Valiant friends in a struggle ‘gainst impossible odds.

      "Aw, don’t give up hope,"  said Tummeler. "This is the part in stories where they gets real good–valiant friends in a struggle ‘gainst impossible odds."   (a quote from Here There Be Dragons, Book One in the Imaginarium Geographica by James Owen. A perfect audio book exercise companion as I walk and bike, etc this week).


"Melinda Mae" 
by Shel Silverstein

Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started in right at the tail.

And everyone said,"You’re much too small,"
But that didn’t bother Melinda at all,
She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
Just like a little girl should…

…and eighty-nine years later she ate that whale

Because she said she would."


"I get by with a little help from my friends." The Beatles
I love Kaliedescopes, I guess because they are a physical representation of how  life is. I have a "make-your-own" Kaleidescope I purchased a few years ago at the Nelly Bly in Jerome, AZ.  The store is a destination in itself with Kaleidescope art selling for more than I make in a year. The one I bought was inexpensive and I actually fill it with found pieces of discarded "stuff" like chipped marbles, old earring sparkles, rocks, sticks, leaves, etc. I take different pieces of junk, shove a few in the end of a piece of PVC pipe outfitted with glass and mirrors and screw on the cap.  Nothing in the individual components accounts for the breathtaking beauty and variety my eye finds when I look. The cumulative effect is as magical to me as the 100,000$ ones.
Like that PVC pipe my life is pretty mundane, there is nothing remarkable about me.  If I look at my current set of life circumstances one way; individually scrutinizing the minutiae of the problems; the trashy health issues, the lacking skill sets, the scarcity of financial resources, time constraints, etc, the idea of becoming anything special, especially any kind of an athlete and most especially a triathlete is clearly and overwhelmingly preposterous.  
However, I, like everyone else, am a kaleidoscopic.  It is not the composition of the tube or individual value of the found items but how they are viewed together that makes the beauty. When I turn the kaleidescope of my life a bit to the right, let the challenges tumble together and let in a little more of gratitude’s light, all the pretty scraps of detritus collected between the lenses of hard work and faith become a laughing colored rainbow miracle.  
Last week, my hope was a mite shaky and my resolve a bit sorer than my thigh muscles. I was stuck on the fact that a gym membership is the most effective way to be able to continue my training for the triath, especially in Arizona in the summer. However my Quicken Books program was (and is) telling me that my outgo exceeds my current income by about 1500 dollars this month, and a gym membership, just like buying a bike right now, are luxuries, not necessities. To correctly tell this story I need to backtrack a little.

