I hadn’t quite finished reading the book by the time I had to write my “U” post. Now I’ve finished it, and I need to tell you some things about this remarkable man that didn’t get said in the movie vs. book analysis.
Feel free to read that post before continuing here. (It includes a link to an excerpt of the book.)
Kristen Lamb’s analysis talked about how the movie took shortcuts in character development. That’s a drawback any time you turn a book into a movie, but the book didn’t let me down in that department. The author, Laura Hillenbrand, has an attention to detail that makes her subjects jump off the page.
I felt what Louie and the other POWs felt – the rage, the helplessness, the hope … all the emotions Hillenbrand described. I could almost feel the belt buckle crashing into my own skull when the Bird knocked Louie down with it repeatedly. I could imagine the physical hunger, the fatigue, the pain of standing barefoot in the snow for hours, as one captive was forced to do.
The almost-tactile experience Hillenbrand provided me was due, in part, to her subject.
“Louie was good at really capturing in words exactly what something felt like,” Hillenbrand said in a New York Times Magazine interview last year.
The writer goes into great detail about Louie’s early life, his Olympic quest, his years in WWII (successful missions aboard a B-24, being shot down over the Pacific and the subsequent 47 days on a raft over shark-infested waters, then two years of deprivation and torture in a Japanese POW camp), and the postwar years – the bitterness, the rage, the depression. All the emotions.
And then the release and forgiveness once he comes to faith in God and realizes how much he, himself, has been forgiven.
Hillenbrand spent countless hours (over the course of seven years) poring over documents, photos, letters, diaries, clippings, websites, news footage and other media and conducting interview after interview (75 with Louie alone) to come up with a comprehensive profile of Louie, the Army Air Corps, aeronautics, the war, Japanese culture and POW camps. She saw the horrors of war and yet, like Louie, remained optimistic.
You may say, “What’s so special about Louie?” Lots of men and women have endured unspeakable hardship in wartime.
And I would respond, “Yes, but to tell Louie’s story is to honor all of those who have suffered.” I chose Louie’s story – or maybe Louie’s story chose me – because he was a runner, and runners inspire me – especially those who beat the odds.
And then the details of this life captivated me. Hillenbrand’s presentation of the facts is exquisite and heartbreaking … yet hopeful. Her book is not just a compilation of data – it’s the story of a man who kept getting knocked down … and got back up – over and over and over.
And somehow there was a purpose.
Hillenbrand’s telling of Louie’s story helped tell the stories of countless thousands. In turn, it has helped their families, some of whom said they learned details about the war that their loved ones had never spoken of. The back of the book features several letters and emails from veterans’ relatives thanking Hillenbrand for helping them understand.
Most of what I’ve read about World War II focused on the Nazis and their oppression and torture of Jews and those who helped the Jews. I don’t recall reading much about the war in the Pacific – specifically, about the brutal torture of Allied troops by the Japanese – so Unbroken brought a new perspective.
The book’s subtitle sums it up nicely: This is a story of survival, resilience and redemption.
And, I would add: HOPE.
Someday I’ll tell you what I learned about writer Laura Hillenbrand, who has overcome her own set of challenges to tell others’ remarkable tales. It, too, is a fascinating story. Meanwhile, you can read thisNew York Times Magazine interview with her.
We made it through the alphabet – thank you for hanging in there with me!
Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “P.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)
I really don’t know what quality I possessed as a 17-year-old that would prompt my journalism teacher to give me a poster depicting a kitten asleep on a flowerpot with a message about being at peace with yourself. Baffling me even more was the note she wrote on the back:
Posters were Miss Felts’ graduation gifts to the 10 of us, her journalism class. That’s us, below. Can you pick me out? (P.S. I went by my exact middle name, “Sue,” instead of Suzy, in 10th through 12th grades; it was easier.)
If Miss Felts thought I was “at peace with myself,” I’m not sure what kind of Kool-Aid she was in the habit of drinking (seems to me she drank Tab), but I dare say that was not the case 35 years ago.
It is much more the case today.
I wouldn’t say I’m totally at peace with myself, or my life in general, but I have learned that what I used to believe brought peace (the absence of conflict, the outward appearance of competence, “enough” money) is just an illusion.
After having walked my faith journey for so long (all my life, but beginning in earnest when I was in college), I’ve come to understand the things that bring true and lasting peace. (I know that ultimate peace comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.)
Miss Felts gave me that poster 35 years ago – two-thirds of my life ago – because she saw something in me, and I’ve never forgotten its message. I’ve never ceased to ponder the message itself, why my teacher gave it to me, or why, in my yearbook, she said I had been “a great inspiration” to her.
On the contrary, she was a great inspiration to me. (Funny how that works.)
The poster stayed on my bedroom wall – just north of my headboard – until a couple of years after my dad died, when Mom sold the house I grew up in. I didn’t even realize we still had the poster until recently. It resurfaced when we started rearranging some rooms, going through boxes and drawers, purging clutter.
Finding it again was like getting a surprise visit from an old friend.
In high school, journalism was my favorite class, Miss Felts my favorite teacher, and every memory of that time happy.
Maybe she is the reason I had peace – or at least a high school girl’s version of it – for that nine months of my life (plus our time in sophomore English). I was as angsty as any other teenage girl, and Miss Felts was a calming force during that hour every day when we “practiced journalism.”
Or at least she tried to be. With half a dozen boys in the class, most of them pranksters, we didn’t have many dull moments. And Miss Felts could give as good as she got. When one of us whined, her version of “sympathy” was to rub her index finger around in circles on her thumbnail. Something like this:
“You know what this is?” she said the first time she used it. “It’s the world’s smallest record player.” Or sometimes she’d do another finger motion for “the world’s smallest violin.”
Translation: I’m playing sad, sad music for you poor thing.
(Imagine really dramatic music during the above 2 seconds of video. Please imagine that, because otherwise it just looks like you’ve caught me rolling a booger.)
