Not the story

I had an epiphany the other morning.

Wait… that’s not where the story starts. I’ve had a feeling for a couple of years that my story needs to be heard, but I know there are parts that aren’t ready for daylight and some parts just don’t need to be aired. And yet, I’ve had this gnawing nag to write, to blog, to post somewhere, anywhere…

Most of you know I’m soundly middle-aged and yet don’t feel as though I am AARP card ready. (But cutting my cell phone bill in half may push me over the edge…) Age is relative and while that’s part of the story, it’s not THE STORY.

I could keep going with what’s NOT the story, because it all got me here, but for once I’m going to try to cut to the chase and tell you what hit me as I transitioned from a hard, fast, hot, humid run to waiting for the utility company while baking cookies for my co-workers.

The blogging, podcast, social media world seems to need my not so unique but not clearly categorized voice. Not all women are moms. Some of us are not moms by choice, some are not moms yet, and some desperately want to be moms. I love my mom friends, and there’s a lot we share, but I am not the only one who is constantly reminded that while motherhood is a special calling and a huge part of many women’s lives, it is not what makes us female.

Just as moms appreciate an “I gave birth and didn’t quite get the same body back” perspective, I don’t want to CONSTANTLY read about how flattering the pants are to “mom belly.” I have flab because I had an enlarged uterus for YEARS and didn’t keep working my abs (or anything else), but it’s not a mom belly and never will be. Likewise, I have friends who have given birth more than once and have covetable abs.

My workouts aren’t limited by postpartum things or scheduled around the family’s agenda. I have my own, not unique but not Mom-centric challenges. ALL women struggle with life balance, and we are wired to put everyone and everything else ahead of our own needs.

I don’t want this to be divisive; to the contrary, I want to celebrate what is universal to our experience as women. With or without the motherhood moments, we are so much more.

I’m watching Vikings, and as in Lost Kingdom, the women are warriors and go to battle whilst pregnant. Is it historically accurate? I don’t know, but I do love the strong female characters in those series. I love seeing ANYONE in a non-traditional role, in life or in fiction.

Who inspires you? What reminds you that you are a woman of strength and purpose?

Salty


I’ve found tears running down my face a lot lately. I don’t like to say I cry easily, but I’ve found my face wet when I’m very angry, I really shouldn’t watch movies without a box of tissues, and just scrolling Facebook has me weeping again.

These are trying times. We don’t know much about Covid-19, and at least where I am, the rules change by the minute, and those making and enforcing said “suggestions” are playing do as I say, not as I do. Everyone was on edge long before George Floyd’s murder brought racism back to the forefront, and now, transgender people have lost ground and critical protections, all while statues are falling (on people, in rivers…) and businesses that managed to weather the first round of the Covid crisis are facing looters…

It’s all so very personal and hard, but I’m learning so much.

I’ve always loved history… the good, the bad, the ugly. Despite my newfound ignorance, I had two of the most remarkable “history” teachers ever in Mrs. Landis and Mrs. Bailey, and my father had a special passion for the Civil War, so there was much taught at home too. And still, so much was not even mentioned:

Loving vs. Loving, in a nutshell, happened next door. I have family in and/or around Caroline County, and probably did in 1958 too, and yet NO ONE, not at home, not at school, not even in DC where I went to college, bothered to mention that the couple that took interracial marriage to the Supreme Court came from RIGHT HERE. In fact, no one mentioned it at all, until A Mighty Girl (amazing resource!) trotted out Loving Day (June 12) on Facebook this week.

It’s my new favorite holiday. If you’ve watched or read Outlander, Game of Thrones, Vikings, etc., blended relationships have been a challenge for the ages, but we’re all the same (heart, soul, mind) inside, so I’m grateful that Mildred and Richard Loving were brave enough to buck the system and make it legal for us to love whom we love.

