandals yet). I can get a six-month subscription to Runner’s World magazine for $9.97, so that will be my reward. I’m told the Sara Low Memorial 5K (Sept. 10 in Batesville) will be featured in the August issue.

(In case you don’t know, Sara was a Batesville High School grad and a flight attendant for American Airlines. She was on the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center on 9/11. One of her high school running buddies, Mindy, co-founded the 5K in her honor five years ago. This year is the 10th anniversary of 9/11, so my guess is that the Runner’s World feature will focus on that. It would be nice to read of other memorial races relating to 9/11.)

Thursday evening Bruce and I went to a planning meeting for the Sara Low race. If you’re looking for a way to contribute to the local running community, let me tell you we need volunteers for this race. Post a comment letting me know you’d like to help, or e-mail Ken McSpadden at macandmichelle@sbcglobal.net).

I would love to run the Sara Low race, but we’ll have to see. Despite the fact that I still have a bum foot and my right knee is a mess, I’ve still been running (I’m registered for next Saturday’s Army National Guard 5K at Lyon College, the route we’ve been training on for the past three weeks), but I have an appointment Tuesday to get my knee examined. (No news on when I will get my head examined.) If my doc sends me to a specialist, and that specialist recommends knee surgery, I won’t be able to run the Sept. 10 race. Bruce and I will be traveling in early August, so any potential surgery would have to wait until after that. This would put me out of commission in September, I assume.

Despite how crazy the thought might have been eight months ago (just before I started exercising again), I really have come to appreciate running in a way I never did before.

I have to admit it’s a love-hate relationship, but mostly love:

  • I love the health benefits (my foot and knee problems notwithstanding), and I love the feeling I get when I’m finished, or when I’m about to be finished. I love that I’ve learned to push through pain and discomfort – although it could be argued that I haven’t had much to challenge me in that area; I’ve never run more than a 4-mile course, I’ve never had to run on ice, etc., etc. I love the sense of accomplishment, even when what I’ve accomplished is minuscule. I love seeing the progress I’ve made, even when it’s slow and barely noticeable. I love how it has helped me to shed more than 20 pounds in less than five months.
  • I love being outdoors, even when it’s hot, humid, cold, dry, wet or wild. I haven’t told you, but I got caught in the thunderstorm that popped up early Tuesday morning. I was up on Main Street when the wind started blowing hard, headed back home when the rain started coming down hard, and really hustling when the gravel and dust from the overpass started flying into my eyes. It was kinda scary and kind of exhilarating at the same time. (Yes, I know, I’m a lunatic.) The next morning a lady I see each day around 6:15 slowed her car, rolled down the window and said, “I was kinda worried about you yesterday morning in that storm.” I didn’t tell her, but I sure wouldn’t have turned down a ride home if she had offered it. I see and wave at some of the same nice folks driving (or walking or biking) by me every morning on my route, and I would have felt safe hitching a ride with her – at least safer than I felt in the storm!
  • I love, love, love the time I have to myself out on the streets of Batesville as the sun is coming up. Is there a more perfect time to talk to the Creator of the universe than when a new day is dawning?
  • I love that Bruce and I are working out together and growing closer because of it. I love that he has a team to coach and feels a sense of purpose that he lacked before we moved to Batesville. He really loves coaching the ladies, and they (we) really love him. Plus, I get the added benefit of having a live-in running coach! (So far the positives have far outweighed the negatives.) Check out Bruce’s blog for his running tips and encouragement.

I can’t think of much I hate about running right now, except maybe that I still don’t have much lung capacity despite the speed (albeit small) that I’ve gained (an indicator of increased fitness, so you’d think I could breathe better by now, darn it!). Several months ago Coach Bruce told me I might never have the lung capacity I long for. I’ve had respiratory issues, mostly mild but still nagging, for much of my life, so it’s just hard, hard, hard to breathe when I run. I guess time will tell whether I can ever run an entire race without walking. Argh!

But mostly my relationship with running is love.

And today I celebrate it because it has been a large contributor to my weight loss.

Did I mention that I reached my 20-pound goal today? I did? Good. Also remember that I started walking/running in mid-November, added the healthy-eating component in February but didn’t get serious about it until April 5. It has taken me nearly three months to achieve a 20-pound loss, but that’s okay. In fact, it’s appropriate – a healthy way to do it, mentally and physically.

