Posted in Family, Forgiveness, Running

Forget and Forgive: Leaving Behind iPhone Chargers

imageThis is a little story about leaving behind phone chargers.  How many of you have done this?  I bet if I could magically retrieve every forgotten charger, I could stretch out the cords to lasso the moon.

Last weekend my husband, two teenage daughters and several family friends traveled to Hershey to watch our Meadville Boys’ Basketball Team compete in the state championship game.  Neither Harry nor I are big basketball fans, but we wanted our kids to get to experience this event with friends and support their team.  It was a quick, pricey trip, and even though Meadville lost, we had a great weekend away together.

Moments after our five hour drive back home, Cara realized that both she and her sister, Elena, left their chargers at our hotel. My husband’s charger broke, so among the four of us, we only had one to share, mine.  

Who can count how many times my kids and their friends leave chargers places?  I can’t really scold my girls though, since my husband and I both leave a trail of various other things behind us.  It’s very frustrating to be a forgetful family, but we’re all working on it. The biggest consequence is losing an item and having to waste time searching for it or paying to replace it, which my girls did and will continue to do.

Since Elena’s phone was at 23% battery power, and she was leaving the house soon, she recharged first.  Cara was at 9% and wanted it before her phone died.  An outrageous battle initiated by Cara over the coveted charger broke out, so I confiscated her phone.  

Cara is typically calm, especially over something as trivial as battery percentage, but she couldn’t control her mood.  After all, she is merely the full-time daughter of a part-time sunshine who is prone to heated temperaments.  I’m sure being up all night hanging with friends during our getaway was the cause of some of her irritability, so I’m certain she suffered what I call: SLEEPOVER-HANGOVER.  Crashing after too much fun is no excuse to mistreat our household though.  

After a busy, exhausting trip, running was not on my agenda, but that’s what I did shortly after unpacking all of our stuff.  I was angry over the petty sibling rivalry especially after treating them to a good time that was all about them.  Ungrateful, I thought, as I laced up a new pair of running shoes and ran six miles away from our bad moods.  

It was one of my fastest and strongest 10ks, and I chalk it up to my adrenal gland anger more than the new Asics.  Exercise is the best way to exorcise my own unquiet spirits.  Thank God I can recharge by plugging into an endorphin outlet (More about this in a future blog.)  

I raced back home and entered a serene scene.  My girls befriended each other again, our dog snored on Harry’s lap, and the drained phone rested on the counter along with the silly yet sincere notes from Cara.  The source of her apologetic inspiration came from this recent meltdown over a forgotten phone charger.  

“I’m sorry for being a butthead, fam.  I love you all.  I don’t even have an excuse today since it’s Saturday, and I am only a walrus on Tuesday, Friday, and sometimes Monday.  But on Saturdays, I am a jar of peanut butter, so this one was all my fault.  I made multiple mistakes, and I apologize for them.  I hope you can forgive me and like your gifts!    —Love Cara”

In our house, arguments and outbursts happen.  Thankfully, remorse and apologies do too. These notes and re-gifts (i.e. batteries, candle, and lotion from our kitchen junk drawer) were a funny, endearing way for our teen to end the quarrel and recharge our home with peace and forgiveness.  

Posted in Health and Wellness, Running, Winter Blues

Get Outdoors!

Last week, I got slammed with a case of germ induced cruds: sinus headaches, dizziness, stuffy ears, dripping nose, coughing, and fatigue.  After seven days, I took action, laced up and made myself run, OUTDOORS.

I dreaded it and said so, and Elena, my twelve year old daughter, asked me why I was doing something I didn’t want or have to; I explained that life is filled with doing things we don’t want to but should because they are good for us.  This was my mini-lesson in self-discipline.   

I got out there and found stores of strength that I felt depleted of and was able to go four miles. I am pleased to report that after my run, my energy surged, my week-long headache disappeared, and I found clarity in my head.

Exerted movement is invigorating. Being outdoors can be too. Moving outside is healing, therapeutic, and medicinal. I must always remember this to battle the winter blahs of Northwestern Pennsylvania where snow comes and goes from October to April.

If you are struggling with any health or wellness issues, I swear by a little extra time outdoors. While there: move a bit, listen to some music, play with a pet, walk with your kids, talk to yourself, pray for your soul, restore your health, resurrect your zest, thank nature, keep your senses open, and seek wellness.

May the rest of your winter be filled with days of exuberance, outside painkillers, and thoughts to cheerlead you to personal health and wellbeing.

