Incremental Improvements: Sleep Reset

Day 5: I’m sleeping better.

I’ve had five nights of sleep on this program. The first two days were awful, and I was super tired. But after the third night of sleep, my sleep stats are improving. The last two nights I slept through the night. My bedtime is 11:10 PM and I get out of bed at 5:30 AM. I’m not waking up to an alarm yet, but I’m literally waking up sometime between 5:10 AM and 5:30 AM. I feel rested. For the first time this week I felt like running this morning.

My sleep coach, Arielle, is working with me on more positive thinking about my sleep. For as long as I can remember, I have a love/hate relationship with my bed. And, of course, that is a contributor to my insomnia. I go to bed TRYING to sleep. A sleep expert on a podcast asked his host, “Have you ever found yourself trying to digest your food faster?” Of course we don’t. We don’t have control of that. He said we don’t have control of when our body sleeps either. It’s not effective to expend a lot of energy trying to will ourselves to sleep. So now I’m telling myself things like, “I’m doing something positive that will help my sleep in the long run.” “I know this program has helped others, and it will help me, too.” “Having less sleep will not kill me. I’ve functioned like this before.” It helps.

My sleep score has climbed from 9.3 to 11.9 and 11.1. Progress!

One of the hardest things for me is working at home when I get really sleepy during the day. That bed is right there in the other room, and I know it. But I can’t take a nap. I have to set boundaries with myself about that. Think long-term not short-term. I am noticing I’m tired in the afternoon when I drink more than one cup of coffee in the morning. I’ve been drinking more since I started this. I need to rein that in. The crash is so hard on me. One day I had Matcha in the morning and green tea later. I felt pretty energized all day. There was literally no crash. I’m going to commit to doing that over the weekend to see what a difference it makes.

Another negative side effect is that I’m hungry all the time. I know that when you don’t sleep you crave more food, and it’s gotten a bit out of control the last few days. I eat more and when I’m eating I’m thinking of what I’m going to eat next. It feels like I’m trying to distract myself. Unfortunately, eating too much also makes me sleepy. I’m going to need to stop that, too.

The dark green shows my awake time. The last two nights were much improved.

Eventually, I’ll get another 30 minutes tacked onto my sleep schedule. I literally am salivating over the thought of 30 more minutes of sleep. But I do love all the free time I have now that I formerly used to toss and turn in bed. I’ve been watching movies, meditating, reading, shopping (not a positive), walking Ashok and talking with friends on the phone. I have a lot of free time.

Right now I’m really tired. I would give my retirement savings to go to bed right now, but I know that’s not a good move for retirement or for my sleep journey. The program is 90 days, and I need to commit to following instructions and trusting the program. “I am taking care of myself by doing something positive about my sleep.” And that’s a worthwhile investment. I have one hour and 15 minutes before my head can hit the pillow. Hmmmm…. Ashok, you want to go for an evening walk?

Can I Please Just Sleep?

Every year I dread the Summer Solstice. Everybody loves these long days to get outside and enjoy life until bedtime. It’s the bedtime part that I hate. My body is so sensitive to light and the heat of summer that my body doesn’t rest very well. I long for the Summer Solstice to peak so the days get shorter and my sleep can get longer and longer.

If I drink too much caffeine – at any time of the day – my anxiety ramps up and I can’t sleep. I can go to sleep, but I wake up at 3 or 4 and am wired. If I eat too much sugar or white flour I wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety. If I’m worried about work, I wake up and ruminate on what I need to do to solve problems. If I exercise too much, I have trouble sleeping. If I don’t exercise enough, I have trouble sleeping. The truth is I’m like Goldilocks’ porridge dilemna when it comes to sleep. I have to do everything just right in order to blissfully slumber through the night and feel rested the next day.

I also know I’m not alone. Many of my friends struggle with sleep. In fact, I got off a phone call Sunday with one friend who was trying to troubleshoot her insomnia and got right on another call with a different friend with the same problem. It super common, and it’s very hard to fix. I have tried so many things to fix my sleep. It impacts my ability to work, my happiness, my eating, my mood and my energy for everything else in my life. I am green with envy of my friends who sleep like they were teenagers. Oddly enough, the only time I sleep like that now is when I’m sleeping in a tent. The outdoors is like a drug to me.

My friend Sallie mentioned she is doing a Sleep program called Sleep Reset. The main tool is Sleep Restriction. You shorten your sleep time for awhile in the hopes of resetting your sleep cycle. After your body gets used to sleeping better for a short time, you start to increase your sleep time until it’s normal. I had heard about it on a Ten Percent Happier Podcast, and I was immediately intrigued. Besides, I hadn’t slept well for about five days in a row, and I was in a desperate state of mind. So I signed up for the 7-day free trial to see what it was like.

