Forget Me Not

Taking a break from my regularly scheduled running, eating and mom related blogging to talk about gratitude.

I’m working hard on gratitude this week. Trying to counteract feelings of loss, regret and just plain feeling old I guess. The gratitude part comes when I remind myself that to feel loss, you have to have had something to lose in the first place – so be grateful for that. As for the feeling old, well, at least I have the chance to get old.

And regret? Well, that’s just pointless. You are never going to avoid pain in this life, and if you try you will probably only end up avoiding joy. You will never manage to live your life so perfectly that you never regret paths taken or not taken, words said or not said. We make our choices and sometimes those choices mean that you give up some things – you follow one dream and miss out on another.

You can never avoid having to say goodbye. Whether for a day or forever. This is the way of things. We are all so busy these days, and the world is so full of possibilities, we are all running off in one direction or another. But goodbye doesn’t mean we forget the people who were important to us.

When I was a little girl, my grandfather lived in Alaska. I used to spend summers with him, in a little log cabin that you had to hike to get to. Very idyllic for a city kid like me to get to spend summers that way. I remember the hike as being one that went on for miles, but I also know that memory plays tricks on you – it could have been 100 feet.

Anyway, while hiking to his cabin we would walk past a stream and a wetland, in which grew all kinds of plants and wildflowers. He would teach me the names of them. My favorite was the Forget-me-not.

He told me that it was the state flower of Alaska, and also how it got its name. He said that in olden times, ladies would give this flower to their lovers when they went to war to remind them they were loved, and to come back when the war was over.

I liked the story and have always looked forward to seeing these flowers when they bloom in the spring. They remind me of people I have loved and will never forget, and they remind me of God who loves us and never forgets us either.

Prone to flights of fancy as I am, I am pretty sure it was God that made me notice them blooming on my bike ride today. It’s easy to miss them, they are so small. But I’ve been seeing them a lot lately. This is how He talks to me – a small flower here, the right words in a book or sermon there.

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They make me grateful for love, and joy, and pain, and to have a chance just to be alive on this tiny blue planet spinning out in space. It’s easy to forget sometimes what a miracle that really is.

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On Sugar, Carbs and Moderation

Often times, when I need to post something to the blog, I scour my social media accounts to see what people are talking about out on Los Internetos. Today I happened across this interesting article by marathon training guru, Hal Higdon that my friend W “liked” on Facebook.

The article was about carbs – and the fact that runners need them.

This startlingly obvious fact (obvious if you remember high school biology, where we all learned that muscles make glycogen from carbohydrates, and glycogen = energy) sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of all the hype that exists nowadays around high protein / low carb diets.

It sometimes seems like you can’t shake a stick without someone telling you they eat Paleo, are are on a no sugar challenge, or are trying to convince you that their pizza crust made from cauliflower tastes good.

To which I say No. No, it doesn’t. And if you want pizza, have pizza, but have it with a salad and eat one slice like a reasonable person.

Notice I said one SLICE, not one pizza. This is the kind of detail that can get people into trouble.

I do think there is definitely some benefit to consuming less sugar, especially as compared to the diet of the average person in North America. Our food is full of ingredients our bodies didn’t evolve to handle in the quantities we are consuming.

But as with most things, moderation is key. Your body may not really need to be eating the amount of carbs that is typical here in the United States, but it does need some, especially if you are an athlete.

“Athlete” being defined as someone who places a large energy demand on their body (works out) on a regular basis. I always feel funny thinking of myself as an athlete – but I do work out 1 – 2 hours a day, as hard as I can stand. It is a big energy demand, even if all that work doesn’t pay off in speed, necessarily.

I’m an athlete – a slow athlete! But I’m working on it.

Anyway, the big question really is how much is the right amount of carbs to be eating, and what kind of carbs are we talking about. Hal’s article tackles this subject really well, so I won’t repeat it – you should read it.