 

Posted in Dogs, Inspiration, Running

Thank You, Dear Dog, for Making me a Runner

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On January 18th, 2017, our golden retriever Italia suffered an unexpected and fatal heart attack.  Italia is the reason I became a runner, and three days after her recent death, I ran ten miles in honor of each year I had with her.  On February 18th, one month after she crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I ran another ten miles in tribute to her.  img_8513-version-2

I’m actually shocked I went that far because I have not run double-digit miles in almost two years.  Since my last half-marathon in the spring of 2015, I haven’t gone more than six miles, yet both runs were a breeze.  Italia’s spirit and memory carried me every step. During these ten-milers, Italia joined me in a brand new way, no leash needed.  

The following narrative is an excerpt from a longer piece I composed.  Italia was particularly instrumental in healing my grieving heart after my father passed away, and she continued to bring so much peace and comfort to my family  over the past decade.  Here is the story of how a puppy taught me to run.  NOTE – I edited the tense to reflect the current moment.

From The Reckoning of the Black Butterfly:

I significantly changed my life by improving my: mind, body, heart, and soul when I became a road runner at the age of thirty-three.  I discovered this activity ten years ago and continue to love it.  My first jog (klunk, klunk, almost kerplunk) happened a season after my father’s fatal heart attack.

I was mindlessly eating through my summer grief and earned a six-pack (times four!) Aside from being consumed with calories and sadness, I was queen bee-busy in our new house with my husband, two toddler daughters and a spunky puppy.  Oh how I craved health, happiness, strength, and peace;  I accidentally gained that and more with unplanned runs that were meant to be walks with my golden retriever pup, Italia.  

Italia was just eight weeks old when we brought her home days before the Fourth of July. This adorable, furry baby had the energy, boom, and attitude of a firecracker.  Although she got a lot of  “oohs and ahhs” she was a painfully hard to keep up with and settle down.  img_1096

When September rolled around, it was time for me to go back to work and teach high school English.  After such a stressful summer, I was exhausted, irritable, and couldn’t fit into anything that zipped or buttoned.  I resorted to elastic waistbands and flowy dresses, and my school yearbook picture that fall revealed a puffier, unrested, joyless me.  

When I would get home from work and release Italia from her kennel, she bounded, bounced, and begged for exercise.  She and I started by strolling our new neighborhood.  It felt great to get outdoors, but she kept pulling on her leash to go faster. Instead of training her to slow down, she trained me to speed up, to see more, to move beyond.

Before I knew it, she and I became a running team.  She could go as far as five miles (and so could I!) Italia was my one true running partner and was my primary motivation for getting out there.  Every run brought us a new scene.      

She got so excited when we were about to wag and whisker through the wind for a journey.  She acted like it was Christmas morning every time I pulled out our running gear: laces and leashes.  I had to keep extra leashes on hand because she would get so pumped-up that she’d bite and tear through them like wrapping paper if she got the chance.  

I never realized how beautiful the natural scenery of Meadville, Pennsylvania, truly is until I perceived and absorbed it as a runner.  There is certainly a magnitude of rural splendor in my own backyard.  My simple Crawford County world frames the mental snapshots of my small town hills, valleys, dirt roads, and meadows.

Running has provided me with the added bonus of pulling up those once stuck zippers and snapping stubborn buttons on my jeans.  I continue to thank God and Mother Nature for joining me and my four-legged love on these journeys.   Italia’s big chocolate eyes have always viewed nature majestically, and I’m forever thankful to her for helping me rediscover a healthy focus in nature and for pushing (and pulling) me further.  May we all go further tomorrow.  

Memory Eternal!

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Posted in Dogs, Health and Wellness, Running, Seize the Day!

And I Would Run 500 Miles, and I Would Run 500 More…

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I first composed the barebones of this over four years ago to highlight (and lowlight) the final run of my first year’s electronically recorded miles using the Nike Running App. Each venture out is as unique as the Pennsylvania snowflakes I waltz with each winter.  This last run of the year was certainly a rarity.  Road running is full of excitement, rewards, and surprises with unpredictable weather, terrain, and strength.  NOTE: I avoid treadmills like lima beans and will only touch one if I absolutely need to.  

In September of 2012, I figured out that I could track 500 miles before my one-year “appiversary” on November 30, 2012.  This is a little story about those closing, annual steps.   

Today, using the same app, I calculated 570 runs and 2624 miles. Such a little thing has made all the difference at inspiring and holding me accountable me as a runner.  This morning, I also saw yellow-vest-guy taking his morning stroll (more about him later).  

*** NOVEMBER 29, 2012***

Tomorrow marks an entire year since I invested my best $2 for my iPhone’s Nike Running App. Its accurate record keeping and reliable GPS have motivated me to go faster and further.  The past 364 days granted me various runs with a burn of over 50,000 extra calories, often stemming from Goldfish Crackers swimming in my red wine sips (my favorite food and drink combo ever).    