I didn’t set out today to write about high school, journalism class or my favorite teacher – or even peaceful felines in flowerpots – but I guess those things began to converge when I got to thinking about my writing of late. I was reading Stephen King’s book On Writing(I reviewed Part 1 yesterday) and simultaneously pondering my P topic for today. On my lunch break at work, I had written parts of two drafts about “perspective” and was dissatisfied with both. I did a virtual crumpling of the paper. (Don’t you miss paper sometimes?)
Then, for some reason, “peace” came to mind.
As I read the book, particularly the section about good writing and bad writing, that “competent” writers can become “good” writers – and how that can come to be – I realized that I’m slowing moving from being merely competent toward being a “good” writer (at least in my own estimation, which admittedly is often skewed in my favor).
And the reason for that is that I’m at peace with my writing.
That’s not to say I’m satisfied. That’s a different thing.
I’m at peace.
I’m free. I’m unself-conscious. (Well, not really, but less so than I used to be. I still feel the need to qualify everything in parenthetical phrases. I still over-explain. I still don’t trust you enough to get what I’m saying on your own.)
Not perfection. Peace.
Not every day, not every time. But there is evidence that it’s true.
I’m comfortable writing about boogers. (If Stephen King can talk about the newspaper he created in high school called The Village Vomit, I can write about boogers.)
I didn’t say it was good evidence.
Peace is hard-won. It takes practice. It takes deliberate action. (Sounds contradictory, I know. Peace should be a passive thing. But it isn’t. It isn’t. You have to cultivate it. Water it. Give it light.)
Knowing I can admit things here, in this space, and not fear your reaction – you may call it self-confidence, bravery, stupidity, reading too many Anne Lamott books, whatever.
I call it peace.
Miss Felts, I’m raising a glass of Kool-Aid to you.
Monday: Q is for … ??? Got any ideas? Toss ’em my way.
A few of us (two dozen, maybe?) are regulars on the Facebook page that was set up during the challenge, and many of them continue to “ship” every day. Every single day. They have caught the bug!
I’ve been a member of another blogger group for a while, but most of those writers are Southern chicks (whom I love), and, while each one offers a fresh perspective not only on what it means to be a woman living in the South (or a Southern woman living elsewhere) but on what it means to be a part of the human race, I wasn’t expecting this new perspective. For these Southern women and their blogs I’m grateful; they bring me joy and inspiration.
But this new group – this “tribe” from the YT Challenge – was an unexpected source of joy and inspiration, too. These writers inspire me from all over the world, all sorts of backgrounds (writers, musicians, martial artists, glassblowers, teachers, scientists, marketing gurus, attorneys, Renaissance men, feminists, home-schoolers … and some of those even come in the same package!), every age and level of life experience. Just … gosh!
So, for the past couple of weeks, those guys are the ones I’ve been reading online. And until some of them get tired of posting every day (not all of us can keep it up indefinitely), I’ll be reading them and sharing some of their posts with you, along with other discoveries that make me laugh, smile, think or do.
Here’s the Weekly Wrap-up for Feb. 7, 2015.
At my monthly reading group this week, I learned three things of note:
I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t get into the February book, Swimming by Nicola Keegan. In fact, only one of us read the entire book before Tuesday’s meeting. (I do plan to read it all. Eventually.)
Our March meeting will be a field trip! Southern novelist and Heasley Prize winner Tom Franklin will be in town on our usual meeting night (March 3), so we’re going to hear him at Lyon College. I might even take a super-early lunch break that day and attend the “public interview” with Franklin. And I definitely plan to try out his books (two are available at our county library), as I’d never heard of him until Tuesday. Here’s his Amazon page.
Bonus points if you can tell me where the phrase Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (the title of Franklin’s 2010 novel) came from. (If your mama is from the South, as mine is, you learned this as a child.)
Harper Lee’s first novel, “Go Set A Watchman” (the story that she rewrote that became the Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my top 3 favorites), will be released July 14. How in the heck did I miss that? Preorders have already reached No. 1 on Amazon, and Mockingbird orders had reached No. 1 as of Friday. According to The Wall Street Journal article, the news of this long-forgotten manuscript’s release “has captivated and shocked the literary world.” Well, yeah.
Speaking of reading, I was happy to see YTC tribe member Eric’s admonition, Never Stop Reading. In the past year, through my book group and the great suggestions of an author friend, I’ve rediscovered the joys of fiction, although nonfiction continues to maintain its tight grasp on me. But whatever reading you do, keep doing it – and if you’re a parent, teach your kids the importance of reading (teach them to love it by reading to them when they’re young). Eric even offers a suggestion that takes away the excuse, “I don’t have time to read.”
I linked to Elissa’s blog last week, and after reading just a few posts, I can already tell I’ll be sharing her with you again. Not only does she express herself beautifully, she writes about things I like to read about (even things I didn’t know I was interested in!). Win-win! This time she asked me (and you, too, by proxy) if I want to get vulnerable, take a risk and join her in a new adventure. Read what she means by Who Wants to Get Naked? I said yes.
Randy wants to inspire the over-50 crowd that it’s not too late to make a difference. As a 52-year-old (who still feels like a 26-year-old, except for those days when my body creaks like it’s 104), I applaud him for dedicating himself to proving that we’re still vital members of the human race and have wisdom, insights and the ability to act on our convictions. From Randy’s About page:
“My goal is to provide a place where we assemble a tribe that invades and conquers life after 50. This is more than surviving. This is about exploring, thriving and conquering.” YES!
The Incognito Blogger finds stories that inspire her (and us) to “Prepare, Go Hard and Don’t Quit.” In this post she asks, What are you willing to go through in order to reach your goals? The words in the graphic at the top of my post are largely the words that popped into my head when I read these stories, and especially when I viewed the short video of James Robertson. Be sure to watch that; it really is short. (And I have a feeling it would inspire Randy Hartman.)
I wish I could share every single good thing I’ve read this week, because there is much, much more (I said that last week, didn’t I?). There are just so many good things out there, if you know where to find them. The Weekly Wrap-up is my way of helping you find them. I hope you enjoy the list.
