Cherry Pie Tempation

It can’t be that fattening, right? And after all, it has fruit in it. At least that was my thinking when I bought the cherry pie a couple of weeks ago. Usually, I just scoot right by the pies when grocery shopping, but on this particular afternoon, my progress through the crowded aisle had come to a dead stop right in front of the dessert choices. The apple pie crumb pie looked good but not quite inviting enough to tempt me. That’s when I saw the cherry one. After hesitating about ten seconds, I tossed it into the buggy.

I maneuvered the cart though the rest of the aisles as I picked up yogurt, milk, bagels, apples, grapes, bananas, and a yellow onion. No cookies, chips, or ice cream landed amongst the healthy choices. But then, there was that cherry pie. The picture on the box looked so tasty. And well, it conjured up a memory of a Sunday afternoon decades ago.

Dinner was over, and the rest of the family had skedaddled to do whatever whatever they chose. I, however, was stuck with kitchen duty that day. As I removed the plates and leftover food from the table, I noticed two pieces of pie, tempting and tasty, left in the pie plate. I wanted one—or at least a sliver of one and asked my mother if I could have a piece of a piece.

I’ll never forget her reply. In fact, it’s become somewhat legendary among the females of my family.

“Of course, you can a second piece, but you need to know that’s how people get fat.”

She didn’t say “gain weight” or “get chubby.” She said “get fat.”

At that time, I was on the skinny side of the curve. Seriously, maybe the 35th percentile for weight. Not only was I not in any danger of becoming “fat” (hate that word), but also there was no talk anywhere about the dangers of kids’ diets and exercise. Those topics were just not part of the social conversation. We played outside A LOT, and very few people had sedentary lifestyles—at least not the people I knew.

But when my mother warned me about the perils of a second slice of pie, though a small one, I cringed. Even as a child, probably ten or twelve years old, I recognized the truth when I heard it. Choices count.

“No Ma’am, “ I told her. “I think I’ll pass for now.”

Now whenever I think of having a second piece of fried chicken, a extra dollop of ice cream, or a loaded baked potato instead of broccoli, I remember a Sunday afternoon exchange between my mother and me.

Big deal, you might be thinking. Who cares about cherry pie? What I knew then was something that has been reinforced over and over and over throughout the years. Choices count. As Sartre said, “We are our choices.” Do your homework or go to class unprepared? Pay your bills on time or get a bad credit rating? Clean your house or allow it to get so cluttered that you feel unsettled? Walk around the block (or do some type of exercise) or do your laps on the couch? Finish college or drop out?

It’s your choice.

I succumbed to temptation and bought that cherry pie a couple of weeks ago. I also bought some small cups of ice cream to plop on the top of our warm slices. Right before beginning this post, I got the pie out of the freezer to read the directions and learned that there are 340 calories and 17 grams in one eighth of a pie. Seriously.

When I told my husband the bad news, he asked, “What about the sugar?” I could hardly believe my eyes: 17 grams of sugar in one eighth of a pie. And this is without the cup of ice cream!

We decided to wait for another day to enjoy that tart, red, juicy fruit cooked in the flaky crust. I also decided to go for a short walk around the block, do a little work on my fall classes, and sweep the kitchen. Choices count.

499 Steps

I was surprised to learn the fee was only $13, and the woman selling tickets said the price had been reduced because the elevator to the top wasn’t working. No one said anything. Not a word.

Tender to the touch, my left shin serves as a reminder of last week’s adventure My sister, her daughter, and one of my daughters took off on a girls’ trip to North Carolina, and after “doing Asheville” on Friday, we decided to make Chimney Rock State Park Saturday’s grand finale.

We cruised into town around 10 o’clock after oohing and ahing over the sights along Hwy 64. We wondered aloud how it would be to attend Bat Cave Baptist Church the next day, and that led to yet another discussion about how many different ways there are for people to live and love and play and worship. We heartily agreed that it was important, imperative in fact, to get out of Dodge once in a while to see more of the world than our own narrow corners of it.