Remember that when you tell yourself you can’t do it. When you don’t see any progress, or you see so little change on the scale – or in your breathing, or the tightness of your pants, or your blood pressure or cholesterol or triglycerides – remember that baby steps will get you where you want to go if you’re patient.

Remember, friends, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.


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Stop the insanity (pods)!

A giant insanity pod has descended upon me and has taken up residence on top of my head. For the past few days, it’s been trying to make its way through my dense thicket of hair to creep into my cranium and wreak havoc with my internal circuitry. It threatens to annihilate me if something is not done to stop it.

What is an insanity pod, you say? You won’t find the precise definition in any dictionary, but an insanity pod is much like the humidity pods that descend upon Arkansas about this time of year and don’t leave until October or November. It’s a presence you dislike, but you learn to live with it, much like you learn to live with oily skin, or a husband who steals the covers. Until it’s time to cry out, “Enough is enough!” or “Out, out, darn pod!”

But, unlike with the humidity pods, you have some measure of control – within predetermined parameters – over an insanity pod. For instance, you can control how large it gets and how long it stays attached to your brain – or whether it makes it past your scalp in the first place.

In case you have never heard of insanity pods, we offer this helpful Q&A:

How do insanity pods form? No one knows for certain how the first pod came to be, but it grew and spawned other pods (much like Amish friendship bread). They approach the most vulnerable victim first (they can tell who you are). They begin by spotting someone with an overloaded schedule, too much stress from the challenges of life, a poor diet, the inability to sleep through the night and a merely compulsory reading of the Word. To that they pile on more stress, which leads to impulse eating, more insomnia, uncontrollable drooling, chocolate cravings and a worried mother (well, that last one is just a fact of everyday life, but it becomes more obvious as the insanity pod tightens its invisible tentacles around your nerve endings).

How do insanity pods manifest? The list of symptoms is exhaustive, but, among other things, the pods cause forgetfulness, crankiness, night blindness, a messy house and the Scary Mama Voice when the dogs misbehave (which means when they act like themselves).

Who suffers from insanity pods? As mentioned above, the pods attack the most vulnerable members of society first. The most likely victim is female, age 35-55, premenopausal, works full time, goes to school part time, volunteers at church and takes care of children, an aging parent, a chronically ill spouse or at least two pets – or all of the above. (We should mention that the sufferers include not only the victim, but relatives and members of the victim’s work and social circles.)

What can a loved one of an insanity-pod sufferer do to help? Just stay out of the way, baby.

How does one “stop the insanity”? As with an addiction to alcohol, food, shopping, gambling or Dancing with the Stars, the insanity-pod sufferer, or IPS, must admit her affliction. That is the first and most crucial step. (If the malady is caught early enough, there is no need for a formal 12-step program.) Then she must recite the insanity – er, serenity – prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and sufficient distance from sharp or heavy objects that can be used as weapons.

The next step is to begin removing obstacles to sanity, starting with items (even seemingly important ones) on her social, business and volunteer calendars, even if others don’t understand why this is happening. Would they rather find out about it in the newspaper or on the 10 o’clock news? (“Disgruntled worker takes out 23 colleagues, then turns the staple gun on herself – coming up after the break!”)

Relief can be immediate, much like when an Alka-Seltzer grants the first gut-relieving belch. In fact, when the first one or two items fall off the calendar, the IPS begins feeling lighter and the furrowed brow begins smoothing out. Then recovery can begin in earnest.

Within weeks (or perhaps days, depending the sufferer’s commitment to the program) a balance has been struck – the schedule is more manageable, school is out for the summer, the sufferer’s mother and the dogs are speaking to her again, the husband has stopped sleeping on the sofa. At this point, it is probably safe to approach, but proceed with caution. There could be a relapse. It is best to monitor the IPS from a distance for a few days to be sure equilibrium has, indeed, been restored.

