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Posts Tagged ‘Disabilities’

David Paul Adams 🎓 & Jonathan William Adams 🎓, Cum Laude
One last blast of the pirate ship, Pirate Proud!
Jonathan, 18 (Auburn University, aerospace engineering) & David, 21 (Gulf Coast Exceptional Foundation day program)… David & Jonathan: biblical best buds, always looking out for each other.
Extended childhood coma, not expected to live past age 4. God always has other plans!
One to Alabama, one to Auburn, one to USA and one to Coastal…scattered to the wind but forever bonded.
The best part of milestones is sharing it with a growing family!
Third milestone – youngest crosses over from 8 years of elementary school (Pre-K-6th), to middle school, having been diagnosed with high-functioning autism last fall and discovering the joys and challenges of his reality…as we all do.

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Braving Hurricane Barry, I put in my 9 hours’ morning work yesterday and took off at 3pm to go see Jonathan and Southwind’s last performance in the state before they left at 11pm for the rest of their national tour.

The neighborhood was in the middle of flooding but I took advantage of sneaking out between storm bands (no pun intended) to get on the interstate..

It was at least a 3 hour drive upstate, pounding rain and – thank You God – for a friend recommending audio books, so it was me and BrenĂ© Brown and her recent book on “Braving the Wilderness” (how Ă  propos!), white-knuckling it up to Millbrook, AL. I had a mission, to see my kid, his band, the competition with other bands, to make good on a promise to get there and to deliver two corn dogs and a large hot fudge milk shake into the hands of said kid.

He reinforced a couple of times (despite my texts to move things up) that it would have to be AFTER the show (which would be circa 10pm) lest he barf up Sonic on the pristine football field and cost his team points.

Because they had the “home state advantage,” Southwind went last. But preceding them were several truly awesome drum corps, competing for a title.

One was Southern Knights, an all-age drum corps (and I saw young as 10, old as 70s) which rocked the stadium kicking off the competition.

In the middle were bands from Atlanta, the Carolinas, Florida, Louisiana and Michigan.

I would like to point out that I was most impressed with the Louisiana Stars from Lafayette, LA – which happened to be from just a hair north of Barry’s landfall, so these kids were safe and sound inland but probably internally freaking out how their families, pets and homes were faring during the storm which made landfall while they practiced here.

Louisiana Stars – God bless those in the path of Hurricane Barry.

The band from Kalamazoo, MI won, Legends, with their extraordinary drill team posing as Sirens of the Sea en masse, along with a dramatic story line about life in the sea with the gods and goddesses.

The Sirens did a creative wave number to the sound of my beloved sea waves, their long hair sweeping to and fro, emulating the waves of the beckoning sea

This drill team evidently was taught to seduce and interact with the audience with their hair-flips, alluring smiles and seductive beckonings. a perfect opening that wowed and wooed the judges.

With Southwind hosting, their last-on-program/late performance was stellar, nonetheless – and, compared to last week’s dress rehearsal (see previous post), the musicians were phenomenally precise, more artistic, theatrical and in the groove. I am excited for the rest of their tour and am confident they will rock the rest of the country!

Southwind’s precision

They handled the “cages” more expertly tonight…intentional in trapping their prey and skillfully orchestrating the profound exhilaration of freedom

Packing up for the next destination

Drilling the Drill Team – they rocked!!

That semi holds a place for each instrument, supply and uniform

The cages waiting to be loaded. What cage are you captive in?

Each member gets a medallion at the end of their home-state show, depending on how many years they’ve participated. This is Jonathan’s second year.

A competition well-performed

Southwind Mom’s Truck

Thank You, God, for children and their pursuits, for infusing them with talents, skills and interests that contribute to our world’s arts, sciences and teaching them all manner of What Life’s About.

God, please bless Southwind and all the kids this summer who are devoting themselves to greater purposes which ultimately make us better people and make the world a better place. May they go on to serve You in whatever capacity You deem appropriate.

(Here, Jonathan’s brother with Down syndrome pipes up, “Mama, you tired of Southwind?” Mama answers, “No, David, I’m tired FROM Southwind last night, not tired OF Southwind!”) David says, “We’re tired from rains and storms,” to which mama says, “Yes, David, and why we’re going to bed early tonight….”

Night night co-musers!

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Who can resist a well-earned Special Olympics smile from a kid who wasn’t supposed to live past age 4?

David turns 18 in 22 days!

Thank You, God, for defying all odds, for playing the ultimate April Fool’s joke on death – showing the universe for once and for all that where death seems inevitable, life rocks on!

That there is no such thing as finality, that You are the only Omega…and Your gift is eternal life. May we always recognize that those things seeming to a close = opportunity for new beginnings in ways we haven’t yet fathomed.

And therein lies faith…and trust. Faith and trust that there is always more in store than we can possibly know or deserve in our finite wisdom. Thanks, God, for perpetual resurrection and preciousness in all things. SMILE!!

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I’ve just returned from a workshop about using art therapy to treat loss and grief. There I picked up over three dozen nifty ideas to use in the practice of healing those whom I serve. I expected to passively sit and be taught, like a good little seminar-attendee, pen purposely poised over legal pad, brain in sponge-mode. A nice way to end a hectic work week, to be paid to hang out in the Sunshine State for a day of intellectual ministering. Woot!