Once in Chimney Rock, the park entrance was upon us before we had a chance to signal and turn in. No problem. We rode through town and took in the sights, and since Lake Lure was right down the road, we went there too. I wanted to have a look at the beach. There were no ocean waves or roaring surf, but there was a beach. Water too. And a lifeguard. The area was fenced in, off-limits to us, and people were lined up to plunk their money down.

We headed back to Chimney Rock, not turning again until we got to the park. I was surprised to learn the fee was only $13, and the woman selling tickets said the price had been reduced because the elevator to the top wasn’t working. No one said anything. Not a word.

“So we’ll have to walk up?“ I asked.

“Yes. Is that a problem?” she said.

The general consensus was that we had come this far and by golly, we were going to get to the chimney and touch the flagpole.

“Let’s do it, y’all,” I said.

You pays your money and you takes your chances.

Feeling overdressed and hot, we stopped at the restroom area and changed into lighter clothes and bought some water. I had learned from an earlier experience not to hike any distance on a hot day without H2O. We got back in the car and around and around the mountain we rode until we got to the parking lot.

We got out of car and looked up at the tall stone chimney. I had climbed this rock before, but it had been a beautiful fall day with brisk temperature. Now it was July. Truthfully, I think we all felt a bit of trepidation. Elizabeth had misgivings about walking in flip-flops, but since she had no extra shoes, it was wait on us at the gift shop or step forward. She started walking.The journey of 499 steps began with the first one. On we went, stopping to peer into a cave, look over the edge at the parking lot, or simply rest a minute. At one point, Elizabeth muttered to me, “This is the worst day of my life.” Lucky girl, I thought, understanding what she meant but knowing she could do it.

“You can do hard things,” I reminded her. No response. She just kept climbing in her flip-flops.

I took dozens of pictures and listened to the encouraging words of folks coming down. “It’s so worth it,” they all said. Some lied and said, “You’re almost there,” when in reality we had quite a way to go. The four of us made small talk and continued climbing—together.

At last we ascended the final twenty or so steps and walked on the rock itself. We laughed and shared “war stories” of the trek. We took selfies, and snapped photos of other people for them. There were so many people with us at the top that I had to carefully maneuver my way between them and the several big rocks. At one point, I got pushed (accidentally) and scraped my shin. Immediately, a goose egg puffed up, and a reddish purple contusion appeared. Ouch.

 After relishing our accomplishment for a few minutes, we began our descent, reluctant to leave the mountain top but anxious to begin the next adventure. Going down was so much easier than going up, and we gleefully told the tired looking climbers that they had a treat in store. “Keep on climbing,” we said. “The view is so worth it.”

Today I’m aware of my tender shin and the memories it conjures up of a day four of us, united by blood and purpose, ascended Chimney Rock. We encouraged one another, swigged our water, kept putting one foot in front of the other, stopped for breathers, and reached the top—together. It’s easier that way.

Thirty Minutes a Day

My mother taught me everything I need to know about weight control. Notice that I said “me.” What works for me might not work for you if you have issues like thyroid problems or a slow metabolism. Her lessons can be summed up in the words I see at Scott Park: Eat less, move more.

When I was about twelve, I was helping my mother clear the table after a scrumptious Sunday dinner. Although I don’t recall the main course, I know it was Good with a capital G because Marjorie Ann was an excellent cook. I do, however, remember the dessert, cherry pie with ice cream on top. I LOVE cherry pie and can still taste the tart, yet sweet, flavor of those dark red cherries. And that dollop of vanilla ice cream was literally the “icing on the cake.”

“I want another piece of pie,” I told my busy mother.

“Do you really need another piece?” she asked.

While I was wondering what need had to do with it, she sweetly told me that that’s how people got fat—eating seconds, especially of desserts. Although I was probably about the skinniest kid in the sixth grade, her words hit home. No, I didn’t want to get fat, and if cherry pie was going to do that to me, then no thanks.

When I was a child, we lived in a small house, and truthfully, I remember as much or more about the yard than the house because my mother often said, “Go outside and play.” And play we did. I recall some bushes behind the house that we used to jump around in and shriek, “Murder below!” Why we said that, I’m not sure. In the summertime, we stayed out so late that we collected jars of lightning bugs and then punched holes in the jar lids, hoping to keep the tiny fireflies alive.