Today I got up at 5:00 am to snag my 120th run of the year, the one that would get me to mile 500.  I ventured out and kissed the frosty 28 degree November wind with Vaseline slathered lips. The dogs and I were ready to hit the road. I pulled my hat down tight over my ears, placed my headphones atop, and nestled my phone in my armband. I pushed start and listened to the encouraging female app voice countdown, “Three-two-one, beginning workout.”  

img_0309The first two miles were chilly but comfortable.  Both dogs had an extra spring in their paws, like they knew this was a special run for me (Every run to them is always special, like extra bacon on Christmas morning).  Today’s course was our street lit neighborhood where the dogs know the hills, flat parts, and possible cat sightings.

Italia’s aging hips and legs still carry her forward, but to avoid injury she only runs a couple miles.  We needed to clear about five and half, so I dropped her off after two and accidentally “ended” the app workout instead of “pausing”.  Dang, I just wanted today’s final mile to happen during one run, but I couldn’t dwell on it. I just had to track two separate workouts instead of one.  

Louie would finish the final miles with me though.  I used to feel guilty returning Italia while Louie remained,  but he’s still such a rambunctious pup who needs the extra exercise.   He is almost a year old and is both hyperactive and noisy.  He barks at everything with legs, without legs, with wheels, without wheels, with shadows, and without.  He barks at his own echoes of barks.  Louie is the annoying neighborhood barker.   When I can zap some of his energy, it helps mute his squeaky squawk.

Back to the driveway, I hit “start” again waited for the “Three-two-one, beginning workout” signal and sped up the hill.  The sky barely lightened since we started. Thankfully the streetlights shine on, especially during these starless, cloudy mornings.  

The next two miles were smooth and serene.  So far this was a good run.  The randomly shuffled tunes blared out the best motivators for a private race like this.  I fist pumped around the hood to the beats of “Born to Run” (not joking), “Old Time Rock and Roll”, and a Serbian Orthodox chant that helped me pray.  My feet lightened like a gazelle while I dreamily prepped for my finish line and the extra cyber cheers my app would deliver.   

Suddenly, the fuzzy needle scratched over the record album as a street light burnt out while I ran beneath it.  That happened only once before, and that was a very bad day.  Oh oh.  Was that a skunk odor spoiling the refreshing air?   Louie kept pulling to the right, the source of the smell.  I didn’t have time to be jinxed or skunked.  I was too close to the end for these distractions.    

With less than half mile left, I zipped through my final song-length’s-hill.  The finale, the monumental moment was near.  I got back into the groove and danced up Stephen’s Road to Rusted Root’s “Send me on my Way”:

(On my way, on my way) I would like to reach out my hand, I may see you, I may tell you to run (On my way, on my way). You know what they say about the young!

This song reminds me of college when I was twenty-years younger, and a pack-a-day smoker, not a smokin’ runner.   Thankfully, I gave that habit up and picked up this one.

With just one-tenth of a mile left to go, I diverted back into my current reality.  More than ready to flash to the end and grab my imaginary medal, I’d love to report that something like “Chariots of Fire” belted out while I crossed my personal finish line.  “Ch, ch, ch, ch bring in the synthesizer, the piano, the percussion, the strings!  We are here today to honor the legend.  Donna’s gonna do it! Cymbals! Who has the bloody cymbals? With hope in her heart and wings on her heels.”  Instead, the cowbell clanged with absurdities and obscenities.    

Louie tugged at his leash again, this time to the left.  He spied my elderly neighbor taking his early walk. This active old man and I have never spoken to each other during these morning jaunts around the hood, and except for the obligatory wave, I only know that he lives in a well-groomed ranch and wears his reflective fluorescent yellow vest every time he walks.  I’m a chatty neighbor and would love to talk, but he just lifts his hand in a half-mast-wave and keeps a serious stride.  It’s obvious that he doesn’t want my morning chit chat, so I just wag my hand like a puppy’s tail and smile.   

When Louie saw yellow-vest-guy, his need to greet him was strongly intense.  Maybe he thought he could get the quiet man to do a trick and speak.  Louie yelped and whined and bolted toward him with relentless sheltie persistence.  I screamed a bunch of opposing, confusing commands, “Louie!  Stop it! Heal! Come on! Let’s Go! Damnit! Quit it!”   My crazy minion of a canine and I tug-o-warred with his paisley print leash.  Yellow-vest-guy stood like a statue until I got things under control.  I wonder if he thought I was yelling at him or if he realized my dog was obnoxiously trying to jump on him to lick his shiny reflectors.  

