Friday, January 27, 2006

A Posttive Attitude

My department is moving this week--from one side of campus to another. I'm going from office to cube, from lamps to cold flourescent lighting, and a host of other negative alternatives.

As I got up this morning at my usual 3:40am, I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down to read day 2 in The Purpose Driven Life. I'm not an accident, it says. Well, that's certainly refreshing! That's the whole point of the book--to figure out what I'm here for.

I went to they gym and pounded away 659 calories on the eliptical trainer, reading the February issue of Vegetarian Times. I felt so proud of myself for being able to check off four things on my giant to-do list, all before 6AM.

It's been a difficult week, though this week isn't much different than other weeks. The office move has been stressful on just about everyone. We're all thinking of the things we'll miss about our old space and how demoralizing things have been over the past six months while Human Resources searched for a leader for us. A new boss changes everything and she has certainly made some changes!

There's been quite a resistence. Some of us waited until the last possible minute to pack our things, refusing to help with the "common areas" in our old space. There's almost always a gripe fest going on behind closed doors in someone's office--while we still have them.

As I drove home from my productive gym session, I sang at the top of my lungs along with the radio, not caring how riduculous I looked. Stopped at a red light, I looked at the car next to me. Someone else was having a fine morning, flailing his arms and beating the steering wheel in tune to whatever song he was listening to. I had to laugh, first at him and then myself. I'm sure I looked exactly like that.

I thought about what it is that turns me into a pop singer so early in the morning--the same thing that gets me out of bed when college students are just going to sleep; the same thing that says "you may be in a cube, but it's twice the size of your old office"; the same thing that reminds me that I have a job to do and it doesn't matter if I have to park farther away from my front door or squint under artificial lighting.

I am not an accident. I have a purpose. I'm not sure what it is yet, but man am I excited about finding it out!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Proposal

When I graduated from college, I got a job in Kansas City. Moving there from St. Louis was no big deal other than that it was my first apartment far away from home. My boyfriend, Nick had another semester and would then be going home to San Diego. We’d only been dating for about six months. He was struggling to become a pilot in a post 9/11 world. I drove the four hours back to St. Louis almost every weekend to see him. In October, he’d finally finished all of his flying courses and was heading back home. We decided to have one last weekend together. I drove to St. Louis to pick him up and we drove back to Kansas together. He would fly out of the Kansas City Airport the next afternoon.
During our last few hours we went to a nearby Wal-Mart to pick up snacks for his long flight. Right at the entrance was a display of rings, proudly displaying their price: $9.
“I should buy you a ring,” he said. Amused and pleased, I picked out a purple one—my favorite color. It was very simple. Just an emerald cut “amethyst” and a silver band. I proudly wore it every day, on my left ring finger, certain that someday it would be replaced with something a bit more sparkly. Two years passed and Nick and I maintained our long distance relationship with a trip out to see one another about every three or four months. Soon, I decided that I was never going to get him to move to Kansas, so I’d better get myself out to California. I found a job and an apartment not far from where Nick lived with his parents. It was a rough transition, but we loved being together like a “normal couple”.
His flying career was not going well. He went into the Navy—even having the required laser surgery to correct his vision, but after seven weeks of grueling Officer Candidate School, they determined that he was too tall and sent him home. It was devastating for him. He’d always dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a Navy Pilot. But we lasted through it, planning to get married some day. As soon as he could afford a ring, he’d say.
“But I already have a ring,” I always replied, displaying my $9 ring proudly. But he wasn’t satisfied with it. I wore his ring every day, taking it off at night and placing it on the table beside my bed. The silver band had changed to gold and sometimes turned my finger green. Often, I’d find it on the floor in the mornings where my cat had amused himself with it sometime in the night. But everyday, it graced my finger, holding a place for one that I knew would some day be there.
One morning, however, to my horror, the ring was gone. I found my watch on the floor by the table where I left it, right next to my ring. Assuming my cat was the culprit, I searched everywhere around it. I dumped out the trash and crawled under the bed, but still no ring. I was sure it would eventually turn up, but days later, it never had. Oh well. My $9 ring was gone. I tried not to be upset about it. It was just a cheap old ring. But I had come to love it. It was a promise that someday, the man I loved would fulfill. I was on reserve and my ring was a reminder of that. My hand felt empty and off balance without it.
My office was right near the beach. On occasion, Nick would come to visit me for lunch. One such June Thursday, Nick came up to meet me. We went out to lunch and returned to find a deserted office. Most everyone had left early, so I decided to leave as well. Grateful for my spontaneity, Nick suggested a nice walk along the beach since it was so close by. We’d been talking about a day at the beach for a while and now we had the opportunity. I took off my heels and stockings and we walked barefoot in the sand. It was a gorgeous summer day.
After a nice long walk, we stopped to look at the water. The sun was reflecting off the waves—it was beautiful. Nick stood behind me and put his arms around me.
“You know when I first started thinking about flying as a civilian?” He said. “I was at a baseball game with my uncle and I couldn’t see the scoreboard. Laser surgery wasn’t an option then so I knew I’d probably have to find some other way to become a pilot.” I listened closely as he spoke into my ear. After four years together, I’d never heard this story. “That was the first time I’d looked into colleges for aviation. I’ve often wondered why God would put this desire to be a pilot on my heart and then make it so hard. But if I hadn’t had trouble seeing that scoreboard, I’d never have looked in to Saint Louis University. And if I’d never gone to Saint Louis University, I’d never have met you.” He pulled my $9 ring out of his pocket and slid it onto my finger.
Astonished, I said, “you found my ring!”
“No, I stole your ring. I want you to be my wife.” I was speechless. Here was my ring that I was sure I’d lost, back on my finger where it belonged. He took it, knowing I’d blame the cat. He took it so that he could propose with it. He was serious! He was asking me to marry him!
“Of course I will.” We went to a jewelry store after that to get my “real ring”, which he’d had already picked out. This precious little trinket had been a promise for almost four years and he wanted it to be the ring he proposed with. It means much more to us than the 2-karat diamond that now sits on my finger. But there’s still a place for my $9 ring—it’s on the ring finger of my right hand and I still wear it every day.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I thought I was done...