Click here for the podcast.

The first night you just do your normal thing so you can submit a sleep log to your sleep coach. I hardly slept at all. So I was exhausted yesterday. I couldn’t take a nap, and I was assigned an 11:10 PM bedtime. I was miserable all day. I meditated, took many walks, went for a run, wrote in my journal, watched a movie, cleaned my kitchen and tried to pay attention at work. I even got a chance to text with my friend Alayne in Texas who is a night owl. We never get to text because we are on opposite schedules and different time zones. I was so excited when 11:10 PM came that I jumped in bed and….. lay awake for an hour. OMG. I was so mad. I finally fell asleep and woke up 45 minutes before my 5:30 AM wakeup time. The rule is I can only stay in bed for 15 minutes if I can’t sleep. I dragged my sleepy ass out of bed at 5 AM wishing I could go back to sleep. But I’m committed. If this thing can help improve my insomnia I will take any short-term pain.

During the time I was asleep, I did sleep really soundly. I felt much better today than yesterday. I needed less coffee which helped, and I didn’t get nearly as sleepy. I also did some troubleshooting with my coach on the app. Arielle is from Florida, and she was very helpful in providing me some resources to help me fall back to sleep should I wake up too early in the morning. I have another two hours before I can go to bed tonight, so I’ll get familiar with those techniques just in case. But am I sleepy right now. Typically I’d be going to bed right now, and my body is going please, please, please…. can we go to sleep? No. We cannot. Even Ashok is walking around confused as to why I’m staying up so late. But it’s great to have all of this extra time. I think I may go see a movie tomorrow night!

Now that I’ll be staying up later, I can post updates on my insomnia journey. I could probably write a novel if I wasn’t so exhausted. I hope soon to be snoozing away on a regular basis but until then I’ll be killin’ time!

The Sweet Music of Friendship

Our friendship began in a cinder block suite in the now non-existent Lee Hall at Southeastern Louisiana University. We bonded over bottles of Riunite purchased with small change and shared packs of Virginia Slims menthol cigarettes. I don’t know why but I fell in love with this grumpy New Orleans gymnast in the one semester that we lived together. She teased me trying to apply all my face creams in a drunken stupor. I brought her tea in the morning while she grumbled and groused about having to get up so early. We both had curly hair that frizzed in the Louisiana humidity and huge boobs that accentuated our hourglass figures. And we had no idea where our lives might take us.

One of the gifts of the pandemic was reigniting our friendship on a weekly basis through Zoom. Both of us have been crazy busy with our lives. I chose more of a business path, and Angel chose a stay-at-home Mom life. But with everything locked down, we both had time to schedule long talks. I often wonder why we had the opportunity to meet for such a short time. I was in her first wedding. I’ve visited her at multiple houses, and apartments. She visited me in a short-lived condo in Knoxville. I know her kids, her family and her pets, and she knows my family and all my fur babies. Our friendship has been close and distant but always percolating underneath our daily drama.

Sometime early in the year, she suggested we meet in Chicago for an Allison Kraus and Robert Plant concert. It seemed like it took three years to get here, but I picked her up at O’Hare this past Sunday. She spent a couple days at my house where we tore up Michigan roads – quite literally in one case where the GPS guided us down a muddy, dirt road. My car is covered in mud. We went shopping and hung out for hours upon hours talking and catching up. We took the train to Chicago on Tuesday to spend a couple nights in the city and to hear some beautiful music.

Angel made reservations at the Palmer House Hilton. What a fabulous old Grand Hotel! She treated us to a fancy 2-bedroom suite, and we joked that we’d come a long way from the cinderblock walls of Lee Hall. We ate lavish meals in the fabulous lobby with a Sistine Chapel sort of ceiling. We woke up with the smooth jolt of Lavazza coffee laced with milk. We watched the House of Gucci – me reclined on the velveteen chaise and Angel sprawled across the velveteen antique sofa. The hallway walls featured photos of long-ago musicians who played the Empire Room in the hotel’s heyday. We marveled at the lobby ceiling and furnishings while talking and talking and more talking. We also did a little shopping. Okay… we did a lot of shopping. Between us we purchased a half dozen lipsticks.

The highlight of the trip was the concert. I had seen this celebrity duo in Memphis in an amphitheater on the banks of the Mississippi River a decade or so ago. I attended with my second husband for his birthday, and he complained the entire time about the songs of Led Zeppelin not sounding the same. I finally told him to shut up and realize that Robert Plant had actually grown as an artist and wanted to try new things. It was a great reminder of why I was divorcing him. Change is good. Angel was a much more enthusiastic dance partner. The beautiful Millennium Park with the city of Chicago as an illuminating backdrop was magical.