The beginning of May I was pretty pleased with myself and grateful to the abundance in the universe because I had just gotten constantly back to the black  (which I will again by the fall at current rate). (Not sure why, but it matters to me to mention that my debt is almost all medical and educational.) I was finally paying off a large tax debt (courtesy of delaying the end of a  previous marriage in a community property state) and I was planning a party to celebrate the awesomeness of life and dance and all that is good in the world. I wanted to throw the party in June as I had the means in my savings to do so, still meet all my bills and have necessary reserves.
 Then a glitch in the health of my awesome Beige Pearl(car),  in the health of my sweet little Lhasa Apso, in the health of my new big ol’ lovable lunk of a Golden Retriever and me all occurred at pretty much the same time.  Not only was the excess gone but my reserves were drained as well and lots of little gold triangles were showing up on my Quicken planning grid.(Gold triangles are indicative of negative balance)
Thanks to local business AZ Auto Repair’s honesty and efficiancy, my 11 yr old paid for car is still my ship of choice (at 30-35mpg). My longtime canine companions needs were met with a Viox prescription and a food change and my new Golden boy has his Thyroid levels and ears back in acceptable condition. I also still happily threw the party, just changed the food to "Stone Soup" which actually improved the party!
My personal health crisis pushed me to taking a little more responsibility for myself and effectively highlighted my need to have a clear cut fitness goal, as opposed to health issues to fight against. What we give energy to grows stronger. I toyed with the goal of completing a triathlon three years ago, ran a 5K and then quit. What I wanted to stop giving energy to could be considered big, so  I needed a nice bright whale to eat or the shadow of the illness might overwhelm me and  I just might stop chewing.
I knew revisiting the Triath goal was the right choice. I also knew I would need a few things I didn’t have, like swimming lessons and a pool to practice in, a bycicle and the ability to ride one, a place to use a "spin" bike, a place to run laps as temps topped 100 because unlike other places I’ve lived, Arizona stays hot 24/7 in the summer. I set the impossible goal and turned it over to the universe as I began talking about it and doing my research.
The universe showed up for me, as it always does, with bells on! A pool to practice in materialized when my son and daughter-in-law were my first true supporters. In fact, my daughter-in-law decided to join me in the training and despite a crazy professional and school schedule is up at the crack of Dawn (her actual name, LOL) and in the water training with me at their community pool. Rick held the back of his VERY EXPENSIVE bike while I took my first tentative rides and Dawn took me on a guest pass to her gym this week. They also donated (gifted?) me a smart phone that logs my miles, calories, etc as well as allowing me to end a bitter relationship with StraightTalk. (I think calls to their Customer Service count as actual purgatory for practicing Catholics.)
Support has come from other friends too, as Amie walked mall laps with me and my friend Pat allowing me to add in some stationary bike time,  treadmill and  elliptical with her coaching and encouragement on one of her guest passes. Its happening. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t even know all the right questions, tomorrow is a mystery. Today I will get my work done, go for laps at the mall, visit Costco and really read the details on the 3 month membership I saw on sale there to see if it is the best current option, do my swim practice, and put some gas in my car. I will relook at my budget and try to get ends to wave at each other so I can pay a very important 250$ past due bill, my rent, keep the lights on, eat, buy gas for my car and still train.
I am getting by with a little help (OK, a LOT of help) from my friends but I am also concentrating on the power of my own choices, so in the coming weeks I will take whatever extra shifts I can without working myself into being a less effective nurse, trim my budget to its bones. (Okay in the interest of complete honesty, I have a serious NEED for books and music and will admit to spending about 50$ between the two of them in the last month, but I take it out of my food budget to justify the variance from necessities! Bread and Roses, man, Bread and Roses)

So pretty much my life is like everyone else.  I am just at the part of the story where it gets good and I do have valiant friends. Some are the close"real" kind like my son Rick, his wife Dawn, Sara, Pat, Amie, Ann, Angela and some are outer circle friends like my Rennaisance friends, some are lifetime friends like "Donny" and Egon, and some are my "imaginary" friends like Tummeler, the Inklings, and Melinda Mae. Hope is restored, I cannot fail with this kind of army with me, so I better get back to the battle.

P.S. If you are reading my blog and have never read any the following books, forget my blog until you go read them. I am just a middle aged sojourner babbling about her struggles to keep on swimming, Everything important you need to know about life is found in these books, and they are simple to read due to intended audience. 
1.Wrinkle in Time by Madeliene L’Engle (1st in series of 4)
2. Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 
3. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
4. Here There Be Dragons by James Owen
5. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Alone again Naturally…

 Okay who actually sang that song, I remember all the words. It could be my theme song.

I know I can look it up with a few key strokes on the internet, but I would rather mull it over for awhile, listen to the song in my head or pull it from memory. Ah, there it is, tucked away with all those other 1970’s memories I have been dusting off and sifting through; it was an Irish singer Gilbert O’Sullivan.

Anyway, been singing it in my head all night while I went to swim, alone. First lap was done with my kick-board but face in water and no break at half lap!


I finished my swim class homework. Going again in the morning so just up long enough for the neighborhood teen-agers to stop setting off firecrackers (which set off my dogs).

All quiet on the Western Front so I am off to grab some shut eye and flop to early morning practices and 5K walks again tomorrow.

Two kinds of people

 Two kinds of people, those who make their dreams happen and those that make excuses.

Working on being the first kind so went to practice tonight after work even though it was not what I  thought I wanted to do. I had a good dozen legitimate excuses running through my head, but I really want to do this triath thing, so I ignored the excuses and showed up to the hard work.

