Jo’s Grand Adventure…

yogini.sharon:

I have another friend who is trying her hand at blogging! Jo Ann is my adventurous friend in Louisiana who continues to inspire me by trying new things and pushing the boundaries on who she is as a woman and a human being. Enjoy her story of her latest adventure and be inspired yourself.

Originally posted on advicefromanoldgrouch:

Today I have a guest blogger… My wife Jo Ann!  Saturday we participated in the Big River Regional Paddle, a 13 miler down the Mississippi River.  After we were done, Jo decided she wanted to write a blog about her experience.  Although I might be a little biased, I think she did a great job! So, here it is:

My Day On The Mighty Mississip


About 2 months ago I was sitting at home feeling kind of sorry for myself. My husband (and partner in crime), Robbie, was at summer camp with our Boy Scout Troop. I had chosen to stay at home for several reasons, the main one being that we were dog sitting and the visiting dogs and our dogs didn’t get along … at all. So I was sitting at home watching all of the neat things going on in Facebook World. I was ready to get…

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Paying the Price of Admission: Relationships

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I’m a little discombobulated about what I’d like to write about today. I have a couple of of things I’m tossing around but not much feels good. I actually slept until 8 AM this morning, something that is rare for me. It makes me a little lazy when I sleep that late. It’s not like I got major sleep because I didn’t get to bed until 11:30 or so, but I did get a full 8 hours. Yesterday was cool. I never really got too overheated, and I really think that helped. I forgot to take my Chinese herbs, and I had some matcha yesterday afternoon. I really thought I’d have trouble sleeping last night, but I didn’t. I slept like a baby.

I walked Ashok at 8ish, and I was so disgusted with the heat, the mud and the sticky humidity that I decided to pack up and take Ashok to Bay St. Louis. I have no idea what we’ll do here today, but I just want to feel a little breeze, dip my toes in the bay and relax a little. Last night’s game was fun, but it rained on and off the whole time. I sloshed around in mud and water at the tailgate party. When I got home, my yard was so muddy that I had mud between my sandaled toes. I couldn’t bare a whole day of either being holed up inside due to the heat or traipsing around in swamp-like conditions. Ashok yesterday jumped 2 feet in the air when I asked her if she wanted to go for a ride with me. She’s as stir crazy as I am.

I’m already sweating in the shade. But at least the breeze is blowing. There’s a party next to me calling each other drunk b*stards and talking about their party they went to last night. Someone else was talking on the phone cursing her head off. For some reason, it’s bothering me even though I tend to have a mouth like a sailor sometimes too. I drew the Dog Medicine Card this morning. Dog Medicine is about loyalty and service.

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Dog medicine is the quality that dogs carry when they honor their masters by pleasing them. Along with the service mentality, they also bring protective energy. The card asks me to consider in what ways I have not been true to my own goals and personal truth. It further asks me to consider if there is someone that has been trying to be my friend, and I’ve denied or ignored them. Or has my loyalty to someone been impacted by the gossip or opinions of others. Interesting questions … all of which have some relevance to me today. But, all I can seem to focus on is the number of ‘f*cks’ that are coming out of the mouths of my neighbors. In addition, they seem to be a bunch of drunks and smokers who tied one on last night to the extent that they are afraid to go in the coffee shop. Oh, yeah …. and they’re runners. Anyway, I digress. And, blessedly, they are leaving to go smoke. Thank God for small favors.

My sister-in-law Laura posted this link on my Facebook page this morning, and she asked what I thought:

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/08/28/the-price-of-admission-dan-savage/

I think he’s dead on. I think to be in a long-term relationship, you absolutely have to look away and accept the annoying things that your partner does. I’ve never believed there was ‘one’ for me. I’ve always believed that I had many possibilities based on what I wanted to tolerate and invest. I know people think that divorced people don’t know how to tolerate differences, or they somehow are selfish in that they don’t. I see people post about it all the time on Facebook. It always irritates me, too. Divorce is a choice in this country whether your religion or your belief system likes it or not. I got married twice – and this article is not mentioning marriage because the speaker is gay man in a committed relationship – and both times I made the decision to tolerate my partner’s quirks. I wanted to be in a relationship, and I knew that was part of the deal. It was – like the dog – a part of the loyalty equation. I love what he says about ‘paying the price of admission’. I was willing to ‘pay the price of admission’ in order to have a relationship.

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When the price got too high for me, I had to re-evaluate what I was paying for. That was where the protection of my personal truth and the pursuit of my own dreams and goals surfaced. When the price got too high, I quit paying. There’s a lot of opinion that this is morally ‘wrong’, and maybe it is. I don’t see it that way. In fact, I’ve begun to question the institution of marriage to a certain degree. When you enter into it, you have no idea what you are getting into. In my own experience, I only knew a tiny bit of what I was ‘paying for’. Some of my married friends tell me I need to quit being so picky. They assure me that I won’t find anybody that’s perfect. I’ve been married twice. Do you really think I don’t get it? I was married once for 11 years and the second time for 6. I get that a husband won’t be perfect. But, I don’t know that I’m willing to ‘pay the price of admission’ anymore. From what I’ve experienced, it’s too costly to me. I would be willing to ‘pay the price of admission’ if I met someone that was less costly than I had in the past. It may be the only area of my life where I’m really frugal. Maybe going bankruptcy is a good driver of frugality.

As I talk to friends who end relationships, I always hear them say that they knew early on that there were problems. “I just looked the other way,” they might add. Or, they say they thought he/she would be different. Often, they spent less time getting to know their partner than they would training for a 5K. That seems like a short time to shop for something that may last your entire life. I made that mistake more than once. I don’t know what I don’t know. I remember complaining to a relative about a guy I was engaged to, and she told me that I needed to accept somebody the way they were if I was going to be in a relationship. I knew a relationship was important to me, so I took her advice and started ‘paying the price of admission.’ When it all fell apart, all of my family members one by one told me that were concerned about my being in relationship with this guy. I was really confused.  I had no idea what I was supposed to accept and and what I wasn’t. Where do you draw the line? I know now where I draw the line, but I hated having to learn it through experience.

