Taking Care of Me

I really like going to the gym. Even at my heaviest, I went to the gym five times a week, at a minimum. Sometimes I went every day. Sometimes I skipped a Sunday, especially when I had to clean bird cages.

When I first joined a gym I went after school, but I found that challenging. I’d come home tired and wanting alone time, but because I had a gym membership, I felt obligated to go. Once there, I’d relax. And I’d feel proud that I had changed clothes and made the effort.

A year into that membership I started getting up at 4:00 AM to be at the gym by 4:15 when it opened. I’d exercise for an hour, then come home and get ready for work. Again, I felt proud of myself. After all, this meant sacrifice, right? But I am a morning person, so it worked.

After my first knee replacement, it was hard getting back into that morning routine. In fact, it took months before I could do much of anything except ride a bike and use some of the weight machines. Mike would drive me to the gym, then come back in an hour to get me. It hurt, but exercise loosened up my knee and made it function properly.

After some investigation I discovered that the gym in the town where I worked opened at 6:00 AM. I could sleep in a little longer, eat breakfast, feed the birds, then leave. There I walked in the water. Back and forth, back and forth, getting in as many laps as I could. Then I would shower and dress for work, teach all day, feeling proud of myself.

I lost weight. And gained weight. Each time I had surgery or broke something or a knee fell apart, I’d gain weight. Then I’d return to the gym as soon as I could and lose weight, but never as much as I had gained. It felt like I was a hamster in a wheel, spinning around and around and going backwards.

I joined Weight Watchers. That helped. I loved the expectations because they were reasonable and doable. I lost weight. In fact, altogether about thirty pounds. I gave away my too-big clothes and gleefully bought new.

But then another surgery, weight gain, bigger clothes. I was caught in a cycle that seemed to have no end.

The one consistency in my life was exercise. Every day that I could, I was at the gym. I walked in the water until my knee was strong enough and then I swam. I’d go to my gym nights and weekends. I kept my weight under control and even lost a few pounds.

Last year I was told that I needed surgery but the surgeon would not operate until I’d lost a considerable amount of weight. That was my motivation.

Interestingly enough, my exercise routine has not changed. I swim up to five days a week. I work with weight machines at least two. I use the elliptical and stationary bike at least two.

Since I’ve been retired I go out walking with my husband every day, except when it’s raining.

And I love it all. I love swimming. I feel sleek and powerful in the water even though I am not the fastest swimmer. But once I start, I don’t stop until I’ve swum a half mile. At the end, I feel tired, but proud.

When I am using the machines, I get embarrassed because of my floppy arms, but I push and pull over and over, knowing that what I am doing will make me stronger. And I feel proud.

On the elliptical and bike I challenge myself to up the ante by increasing friction and moving longer. It’s tiring, but it feels awesome.

Every single time I exercise, I smile. I am doing it for me. All for me, and that’s what makes it so special and meaningful.

When I had small kids, I did things for them. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I did things for Mike as well. I cooked and cleaned and shopped because I loved taking care of my family. I loved being with them and watching them grow physically, emotionally and mentally.

I took care of many dogs and cats and eventually birds. I did it out of love. They loved me back, which felt great. Well, maybe the birds didn’t love me, but they “talked” to me when I spoke to them.

I still have responsibilities at home, but Mike has shouldered many of them since he retired. I no longer grocery shop or cook or wash dishes or run the vacuum or push dust around. We share responsibility for the cat, but the birds are mine.

What I do have is time for me, and while there are many ways that I divvy up that time, a good portion still goes to exercise. I eagerly put on the right clothes and head out. I look forward to going, knowing that after lunch, my usual time, is dedicated to taking care of me.

We all need to do that. To set aside portions of every day that belong to us. Time when we do what we want to do, not what we need to do or are expected to do.

If you haven’t done that yet, give it a try. It’s amazing how wonderful you’ll feel.

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Lonely Heart

When you are by my side

My heart glows with happiness.

You and I are one,

Have been for many years,

But more so recently.

And so when we are apart,

I am not whole.

Half of me is missing,

Vanished. Disappeared.

As if magic has erased your caring,

Your tender touch, your loving.

Even though I know you are not far away,

You are not here, by my side.

My heart aches for you.

It is lonely until we are reunited

And then all is well again.

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Conference Behaviors

As I am getting ready to attend my favorite writer’s conference, I need to remind myself of how to get the most from the experience. You’d think by now that I’d have it down pat, but because I am essentially a shy person at heart, I need to keep in mind all the tips that I’m going to share.

First of all, come prepared. Make sure you have paper and pens for notetaking. If reading materials have been provided, make sure that you have read them!

