fitness and nutrition, friendship

Six Miles of Smiles

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do it this year. The Peachtree Road Race. An Atlanta tradition on the Fourth of July. It would be my seventh in a row. I do like streaks but I still wasn’t sure.

It would be different, of course, just like most of life these days. They spread the event over two days. Much smaller crowds. Vaccination checks or virus screenings. I did it last year solo (virtual) and it was not so fun. But I had a friend ask me to join her so I jumped in. I chose July 3 since I figured it would be different anyways, and it worked better with my travel schedule.

The day-before number pickup event was a disappointment. The usual convention hall of shoe and running pouch vendors, waffle samples, music, and ebullience was just a handful of folks with official merch and the public transportation folks to ease race day travels. I left feeling sort of glum.

Waking on race morning is always hard. It often follows a night of broken sleep, anticipating the event and challenge to come. I made it to parking and on to the train. It was so much easier to park and ride, but I did miss the usual crowd of runners we participate with. I made it to the start line and saw my friend, a ray of light! I took my traditional start line pics and we were off and running.

I hadn’t trained in running much so I had no expectations for my performance. The energy was totally different in the race with dramatically fewer people on the course. But it didn’t take long for me to start feeling lifted. The people on the side of the course seemed especially excited. I made eye contact with many of them and smiled. It was more personal this time around.

And then I smiled for the next six miles. My friend was often ahead of me but we still connected a few times. It was surprisingly cool out. With fewer runners there was far less of the usual bobbing and weaving around the different paces. Smooth sailing throughout, really.

It actually felt a little emotional to be there, running and smiling after the grueling mental marathon of Covid-19. I nearly cried at times, but I still never stopped smiling. I thanked the police, the volunteers, the people who came out to hand us water, even all the trash collectors who line their trucks up across the cross streets to keep the runners from being plowed down by anyone who would wish harm on the runners of the World’s Largest 10K.

I watched the miles and milestones tick by. My legs ached. I thought to myself, I am creating the future. I am putting my steps in and my votes in for hope. For health. For persistence. For triumph.

I crossed the line just under 4 minutes faster of my time two years ago. I felt so great for having done it. The one Coke I allow myself each year tasted as sweet as it ever has. It is wonderful to be out challenging myself and participating again. May the miles we still have to go be as joyful.

family

One Year

It’s been a year since since I lost my dad. I think of him often. I cherish my memories. I love to see my pictures from the past pop up on my social media timehop. I like to honor his memory whenever I can.

As I think of the past year I have many emotions. Some I can articulate. Some I’m still processing. It’s part of the grieving process for me. 

I think about how my mom is doing often. How she is getting by each day without her partner of over 60 years. How she has to manage so much without him. How she has to be strong when she probably wants to cry. How she has to stand up for herself. 

I try my best to comfort her. I try to take her away from her normal to show her happy when I can. I try to make her laugh. I try to snap as many photos as she will allow knowing my days may end with her without notice. I like to live in the moment with her. Get her to try new things. She doesn’t like to plan beyond 2 weeks in advance but she will try if she doesn’t think too much about why she shouldn’t. She is living her life to the fullest.

One day at a time we are adjusting. We lost our rock of the family. As he was put to rest my Mom arose as the new rock. A role reversal of sorts but fun for me to watch. I have learned so much from her this year. How to face adversity. How to stand firm for your beliefs. How to be independent. How to be okay with a new normal.

The last statement is probably the most important. Being okay with how the chips may fall. We can all have a plan we work towards but a piece of the plan may fall through. In those times we need to adjust. Be flexible. Learn. Chart a new path. Change the environment if need be. 

Life may test us. It may rock our faith. It may push our patience buttons repeatedly. How we react defines who we are. I want to be like my mom. A rock of sorts. A dynamic rock. A strategic rock. A rock that is durable to withstand the elements of life. 

Life doesn’t have a roadmap. It has twists, turns, speed bumps, uphill battles, and so much more. Who we are shows when faced with the hardest times. Do we buckle under pressure? Do we rise to the occasion?