Juneteeth I guess was mentioned in a round about way in school, but barely. I remember the Emancipation Proclamation being a big deal every single time it fit into the timeline, but we glossed right over the fact news traveled super-slow (!?) back then, and there is still no clear-cut explanation as to how the war ended and yet, they were ignorant of the end of slavery until military force enlightened everyone.

The Tulsa Greenwood massacre was more than just an entire city district burning, but I’m shocked it wasn’t mentioned in school, especial in my fire service education. We talked of other mass-casualty fires in big cities, but somehow, that one never came up. I’m grateful a friend also shared that story on Facebook, because my ignorance sincerely thought the deep south bore the brunt of the 20th century race riots. Now I need to know what else we weren’t taught in the name of not inciting a riot or whatever the motivation was…

And we should all emulate Peter Norman. I grew up hearing about the Olympics and racial injustice, and I’m pretty sure I could draw the Gold/Bronze winners of that legendary 200 meter race from memory, gloved fists in the air. I was a 200 M gal myself, and my beloved, inspiring coach raced with/knew Carlos and Smith, so I THOUGHT I knew the details. Once again, it took a dear friend sharing the link (Facebook, my new history teacher?!) for me to learn that his name was Peter Norman and he wasn’t just standing there, ignorant of the powerful protests at his back. If you only click on one of those links, let Peter Norman be the one.

Sometimes, presence is power. Peter Norman’s story made me weep and makes me want to ALWAYS stand in solidarity with those who are fighting injustice.

All up in my feelings

This has always been a tough week for me. My mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day AND Nurses Day/Week all fall in one big clump. Even when she was alive, it was a minefield. There are no cards that say “Thanks for trying to be a good mom… I love you anyway.”

Circa 1973?

My mother struggled with mental illness her whole life. She was smart, sarcastic and a very talented nurse, so she was also good at masking her issues, until she couldn’t. She wasn’t all bad by any means, but her need to deny her challenges existed only made it harder on everyone. And the first part of May demands that I reflect and remember, whether I want to or not, whether it is convenient or not.

Here’s what I do know, and can celebrate:

  • My mother had a servant’s heart. She was a scout leader at least two different times in her life, she and my father ran the church youth group, she served on the altar guild at multiple churches, and she was her best self as a nurse. I am grateful for her example of servant leadership.
  • My mother was playful. My fondest memories are of playing in a creek, making snow angels, snowball fights, playing with puppies…
  • My mother was a voracious reader and made sure I learned to read early and often.
  • My mother was a gifted story-teller. When it was a personalized, crafted on the fly bedtime story, that was a good, loving thing.
  • My mother loved animals, and helped me remain a dog lover, despite several unfortunate encounters in my early childhood.
  • My mother was smart. Above-average intelligence was baseline, and I am still learning how far ahead of the curve she and so many people around me were.
  • My mother loved music, and cultivated the same in me. From Ella Fitzgerald to John Denver, she made sure I understood good music came in many forms.
  • My mother liked crafts. I remember macrame and latch hook, but she also taught me just about every type of embroidery there is. She didn’t knit, but she learned to crochet late in life. She wasn’t a great seamstress, but she was better with a sewing machine than I am.

We didn’t have a conventional relationship, but I do have fond memories. As time passes, I find myself remembering more of the good and less of the rest.

I wish those of you celebrating a Happy Mother’s Day, and for the rest of us, I hope for a pleasant day without drama.

Ankles and Probiotics

Yeah. That’s how my mind works. I’m positive I’ve shared Baby Tuckoo and the moo-cow (James Joyce, the stream of consciousness master) before, but that really is what goes on in my head.

My ankles are the complication right now. I’ve been doing body tempering and mobility work for a while, but clearly not enough to make my rigid ankles happy. They don’t bother me when I’m not running, (as in LITERALLY, only while running) and how much they bother me varies from day to day (shoe to shoe?). Ironically, I can jump rope longer than I want to without incident, regardless of what shoes – or none – I’m wearing.

(Yes, I have access to two amazing local running shops, but gee, neither is open for business and I’m not yet motivated to do a video chat with either of them.)