Years later, I rarely eat more than one piece of pie or anything else. I don’t trust myself with cherry pie, however, so I don’t even purchase it. Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve also learned that there is a direct correlation between what a person ingests and how she feels. Too much mac and cheese makes me feel sluggish; apples make me feel light and energetic. Soft drinks make me feel bloated; water makes me feel “fine.” Too much food makes me feel nauseated and overly full; just the right amount makes me feel satisfied but not uncomfortable.

About playing outside, while I don’t play in the bushes behind our house or stay out to collect lightning bugs, I do spend some time outside each day. Unless there’s a blizzard, a torrential rain, or 100 degree temperatures, I’m going for a walk. Whether 20 minutes or two hours, I go outside to play. Naturally, there are other exceptions such as traveling or sickness.

As an aside, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That seems like a lot when you first read it, but it’s only thirty minutes a day, five days a week. Some health professionals recommend breaking it into fifteen minutes twice a day if you don’t have thirty minutes.

Walking’s not for everyone. I like it because I don’t have to have any special equipment, join a team, or have a set schedule or location. I’ve walked in places where cars don’t go and seen things I’d have missed if I’d been cruising along in a car or riding a bike. At the same time, if biking, working out, doing yoga, dancing, swimming, or some other type of movement works best for you, then that’s what you should do.

For me, however, walking it is. As a “non-athlete” (something my husband reminds me of on a regular basis), it’s a type of exercise I can actually do without having to worry about coordination, speed, or team spirit. There’s a woman in our neighborhood who walks with a walker, and she’s my current role model. “Just do it,” her actions proclaim.

I’d write more, but I need to lace up my shoes and hit the pavement. I hope you don’t interpret this blog as being preachy. I’m just trying to prolong your life, boost your spirits (exercise elevates mood), and improve your health, both mental and physical.

What’s your favorite form of exercise? And what about your weight loss strategies?

The Band at Warbird Park

You should have seen me and the other walkers and joggers at the back of the pack as we exited what used to be the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base last Saturday morning. We were juking and jiving to the sounds of “Kansas City” that came from a band set up at Warbird Park. One of the advantages of being in the rear is that since you don’t have to worry about time, you can relax and enjoy the journey. I’d be willing to bet that many of the speedsters ahead of us didn’t even notice the band, much less let it affect their pace.

This is absolutely my last post about Saturday’s half-marathon in Myrtle Beach. If I had allowed my qualms about finishing get to me, I never would have experienced that sight or those sounds. Those guys were really into their music!

For some reason, I always get anxious and uptight before any kind of event such as this one. Tossing and turning, I often move from one bed to another, sometimes ending up on a couch. Friday night and the wee hours of Saturday morning were no exception. Desperate for a few hours of shut-eye, I even succumbed to biting off half of a Tylenol PM.

At some point during the night, I decided that I just wasn’t going to do it. Nope. That was all there was to it. I could not and would not embarrass myself by going out and walking 13.1 miles on such a sleep deficit. When it began to rain, that cemented the deal. I finally dozed off, and when I awoke at 4:30 a.m., my first thought was, “Let’s do this thing!”

Because of that decision I saw and heard and experienced things that I’d have missed otherwise.  Here are a few of them:

  • The excitement and energy of the crowd as we stood in the rain under the streetlights on Bob Grissom Parkway near Broadway at the Beach. It was especially cool to share some of those moments with one of my brothers.
  • A man running barefoot. Ouch.
  • A woman dressed in yellow from head to toe including her yellow headdress that was supposed to represent the sun.
  • The man in the orange t-shirt that I used to pace myself. Although I passed him from time to time, he proved to be my nemesis and crossed the finish line several minutes before I did.
  • The man holding the American flag aloft as he ran.
  • The man holding up his left hand in a gesture of peace.
  • More colorful and zany outfits than I have time to describe.
  • The strong headwind that just about did us in.
  • The sun coming up over the ocean.
  • The light in the steeple at First Baptist Church
  • The woman from Delaware that I crossed the finish line with. She had left 60 inches of snow the day before to travel to SC.
  • The experience of Facetiming with my son and his daughter as I strolled down Ocean Boulevard.
  • The enthusiastic cheers of Coastal Carolina students who offered water and Gatorade.