Silly moi, I should have anticipated that a good learning experience involves, well, experience…and that creative sorts like artists are all about the process. The pen sat largely idle and the pad was brought home mostly blank. Instead, I carried away a very personal experience of how art heals.

That’s right, she put us to work. This “Sorry, I’m limited to stick-men” kind of a gal didn’t get too far with that excuse with an art therapist. There was no hiding in that hotel conference room, and only so many times you can use the restroom/important call/refill the coffee excuses. Reluctant and reticent, I got sucked into the world of self-expression and vulnerable exposure. One cannot, after all, change others if one is not intimately familiar with the experience of changing, themselves.

I was reminded of the old joke in the field of child & family therapy…I started out with no kids and 4 theories; now I’ve got 4 kids and no theories. In order for healing to hold water, one must know something about holding water. Neither book smarts nor experience in and of themselves are ever as powerful as the combination thereof.

Our first project introduced us to the Mandala Circle, a large, outlined circle on a blank page. The instructions were to choose an oil pastel (each of us had been given a generous supply at our tables), and draw anything for 30 seconds.

As is my custom, I was already fretting about what to color, and thus I failed to hear that I would only have 30 seconds. So when the time began, I slowly and cautiously began to color around the outline on in the inside of the circle, using my favorite color (orange). I didn’t know where I was going with it, and was feeling mentally hijacked in being asked to DO something besides vegetate for the duration of the seminar, so I mindlessly and mechanically put pastel to paper.

As I began to plan ahead to where I might go with this drawing, she interrupted and stopped the time, instructing us to trade papers with another person. I was mildly miffed: not only was I NOT going to be able to plan and complete whatever it was I had not planned for, but now I had to go an mar someone else’s pretty circle with my lack of artistic talent.

Adrenaline rising, I quickly took mental note of the location of each emergency exit sign in the room, but was again interrupted by the timekeeper-lady, who summoned us to begin the next 30-second drawing. In front of me was someone else’s pretty pattern, in blue. I was terrified of ruining what they began, but I obediently put pastel again to paper, and found myself tracing their pattern with my orange. It reminded me of one of my favorite color combinations on my commute, when the sun is beginning to set and the water takes on a bright glacier-blue hue, and the sky turns into Creamsicle orange. Yum!

My trepidation began to melt into relaxation and enjoyment. Snap – she called another trade! I had no idea where my page was at this point or what it might possible look like, but now in front of me was a circle with purple and red…and at the start of the new 30 seconds, I added my orange to this one, which resembled a dream-catcher pattern. I wondered what would happen if I went out of the circle…damn, I couldn’t remember the directions! Was this allowed?

Risk-taker rogue that I am, I spat into the wind and zagged that orange pastel smack out of the circle and, like a bolt of lightning, boldly directed the line skyward to the top of the paper. There, I was happy now – I did something impulsively unique and creative, and I liked how it looked. It drew the eye away from the main, central theme and forced the mind to wander…and to wonder. Suddenly I was overcome by a quick flash of remorse, hoping the owner of the circle wouldn’t be upset that I colored outside their lines.

As I was balancing my regret and satisfaction (satisfaction won!), we were instructed to trade again. I cheerfully took it upon myself to color outside of more lines. Yes, this was ME! This was my Zorro-Z! I put to the grave my shame of henceforth being limited to stick men, and was filled with new artistic self-assurance. Rules be damned, lines were made to be crossed and my orange zags electrified and brought added interest to each circle. At least in the eye of this beholder.

After about five or six trades, we were instructed to find the original owner of the circle. When circles had been reclaimed, there was a hush in the room as we all beheld what had become of our circle. I was humbled and amazed at the journey mine had taken. What began with self-doubt, reluctant hesitation, emotional distress drowning out the directions and with only my favorite color to cling to, my circle had become the most beautiful creation which I could not have done – no-way, no-how, by myself. It could only have turned out so beautiful by my being forced to allow others to help me, to contribute to my experience and by others filling in blanks left by my limitations. Yes, this is how we become rich, and how life gets its true value.

Life is a joint effort. We are ourselves because of others.

According to research (Smitheman-Browne and Church, 1996), Mandala circles drawn at the beginning of each therapy session (whether group or individual) have been shown to reduce impulsive, anxious behaviors. In engaging in this exercise, I was able to see how I myself went from my own limitations through the change, to a redefined sense of self. As in life, it challenged me to evaluate my needs and expectations, to challenge those expectations, to compare my reality with those around me, and forced me into making choices I might not have otherwise made.

It reminded me of the anguish of those with mental health problems whose symptoms directly interfere with the basics of getting through a task or a conversation, much less an entire day, without their problems mucking things up worse for them and further reinforcing negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors in an endless, downward spiral, further perpetuating the stigma and hopelessness.

The drawing took me through feelings of artistic inadequacy, being anxious to the point of not hearing basic directions, winding up surprised and upset when asked to change (yet being forced to), finding a way to feel comfortable and define a new style all my own (using my favorite color to overcome fear and creating something I liked), reinforcing this with repetition to the point of enjoyment, and emerging on the other side of the exercise with new courage and a redefined self. Wowzers!

This also drove home how very hard it is to be on the other side of the couch, or worse, to feel as though you are alone in your plight. When we are in pain, it takes extra courage to reach out and ask for help, and even greater courage to change. Change involves risk, and risk can be scary. And the only way through scary is to trust. From a clinical perspective, I can extrapolate this exercise to apply to many different types of problems and diagnoses, but the goal for all is the same: the process of being able to trust others, begins with trusting oneself. Herein lies the greatest challenge of all, and for all.