And probiotics. I have this notion I should be taking one, but don’t think the one I’m using is worth much. I have a love-hate relationship with supplements. I take them when it seems there is a need, and if they help, I continue. If they don’t, I ditch them. (Yeah… I need to add a multi-vitamin to my routine too.)

No, I can’t go to my healthcare professional. For starters, there’s this whole COVID-19 thing, but beyond that, I broke up with my long-time doc two years ago, because she landed in the middle of a mega-practice that is no longer remotely convenient to work or home. I didn’t click with the test-drive I took last year, and now we’ve changed insurance providers, so…

Here we are. When the air clears and the pollen settles, I already know who I’m making my annual appointment with, but who knows when that will be?!

Ironically, Gretchen has a great probiotic and we notice a difference when she’s off it. She too has a love-hate relationship with multi-vitamins and is currently refusing to take hers. Her joint supplement is also on the “no thanks” list, but if I crumble it up in her breakfast, down it goes and the gal is spunkier than she needs to be, so… all is well.

And for the record, being healthy ain’t cheap.

What’s running through your mind these days?

Disgruntled

I have absolutely no reason to be cranky. I am still working; in fact, yesterday my wonderful employer gave us guarantees for the next few weeks to assure we have no additional financial stress during this unprecedented time we’re living in. My co-workers are thoughtful and entertaining, and I have access to great, often free workouts. We are healthy, and yet…

… yesterday, I couldn’t get out of my own, foul head. My shoulders stayed up by my ears, I was churlish, and I came home with a tension headache for no good reason, despite being given a generous helping of my favorite local kettle corn most unexpectedly.

Here’s the problem; I am a fixer. I thrive on being part of the solution, and right now, that means just sitting back, waiting, watching. I don’t know how long this is going to last, or what the world will look like on the other side. I spent 20 years watching and waiting for change, and despite that, I’m not very good at it.

Yes, it’s a control issue. I am a work-aholic and I don’t like having my hours limited, even when I’m compensated in a fashion that doesn’t put my basic needs in jeopardy. Like my wee little dog, I like routine. I like Saturday mornings at The Gym with the ladies group, and file it under things I’ve learned about myself, but I don’t like planning what I’m going to eat 10 days in advance, and I don’t like someone else picking out my groceries for me.

I’m a toucher. I find it nearly impossible to stay six feet away from my work family. I enjoy seeing the blooper videos of the dog/kids that didn’t make it on social media, head to head on their phones. I enjoy sharing handfuls of peanut butter pretzels whilst talking about weekend plans. I pat backs, squeeze shoulders and high-five more than I realized, and I miss those little things.

But I *AM* supremely grateful. I am not a front line healthcare worker, literally putting my life on the line. I am not doing battle with the unemployment bureaucracy. I am not worried about where the next round of groceries will come from, unless I do give in and use an ordering service, because most of them are booking more than a week out. I am healthy. My friends and family are healthy thus far, minus some once-removed folks who are recovering nicely. I have access to plenty of workouts and fitness professionals, and I have Gretchen Greer, who is always up for a run, even if her pace is slower than it once was.

I’m going to try a new salmon recipe, and see what I can do with rice, because plain is boring.

How are you doing?

Baby Murph

So… I wrote this last week and it didn’t publish. Let’s add wishes for a happy Easter and see what happens this time?

I need to be working toward something or I get sloppy, lazy, etc. I have no way of knowing what Murph 2020 will look like, but I’m going to be ready.

In case you didn’t click over, the Murph is Memorial Day tradition that honors a fallen hero. His go-to workout was run a mile, 300 squats, 200 push-ups, 100 pull-ups and another mile to finish it out. Sounds simple enough, but it’s brutal, especially when it’s hot and humid and you are looking to best your time from the previous year.

I first did the Murph two years ago. I had to cheat – er, use modifications – on both push-ups and pull-ups, and my goal last year was to do an “honest” (my term) Murph, meaning no modifications. My elbow/shoulder mobility issue reared its head and by Memorial Day, both push-ups and pull-ups weren’t an option so… I didn’t participate.