After two years of being holed up in my house and not attending major events, I forgot how fun it was to people watch. Flowy Bohemian-style dresses and flashy sequined squirts were paired with eccentric hats. At one time I realized that I’d forgotten I could dress up in a rock star costume for a rock star concert. I need to get back on my game! People never stopped walking around and at one point I commented that I wish all these people would sit down. In hindsight I think they were enjoying being seen as much as I enjoyed seeing them. We were joined together to celebrate an oddly-paired, creative couple who cultivate a wonderfully unique musical style. The magic of live music is something I’ve missed a lot. I’m not even sure I knew how much.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a vacation week. I felt loved on and connected to my Louisiana sister. My heart is filled up on good food, soulful music, beautiful surroundings, dreamy coffee and the energy of one of my favorite cities. I dreaded this morning but knew that the end of one visit is only the beginning of another. We chatted about when I might visit her lovely beach house on the ocean in a suburb of Boston.

As I walked away from the Palmer House and the warm embrace of my lifelong friend, the history of our lives flashed across my heart. Our stories and paths are different, but our roots grow deep in the South Louisiana mud. Virginia Slims Menthols aren’t even legal in Angel’s home state. Neither one of us can drink sugary wine. Our southern accents have been dampened by our Northern environments. But when we get together, there is much that is the same. I’m not in a hurry to get there, but I know that one day we will be old ladies chatting of today as a happy memory. I look forward to seeing where we go, what we do and who we do it with. Safe travels, my friend. I’ll see you soon.

A Day of Running Inspiration: The Run Show USA

I have been running pretty regularly again. I had to get in shape for the Fort2Fort Mackinac 5-miler even though my motivation fizzled out a couple of weeks before. That trip was so fun, and I felt so good during the run that it helped me remember why I loved being in a social running community. My favorite running days were in Memphis when I was a member of Memphis in Motion. I trained for a half marathon and then felt inspired to go for a full marathon a year later right here in Chicago. I joined that group when I was struggling with depression after my divorce, and the running and social connections healed me. Then I moved to Baton Rouge and it was too hot and too hard to find a running group with a similar makeup. Since then, my running career has come in fits and starts.

I’m glad I keep trying. I know it’s good for me. There are days when I totally forget I’m moving, and I get in a zone that takes me to my happy place. Or I go on a race trip with girlfriends and we laugh our asses off after a good sweat and post-race celebration. The pandemic dealt another blow to my motivation, but I’ve been trying to get back on track. This week I got on the Runner’s World website to try to pump some energy into my running mojo and I saw that there was a Run Show in Chicago. And I had to go to Chicago to pick up my friend Angel Sunday morning. Purrrrrrrfect!!!! I registered and booked a hotel.

I got there early this morning so I could snag some of the pre-show giveaways. I got some reflective shoelaces, lip gloss and a really nice Jute bag. There were some other coupons but nothing I wanted to use. My main goal was to get motivated, be around some like-minded people and buy some new running shoes. I didn’t buy any last year, and the two pair I have are past their prime. I kept hesitating because I didn’t know if I was committed. This week I signed up for a 10K in July, a 7.5 miler in September and a 9-miler in November. I’m committed. The money is paid. Now, I gotta pound out the miles.

Carl Lewis!

I met a really nice woman in line and we chatted until the show opened. Carl Lewis cut the ribbon, and I was excited to get to hear him speak first thing. He was very personable, and his memories took me back to when I first started running in 1982. The Inspiration Stage had a great lineup, and I listened to most of the speakers. When there was a break, I went looking for shoes and ended up buying some cushy Asics Nimbus complemented with some custom insoles. I fell in love with insoles last year when I was working at Wanderlust. They give me so much more support, and I need all the support I can get these days.

The afternoon lineup turned out to be the real treat. There was an alcoholic and addict whose recovery is in large part to his running. A female amputee talked about her recent accomplishment of running 104 marathons in 104 days. An African-American Ironman finisher with diabetes told his story. Not only did he get healthy himself, but he has started opening health care clinics in barber shops in black neighborhoods. It was fascinating to hear his story and see the difference he is making in people’s lives. And The Marathon Whisperer had once been a really fast competitive runner until she got hit by a car. Now she’s a motivating coach who encourages people to run for fun and quit getting stressed out about time. She was such a happy person!