But aside from knowing your caloric needs, and percentage of total intake and carb needs based on weight and activity, another really good guideline is to listen to your body. How are your moods? How often do you find yourself craving sweets? Eating too much sugar can lead to craving more, as your body experiences swings in blood sugar.

Are you having trouble finding the energy to get through your workout, or even just your day to day activities? Maybe you need to eat more good quality carbs.

My own philosophy on carbs generally, and sugar in particular, is that there really isn’t any food that is inherently good or bad. Most of the issues people run into with food have more to do with portions and how much we are eating, versus specifically what.

Even sugar (the refined white kind that people love to hate on) is not inherently bad, it’s more that the amount of it we are eating these days is way out of whack with what our calorie needs are, and out of whack with the intended purpose of sugar is. More than a teaspoon or two a day, is probably too much.

Sugar is a treat, a sometime food as Cookie Monster would say.

So my take is, I try not to get too worked up about the whole sugar thing, but also keep an eye on it. I have rules. My rules are:

1) I read labels to make sure that sugar and high fructose corn syrup are not in foods where they should not be. Or if they are, at least I am aware of it.
2) I try to ensure that when I do eat carbs, I balance them out with a protein of some sort (a cookie and milk, for instance). Fat tends to take care of itself.
3) I try to keep the refined sugar to a minimum without being obsessive about it. I’m not drinking my coffee without a little sprinkle of it. Neither am I going to pour in a giant pile of it.
4) I try to avoid sugar before noon – except for the coffee.
5) Treats are okay, but they can’t be an everyday, all the time thing.

An example of the philosophy is that we do eat cookies at our house, but when we do I try to make them myself vs. buying store bought since it is all too easy to let cookies become an all the time thing when it’s so easy to bring a dozen home from the store. Plus, if something is a treat, let it be a real treat – nothing is better than a homemade chocolate chip cookie. Maybe two. But not the whole batch.

Which is why I make them, we eat a few, and the rest I try to pawn off on other people.

What is your approach to carbs and sugar? Do you have rules. Do you do the Paleo thing?

Happy Easter!

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Whew! Easter is hard. But the eggs have been dyed and hunted, spring outfits worn, and church attended. All that is left is dinner, and I haven’t done anything about that. I’ll have to go to the grocery store and hope for some inspiration. Perhaps a divine light will shine down from the meat aisle to give me some guidance.

I’ll probably end up going with lamb though. I thought about ham but I don’t like the religious significance of it at Easter time. The reason it’s a tradition to eat it at religious holidays is because historically it was a way for Christians to separate themselves from Jews. It bothers me to focus on that at Easter. But lamb is a nice symbol of springtime, plus a reference to the Lamb of God.

I realize this is probably overthinking things a bit. One meat is as good as another, right?

That’s what I do on Easter though – I overthink things. Unlike Christmas, this is the holiday in the Christian religion that is about faith. The historical fact of Jesus’ birth and life is not in dispute, but his death and resurrection, and the idea that in him we will have everlasting life is the part that requires faith. So, for me it usually brings some reflection. I sometimes wish I had that sort of faith that never questions, but I do. I question. I believe, because I CHOOSE to believe. And yet, I question.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Easter, but I struggle with it. I struggle with the way it moves around the calendar so it’s hard to get organized. I struggle because of the questions. And I struggle because I don’t get why it is such a Hallmark holiday. The idea that kids are getting gifts on Easter blows my mind because for me, it was never about that. It was just eggs and candy – and church if I was at my grandmothers house. I’ve never really thought of it as a gift giving holiday.

So we went with the traditions – eggs, candy and church, plus some Legos in the Easter basket. Unfortunately, a certain 7 year old boy decided to complain that the Easter Bunny didn’t bring the right Legos, rather than being grateful for having received Legos in the first place. So, I decided it was time to enlighten him as to the true nature of the bunny. He’s 7, after all, and has already figured out about Santa Claus (who never visited in Russia and so it never made sense to really try to instill a belief in something he already knew not to be true).