This year, I’m prepared for the squats and push-ups, but pull-ups still elude me, so guess what I’m working on during this can’t go to the gym era? I still can’t do more than a couple in a row, and even then, I’m not sure my gym teacher would count them; I can’t risk neck strain to get my chin over the bar, and it doesn’t happen often organically. Luckily, Memorial Day is still 7 weeks away.

The pull-up bar lives over the doorway, and I use it at least three times each week, but my real training plan is Sunday is Baby Murph Day. I run a mile (or today, given a grumpy right foot unrelated to running, I jumped rope for 10 minutes), and then do 10 sets of body weight squats, push-ups and pull-ups, with the quantities of each exercise increasing each week, and then do 15 minutes of some sort of cardio to finish out to equal the final mile which is frankly, as grueling as the pull-ups.

Gretchen loves the runs/jumping rope on the deck, but finds the rest boring. She is quite spry for a “senior” dog; I don’t think she knows she’s supposed to be slowing down and I hope it stays that way. We had to have a serious discussion yesterday when she wanted to wrangle a nest of baby black snakes too close to the house. The front yard is now off-limits because girlfriend can’t turn off her hunting instincts.

I am still working a modified schedule, and we are quite well otherwise. How are you and yours?

Practice

So… I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing. Thank you COVID-19 and the shortened work week; I WILL use these days to put words on the screen. (Pen on paper? I don’t even remember the last time I wrote in a journal that way. Hmmm… I’m sure I have blank books hidden around here. Should I do that too?)

I’m also paying a lot of attention to my feet. No, not in a fetish kind of way. Holistically, functionally, our feet are taken for granted, or at least mine are. I’ve known for years that my weight, my hips, my knees and my back are all interdependent in ways I don’t even care to wholly understand, but for some reason, it took eaves dropping on a group training with some college athletes at my gym several weeks ago (you know, back when gyms were open and it was still safe, even healthy, to sweat with strangers in a closed space) for me to realize I need to wiggle my toes more.

My ankles, especially Mr. Right (who is really Mr. Most Likely to Complain), have been rigid and problematic for most of my life. My calf (the left, I think?) is the reason I stopped running last time and spent months (read: years) working on strength and mobility. My strength is good, and probably has always been better than average, but my mobility still is sub-par, and I’m using this time to roll my feet (body tempering) and do other foot and ankle movements, even when I’m just sitting still.

(As I type, I’m alternating great toes down while other toes are up, and hard for me, other toes down and big toes up. Try it. Is one movement easier than the other?)

I’m not watching a lot of network TV. Pandemic updates find me, and honestly, I am empathetic enough that I don’t need to wallow in fear and bad/sad news. As is usually the case, others have it much worse than I do, and I’m grateful for those who are not financially impacted by this sci-fi, life imitating art world we are in.

If you’re not seeing my Facebook posts, you may not know that Gretchen is sleeping, eating, running and hunting, not necessarily in that order. She still has a thing for lizards and snakes, but I doubt her reflexes are what they used to be, so more than ever, I’m trying to keep her safe. Thankfully, our vet re-opened yesterday, so at least I don’t have to keep plan B in my pocket, during their business hours.

How are you doing? Is there something we can do to make this easier for you?

Essential Services

The firefighter I used to be laughed at automotive services being declared essential services. Yes, we are the contracted vehicle maintenance shop for the University and some local police, fire and rescue units, but then yesterday, two doctors thanked us for being open because they too need to remain mobile.

This is not a time for judgment. I’d argue it’s never wise to judge, but that’s another story for another time. There are plenty of folks talking about what you should and shouldn’t do, and I’m not an expert, so…

What is essential? Good food. Exercise. Fresh air. Staying connected. I’m grateful my tribe filled my voids; I now have rice, broccoli and ground beef. I also found a silly, wonderful peanut butter whiskey (see my Facebook or Instagram) and crafted what I’m calling Eggs Benny-ish.

