Archive for March, 2011
Many readers of my book have written me to ask about my running pal, Julie. Her story of losing half her bodyweight has touched a lot of people, and some of you have told me your own stories of dropping a significant amount of weight. I’m so proud of Julie for her commitment to herself and of those of you who have been on similar journeys! Julie has promised to give me an interview next week, which I’ll transcribe and post here for you, but until then, let me remind you how she and I met and how I watched out my window as she reached her goal.
Julie already lived in our neighborhood of townhomes when Bill and I bought our unit. She was a friendly woman who walked her little Cairn terrier past our window twice a day. Bill and I liked her right away because she was high energy and interested in others. She greeted every neighbor with the same bright smile and series of sincere questions about our well-being. A labor and delivery nurse by profession, Julie had the aura of one who cared.
Julie was also a large woman. In fact, it seemed to us, as we watched from our window (just so you know, the only window in the lower half of all our units looks directly onto the street at street level—we weren’t spying) that she was heavy against all odds. Julie walked at least an hour every day in addition to the hours she spent on her feet at the hospital. As I mentioned in the book, I come from a family of people who struggle with obesity, but in my family people are pretty sedentary. Julie was anything but sedentary and yet she was still fighting more than a hundred extra pounds.
One day, my two little dogs went ballistic as Julie and Miss Ricki passed our window. Bill and I glanced up from what we were doing and noticed that Julie looked like she was losing weight. We commented to each other that she looked good and then went on our way. This happened from time to time over the next several months until one day when our dogs barked, Bill said to me, “Who is that woman walking Miss Ricki this morning?”
I said, “It’s Julie, I think.”
“She’s lost a lot of weight,” he said. I looked more closely at her from inside my cozy home and thought, Sure enough! I wonder how she’s done it?
Now all this time, we never talked to Julie. It isn’t because we are antisocial; it’s because Julie worked nights at the hospital, so when she walked passed our window, we were either in our rushed morning routine of getting ready for work or, during her evening walks, having dinner. But then one day, I happened to arrive home just as Julie was heading home from one of her later walks and we started to chat.
She had, indeed, lost well over 100 pounds and, it turned out, she was training to run a marathon!
So how did she do it? And why now? Julie has told me that she was “heavy in a family of skinny people” her whole life. She’s told me (and I’m authorized to tell you) that she felt loved and accepted by her family and that she loved and accepted herself, but that she knew her weight was taking its toll on her joints and on her ability to move about the world. She’d given herself a target weight decades ago, but had never been able to get there.
Let me assure you that she’s at her target now, and she’s maintained it for several years at this point. I do a lot more than watch Julie from my window these days. I run with her a few times a week. I also talk to her almost every day as she heads off to the gym or to the pool. She is an inspiration to me, often showing more commitment to her health and goals than I can muster myself.
And that’s the end of what I’ll say about Julie. Next week I’ll be interviewing her and transcribing the interview so you can hear from her yourself. If you have questions you’d like me ask her, send ‘em on to me.
I still can’t get my brain to focus on much besides Japan. The images on the television, though I’ve seen them now a hundred times, still draw me in and invite me to stand, dumbfounded in the center of my living room. But I did pull myself away from the TV for a 10-mile run on Saturday morning, and it’s worth writing about.
Bill and I woke up to torrential rain that day. The wind was blowing and the downpour was coming in sideways, as it does sometimes around here. The plan was to suit up and drive to Anacortes for the Sunset Loop Relay run. Most participants would be in teams of four, each taking one 2.5-mile loop before passing the baton to the next runner. Bill wanted to get about 17 miles in last weekend as part of his training for the Boston Marathon, so he planned to do the full 10 miles on his own. And since I’ve been feeling ready to ramp up beyond six miles in a single run (my foot isn’t totally healed, but it’s much improved), I decided to come along for the ride/run.