Convince yourself that no matter how shy you are, don’t sit there with your mouth shut. If you have questions, ask them. If you want to make a comment, do so. Introduce yourself to total strangers. Walk up to them or lean over when seated and give your name, ask theirs, ask what they’re working on and share your work as well.

Participate whenever there is an opportunity to do so. If there are panel discussions, ask one clarifying question. If there is a chance to read, do so. If you can submit a work for critique, so it.

Step outside your genre whenever possible. While you might not write poetry, you can learn something. Maybe memoir is not your thing, but they might talk about pace, backstory, and dialogue, things you need to relearn.

Take advantage of any opportunities to meet one-on-one with professionals, even if it means paying for the privilege. This is your chance to solicit advice from the very people who are there looking for new clients.

After the conference is over, stay in touch with friends you meet there. I have been blessed to have several good friends that I met at the same conference that I am going to this week. Many of us have been meeting regularly over a period of five years. It’s been a blessing that’s worth every moment spent on the road to see them.

Lastly, don’t feel that you have to do everything offered. You can’t pop into every session for a few moments and think you can walk away with gems that will influence your work. Be reasonable and make the best choices that you can. If it works out, great. If it’s not working and there’s a break, don’t be afraid to walk out. Your time is valuable.

You also need time to rest. Learning is exhausting. If you are too tired to process, go back to the hotel or go for a walk. It’s okay.

I hope this helps you as much as it helps me. Now I am ready!

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My Place in History

Today I visited a historical museum with my family. It was an interesting experience.

in almost every room I found something from my past.

For example, in the school room was a reader that I had used and desks with inkwells like I once sat in.

In the military room was a WWII Army uniform like my mom wore, which became my Halloween costume in ninth grade.

The tech room was full of memories. An old Brownie box camera, the first camera my family owned. A Kodak camera with a silver flash. Manual typewriters in metal carriages that you had to move in order to stop from typing off the end of the page.

A plastic-bodied beige dial phone and the first wall phone we got when we moved to California.

Down in the clothing room were dresses that I remember my Grandma Reiske wearing when she got dressed up and another dress similar to the one my mother wore on her wedding day.

The most shocking clothes, however, were the ones from my twenties. What were we thinking? Bold geometric designs, mini skirts, long tunics over matching wide leg pants. Loose, flowing tops that were really dresses.

my favorite hallway featured Native American artifacts similar to what I have at home.

The museum took me on a welcome journey back to the past. The best part was sharing those memories with my grandkids.

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Room for All

People of the Sun

welcome the strengthening rays

with outstretched arms, reaching,

bringing in welcome warmth.

New days, new adventures await.

Embracing oneness with the

center of the known universe.

 

People of the Moon

greet the enveloping night

with folded hands

supplicating needs to the bringer

of creation, initiator of all thought,

pledging undying solidarity

to regulated change.

 

People of the Stars

dream of what may be,

searching for fantastic future hopes

amid a cacophony of movable dots

whose pinpoint lights pierce the

penetrable darkness, bringing hope,

chances of possibilities.

 

People of the Earth

stand rock solid

firmly planted in the rich soil

of security, whispering goodness,

wealth, and prosperity in grateful

thanksgiving to the One who

made it all appear.

 

People of the Water

rock soothingly to and fro

with the tides of change:

flexible, contemplative, measured

waves that crash unheeded against

the known, shaking the very

foundations of belief.

 

People of the Air

flutter about, touching, grazing,

wisps of joy floating through

life, barely discernible, yet solid

enough, felt, yet not.

Changeable, moody, inconsistent

bringers of soothing relief.

 

People of the Fire

charge engines, roaring life

into being, siphoning air and fuel

to their own needs, greedy, selfish

consumers taking but seldom giving,

burning those who stand too near

warming hearts and minds.

 

People of the Spirit

find friends everywhere

prosper in graciousness,  spreading

God’s love and goodwill throughout

humankind, lovers of life,

exuberant seekers

of commonalities.

 

In heaven and on earth

there is room for all

blended salads of goodness.

Riches solidified into countries, cities.

Creators, destroyers, givers, takers

standing under God’s gifts

thankful for life.

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Fall from Grace

I don’t know why my first skiing trip came to mind in the middle of July, but it did. It’s not like it snows here, which it doesn’t, and unfortunately we’re in the middle of a heat wave, so it’s not even raining.

The interesting thing is that I’d never thought about skiing. I’d seen it on television, but never pictured myself with boards strapped to my feet barreling down a snow-covered slope. And to get there? I’d have to swing on a questionable-looking chair as it steadily climbed up the mountain. Not for me with my fear of heights.

The closest I had gotten was after I had graduated from college and, on a lark, took a class at the local community college about skiing. At the conclusion was an outing. Because I lived in the SF Bay Area, I owned no clothing that would keep a person warm in freezing temperatures.