I love eggs Benedict. I bought The Pampered Chef stoneware egg pan just to do poached eggs. This morning, I felt the urge to break it in, but alas, no English Muffins, no Canadian Bacon. I rarely follow a recipe as written, so…

Eggs cooked per instructions ( 80 seconds on high in microwave). Biscuits split, covered with cheddar and deli ham, then put back in the warm (but turned off) oven whilst whipping up the hollandaise sauce. Eggs added on top, sauce slopped on and… yum.

How goes it where you are? What can we do to help?

Gretchen wants it known she had her teeth brushed today. She didn’t fight me nearly as much as I anticipated. We will be doing it at least once weekly from here on out, more often if I can figure out the routine.

Ides of March

Beware the ides of March.

There’s lots to beware of right now, but the original use of that phrase meant it was the deadline for settling debts, not a foreshadowed death day. Shakespeare made the phrase famous, along with lots of others. I love quotes and etymology, and I’m still surprised at all the phrases credited to Shakespeare. (All that glitters is not gold, for instance…)

I also love comfort food. I made chicken and dumplings in the Instant Pot last night (note: Italian seasoning isn’t a great substitute for poultry seasoning), and I’m making tuna noodle casserole tonight, but what you need to know about is Southern Living’s Pecan Pie Brownies.

Basically blogless Susan found it first. Right now, I think she and I are passing more recipes back and forth than books or dog photos, and that’s saying something. The only change is if you actually like the taste of bourbon, more than double the amount in the pecan topping. She followed the recipe, I doubled it, and neither of us feels there’s anywhere close to enough bourbon flavor.

Regardless, it’s amazingly rich, delicious and while it won’t cure what ails you (I’m still more concerned about the local gastric bug than the pandemic, but appreciate the buffer social distancing will add), it will allow you to get lost in your taste buds for a little while. Last night I had it with a glass of milk, but it would love a cup of coffee too.

(I haven’t worked on my food photography skills, so just follow the link if you need a visual, but really what you need is a scent-o-matic screen. I couldn’t wait for them to completely cool before serving, and while it looked like… potting soil and sugared pecan bits, it still tasted great. It’s all set up and firm now, so if tonight’s slice comes out and I am not too eager to get it in my mouth, maybe I’ll try a photo.)

Sweet Potato Pie

Just a quick follow-up here…

Cottage pie is a staple now. Potatoes are arguably my favorite starch, and sweet potatoes are even better. There’s now a debate on whether they really are good for dogs, but my dogs have always loved them, and Gg still gets a bit of dehydrated sweet potato twice daily, to stave off the early morning hunger pangs and to give her stomach acid something to work on while we sleep at night.

This is a great recipe. (photo credit to healthyfitnessmeals.com) I was skeptical about the potato topper with no extra moisture (read: butter), but don’t mess with it, except to add cumin and cayenne pepper to taste. We’ve found those two spices LOVE sweet potato and ground turkey, so after trying the recipe unaltered, I will now add a dash of cumin and a healthy shake of cayenne to both the potatoes and the turkey. No, I’m not giving you a suggestion of how much, because we like heat and I’m pretty sure our teaspoon each is too much for some. On the cumin… literally, a dusting on the potatoes and the turkey.

If you too like sweet potato and ground turkey, you have to try what we call “Sarah’s sweet potato chili.” (No, Sarah isn’t the blogger/cook, but she shared the recipe with me, and so…) The only personalized touch to that one is we DO add beans, whatever white beans happen to be in the pantry. Drain and rinse the beans, but don’t get hung up on the turkey amount; I have stressed because my favorite grocery store tends to only have ground turkey in 16 oz. packs, and especially with the can of beans in there, you don’t miss it. Sure, use the 20 oz. pack if it’s available, but both recipes work with 16 oz. of turkey too.

Back to housework and taxes. What’s on your weekend agenda?