When my friends tell me I’m being too picky now, I try to ignore them unless I asked for their advice. Unless I want what they have, their advice is irrelevant. We each know how much of a price we’ll pay, and I’m much more frugal about it. One person is willing to dole out their money for a Mercedes and another person just wants an old beater because they don’t value their vehicles that much. Neither are wrong. It’s their money. They get to decide what is worth spending their money on.

The other issue that Savage mentions is the fact that we don’t really see people as they are in the beginning of a relationship. I would add that we don’t want to see it either. It’s so fun, and the hormones are flowing. We want it to be this way forever. We focus tightly on the good things and the things we have in common, and we miss a lot of what we need to be seeing. Last night at the game, the Lions came running out on the field like they always do, and it was quite the show. Later in the evening, my friend Gretchen commented that they didn’t use the smoke in the ‘runout’ for some reason. I looked at her and then showed her the picture.

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When we are intently focusing on one thing, we often overlook or don’t even see other things. So, we ‘pay a price for admission’ based on a fallacy. A year later we are wondering what the hell we were thinking. The problem is with marriage there’s no easy way out if the ‘price of admission’ is higher than you are able to pay. I wish that all grown-up issues were as simple as leaving the mayonnaise out on the counter or chewing with your mouth open. I’m not that frugal, but I guess right now, I’m not willing to dole out a lot for a relationship. I want to shop a lot longer and really know what it is I’m buying. My soul is a high price to pay, and I used to easily give it up just to be paired up. Maybe with time, I’ll be willing to ‘pay’ a little more. Maybe not. Either way, It’s my decision.

Another Voice: The Spirit of New Orleans by Michael Weatherly Trentacosta

 

Me and Michael at his lasagne party last Christmas in NOLA

Me and Michael at his lasagne party last Christmas in NOLA

My friend Michael tried his hand at blogging this morning on Facebook. It was so good that I thought he should extend his platform. Down here in Louisiana and Mississippi, today is an infamous day. It the anniversary of a day when everything changed. It is one of those days that divides time forever. You know who you were and where you were pre-Katrina and how you were changed post-Katrina. For a long time, locals called this area Katrina-land because it was the thing that divided this place from the rest of the world.

 

Monument to the victims of Katrina in St. Bernard Parish

Monument to the victims of Katrina in St. Bernard Parish

By Michael Weatherly Trentacosta

It was 9 years ago this morning that the unspeakable happened across the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast. Being one of many across the world watching the events thereafter unfold on TV, I never really knew how closely it would affect me until just a few years later when I met Darren.

Watching from the comfort and safety of our homes afar, we saw some of the worst in people that day. We judged and made bold statements about what we would have done. We pointed fingers at what we, as outsiders playing Monday morning quarterback thought the people of New Orleans should have done. We forget that the city went through the hurricane itself fairly well considering its strength and size. It wasn’t until some were returning home after Katrina passed that all hell broke loose. Unfortunately many remember and focus on this part of the story, but there’s much more to it.

I have the privilege of knowing many of those people who are now my family and friends. The word resilient doesn’t even describe them. If giving up even crossed their minds, it was a fleeting thought at best. Together, they have rebuilt the city into a most magical place again, even among the reminders of that day.

Katrina also demonstrated the devotion to family and friends in New Orleans. They all long for the time, pre-Katrina, where Sunday family dinners happened every weekend, a baby sitter could be found for a night out without ever getting in a car in any one of at least 10 homes on your block, and the people of their neighborhoods were all part of the family, whether blood or not. They celebrated things big and small. It was about being together. Masses turned out for recitals, graduations, birthdays, and crawfish boils. They never felt alone…and they weren’t.

Family and friends are now scatted across the region. It’s certainly more difficult now, but the devotion to be there for even the smallest of life’s events still shines through. People will drive sometimes hours to participate in a child’s birthday party. Although it might not be as often as they would like, they continue to be there for each other. And if you ever were stranded on the side of the road, your phone is filled with countless numbers of people to call who would be there without question, no matter what they were doing or how far they had to come to reach you.

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For those of you who have visited, New Orleans captures you heart and soul. I firmly believe there’s no place like it on earth. It’s captivating, romantic, full of such great history, and home to the friendliest, most welcoming people I know. Strangers are always welcome….but be prepared, you’re considered family on your next visit.

Today we remember those that were lost. Families that were torn apart and had nothing left of their homes. Katrina was a devastating bitch. She was wicked. She took so much away from a people who are one of a kind.

A Lasagne Christmas Party Last Year

But today we also celebrate the people of a city who, through their tears and pain, would never give up. It wouldn’t crush them. They wouldn’t wallow in it. They rebuilt. They harnessed the spirit that has lived throughout the city for centuries prior to recapture the love and magic that is, and always has been, New Orleans.

So go for a visit…and soon. Whether you come for a few days or end up making a life there, the city becomes a piece of you. You will be better for having known New Orleans and its truly remarkable people.

“Good Morning,” Said Frog – Let it Rain

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This week I’ve spent a good deal of time talking with a friend about the end of her abusive relationship with her ex-husband turned boyfriend. It’s taken a long time for her to get free, but she did a month or so ago. But, it’s not easy. I’ve been right where she was. When you are in a relationship long-term with someone that is abusive verbally and emotionally, your self-esteem goes in the toilet. So, we were discussing how she felt like something is wrong with her especially when he targets her with one of those caustic breakup texts.