How can you tell when the insanity pod has left for good? As there is no immunization at this time, there is no way to permanently remove the threat of insanity pods. But you can minimize the risk by remaining vigilant. The sufferer should get adequate sleep and exercise, stay hydrated, restrict caffeine, take long baths, play with the dogs, spend time with her husband, immerse herself in a few pieces of quality literature (no, we’re not talking about People magazine), work/play in the garden, write in her blog, eat 1-2 ounces of dark chocolate daily, watch Saturday morning Food Network and/or HGTV, listen to music, visit her mother more often (this should go without saying), pray and read Scripture regularly, and start reading the Sunday funny pages again.

This way, when the fall semester begins and the cycle threatens to repeat itself, the insanity pod will be less likely to try to park its ugly head on top of this particular victim’s. It will simply move on to the next unsuspecting forty-something woman and try to suck out her brain.

Help researchers find a cure for insanity pods! Contribute your suggestions by leaving a comment below. Or just send me a check.

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Random comings and goings

Previously I have posted “random thoughts” when I just wanted to ramble, but tonight I just want to get some activities off my mind that I have been wanting to post about.

In no particular order, but starting with today:

  • This morning, Bruce and I had a good time bowling in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Central Arkansas fundraiser Bowl for Kids’ Sake. Our friend Betsy asked us to be on her team, and since we love to bowl and hadn’t done it in a long time, we decided we could spare the time for such a worthy cause. Betsy is on the board of the local chapter of BBBS. She was sick and didn’t get any sleep last night, so we persuaded her to stay home and rest. Her husband, Tommy, their son, Shane, and Tommy’s boss, Dave, formed the rest of our team. When I find my camera bag that contains the disk reader, I’ll post pictures. (This was my second or third event to photograph since I’ve misplaced the camera bag. I think I may have left it at UACCB, where I took pictures a couple of weeks ago. That’s the last place I remember taking the camera out of the bag. It also contains the battery charger and our extra set of rechargeable batteries. Rats!)
  • Bowling, Part 2: I bought a bowling ball 10 years ago, for two reasons: I am a wimp, and I have big hands (thanks, Dad). Previously when I went to a bowling alley I’d go for the lightest ball possible, but those very light ones are drilled for … children. Oh, that I had skinny little fingers that would fit those kid-size holes! Today, Tommy and I shared my 8-pound ball, which hasn’t had much use in the past few years (when Bruce’s most recent Crohn’s flare-up started, and even when he was in remission, he just didn’t have the endurance to bowl. And busy schedules prevailed). I mention the lack of use of the ball because that is the reason I’m sticking to – after reading all the messages boards about it – for why chunks began falling off my ball today as Tommy and I took turns using it. (Here is the message board where I got the most satisfactory answer.) By the end of our two games, there were not only several chunks missing but several cracks in my pretty little bowling ball (took pictures of that, too). Never expected that in my wildest bowling dreams!
  • I have managed to finish reading Chapter 12 for my Intro to Business class at UACCB, but I haven’t even started Chapter 13, which I’m supposed to have read by Monday night. The chapters are long (but interesting), and I’m a slow reader – at least if I actually want to retain the info. I’m enjoying the class, but it involves a lot of work. Our semester project involves building an imaginary business. I never thought I would have so much fun creating a gourmet bakery from scratch! I’m making up stuff right and left, such as my children Cookie and Chip (who will help run the business and someday inherit it, along with their half-brother, Courtney) and the fact that I won’t have to ask the bank for any loans. 🙂 It has been a good experience, although – again – time consuming.
  • I had a nap this afternoon. Naps are gooood.
  • Here’s something I was supposed to do today but didn’t: I skipped the first Saturday session of the Women Can Run clinic. I think I was bitten by the so-what bug, which kind of makes me mad at myself. I applaud the clinic leaders for committing their time to us, but when they said Thursday night that they would not be there Saturday morning if it was “pouring down rain,” I lost a little of my enthusiasm (this was not the first time they had disappointed me). So when I got to thinking about my busy day ahead, even though I was up and at ’em in plenty of time, and even though it was not “pouring down rain” at clinic time, I didn’t go. My plan was to run later in the day, but I got to studying, napping, reading ahead on my Connect+Scripture chapters (because our pastor’s wife lost her grandmother this week and they are supposed to write Monday and Tuesday’s posts – and until a few minutes ago I thought I might have to write them both) and maybe watching a little HGTV (“Designed to Sell,” which is going to help us sell our North Little Rock house by osmosis), so I sorta blew off the afternoon run, too. Do I feel guilty? Yes. But what’s done is done (or not done, in this case). Tomorrow is another day.