How well do you trust yourself? And how do you regain that trust when your world gets rocked and your trust is shaken…or lost?

Postscript:

After the circles were returned to their owners and the hush had become fully pregnant, one participant raised her hand but did not wait to be called upon. “SOMEBODY DREW OUTSIDE OF MY CIRCLE,” she announced with great agitation, pointing to the bright orange zag emerging out of her otherwise-neat circle. She fully expected the scribbling scofflaw to be identified, drawn and quartered in front of everyone. The instructor smiled and looked at her picture, which the participant held high for all to see the violation for themselves. The participant sought confirmation: “We weren’t supposed to go outside the lines.” The instructor, still smiling, said, “I never said that. I was very careful to give you just general instructions. Isn’t it interesting the limitations we assume lie in the tasks we face in life? And how that may limit our ability to solve problems? Or limit our ability to guide others in solving theirs? As helpers, we must constantly think outside the box, since answers to life rarely lie within the confines of the boundaries we perceive to exist.”

Thanks, God, for having all the answers (even if we can’t see them), and for teaching us to trust.

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Now that the afterglow of completing my fifth half-marathon has worn off and feeling has been restored in my lower extremities, I thought I would share some observations and recommendations for those of you contemplating taking on a long-distance race. These issues seem to crop up in every race I’ve run, from the take-it-easy Turkey Trot 5K all the way up to the monster marathons.

And if you’re an *amateur like me, you don’t hang with the diehards in your local road runners club so you might never think or hear about some of these things until you’re (%*&%$#) in the middle of your first race. So after more than a decade of running behind other people in these races, here are some tips you might find helpful:

(*Disclaimer: Emphasis on amateur. I am probably omitting something critical. Experienced runners, do not laugh – you had to learn all this at one point, too!)

1.) TRAIN: This goes without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway. I cannot tell you how many people sign up for these races (usually children and macho businessmen who have something to prove) and mistakenly believe they don’t need to practice beforehand. There are those who don’t train and take off like jackrabbits when the pistol goes off, only to wind up on the side of the road a mile or three ahead, rubbing their cramped calves. Then there are those who think they’ve trained, but misjudge the effects of distance and time on one’s body. Get a book, research online, find a training/pacing guide and follow it for the length of race you plan to run. And don’t wait until the week before to go your longest distance – that’s the week you should be resting and/or doing short maintenance runs and mentally revving up. Even though you may be doing it for fun, it’s only fun if your body and mind are prepared.

2.) PLAN LOGISTICS AHEAD OF TIME: Something has failed me in every race, usually something very small and annoying with long-lasting negative effects. Kind of like trying to put  up with a pebble in your shoe that you don’t want to stop to remove.

*What do you need to carry? How will you carry it? Keep it simple. Just the necessities, with identifying and emergency information scrawled on the back of your race bib, at the very least. I can’t tell you how many cell phones I stooped to bend over in last week’s race, because the owners were oblivious to the phones bouncing out of pockets, falling off of clips, etc. I think the smartest arrangement that caught my eye (and just as quickly averted my eye) was a gal I first thought had undergone surgery for breast cancer. No, it was her phone tucked into her bra. Me? I like a tiny fanny pack on long races, enough to fit my phone, ID in case I keel over, my emergency inhaler (yes, running increases lung capacity, I’ve found) and my car key (singular – less is more). On short races (5 or 10Ks) I just have my iPod and keys. Period. And don’t forget the sunglasses.

(And another thang: I’m old enough that on my first long race, I packed a bigger fanny pack with my Sony Walkman and (yesindeedybob) cassette tapes, like prehistoric Madonna and Michael Jackson. That was back in the days of bag phones, kiddos, so there was no phone to carry, no GPS, no nuttin’. Whoa. Oh, and I threw in my unreliable and inaccurate pedometer. Apps in those days were handheld and manual.)

*iPod or other musical device, if you are in need of musical motivation, like most race participants…download good, positive music that you know will carry you through. I went through my playlist the day before the race, but during the race I discovered one song I should have deleted: “The Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads had an upbeat enough tempo, but the lyrics made me slow my pace a little – not the most motivational song. And by gosh, make sure whatever electronic device you carry is charged.

*Clip your nails. Toenails, that is. Admittedly disgusting topic but lemme tell ya, one nail that’s ever so slightly not completely trimmed is going to jam into your shoe with each step of the race. Try this on a 26.2, and you’ll wind up with a black toe and months of black nail. And a much slower finish time. See? I told ya these aren’t things you’d normally hear about. Keep ’em short. And ladies, thank the Lord for nail polish.

So what failed me this race? My last fanny pack broke and I waited until a quarter till closing to remember that I needed to see if the new cycle/triathlon shop in town carried any. They did, but it had a water bottle holder I didn’t need (there are plenty of drink stations along the route), making it larger than I bargained for. So I took the bottle out and used the round space to roll up my Ace bandage in case I needed it for my sometimes-annoying knee, and stored my sunglasses inside of the bandage so they wouldn’t fly out when I didn’t need them. The fanny pack worked great until I noticed after the race that the damned strap left a black smudge around my light-pink tank top. Nice.

