fitness and nutrition

Follow My Lead

I’d been on this mountain many times. I grew up in its shadow. One summer I worked at a restaurant near the foot of it and climbed it every afternoon when I got out off my shift. In peak shape I would scramble up then jog down. My fastest round trip was 28 minutes back then.

I don’t do it nearly as often or as quickly these days. I live 30 minutes away and my life practically never sends me in that direction. But I try to do a long bike ride every Sunday, so I pegged Stone Mountain for today’s ride.

There’s a hilly 5-mile loop popular with bikers that circles the bottom of the mountain. I pushed through that loop more than once before my legs begged me to stop, or at least to make a change.

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I still had time, so then, in a crazy last-second heat-addled decision, I decided to climb just like old times. I had my AirPods in, I was in the zone. A bit slower than I wanted, but I already had some miles on those legs so I wasn’t too mad. Just one foot in front of the other.

It’s not too bad a climb until you hit StairMaster hill. Suddenly the granite just kicks up from manageably rocky to sheer and steep. Like lean-forward-at-a-45-degree-angle-while-you-shuffle-up steep. I passed several people on the hill, taking breaks. My steps were small but I just kept going.

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Maybe 20 yards after the hill I needed a minute to catch my breath. I don’t usually need breaks on the mountain, but I listened to my body and stepped aside well off the trail under some trees for a quick breather.

I turned to look back at the view and was stunned when, instead of hazy skyline, I see 4 people walking directly behind me. They all stopped suddenly and looked up at me. I had never seen any of these people in my life. Two men, two women, staring. But from their pull off the trail and stunned looks, it was clear they had been following my lead. After about 10 seconds of awkwardness, they moved back into the path and continued toward the top of the mountain in two separate pairs.

It’s not surprising that I was oblivious to the people hot on my heels. Music on, mind adrift, solo exercise is my zone-out time. What I couldn’t understand is why? Why follow me? It’s a clear path with dozens of people on it. I do have that nerdy, friendly librarian look where people ask me questions all the time in all kinds of contexts. But this was a no brainer. Just keep going up.

Maybe it was my pace, I thought. Maybe I looked like I knew what I was doing. I will never know.

What stayed with me is that there are times when we are leading but we may not know it.  We may not ask for it.  We may not see ourselves as leaders.  But, at times we are leading nonetheless.  

Maybe it’s not a literal mountain.  Instead, it might be going public with struggles, with triumphs, with progress, with challenges. Just living your life on purpose is leadership. No title needed. A neighbor stopped me the other day to tell me I inspired her to get moving because she sees me out walking the neighborhood. My daughter’s childhood youth group leader recently messaged me from out if the blue to ask about CrossFit, after watching my changes.

The people following you may not know your whole story.  They probably have their own goals, even agendas.  It could be they just like your pace.  Or you look like you know what you’re doing.  

You’re leading even if people don’t tell you. Near and far, people are watching. Think for a moment. What are you leading them to?

challenges

A Cautionary Tale

The countdown is on.

A few weeks until summer ends and school is back in session…or is it?

My district ended last year with over 40 unexpected days of digital learning due to COVID-19.

Now it is 6 weeks later.  Numbers of cases that seemed to be trending down in my area have sloped back northward.  School districts are starting to try to make decisions about how they will open schools. Cue the special meetings, surveys, and plans (subject to change, of course). Also cue the opinions, the feelings, the exceptions, the arguments, the fears.

Colleagues have asked me many times throughout my career if I would want to become a school administrator.  My answer is always a fervent and unequivocal NO.  Times like this only magnify those feelings.  I don’t envy the public scrutiny that leaders are under in this seemingly no-win time.

I understand…

A significant portion of the economy depends on schools being open.

Many kids have their best access to food, learning, and social / mental health resources when they are in school.

Being taught (in person) by credentialed professionals is what we believe works best for most students.

At the same time…

Many teachers and school workers are themselves vulnerable to serious COVID-19 cases, or live with and care for other people who have those underlying conditions.

This virus is still new and developing, so science is still catching up to understanding what it is, how it moves, and so on.

Our schools are mostly based on kids being close together and moving with organized freedom throughout buildings and surrounding areas.

All the money and power at stake make every decision a politically charged and controversial one.

Then there are the logistics questions that come along with schools opening…

How do kids ride a bus?  How do they have recess? Can they sing? Can they play sports? Will there be field trips or assemblies?  Anyone who has worked with elementary school kids knows that kids love hugs and playing together which often involves contact.  How do I police that? I can’t even start about the masks, or what happens when a suspected case pops up.

Will all the fun stuff just be stripped away? 

In the end, I know this:

No choice will make everyone happy.

No choice will keep everyone healthy.

No choice will meet everyone’s needs.

We will be doing the best we can given what we know, and know that what we know might change at any given time.  Not an easy position for any of us.

I went to a branch of our local public library recently.  They opened up the buildings a few weeks ago.  This gorgeous, light-flooded, award-winning building, created for people to congregate and spend time reading and learning, is full of caution tape to keep people out or at least moving.

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I’m not sure there is enough caution tape to insulate school kids and workers from what we are facing. Our best protections will be patience, good faith, positivity, resilience, flexibility and showing kids and colleagues that we care about them in every way we can imagine.

 

 

challenges

The Dark Cloud

I have written about death and loss a few times in the past few months and here we are again. Another visit to the darkness.

Another awesome soul is in the window of death. Just 61 years old. This time it’s cancer that is causing the suffering. Only hours remain. He will he missed.