One of the amazing capabilities of human beings is their ability to adapt. It is also our achilles’ heel. We adapt to the most awful situations. I had PTSD from my second marriage, and, yet I was paralyzed to leave it. I stayed in a job that was so brutal that when I started the next one, I flinched every time my new manager walked up. I was paralyzed in my new role until I started asking questions, and I realized that this environment was totally different. It was only at that moment – and I remember the day vividly – that I realized that I had let myself adapt to another abusive environment. In both cases – the marriage and the job – I did not realize how bad it was until I got out of it.

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An old saying declares that if you try to throw a frog in boiling water, he will jump out. But, if you put him in a pan of cold water and gradually raise the heat, he will get comfortable with it and stay there until he is boiled. I was thinking about how I think we do that, but I honestly was not in a good enough place to think about those negative environments I’ve been in and the fear that I’m in another one. I decided not to write it. Then, guess what card I pulled in my Native American card deck? Ooookkkaaaayyyy!! I had to give it another look. Turns out, science says the adage is not true. The frog will jump out when the water gets too hot. But, there’s a YouTube video that shows otherwise. However, they don’t show the point where the water gets too hot. The video water temperature gauge is at 90 when they cut to the next scene when the water is boiling. I would show you the video, but I didn’t like to watch them killing that frog for a stupid experiment. You can google it if you want to watch it.

It turns out that Frog Medicine has nothing to do with getting used to intolerable stuff. “Frog sings the song that bring the rain and makes the road dirt more bearable,” my book says. You can read the entire reading here. Essentially frog medicine is about cleansing. It’s about the healing powers of water to transform your soul. The reading specifically mentioned tears as frog medicine, and I cried this morning. I needed it. Frog asked me, “If you were to look at where you are today, would you use any of the following words to describe your condition: tired, overloaded, harried, frustrated, guilty, itchy, nervous, at a loss, empty or weakened?” Well … I don’t feel itchy. There’s one. Apparently the message from Frog is to do something this weekend that is cleansing for my soul and that replenishes me. Well, I am going to sit in a rainstorm tomorrow night to watch a football game. Not sure how replenishing that will be, but with some soap and a brush, it would be cleansing.

Because of a last-minute issue, I have no plans this weekend other than the game. I think I may take heed of this ‘frog’s’ message to me. Maybe I’ll head down to the coast on Sunday for a bit if it’s nice. I definitely don’t want to be in the heat. That’s not refreshing for me. But, Bay St. Louis seems like an appropriate water destination. They have A/C, and I could use the water to cool off. I may see if there’s a fluke opening on Vacation Rentals by Owner Sunday night… one that allows dogs. Or, maybe I’ll get a massage. Oh yeah.. and the rain… the rain will cool things off on Saturday. I can’t wait for that. Maybe I’ll be like frog and find a big lily pad in the pond and enjoy the pitter-patter of the rain.

Y’all have a great weekend and be careful wherever your journey leads. And don’t run over any frogs. They are the good guys.

Frog-On-Lily-Pad

Image courtesy of Heather’s Animations of Animals

 

 

Launching My Half-Marathon Training Plan

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And… yes, it’s decaf.

Last night I went over to the gym to go to the Triple Threat workout class that I’ve been attending. I arrived there about 20 minutes early and sat down on a bench outside the workout room. I didn’t have my phone, so I just sat for a few minutes spacing out. About 5 minutes before class started, I got up and walked out, drove home and sat in my living room working on my resume. I just did not have the energy to workout. I don’t want to whine about the heat anymore, so I won’t, but you know why I feel sluggish.

I know better than to try to workout at night on a regular basis. All my life I’ve been consistent with workouts only when I’m doing them in the mornings before the rest of the world gets up. I have more energy than I do in the evening, and there are fewer distractions. So, I set my alarm at 4:00 AM so I could get to the gym at 4:30. I actually woke up about 3:45, and I was ready to go. I got dressed, took care of Ashok and arrived when the doors opened.

Morning gymrats are consistent, and I usually see a lot of the same people there. This morning I met an older African-American woman who usually goes to classes, but this morning she was lifting weights because she had a full day ahead of her. She told me that she was a retired nurse, and she goes on medical missions trips now all over the world. We talked about our workouts, and she asked me what I did for a living. When I told her I designed online courses, she shared that her husband was a retired professor, and he had gotten frustrated with all of the new technology he was having to learn at the very end. It’s just harder for us to adapt to technology. We didn’t grow up with it. It made my workout go faster since I was chatting intermittently with my new friend.

This weekend starts my training for my half marathon in January. Last year I signed up for this particular race, but my hip problems precluded me from doing it. It goes right by my house. It’s the Louisiana Marathon, and it’s on my birthday weekend. It’s quickly becoming a premier marathon weekend with lots of partying and fun after the races. I’ve built in some extra training time due to the injuries I’ve had the last couple of years. I want to take the training really slow. I’m using Jeff Galloway’s plan, and, since I’m using walk breaks all along the way, I will run 15-17 miles before I run the 13.1 mile race. It’s a longer training distance, but it allows me to feel like 13.1 is a piece of cake the day of the race. When you run all the way through without walk breaks, your body doesn’t recover as quickly. Most people don’t run the distance before the event because it takes too much out of you. That being said, running a half marathon is not nearly as complicated physically as running a marathon.

This weekend’s first run is 5 miles. I’m already running that so it’s not too big of a deal, but I haven’t been running consistently lately. I’ve been walking a lot more than running. My goal is to start being more consistent starting next week and then increasing the long runs each week. I’m also in charge of my own training this year which is different than the last two years. What I really wish is that I had a workout partner. That was probably one of the most impactful pieces of my coaching with Jessica. I had accountability to do my workouts. If you are in the Baton Rouge area and would like to train with me – either in the gym or running, I’d love the company. This is the thing, though. I need a reliable workout partner. I’ve tried this so many times, and my partner ends up quitting after about 2-3 weeks. I spend those 2-3 weeks trying to get them to go workout, and then I finally give up. I get nothing out of it except a strained friendship and another disappointment. I would also be open to a virtual partner for working out if I can’t find someone locally.