“I choose to look at that brain tumor as the greatest gift I could’ve gotten – because it made everything else possible.”
– Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton
By the time Saturday morning arrived, I was beyond ready for my pity party. My teammates – fellow fundraisers for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Team Challenge program – were about to run the Walt Disney World Half Marathon without me.
In fact, by the time I got up at 6 a.m., most of them were probably more than half-finished – it was 7 a.m. in Florida, and the race started at 5:30.
I had signed up for the race in the spring, and this was going to be my second half-marathon, after having withdrawn from a similar event in 2013 because of health problems.
I had been oh-so-excited to receive this note from my team manager a few weeks later:
It accompanied my training shirt – the one that was going to see me through weeks and weeks of long runs as I prepared for the Disney half.
I hadn’t planned to “do another Team Challenge race in 2014.” The previous year had been so challenging – healthwise, financially and emotionally – that Bruce and I decided I needed the break from long-distance training and the pressure of fundraising.
The fundraising is the hard part. The running, not so much. (I love the running part!)
But when the Disney half opportunity came up in late spring, the email made it so tempting:
“Our alumni are the first to know – Team Challenge has a BRAND NEW event. We’re headed to the happiest place on earth on January 10, 2015 for the SOLD OUT Walt Disney World Half Marathon! As an alum, you have the opportunity to get one of the TC entries before they’re open to the general public!”
This hit me on so many levels: “first to know” (I’m special); “alum” (I’m part of a select group); “SOLD OUT” (an opportunity too great to pass up!); Disney (a hugely popular race series, not to mention family destination).
So I signed up.
I began training and fundraising, and soon my shirt and the special note from Mickey arrived. 🙂
But this was about the same time that I also decided it was time to tell my doc about my increasingly worrisome blood pressure problems. Before my heart surgery in September 2013 (the reason I withdrew from the previous Team Challenge half-marathon), my BP had always been slightly below normal. Since the surgery, it had been high – the opposite of what one would expect after the surgery.
So we began the task of regulating it with medicine. I was hoping the doc would suggest something else, but that’s what we tried. We tweaked the medication all summer, with me monitoring and logging the BP readings taken at home (and continuing to train for the half), until one day, at a follow-up appointment in November, my doctor issued this plea:
“I wish you wouldn’t run any long distances until we get it stabilized.”
(Not her first time to admonish me about distance races.)
If Bruce hadn’t been at that appointment with me, and agreed with the doctor, I might have balked. But he is NOT AT ALL conservative about running. Annoyingly not.
So I agreed.
I withdrew from another Team Challenge event.
Fast forward to yesterday. (Although I had stopped participating in the weekly conference calls, I had remained on the team’s Facebook group – wisely or unwisely – and I continued to get team updates, travel info and training tips.) By the end of the week, the Facebook updates were at a fever pitch. Teammates were EXCITED, as expected. They posted travel plans, arrivals, where-to-meet plans, race expo updates, pasta party pics, post-race meet-ups, and on and on. Photos like this:
If I’d been there I would have done the same thing. I would have been ALL up in it, complete with tweets, posts, text messages to friends, calls to Mom – the works. But I wasn’t.
So by Saturday I had worked myself up to a sad mess.
I am happy – truly happy – for my teammates (most of whom I’ve never even met, except in video conference calls and on social media). They had a great time and – let’s not forget: They (we) raised $150,000 toward curing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. With this ONE event, two-dozen people raised $150,000. (My part of that, before I withdrew, was about $3,600.) I helped bring us $150,000 closer to curing my husband’s disease. (That doesn’t count the other Team Challenge teams that raised money during Disney; I don’t know their totals.)
Sometimes I forget the big picture when I’m feeling left out.
But, finally, I remembered to do what I’m supposed to do at all times (even when life isn’t an immediate mess):
The pithy bumper sticker says: “When in doubt, pray.”
Putting my pity party on hold to pray helped me remember some things from my reading plan earlier in the day:
Those who are inclined toward God – who love him and want to do his will – will hear the voice of wisdom and respond. Those who have little depth and no desire for God – who can’t see beyond themselves and the present moment – will hear the voice of folly and respond. Two voices, two kinds of hearts; as a result, two drastically different journeys. (From Once a Day 31 Days of Wisdom.)
I want to have a heart that inclines itself to God, not to folly. Not to self-pity, or resenting the success or happiness of others. A HEART FOR GOD.
By the time I ran across this 10-minute video, my attitude was starting to shape up. Please take the time to watch it, even if you don’t remember Scott Hamilton from his glory days, even if you’re not into figure skating. Scott was an athletic superstar when testicular cancer sidelined him. Then, later, a brain tumor. And he lost his mom to cancer.
“I think I’m probably more known for my health problems now than for anything I ever did on skates,” he said. Scott could have let cancer stop him dead in his tracks.
BUT HE SAW THE BIGGER PICTURE.
Watching this video, just 10 minutes and 27 seconds of someone else’s journey, put my “problem” in perspective.
Now that you’ve watched it, and considered your own journey, what attitude will you choose? What will your life be about? It’s all a choice.
“She died of cancer, and I survived. What’s my purpose now?”
Trust me, I know. In general, I’ve wasted time comparing myself to others’:
“Success” (as the world defines it).
Fill in the blank ________________.
We tend to assume we’d be happier if we had that person’s sunny personality, sense of style, talent, bank balance, great job, beautiful house, smart kids, well-trained pet … you know what I’m talking about.
Whatever is wrong in my life, I think it can be solved by changing some external aspect of it. (It’s probably why I get my hair highlighted every few months, why I have too many shoes, why my house-clutter bothers me so much.)
But running – and all the challenges and triumphs that come with it – has taught me a few things about comparison. So much of what is running for me involves other people. I not only run with people, I read books, magazines and websites about running, I listen to podcasts about running (resource list below), and – perhaps most importantly – I live with a runner whose passion for the sport rivals that of any elite runner I’ve ever watched, read about or listened to.
