‘I could never do that’

‘I could never do that’
This is the first time I’ve been brave enough to publish my “before” picture. Bruce took it 4 years ago. Photo on right courtesy of Hatch and Maas Photography.

I’ve been given an opportunity that I’ve been praying for a lot lately: the chance to tell my story to a bigger audience. (My blog has, like, three readers: my mom, my husband and our dog Salsa; the other dog can’t read.)

My hope is that my story, told from my unique perspective, will influence change – in my family, my workplace, even my community. I’ve written for about three years in this space about my “journey to fitness,” hoping to encourage those who need hope, those who think changing your life is only for a certain type of person.

The trouble with that line of thinking is that I believe there’s always hope, that determination (and a lot of prayer) can get you to a better place – if you want it badly enough. If you’re willing to put in the hours, the sweat, the mental energy, the sticktoitiveness to see it through, you can do it even if you’re “nobody special.”

You see, I’m nobody special – I’m just a girl who believes in prayer and hard work.

The problem with a lot of us (with me for so many years) is that we give up too easily.

We look at this marathon as a sprint, and if we don’t see results right away – or if we take a couple of steps forward and end up a step or two backward – we think we will never get it right. We’ll never reach our goals. Or maybe we stop setting goals in the first place.

We let the naysayers fill our heads with nonsense, and we start believing it: It’s too hard, I tried that and it didn’t work. It will never happen – I’m giving up. I could never do that.

One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I’m pretty stubborn. (It’s one of those good/bad things I inherited from my dad.) And, despite many attempts to change that ended in failure, I’m still standing. I’m still pushing. Still learning.

And I’m stronger than ever.

And because I’ve learned some lessons the hard way, I want to pass it on, maybe make someone else’s journey a little easier. Help someone know she’s not alone, that there is hope.

By the grace of God, heartfelt prayer, and much two-steps-forward, one-step-back-ing, I’ve lost about 50 pounds in the past three years. (According to my cardiologist, I need to lose a few more, but we’ll get to that.) It took maybe two of those years to lose the bulk of it (plus I’ve gained 7 back since heart surgery), and I’ve said here before that if it takes the rest of my life to get it all off, it’s worth it if I help someone else find hope and encouragement.

And my mantra – as a runner who will never be at the head of the pack no matter how much I want it – is, “Slow and steady wins the race.” (That may apply more to weight loss than it does to running footraces, but you get the point.)

Another thing I believe to my very core is that we learn – God grows our character the most – amid difficulty. We tend to forget about God during the easy times; we don’t rely on His wisdom and guidance when we’re cruising along through life thinking everything’s great because we’re great!

We learn the best lessons through challenges. And we lose weight and keep it off when we do it slowly and thoughtfully, when we learn why we turn to food when we shouldn’t. Sometimes I’ve had to learn the same lesson over and over, until I really got it. I’m still learning.

I’ve had what you might call challenges in the past three years, including heart surgery five months ago. But out of that particular challenge came a great opportunity:

I got to tell my story in a TV commercial that has been airing all across Arkansas since the Super Bowl, has aired during the Olympics, and will air for the next two years.

When I was asked to do it, someone mentioned that it would be scary to be interviewed on camera. My response: all the more reason to do it! It was so far outside my comfort zone, I knew it would be a new opportunity for growth – to depend on the Lord for my strength.

For a couple of years, I’ve been praying for opportunities to improve my very weak public-speaking skills. I didn’t know exactly why I was praying that, except that I wanted to be available – and not embarrass my family or die of fright – when those rare opportunities arose.

So maybe the interview segment of the TV commercial wasn’t my favorite part (the running part was much more fun and comfortable) but maybe my prayers made me just a little less fearful – bold, even – knowing that my desire was to bring glory to God through it all, and perhaps encourage someone along the way. Guys from the TV crew actually told me I inspired them. Go figure.

I started 2013 (a few weeks after I turned 50) with the goal of “getting to know God better,” deciding not to jump ahead of Him in figuring out the details of the next phase of my life.

I knew what I wanted to do – still want to do – and that may happen some day. My desire is to implement a healthy-workplace initiative at my place of employment. My CEO is open to that (we’ve talked), but I’m not sure he realizes all I have in mind! (I’ve learned to dream big.)

For starters, I recently registered (on my own, not through my job) to become a certified wellness coach. I’m taking online courses and will travel to Colorado in a couple of months for on-site training,

I’m not sure where this journey will take me, but I believe God put the desire in my heart and that He will bless it.