So, this is my plan:

Monday – Upper body strength-training at the gym. Short, quality run.

Tuesday – Lower body strength-training at the gym.

Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – Exercise class at the gym (Strength-training or Spinning)

Friday – Run/Speedwork

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Long Run

I’ve had enough now. I’m sitting outside here at the coffee shop sweating like I’m in the middle of the Amazon. My dog is overheated, and I’m hungry for dinner. I’m off schedule this week, so I’m heading to the gym at 4:30 AM tomorrow for a lower body strength-training workout. I’ll be heading to bed early. I’m just praying for cooler weather soon so running will be bearable. It’s looking a little better next week. I’ll let you know how it goes. Come on, fall!!!

Are You Ready for some FOOTBALL??? Lion Up, Y’all!!

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My favorite pic of me and Gretchen

The relentless summer in the south feels like it never ends. I look at the calendar, and fall seems so far away. Fall may not come until early November depending on the weather gods that rain down sunshine here. The worst time is August. It’s the hottest month of the year unless July rallies and matches its intensity. The thought of more heat for more months is enough to get anybody down. The one thing that makes August bearable for any true southerner is what comes at the very end. It’s entrance onto the social calendar comes quietly, but once its launched, it is full scale party time down here. Are you ready for some football???!!!

When my second husband – a Chicago native – moved down south, he lamented the fact that people down here didn’t care about professional football. He could not understand why college football was such a big deal. “Why does anybody care about college football,” he asked incredulously. I looked at him with great concern and told him that he’d better not bring that up to anybody down here. I heard rumors that LSU starts their season this weekend against a northern team in a dome in Houston. My guess is those Yankees didn’t want to come down here in this brutal heat in August and play outside. I don’t blame them either. But, my focus is on the REAL game around here – Southeastern Louisiana University football. They won the Southland Conference last year and did pretty well in the playoffs. They are predicted to be even better this year if you listen to the hype. I – in my first ever commitment to the sport – purchased season tickets. I had so much fun last year that I couldn’t imagine not being at all of the games this season.

2014 SLU Football Season Hype

My partner-in-crime, Gretchen, and I are already discussing plans for Saturday. I didn’t get into the action last year until around October, so I missed some of the hotter games. Winter came on pretty quick after I started attending, and I remember sitting in the stands in the rain and the freezing cold watching football. My sister finds this wildly laughable. I have never been a football fan. In fact, I’ve never been much of a fan of any sport. For some reason, though, last season was really special. Part of it was getting to know old friends all over again after 30 years, but a lot of it was being a part of something magical. It has been a really long time since Southeastern had a championship team, and the small town school became the football sweetheart of the state. My most read blog ever … in the fabled history of Midlife Moments …. was the one where I chronicled their journey to glory. If you are interested, you can read it here. The season was pure magic. I, for one, cannot resist a dance with magic especially if it includes boys in tight pants.

So, I’m trying to decide what I’m going to wear to the game. Green and gold is the obvious color scheme. I’d love to do a real tailgate this year and even bring a dish like a good southern gal. Last year, I mooched off the Former Football Players’ Association’s offering. But, since I’m a season ticket holder, I think I need to step up to the plate – or the gridiron as the case may be. I hope that the momentum built last year in bringing old players back into the fold will pick up where it left off last year, and we’ll see lots of new faces in the upcoming months. It is the dream of the football coach and the former players association to build a robust community. What better time to get traction than in a winning season?

Last Year’s Runout Video for the Nicholl’s State Game – I just love this LION!!

This is what I love about SLU football games. Strawberry Stadium is a small stadium by big college standards, so it’s cozy. It’s easy to stand at the bottom of the bleachers and wave at your friends on the top row. Tailgating is inexpensive and easy. The alumni organization sets up a tent with food for all alumni and family. A few other groups have tents, but it’s mainly a large yard party in Friendship Circle under the shade of some amazingly beautiful live oak trees. If you don’t have SLU gear, you can walk 50 yards over the university bookstore and purchase what you need. An hour before the game starts, the marching band marches through the circle playing the fight song. They are sometimes accompanied by the team and maybe even some former players. It is reminiscent of quaint little scenes in movie scenes set in the south where living is small, people are simple and friendly and fun is what you make it. I’m already getting excited although I know there will be sweating … lots of sweating …this Saturday.

If you are in the area and have nothing to do this weekend, you should think about bringing your family for the cheapest family football experience around. I’m sure they have created an amazing ‘runout’ video to rally the excitement when the players hit the field, and you can count on some great popcorn and beer. Tickets are cheap, and there will be plenty to be had. If you want to buy your tickets online, you can buy them here. You can find me over by the Former Football Players tent in Friendship Circle when you get there. I know I’m not a former football player.. but… duh ... that’s where the boys are. LION UP, Y’all!!!

 

Country Churches, Gravel Roads and Gospel Music

Elvis' hometown church in Tupelo

Elvis’ hometown church in Tupelo

I asked Michael what I should blog on tonight. He immediately texted back ‘gravel roads, gospel music and country churches.’ Awww … man, I texted back that I didn’t want to take on churches. But, he persuaded me to take on the challenge. I love improvisational blogging, so let’s see what I can do.

The first country church I remember was the little church where I grew up. It’s now a big church, and I’d hardly call the area country anymore. It’s more of a strip mall land with a few rural areas interspersed in between the daiquiri shops, car washes and fast food joints. But I remember the church very well. I didn’t start attending there until I was a teenager when my mother left the Catholic Church due to birth control issues. She had four kids and didn’t want any more, and she couldn’t resolve herself to go to church somewhere when she didn’t follow the doctrine. Actually, the Catholic Church we attended was a little country church, too. It seemed larger than life, but when I drove by the old building as an adult, I realized it was a tiny, little place. But, I digress. We started attending the Methodist Church in my hometown about the time I hit puberty.