Comparing yourself to others (runners, writers, singers, entrepreneurs) can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can draw inspiration from their triumphs and their ability to articulate what the activity has meant to them and what they’ve learned from it.
After my heart surgery last year, I ran across this quote from Olympic marathoner and all-around-awesome runner chick Shalane Flanagan, and I pinned it to the wall of my cubicle at work:
(Until then, I had it all wrong: I thought it was, “Keep your head down; keep looking for loose change!” 🙂 )
Comparison has its pluses, but, for the most part, it simply ties us up in knots. Try running a mile all twisted up and see how far you get! Or write a blog post (letter to the editor, business memo, whatever) and see if it moves anyone to positive action. More likely, your readers will be so distracted by how hard you were trying that they miss the message.
At the very least, comparison is unproductive. It keeps us from reaching our goals, from fulfilling our purpose.
And what are we really trying to accomplish with comparisons? If you’re like me, you want to move forward in life, to progress, to change, to grow, to become an all-around better person. I want to MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.
I will continue to learn from others’ successes and failures so that I’ll be more likely to succeed, less likely to fail.
But my own individual success (and how I define it) depends largely on my uniqueness. On being the person the Creator of the universe made me. On depending on Him and trusting the plan He has for my life (using HIS criteria for success). He’s interested in my interests – He hasn’t written a cookie cutter Plan for Suzy that will crumble if I stir in my own ingredients, infuse it with my individuality or use my own tools to make it all come together.
He is the author of my success, my joy and my ultimate purpose. He gave me those tools, talents and interests.
“Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath” (Deuteronomy 8:18, Holy Bible, New Living Translation).
An antidote to the paralysis of comparison is gratitude. Listen here to Deena Kastor, former Arkansas Razorback, Olympian and holder of several world records, who says:
“When I’ve traveled and run with people around [the world], I just try to adopt their greatest strengths, and I have so many people to thank for that.”
She’s about to publish a book, and she said she could spend 300 pages just thanking people.
Here are a few things I’m grateful that God gave me:
Strong legs (even though I’m a slow runner and have a bum knee that nudges me even slower sometimes).
A strong heart, physically (especially now that I’ve had repairs done!).
A strong heart, figuratively (He keeps me singing!).
A fabulous running community in my small town.
A great husband who loves to run and loves to share his vast knowledge of the sport – and whose (sometimes annoying) enthusiasm for running inevitably rubs off on people! He volunteers as a cross-country coach at the high school just because he stinkin’ loves to run and loves to teach others to love it. He also gets called upon often to help folks in the community who want to put on fundraising walks and runs, and he gives of his time generously (sometimes too generously, I think, but still). I am so blessed to have Bruce Oakley in my life.
A cause to run for. I train with and raise money for Team Challenge of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, because I want to wipe the poo out of Bruce’s disease. Even though I hate the fundraising part (asking for money), I love the idea that I will be a part of the someday-cure. And they don’t care how fast I run. My teammates and I share the dream of curing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and that’s what binds us together.
A desire and a modicum of … dare we say … talent in writing. (Passion and persistence more than raw talent, I would say.) My desire is to influence others to become the people God created them to be – to fulfill their purpose on this earth and to find joy in the journey … just as I’m learning to do, step by sometimes-faltering step.
Courage. I grew up extremely, backwardly shy. (My poor mom.) But through a lot of prayer and determination, I’ve come out of my shell, stopped thinking about myself so much, and consider myself “recovering” (still working on it but much progress has been made). I step out and reach out when I’m uncomfortable sometimes. Only when I draw strength from the Lord can I do that. And, every time I do it, I gain strength for the next time. (It’s not about me, after all.) Some folks who’ve known me for just a few years would never believe I was shy!
An awesome family. They don’t always understand me, but they put up with me – and even love me. Go figure!
The ability to persevere. Even though I’ll never win the Pulitzer for my writing, will never have my photographs published in National Geographic and more than likely (I mean, like, a 99.99 percent probability) will never win a first-place trophy in a running event, I keep at it. You see, I believe all those pithy quotes about how challenges make us stronger. (I’m living proof.) Like this one, which is not pithy but insightful:
“I think anything is possible, and running has certainly taught me, time and time again, that, even when we fall short of our goals, sometimes those lessons are the greatest for us to grow stronger on the other end. So I embrace challenges as if they were a gift to a stronger side of me. … Sometimes it takes a challenge or a hurdle in the way to make us refocus and figure out how to grow” – Deena Kastor.
I believe in the God of the universe, and I believe He has a supreme purpose for my life. My desire is to show all those in my sphere of influence that He has a purpose for their lives, too. And it’s a purpose that will give them joy and courage, if they grasp His hand along the journey.
“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” – Isaiah 40:31, NLT.
The George Sheehan quote at the top of this post could be misinterpreted as “Every man for himself.” But what it really means is that comparison will keep you from finishing, or at least finishing well. And we all want to finish well, don’t we?
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” – II Timothy 4:7-8, NLT.
The journey is easier in community. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re competing with them – and not in a good way. Community is best when we’re looking out for one another’s interests, when we see each other as partners, when we hold one another up. It’s one of my favorite things about the running community, one of my favorite things about my church family.
Life is hard, but it can be easier with friends. Running the race together is so much more fun.
“Hey, whadya say we both be independent together, huh?”
– Hermey the Dentist, in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
I’ve been a bit miffed at myself for letting other things get in the way of my blogging lately, so I decided I would “cheat” and share some links and things. In the spirit of (we won’t use the word copycat) Sarabeth’s “friday faves” and Alison’s “In the Pipeline,” I share with you links, photos, pieces of info and other tidbits that I’ve found interesting, encouraging, challenging, awesome or just plain ol’ fun:
I finally got the Colorado pix off the camera and onto the computer. The above was taken the afternoon we arrived, after we hiked about 3 miles along a nice little trail outside Littleton. (We were in Littleton so I could wrap up the training for my wellness-coach certification. I have one piece yet to finish – see prayer request below.) Maybe someday I will make a post with some of the trail pictures! It was a beautiful hike.