When we saw the weather, Bill balked. Nobody loves to run in the pouring rain, but we do it often enough that I was surprised how adamant he was about not setting foot on the trail if it didn’t let up that morning. Anacortes is an hour from our house, so we decided to take a chance that the weather would shift before we got there and, guess what? It did.
Once we had arrived in Anacortes, there was not another rain drop!
Here’s the thing about doing a race in which most of the other runners are taking turns: They run only a fraction of what you run. That seems obvious, of course, but when Bill predicted I would finish LAST, I realized he was right. Always at the back of the pack, there’s only one other time I ever remember coming in last. It was a 30K at Birch Bay. In that run there were two people behind me the whole race but somewhere before the finish, they bailed out, so although I finished last, I wasn’t last on the course. This race stood the chance of being my first DLF (Dead Last Finish) fair and square.
I wasn’t vying for the honor of DLF, mind you, but I was prepared for the possibility. And sure enough, as soon as I did the first loop, I was pretty sure the course was going to take me longer than everyone else. Don’t ask me how you can run in a circle and still be going UP hill the whole way, but we did. Actually, the course was gorgeous. There were views of the water at several points and the whole paved drive was accessorized with the beautiful red bark of Madrona trees. But the route consisted of long, winding ups with sharp, short downs, which made me feel as if I could barely catch my breath before climbing again.
I’m happy to report that my foot felt good and my legs were working well for me, so I ran the whole course until the last lap when I walked part of the biggest hill. Bill joined me for that final loop and I’ll admit to accepting the Prague Push for one of biggies, too. I came over the finish line at 2:08:58 – not bad I felt, but still DLF!
You don’t get a prize for for being DLF, but you do get to know that you kept going longer than everyone else. Let’s take pride in whatever we can. Life is short, why not?
A year ago, Bill and I were on pins and needles watching the earthquake devastation in Chile. We had tickets to fly through Santiago on our way to Punta Arenas. In the end, the Santiago airport opened; we arrived in Chile and saw the damage first hand. Very sad and disruptive for thousands of families!
Today, we’re watching horrifying pictures coming out of Japan, a country we have a lot of connection to and affection for. Bill spent his day fielding emails to and about his students as they attempted to make contact with their families and friends. I touched bases with most of my friends, too, and confirmed that they are OK. So far the news is that everyone we know is safe. The main issue for our friends in Tokyo has been that people could not get home from work yesterday. Everyone I’ve heard from has said that the trains in the city were not working and they therefore had to sleep at their offices. Most have made their way back home by now.
Once again, I’m grateful for those in my life who are safe and incredibly thankful for the kind and generous spirit that tragedy calls out of people. The Red Cross has some information about how they are helping with the disaster in Japan, as does World Vision, in case you are interested in donating to the rescue and recovery efforts.
‘Bout this time of year, I’m dreaming about travel. It’s almost time for Spring Break and Summer is around the corner. My friend, Carol, just left today for an eight day trip to India. It’s her first international trip, and when I heard that she had this opportunity, I was 95% happy for her and 5% jealous, as any good friend should be.
While she was preparing for her trip, she asked me if I had any packing advice. As it turns out, I do. Below is a re-post (with a couple of revisions) of my advice from The Spirited Woman site where I post weekly with travel ideas, advice and insight:
I NEVER check a bag when I travel by air – no matter where I’m going or how long I’ll be there.
There are several reasons for this. First of all, nowadays checking a bag costs extra on most airlines. And while I’ve heard of airlines charging even for carry-on luggage, most will still let you bring one small piece into the cabin. Second, I need to be free of encumbrances, and there’s nothing that weighs me down more than a big ol’ suitcase full of stuff I may or may not use. Third, and most personal, compact packing has become a little game my husband and I play.
On our last trip, to Anchorage, Alaska for the Humpy’s Marathon, Bill and I were debarking the shuttle bus we rode to the airport and, as the driver was handing me my little suitcase, he said, “Wow, you must have nothing in here. How do you travel so light!” That’s right, I won the lightest luggage contest on that trip – even with all my running gear in my bag. In fact, I usually win because Bill can’t sleep without (and therefore has to pack) his favorite pillow. Yay for me.