Several women who play unique roles in the running community held a panel discussion on women, running and building community. It was beautiful to see the diversity of race, age and body size on that stage. I had read about Mirna Valerio in Runner’s Word years ago. She is called the Mirnavator, and she had a blog that made her famous called Fat Girl Running. I’ll put a list at the end of all the speakers so you can read about them if you want. Each of them were motivated to run because they could inspire others and make a difference in people’s lives. Running can be competitive. But today I got a real snapshot of what the modern running community has become. National running events used to be full of young, fit men and women. Eventually, the age ranges expanded. But now there are all kinds of runners from different walks of life with different motivations and unique challenges. It was very inspiring to see. I guess that’s why they called it The Inspiration Stage.

I walked away excited about being a part of the running community again. If I hadn’t been so hungry, I probably would have put on those running shoes to go for a run. But I’ll be up and at it tomorrow. My hotel is close to a number of trails, and I’m motivated. I hope the rain will hold off. But after I saw the challenges that those speakers have overcome in order to run, I should be embarrassed by letting a little rain stop me.

See the links below for some of the speakers I heard. Their stories are worth reading about. And if they inspire you to get off your ass and go for a walk or run, then I’ve done my job!

Ahhhh!! Summertime in SW Michigan

You can get your own call sign here!

When we walked out of Top Gun last night, we ran over to the marketing signage in the lobby to take a picture. A man was there with his family. He offered to take our picture, and we took a family pic for them. Everybody was laughing and trying to get next to “Tom”. We got a couple of pictures, and I felt a little taken aback at how all that transpired. Was that what the world used to feel like? Social celebrations and sharing joy with strangers at close range without a thought about it? . On the way home, I said a little prayer of gratitude that life as we once knew it may have returned. I also felt grateful for the silver lining of the pandemic that has made me very aware of how lucky we are. Sometimes we have to lose something in order to appreciate it.

I looked forward to this weekend all week. It’s been cold and Friday night I was wearing a coat to walk Ashok. But Saturday would be in the 60s, Sunday in the 70s and Monday in the 80s. It seemed that summer was coming and with it the glorious weather of Southwest Michigan. I even looked forward to parking issues due to the throngs of tourists landing in St. Joseph. Businesses would be awash in money and work and all of the summer activities will be in full swing. To celebrate, I got out early for a long run Saturday and said hi to everyone I met.

My beautiful flowers from the Farmer’s Market. Thanks, Stephanie!

I headed down to the Farmer’s Market and bought some flowers from my friend Stephanie and a great cup of coffee from Brian at Forte Coffee. It tasted even better than normal after being dispensed in the sunshine on the bluff. I had no real plans for Saturday, so I packed up Ashok and we headed to Saugatuck for a walk around town. She was perkier than I have seen her lately and enjoyed the treats laid out in bowls from the local businesses. Later I went to the movie theater for the first time since 2019 and saw Downton Abbey: New Era. It was a great movie and it was such a treat to do something that I loved doing pre-pandemic. Our Celebration Cinema has those big reclining seats and I was in my happy place.

Saugatuck was hopping!!

I met my friend Becky for breakfast Sunday and we were talking so much we forgot to pay the check. Luckily she was shopping next door and the poor waiter had to confront her about it. She apologized profusely and paid him. I texted her when I realized it, and we laughed about starting a life of crime early in the weekend. I stopped by Home Depot to order some new countertops for my kitchen before heading to Kalamazoo to have lunch with my friend Liz and see Top Gun: Maverick. We were dying to eat at Los Brothers Taco Shop but were bummed to see that it was closed for the weekend. We were hungry and headed to the closest thing we could find – a Southern eatery called Ty’s Joint.

We asked for suggestions, and Tyrone (one of the owners) pointed out highlights of the menu. Like a good Southerner I chose a bunch of sides for a meal. Collard greens, mac and cheese, cornbread dressing with chicken and fried okra made my mouth water. Liz ordered the perch and catfish plate for us to share and with the candied yams and corn as sides. You gotta have sides!! Tyrone said all of it was delicious, but the collard greens were the best. We had a mountain of food, and OMG it was perhaps the best food I have put in my mouth in awhile. My favorites were the cornbread dressing and candied yams. But the collard greens had a little spice that made them stand out from the ones I’ve typically eaten in the South, and the fried okra tasted just like home.

I met the family after we ate. Tyler and Nikki (his cousin) started the restaurant a year ago, and it’s been very successful so far. The neighborhood regulars are a huge support, and the delivery services have helped them get introduced beyond the immediate vicinity. Apparently Nikki has always loved cooking mountains of this yummy soul food, and she and Tyrone had always joked that they were going to open a restaurant one day. It wasn’t much of a joke because they’ve done it, and I’m so glad they did. Tyrone said they pride themselves on quality ingredients and won’t scrimp. “When people are used to eating this soul food they can tell when you cut corners,” he said. I will return and I hope soon. We were so full we missed the peach cobbler, but he said we have to try it. I’ll tell you about it when I do!