3.) PLAN ON SOME SPONTANEITY: Anything unforeseen can lend itself to an adrenaline rush. Rain and other elements can be a good thing (pretend you’re in a movie). A song on your iPod you didn’t expect. Wear something nobody else expects. Surprise yourself. Find things along the route that give you motivation (see caption to last picture at bottom of post). Give others a pleasant or humorous distraction, like this runner:

This guy had a papoose-like cut-out baby in his backpack...

4. REMEMBER: Where you park…there is nothing worse than hobbling off after a race and forgetting which side street you eventually managed to find a space to park on, which typically is a mini-marathon-length itself away from the start and finish lines. Major drag. This year I wised up and texted my husband this info before the race, since I knew I probably wouldn’t have my wits about me till well after the race. And one’s mind is still racing long after the finish line, so all I could fathom was my car was near the corner of Whatzit and WhoHaa. Surely I raised eyebrows with the runners parking nearby when I zipped into a handicapped spot, slapped up my placard, and jumped out of the car alone in my race gear and bib prominently displayed. I knew I needed the spot because my handicapped child, who’d meet me at the finish line, would be riding home with me after the race. Judge not, y’all.

5.) DITCH THE FRAGRANCES: Okay, you offenders know who you are. You are doing no one any favors, especially us asthmatics who are already oxygen-challenged. You are clogging up the airspace. I would rather smell your body odor. Really. It makes me want to pass you at top-speed. Don’t think you are sparing or impressing anyone. One of these races I’m going to carry a mace-sized can of Lysol to neutralize you. Phewy!

6.) KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON: Please. What’s that, you’re hot and sweaty? Well, me too, After all, I might have liked to go topless, too. Sports bras are jug-jail in my book. But this is a family event, not Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Let’s have some decorum. This gentleman and I played leapfrog throughout the race…I was going to pass him in the last 2 blocks, but he had the decency to put his shirt on just as the dizzying busy-ness of the finish line first came into view 1/4 mile away straight-on…so I held back and let the nice man finish before this middle-aged whippersnapper…

Shirt Up, Dude

Ya gotta have respect for the elderly out there – none of us could say for sure if we’d have what it takes when we’re their age, to do such a thing. I admire these people tremendously!

7.) DON’T PSYCH YOURSELF OUT DURING THE RACE:  There are countless ways to do this, all to your detriment.

*Be realistic, don’t kill yourself – take time for rests/breaks, be happy with whatever time you’re making. Do not compare yourself to the internationally competitive Kenyans or out-of-towners taking the lead who are trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. If you choose someone to try to keep up with and they leave you in the dust, pick another one. Focus on the goal, not the moment. Conversely, focus on the here-and-now to get through each mile, not on how much farther you have. I know, this is contradictory. This whole thing is more mental than physical, I assure you. At one point you will need far-off goal thoughts, at the next moment you’ll need the here-and-now. Alternate accordingly. Mentally pat yourself on the back with each mile, and with each uninvited thought in between. You are doing this for fun, not practicing for the Olympics. And for Apollo’s sake, you don’t have to actually RUN the whole thing. Alternating running/walking sometimes puts you ahead of the OCD folks who insist on running the whole race, but may not pace themselves and peter out in the latter half.

*DO NOT ignore pain, or you could wind up permanently disabled and you may find yourself helping to finance your orthopaedist’s new yacht. Some pains you can run/walk through and they pass – but some you should not. Pay attention to your body, do what it tells you, baby it when necessary. Drop out if you must. There is no shame whatsoever in exercising sound judgment, wisdom and prudence.

*And lastly, pay no mind to the 70 year olds passing you with “50 States Marathon Club” on the backs of their shirts. They may be bionically altered or very close to living in a wheelchair. You can’t really compare yourself to others in most other areas in life, so don’t try to with perfect strangers during a race, of all places.

I LET them beat me in the race out of respecting my elders...yeah, that's it!

8.) DON’T PSYCH OTHERS OUT DURING THE RACE: Leave plenty of room when you pass someone – you may startle or distract them. Say only positive things and encourage your fellow racers. When you are closing in on the finish chute, don’t dart ahead of others to shave a few seconds off your time. Don’t judge other runners, even in your head – remember there may be some runners with a hidden disability, running in memory/honor of another etc. Resist the temptation to yield to adrenaline’s self-serving tendencies, and humble thyself to your fellow racers. If you must psych out others, make it something interesting to think about or look at without distracting too much.

This couple wore their favorite matching kilts for the race.

9.) BE SAFE: Keep your music low enough that you can hear what is going on around you. I can’t count on one hand how many people were so unaware in this last race, that a motorcycle policeman blaring his siren to move racers from two to one lane, crept up behind and then next to some racers deep in their own world. Be aware of your surroundings – races start early; beware of questionable characters popping out of hidden alleys. Stay in or near a pack of other racers. Stop to help an injured runner get to the curb. Move unexpected debris in the road if you come upon it. Obey the traffic guards and remain in marked race lanes. A shortcut could cost you your life if you meet up with a disoriented driver having to divert due to the race.

10.) BE COURTEOUS: Don’t darken your fellow racers’ doorsteps with these race-wreckers:

*Keep your music in your earbuds. This was a problem in last week’s race – somebody mistakenly assumed her favorite, motivating music – cuss-tainted rap at loud levels – would also be our favorite. Then she’d turn it off before every water station so she didn’t get caught – way to ruin a race, chickie.