Awesome: It looks like I will get to race and raise money again for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s Team Challenge program. I received an email two weeks ago saying that Team Challenge had secured a limited number of spots for TC alumni in the SOLD OUT Walt Disney World Half Marathon.
Because Bruce and I had opted not to travel to an out-of-state CCFA race this year (last year included trips to California before and after his mother died, plus my September heart surgery, which caused me to withdraw from the Nashville half-marathon), we decided to “rest” in 2014. Not only is travel stressful, but fundraising is one of my least-favorite things to do! But the race isn’t until Jan. 10, and it’s a big deal, so I decided to sign up. So, technically, I will be training for a half-marathon and raising money in 2014 but not traveling to the event until 2015. (Part of the package, if I meet my fundraising goal, is two 2-day passes to Disney World.)
I haven’t received confirmation yet, as the new team manager (who doesn’t know me) still has to confirm that I’m an alumnus, but I think it will all work out. Yes, I am still slow (actually, I’m slower since the surgery). No, I’m not going to let that sad fact stop me. There is always someone who crosses the finish line after I do. (Sorry.)
So pray for my fundraising skills to improve and my enthusiasm for this worthy cause to stay high. (I really hate asking people for money, folks. More than flossing my teeth, cleaning hair out of the shower drain or trying to fold fitted sheets. Way more.) Oh, and for those of you who are new to Suzy & Spice: I do this thing I hate (ask people for money) and this thing I love (run) because I want to cure Crohn’s disease, which my husband, Bruce, and my cousin Spencer suffer from.
Which reminds me of this humiliating fact: I still have not sent thank-you cards to those who donated to my 2013 half-marathon that never happened. (I am TERRIBLE!) I’m pledging to do that this week. I promise!
OK, well, that there was enough for an entire blog post, but still there’s more:
Inspirational: This story gives me, my bad knee and my recently repaired heart valve hope that I will be able to run forever: “91-year-old to run Sunday’s San Diego Marathon.” She didn’t start running until she was 76, and she has raised more than $90,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through its Team in Training program. She is being treated for cancer.
Fun: In September, I will attend my first Arkansas Women Bloggers retreat (in its fourth year, it’s now called Arkansas Women Bloggers University). I registered in March but have forgotten to tell you 🙂 ). I hadn’t heard about this event until 2012 but missed it that year because it was sold out by the time I found out about it, and I missed last year’s because of heart surgery, so I am looking forward to my first one: listening to great speakers, getting great ideas, connecting with other women who blog, and meeting face to face the bloggers I’ve only seen in pictures.
(And then there’s the food.)
Interesting: I like to read about nutrition and the science behind our eatings (yes, I just made up that word), cravings and behaviors. This article from the journal Nature is a bit science-y, but maybe you will be as fascinated as I was to read some theories about what makes us eat, what makes us not eat, and the consequences to our waistlines. Or perhaps I should say “what makes laboratory mice eat, not eat …” (Poor mice.) “Neuroscience: Dissecting appetite”
Prayer request: I’ve been taking online courses to be a certified wellness coach, and I traveled to Colorado in April to finish my coursework. I passed my written exam (made an A!) and have one final step before I’m certified. This Tuesday evening I have a “coaching practicum” by telephone. It means another trainee and I have to practice-coach each other with our instructor listening in. I know I will be a good coach – I can do this! But this phone thing comes with a bit of pressure because we’ll be critiqued. Suzanna is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, so I don’t fear being ripped to shreds, but naturally being graded on a half-hour phone conversation will be a bit nerve-wracking. Prayers from my friends would be appreciated.
Interesting?I’m working on writing a personal mission statement. I hope that doesn’t sound too corny, or trite. I actually think mission statements and vision statements and written goals help people crystallize their mission and accomplish more than they otherwise could. Of course bringing honor and glory to God is my main purpose, but I also want to be able to sum up why I do what I do in a way that doesn’t sound churchy or preachy or confusing or long-winded.
Here’s the seed I’m starting with: “I want to inspire people to move from ‘I could never…” to “Maybe I could…” to ‘I CAN!’ ” Still pondering …
Encouraging:And because I love C.S. Lewis and receive a daily email containing an excerpt from one of his writings (books, letters, speeches), I leave you with this:
“If He does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in this life: but He means to get us as far as possible before death.”
Gosh, I didn’t stick with my November commitment to blog every day. Not. Even. Close.
And December will be even busier. But it’s starting off well, because I’m writing and this is only the 1st. So think of this as a BEAUTIFUL start to my month.
I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, those of entrepreneurs, businesspeople, thinkers, creators – people who took a risk and did something bold with their lives! You’ll find the word beautiful in a lot of these descriptions, because the artsy, creative sites are the ones I’ve been reading for several days.
These are a few of the sites I’ve found interesting, informative or inspiring, in no particular order:
James Altucher (don’t ask me how to pronounce it). Frankly, I don’t know how this guy has succeeded, but he’s got something that works. He’s a combination of bad attitude and hopeless optimist, it would seem. He has succeeded and failed and succeeded again at more ventures than you can count on both hands. For some reason I keep going back to his advice (taking some of it with a grain of salt). He has written several books, including the most recent bestseller, “Choose Yourself.”
A Beautiful Mess. These are creative types who found success in doing something they love. It’s “a lifestyle blog focused on creating a beautiful life.” Their website is quirky, funky and … well … beautiful. One of the things I love is that the co-founders, especially Elsie, seem to be so generous of spirit. They post lots of tips, such as ways to take better food pictures (much needed by me), how to start a blog and other helpful things. This site’s a keeper.
Arkansas Women Bloggers. I joined this group a few months ago and have barely scratched the surface of its awesomeness. It’s a community of – you know – women bloggers from Arkansas. Lots of tips, creativity and support. I am SO going to their retreat next year.
The Pioneer Woman. You’ve seen Ree Drummond cook on Food Network. Her blog is not new to me, but I’ve gained a new appreciation since I’ve been looking at ideas for making my blog more beautiful and improving my photography. Her photos are beautiful, and the tone of her writing is light and fun.