This morning I ran again. (I needed to after all that food!) I’m actually signed up for several races this summer and one in the fall. I’m happy to have had the break from running but am equally excited to be back racing. It feels good in my body, and it’s fun to plan destination runs with friends. I loaded up Ashok again intending to go for a walk at Holland State Park. The traffic was so snarled before I got to the park that we turned around and went to Sanctuary Woods, a Nature Preserve Liz and I discovered this winter. We were literally the only people in this beautiful little park and enjoyed a nice long hike in the woods.

I’ve had a hankering for a hot dog at the Root Beer Barrel in Douglas, so we stopped there on the way home. I struck up a conversation with a couple from Chicago who was driving through to go to the Upper Peninsula. I gave them some suggestions for their trip and ordered a New Yorker Dog which is basically a Reuben with a hot dog. Ashok got her own weiner, and she was happy as a clam. It was a perfect sunny afternoon, and all of the patrons were chatting with each other in the excitement of being at a hot dog joint in Southwest Michigan on a sunny summer day. Life just doesn’t get much better than that.

I hope you had a great weekend. I know there’s a lot to worry about right now, but we have to go on living and enjoying the simple pleasures we have. There are many people who made these freedoms possible by sacrificing their lives and the lives of their loved ones. We are honoring them and their sacrifices today in the only way we know how. Thank you for the gifts of freedom.

The Difference Between Then and Now: Top Gun

I actually forgot about going to movies in a movie theater. I hadn’t been to a movie theater since 2019, and I’m not even sure how many movies I saw that year. But I really liked going to movies. I would scour the movie listings to see if anything was playing and head over on a Saturday afternoon for some popcorn and entertainment. There’s something about a story on the big screen that puts me in a better place if only for awhile. So this week on Stephen Colbert, he interviewed the actress that plays Penny Benjamin in Top Gun: Maverick. Oh yeah…. that volleyball scene brings back some great memories.

I texted my friend Liz and asked her if she wanted to go. After a minute reflecting on her distaste for some of Tom Cruise’s antics, she decided she’d let that go and take a trip down memory lane. After all, the Cannes Film Festival gave Cruise a 5-min standing ovation, and the reviews have been downright glowing. Maybe it would live up to the hype. We booked tickets at the IMAX to get the full experience and Liz suggested we watch the original on Netflix as a primer.

As soon as I started watching the original, I started having flashbacks of my life in 1986. I was a teacher at a public school in Jacksonville, Florida. I was 25 years old and two years into my 11 year marriage to my first husband. I knew nothing. I knew I had a drinking problem but had no idea what to do about it. All of my childhood stuff was bubbling up unchecked. Seeing a movie with a pretty young woman groveling at the washboard abs of a squadron of hot, sweaty young men was the kind of fantasy that made me forget the my fears about the future. All of my life was before me. I was scared to death I wouldn’t be able to measure up and was too afraid to talk about it. Fantasy was always welcome.

Shirtless muscle men in an obviously over-sexualized story with very little plot did not have the same effect on me this time. It seemed silly. The music was good, but I wasn’t all that impressed with the stilted acting and obvious one-liners meant to move the story along. They all looked so young and were so focused on stupid things. Now I know that the fairy tales don’t really have a happy ending and not everybody makes it out alive. Hot bodies age and get sick. Love is much more complicated when you have to pay the bills and deal with another person’s complicated issues in the midst of dealing with your own. When Kelly McGillis’ character says, “This is going to be complicated,” I laughed out loud. You have no idea, young lady.

All that aside, I was super excited today to see the movie. The theater was packed and I wondered how many had seen the original when they were young and naive. Those were the days when movies only premiered on the big screen. You could watch it at home but not until it made its way to network television years later. Everybody went to the movies. Tom still looks great, of course. His body is a tad less ripped, and his rugged jaw has a softer edge. But that smile that lights up a room is exactly the same. Maverick is still a bit cocky, but it is not the same cocky of the young 21-year old character emboldened by increasing risk-taking. His eyes reflected a sadness of a life lived hard, and he had more wisdom in his decision-making.

I won’t get into the story too much, but all of the old characters were there – some in person and some just in flashbacks or reflections. Maverick’s matured complexity was so compelling that I could hardly separate it from my own. Life at 61 has so much more meaning than it it did at 25. Everything that happens is seen in the context of what has come before. Everything also weighs heavily against the reality that there is less life before me than there is behind me. A change of course is not as easy to pull off.