Meanwhile, Channel 7 in Little Rock (ABC affiliate) has invited me to appear on “Good Morning, Arkansas” on Feb. 17 as part of its coverage of Heart Month. My cardiologist, Dr. Conley, will be by my side if his schedule permits. I so hope he can, because he’s a big part of where I am right now.

I can tell you the exact date that I began my “journey to fitness” in earnest: April 5, 2011 – the birthday of our CEO. We had potluck that day, and I ate like a pig. By the end of the day, I was disgusted with myself, I wrote my “Going public” post, and things began to change.

It was embarrassing to admit on the Internet that I weighed 201 pounds (5 pounds less than my highest) and that I had been making a fool of myself with food. But if pigging out was what it took to make me wake up and smell the bacon, it was worth it.

I want to help others by telling my story. Some won’t like it, won’t agree with it, won’t see it. They’ll think I’m being egotistical. I can’t help what people think.

But should I let the Negative Nellies keep me from trying to help someone else?

I could never do that.


To find a Women Run Arkansas running and walking clinic near you, click here.

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Running on empty (verbally, at least)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m going back to bed.

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Glimpses of light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A good week

So many things to tell:

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

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


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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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Biggest loser, or a winning idea?

I had a shock today when I received this group e-mail from my co-worker who is leading our 12-week Biggest Loser competition:

Happy Hump Day! This Friday will be week 9 of our biggest loser. Suzy is in the lead with 4.26% weight loss. Go, Suzy! We still have three weeks to go. Sisters, a lot can be done in three weeks, so don’t give up! I look forward to seeing you Friday morning. Final weigh-in is Friday, May 6.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that I was in the lead, but it made me sad for all 10 of us. Why? (You probably think it’s because I’m insane.)

It’s because I know how much I have struggled on the roller coaster these past several weeks (years, really, but we’re talking about contest weeks here). And if I – who yo-yoed up and down, up and down for two months – am in the lead, it means everyone else has been struggling to stick with the program, too. On the other hand, there are people who are bigger than I, and because the contest is based on percentage (not pounds) lost, I may be leading only percentagewise and not poundwise. But still.

Our little group of losers has a weekly weigh-in but is not really a support group with meetings or any other type of interaction. I think that is why I have struggled; there is no accountability factor except the scale. I think it’s why others have struggled, too. Friday I ran into another participant when we happened to go downstairs at the same time to weigh in (there is no set time to weigh, as long as it’s on Friday). She admitted struggling, too, and I have to believe she and I are not the only ones.

I didn’t even know who the other participants were until recently. There’s nothing formal about the plan except for the weigh-ins, which are recorded by the leader and not really reported to the group (except for the first week, and today).

Nothing against our leader; she’s doing a great job under our time constraints. We’re all busy, we’re doing this on our employer’s time, and there’s not a lot you can coordinate under those circumstances. It takes up about 5 minutes of my time (going from the third floor to the first, weighing, then turning around and going back upstairs) and maybe a half hour a week for the leader (I’m just guessing). But I, for one, would be willing to stay 30 minutes late for a weekly meeting to interact with the other participants and get support and encouragement. I just know that the personal contact is what works for me.

Left to my own devices, I will go nuts, veer off course and be right back where I started, if not worse off. Now that I have gone public with my struggle, revealed my weight and committed to blogging daily about my journey to fitness (click here to read my “Going public” post), I have the blog (and you, my support panel of readers) to keep me on track, but the rest of the group will have the same routines to go back to after the contest unless something changes.

A few months ago I tentatively suggested we ask our CEO if we could have a Weight Watchers chapter at work after hours. I approached a marketing person because I know her better than I know the HR people and she has been at the bank since the beginning. She told me it was really a human-resources matter and that she would pass along my suggestion. I didn’t follow up because then the Biggest Loser contest was starting.

Emboldened by a recent round-table luncheon hosted by our CEO and COO (it was called a “thank-you lunch,” but our leaders invited feedback and questions), I’m thinking of skipping the Weight Watchers idea sent through channels and going directly to the CEO with an even bigger proposal. I’d like to see some type of initiative in our workplace that challenges employees to give up unhealthy habits. Lots of companies offer incentives to its employees for losing weight, quitting smoking and other positive lifestyle changes. Money motivates people, and even if it doesn’t motivate all of us to make permanent changes, it will do so for some. And if I could see one person quit smoking or lose unhealthy poundage – maybe even head off diabetes or heart disease – it would be worth it to me (and, I hope, to my employer, who is so generously involved in community service it astounds me sometimes).