I know that church is supposed to be about God, but as a teenager I remember the church being about community… specifically, boys. I knew which boys went to church at which service, and I knew which Sunday School class they attended. And, don’t tell me the other gals weren’t there for boys either. I remember distinctly the length of the dresses I saw, and I know that God would not have approved. There was definitely an ulterior motive. I would go to the morning service with my family, but the one the young people attended was the evening service. I sang in the youth choir. Now, I’m a horrible singer. But, it didn’t matter. As long as you showed up for practice and sang, they’d let you in. At the evening service, we sang a lot of the old time hymns like Morning is Broken and Amazing Grace. I remember those services being very moving, and, even if I went there mainly for boys, I often got religion.

The old church had a room in the back ostensibly for babies, but it really ended up being for young people who came in late and wanted to sleep in the back of the church. It was also a great place to hide from the adults who sat up front and listened to the preacher. One was constantly preaching about the end of the world. It scared the be-Jesus out of me. I just knew I would never grow up because the way it sounded, we were headed for the rapture any moment. I doubted I’d ever even be able to grow up and get out of high school before the four horsemen came and tormented me to death. It was very traumatic for me, and, once I grew up, I remember wondering what ever happened. Did they cancel the end of the world? Because, I tell you… it was definitely happening according to that preacher. And, he had the facts to back it up. There wasn’t a Sunday evening service that teenagers weren’t lining up at the altar to make sure we were covered when it happened. There was crying and sorrow and redemption spilling out the windows every Sunday night.

We had Youth Group on Sunday nights. Now, I imagine the purpose of Youth Group must have been to teach us something about the Bible, but the nights when Youth Group rocked were when we went bowling from midnight to 4 AM or when we took the church bus to MacDonald’s. It was a 15-20 minute trip to Denham Springs, but those bus trips were a lot of fun. Bowling all night was the bomb. It was hard to get an evening away from your parents, and it was cool to be up all night. The trip back on the bus was even cooler. If you were lucky, you spent the evening getting acquainted with one of the local boys. I’d usually manage to get myself kissed a few times on the way home. We learned a lot of things that I don’t think are anywhere in the Bible but they sure seemed to lift my spirits.

The music is what I remember about that little church. There were singing groups and choirs that traveled around the whole country. Some of our young people had phenomenal voices. I was not one of them. My sister and I attended a gospel music concert at Graceland during Elvis week a few years ago in Memphis. Supposedly it was the group that Elvis sang with, and, according to the internet, it was the JD Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. They were amazing. It was that summer that it was so hot all over the south that you could literally fry an egg on your car. We sweated through the 107 degree temperature that morning and rocked to some phenomenal gospel music along with an unbelievable crowd of Elvis fans from all over the world. Elvis, from a little country town in the deep south, loved gospel music, and, surprisingly to a lot of people, he has many gold records with his gospel music albums. Listening to him sing How Great Thou Art brings me back to those Sunday evening services that I remember so fondly. Our choir wasn’t that good, but we did sing that song … and we probably thought we were that good. Who knew?

They’ve apparently moved Elvis’ country church to his birthplace ‘park’ in Tupelo. There are country churches all over this country. I’ve found them on hiking trails in the middle of the woods. I’ve found them down gravel roads. I’ve even seen some in city parks. Some are abandoned and boarded up, hardly recognizable. Others have been preserved to varying extents. I love walking around the old church graveyards to see the names and dates of the people who went to church there. In really old graveyards, there are lots and lots of babies and kids. It always reminds me how lucky we are to have modern medicine. We take it for granted that kids grow up, and women usually survive childbirth. That wasn’t always the case. But, I imagine the churches were the hub of the community. They were the places where people grieved and sang, cultivating hope and love amongst the living. I’m sure they had potluck dinners on Sunday afternoons.  And maybe … just maybe … those old churches were the birthplaces of some teenage romances. I think Jesus is the kind of guy who would like that.

Note to Michael: I know I had to work really hard to get gravel roads in there, but I managed. How’d I do?

Rain: Transforming Heat

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It has been so hot the last week. It seemed like the heat of one day gathered up into the next with an ever increasing intensity. It was like a snowball of fire that kept rolling into itself and getting hotter and hotter until I thought I would melt yesterday. I hardly went outside at all over the weekend. I tried Sunday because my dog was sitting there staring at me like she was going to go crazy if she didn’t get outside. We drove over to City Park and took a slow walk under the shade of the Live Oak trees. But, it was so hot after one little lap around the tennis courts, she ran over to the car and eagerly jumped in. There’s just no way to be out in it right now. We went back to my little cottage and turned the AC way down.

The Storm

I kept checking the weather forecast today because it was supposed to rain, and it was supposed to rain a lot. Please … please … please … let it rain, I prayed. I don’t feel like myself when I can’t get outside. I don’t sleep well when it’s hot, and I don’t want to exercise. I don’t mind walking at 5 AM, but that’s about all I can handle. Running is out of the question. On this morning’s walk, I saw several runners, and I tried to imagine what it would feel like to see if I could push myself to try it. But, it just felt like it would be oppressive. I didn’t dare pick up the pace. The other night the car thermometer registered 102 at 8 PM. It wasn’t really 102 degrees, but it felt like it. I’m just hanging on the hope that it will be over soon so I can resume my normal lifestyle and get back to myself. So, I’ve wanted it to rain for a week at least. The rain brings cooler temperatures in a hurry … much faster than the days on a calendar inching their way into fall.

It started pouring down rain about the time I got home from work. The thunder sounded like a caged animal growling. It rolled and growled between flashes of lightning. I felt a sense of relief come over me. It’s over.. at least for today. I went to acupuncture in the middle of the downpour for my third visit in as many weeks. I told my acupuncturist that I really thought the heat contributed to my insomnia and anxiety. He mentioned that his father told him that when he was young they didn’t even have air conditioning. I laughed and said we didn’t have it when I was a girl. We got a room air conditioner when I was 10 or 11, but we didn’t get central air until I was about 13. The school didn’t have air conditioning at all. He asked how we managed. I told him we were used to it, and we used fans…. lots of fans.