So how does a woman pack everything she needs into a 22″ X 14″ X 9″ case, especially if she cares about how she looks? Rick Steves, travel guru, has a terrific list of essentials that helped to get me started, but I have some additional tips to help you get everything you need on the plane with you:
- Pack only what you need for the climate you’re going to. Take the chance that you’ll have to purchase something on your trip. I’ve rarely had to do it.
- Plan to wash your clothes. You really need no more than two or three of anything (shirts, underwear, socks, etc.) if you bring the right items, even if you need to dress up on your trip.
- If you don’t need them for work, forget all electronics except your e-book reader and your phone. Almost every hotel, hostel or motel will have a computer you can use to access email.
- Find a hair style that doesn’t require heat. If you don’t need your hairdryer and your other hair appliances, you reduce your need for space significantly.
- In terms of cosmetics, bring only one of each of the following: eye shadow, liner/pencil, foundation, lipstick, blush and mascara. Bring your favorites.
- Wear your heaviest clothing on the plane. Your running shoes and fleece jacket take up a lot of room in your bag, so put them on your body.
- If you travel often, invest in compact or mini-versions of everything you use on a daily bases. Items such as deodorant, alarm clock, purse, and journal, as well as many other things we use on a regular bases, can be purchased in smaller versions than we have in our homes.
A traveler wants to be able to focus on enjoying her experiences when she’s gallivanting around the world. She doesn’t need to spend her precious time worrying about how to lug heavy suitcases from place to place. Next time you take a trip, try packing LESS than you think you need and see what happens.
Don’t you hate that sometimes in this life we encounter people who misunderstand us? Perhaps they are family members, people in our community, friends or critics of various kinds. Since Second Wind came out, I’ve had emails from readers who tell me about unkindesses they’ve faced in their lives. Some have been judged to be lazy because they are overweight; some have been denigrated in abusive relationships for years before they found a way out; and still others have been through dark and difficult times (like the loss of a loved one) and have had to listen to well-meaning (but misunderstanding) people speak clichés to them which only increased the pain. These same readers have shared with me how running (or other forms of strenuous exercise) has provided a way to come face to face with the self in a fresh way and heal from the pressure to meet other people’s standards.
The thing is, there are voices everywhere telling us who to be—or who not to be. The media are typical culprits, pressuring men and women to behave (i.e., spend money) in a certain way, but there are other voices, too. Every family has expectations of its members, and in some families, if you decide those expectations don’t fit for you, there are high prices to pay in the form of judgment and pressure to re-conform. Even groups of friends (or church communities, work staffs, or volunteer groups) have implicit agreements about the roles each member gets to play. When you decide to step outside of the norm, other people get anxious. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve either never stepped outside of the expectations others have for you or you’re the only person on the planet who is surrounded by perfectly understanding people who totally support whatever you do and never fail to understand where you’re coming from, and I’m happy for you.
The rest of us live in a world where some people on some days cannot see us, do not want to be curious about who we really are and wish we were more like them. I recently read a review of my book from a reader who hated it. S/he missed the point altogether and accused me of all kinds of things I don’t think are true of how I represented myself in the story. So, like you, the reader of this blog, I have to live with being misunderstood. And how will I do that? Just like you do. We get some time alone on the trails (or in meditation, yoga, hiking, the quiet of a church sanctuary). We remember the irrefutable fact that there are almost seven billion people on earth and some of them simply will not get us, like us or want to be around us. But out of all those seven billion souls there is likely to be a handful who thinks we’re cool. We run/walk/dance/ride to where those people live, get cheered up and then get back to our lives, living as authentically as we know how.
If you, like me, have had a negative voice intrude on your energy or trajectory this week, don’t let it take the wind from your sail. Take heart. You don’t need everyone to love you. You only need a few.