Once I get up the nerve, I’m going to approach Mr. CEO with a deal: If he’ll put some cash behind the initiative, I’ll do the research and find out what has worked for other companies, coupled with statistics on how these programs improve lives and cut employer costs, then I’ll present the options.

Our company gives a lot of money and effort to this community and, I have to say, to its employees, so I think my idea will be received graciously even if the answer is no.

And if he doesn’t bite, I’ll know I tried and I won’t hold a grudge. And then I’ll bring it up again next year. 🙂

Please post a comment and give me your ideas for a program that could work for my company of 200 employees.

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Thankfulness, Day 16

Today I am thankful for my new/old hometown.

This year has been so busy that I haven’t done what I’ve wanted to do for the past seven months – talk about my old/new place of residence.

Yeah, I posted a brief note when we found out we were moving to Batesville, but we have been in a whirlwind of activity ever since.

On Friday, May 7, I said goodbye to my former employer (we had also relocated offices that very same day), and on Saturday, May 8, I took my final exam in Accounting II at Pulaski Tech. That afternoon, we loaded the car with the Spice Dogs and a few belongings and headed to Batesville. We spent the next five weeks living at Mom’s and driving back to North Little Rock on the weekends to continue packing. (Because I was in school all semester in addition to working full time, we hadn’t finished all our packing, so we made trips and hauled little loads each weekend.) On June 5, a bunch of guys from Fellowship North came over and loaded the furniture and other heavy stuff, and we hauled it to Batesville and spent our first night in our new house that night.

There is SO VERY MUCH to tell about our new home. I could stay up all night expressing my joy at all the wonderful things that have come of this move, but I will try to hit the high points:

  • Family: My mom, my brother, my nieces and my many cousins, uncles, aunts, in-laws and outlaws are the reason we’re here. We had prayed for a long time for the Lord to allow us to be closer. Yes, North Little Rock is only 90 miles away, but it had just gotten to be too far for us. We wanted to be close. And we are: Our house is about 3/4 of a mile from my brother, JT, and if you walk through his back yard, you reach Mom’s house in just-over-3/4-of-a-mile. And my Aunt Pat lives across the street from us. And in July, I got new family members: JT married Lisa, and she brings to our family Chance, Cobhye and Catie. And Chance became a first-time dad a few weeks later when we welcomed baby Maggie to the fold.
  • Church: We traded Fellowship North for Fellowship Batesville. I tell ya, leaving Fellowship North was my biggest challenge. I had been a member there for 16 years, and I just wasn’t sure how God was going to come through for me on a church. How could He top Fellowship North? Well, He didn’t have to top it, because it’s not a competition. But I was spoiled for a contemporary, nontraditional church that reaches out to the community. Fellowship Batesville, which congregates in the old Landers Theater, fits the bill for us in a way only God could have ordained. Bruce and our pastor, John Mark, have become friends, and I think the world of John Mark’s wife, Desiree. And we’ve made some other fast friends at Fellowship Batesville. We couldn’t be happier.
  • Work: I love my job! Two years ago I couldn’t have said that. And maybe it took the job I had then to make me appreciate the job I have now. Sure, I had a great job in the between time (from October 2008 to May 2010), but this one just fits me. It fits my personality, my skill set, my left-brainededness (yes, I know that’s not a real word) and so many other things. My co-workers are a joy to be around (most of the time), my physical surroundings are pleasant and my employer is community minded, a trait I cherish. The commute is short (10 minutes when there’s traffic; 5-7 when there isn’t); in fact, most places around here are within a short distance of my house.
  • Play: My childhood friend Michael has co-founded a local camera club, and I’m an inaugural member. I’m still an amateur, but it has been fun learning from the “experts” and the serious hobbyists. I love to take pictures, and I love that I now have a place to get personalized advice. Also, Bruce and I have been to several high school football games this fall, seeing my alma mater through an undefeated season until Round 3 of the state playoffs. We have sat through heat, humidity, cold and rain for the Pioneers! My sweetie and I have bitten off lots of little slices of the local scene in the few months we’ve been here – everything from a music night at the local coffeehouse to summer fireworks to grilling hot dogs before a BHS football game as volunteers for the bank. We’re on a first-name basis with the clerk at Sherwin-Williams (her husband has Crohn’s disease, and she noticed our CCFA shirts one Saturday morning) and have enjoyed showing off our furbabies to anyone who cares to meet them. (Our neighbor’s 2-year-old grandson likes to come over and visit the Spice Dogs, and in fact he named his new stuffed dog Salsa.)
  • Education: I’m taking Principles of Banking at UACCB, and I’m also learning a lot about banking on the job. I get to do a lot of reading, and I enjoy that. (One new employee who was being introduced around the office a couple of weeks ago thought it a bit odd that I actually enjoy reading regulations. At least that knowledge helped him remember me later when I had to e-mail him about getting his insurance license!) In the spring, I will continue working toward an associate’s degree in banking and finance. Next summer, I will be eligible for the bank to pay for my schooling. Sweet!
  • God: The thread that weaves through every inch of the above tapestry is my heavenly Father. Without Him, none of this would be possible. Without Him, my life wouldn’t be possible. He is the Source of all good things. I cannot thank Him enough for all my blessings. I hope I never forget to thank Him.