In May of 1986 when the original premiered, the Chernobyl accident had just occurred, and the space shuttle had blown up in a public spectacle watched by millions of schoolchildren. It would be one of the first national tragedies that I lived through as an adult. Now there have been so many tragedies both personally and professionally that it seems like tragedies are the norm. I’ve weathered and grown from losses and can still be moved to tears when a memory strikes a nerve. My memory of my drive home from the first Top Gun brought back the happy laughter of that marriage and the never-ending sadness of losing it. One cannot be separated from the other.

They say that this part of our lives has the potential to be the most creative. I see it in this version of Top Gun. The characters had so much more depth. The plot was much more focused and suspenseful. Of course the special effects have vastly improved over the years. The writing was better and felt more real. The love story was tender and rich with the fullness of two people who have known each other for a long time. A palpable sadness hung over the characters as they looked back on their lives of the last 35 years. It all felt very real to me.

Is a movie different depending on where the viewer is in their life? At this age I am keenly aware that I am lucky to be alive. Not everyone gets to live this long, and every day I wake up is another chance at living the life of my dreams. Those dreams look a lot different than they did at 25. I expected more of the characters in this movie, and they delivered. I actually really want to see it again. But for my 25-year-old self, the football scene in today’s version delivered the goods as well as the volleyball scene in the first one. I groaned when I was watching it. Maybe I still dream about some of the same things as I did when I was 25. It’s just that my expectation of how it will all turn out is a bit more realistic.

We Are Not Helpless

It is so easy to feel helpless. My heart is broken over the senseless massacres of the last couple weeks. There’s no need to rehash all the details. Our government doesn’t seem to have the capacity to fix this. The fixation on that route is not prompting results, and yet we still keep focusing on that solution. That’s the definition of insanity. Congress has two jobs – to make laws and allocate money. Unfortunately they have a bigger concern to stay in office so they are more focused on that than anything. And in case you haven’t read the news in the last decade, many of them are idiots. I wouldn’t trust most of them in my house. Why would I trust them to solve a complex issue like gun violence?

One of my favorite podcasts is On the Media. I’m an aspiring journalist who is forever interested in journalism and how it works. On the Media covers the media’s coverage on current issues. For all of you that hate the media, you really should take a listen. You might discover there are constructive criticisms of the media that improve it and some of the more common criticisms are just not true. Just like our beliefs on how to fix gun violence, you might find there are other ways to look at a problem.

Click below for this week’s episode: Again and Again and Again and Again (And Again)

This week On the Media discussed the media’s coverage of mass shootings. Mass shootings are 1% of the deaths caused by firearms. 99% of the deaths by firearms are suicides and homicides. A much more productive strategy to solve gun violence would be to focus on the 99%. It opened my eyes to a different way of thinking about this problem and the insanity of our current fixation on politicians. This morning after watching numerous comedians rant and rave about the witless Ted Cruz and his inability to act like a grown man, I googled the question “Is anybody really studying gun violence?” I don’t think politicians will ever solve this problem, and I’m a firm believer in looking to other solutions when something is not working.

Did you know the CDC studies deaths by gun violence or violence in general? To state the obvious, it is a public health issue. Their website has a whole section of resources for communities that could lower the volume on the root causes of violence. They have videos and infographics which help people understand suicide and the causes of homicide. Did you know that suicide is the second largest cause of death among people aged 10-44. Need to know how to help someone who is depressed or showing signs that could lead to suicide. Don’t know what those signs are? Check out the website below.

Fast Facts: Firearm Violence Prevention

Suicide Prevention

One of the biggest issues we have in this country that increases a predisposition to violence or despair is Adverse Childhood Experiences. In other words abuse and neglect and exposure to violence leads to more of the same. Feel helpless about that, too? Well there are things that a community can do and there are things we as individuals can do to combat that. The CDC link above has a lot of resources to help.

It is demoralizing to feel helpless to this problem and and a host of other seemingly unresolvable problems. Health care is horrible and unaffordable in most cases. I pray that I don’t get cancer or another dreaded disease that will wipe me out financially in my old age. Women and minorities are unprotected and getting more and more vulnerable. Our patriarchal society has not worked for most people and has put many of us in danger in workplaces, churches, homes and communities. It is evident that the Baptist and Catholic Churches of my youth were systematically protecting predators on women and youth. I’ve experienced it myself and just had to keep quiet because speaking up was much more dangerous. Childhood abuse is so prevalent that people are primed to think it is normal family life. These early experiences lead to despair, anxiety, depression, rage and other developmental issues. Meanwhile the climate is going to burn us all to death.