When my husband's Uncle Rick died more than two years ago, we discovered an entire library of books on writing. Of course, I was drooling over them and since no one else really wanted them, they came back to Kansas with me in a very heavy suitcase. One of my goals (not a New Year's Resolution) is to read one of them every week.

I took so many classes on creative writing in high school and college--I thought I'd learned all there was to know. The rest is just practice, right? Maybe...maybe not.

I had a favorite series when I was in high school. Actually, the author has written several series, all historical pioneer-type stories. They all have a Christian theme and most have women as the main character.

I'd gotten the first one at the library and spent many months trying to find the second. Then, one day, my grandma came over with the entire series.

"I've just been waiting for you to be old enough to enjoy these."

What luck! I dove right in and devoured them. I've been working on my own story of a similar time period and decided to read them again, more than ten years later. I'm finding that I don't enjoy them nearly as much, mostly because now, I recognize the writing for what it is--amature. All of the things I'm learning (and have known all along): show, don't tell; don't use dialect unless you're trying to make things difficult for the reader; don't be sentamental--all of that stuff runs rampant in these books.

While I'm glad to have learned, I'm sorry to have lost some childhood friends.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Running Tips for Beginners

One of the things I do as a way to try to get people to read my crap is write nutrition articles for magazines. I'm all out of quality (ok, so if it's so great, why is this blog the only audience I have?) fiction so you're gonna get a taste of my nutritional knowledge. I'm somewhat of a nutrition junkie--loaded with information that I'm unable to use for myself. But if someone wants health tips, I've got my share!

I tried to become a runner. It did not last five minutes. My lungs were about to burst, so I abandoned running for the familiar eliptical trainer, where I still workout for an hour each morning (except Sunday, when I rest). But, nevertheless, I wrote an article on running for beginners in hopes that it would help. Mabye someone can use it.