There is so much more to tell, but maybe I will manage to remember it and continue to tell you the tales in the months to come.

Tune in tomorrow for my last “thankfulness” post of the Month for Giving Thanks.

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Thankfulness, Days 9-15

I have been soooo lax in posting this week. I’ll blame the busyness of the pre-holiday season (can I get away with that?). Not posting doesn’t equal not being thankful, though. I have continued to count my blessings, even though I haven’t logged on to tell my little blog audience about it.

Because it’s been 7 days since I posted, I guess I need to list at least 7 things I’m thankful for. Trust me, the number of blessings is much higher, but I will be up too late tonight if I list more than 7.

Let’s see if I can remember things in reverse order:

Day 15 (Sunday, Nov. 28): I’m thankful for Bruce’s birthday gift to me this morning. He bought me a domain name, so now instead of suzyandspice.wordpress.com, you can visit me at www.suzyandspice.com. For you, it just shortens the Web address a bit; for me, it allows flexibility in appearance and content. Bruce and I can make the site look more like I want it to look. Yippee! We’ll be working on that over the new few weeks; he will be doing most of the work, at my direction. He’s the real geek, and I’m still a geek-in-training.

Day 14 (Saturday, Nov. 27): I’m thankful for football! Bad news first: My high school alma mater, the Batesville Pioneers, lost in Round 3 of the state playoffs Friday night (and it was doggone cold while we watched!), but we enjoyed the experience, nonetheless. The Pioneers did us proud this season. The good news: The Arkansas Razorbacks ended their regular season with a big win over LSU last night. It was an awesome game, and I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest a couple of times (especially that Mallett TD pass with 6 seconds to go in the first half. “Take a knee,” my foot!).

Day 13 (Friday, Nov. 26): I’m thankful for my workplace. Post-Thanksgiving Friday was a quiet one at work; several of my co-workers took an extra-long weekend, and the office was relaxed and casual. A couple of people in my department decorated the department’s Christmas tree and chatted about football, food and the upcoming Christmas season. I so enjoy my job, my co-workers and my workplace. Friday was also the day we had our Thanksgiving celebration at my brother’s house; just chalk it up to a logistical challenge. My boss let me take a longer-than-usual lunch break, so it was nice and relaxing, and I didn’t have to stay and do the dishes!

Day 12 (Thursday, Nov. 25): Thanksgiving Day. I’m thankful that I am healthy. I spent a few hours at the hospital with a young woman from my church who is a college student away from her family. She has endured several health challenges in the past few weeks and was back in the hospital this past week with new symptoms. Her family was far away, and she was alone in the hospital on Thanksgiving, save for a couple of people from church who went and sat and watched over her. (Bless you, Desiree, for taking her under your wing.)

Day 11 (Wednesday, Nov. 24): I’m thankful for … okay, this is another workplace thing. My co-workers – who knew that Friday (the last workday before my birthday) would be a day when several people would be absent – threw me a little birthday feast. I stuffed my face on summer sausage and crackers, chicken enchilada dip and tortilla chips, brownies, cranberry cookies and a host of other delights. What a sweet (literally) surprise.