I wish somebody had answers to the mass shooting issue, but the solution appears complex. And it is unique to our country. Maybe solving the helplessness problem would help prevent suicide and homicide – an even greater threat to our society. Maybe feeling hopeful in any small way and connecting with someone we can help would help reduce rage and anger at others. Perhaps getting help for our own issues would inch us toward greater compassion for others in our society. I don’t pretend to have the answer. But I do feel a little more hopeful today knowing that the CDC has resources that might help me and my community inch closer to a solution. I learned a long time ago that you can’t depend on undependable people. Ted Cruz is an undependable person and he’s not the answer. Let’s move on.

Sunshine, Racing and Friends: Mackinac Island

View from our Room

During the holidays, my friend Michele from Lansing texted me about a 5-mile race on Mackinac Island. She and a couple of her friends were going, and she was wondering if I might like to go. Now this was in the middle of snow season, and I had not been running at all. Besides, we were knee deep in Omicron and I couldn’t yet imagine that we’d be able to get together without fear of sharing a deadly virus. But it seemed like a great reason to get my running legs in action once again. Besides, it’s so much fun to spend time with women who enjoy running and cycling and spending time in beautiful places. How could I say no?

We’ve had a very cool spring or a prolonged winter, and it snowed literally 3 weeks ago. I tried to get out and run on warmer days and hit the treadmill on the cooler ones starting in mid-February. I worked myself up to running four miles and then promptly lost interest about two weeks before the race. I figured I could at least walk it, and it really didn’t matter how fast I was. It’d be a nice weekend away in a lovely spot, and I know I’d have fun even if I wasn’t into the run.

Friday Bike Ride…..

I took Friday off and drove the four and 1/2 hours north. The temperature inland was in the high 80s, and the thermometer on my car read 92 degrees 15 minutes away from Mackinaw City. When I stopped the car 15 minutes later at the dock, the temperature had plummeted to 63 degrees. I’ve never seen the temps drop so fast, but the cold Lake Michigan water can definitely dispel the heat. I put on my jacket and boarded with my luggage and my bike.

We stayed at the Chippewa Hotel and had a lovely victorian style suite with a living room opening onto the water. The first thing we did was get on our bikes and cycle the loop around the island. I was freezing even with my jacket and long pants on. But it was a gorgeous sunny day, and the water was emerald green. Being that late in the day, we were the only people riding the loop so we had that gorgeous island all to ourselves. We got to know each other and dodged horse poop until dinner time.

Scenes from the race…..

The next morning was the race, and it was forecast to be windy, cold and rainy. We were all dreading it but determined to enjoy the run. We chatted and fell asleep to a movie around 9:30 PM. When we woke up we were thrilled to see that the forecast no longer showed rain, and we were going to have a sunny and 50 degree race. It was perfect.

The race connected the two forts on the island by circling through the woods and down the coast. The course was hilly but mostly paved, and I was mesmerized by the magical forest that surrounded me. I ended up feeling great and ran most of the course with walk breaks on the uphills. Five miles felt easy for some reason, and I had a blast chatting with people along the way. It seemed like everybody was thrilled with the surprisingly dry morning and in finally getting spring weather in this part of the world.

We spent Saturday shopping, eating, shopping and eating and then shopping and eating some more. Michele introduced us to an amazing bread pudding and then I indulged in a traditional Jamaican Beef Patty for dinner. It was delicious and spicy. It reminded me of the Pasties from the Upper Peninsula, and I made a note that I was going to get one before I got on the road to go home on Sunday.

We went to bed Saturday night exhausted but full and worn out from laughing. It felt so great to do something normal again. It was the first race I’ve attended since March 2020. I had a couple of races planned that spring, and they both were canceled on the same day. I forgot how nice it was to do a destination trip with like-minded friends and have long stretches of time to tell stories and make future plans. Before I left to get my pastie and drive home, we exchanged phone numbers and vowed to find another event this summer. I can’t wait.

Give Me Some Unanswered Questions

I don’t remember when I started using the verb Google to mean “get an answer”. I’m sure I used it first in jest but somewhere along the way it just became part of my vocabulary. My friend Melanie and I were chatting this morning about this need we have to get instantaneous answers, goods and results. I wonder what this is doing to us.

  • Hey Siri, what time is it?
  • Why are people so mean?
  • Did our ancestors eat more meat or vegetables?

I used to think it was so cool to call Time and Temperature to get the time and temperature. That was the only quick resource we had. And now I even wonder why we needed the time. Melanie reminded me that back then our clocks might lose time and we wouldn’t know it. There was no iPhone or computer to check our time against. Clocks weren’t automatically synchronized with the world clock. If the clock stopped working or slowed down, we had to make a phone call and reset it. We could also call information to get phone numbers. Now we just google them.

  • What is the average lifespan of a border collie?
  • How much does it usually rain in Michigan?
  • Is basement waterproofing worth the investment?