Michael McGaha’s Flickr page. I grew up with Michael (we called him Mike back then), and he has a lot of photography know-how (and equipment). He takes beautiful pictures. When I told him I wanted to upgrade my camera, he graciously offered to let me borrow one of his before I decided which model to shell out for. I’ve been drooling over his Flickr shots for a couple of weeks, staying up way too late one night just dreaming of how I could even come close to matching his skill.
Alison Chino. Alison’s was the first blog I read on a regular basis, starting in the mid-2000s. She’s the daughter of my former pastor, and she and her husband and four kids moved to Scotland recently so Taido could study for his PhD in theology at the University of Aberdeen. Alison has become quite the successful blogger/photographer, being published on sites that have readers all over the world, including The Huffington Post. Alison has an adventurous spirit. Example: the dreadlocks she has worn for five years. (That’s bold for a white girl.) She takes great photos and writes even better. I’m jealous.
Sarabeth Jones. Second blog I started reading regularly a few years ago, and I’ll never forget Sarabeth’s comment when I tentatively commented that I “thought” I was nearly ready to start my own blog. She said, simply, “You are SO ready.” Sarabeth and Alison are friends, and I met them both several years ago at Fellowship North. In fact, Sarabeth is the resident drama queen at FN (just kidding – she’s in charge of the drama and other artsiness that goes on there, and does a – shall I say – beautiful job). SB takes stunning photos and, being a “creative type,” writes beautifully. Again, jealous.
I owe a big thanks to Sarabeth for the encouragement, even after I took the first faltering steps at blogging. I’ve always had to fight against comparing myself to her or Alison because they’re such good writers. I know that I’m unique and have my own message and way of telling my stories. It’s just hard to remember that sometimes.
I’m striving to make my writing and photography better – and having more confidence in my abilities. Reading these blogs definitely has boosted my confidence level and my determination to grow and continue to learn new things.
I’ve been neglecting Suzy & Spice lately. No longer. I’ve committed to writing in this space once a day through 2013.
I don’t know how it’s going to look, as I’m certainly no less busy than before, but I’m going to give it a whirl.
Just so you know, I’ll totally be stealing Sarabeth‘s “friday faves” idea. Not only have I always liked her Friday posts, it will take some of the pressure off, once a week, to come up with something original.
I suffer from attention deficit disorder. If I wasn’t certain of it before, I am now. Technology has propelled me toward this official self-diagnosis.
My book collection not only clutters my house; it’s beginning to clutter my electronic bookshelf.
When we finally sold our house in North Little Rock a year ago, we made a small profit and indulged in some techy stuff. Two days before my birthday, I got a smart phone. A few weeks later we got an iPad, and a couple of months after that we got a new laptop. All Apple products (yes, we’re “Mac snobs” and have been for years).
All these electronic devices now “sync” with one another. That’s a good thing and a bad thing.
One good thing is apps.
Another good thing is the Cloud.
When you have three complementary electronic gadgets, all from the same brand, apps and clouds can be a lovely thing.
It means you can load up with BOOKS. And read them anywhere.
Have I mentioned that I LOVE BOOKS? Not lately, but, yes, I have mentioned it. Unfortunately a bunch of Suzy & Spice got wiped out a few months ago, so some of my book-loving references have gone away. Poor you. Because some of them were book reviews. About books I got FREE just for writing reviews about them. (One really cool thing about that is that a couple of these books’ authors posted thank-you comments at Suzy & Spice. And another one saw my previous reviews and wrote me a letter asking me to review her new book. So I did.)
But back to the book clutter.
Bruce Oakley and I (I’ve begun calling him “Bruce Oakley” since he got his own Facebook page; if you FB much, you’ll understand) … well, we love books.
This can be a dangerous thing.
Our house in North Little Rock, the one we sold because we moved to Batesville, had wall-to-wall built-in bookcases in three rooms. It’s basically what sold us on the house 13 years ago, especially for Bruce Oakley, who never met a book he wanted to give away.
That’s not entirely true; he has managed to part with several items from our vast collection before and since we moved from a 2,600-square-foot house to a 1,740-square-foot house.
But, golly, do we still have lots of books! We even have boxes of them that we still haven’t unpacked 2½ years after moving.
I’m working on that. Got it down to just a couple of boxes now. Cookbooks, classic books, running books, gardening books, financial stewardship books, you name it. Books, books, books.
If you’re a true book lover, you understand how hard it is to part with a book – or to pass up a free book on a give-away table. (Many of our books were acquired when we worked for “the state’s largest newspaper” – books from the food editor’s table, or the religion editor’s table, sometimes even the travel editor’s table [even though I don’t really enjoy reading “travel” books]. Heck, we even got some of the books from the book editor’s table! Imagine that.)
We’ve acquired a couple more bookcases in the past several months. We have one still in the box – we’re still trying to decide where to squeeze it in (we bought the bookcase for my mom, but she changed her mind and we decided to keep it). We recently hung shelves in the office/sewing room to store non-book items so we could be a little more organized. This has meant some of the boxes on the floor under the table in that room have been emptied onto the bookshelves and other things have taken their place. (Sounds contradictory and counterproductive, but organizing clutter is a process, people!)
Nevertheless, we have given away a few dozen books in the past couple of years. I’ve donated several to our “church library,” which doesn’t really exist except for a small collection of books that I donated in the hopes of someday having a real church library. Our church here Batesville is a lot smaller than our church in North Little Rock, and I realize that when and if I decide to push for a “real church library,” I no doubt will be elected its first librarian. (Be careful what you wish for.) And we sent a bunch to a friend’s son who’s in the Peace Corps in Rwanda. He lives in a house with no electricity and has to read books with a headlamp. Does that make you more fully appreciate your books, your good lighting and your ability to read? I hope so. It does me.
But back to the electronic techno-gadget-thingie stuff.
Paring down our collection of physical books has been a good thing, spacewise, but now … I have discovered ebook readers! (Discovered is not so much the word as now have access to, on all my cool electronic devices.)