Day 10 (Tuesday, Nov. 23): I’m thankful for Luanne. My co-worker and I had to visit the bank’s Highland branch (she for marketing-department reasons, I for audit reasons), and we had a nice visit on the drive up and back. We left at 6 a.m. in the rain, but the sun was shining by the time we arrived. She is a special woman, full of interesting and hilarious stories, and she loves Jesus as much as I do. This was the first out-of-town trip we’ve made just the two of us (usually a third co-worker is with us), and we shared on a deeper level this time. She speaks so lovingly of her family, it’s just nice to be around her. (We share family in common, too. We’re both excited that Judy [my third cousin] and Bill [Luanne’s brother-in-law] will be moving back to Batesville next month.)

Day 9 (Monday, Nov. 22): I’m thankful for education. My “Principles of Banking” class at UACCB is on Monday nights, and I’m so thankful that we have a community college where I can work on my second degree (I earned a bachelor’s in journalism from ASU 21 years ago). I’m majoring in banking and finance this time, and in the spring I will be taking Intro to Business, also on Monday nights. After I’ve been at the bank for a year (in May), the bank will pay for my schooling – another great blessing. It may take me forever to finish, but I’m plugging away at it.

Wow – a lot of blessings to remember. I will try to post the next two nights, the final two days of my half-month of thankfulness.

God is good.

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Random thoughts 01/10/10

I was writing an e-mail to a college roommate this afternoon when I realized that if she clicks the link below my signature and goes to my blog – which she’s likely to do because we haven’t been in touch since I started the blog – she will see very few recent posts.

So, even though I can’t seem to form a coherent thought lately, you need to know that I am not dead.

Random thoughts on a Sunday afternoon:

  • I’ll begin Accounting II on Saturday, Jan. 16, after withdrawing last semester so as to avoid a heart attack from everything that was going on in our lives (I mentioned the latest heart symptoms in my Sept. 12, 2009, random thoughts). I decided to try a Saturday morning class because I simply hate having to rush home from work, gulp down a few bites of something and rush to class, sit there for nearly 3 hours trying to stay awake and get home just before bedtime. Besides, I’m a morning person, and that’s when I do my best thinking (if you call me after 9 p.m. – or if you’re a former roommate [hi, Di!] – you’ll understand). My class this semester will be 8-10:40 a.m.
  • I finished reading In Cold Blood, although I never told you I finished it. I mentioned it in my March 22, 2009, post (a random-thoughts post that was a LOT more interesting than this one, and a lot less depressing than the 09/12 one, so check it out), and I finished it months ago, but now I have closure since I have told you about it. 🙂 The book was great, if creepy. Killers with no remorse. And it’s a true story. I read somewhere that when Perry and Dick were hanged, Truman Capote (the book’s author) became physically ill and had to remove himself from the crowd of onlookers. Interviewing the killers, retracing the events of the heinous murders, left a lasting impression on him, and he was never the same. I believe it was his last book.
  • And this year I finally started reading the book on which my favorite movie was based – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Since the first time I saw the movie about 20 years ago, I’ve been in love with Atticus Finch (Bruce understands – I think). I kept telling myself I needed to read the book, but when I checked for it at the local library, it was always checked out. After several months (maybe even a year) of checking, I finally inquired about it at the desk, because the electronic card catalog kept saying it was NOT checked out. They said it probably had met the same fate as a lot of the other classics: Someone simply took it and never brought it back. Before Christmas, I finally checked again, and they had 2 copies! (Bruce was an English major and has many, many of the classics, but we’re not sure whether this book is in one of the boxes-upon-boxes of books that we have packed, ready to move “someday.)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Part 2 (because the above paragraph was getting long and this really should be a separate post): So I’ve been reading it, along with dealing with the usual Christmas chaos, which this year included getting new windows installed all over the house (the “2 1/2-day” job took nearly 3 weeks!), and trying to read a little of my Accounting I book to refresh myself since taking a semester off, and being tired and going to bed early. And from the very first sentence of this long-desired book, I was hooked. It just draws you in immediately, this tale told through the eyes of a 5-year-old tomboy in a small 1930s Southern town. I have to say, though, that this is one of the rare cases in which I didn’t immediately start to think, “The book is way better than the movie.” The movie is just so darned good, it actually enhances the reading of the book. When I read a book after I’ve first seen the movie, I try not to imagine the actors as those characters. Most times, the actors are too Hollywood, I guess. But in this case, I am imagining Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus, and the kids who played Scout and Jem and Dill, and of Calpurnia and the schoolchildren and the neighbors. … I’m in chapter 10 or 11, and we haven’t even gotten to the rape trial yet. But it’s not slow reading. It’s written through the eyes of little tomboy Scout Finch, and it’s just delightful, because the actress they picked to play Scout is just perfect  – not Hollywood at all (please, if you know anything about the actress that will burst my bubble, keep it to yourself!). And Scout and Jem and Dill and Atticus – and even Boo Radley (Robert Duvall), even though the kids haven’t laid eyes on him yet – those are the faces I see as I read. Brilliant casting.
  • This bullet point is sort of To Kill a Mockingbird (hereafter referred to as TKAM), Part 3, but it’s technically about the author and not the book, so cut me some slack. 🙂 Did you know that Harper Lee and Truman Capote were childhood friends? In fact, Harper Lee was Capote’s research assistant for In Cold Blood. And her character Dill Harris in TKAM was based on old friend Truman. Some say Capote was the real author of TKAM, but others say it’s a ridiculous notion, the different writing styles being one clue among many.
  • (Link to info about the movie To Kill a Mockingbird.)
  • The next book I read may be Breakfast at Tiffany’s (by Capote), another book I’ve never read but I’ve seen the movie. I didn’t like the movie the first time I watched it – not in spite of Audrey Hepburn but because of her, or at least the character she played. Audrey Hepburn is delightful to watch, but I did not like Holly Golightly the first time I experienced this movie (I tend to judge people I perceive as flighty and irresponsible). Fortunately, my favorite song, “Moon River,” is a big part of the movie, so there have been times when I’ve popped the DVD into the player just to hear that beautiful Mancini tune. So, because of the wonderful song, I’ve grown to love the movie and appreciate the sadness and lostness of the main character. But I imagine this will be one of those times when the book will be much better. It has to be – Capote has written so many wonderful books, and the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (BAT?) is somewhat Hollywoodized, I think. And I want to know what the sad, lost Holly was thinking that early morning as she stood outside Tiffany’s looking in, after having partied all night in that iconic hairdo, dress and black evening gloves. All dressed up in party clothes yet all alone, and I want to know what she was thinking. A movie doesn’t give you that. (Unless it’s Ferris Bueller.)
  • Last year I decided to read more of the classics and am gradually getting around to them. I read slowly, and I tend to get sleepy when I find the perfect comfortable spot to read in, so it takes me a while to finish a book. But now that the holiday season is over, I won’t be watching Food Network as much, so I’m already reading more than I did in the fall. I tried some Solzhenitsyn (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) and Upton Sinclair (The Jungle), but those are books I didn’t finish. I’ll eventually get back to Solzhenitsyn, but the only thing I liked about The Jungle (it’s a really gross expose on the meatpacking industry) is that it has caused me to eat less red meat! I think the problem with Denisovich is that I’ve read too many concentration-camp books (I had the same problem with the movie Schindler’s List); maybe I’m desensitized to the issue, or maybe it’s that nothing on the subject comes close to my all-time-favorite book, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom (“No pit is so deep that the love of God is not deeper still!”). That is a book that I’ve read several times already but could read every year and never get tired of it. I’ve loaned my copy several times and just told the friend to keep it, then I go buy myself a new paperback copy. The tale of God’s light in a sea of darkness never gets old.
  • I’ve decided – officially – that Naps are a Good Thing. Because I finally have a job that allows me to take actual holidays off (I may never get used to that!), Bruce and I have spent a few long weekends at Mom’s lately (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s). Thanksgiving weekend, I took a long nap (really, a short nap but a long rest) every single day. At Christmas we were busier, so not so many naps, but New Year’s I got a couple of good breaks in, with the exception of the day that Mom was noisy in the kitchen and I got up cranky at her (don’t worry; I apologized). Just goes to show how important naps have become to my mental health. I turned 47 in November, so I am not a spring chicken anymore. For sure, Naps are a Good Thing. (I’m thinking of trademarking that expression.)
  • A soft bed, a warm puppy and a good book – who could ask for more?
  • I have written a set of “goals” – not New Year’s resolutions – for 2010 (it will include naps, although not in so many words). I didn’t get them posted by the time we rang in the new year, so it may be March before you seem them here! Or I may post them tomorrow – just depends on how tired I am when I get home from work.
  • And of course I’m supposed to be reading my accounting book!

This concludes another portion of our semiregular feature, Random Thoughts. Tune in again, when you may hear Suzy say, “Has it been that long since I posted?”

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