Untied Shoes and Barbeque Sandwiches

It’s time to write  something about Sunday’s OBX half marathon. As I sit here thinking about it this afternoon, I keep thinking of the lessons inherent in such an event. Is that the school teacher part of me? Can’t I ever just enjoy something without trying to turn it into a lesson? Apparently not!

Lisa, one of my sisters-in-law, drove us to the race start. She’s a trooper, a stalwart supporter, and had gotten up and dressed to make sure that we arrived before the 7:00 a.m. gun sounded. Once we got out of the car and sauntered (yep, we were taking it easy then) to the start, we were inundated with the noises that accompany pre-race excitement. And the music. Wow! It was loud and energizing. Plus, there was the beautiful Atlantic Ocean on our right. What a feast for the senses!

Almost immediately, the three of us separated, and I went to the back of the pack with the other slow folks (walkers).Interestingly, it was called “F.” While that didn’t make me too happy, I came up with lesson #1. It’s crazy to start in a category for which you are unprepared. You’ll soon find yourself out of your league and floundering as you realize that you’re being passed by those with more experience.

That brings me to lesson #2. It’s closely aligned with the first one and has to do with preparation. A person who doesn’t put in the time and miles is not going to make it. Sure, he or she might finish the course but will suffer consequences of serious soreness, all over fatigue, strained muscles, and so forth. Preparation is key in most life events.

The gun sounded for us, and people took off running. Huh? I thought we were supposed to be walkers in Category F! I jogged along beside them, letting the crowd surge push me forward. That was another important lesson, #3. Sometimes, for better or worse, the crowd mentality can get a person stoked and involved. I slowed down after about a mile, however, because I knew I’d be in trouble otherwise.

After a few miles on the highway, we branched off into a nice neighborhood, and I took a few pictures. Soon I saw a child wrapped up in a sleeping bag in a driveway. He had a pot over his face and head, and his father reminded him that he was supposed to be making noise with it. All along the route, people were ringing cow bells, playing music, shouting encouragement, and blowing horns.  I could hear all this despite the fact that I was listening to Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life on my iPhone. It was awesome to walk/jog in this beautiful setting and listen to a great Southern author read his book about the effect that reading had on his life.

We rounded a curve, and there I saw a person dressed like an old lady who kept running out in the street yelling at people. I think she was shouting good stuff, but I’m not sure. It was a little bizarre. I also saw some water in the bay and some beautiful homes. Breathtaking. Lesson # 4 There are always some unexpected treats along the way of a journey. It might be something like the bubble gum that a woman was offering the walkers and runners or it might be some of the beauties of nature.

We walked and jogged on the highway some more and then through another neighborhood. I’d like to say, “THANKS!” to all of the people who came out of their homes to cheer us on that morning. It’s amazing how much difference encouragement and an occasional, “You can do it!” can make. Oh, and the people providing water and Gatorade were wonderful too. That was some of the coldest, most refreshing water that I’ve ever tasted. Some tables offered power gel, but I relied on my power bar for energy bursts. Lesson # 5. People need people.

Soon I found myself looking at the bridge signaling that I was about to leave Nag’s Head and enter Manteo. One of my brothers had told me that the bridge was the ten mile mark so I was feeling encouraged. Hmmm. Did he say that the beginning of the bridge marked ten miles or was it the end? This was a major question because that bridge was daunting! Long, steep, and noisy (because of the cars passing and the wind from the sound), I just had to know. There was no sign, however, so I just basically took off thinking, “I can do it…I can, I can, I can, I will, I will….”

People on all sides seemed to be struggling just as much as I was. Some were in even worse shape. Still, I trudged on, knowing that it was the only way to Manteo and the race finish. Lesson # 6. Crossing a bridge will take you from one destination to another, in “real life” and in a half marathon.

Bridge behind me, I turned right towards Manteo. I needed a potty break, and since I hadn’t heeded Lisa’s warning about the perils of wearing new shoes on race day, my feet were hurting. I was tired and running out of “juice.” Then Elizabeth called asking for my location and told me that my brother Dave and his son Chris were stationed along the way looking for me. That was something to look forward to.  I soon spotted them, sights for sore eyes, and a signal that I was within a half mile of the finish.