*Don’t run/walk with your buddies more than two abreast – this is typically a problem in the first few miles of any race. Clumps of coworkers and flocks of friends can make it race-hell for those behind them. We really don’t want to have to be prisoner to your pace and have to listen to your account of the latest office gossip. Save it for the water cooler on Monday.

*Watch where you spit. I can’t believe I have to address this. That’s right, look first in the direction you’re about to spit, before you spit. Nothing like a loogey landing on your left shoulder because of a misguided mouth missile. Better yet, don’t spit at all. That’s just plain uncouth.

*Likewise, watch where you toss your cup after you leave the relief station. Get to the side, look behind you first (see above), gently toss the remaining liquid into the grass or brush, then put the cup in the provided container, if there is one. If there isn’t, toss your cup where you see the most other cups, to make it easier for the poor volunteer who has to dispose of all the used, slobbery, sweat-covered cups. Most seasoned runners have learned this the hard way (read: unexpected Gatorade shower courtesy of the careless guy ahead who did not think to heed this nugget of advice).

*Greet/thank security, volunteers & police who are stationed at every intersection and safety station. Okay, so maybe it’s not realistic to thank all of them throughout the race, and granted some of them look like they’d rather stand there in their orange vests and dream about going back to bed when they get home (you’re not the only one who arose at the crack of early to make this happen). But hey, when you can, show your appreciation for their efforts to make your race a safe and enjoyable one. It’s not easy to risk life and limb to reroute irate drivers, or manning the drink stations passing out little cups of water and such to sweaty, stinky, mostly-speechless racers.

Thank you, Officer Friendly!

11.) REST WELL AFTERWARDS: Go ahead, pamper yourself: Advil, bananas (to avert cramps), Advil, pasta or favorite replenishing food, Advil, favorite beverages, and if you share your bed with anyone, apologize in advance before you go to sleep for potential Charley-horses which could well result in a swift kick in their netherparts. And, if you can, hit the beach!

12.) THE MORNING AFTER: Put your coffee down before you sit down to drink it. You just might be sore, and basic things like sitting and standing are best done slowly and very deliberately, without a scalding beverage looming nearby. Be careful driving, especially the first time you go from the gas to the brake pedal. And keep pampering yourself. You’ve got bragging rights, now.

P.S: GO AHEAD AND HAM IT UP FOR THE CAMERAS AT THE FINISH LINE…YOU NEVER KNOW IF IT MIGHT BE YOUR LAST ONE!

Best unexpected motivator during the race: Running past the hospital where I was rushed last March for emergency surgery, moments from death. Life's short - Carpe Diem!

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very deeply…and my lungs gratefully drank in every molecule of fresh sea breeze, walking the beach. The yellow flag corresponded to the rougher-than-usual waves. It would have been nice to do some boogie boarding, but even though the air was 75, the water was less than that. Too chilly for me, but not for several brave souls, some of whom were bikini-clad snowbirds and undoubtedly from regions northward. To them, this was winter bliss.

And yesterday I saw a new sport: Beach Frisbee in the fog. This was very interesting to watch, and I’m not sure I was quite able to watch all of it, the fog was so thick. Today was much better, though – bright sunshine and a south wind brought us perfect weather -you, friend, and me – to hang out together on our beach chairs. There were enough auger shells washing up at our bare feet for both of us to make an interesting mosaic.

Hey, dear friend…and happy New Year to you. Thank you for inhaling the sweet warm winds here with me, leaving behind all the toil and chaos of the holidays, shall we? It was delightful, but like all good chaos, it is nice in some ways to return to the anchor of routine. Thus I shall go Tuesday.

Here in the deep South, every occasion signals certain food-related traditions. New Years is no different. On this first day of the year, we eat black-eyed peas for good luck, greens for wealth, and cornbread represents gold. Our next culinary tradition will involve King Cake, for Mardi Gras. More on this anon. The South is a nonstop parade of Very Important Occasions, none of which would be complete without food. Really fabulous food. Do not wonder why states in the South consistently rank highest for obesity. It is decidedly poor breeding and manners to refuse food offered. You simply must have some. And you are never sorry, it is always so, so good. I’ve figured out portion control is key, however.

And exercise. It’s okay to partake in all this good stuff and then park on the rocking chair on the front porch to wave at your neighbors going by. As long as you eventually get up and join them as soon as your food settles…because the neighbors going by are walking their dogs or biking or running or such – they are exercising in one form or another. Well, most of them. Okay, well probably not most of them, if the obesity stats are valid. Anywhoo, we still sit on the porch and wave at folks. And they wave back.

I am one of the post-meal-post-rocking chair movers, training for a half-marathon coming up very shortly (ten miles is Monday’s assignment). It is not my first, and the last one I did, I did 3 years after my first marathon. I did the marathon in honor of our child with Down syndrome, and he ran with me the last 2 blocks, crossed the finish line, and received my medal. I figured if he could run the kind of marathon he does every day battling his mental and physical health challenges, I could push myself to do some small token of what he accomplishes. Speed demon I am not:

Don't wait till life's finish line to get around to what you want out of life! Give it a shot - NOW!