I’m glad I got out there and made some good memories. If anyone out there in Blogland has some half marathon or marathon memories to share, I’d sure like to hear them. Mike? Elaine?

Good to Go

It will probably take several days for my skin to recover from yesterday’s wind. By the time the half marathon in Myrtle Beach was history, my face was red, parched, and stinging. Walking 13.1 miles straight into the wind can do that. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the entire 13.1; maybe it was only 12. Without a doubt, I know that anyone who participated in yesterday’s event will say, “Wind!” if asked about the weather conditions.

Yep, it was brutal. But here’s the thing. In a few days, my skin will be “right as rain,” as the cliché goes.  It won’t be glowing and luminous the way a 25-year-old’s skin would, but well, you know, I’m not 25. What I’m saying is that my face won’t hurt anymore and that it will be back to a senior citizen’s normal.

Why am I going on and on about my skin? It’s because of some comments I heard back in 1996 before I did my first full marathon. The event was to take place in Anchorage, Alaska, and several dozen people from Myrtle Beach and surrounding areas were part of Leukemia Team in Training group. We met  at least once per week to learn about Anchorage, leukemia research, and how to train for a marathon.

One night we were privileged to hear from a woman from Sumter, SC who had participated in the Anchorage event the year before. Some of her words made a lasting impression on me, and yesterday they resurfaced and reminded me that after a certain point, whining and complaining about injuries and discomfort are taboo. I say “after a certain point” because it’s permissible to share war stories. However, NO ONE wants to hear another person go on and on and on about shin splints or stiffness.

In my words, here’s the gist of what she said: The morning after the marathon, you’re going to be stiff and achy. You’ll feel pain in parts of your body you never knew you had. You might not be able to walk normally for several days. But for the most part, after a good night’s sleep and a warm shower, you’ll begin to feel better. And a day or two after that, you’ll be “good to go.” However, the leukemia patients that you’re walking/jogging/running for aren’t so lucky. They need more than a warm bath and good night’s sleep. They may, in fact, never be as fortunate as you are right this minute.

Those words were sobering and powerful.

We left Alaska on a Sunday morning and had a layover in Salt Lake City. From the airport, I called my friend who had multiple myeloma, a form of leukemia. She was “resting,” and we didn’t talk but a few minutes. I hung up the phone knowing that I was alive and well on the mend. My friend was weak, tired, and in need of a miracle. She has long since passed away, and I have a red, stinging face and a little bit of stiffness.

I’ve never whined about walking or jogging related injuries since that afternoon. I might complain just a tiny bit, but I prefer to call that type of complaining just stating the facts. After that, I think about the motivational talk I heard in the gymnasium on the old Myrtle Beach Air Force Base back in 1996. And I think about my friend Linda.

Inch by Inch

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The time is nigh. Tomorrow before daybreak I’ll be at the Pelican Ball Field with hundreds of other people waiting for the BOOM that signals the beginning of the Myrtle Beach Marathon and Half-Marathon. Before that, we’ll sing the National Anthem and stand around making small talk and listening to the conversations around us.

I’ve participated enough in these events to know that there will be people who are at the top of their game and ready to take off running. They’re at the front of the pack, stretching and checking out their competition. Others, like me, will be feeling a bit anxious as they wonder what it would be like to come in last. I’m not too good at statistics, but I’d say about half of the participants will be coming up excuses about why they aren’t going to do as well as they’d like. Sometimes it’s weather, and often it’s work, family matters, or sickness. Whatever the reason, I understand their motives and fears.

