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.

Let’s Get Happy!

 

I wish I hadn’t run out of time Sunday while giving a lesson on finding joy. There are so many other things I wanted to share, things that could make a definite difference in the happiness or misery a person feels. And all are practical and easy to incorporate into one’s life.

I’ve often said that the combination of religion and psychology has saved my life many times. Plus, there is often an overlap between what psychologists have learned about being happy and what the scriptures say. The former state that there’s a correlation between mental and physical health, and Proverbs 17:22 says pretty much the same thing: “A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones.”

Today there’s a movement in positive psychology that studies health, happiness, well-being, self-esteem, and a host of other issues. Its emphasis on growth and optimism rather than gloom, stagnation, and pessimism offers hope to millions, including you—and me too. Positive psychologists don’t profess to have a panacea for suffering, but they do think it’s possible to experience moments of joy and happiness regardless of the situation.

Sunday we talked about the importance of prayer, faith, hope, scripture study, and “pressing on.” We didn’t, however, talk very much about being grateful. Having an attitude of gratitude is so helpful! I recall a song whose lyrics went something like, “Standing knee-deep in a river and dying of thirst.” On my walk this morning, one of the songs I listened to was “Desperado,” and this line spoke to me: “It seems to me a lot of fine things have been placed upon your table, but you only want the ones that you can’t have.”

Speaking of my morning walk, my husband often kids me about my lack of athletic ability. When I remind him of my marathons and half-marathons (all a combination of jogging and walking), he usually says, “Anybody can walk.” My answer is, “No Dear, they can’t.” But I can, and I’m grateful that my legs, lungs, and heart work together to allow it to happen.

One of the topics of the lesson was that happiness must be earned from day to day. Just like we need to eat and rest to keep our physical selves up and running, we need to do and think certain things to keep our mental selves in good order. There are dozens of suggestions I could offer, but I’m narrowing them down to something all women can identify with: Jewelry.

Yep. That might sound strange, but I purposely wear jewelry that boosts my mood by reminding me of something or someone.

  • I wore pearls Sunday, and you can guess why—the whole sand and oyster and friction process. Just like pearls, we can use the “refiner’s fire” to make us more beautiful and whole.
  • I also wore a Lokai bracelet given to me by one of my daughters-in-law. From the website: “Each lokai is infused with elements from the highest and lowest points on Earth. The bracelet’s white bead carries water from Mt. Everest, and its black bead contains mud from the Dead Sea. These extreme elements are a reminder to the wearer to live a balanced life – staying humble during life’s peaks and hopeful during its lows.”
  • I also wear a CTR ring (Choose the Right) to remind me to make good choices. That includes not being easily offended, being kinder than necessary, refraining from gossiping, and so forth. I mention those behaviors because they’re the ones that give me the biggest challenge.

Oops, I’ve already gone over my 500-word limit. It’s not a WordPress limit, just one I’ve attempted to practice since most people don’t want to read more than that.

Must ask: What are some things you do to stay happy?

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?

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? 

OBX Marathon Weekend

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Thoughts of last year’s OBX Marathon and Half Marathon sent me to my Shutterfly book of photographs and text that I put together afterwards. The above picture was taken at Jockey Ridge, the largest sand dune on the east coast, and is on the cover of the book. I’m lifting the words below from the last page, hoping to get my family and friends energized and motivated for next year.

What an awesome day. I honestly can’t think of a more appropriate way to describe November 11, the day of the OBX Half Marathon.

From the moment I heard “God Bless America” at the start until I watched my brother Mike and his wife Lisa dance in Big Als’s afterwards, sights and experiences too many to describe took place. A second cousin, Emily, also participated in the event. Wait, no, she did more than participate. She ran like the wind. John David, my nephew managed to whiz by her at some point, and my brothers weren’t too far behind. Me? I walked along like an automaton, pausing long enough to take some pictures.

Along the way, I saw some interesting sights. There were women of all ages wearing tutus and colorful skirts, and I thought, “Maybe next near for the skirt, not the tutu.” As I reached the top of the bridge leaving Nag’s Head, I passed an older man in a wheelchair giving it all he had. Loved his indomitable spirit! I also saw and appreciated hundreds of people along the route who gave water, Gatorade, and plain old encouragement.

In Manteo, we reconvened for some photo ops, including one inside of a ship in the harbor. We then headed to Big Al’s for lunch, something that’s become a tradition. The sweet potato fires and the ambience keep bringing us back. Mike and Lisa danced on the dance floor, but Chris, Becky, and I confined our dancing to table dancing…or as Chris called it, “Shoulder dancing.” We also sang along to a couple of songs on the juke box before going to back to Big Bird, the house we had rented, for some R & R. Later, four of us walked down to Jennette’s Pier before going to see Argo.

Monday morning we all arose early to have breakfast at The Dunes before parting company, a delicious way to say farewell.

Put November 9, 2014 on your calendars, Y’all (appropriate for a Southerner to say). It’d be great to have more family and friends there next year.

Rainy Day Thoughts

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Years and years and years ago, my brother Mike and I went for a walk around the block in the rain. Why we decided to do such a thing, I don’t know. Neither of us were particularly into fitness in those days, mainly because we were young and thin and healthy. Our mother was a stickler for the major food groups. We never even tasted pizza until we were in high school, not because our parents didn’t approve of it but rather because there were no places to buy it in Camden until the 1960s.