The Puddles

 

When he left the room, I tried to put myself back in that old school in the heat of the day. Of course, we were out of school during most of the summer, but we were back at the end of August, usually the hottest time of the year. I remember sitting in Mrs. Lester’s English class at 6th period… probably the hottest part of the day. The wooden desks with metal frames at varying stages of age sat in rows running parallel to the huge open windows on the outside of the classroom. A hallway on the inside precluded us from having cross-ventilation, but they would leave the doors of school propped open to get as much air flow as possible. This was before the days of school lockdowns. Everybody was welcome. Even the bugs came in. The highest priority was getting more air into the building.

Most classrooms had huge box fans or those oscillating fans blowing the hot, humid air around so we felt cool. I know I wore jeans most days. I can’t imagine that now. My jeans stay stored until cooler days now. I can’t imagine wearing blue jeans with no air conditioning. What were we thinking? The home economics classroom was right outside Mrs. Lester’s classroom window and so was the baseball field. We could watch friends playing outside in the heat. Voices I’d known all of my life floated over the steady hum of the fans. I was smart, so I actually didn’t pay attention all that much. I got bored. I’d spend a lot of time daydreaming. I was trying to remember today what those dreams were about. I think I wanted to be a Mom and have my high school beau as a husband. I thought it would all be so romantic. But, I also remember dreaming about being famous and speaking in front of crowds. Maybe I knew I was a natural born teacher even in those days. The things I wanted most were to have straight hair and to be liked by a boy. I actually don’t think I cared which boy … any boy would do. Well, he had to be cute. And, both seemed to be impossible for me. But they were my dreams, and for a teenage girl, there is nothing in the past. Life is a blank page waiting to be written.

Water transforms everything. My acupuncturist has water elements in his office.

I remember the rain at school but not nearly as much as the heat. The rain in Louisiana pours as if the water gods are pouring huge pitchers of water down on the already soaked swampland. I can remember it raining for days at a time. I’d get so sick of it. My curly hair was awful in the rain. No matter how much hair spray I put on it, it soaked up the humidity like a sponge and lost all semblance of a style. I felt so ugly and awkward with my curly hair and my boobs that were way too big for my age. I wanted to be skinny and have long straight hair that never changed day after day.

The ground here can’t soak up that much water so it lays in the grass in deep puddles. When we were really little, we’d slip and slide in the puddles in the yard and in the deep ditches that try to siphon the impossible amounts of water into natural waterways. We’d put on our swimsuits and go swimming in the yard. By the end of an hour or so we’d be soaking wet, bits of grass covering our skin and filthy with mud. Even though we probably didn’t know the difference in the temperature, I imagine in some way we were celebrating the break in the heat.

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I looked down at the thermostat in my car on my way home from work today, and it said 74 degrees. It hasn’t been 74 degrees at anytime in the last week. The lows have been 77 or 78 at best. I’m sitting outside at the coffee shop tonight, and it’s cool enough for Ashok to join me. The breeze is blowing, and I’m not even breaking a sweat. I’m already looking forward to a cooler walk in the morning. But, if it’s raining, I’m not going to complain. At this age, I let my hair curl in its natural crazy way, and I really don’t care if boys like me all that much. So much has changed over the years. I still daydream, but I dream as much about the past as I do about the future. As the pages were written, I discovered what was past Springfield Road and the baseball field outside the school window. The world was so much bigger and better and worse than I ever dreamed it would be sitting in my school desk scrawled with graffiti. But, some things don’t change at all. The heat is still oppressive down here, and the rain and the breeze are cause for celebration. I watch Ashok as she runs and plays and drinks from the puddles. She just knows that it feels better. It’s just that simple.

 

Our Assimilation to Violence

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I don’t like to watch the news. Yes, I am uninformed to some extent. But, I hear about mostly everything I need to know. I heard about Robin Williams’ death at my brother’s dinner table. I heard about Jim Foley’s beheading when a friend asked if he could do a guest blog on him as he was a personal friend. I heard about the 9/11 attacks when my boss yelled the news to me in my cubicle at work. It works for me. I get along just fine. I have never liked horror movies, violent movies and even some action-adventure type movies which involve violence. I have been in relationships that are emotionally violent, and I don’t enjoy feeling unsafe … emotionally, physically or spiritually. I don’t enjoy arguing about politics or religion. I like harmony. But, the world is not harmonious.

My friend Elizabeth posted this plea on her Facebook wall this morning:

I am sick and tired of the overblown, reactionary, bullying and insulting liberal-bashing memes out there. I’m pretty tired of the ones making fun of conservatives, too. They just make things worse, people. They make it harder for either side to learn from the other. And you know what? We’re all actually on the SAME FREAKIN’ SIDE!!!! I’m just putting it out there that I’m going to unfriend you if I see any more of these things. Yes, you. I don’t care how long we go back or how much I like you personally or whether you’re bashing the Right or the Left, I get too worked up about these self-righteous, close-minded bits of “humor” that only drive us further apart spiritually and as a nation. Do you have an actual question or an actual point of view about an issue? Want to share an editorial? That’s fine, I can get down with that and I might learn something new. Otherwise, I don’t have time for all this juvenile namecalling.
 

I, for one, have been in a process of blocking friends on Facebook when they post alienating political statements, religious beliefs and any photo that portrays graphic violence. I know most people post those because they are outraged and are looking for support, but I can’t unsee that crap. I saw a particularly graphic photo that keeps popping up in my mind whenever I don’t want it to. It turns my stomach, yes. My main complaint is that I need to have a better view of people than that. I know people are capable of all kinds of evil, and it sucks. But my being outraged or repulsed by it, is not DOING anything about it. It makes me afraid to go out at night. It makes me afraid of meeting new people. It definitely makes me afraid of getting in relationships. The more I see of the sickness and craziness in the world, the less trusting I get. So, if someone posts that stuff, I block them. Unfriending them doesn’t help as that stuff pops up in my news feed anyway. I have to make them disappear … whether I actually like them or not.