And what’s even better (or worse, depending on your perspective) is that you can obtain books with “1-Click” ordering, and many of these ebooks are FREE!
Did I mention that I love FREE?
And here’s where the ADD admission comes in: Just like with my physical stack of books and magazines on the nightstand, and on the floor by the bed (and in the tote bag I carry to work every day), I have a virtual stack of books that is beginning to pile up in my electronic cloud. (A cloud means you can access the same stuff from different devices by being signed in using the same username and password. It even remembers where you are in your book, magazine or newspaper so that when you’re on a road trip with your iPad, say, you can pick up where you left off reading on your laptop back home in your cozy chair. A virtual bookmark.)
But here’s the really embarrassing part: The reason there’s such a pile is that I start a book and don’t necessarily finish it right away. Right away meaning within the next couple of years. And then I pick up a different kind of book and don’t finish it, either.
Here’s an example, and why it can be so embarrassing: A friend and former colleague of mine from 20 years ago wrote a novel that has been quite well received. It has gotten some really, really good reviews. Right after (or maybe right before) it hit bookstores two years ago, I mentioned it to Bruce, who emailed my author friend and said he’d like to buy an autographed copy for me for our anniversary.
Well … my friend wouldn’t let Bruce pay for the book, promptly shipping us a copy along with a note saying it was good to reconnect after losing touch.
I emailed him to say thanks, and that since he wouldn’t let Bruce pay for the book, we donated $25 to Heifer International in his honor. And then we got to talking about the past few years.
Some history: He and I worked together at a newspaper in California. He was my supervisor, and I was the first babysitter of his first child. I really liked his wife, and in fact I still have a photo on my wall of her standing next to me, both of us smiling as I proudly hold their new baby girl. I house-sat for him and his wife for a week (someday I’ll tell you about having to crawl through their doggie door when the garage-door key wouldn’t work). I swam in their pool, loved on their pets and ate dinner with them once or twice. That was pretty much the extent of our socializing. (It’s hard to socialize with someone you work with when you’re both on the evening shift and have different nights off.) We were friends but not BFF’s, you know what I mean?
So when I moved away, and then he moved back to Seattle, we gradually became the kind of friends who only exchange Christmas cards, except that I am terrible at sending Christmas cards. It was kind of one-sided. I enjoyed seeing the kids age as the years passed, but it wasn’t enough to prompt me to get off my duff and actually send them a card.
One year I noticed that the Christmas cards were signed with only his and the kids’ names. No wife’s name. And since it’s not the sort of thing you write back about and say, “What, did you get divorced or something?” I simply wondered what had happened.
A few years later the cards stopped coming. Can’t say I blame him, I thought. I never send them a card.
So it was one of those wish we hadn’t lost touch kinds of things. Someone you really like and admire but no longer know much about.
And when we started emailing two years ago, my friend shared some of what had happened in the intervening years. Yes, they had split up. She moved away, and later was killed. To honor his privacy, and since I haven’t read all the book-publicity interviews to know how much he has shared publicly, I won’t say more than that.
But he told me that’s where the book came from. This experience of losing this woman he had loved, the mother of his children.
The book’s main character is a teenage boy who has lost his twin brother, so the circumstances are different, but you can still feel the pain and grief as my friend fictionalizes this horrific and life-altering thing that happened to his family.
The book is really, really good (except for the occasional foul language, which offends me on one level but remains true to the teenage character).
And two years later, I still have not finished reading it.
But let me defend myself just a little. For the past four years, I’ve been in school at night while working full time during the day. Because of Bruce’s disease, I’m now the main breadwinner. I was trying to get a second degree because of my midlife career change, which happened out of necessity (it allowed us to move to Batesville, where the job opportunities are far fewer).
I was crazy half the time, trying to keep up with it all. This past spring, I decided not to return to school in the fall. I regret that I couldn’t finish what I started, but it was the right decision for my family.
And I’m just now catching up with my life. And my books.
In the spirit of decluttering our house, I was overjoyed to be able to start obtaining virtual books. I have a couple of snob friends – or really just one snob friend who has several snob Facebook friends – who wouldn’t be caught dead with an electronic book reader. They are old-school when it comes to books. They prefer to read them the old-fashioned way – on paper.
Too bad for them. There are so many advantages to ebooks. (Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the list today.)
And then, a few weeks ago, while I was jogging with a couple of friends, one of them mentioned a book she got from Inspired Reads, a service that offers free (did I mention I love free?) and very inexpensive books for your Kindle. Well, I was all over that. I found the website, signed up for the daily emails and began amassing my collection of books for Kindle. (Did you know you can download a free Kindle app and not have to purchase the actual Kindle device? So then you can download free Kindle books! I also have iBooks, but the Inspired Reads selections are for the Kindle.)
And the books you can download (free!) aren’t just stupid, crappy books that no one wants to read. There are some good, thoughtful reads out there. They’re “the best Christian Kindle Books on a Budget.”
In the Inspired Reads daily email, you first have to wade through the list of Christian fiction, most of which doesn’t really light my fire, but then you get to the non-fiction, which has some good titles. You should check it out. Most days I just skim the list and delete the email because, even though they’re free, I simply don’t need to download every single free book out there. When I said I had begun “amassing my collection,” I didn’t mean that quite as literally as it sounds. I’m building my electronic library slowly, trying to be selective while also taking advantage of some of the books I otherwise would pass up. Because they’re FREE.
And I know of another great way to get free books.
If you’re a blogger, check out BookSneeze, another site with Christian books. BookSneeze will send you a book (physical or electronic) just for agreeing to review it on your blog and post the review on a book-related website (such as Christianbook.com or Amazon.com). I’ve obtained several free books from BookSneeze, and most of them are really good. Book Sneeze doesn’t require you to write a positive review – just your honest opinion.
So … back to the ADD thing again. (See what I mean?) I start reading a book, life gets busy, I stop reading the book, and I pick up a different book and start reading that one. Then life gets busy and the cycle starts all over. I have several unread books, just waiting to be loved.