I went shopping and quickly discovered that, with my limited funds, I could not purchase a suitable coat or pants or boots. I did buy a pair of supposedly insulated rubber boots, but that was it. I would have to make do with what I had.

One Saturday morning I climbed on a yellow school bus, excited, yet at the same time terrified. I knew no one, so I had no way to spend the time other than drifting over whatever passed through my mind.

I did notice the cold. About the time that snow began to appear along the side of the highway, my feet became uncomfortable and my fingers ached. We took a bathroom break. I was miserable! Nothing I wore was sufficient for the trip.

The rest of that trip went by in a mind-numbing haze. I had no money to rent skis or a toboggan, so I spent the time I braved the outdoors walking about. Most of the time I hung out in the lodge, dreaming over the hot chocolate I saw others drinking.

So, after that adventure, why would I ever go skiing? Because young adults don’t often remember misery.

A couple of friends from work convinced me that I’d really like to learn to ski. By now I had enough money to buy a decent coat and gloves and warm socks. I figured I’d rent equipment and so had saved what I hoped would be enough.

The drive was uneventful. We talked and laughed and so the miles sped by. According to my friends, it was a beautiful day for skiing. The sky was blue, there was plenty of snow and it wasn’t too cold. They were right.

Except for one small thing: I didn’t know how to ski.

They gave me some basic instructions. They showed me how to grab the rope to go up the bunny slope. Once there, they demonstrated how to put my skis into a V-shape in order to turn, slow down, and stop. They went down with me, once. Then set me free.

I did pretty well. I am not an idiot, so I learn quickly. I am fairly coordinated, so I thought I had mastered the basics.

I moved on to the easiest chair lift. Getting on a chair while wearing skis is not easy. There’s a lot of timing involved. You’ve got to get into position as soon as the chair gets to the post. Then look over your shoulder while reaching for the bar. Then sit while the chair is still moving.

The first time my butt barely touched the seat and I had to hang on for dear life all the way to the top. The next time I did better, and each time after that it was a little bit easier.

No one had explained how to get off before I hopped on at the bottom. While the chair is moving, as it gets lower to the ground, you’ve got to jump off and ski out of the way before the seat bumps you in the back. I watched those in front of me, so when my turn came, I managed, but felt the chair brush the back of my legs.

The first few trips down I succeeded. I turned, I slowed, and I stopped as I approached the line waiting to go back up. I felt proud.

I went back up. Handled getting on and off. Successfully went down. As I approached the line, however, something went wrong.

I put my skis in a V-shaped and dug in my inner blades. I didn’t slow down. I got closer and closer to the kid at the end of the line. I dug in even harder. I kept sliding forward. Closer and closer I got.

I know that my eyes opened wider and wider in shock and preparation for the inevitable.

I was helpless to prevent myself from hitting the kid. I bumped into his back, nearly knocking him down, as I fell onto my skis, landing on my tailbone with an excruciatingly painful crack.

I felt my cheeks redden. The kid turned to me, all eight years of him, and said as he put his skis into that elusive V, “Lady, you stop like this.”

I was both humiliated and in such deep pain that I found it difficult to get up. Thankfully a woman came up behind me, reached down and pulled me up. She brushed the snow off my back and asked if I was okay.

I wasn’t. I skied over to a log and sat. Bad idea. I took off my skis and walked them back to the rental shop, mincing my steps. I struggled up the steps to the lodge. I found a chair, but, oh, that hurt!

The drive home was terrible. Because my tailbone hurt so bad, I had to lay down in the backseat of a VW bug. Not comfortable.

That night I couldn’t sleep. Between the intense pain and the recalled embarrassment, there was no chance of sleep.

The next day I went to work, but had to go see a doctor at the end of my shift. Nothing was broken, but I was badly bruised. I was given a blow-up pillow to sit on until it healed.

Despite that disaster, I did eventually go skiing again. I was never good at it, but I never crashed into anyone, either.

The lesson that I learned is that sometimes it’s better to fall before you think you are going to hit someone.

This applies to all facets of life. Fall while you still have the strength of character to pull yourself, brush yourself off and try again.

 

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Thoughts on a Beautiful Day

Another day awakens

Promising calm winds

Sunny skies

A touch of clouds

That guide me through

The hectic times of my life

 

I stretch, drawing in

Energy to replenish

My weary soul

To revitalize desires

And strengthen interests

A healing, needed balm

 

The day beckons me forth

Greeted by the early

call of morning birds

Filled with bounteous joy

That fills my soul

With unbounded joy

I burst into expectant smile

 

The day is mine to conquer

I shall vanquish foes

Destroy doubts

Eliminate naysayers

While rising to the peak

Of my talent

 

Ah, the dreams of a new day

A day of joyous victory

To fill my sights.

I rejoice.

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