I finally did a full kick-board breathing lap without breaking the breathing rhythm. Face in water the whole way blowing out the air, except with the right head turn to breathe in more air. My form sucked and I had a headache from fighting off the panic. 

But I did it. One more step forward.

That is all, good-night.

Celebrating achievement of my first training goal

 Noticed it two days ago actually, while pulling myself out of the pool to patter over to the bathroom. I do that a lot with exercise, go to the bathroom I mean, and how that will work with doing a triathlon is currently a mystery, potentially Depends. Anyway on a much better note, I have only had exactly four swim lessons, will have been training for less than a month (started June 1) and can now fit my hips through the ladder at pool side without angling to make them fit.

The joy this brings may mean nothing to someone who has always been athletic or thin, but to me it is a pretty big deal. My buttocks and thighs have been squeezed into opera seats,  plane seats, office chairs with arms, ladder sides, etc for most of the last ten years. These hips had one or two reprieves from their out-sized existence when I would drop near or below 200 lbs, but overall it has been a decade where everything I sit or climb on (especially with sides) has been a reminder of how I don’t fit. I find myself entering and leaving the pool more from the deep-end ladder now than the shallow end stairs, just because I can.

In the actual swimming portion of the training program,  I still can’t consistently make a half lap, never mind a whole lap, with my face in the water. I can make it about a third of the way without having to switch to backstroke. The more tired I get, the harder it is to breathe out under water, but I push a minimum of two strokes past what I think I can do, and I always complete my homework. I will take my victories where I can find them. Phil Veatch, my trainer says I haven’t lost endurance, I am just working harder when I am in the water (keeping my butt up, you know tightening the core, constant arm motion) and that is why my stamina seems less. I will take his word on it as I want to believe this to be true.

My current training plan now is walking 5k  and swimming 5 out of seven days (this includes the class) and working on how to work spinning (bike not wool) in as well to train in that area while I learn to ride (balance) a real bike. I am tired a lot, and hungry just as much. Sticking to my organic vegetarian ways (mostly, not everything is organic), trying to sleep at least seven hours a night and also remembering to do my stretches and meditation twice daily.  

I trained at the pool this morning and I walked a little over two miles as laps at the mall this afternoon (for those reading outside Arizona, it reaches 100 degrees before noon and stays hot. It is currently 110 degrees at 5PM, hence mall laps) Need to do another mile with the dogs tonight, but will depend on how fast the temperature drops. The Endomondo and My Fitness Tracker apps on my new droid (thanks again Rick and Dawn!) have been awesome helps in watching diet and activity.

Work week starts again tomorrow so that is my Day 1 each week. I have stated my goals for the coming week and my big achievement (or is it a smaller achievement! Yea smaller hips, also fit into my size 18 jeans this afternoon! Woot!) My next goal at the pool is to be able to complete a lap, face in the water, no pause at the turn!
In other more literary news I am totally in reader geek heaven. First, there was the long awaited re-opening of the way to faery and to Bordertown with the  story collection released earlier this month, then JK Rowlings announcement, and then as the ultimate icing on the cake James Owen makes his announcement When you wrap this all around the fact I am listening on my Ipod to the awsome topped awesomeness of a complete collection of I received as an early birthday present when I couldn’t make Phoenix Comicon, you know my reader geek is truly tooooo bliss-ed out to even notice we have gotten up off the couch, are totally moving and that now its a whole lot more than our ice tea with lemonade that is sweating.

Doing something I am actually good at…

 Yup, today I am practicing my truest gift. The gift I excel at above writing, or talking, or even baking. All this training for athletics has left my self-confidence shaken. I needed to try something tonight in which I am the master.  I needed to completely succeed.

And succeed I have. Tonight I am practicing procrastination, have had this blog space open for over an hour while I checked the Rowling update site (yup, I am a Potter fan), read all the new posts on the "Fans of Noank" facebook page, played a couple moves in Lexulous and now it is to late to blog about a rather uneventful day in my ongoing triathlete training. It is time to do my evening stretches and go to bed.