But I’m turning over a new leaf, so to speak. I’m not going to start reading any new ones until the previous pile is finished.
Notice I didn’t say I would stop obtaining new books, just reading new ones. After all, who can pass up a free ebook?
I should be finished with Adios Nirvana within the next week.
What books are on your nightstand and piled next to the bed? What books do you need to finish before adding more to your stash? Tell me, tell me!
“Go out there and run to the best of your ability,” he replied. “Don’t run with your legs. Run with your heart.” On some level, even as a high school freshman, I got his meaning: the human body has limitations; the human spirit is boundless.
– Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes
I ran my first half-marathon yesterday morning (yes, it was still morning when I finished!)
In case you don’t know, a half-marathon is 13.1 miles. This was the longest I had ever run (12 miles was my longest training run in prep for the race.)
But this wasn’t just any run, and it wasn’t just any half-marathon. It was the one and only, inaugural (for me) half-marathon I chose because of what it supports: the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).
Many of you know that my husband, Bruce, has suffered from Crohn’s disease since just before our first wedding anniversary. He spent that first Christmas in the hospital, and he was so sick I wasn’t sure he was going to make it. (Among other things, his entire digestive tract, from mouth to anus, was full of ulcers. Sorry for the butt talk, but part of raising awareness is getting people used to talking about unpleasant things – and helping people understand how hideous the disease can be. I’m actually sparing you the grossest details.)
Nearly 14 years and two more ugly flare-ups later, he’s dealing with what is our “new normal”: functioning, but at a diminished capacity from what my once very-active husband had been used to. (He’s the one who taught me to love running.)
And three years ago, my cousin’s then-10-year-old son, Spencer, was diagnosed with Crohn’s. And we have a teenage friend at our church, also named Spencer, who has Crohn’s. And an adult at church with Crohn’s. Get the picture? I want to kick the crap out of Crohn’s disease, and I want to do it, like, yesterday.
So that’s why I ran 13.1 miles yesterday.
I never intended to run a half-marathon. Six months ago it wasn’t even on my radar. But when some of the crazy-running-chick friends I hang with started talking about running a Half in October, naturally my thoughts turned to, “Could I?” I had certainly gotten addicted to running in the past couple of years (as I’ve said before, it’s like crack). I credit my friends’ ambitions with getting me on the road, so to speak, to my decision – to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where Suzy has never gone before (sorry – couldn’t resist the Star Trek reference).
Despite the grand illusions (delusions?), I had more or less decided that I wouldn’t run such a long-distance race. I have a mild heart condition, which worries my mother but not my cardiologist so much, and I had knee surgery 13 months ago, so I thought I’d just be kind to my body and stick with shorter races.
But in mid-June, when my new love of running supercollided with a cause I believe in with all my heart, the decision was practically made. The day after I got the email about Team Challenge, CCFA’s half-marathon training program to raise money for research and awareness, I signed up. (I would have signed up the same day, but you know me: I can’t do anything big without thoroughly researching it first. I left voice mails and emails for the Arkansas and the national people in the know; I texted; I read all the info online, etc. Next thing I knew, I was a Team Challenge member!)
I want to tell you all about Team Challenge in more detail, but today’s post is more about yesterday’s event and what got me there. I’ll cheerlead for the Team Challenge program in a post very soon.
The main thing I want to say about yesterday’s race has more to do with what came before it than with the actual event.
I want to say THANK YOU to all of you who supported me. For some that meant donations of money, for others donations of your time, talents and effort, and for still others it meant prayers, words of encouragement and general moral support. Some of you donated money out of your abundance (wallets and hearts), and some of you scraped up donations sacrificially because you believed in the cause, or maybe you just believed in me – or in a gracious God who has blessed you and you wanted to bless others.
I get teary-eyed just thinking about all of you.
And, yes, I thought about each and every one of you as I ran, walked, sweated and even endured a brief bout of stomach cramps and nausea yesterday. I prayed for you; thanked God for such incredibly generous (of heart and wallet) friends, co-workers, church members and family who helped me get to the finish line (heck, you helped me get to the start line); and celebrated how generous God has been in putting you in my life. You will never know how much you mean to me. (By the way, you helped me take fifth-place honors in the fundraising.) And special shout-outs to Bruce, who jogged shortcuts to particular mile markers to take pictures of me, snapped me crossing the finish line and was my main cheerleader, even though he really wanted to be out there with me, running the whole race; to Mom, who traveled with us to Nashville so she could watch her baby cross the finish line (alive!); and to our sweet friends the Tuckers – Betsy dropped by my workplace Thursday morning to bring me a surprise: a great card about “amazing women” and a package of pre- and post-race energy goodies (Betsy has been my second-biggest cheerleader along the way, always telling me how proud she is of my accomplishments, and Tommy has offered his share of encouraging words).
I wish I could say the finish line of yesterday’s race was the finish line of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and every other ugly disease we watch our loved ones suffer through, but for me it was just the renewing of my commitment to raise awareness and funds for CCFA.
Next month, Bruce and I will sit in the Mission tent of CCFA’s Take Steps Walk in northwest Arkansas, as we have done for the past three years. We were on the ground floor of helping establish a CCFA chapter in Arkansas in 2010. Many of you helped us with that, for the Little Rock walks and the NWA walks (thank you).
But this year in our Mission tent will be a huge poster of Suzy’s first Team Challenge half-marathon, because next year I plan to return to Nashville with an Arkansas team! (This year I and the only other Team Challenge participant from Arkansas were placed on the National Team. But we’re gonna change that!) And since my official half-marathon coaching this year was “virtual” (our training sessions were in the form of emails and a weekly conference call from Coach Dave, and we had mentors and other support for the fundraising part), next year I’ll have the benefit of a real-live, local running coach. You know who I’m talking about, don’t you? (His name starts with B and ends with “ruce.”)
So, look out, Team Challenge: Suzy’s on a mission!
I still haven’t reached my fundraising goal and have a few weeks left. If you’d like to be a part of curing Crohn’s disease,click here to make a donation.