Lesson #7. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. By this time, my left shoe had come untied, but it didn’t matter. I just wanted to cross that line!! I rounded the corner of the last leg and spotted Becky, my other sister-in-law, smiling and waving me on. Just before crossing the finish, I saw the rest of my support group: Elizabeth, Sarah Beth, Lisa, and Mike. Someone put a medal around my neck, and then off I went in search of my free barbeque sandwich.

The eight of us walked around gawking at the sights and taking pictures. It had been an arduous trek, but the sights, sounds, and feelings afterwards made it worthwhile. Will I do it again? No doubt about it! Lesson #8: Setting a difficult and then accomplishing it is sweet.

Shake it Off

Some of my friends and I have been tossing around some ideas about things we want to try, things we want to accomplish. It’s more than checking items off of a bucket list like visiting Italy, riding an elephant, or bungee jumping. Not that those things aren’t worthy of our endeavors; they’re just not on our lists. The things we want to do involve WORK on our part(s), and they also expose us to teasing, ridicule, and snickering behind our backs.

Some of my friends and I have been tossing around some ideas about things we want to try, things we want to accomplish. It’s more than checking items off of a bucket list like visiting Italy, riding an elephant, or bungee jumping. Not that those things aren’t worthy of our endeavors; they’re just not on our lists. The things we want to do involve WORK on our part(s), and they also expose us to teasing, ridicule, and snickering behind our backs. Hmmm, now that I think of it, sometimes the criticism and skepticism are right up front.

So should a person go for it or continue playing it safe? I think you know my answer to that! It’s tied into positive psychology, a mindset that emphasizes optimism, personal choice, and happiness in human development and overall mental health. Generally, the so-called lay person thinks of psychology as a field in which people with mental and emotional disorders are helped by talk therapy, drugs, or ECT, and while those things happen, psychology is much, much more.

Here’s a neat story that fits nicely into this topic. A couple of Sundays ago, I attended church in Myrtle Beach and heard a story about an old donkey who fell in a deep, dried-up well. His owner tried to get him out, but his efforts were in vain. Finally, he realized that nothing he did was going to get the donkey out of the well, so he came up with an alternate plan. He called his neighbors and asked them to bring their shovels so that they could help him fill in the well. After all, it was dry and useless, and the donkey was old anyway.

At first, the donkey brayed and carried on something fierce. He was scared and angry. Still, the men persisted in their dirt shoveling. Suddenly, they realized that the donkey was quiet, and when they looked down into the well to see what was going on, they saw something remarkable. Every time someone hurled a shovel of dirt on him, the donkey shook it off and then stepped up on it. The men continued shoveling, and the donkey continued climbing until eventually he was above ground.

You don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to see the moral of the story. When life throws dirt on you, shake it off and keep stepping up. You don’t have to get buried by dirt. You don’t have to stay trapped at the bottom of a well. No matter how many people are actively involved in shoveling dirt on you, you have a choice to shake it off and step up…or not.

One of my friends got a rejection letter about a story she had submitted to a magazine. I wrote her on Facebook and said, “Yay! It means you’re actually doing something instead of just talking about it.” Another had a poem of hers criticized for having too many gerunds. Did it bother her? Probably. And yet I know she’ll shake off the dirt and try again. As I write this, I’m thinking of people who are making jewelry, drawing birds, writing stories, writing books, and training for a marathon. I feel certain that in all of their lives there are people with their shovels raised and ready to use.

I hope my friends stay the course. I hope they keep shaking off the dust regardless of who’s shoveling it or how much gets dumped on them. I hope they’ll read this donkey story and that it will help them the way it helped me.

Wandering in the Desert

When Paul and Amanda and Olivia were here this past weekend, Paul and I had a brief conversation about some psychology books I had recently read. He listened politely (someone taught him some excellent manners), but then mentioned that he looked at those specific books as “self-help.” I’m not above reading self-help books, so it kind of caught me off guard. Then he said that if he needed any help, he’d look to the scriptures for answers.