The thing is, I have asthma. Shielded from all manner of athletics as a child out of my parents’ fear of asthmatic complications, I was never permitted to know exercise as a part of life. Then in 2003, while pregnant with child #3, our child’s occupational therapist prodded me one day, insisting I, too, could complete a marathon. I thought she was crazy. But she handed me a training book, cheered me on, and before I knew it, I had gone from running between our mailbox and the neighbor’s and pooping out the rest of the way, to running two mailboxes away, then three, then around the block, then around bigger circuits, until the goal was within reach.

Somewhere in the middle of that I popped out a 10# 7 oz baby, with much ease, thanks to the ongoing training (childbirth is an athletic event, I am convinced). Ironically, the more I ran, the more I found my lung capacity increased, and I relied less on my inhalers and had fewer asthma attacks. And I hatch my best ideas on my runs.

Oh, and I do not run the whole way, like those go-getters who actually run entire distances. No, I’m the tortoise plodding along at a slow jog as you pass me at a good clip. Yes, I even WALK parts of the way. Run 3 minutes, walk a minute, or whatever pace works at any particular moment. I’m also the one passing many runners at the 25 mile mark, when all their insistence on running the whole way gives way to inevitable fatigue and pain. I pace myself, and along with my trusty iPod, slow and steady wins the race. Well, um, finishes the race, anyway. Good enuf for me.

Such is the nature of achieving any goal. Believe + start small + allow yourself days to go backwards, as long as most of your days are forwards. I don’t know what your resolution might be, but whatever it is, don’t give up. And if you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for the sake of somebody else who believes in you.

Because Somebody does, whether you realize it or not.

Inhale deeply, get the most out of each life-giving instinct you have to do good, to go forward. Feel the oxygen…feel it energize and propel you forward into your destiny to make yourself and the world a better place.

Breathe with me, here at the seashore…

God, thank you for every breath, for every friend, for every opportunity – give us wisdom and motivation to do our very best…for You.

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Buddy

I came whizzing up to the air pump to inflate my tires, hopped out and removed the first cap. Before I knelt down to check the pressure, the aging man using the hose opposite me, gestured the hose upward to offer it to me. I saw that he wasn’t finished, so I thanked him and told him I’d wait.

When he brought the hose over to me, he offered to help. I graciously consented, and the customary Southern chitchat began. The weather. The children in the car. Who’s your people. What you do. The patch on his uniform said “Henry;” he saw me looking, and volunteered, “They call me Buddy.”

He took a cap out of my palm after he finished each tire. “You’ve got such tiny hands,” he observed. As I laughed, he abruptly changed the subject, perhaps fearing he may have edged a little too close to being personal. “Do you have anything against Vietnam Vets?” he quietly asked.

“No,” I answered, looking him in the eye. “Only deep gratitude for your service and for my freedom.”

His eyes teared slightly as he told me about how painful his reception was when he came home. He described some of the horrors he endured where he served up in the Delta, then landing on American soil and having a protester urinate on him as he walked off the plane and across the tarmac, amid the abusive epithets. Then came the year in the hospital. And the years of disability. And the broken families and the broken lives and the broken hearts.

And his broken spirit.

“I’ve probably said too much,” he said, screwing the cap on the last tire.

“Not at all,” I assured him. I told him how important his story is, and how it needs to be heard. I thanked him for sharing, and again for his service, and how sad I was that American patriotism has, in many ways, gone up in smoke…how sad that a vet should even have to cautiously ask if a citizen has anything against him or his duty. How I question why we don’t do more to care for our vets.

How I hope Buddy knows how much he is loved and appreciated.

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She was tired, nearing the finish, but still a ways away…pacing herself and thoroughly exhausted. The third hill had been a bitch, to say the least, after nearly 6 weeks straight of being sick. Recovering from surgery last spring after coming within minutes of losing her life,  had been much easier than resuming her old circuit lunchtime run. She wasn’t prepared for the endurance it would require, the perseverance, the determination to finish.

And then, afterwards, the grief of the loss of being finished. Phoo, having to return to reality.

She impatiently forwarded through the songs on her iPod to get just the right song to get to the sprinted finish, even though she didn’t know which song might suit her at the moment. All she wanted was motivation, hope,  and damn it, a little bit of fun to ease the pain. Her muscles were aching, lungs searing, and she was oblivious to the traffic as she darted across the busy road, staying focused on her goal to finish – sprinklers, ankle-twisters and common obstacles invisible.

Then she saw him. She had avoided this for months…for years…but there was no avoiding him now. He came up the hill, iPod strapped firmly to his well-developed bicep, keeping a pace that was intimidating at best. She couldn’t hide; he saw her and waved. She had to move toward him and get through the traffic and respond to his paused jogging on the other side of the busy road. Now she was unable to avoid giving the wrong impression, but wasn’t supposed to… it wouldn’t look right. She had fought this for so long. But now she had no choice. He beckoned and was waiting for her. No one else was watching, and there was nothing but more running to do. Innocent enough, she justified. Her passion for running spontaneously combined with divine and unforeseen opportunity.

She made it across the road and they resumed a good pace, running together with him in harmony, exchanging both smalltalk and insightful dialogue. She was reluctant to tell him she did not like to talk while she ran, preferred to dream inside her music and pace… part of the world, but not really part of it. But here she was, happy to be there anyway, because she loved the freedom of running. She wasn’t prepared for running with him, though. She thought she was, but once she really was, it was different. She felt different. It was exciting and wrong.