So this is all the blog you get tonight, cause sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes tired is just tired, and that is what I am hoping to learn tomorrow morning is that my lowered exercise stamina has more to do with my sleep times than my low H&H, Hey I have had spinach and arugula today as well as beans just in case its the latter.
Its so rewarding to be this good at something.


Writer’s Block: Born again

If I could come back as an animal I would certainly be  crow. They are intelligent, community oriented, beautiful and they can fly. I am certain no one who knows me is surprised at this. Coyotes, dragonflies and Kermode bear are runners up, in that order.

Starting where I am, progress and using pain as tool for peace.

If you are reading my blogs because of the triathlete training tag, I ask you  to endure the first more literary leg of this blog as my transition to my new obsession will come faster and more smoothly than I predict my first actual race transition will be, but then again I might just surprise us all.  

I am a typical middle aged bookworm with bulky glasses, more imaginary friends than lifetime peer relationships and a large, low rear center of gravity. I am typically voracious in my book appetites if atypically eclectic in my reading style. Just finished Melissa Anelli’s nonfiction "Harry, A History" at breakfast, and half way through "Hexed" by Kevin Hearne from lunch. I am listening to Jim Butcher’s Dresden files on audio while in the car and am up to book 6. I am rereading (again) "Ghandi an Autobiography" in the bathroom, have Jon Kabat-Zinn on the night stand and C.S. Lewis "The Great Divorce" in my briefcase.  

Certain writers are my mainstays, but I will try any printed page for depth and flavor. I have an ice cream like hankering for the spiritual and I am a huge fan of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Pema Chodron, and C.S. Lewis. I can’t get enough of their writings. One of their books is always in play, not only because the written works themselves are immensely readable but also because the author’s human struggle is the muddy garden in which these flowers of  enlightenment bloom.  Ghandi and Lewis have been with me since childhood and can be blamed for my attempt to guide my life by the principles of Satipatthana and Ahimsa. Pema joined my team when I was struggling to build some new neural pathways post surgery and infection and was given her book  "When Things Fall Apart"; she introduced annata, annica and duhka to me as the tools they are in language I understood. 

I am not quite a book junkie who will just buy a book for the score, but I do have certain lighter favorite authors like Charles de Lint,  Wil Wheaton,  James Owen, Jasper Fforde, Karen Armstrong, Ayya Khema and Linda Pastan whose works are now purchased whenever they appear and are devoured on the strength of past positive experience. Then there are the authors like Christopher Moore, Debbie Macomber,  Stephen King,  David McCullough whose flashes of brilliance in the midst of McMainstream writing will get me to peruse the back cover of their latest and often buy it.  

I am making it sound like I choose what I read, but as I look more closely at my overstuffed shelves, I see that all a book really needs to do, is sit attractively on the front table of Changing Hands (my, yes MY, no I don’t own it but it is where I spend all my book money) and bat its attractively colored cover at me, flirt with an intriguing chapter list, or maybe take me out on that first page date, and I am theirs; mind, time and wallet. So many books, so little time, so many stories to live (from the comfort of my armchair with a nice glass of tea in easy reach.) I am the typical book nerd full of sweet and salty treats and disdainful of all that sweaty spandex sports world.
Which is why I am baffled as much by the book I am carrying around constantly as I am at this person stretching across from me in my bedroom mirror. Perhaps it is a a bit of a midlife crisis that starting June 1, 2011 I officially came out as a triathlete wanna be. The book I carry now (all the time!) is by Jayne Williams. 
The cover is a very realistic sports in progress photo with too much yellow; it looks more like a healthy diet bar than a tasty  tome. Inside the book the author’s writing style would have won my mockery in the days as a professional critic. The funny thing is, I think that would have been Okay with her, maybe more than okay, she would have embraced my mockery and just kept running, swimming, biking and sharing her experience.
If my  am very sure she would have been okay, it is because she is teaching me to be okay as well. Her book, "Slow, Fat Triathlete" has become as important to my going forward as Ghandi has been to my getting here. The funny thing is, she says all the things I am used to hearing from my spiritual sensei’s but the meaning is now manifest in the tight stretch of my neck to improve the chance of breathing air instead of water, the fold of my abdomen impeding a new core building yoga pose, the awkward weight and friction of my thighs as I break into a trotting sort of run.  I struggle with the very real dailiness of starting where I am in something I don’t have to do, compassion for the non-athlete I am is as much a challenge as the movements. Pain is proof I am pushing to improvement. The challenge today was to be mindful enough of my needs to take the day off training (Yup, Jayne recommends downtime too!) Patience, practice, compassion….easier said than done when the only success is showing up again to the process.
As to the annihilation of ego portion of my life program, that is a whole story in itself. The biggest ego lesson of slow, fat triath training is not the very HUGE one of continuing to show up for something I don’t shine at, the biggest lesson for me has to do with learning the "self" in selflessness.
I want to complete a triathlon, it has been on my bucket list for a few years. But… I don’t need to complete this goal to support myself better. It won’t make the world a better place. It won’t feed anyone, heal anyone, save anyone; make anyone’s life better except maybe me. This is probably the first most selfish thing I have ever done.  If I am no more and no less than anyone else, and I would make this kind of effort, utilize these resources, spend this time to help another, is this then my lesson in letting go of ego, I can and should do the same for me?
More daily logs coming tomorrow…for now, me and my deep thoughts are gonna go clean the bathroom and then make a healthy supper and maybe go for a swim, and if the pool bullies are there, I have a plan.