Hmmm. I agree with him that the scriptures are replete with advice, stories, and instructions on how to how a fuller richer life. There’s also lots of encouragement about overcoming fear, many reminders about loving one another, and several stories about people who veered off the straight and narrow and faced some dire consequences.  In fact, there are so many parallels between self-help books and the scriptures that I can say with assurance that regularly dipping into these types of literature has saved my life (figuratively speaking) on many occasions.

Back to Paul. I talked a little bit about the exodus out of Egypt and of how, to me, that was an example of how people don’t have to live lives of slavery…or even of unhappiness. A person can change his life IF he has the desire. He might have to leave behind a former way of life, walk through the Red Sea, and wander around in the desert for a while, but he can do it. In other words, change is hard. Whether the proverbial desert is for four days or four years or longer, you’re going to have to work, and you might have to eat manna instead of steak and potatoes.

Last night as I recalled our conversation, I thought of the man who led this exodus, Moses.  I thought of how he tried to get out of his “calling” by telling God that he had speech issues.  But God knew that Moses was the man He wanted and wouldn’t take no for an answer. We know the rest of the story. We know that Moses led the people out of bondage and that his brother Aaron was his mouthpiece (at least some of the time).

What I’m getting from this second story is that God wants everyone to use the gifts He’s given us, and when we agree to do so, He’ll find a way to help us succeed. It might not be a speech challenge. It could be your looks, your social status, or your misperceptions about your abilities. Whatever it is, God can work through and with you IF you’re willing to walk around in the desert for a while. Overnight success is pretty unlikely.

So yes, I agree with Paul about the scriptures being the original self-help book(s). Sometimes I just need a little helpful commentary to help me understand them better, and that’s where psychology, philosophy, and literature come in.

Gambaru Pablo!

What I want to say to Paul and all the other recent graduates is something I learned from reading about Ann Curry’s parents last week (guideposts.org). Gambaru! It’s one of my new vocabulary words, one that Curry’s mother used to tell her when she was on the verge of giving up or quitting something. It’s Japanese for “Never ever give up, even and especially when there’s no chance of winning.”

One of the gifts my children gave me for Mother’s day is a photograph book from Shutterfly. I love it! It’s a compilation of pictures of the three of them along some “Momisms” that I’ve preached (oops, taught) them over the years. When I was leafing through it again yesterday, I noticed that Paul is the only one of the three who mentioned “Never give up.” I’m sure my lovely daughters heard, “Keep on keeping on” in a variety of ways, just like their brother, but it just didn’t make their top ten.

Never give up is on my mind this morning because Paul is finishing graduate school this summer and has begun a serious job search.  He knows all of the social networking “stuff” and has tweaked his resume (can’t get the punctuation marks to come up) to a tee. It’s a tough market out there, but I’m confident that with his looks, intelligence, perseverance, competence, charm, human relations skills, and attitude, he’ll find just the right position. Yes, I’m a little biased, but that’s a mother’s prerogative.

What I want to say to Paul and all the other recent graduates is something I learned from reading about Ann Curry’s parents last week (guideposts.org). Gambaru! It’s one of my new vocabulary words, one that Curry’s mother used to tell her when she was on the verge of giving up or quitting something.  It’s Japanese for “Never ever give up, even and especially when there’s no chance of winning.”  Raised as a  Buddhist, Curry’s mother Hiroe couldn’t find a temple in America when she needed spiritual sustenance. She couldn’t speak English very well either and was often ridiculed. A tough lady, she had battled tuberculosis earlier in her life and won. This is the kind of mother Ann Curry had.

Her father Bob Curry was a tough cookie too, a strong man who instilled the values of family, love, hard work, and loyalty in his children.  A  Navy man, he met Hiroe when he was stationed in Japan after World War. Life as a mixed-race child in a poor family was hard for Ann and her siblings, and he often told Ann that trials and tribulations would make her stronger. It bugged him when his children whined, and one day he told them that from then on, whoever whined would have to drop and do ten push-ups no matter where they were. His kids quickly learned that whining didn’t accomplish anything.

Her father was a man who practiced what he preached. Once they were on a crowded bus, and all five of the children jumped into the empty seats before he could snag one. When her father said, “That’s not fair,” Curry and her siblings gave him “the look,” and he dropped down in the aisle and did ten push-ups. What a lesson in character!