Yet she felt like she was a real runner, like someone unencumbered with disabilities and schedules and hangups in life. Without his even encouraging her, she felt like she could run the real race – not just this daily self-imposed jaunt – with competence, with speed, and without abandon. She was never one to talk on runs, but this time she talked, and was able to keep up a conversation. He was impressed with her, having seen her leave to go running 30 minutes earlier, and knowing that she had not stopped, that she had run alone and was intoxicated with endorphins…and she joined him anyway, running a route she had already completed by herself, but was gracious and eager to do again, partly because she wanted to for the hell of it, and partly because it communicated something to him about her. She wasn’t sure quite what – didn’t have the energy or wherewithal after the first half hour to second-guess what it meant to him. She just knew it was the right thing to do at the moment.

She became worried, though, during their run…what began as a casual, friendly pursuit, training for a marathon relay this winter, somehow turned into a competitive thing, with him envisioning all the benefits of coming out ahead at all costs, and her grieving all the people and things it would leave behind in the process. He admitted he was born with a competitive spirit – trained in his youth to go far and go long, and he could not appreciate (other than peripherally, from having polite little encounters) the people and things he would leave behind in his wake of pursuit, such as those who only wanted a taste of what he could do, or those who looked up to him and trusted him because he always said and did the right things. But somehow he always got ahead, and they always got left behind. Or those who could only dream of being like him, or being near him in his inner circle, because being around him brought them comfort and security. Funny thing was, he never really noticed it, he was so focused on competing with himself. But she listened without judging. And valued him for his sake.

But somehow, he remained an Untouchable, always being the best, always being the fastest, always being the guy nobody could catch up to. He never quite understood the plight of the Underlings. Although he said he did, he never really did. And he remained out of touch, but never really knowing it.

After we finished running the loop together, he noticed I was becoming increasingly silent. He lovingly checked on me, inquiring as to my silence and verbally acknowledging the change in my breathing and pace. I forgot my inhaler last night, I admitted. I could at once see the suppositions form in his head: how can that happen, is she negligent, is she damaged, is she less-than, why would anyone not ensure that they were in tip-top perfection at any given moment. I couldn’t answer, my breath escaped me, my lungs burned, but I knew I had to finish with him and get to the gate at the top of the hill. He was counting on me to be with him. As we continued up the hill, I feebly gasped that I was conserving my oxygen. He had heard enough times about my stories of overcoming asthma to finish a marathon, seen me enough times darting out the door with a big smile and my iPod blaring as my legs couldn’t contain the urge to start running even before the door shut behind me, and rolling in from of the parking lot, tank top saturated from beneath my breasts to my tummy, face red as the sun setting on the bay, music still blaring and my rock ‘n roll hair needing brushing, wild and free because my pony tail holder pounded itself out of my hair by the rhythm of my hard pace over time, oblivious to my transition from running reverie to reality.

He saw me all those times, but I didn’t really see him. I mean, I know I saw him, but I knew he was in another world, and I in another.

And yesterday I saw him. And I had to join him. And I wanted to. And because of that, I ran that extra mile, literally. I don’t know what he thought about it, but I think I benefited (although the scale today defies me). But I don’t want to think about it, because I wasn’t supposed to do that because the premise was, what would others think if they saw us running together? But the funny thing was, nobody saw us. And we ran. And it was lovely. But I paid for it dearly. And it was worth every molecule of oxygen, I tell you.

Alas, in all his glory, he ran away. Shortly before we saw the end coming, he acknowledged it and told me he was going to slay the dragons on up the road, since he got out of the gate later than I had, he was going to go on up the hill and conquer great horizons up towards the next traffic light. He alluded to the weaker folk not being allowed to run the race with us, and suggested ones he deemed worthy. I was worthy, of course, he said…and I knew this by how impressed he was by my having run this extra mile with him after he knew I’d already run three just before…,but they somehow I was not worthy. I knew he was right…the ones I had hoped to bring into the race to instill a sense of “you can, too!” were, by his competitive spirit, disqualified before they were allowed to register for the race. How would I tell my friends that others had been chosen? Would they be relieved and not look back? Would they feel more disheartened and separated from  Those Who Can?

Once upon a time, I had not been able to run three. I had not been able to run one-half. I had not been able to run two mailboxes away from my own house.

This saddened me.

He was so right, though, he couldn’t see any other right.

But for me to join the race, it took a marathon-runner to come along side me and slow down long enough to encourage me that I could do the same…and she stayed with me until I did. She didn’t run off to New York and do the NYC Marathon, like she planned, so she could improve her time for the Boston Marathon. No, she stayed in this Podunk town and reveled in encouraging me, marveling at how someone with asthma could really do what she knew I could do all along. She was also my disabled son’s occupational therapist, ironically. The year after the marathon, I wrote a nomination that won her an award for her accomplishments, and we had a blast going to the beach resort where she accepted the award. She didn’t win it for excelling in her athletic pursuits, or for helping my child with his disabilities.

She won it for believing in the unbelievable.

Back on the circuit, I suggested other races he might run to get that 13.1 sticker he covets to slap on the back of his wonderful SUV that the rest of us can’t afford. I encouraged him that if I can run a marathon with my asthma in honor of my disabled child, surely he, in his history of cross-country glory, can, too. He could aim higher than he currently is. He chided me for not gloating and putting the 26.2 sticker on every vehicle I own. He patronized me and maintained his perfectionistic, all-or-nothing thinking, “if I can’t do it in the time I deem appropriate, then it doesn’t matter and it’s not as meaningful.” He had the audacity to dictate that those we had previously committed to helping to train in the race, that they were likely too weak or unworthy, and would inhibit our race outcome.