Just keep swimming…

Thank goodness for Dora’s advice. May just have to pop in Nemo tomorrow while at work. The boys I take care of like the movie and that does seem to be my motto these days, "Just keep swimming." 

I kept telling myself that tonight, because I sooooo felt like quitting. I was there by myself, and tired and swallowing water trying to get the breathing down and a couple of buff and beered up guys were laughing at me from their chairs by the pool and I just wanted to grab my kick-board and goggles and go to my car and cry. 

I want to post something meaningful to somehow convey the highs and lows of the past four days, but just toooooo exhausted today in every way so no meaningful artsy writing, just a sketch of this weeks events . 

Besides the twenty-something testosterone bullies at pool side, the pool itself  was full of noisy children, with big blow up toys and no concept of space sharing or swim lanes so it was frustrating and inconvenient to do my laps (probably got a couple in just going around the kids).  I did however complete my assignment, barely.

I have been on the verge of tears off and on all week. The universe has surrounded me with lots of love and evidence that I am loved even as I plod along through my issues of too little money, too little time, and old, out of shape body. The emotional grief may be effecting my physical performance but I am certain that the physical exertion is mitigating this current emotional high tide, so that is one positive. There are a lot of others, most of them external.

On Tuesday night I had a lovely dinner with son, Rick, his wife Dawn and her dad; walked 4.5 miles with Rick and Dawn and then swam with Dawn, her mom and Rick. Barely finished my swim assignment that night. The Man threatened to lock me inside for the night. (I missed the last call, apparently cause I was in the water swimming laps). Rick also loaded Ubuntu on my laptop, and Rick and Dawn gave me an awesome Droid phone. I am a lucky mom and mom-in-law. 
Then  Wednesday at my house friendship was highlighted. I threw a Fusion Belly Dance themed party, including Stone Soup style food, a book discussion and an amazingly wonderful game of Truth and Dare. (I drank two glasses of wine that night and my weak liver hasn’t yet forgiven me, I won’t repeat that again for awhile)
Then Thursday morning was the training session. I was hung over from two glasses of wine (yes, I AM a weenie) AND a new participant joined the triath training session who can swim well. So not only was I sucking more than usual at swimming cause every time the panic started to rise with my face in the water, so did my stomach contents, but now I was doing it along side a stranger who really could swim.
Today was work. I love my job and the family that I work for as much as usual but even there it seemed I was batting like I belonged on the Diamondbacks not the Yankees.
Sometimes I am brilliant and inspired. Sometimes, I just breathe. This week my biggest accomplishments seem to be not quitting and not throwing up in the pool, and I guess all in all, that is something. 
So now I will go sleep so I can just keep swimming again tomorrow. I am grateful to still be able to at least do that.
Namaste World

And another day of training complete..