I have so many strong women in my life taking their next step, their next breath, their next journey without their lifelong companion by their side. Scary for most of them but triumphant in other ways.

As I watch I try to support. Maybe a text message today or a visit next week. Maybe even a nod of some sort to honor the memory of their loved one. I’m glad it’s not me sitting in the hot seat but it definitely gives me perspective.

It allows me to value today and not wait for tomorrow on anything. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and that we all know. Today is here and many won’t seek out change or opportunities because they worry about failing or falling or whatever one calls it.

I choose daily. I choose to live life on the edge. I don’t want to wonder what I didn’t do when the day comes for my call to hospice. Until then you will find me making memories anywhere and everywhere. I will also remind as many as I can that they should do the same.

Life is precious. Cherish the moments that will last a lifetime. This is your reminder to make today amazing.

I will leave you with this photo of my mom. A milkshake date for her recent birthday. Her first alone without my dad. She is one of the special ladies I am watching take their next step.

She even tried a jalapeno on this day which is definitely out of her comfort zone. Maybe it was a test to say I’m here. I am still fighting even if I’m alone. One new experience at a time.

dare to be different

Brass Ring

“Breaker 1-9, Breaker 1-9, this is the Brass Ring.”

Road trips as a kid, from Georgia to Michigan to Western New York and back again, I heard it over and over.

Back before Waze.  Before GPS.  My Dad had his CB radio in the car, listening in to truckers talk about traffic, road conditions, and all kinds of other topics.  Back before podcasts and Audible and Sirius, there was CB radio to pass the time and exchange information. (There was also= 8-track cassettes and the States and Capitals game, but those are for another post.)

Brass Ring was my Dad’s CB handle.  Why the Brass Ring?  When I was growing up, one of my Dad’s many interests / hobbies was carousels.  He owned a small merry-go-round when I was very young.  Even after he sold it, we kept a full-sized carousel horse in our living room. We had a kids’ barber chair shaped like a carousel horse on our front porch.  We had a number of carousel-horse art piece throughout our home.

What’s the Brass Ring?  In the early 1900’s, many carousels were built with a “game” for the riders on the outside ring of horses.  Someone would slide rings down a dispenser, and you had to reach far out from your horse (while it was moving) and try to grab the brass ring.  Many of the rings were iron.  It took courage, skill, timing, determination, and luck to grab the brass ring, the real prize.

In my many years of riding carousels with (and in memory of) my Dad, I’ve only ridden 1 with the ring game.  I was probably in my teens, riding the carousel in Coney Island.  Many people don’t even know the brass ring exists.  I leaned off my horse and tapped the dispenser several times around before the old man working figured out I wanted to play.

I recently started a new business.  When trying to think of a solid name with some history and meaning, I remembered my Dad and the Brass Ring.  He used it as his persona.  He said it with a big-fish swagger, even though we were usually traveling along in a conversion van or minivan. He owned his place in that conversation, no matter what he was driving.

As I push forward into something new, I hope I carry on his swaggering spirit, as well as the courage, skill, timing, determination, and luck it takes to claim the real prize.  It will take some reaching. I may feel like I’m losing my balance as I really stretch. Sometimes I’ll pull the iron ring.  But if I just focus and stay in the game, my turn at the big prize will come around.

 

 

perspective

Is Life Fair?

Life isn’t fair on most days to many. If you took a poll of 100 people, I feel confident that the majority would share some stories of how life is unfair to them.

Is there even a fairness card somebody could get when they are born? I guess this is funny to mention.

Life is full of many ups and downs and twists and turns. On any given day one person could be celebrating a victory while another person is crying over a loss. Is this fair? I doubt it.

A woman may get a government contract over her male counterparts due to a government set-aside stipulation. Is this fair? Probably not if you ask the male.

A boy gets a better rate on health insurance compared to a girl the same age because she is in her child-bearing years. Is this fair? Not if you ask the female.

Life is what you make of it. You can’t compare yourself to others and you can only try to do your best with whatever options are available to you at that moment in time. If you get a flat tire your car you need to change it if you want to keep moving. On the flip side if you want to keep moving in life you need to change your attitude to I can vs. oh woe is me.

I referenced a moment in time above as time can change things for many. As you get older you may be wiser and have more financial wellness today in comparison to 5 years before. Is this fair? Not to the 18-year-old applying for their first loan.

Sometimes I think my kids think they should get the latest cell phone because their bestie has one or they should be paid the same wage per hour to do the same job as a coworker with years of experience. I’m not sure where they got this train of thought as I never taught that.

In life, fair doesn’t mean equal. Everyone can hope for equality but that doesn’t happen in all scenarios. Life is full of variables. Take the old saying is this glass half full or half empty: your perspective may differ from mine. That’s the beauty of life.

Life’s uncertainty leads to lessons learned. Lessons foster growth. Having a growth mindset allows you to change your surroundings, your future, your present and many benefits I can’t list.

This post is about the word no. Sometimes you need to hear no many times before you hear yes. It may not be fair but if you are consistent you may see more yes in your life.

Today I said no to somebody. Yesterday I said no to another. I don’t always like hearing bad news but sometimes the truth is what one needs to hear to grow. To step outside their box. To find another way. To enable them to shift their mindset into how to do vs. who can do for me.

If we always found yes answers we would have a weirder society than we have now. I had this little yellow book on a table in my house for years. I think many could read it and grow from it.