When I successfully yanked Louie back, my iPhone came loose from my armband, jetted out, and dove to the earth like an asteroid.  “Sh#@!  My phone!  My miles!”  I quickly sprinted to and picked up my device that luckily landed in the grass instead of the road.  Although it seemed unharmed, I still hadn’t made it to my finish line,  my app cheers, my fake crowd of fans, my self-made trophy, and my triumphant end.  

Yellow-vest-guy stood still, like a mannequin, while I cursed Louie (who now angelically sat by my side like the champion of puppy obedience school).  I swore at my cheap piece of sh%@ armband and shook my phone like an Etch-a-Sketch trying to get it out of screensaver mode.  I stripped off my non-touch screen gloves to get back to the app.  

I needed to record my 500th mile!   There it was, Nike+.  I plugged the headphones back into the phone, and started running towards home with the phone in my hand.  Three-two-one, and in a breath I caught my 500th mile.  Imagine that.  I was only seconds away from my goal that ended with embarrassing expletives, disturbances of the peace, warped facial gestures, and foul dog antics.  

Perhaps my next running year will end on a more victorious step, but, if not, all the footprints that lead up to it will hopefully be as glorious, therapeutic, peaceful, painful, relieving, and  energetic as this one.  img_0310

Posted in Dogs, Health and Wellness, Running

Running App

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I recently hit another mileage goal on the running app that I paid just .99 for nearly five years ago. Let me just say that this has been the best money I’ve spent for extra exercise motivation and accountability as a runner. Less than a buck on my iPhone keeps me moving with goals and fist pumps when I hit them.

Before this I had to find other ways to calculate my runs. I’ve been an adult road runner for the past ten years.  In 2006, I got this playful golden retriever puppy, Italia, and she needed to score some neighborhood walks that she “helped” me turn into runs.

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Back then, my running tracking system included the following: a basic digital watch and pedometer placed on the waistband of my pants (Sadly I drowned many pedometers in toilets when they unknowingly popped off my pants and got flushed away like county fair fish.) To record the mileage, I drove around my “courses” before heading out then estimated how many pedometer steps equaled a mile based on my stride.

I wore a lot of extra devices for those runs and had no room for my Samsung, slide-out touch pad, non-data phone.  My athletic armband secured my iPod instead (Music is a must when I run.) Luckily, I never got lost or needed to call for help on those no-phone runs. Occasionally, I got chased by a trio of wiener dogs, but Italia and I were faster than their dozen of stumpy legs. Italia scoffed at the ankle biter stooges as we sped away.

That was such an old school, clunky way of calculating steps/miles/pace, but it was what worked for me then. I even trained for my first two half marathons using that method and finished strong with expected times. It was certainly cumbersome and less accurate than how I currently track runs.

When I got my first iPhone in 2011, I discovered a more convenient all-in-one system through the *Nike+ Running App. It had everything I needed and more, tracking distance, pace, and time while providing a GPS for my routes. The GPS is pretty reliable and has been a true asset at getting me to venture off the beaten path; switching it up has helped me enjoy new sites and terrain while avoiding traffic, boredom, and road kill.

My power songs can also sync to the app and are only interrupted by the friendly cheerleader voice that lets me know my pace and time every mile. This motivates me to speed up or take a breather when needed.

Now, when I’m ready to run, I just plug in my headphones and put the phone in my SPIbelt (a fancy name for a mini fanny pack that still looks dorky but takes the pressure off a swinging armbanded bicep. Then I hit start on the app, get a 3-2-1 countdown, zip up said dorky fanny pack and go. That’s it.

Since December of 2011, my app has supported me on the past 555 runs in which I travelled 2555 miles. **For the past two months, I wanted these exact numbers to happen, full of 5’s. This forced me to go on many longer runs than usual.

I do whatever it takes to keep me motivated to move, and running is my favorite way to do so (dancing is second). The app is full of the data, technology, and convenience to keep me grooving on the asphalt in my Asics.

I’m much sunnier being a part of our current convenient tracking society.  Two weeks ago I started using the Fitbit Charge HR and joined a new club, Weight Watchers.  Combined with my Nike App, I’m racking up some major health benefits that I’m excited to share in future posts.

I’m a word lover, not a numbers girl, so it’s a true treat to count on technology to count for me.

Good luck to you with all the health and wellness goals you set for yourself.  If you find a great tracking motivator, share what it is.

Shine on!

*The most recent updated version of the app is called Nike+RunClub, and it still has all the features that make it such a useful tool for me as a runner. There have been a number of complaints about the update, but since those features aren’t used by me, I have nothing negative to report. Ten toes and two thumbs up!

**I would have gotten to 555 in September, but I broke my pinky toe in a shopping cart accident at Kohl’s at the end of August. I’m finally healed and ready to keep at it. Besides running in the rain, tracking autumn miles in rural Pennsylvania is truly a gift.