Curry’s father encouraged her to do something of service with her life, and she decided that journalism would broaden her choices. She and her father went to college at the same time, he with the GI Bill and she with small scholarships and all kinds of work from bookstore clerk to hotel maid.

So to Paul and all the other job seekers, if you ever get discouraged and  feel like throwing in the towel, think Gambaru! Think of a young, frail Japanese woman recovering from tuberculosis living in a new land struggling to learn the language and customs. Imagine her rising above taunts and ridicule and prejudice to practice what she preached: Never give up. Never. The next time you think about whining or complaining about how hard  or unfair your life is, think of Bob Curry doing push-ups in a crowded bus.

I’ve never met Bob and Hiroe Curry, but I’ve seen their daughter on television many times. I saw her on the Today set one May morning two years ago. She’s a winner. She never gives up, she works hard, and she serves other people. She doesn’t whine either. Gambaru!

Birds are Singing

I just got in from a hot morning walk, and my mind is abuzz with thoughts of other people and the trials they’re enduring today. For me, all is well. The sun is shining, birds are singing, my children and grandchildren are all healthy, and today is Braden’s 8th birthday. Except for maybe his Uncle Paul, no one can touch that kid in looks and charm.

Walking can be a form of moving meditation, for me at least. I just got in from a hot morning walk, and my mind is abuzz with thoughts of other people and the trials they’re enduring today. For me, all is well. The sun is shining, birds are singing, my children and grandchildren are all healthy, and today is Braden’s 8th birthday. Except for maybe his Uncle Paul, no one can touch that kid in looks and charm.

But other people aren’t having such a delightful day today.

  • When my daughter Carrie bakes Braden’s cake today, I know without a doubt that she’ll be thinking of Spencer, Braden’s older brother who never had the chance to crawl and walk and talk and go to school.
  • Then there’s my aunt who’s mourning the loss of her husband of nearly 60 years. It was a good marriage, but does that make her loneliness easier or more difficult?
  • I have a friend whose divorce is final today, and I know something that she doesn’t.  Nothing is ever really final. There are always after-effects, many of them some painful, that will continue for years and years.
  • I know a woman who’s happy that she has only two more radiation treatments for her breast cancer. The big C has awakened her to the realities of life and death and given her a new appreciation for each day.
  •  I have a beautiful friend whose husband is sick and frail, and her devotion to him is heartwarming.
  • Another friend is recalling a graduation of eight years ago when her handsome young son walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma. Little did she know that his life would end a few months later. Rather than succumb to pain and heartache with bitterness, she uses her grief to motivate young people to make good choices in their lives.

On the plus side, there are some good things happening to the people I care about too. I have a friend who’s beginning a new decade of life today, and I hope she’s focusing on the new chapter ahead instead of looking longingly at the past. It’s Sarah Beth’s birthday  too; she’s my beautiful young niece who has her entire precious life in front of her. Amanda and Olivia are safely back in Atlanta after visiting her parents in Salt Lake City.

My husband is playing golf with one of his brothers. He’ll complain about the heat when he comes home, and I’ll just smile and gently remind him that, “It’s all good.” If he doesn’t get the hint (to stop complaining), I’ll remind him of the people who don’t have a brother to play with or maybe of the people who can’t walk, much less play golf. He’ll say what he usually does, “You’re right. I have a lot to be thankful for.”And you know what? We all do. Even for those who are hurting today, the sun will shine for them again.

Thank you, Mrs. Peale

Thank you, Mrs. Norman Vincent Peale. Because of your faith in your husband’s message, you took his manuscript to a publisher who saw its merit. Because you didn’t give up when your husband was ready to throw in the towel, millions have read and benefitted from The Power of Positive Thinking.


Thank you, Mrs. Norman Vincent Peale. Because of your faith in your husband’s message, you took his manuscript to a publisher who saw its merit. Because you didn’t give up when your husband was ready to throw in the towel, millions have read and benefitted from The Power of Positive Thinking.