I wish I were faster. I wish I could finish with no discomfort. Nothing’s certain, though. The only thing I know for sure is that I’ve put in the miles. I’ve walked downtown in residential areas, along Ocean Boulevard, at the local track, around our neighborhood, beside busy highways, and down less travelled roads. I’ve pounded the pavement in all kinds of weather, even a little snow and rain. When it would have been so much easier to sit back and take the day off, I remembered Nike’s advice to Just Do It.

Still, I’m a little anxious, and when those moments of doubt or fatigue come, I’ll remind myself of another platitude: Inch by inch, life’s a cinch; yard by yard, life is yard. I’m going to take my husband’s advice and put one foot in front of the other and keep on keeping on. I often remember my first full marathon.

It was in Alaska in 1997, and I went with 40+ people from the Myrtle Beach area who were part of a Team in Training group. All of us were committed to our united cause of raising money for leukemia research. One of my favorite images is of a female lawyer from Myrtle Beach who walked steadily and resolutely all the way to the finish. She didn’t appear to be overwhelmed by the distance the way I was. Alternately walking and jogging, my technique didn’t work as well as her steady, consistent gait.

One of my favorite psychological terms is self-efficacy, the belief that you can make something happen, the knowledge that you have what it takes to be successful. Interestingly, psychologists feel that perceived self-efficacy can be more important than a person’s actual ability. This is true in many areas, but on Half Marathon Eve, I’m only concerned about walking 13.1 miles. I think I can. I hope I can. I know I can.

As I get to the end of this post, I’m thinking of a line from the Beatles, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” I love the support, the numbers of people who come out for these events. They throng the sidewalks and cheer us on. Some offer water and Gatorade, and others shout cheers or play music. No one is negative. Every single person says something akin to, “You can do it!” or “You’re almost there.”

I’ll be looking for the cheering sections on the route tomorrow as I “just do it.” I know that if I take it step by step with the confidence that I can finish, I will.

 I’d love to read of other people’s advice, stories, or experiences with any kind of walking, jogging, running event. Did you have any special challenges? Did you find that old proverbs or clichés helped you? 

Too Precious to Squander

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It’s no secret that I’ve been training for a half marathon this coming Saturday. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no speedster. It’s not like I’m going for the gold. Not at all. I just want to finish the 13.1 miles with a reserve of energy left for the day’s events. And I’d like to have only a minimal amount of discomfort. No stiff legs the next morning.

As I’ve trained (using this word a little loosely), a lot of advice and a number of platitudes have come back to me. I’m sharing a few in the hope that doing so might motivate you in some way whether it’s an exercise goal, an academic challenge, a work aspiration, or a family objective.

My first husband used to advise me to go for endurance and then work on speed. There are many people who do little to prepare themselves for success and then give it all they’ve got on the big day. This doesn’t work, at least not usually. One of my nephews did literally nothing to prepare for the Cooper River Bridge Run one year, and yet on the big day, he managed to whiz by all of us. However, he was 16 years old and physically fit.

Go the distance to reap the reward.

A platitude with a lot of truth behind it is “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” For the most part, I believe that. If I were to sing and sing and sing and never get selected for the choir, I’d feel justified in quitting. Why? I’m just not good enough.

However, there are thousands, probably millions, of people out there who quit endeavors of all kinds, not because they don’t have what it takes but because they just aren’t motivated enough. Maybe they’re lazy. Maybe something else motivates them more. Or maybe they’re actually afraid of success. There’s a syndrome about that (FOS).

If I quit on Saturday, it will be because my left knee finally cracked.

When I was 34 years old, one of my best friends died of cancer, and until that time, I had never seriously considered just how quickly a person’s life could end. She was so young and beautiful. Recently married, she was just beginning to adjust to married life and was considering buying a house.

On the weekend of her funeral, I was jogging, my mind filled with memories of my friend, when I recalled an article I’d read in Runner’s World. The author told of coming upon a fatal accident while he was out running one morning. Disturbed by the scene, he jogged away with an increased appreciation for his healthy heart and lungs and thought, “Ah life!” Exactly!

Ah life! You’re too precious to squander.

I know there are readers out there who are working towards something, some goal that’s important to them. What advice can you add to the above? Or perhaps you’ll consider sharing a story of your own.