And I reminded him that when one is receiving gifts, it is better to say thank you than to complain about the gifts one has received. That is, if one wants to continue receiving gifts. Even Moms Easter bunnies like to hear a little gratitude once in a while.

With our priorities realigned, we had a better outcome with today’s church attendance than the last time we went. We made it all the way to the sermon before the wiggles took over and the boys asked to go to the nursery. Which I thought was pretty good for 5 and 7 year old boys.

Even before Easter we were getting a lot of questions about God, and Jesus and what all that is about, and since as a questioner I obviously don’t have all the answers, I guess it is time to get serious about finding a church home for our family. And while we have liked the churches we have tried, none of them yet have felt like home.

Many of the families we know go to the same big church in town, but we have resisted going there, partly because of not wanting to follow the crowd. Also because it’s a longer drive. I mean, we would have to drive 10 minutes to get there, vs. 5 minutes to go to the other churches we tried.

You may laugh, but we are seriously not morning people, especially not Sunday morning people, and so that extra 5 minutes makes a huge difference between whether we will show up or not.

However, there is something to be said for a church where you already know a lot of people and so it probably is where we are going to end up. We liked the church we tried today, but we just didn’t know anyone so it didn’t feel quite right. Plus, they do Sunday school after the church service which means you have to hang around for a long time. That’s not gonna work. If we’re gonna do this, we need to be efficient about it.

Plus, the kids have said they want to go where their friends go, and honestly I feel the same way.

After church we went out for donuts, and later today the boys are going out for some batting practice, and I am going to go walk and run at the track. That will be my first outdoor run since my surgery so I am looking forward to that.

From our family to yours, Happy Easter!.

Because I Like It?

Why DO I do this, anyway?

Running is kind of a weird sport, because it really seems to bring out strong reactions in other people. Tell somebody you’re a runner, and prepare for the onslaught of reasons why that person doesn’t run, or a spate of questions about why you do.

Other sports don’t seem to have this effect. Tell someone you like to play softball, and they are likely to say, “good for you,” “that’s cool,” or possibly, “I was thinking about doing that. Where do you play?”

But running seems to bring out a need in people to explain why they don’t. Maybe it’s the fact that literally everyone can do it but most choose not to. At any rate, among the population at large, people who LIKE to run are a minority.

Non-runners think that those of us who do it must be genetically gifted but from what I have seen, that’s not the case. Go to a running event and you will see all types there, from the truly athletic Boston qualifiers to those who normally only run for beer.

I enjoy running, I work at it, but I also accept that on some level I will always be working with my own particular limitations. I’m a middle of the pack runner, and with a lot of hard work I can probably move forward to the front end of the middle of the pack, and maybe even place top 5 in my age group – perhaps better in an uncompetitive field. This may not sound exciting to anyone else, but to me it’s a goal that inspires me to get out 4 or 5 days a week and see what I can do. What’s the best I can do, working with what I have – to wit: knock knees, fallen arches, and a sort of paddling gait?

That’s the question I want to answer.

I don’t do it because I want to win races. I don’t do it because I want to have a perfect body. I do it because it feels good to move my body and be the fittest me I can be. I do it because every day I get a chance to measure myself and try to be just a little better than I was yesterday. Even on bad days, I can look back and see that I’ve come a long way in just 9 months. Who knows how far I might go in another year?

So that is why this blog is not so much about running or food, it’s really about feeling good, enjoying life, and moving forward – which I think is is achievable for everybody.

Maybe I’ll never run an 8 minute mile again. Maybe I’ll never place 1st in my age group in a race. Then again, maybe I will. Who knows?

That’s one of the things I think is great about running – you never know what you might achieve if you work hard enough. Doing the work is actually the fun part.

So the answer is, I do it because I like to. I do it because I can.