Tonight my training consisted of  just the bare minimum really. Walked the 4 miles with Rick and Dawn, faster pace than my comfort zone (Rick has Loooooooong legs) and then did two full laps on the kick-board and 2 freestyle laps followed by 5 push-offs, 2 more laps trying hard to be the breaststroke followed by 5 more push-offs and then 2 more laps that were half and half backstroke and breast stroke. 

Still need to get pictures, although I think I will have body composition stats this week, and the weight is dropping, although that is not the point, other than the fact that it will be a whole lot easier to take say 190 pounds of person on a 200 yd swim, 8 mile bike and 1/2 mile run by October 30 than say 230 pound of person.

I am SOFT-IT  (Slow Old Fat Triathlete in training!) and it feels good! And now to sleep cause tomorrow I got stuffs to do!

Just keep swimming…

 Just a little note this morning while I sip my coffee. As I appended the last entry to say, after a rather exciting, for many reasons, swim practice I spent an hour crafting a rather beautifully written blog about rolling with the changes and challenges life offers me. Just as I had finished a bit of copy-editing, there was a "blip" in Live Journal and I found myself back on my CHROME page. That didn’t worry me because LiveJournal has automatic draft capability. Except when I re-opened LiveJournal, it was gone. All of it disappeared into that place cyber stuff blips apparate. 

I looked squarely into the face of the laughing universe and said "Yes, I did mean it!" and went to bed, only momentarily flumoxed.

I work again today, although that is not usual, so will be going to swim again tonite and will blog again tomorrow. Continuing to eat,over all, my usual organic vegetarian, wheat-light clean diet of vegetables, rice, etc and find the more I expend my angst in exercise, the less food I crave. Although fatigue still requested some empty calories last night and I indulged it with one of the single serving Ben and Jerry American Dream single servings in the fridge and 1 cup of sesame/flax pita puffs.

Off to be a nurse again. Oh, have I mentioned again recently how grateful I am to be living all my childhood dreams finally? I love my job. And I promise tomorrow to attempt to recreate the two stories, one from recent experience and one from fourth grade but I can’t promise what philosophical direction they will turn now.

Postscript I did train tonight.
2 laps with the kickboard
5 pushoffs to half pool and swim back
3 full laps (one lap is 2 lengths and the pool is 25 meters long so 150 meters)
5 pushoffs (see above)
5 pushoffs
3 laps………….I am now not crabby at all but fully a jellyfish. Goodnight.

PPS: Close to four decades have passed, but June 13th is still one of the harder days in my year. It is the anniversary of my mother’s death. It was early morning. The clock radio had gone off and "Wildfire" was playing. My mom had been in the hospital for months. The day before I had cut out of school early and rode around in Wendy Bicknell’s car with her and Leslie Harmon smoking Virginia Slim menthols before getting dropped at the New London Hospital to visit my mom. My mother had spoken her last words to me weeks before and now I would just sit quiet and hold her bony hand, only that Thursday she moaned when I touched her and the nurse who came in said she couldn’t have anymore pain medicine, so after that I didn’t even touch her, I just sat, so she wouldn’t be alone. 

My father had quit coming. The cancer had taken all of my Mom but these last few shreds of tissue and bone. Her husband had left her in all but name, just before the cancer took the last of her memory. I was actually glad he stopped coming. See, my father had begun dating other women again months before my mom was even hospitalized. The last time before she died that my father visited her at the hospital he brought along the woman he meant to marry once he was free and forced me to come along as a chaperone so "no one", meaning my mothers nurses, would think badly of him.
Anyway, it was a Friday morning. Friday June 13th and Wildfire was playing on the radio and the phone rang, and I knew. I just knew. My father came into our room a few minutes later and said "Your mother is dead, Marlene is dead." And then he started to cry.
My mother was as thorough a mix of good and bad as any human can be. From her I learned how to knit, how to sew, how  to cook, how to clean and how to hide. Her last words to me were, "I’m so sorry. Someday my dear, you will understand, some people are just harder to love than others." In that, as well as so many other things I am like her. "Yes,mother, I do understand, I too have had harder time loving myself than just about anyone else."