  • Tomorrow: We have missionaries to Albania speaking not only in our Sunday morning service but at our community group in the evening. Can’t wait to hear their testimonies. I always love hearing what God’s people are doing around the nation and the world, sacrificing their lives in service to Him. And I don’t know a whole lot about Albania, so it should be enlightening.
  • We are 99 percent finished painting all the dark rooms in our NLR house, as our real estate agent told us to do. We are 100 percent finished replacing the 1970s light fixtures – the other suggestion she made. We drove down there six weekends in a row to get those jobs finished, even though it killed us to do it, not only figuratively (beautiful rooms had to be painted blah-beige) but a tiny bit literally: The last time we were there, we were both sick and just couldn’t finish (although we worked on it 11 hours that day, not to mention the 180-mile round trip). As providence would have it, a couple of days later my cousin Matt got frustrated with his apartment search and asked us about renting the house. Voila! He moved in Sunday, and he said he would finish the last little bit of painting. We’re so grateful for that! I haven’t heard whether he has done the painting, but our agent is holding a Realtor open house Tuesday. So not only is Matt finishing the painting so we don’t have to spend the time and gas money to drive down and do it, he’s helping pay the mortgage with his rent money. Also, he said he’d water our nearly dead landscaping. Click here for the listing, in case you’re in the market for a 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 2,600-square-foot house that has had extensive updates in the past two years.
  • There are so many things I want to do right now but don’t have time for (such as housecleaning!). I’ve decided not to take a class this summer, and also by then the running clinic will be over, so those two things will free up three nights a week (and Saturday mornings) for me, not to mention the time I’ve had to spend studying and working on my semester project.
  • The church blog has been a blessing and a bit of a burden, although it’s a nice burden to have. Because the whole thing was my idea (to challenge the church to read the Bible in a year and then to get church members to blog about it five days a week), I was put in charge of it. Don’t get me wrong – every single thing about it is good except for the fact that it takes a lot of my time. There’s really no way around that, short of getting Bruce saved so he can be co-editor and one of the writers of the blog. 🙂 What I love about it: It unites church members in a common endeavor, it gets us to read the Bible daily (something I’m prone to put on the back burner unless I have a formal plan), it challenges those of us who are writing to really, really think and pray about what these Scriptures truly mean, and it gives different perspectives on God’s word. Iron sharpening iron.
  • In November I started exercising again, and in February I joined Weight Watchers Online, and I am struggling with the Weight Watchers part. For one thing (and this is most of it, but it is really just an excuse), they made major changes to the plan but quickly ran out of the electronic calculators to help count the daily points values of foods. The old system, which offered the option of an electronic calculator or a free slide-rule that came with the membership packet, eliminated, by necessity, the slide rule. I have been checking the website every day for weeks (I read that they were supposed to have more in stock by March 5 – today), but still no calculators. So, unless I’m near a computer, I can’t count my points. Again, that is an excuse, because I certainly could figure out the points at home at night or in the morning, then make sure I eat the corresponding foods during the day at work. I used to be able to decide to lose weight (or most anything) and just do it – now, God is telling me that was all an illusion. Without His help, I can do nothing. But I haven’t really been crying out to Him for help. That is my fatal flaw. Busyness is the enemy here; that’s one reason I’m taking the summer off from school – I’m neglecting so many things right now, including my family and my health (physical, mental and spiritual).
  • I have an appointment Wednesday with my cardiologist in NLR. It’s supposed to be my second “annual” checkup since my October 2008 diagnosis of mitral-valve prolapse, but apparently the doc’s staff doesn’t send reminders and it is up to me to schedule the appointment. I’m a big girl, but I didn’t schedule it last fall like I should have. Why? Because I’m a big girl. Last time I saw him, he gently told me I need to lose “a few pounds,” and I haven’t. I’m embarrassed to see him when I’m nearly as heavy as I was last time. It is not for lack of trying, but I just haven’t succeeded. (See previous item for explanation/excuse.)
  • John Mark just e-mailed me his Connect+Scripture post, so it’s time to stop rambling.

Thanks for listening! Post a comment and let me know what’s happening in your life.

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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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