He had the fever of success and pride. There was little I could say to him, or do for him, but wait. And accept. And love anyway.

Dang it, it all started as a goodwill, good fellowship, mutual encouragement thing for the race this winter. How did it come to this?!

How many races do we run that we deem our worst or our least, when they are victories for others? How many ways do we deceive ourselves into measuring our achievements in a way that somehow equate to how God measures us?

Apples and oranges.

Perhaps we need to look at our defeats and our shortcomings to grasp how God is measuring us.

Kneeling in front of the candles at the altar railing this Sunday, continuing to re-accustom myself to the verbal and physical obligations during communion, I thought of my eighteen years as an evangelical Christian, now coming home to my church of origin this summer.

God didn’t change, I did. He was always there, no matter where I went, no matter what I did, no matter what I believed, no matter how I practiced. Suddenly, it all made sense.

It was up to me to run the race – He provided the stamina, the endurance, the change of scenery, the inhaler when I needed it. He was there with me at every corner, at every refreshment station, at every mile marker, at every finish chute. He is there adjusting my time when I stop to assist a fellow racer who is injured, or to slow down and walk with one who clearly needs some encouragement to finish. He is providing the last-blast music to crank up for that final sprint toward the finish. He will be the One tearing the strip off my race number after I pass under the time clock, just before the Gatorade station with all the banana and orange slices. (Then come the masseuse tables, mmmm).

It’s up to me to give Him the victory for the race.

Now excuse me while I tend to my disabled child who is writhing in pain in his sleep, while my gifted child is demanding to know what I did with my Latin textbook from college. The race is not about us and our abilities, how fast we run or what circuit we train on…it is about acknowledging Jesus as Savior and serving Him, at the expense of our own notions of what that all means.

Let Him brush our rock ‘n roll hair.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

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Could I…

…if homeless, take pride in how quickly my cardboard box dries after a rain, when the sun shines again?

…if disabled, keep dancing, like doing the mental rehearsals the director had us do before each performance?

…if penniless, find something else to give another?

…if blind or deaf, still see beauty and listen?

…if shot and left for dead, forgive my assailant before I passed?

…if silenced, find ways to be heard?

…if betrayed, still trust?

…if insane, not drive those around me insane, too?

…if trapped, make peace with my condition until the way out is shown?

…if lost, creatively find and use resources?

…if starving, sufficiently distract myself until the pain subsides?

…if hopeless, fearlessly dream anyway?

…if terminally ill, embrace it with grace and courage?

God, bless those who show us how to direct our gaze upon the silver (or crimson!) linings, so we know where to focus when clouds overtake our sky.

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No, not I…the 2, about-to-be 3 year old. He graciously reminded me tonight of the importance of unwinding. Really unwinding. He reminds me that we must perpetually turn to children, the older we get, for advice on how to live. Really live. With the first child, scolding was the parenting du jour should he have attempted such a feat…with child #4…..well…I learned to take heed. You know, step back and contemplate….hmmm…well, isn’t kind of, er, funny? Go ahead, break into the chase, let him go squealing with delight, buck naked, round and round, catching him with laughter and direction to get into jammies….silly boy. I love you.

But I really wish you hadn’t have put four toothbrushes and one Mardi Gras cup in the toilet today. Luv ya anyway. Say, what happened when you tried to flush? Sorry I wasn’t there to find out with you. Bless Daddy.

Sometimes it takes a child to hold our hand and lead us precisely where we need to be. Children know freedom.

It was what our very country was founded upon.

We must constantly question and examine our beliefs, as the development of beliefs can be a fluid process throughout each life phase. A good, hard look at why we believe what we believe is good for the soul, and keeps us fresh. We become stagnant if we can no longer embrace the merits of our beliefs. Yet we cling so tightly sometimes to things that no longer make sense…

A conversation with “Common Sense:”

“He should not be allowed to run naked through the house. This is wrong.”

“And what could happen?

“Why, it’s not proper. It might make others want to run naked through the house.”

“And then what?”

“Well, then things would be out of control. They’d get the wrong message. One thing leads to another”

“What’s the wrong message?”

“That you can’t think that you can run naked through the house and it’s okay. There must be consequences.”

“And then what,? if not?”

“Ummmm… I dunno. It’s just wrong.”

“With whom? How?”

“Ummmmm..I dunno.”‘

“What harm does it do? I mean, does it serve a purpose for the runner? Do they get some benefit from it, something out of their system, sow their wild oats, then want to conform, or what? What’s going to happen if a little off-kilter happens? Doesn’t off-kilter behavior serve an ultimate purpose?”

“Well, I never thought about it.”

“Well, think about it. Is it so bad? You ever been off-kilter? What did you need to do to get right?”

‘Nuff said.

Sometimes, in all our adult wisdom, we completely miss the point of living.

When was the last time you ran naked through the house? Would the sky fall? Is it so bad?

Thanks, God, for freedom and laughter and children. It figures only the serpent could have made it so we had to wear fig leaves and toil, instead of having the childlike freedom of running naked through the house.

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