This month’s Psychology Today has an article about how it is normal for a person’s behavior to escalate if they get away with smaller crimes. For instance, the guy that steals office supplies and cheats on his expense report regularly will find it much easier to then siphon funds if the opportunity arises. After he does that, he might move onto outright embezzlement. The point is that if he was honest about all of the smaller things, he would be much less likely to embezzle straight away. But, the ‘assimilation’ to dishonest behavior allows him to ‘step up’ to harder crimes. The article had a chart that showed several modern-day criminals’ progression from smaller crimes to much more heinous ones. I’ve often wondered if this is the reason that media impacts the level of violence and irrational behavior in our society. Once my eyes get used to seeing something on a regular basis, I assimilate, and it’s not as horrifying as it once was.

One of the things that scared me about my second marriage was the level of emotional violence that took place. It happened on both sides as we both were not well, and we were fighting for our very sanity. But, I knew in the back of my mind that the journey from emotional violence to physical violence was not a long trip. At times, I could see how partners involved in abusive relationships could murder their spouse and kill themselves. The blindness of rage and the gradual escalation of dysfunctional behavior could easily lead there. It was that thought that scared me most and eventually got me out of there in one instance of further escalating violence. I knew it had to stop there for me. I’d reached my limit.

I talked to an expatriot from Brazil when I was at FedEx. I asked him if he missed his home country. “No,” he said. “There’s so much crime there. If you go out to a restaurant for dinner, there are criminals that will come in the restaurant and rob you at gunpoint.” I had no idea. I talked to another woman in Dallas recently who moved here from South Africa. In answer to the same question, I got the same answer. We are really lucky in this country that we have some semblance of safety. Yes, there is crime. There is more than there needs to be. Yes, there is violence, and none of it is acceptable. But, we are relatively safe here in this country. That, of course, depends on who you are talking to, but I can only speak for myself.

Another article in this month’s magazine was about group narcissism. It explained the phenomena that Elizabeth is talking about in her post. We may not be narcissists as individuals, but when we affiliate with a group, we become very narcissistic – believing anyone that is not with us is against us. Worse than that, we start to believe that anyone that is not on our ‘team’ is stupid, deranged, or dangerous. If I take the data from both articles, why wouldn’t this narcissism increase from emotional violence against others to physical violence. Do we really think that Hitler could have accomplished what he did without first laying the groundwork that the Jews were to be denigrated? And, he did it with emotional violence first and then escalated it to the one of the most heinous and unforgivable acts in history. And, normal people like you and me participated in this. They were not born murderers. They were caught up in a progression that was instigated by a sick governmental leader.

I believe we are all one step away from being somebody we don’t want to be. But, if we keep traveling in that direction by assimilating to ever increasing words of hate, brutal images and deeds, we can move effortlessly to a level where there is no turning back. I imagine there are many who commit heinous crimes that one day look back and wonder how the hell they got there. For many, the violence was in their homes. They were programmed for violence. That’s why abuse runs in families. And I imagine the violence in our world will increase as we get more and more used to it. The generations will assimilate.

If you are born in this country, you won the lottery whether you realize it or not. And the person next to you – whether they are gay or straight, Christian or Muslim, male or female, American or immigrant, Republican or Democrat – is in the same group as you. They are in the human race. Group narcissism? Let’s be narcissistic about the human race and get militant about getting rid of all kinds of violence … starting with your own.

 

 

Seducing Sleep with Chinese Medicine

Me and Marlene ... the Midlife Moments famous Acupuncturist

Me and Marlene … the Midlife Moments famous Acupuncturist

I’ve been having some pretty intense anxiety and insomnia for the last couple of weeks. My brand of insomnia starts with mild anxiety that impacts my sleep. I fall asleep pretty easily, but I wake up at 2 or 3 and can’t go back to sleep. When I wake up in the middle of the night like that, I’m usually in some state of mild to severe panic. I know that it’s my anxiety, so there’s no real danger, but my body is revved up all the same. There’s no amount of prayer or lavender or melatonin or yoga that will help me get relaxed enough to sleep. The longer it goes on, the more I panic when I wake up. I hate insomnia. Being tired all day makes my body feel more anxious which aggravates the whole cycle.

I was at a point last weekend where I decided that I was going to get back on my anti-depressant which helps with my anxiety. I called a friend to talk about it, and she concurred that if I’m thinking about it, I really need to consider it. So, I started considering it, and I remembered that my severe hypoglycemia disappeared after I got off the drug. I really can’t get back on that one again with that side effect. I don’t need blood sugar issues. I’d need to go back to my doctor and see what else is out there. Then, I thought about acupuncture. I’ve used it in the past when I was anxious – even when I was on the medication – and it really helped calm me down. So, I decided I would start a regimen of regular acupuncture treatments for the next couple of weeks along with whatever Chinese herbs they prescribe for me and see if that works. If it doesn’t work, I’m open to trying some new meds. I just hate to get on a long-term solution to a short-term problem.

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I made an appointment with Stewart whose acupuncture practice is in walking distance of my house. I’ve seen him a couple of times, and I really like him. He was a pre-med student who decided to become an acupuncturist. I saw one acupuncturist here who was really pushy and didn’t seem to want me to be a partner in my treatment. It’s really important to me to be given full information so I can make my own decisions about my health care. I’m stubborn anyway, and I don’t like to be told what to do. Tell me my options, and let me decide. Otherwise, I get really grumpy. So, I went in to see Stewart, petted the office dog and told him what I was going through. We talked while he placed the needles in the places where he needed to put them, and then I rested while the needles did their magic. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud when I’m having acupuncture. A lot of people sleep, but I actually get really alert and clear-headed. I feel high. It’s pretty amazing. Before I left, he recommended some herbs and gave me the protocol to take them.