In Seattle in 1998, I discovered the internet. I had dial up so it was excruciatingly slow. And back then the websites that existed were horrible. Most of my friends didn’t trust it. They pledged never to buy anything off the internet. It was too unsafe and too dangerous.

  • When was the internet invented?
  • Why do cats get hairballs?
  • What makes curly hair curl?

I traveled a lot with my job and I discovered a web-based grocery service. It wasn’t like today’s delivery services. It was a real grocery in a warehouse, and I could order my groceries on Sunday night before I left town and schedule them to be delivered when I woke up Saturday morning. They would always give me a little gift like a flower or a sample of something, and the groceries arrived in a lovely brown paper bag at my front door. I’ve never been so enthralled by a service. Unfortunately that model didn’t last. Sometimes I fantasize about walking to my door and finding my lovely little grocery sack, and other times I engage Google to see if someone else has started one like it. But, alas, today everything is about speed and not good service.

  • Whatever happened to online grocery stores?
  • Why did Blackberry go out of business?
  • How many lakes are in Michigan?

I got my first Blackberry while I was in Memphis. I loved being able to surf the internet and check my emails from work. People used to call them Crackberries because they were so addictive. That’s laughable now because they were nowhere near as addictive as the smartphones of today. Ashok ate my beautiful brand new cherry red Blackberry, and I went in search of a cheap used phone as a punishment phone. The minute I opened my iPhone I knew I’d never go back to a Blackberry again. It was an immediate and steadfast love.

  • How old is Kevin Costner?
  • Is dark chocolate really healthy?
  • Can a repulsion for white male politicians kill a heterosexual woman’s sex drive?

My job in Learning and Development is truly dependent on technology. Digital is literally the fabric of my life. It’s how I find answers, communicate with others, schedule and order my day and teach. I have to search my memory to remember what it was like to not have instantaneous answers to stupid and thought-provoking questions. In my efforts to stop using my phone so much, I often catch myself thinking a thought and immediately reaching for my phone to google feedback to my passing thought. I stop myself and say “you don’t have to know the answer to everything.” The void hurts.

  • Is Kenny Chesney gay?
  • Are Persian rugs worth the investment?
  • What would happen if you never cut your toenails?

What was it like to think a thought or wonder about something and NOT have immediate feedback. I think maybe it created more mystery. It was probably much less stressful to not know everything the minute it happens. It was definitely easier to be an expert as you explored the unknown in real life experiments that other people didn’t have time nor the interest to do. And if it wasn’t truly important, we probably just let it go unanswered. I don’t want to go back to long ass telephone cords that wrapped around the furniture or to typing essays on a typewriter. But I might like to have that sweet little grocery service, be unreachable when I’m not at home and to not have the answers to all the questions my mind brings up. It might even be nice to be in the dark about the time and temperature and just let the day go by as it will.

What is the population of New Orleans?

  • Are down coats humane?
  • Does God still love us?
  • Hey Siri, can we go back in time?

What would you like to go back to if you could? What questions do you wish went unanswered?

Help Our Truckers: My Monday Morning Rant

Last summer when I worked for a retail store, we had terrible issues with our Fedex deliveries. We had much understanding that it was pandemic-related but it really impacted our business. The account manager I worked with at Fedex was wonderful and tried to do what she could to help, but the drivers and trucks belonged to a contractor. The young man who was our delivery driver was not given any equipment to help with hauling all of those big, heavy boxes inside, so he was physically carrying each one. And the truck he had was not even the right kind of truck to be doing those kinds of deliveries. I felt so bad for him and really worried about his health and well-being.

I stopped buying from Amazon long ago and am vehemently opposed to their next day shipping practices. Somebody pays for “free” next day shipping. It’s just not the consumer. I don’t need anything next day, and if I do, I’ll drive myself to go get it. It’s just not an emergency to get my skin care products, and if I wait until I’m out of toilet paper to order it, it’s my fault. When I read an article about a shipping company in Memphis that literally made pregnant women work without breaks resulting in numerous miscarriages, I drew a red line for myself. There are people behind these shipments and this work, and nothing is free.

That’s all I’m going to say about my opinion on this, but John Oliver’s show is on trucking this week. He articulates the problems with the trucking industry and how these poor drivers are getting mistreated and cheated of a decent living because of deregulation. What used to be a lucrative way to make a living has become a torturous life. We literally won’t function as a country without our truckers. Everything we have comes to us because of a truck whether it’s next day shipping or delivered to a store. Take a minute to watch this and make your own decision. We owe it to the people who are literally breaking their backs for us. And don’t forget to read the comments for a confirmation of the reality from real truckers and other “contractors” across all of our industries.

Warning: John Oliver’s language and humor is intended for mature audiences.

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