Getting this manuscript to a publisher was no simple feat. After having it rejected several times, Dr. Peale tossed it in the trashcan and forbade his wife to remove it. She was in a dilemma. Not wanting to disrespect her husband’s wishes and yet knowing the power of his message, she decided to take the trashcan containing the discarded manuscript to another publisher. That one said YES, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Power of Positive Thinking was first published in 1952 and continues to be a best seller. I’m fortunate enough to have a 1st edition on my bookshelf, and I refer to it quite often. When discussing the merits of cognitive psychology in my introductory class, I often quote Peale’s famous quote to, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” That’s a lot easier said than done sometimes, but I’d rather try it than wallow in miserable thoughts.

While I have been encouraged and uplifted by Dr. Peale’s words many ties, I’m just as impressed with his wife Ruth’s strength and personality. Without her determination, tenacity, and faith, this magnificent book might have never come to fruition. So often we hear, “You can’t,” or, “It’s already been done.” When we push through despite the naysayers and stumble a bit, there are always those who say, “The handwriting’s on the wall. It’s not happening for you!”

Don’t these people realize that people need encouragement? Everyone needs someone in his corner who will give hope and confidence, someone who will infuse him with courage. In Dr. Peale’s case, I think his wife had more faith in his work than he did. In an interview towards the end of her 101-year-old life, she said that she didn’t have as much doubt as he did. I loved reading that. It told me that even one of the positive thinkers of the 20th century sometimes faltered but with the support of someone who believed in him, Dr. Peale ultimately succeeded.

Perseverance and persistence are important. So are encouragement and support. Is there someone in your life whom you can infuse with courage (encourage) to JUST DO IT?

Top of the Rock

It’s amazing what a payoff can come from proper pacing and a little positive self-talk.

About Chimney Rock, it’s an awesome place. I’ve been there several times in my life, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I actually went to the top of the rock. That day we rode the elevator, and later we walked a trail at Hickory Nut Gorge. The waterfall was beautiful, just like everything else around us.

Last week when we visited Chimney Rock again, I was determined to walk the steps to the top.

 “You’re crazy,” my husband declared. 

“Yes, I already know that.  See you at the top,” I said.  “And don’t worry. If I feel like I can’t make it, I’ll turn around and get on the elevator.” He shook his head, probably wondering at my sanity (or lack thereof) and walked away.

Folks, it was quite a workout. I could feel AND hear my heart beating. Instead of being deterred by it, I tried to think of how magnificent an organ the heart is and how fortunate I was that mine seemed to be working so well. I met several people along the way up, among them a couple of young couples that I passed (loved that!). Okay, to be honest, one of the couples stopped to take pictures of each other posing along the trail, so naturally that slowed them down. I volunteered to take a shot of them together, and they were appreciative of that. Hope they like the way the picture turned out.

Heart working overtime, I paused to take some gorgeous pictures of the trees and birds and trail itself.  “A step at a time, Jayne. Just a step at a time. You can do it!” It’s amazing what proper pacing and a little positive self-talk can do. I also thought of something I learned from teaching Human Growth and Development: What most people in later adulthood say they regret are the things they did not do, not the things they did and failed at but the lost opportunities, the phone call never made, the hill never climbed, the trip never taken, the dance not danced, and the song unsung. When I’m in one of my children’s homes living out my last days (since none of them ever read my blog, it’s safe to say that), I won’t be saying, “If only….” It’ll be too late then to even get in the elevator at Chimney Rock, much less climb the stairway.

So I climbed to the top, and I was so happy to see the rest of my party and the beautiful American flag flying in the breeze. We hung around on the chimney taking pictures, relaxing, people watching, and exclaiming over the breathtaking views. Before descending the mountain, we visited the gift shop and the restroom, mainly so we could snap a couple of pictures of the murals there. Regardless of what direction we glanced, there was something majestic to see and remind us that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.”

 Before we got on the elevator (I succumbed to the not so subtle pressure of my sweet husband), we walked outside once again, and an employee of the park asked us if we wanted him to take our picture.

“That’s part of my job,” he assured us.

“Taking pictures?” I asked.

“Making sure everyone has a good time,” he said.

We did. And you will too. Put Chimney Rock on your “to do” list this year. Even if you don’t make the trip to the top, the town itself is charming, especially now that the river walk has been added.  And don’t even get me started aabout the quaint gift shops, restaurants, and streetscape.