The herbs are pills … big pills. But, they are soft, and I can chew them. They have an earthly flavor that was distasteful at first, but it doesn’t bother me now. I take them 4 times a day, 4 at a time. It cost me $25 for 90 tablets. I felt an immediate change in my temperament after taking them. At first, I would start to feel anxious again before the next dose but as the days passed, I started to feel better all the time. I even started to feel a little lift in my step. I actually was eager to run on Thursday night and felt energetic enough to do some speedwork. I was still waking up in the middle of the night though. I wasn’t panicked, but I still couldn’t relax. I texted my Memphis acupuncturist and asked her for something for sleep. She said she had a ‘kick-ass’ sleeping potion she could make. I jokingly asked her if it was a pill, a tea or if you smoked it. She sent me a customized blend in the mail. It’s called Sleepy #3. The elixir is a powder that you mix into hot water. It makes a somewhat distasteful tea. I received it yesterday, and I followed her instructions to take it two hours before bedtime. An hour after I took it, I started to feel naturally sleepy. It wasn’t a sleeping pill-type sleepy. It was just a natural really sleepy feeling.

I woke up this morning at 5 AM. This is my regular get-up time so I can walk my dog in this unbearable heat. I have to do it before the sun comes up. I wanted to dance with joy! I slept through the night and had amazing dreams. And I didn’t feel groggy at all. On my walk, all I could think about was how much I love Chinese medicine. Here I am a week later feeling no anxiety and sleeping like a baby!! With no drugs!! And no nasty side-effects!! I thought of all the things that those magical needles have cured in me … my depression … anxiety .. a nasty stomach virus … a 5 year old back pain … and even a relentless cold. It’s just amazing.

My new herbs...amazing.

My new herbs…amazing.

Chinese Medicine is thousands of years old. It’s so much older than Western Medicine that it’s not even funny. I think its hilarious that we call it ‘alternative’ medicine. Why is there a ‘primary’ medicine, anyway? Isn’t medicine of any kind medicine? Every acupuncturist I’ve had – and I’ve had 4 – know that Chinese Medicine has some limits, and Western Medicine has a place in any person’s healthcare regimen. Chinese Medicine is designed to help the body heal itself. Natural herbs and energetic healing increase the immune system’s capabilities and help the body do what it does best. But in some cases, a bigger intervention is necessary. That is where Western Medicine is helpful. Why doesn’t Western Medicine realize that it’s not a one size fits all.

My doctor in Memphis was open to ‘alternative’ therapies, but I had to bring them up and seek them out. He had no information to give me. He just did believe it was hogwash. He would offer me a prescription for ‘that’, and I’d push back and tell him that I don’t really want a prescription. I wanted to know what was wrong and what was causing it. I wanted to try a few things before I commit to a prescription. It’s so easy to get a script filled, but when I do that, I’m committing to something that I’m probably going to take for the rest of my life. Of course, I don’t think of it like that when I’m wanting the issue to go away, but it’s a lifetime commitment. I don’t take it lightly. When I was on my Lexapro, I had to go in every 6 months to get a new script. I pushed back and asked that I get a year’s script since I’d been on it so long. My doctor said he couldn’t because if something went wrong and he got sued, he’d have to show in court that he saw me every 6 months to regulate the prescription. So, I had to take time off work every six months to go in, get weighed and look my doctor in the eye. The irony is that all along I had a major side effect of the hypoglycemia and neither of us had any idea. I still wouldn’t know that the medication was causing that if I was still on it.

I asked my acupuncturist if these herbs did the same things for my body as the prescription drugs. He said it should but there was no side effect profile. I didn’t actually believe it would help. I’ve bought all of this stuff at Whole Foods and never really saw much difference. But, these herbs have REALLY helped.

With Western Medicine, I had to make an appointment with my doctor sometimes a month in advance, sit in a waiting room with a lot of sick people, sign a document about who was going to pay for these services along with a threat to sue me if I don’t and then be pushed and prodded through a lot of unnecessary procedures. And, heaven forbid if I forgot to ask him something or had a question afterwards. I’d have to call the nurse’s station, leave a message, wait for hours or sometimes days for a call back and then receive an answer that may or may not answer the question at all. It was like getting in to see the President. With Stewart, I called that day to get an appointment AFTER working hours, sat in the waiting room with his lovely standard poodle, was greeted by Stewart, treated by Stewart and he even made the financial transaction at the end. And I had a question the next day. I called, and he answered the phone and answered my question. It’s just so civilized. I’ve been friends with my acupuncturists – all of them. They want to know ALL about my life because that’s part of the diagnosis process. They share their health journey with me if it’s applicable to my situation. It’s a true partnership, and they’ve even negotiated pricing and rates with me for the financial piece.

The main thing …. the thing that really keeps me coming back … is it works. I would ask Marlene in Memphis to ‘fix this’ and ‘fix that’, and she fixed it all with her Chinese magic. Acupuncture is an art as well as a science. Every practitioner has a different style. The fact that I haven’t seen Marlene in a year, and I could text her to provide me with some kind of amazing sleep elixir that works is astounding. I couldn’t talk to my doctor on the phone …. much less text. That would be blasphemous. Oh yeah, and I would bring Ashok with me to my appointments in Memphis. She knew the word acupuncture meant Marlene. I don’t see that happening at my doctor’s office!

When I got my colonoscopy at 50, the doctor’s office called to get a list of my prescriptions. I told him I was on Lexapro, 10 mg. There was silence. He asked what else. ‘That’s it,” I answered. Crickets. “What? I’m usually here for 15 minutes taking this stuff down,” he laughed. I wish he’d call back today. I’d be the one being silent. “None,” I’d say. “Have a nice day. I’m going for a run.”