It looks so easy—you just go—just run. One foot after the other. That’s simple, right? You give it a try. Lacing up your shoes, you head off down the street. After a few seconds, it seems, you can barely keep going. Your lungs are heaving, you have a stitch in your side and your legs feel like they’re about to crumble beneath you. This is impossible. No one can do this for long, you think, just as an experienced runner easily passes you by. So much for that. You toss your running shoes into your closet along with your elliptical trainer, your exercise bike, and your thigh master. How is a person supposed to get into shape when it’s so hard?
Running is one of the least expensive methods of cardiovascular exercise. All you need is a pair of shoes and an open road. The problem with running is that beginners don’t always know the right way to run. Sure, we all know how to run, but we may not all know how to run properly and effectively. There are pitfalls that beginning runners often fall into and end up giving up before they’ve given running an honest effort. They’re simple to avoid and combat if you know what to look for.
Warm Up! Warming up is more important than most beginners might think. Your muscles, heart and lungs are not accustomed to running. Your body may used to walking or sitting for most of the day. You wouldn’t suddenly expect sports car performance out of a mini van. You need to get into shape first. Some of us are so far into a sedentary lifestyle that our muscles complain when we exert even a little pressure on them. We certainly can’t expect them to adjust to the vigorous workout that running entails on day one. Warming up gets your muscles started. It relaxes them and loosens them up.
A simple warm up begins with stretching. Lunge forward on each knee, one at a time, making sure to keep your knee at a 90-degree angle, not going past your toe. It’s ok to rest your hand on your knee to help keep your balance. Next, stand up and touch your toes, being careful not to lock you knees. Abdominal muscles need to be stretched for a good run too. Start with a side bend. Rest your hands on your hips and lean to one side slowly, raising one arm over your head, helping you lean into the stretch. Repeat on the other side. Hold each stretch for about 10-15 seconds. Never bounce a stretch. Finish your warm up with a five minute brisk walk to get you going!
Keep it short and slow. Starting too fast will only tire you out. It’s hard for beginning runners to know how fast to go, and it’s different for each person. You may have to give it a few days to work out exactly how to pace yourself. Try running for one minute and then walking for two. If a full minute is too difficult, you might be running too fast. Keep it at a slow jog until you build your endurance. Running is more than just legwork. It exercises your lungs and heart as well. If you have breathing problems or heart problems, consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Once you’ve mastered the one-minute run, try increasing it to two minutes, with one minute of walking in between. Slowly build your endurance one minute at a time.
Set realistic goals. You’re probably not going to be ready for a 5K marathon after a few weeks of short runs. Marathon training can take months, even for experienced runners. It is important to listen to your body. Don’t try to keep going for two minutes if you’re ready to pass out at ninety seconds. Unrealistic goals will only attack your motivation and increase the likelihood that you will give up with little or no results. Instead of starting with distance goals or speed goals, try frequency goals. Make it your goal to run three times a week for a month. Once you reach that goal, evaluate your progress. If you can easily run for ten minutes or a mile at a time, try making time or distance your goal. If not, increase your short runs. Maybe you’re running for three minutes and walking for one, for six repetitions. Try increasing it to seven or eight. The goal itself if less important that reaching it. Reward yourself when you reach a goal. Once you’ve gotten the hang of things and short runs are easy for you, work on speed or distance goals.
A good pair of shoes goes a long way. Walking into an athletic shoe store can be overwhelming if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. As you’ll notice after your first few runs, running and walking are very different. It’s reasonable to assume that the same shoe won’t be optimal for both. You’d wear hiking boots for hiking and ballet shoes for dancing, right? You need running shoes for running. They offer different support than walking shoes. An experienced sales person can probably explain the dynamics of shoe construction and how each shoe is different. You don’t need to know all of that. Wearing the shoes while you run will convince you. Your shoes should fit snugly (not tight!) and be well ventilated. Your feet are going to sweat as you run and poorly ventilated shoes can contribute to athletes’ foot and foot odor. You should replace your shoes after about 500 miles. If you tend to wear athletic shoes for activities other than running, you might want to buy a separate pair.
These are just a few things to keep in mind. There are a wide variety of running websites, magazines, and books that offer advice for the novice runner. Runners World Magazine is a widely recognized source for beginners and seasoned runners. Visit their website at www.runnersworld.com. For more information on cardiovascular fitness and heart health, visit the American Heart Association at www.americanheart.org.