But I digress. Yesterday morning I put on a hat, opened my bright orange IKEA umbrella, and headed out the front door for a walk in the rain. “Enough is enough,” I thought. “I’m not going to be held captive indoors by this rainy weather another moment.” Undaunted by the steady drizzle, out I went for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. It was delightful! With temps in the 60’s, the plunk-plunk of water splashing into puddles, and the cool rain hitting my calves, I was glad that I had decided to brave the elements.

Here’s what I noticed right away, the circles in the puddles. Puddles were everywhere, and the steady dripping of rain made some interesting circular designs. Some circles were big and some were small, and just about every single one of them overlapped or intersected with another, sometimes several others. Plus, ALL of them rippled out into ever widening concentric circles.

The puddle patterns made me think of my brother and our walk that day decades ago and of our parents and their love and care for us (not just the two of us, but all four children). All six of our lives intersected and overlapped, then and now. Today even the grandchildren and great grandchildren are affected by that original family of six and the experiences, choices, and interaction that we all had. Plus, none of the family members live a cloistered life. All are involved, even the young ones, in some type of work, church, play, or community activity, thus giving them the opportunity to intersect with even more lives.

Here is my point (at last). The choices we make and the things we do have a ripple effect, and some of them affect others with whom our lives are entwined and connected. Right now I’m getting ready to go on another walk around the neighborhood. Like Mike said, “I keep moving so I can keep moving.” I know exactly what he’s talking about. After my walk, I’ll get gussied up (sort of) for church. I know for a fact about the ripple effects of that experience. If I didn’t go, well, we don’t even want to think about how beastly I might feel and act.

I could go a lot deeper into the above, but if I do, then I’ll lose the time for walking and worshipping. Can’t do that. The ripple effects of exercise are far reaching. Plus, the interlacing of lives, just like puddles, will be made more pleasant for my family and friends after I spend a couple of hours in church.

What about you? What are some ripple effects of your actions? How are some ways that your life and the decisions you make affect others?

Laughter, Birds, and Appetites

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This morning I’m thinking of several individuals who are struggling with challenges, some of them physical and some of them emotional. I know that prayers are being offered on the behalf of these people, and in some cases I think the prayers are for a complete and immediate healing. We want miracles, and we want them right now!! We Americans are especially desirous of immediate gratification.

But I’m not sure that God works in the immediate way but rather on His own timetable. Maybe that’s because He sees the big picture while we see only what’s right in front of us in the here and now. I think He always answers prayers but not necessarily in the way we want them answered. Then too, I believe that He knows what we need and want, but He still likes for us to ask Him in faith.

This brings me to a recent flash of insight. In Relief Society Sunday, the teacher based her lesson on a conference address by Jeffrey R. Holland found in the May 2013 Ensign. From just a few verses of scripture (14-28) found in the 9th chapter of Mark, Elder Holland brought out several layers of meaning that I’d never really noticed, and our teacher did an excellent job of bringing our attention to them.

In the story Jesus came upon a group of people who were arguing with His disciples. When Christ asked about the cause of the conflict, a man came forth and said that he had asked the disciples for a blessing for his son, an afflicted child who was foaming from his mouth, thrashing on the ground, and gnashing his teeth. In verse 22 the distraught father begs, “If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.”

The lesson makes several insightful and valuable points, especially concerning faith. The father “straightway” cries out, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (verse 24), and Jesus heals the boy. Note that without hesitation, the child’s father asserts his faith and then he acknowledges his limitation. Elder Holland reminds his listeners to remember the example of this man when assailed by doubt, despair, or troubles. “Hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.”

I was sitting in class Sunday taking this in and pondering its truth when a member of the class said something I had missed. She said what she especially liked is when the heartsick father used the words: “If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” He doesn’t ask that his son be healed completely and immediately. He asks for a glimmer of hope, a little respite from the exhaustion of watching over the boy continually, a partial blessing, a little lifting of the burden carried by the boy’s mother…any thing.

I felt like a light bulb came on! Sometimes people turn away from God because of what they perceive to be unanswered prayers when maybe they’re asking for the wrong thing. Or maybe they aren’t noticing the many ways they’re already being blessed. In applying this lesson to the situations I was thinking about, I thought of so many applications of any thing:

  • Some discernment to figure out what’s going on.
  • Help for all of US, not just little old me with my worries and heartaches. As one of my sisters-in-law and I discussed recently, caregivers need support too, not just the patient.
  • Some compassion and caring from others. As a class member brought out, help comes from friends and other earthly sources, but it’s often orchestrated divinely. A phone call, a note, or a visit are all nice.
  • Laughter. Sometimes just thinking about the laughter of my children can lift my spirits. Hearing it up close and personal is better, of course, but sometimes I can settle for any thing.
  • Mother Nature…considering her ways and the lessons she teaches. When my mother was suffering from cancer, she took delight at watching and listening to birds, especially those who heralded the beginning of the day.
  • An appetite. This is a serious one, Folks. Anyone who’s ever been too sick to eat knows what a blessing it is to actually want to eat and to be able to. I recall my mother struggling to eat some fruit during the last week of her life and realizing then that I would never take the desire and ability to eat and gain nourishment for granted again.
  • Hope and the knowledge that things are not always going to be the way they are right now.

In the story in Mark, Jesus heals the boy. In our lives, dramatic healings of relief from sorrow, suffering, and pain aren’t usually so immediate and complete. However, I’ve changed my thinking to asking for any thing for us—some hope for tomorrow, a sweet cold Frosty, or a hug.