My mom.

My rock.

My inspiration.

Mother’s Day was upon me when I wrote this post. I spent some special time with her this weekend. I was able to see so much in her eyes. I saw her joy for so many reasons. At the same time I saw sadness that my dad wasn’t there to share the experience with her. I saw her aging. Her body is deteriorating. Is it natural timing? Is it her being lost without him? Is it her environment partly reclusive no thanks to corona? I will never know.

Each year I will honor my dad in May. I haven’t decided all the ins and outs of my dedication but I do know I will have traditions. 

family, friendship

Hello Sunshine

Hello sunshine was on my mind this Christmas. Why? Because that’s what my dad would have said to me on Christmas. Unfortunately this is the first of many Christmases without my dad. 

Instead of being down in the dumps about missing him, I’m opting for spreading sunshine around. A little joking means laughter. Some games mean smiles. New memories and adventures mean giggles and excitement. A new way to honor his memory while making memories each and every year. 

Today I awoke to a dusting of snow. I immediately captured the spirit of the season on my camera as it doesn’t snow often in my area. For today I’ll call it an angel dusting from above. Later in the day I got a pack of gum as a random gift. You are My Sunshine it was called. No big deal to some but a universe whisper to me. A heavenly smile from above. Even when skies are grey from the snowy mist, sunshine is around. The warmth of the rays.

There were many heavenly winks this holiday season. Blessings of new friends to celebrate with. New firsts with my mom. New places to enjoy the festivities. Adapting to the change that has been lingering in 2020, all with a smile as best we can. Different was good this year.

Family meals that had everyone busting at the seams to erecting the most crazy looking gingerbread house covered in sweet treats. Each sugary piece placed on that gingerbread house by my tribe. Whether in spirit or in person. It was named Nana’s house. The crazy year was summed up with an array of sugary treats. A hot mess of sorts like the year of 2020.

To the unexpected text I received on Christmas morning from a new friend I met in 2020:

Merry Christmas! Thank You for making me laugh every morning you are a special person and thanks for your friendship

The text above was an unexpected blessing but one that made me smile ear to ear. As I live my life to the fullest I want to spread joy to others. Laughing, smiling, joking and having a fun spirit is one of my ways I like to spread sunshine each day.

Hello sunshine. A good morning of sorts or just a peppy greeting while I working on a special holiday gift for my mom. Hello sunshine from a new friend in a message. He would never have known those were the words my dad spoke to me often. He made my day. Was it a heavenly wink or an angel kiss from above? Either way I got the message. I felt the message.

My dad is with me in spirit. Now it’s up to me to spread joy to others one smile, one giggle, one joke at a time. Somebody is watching. Somebody is listening. Somebody might just need that joyful pick me up.

If you need a pick me up today, I hope the rays of sunshine are coming through this blog. You deserve to be the sunshine in the day today.

Hello sunshine!

friendship, giving

Longest Night

When became an adult, got married, moved into a house and had kids (not necessarily in that order), I joined a Methodist church. I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school, so this was a big change. One of the first new traditions I embraced was the Longest Night. Each year, on Winter Solstice, the Methodist church had a service that focused on the darker times of the past year. People came who had experienced loss, depression. grief.

At that point, I had recently lost my mother. I had a new baby, a new home, and was overwhelmed and heavy-hearted. I joined the bell choir and played for that service. That first year, I remember just crying through the whole thing.

As you can imagine, the service is not just about loss. Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Once Solstice is over, brighter days are literally ahead. So the service is also about finding hope. About persistence. About the triumph of good and light.

I love symbolism so this service always meant a lot to me. I like the idea of things getting better. Of marking time. The cycle of increasing light. And it always comes just before Christmas, a time of frantic preparation. It is a moment to just be still and reflect.

I don’t attend that church these days, but I still take time to reflect every Solstice and remind myself that lighter days are ahead.

This year the Solstice seemed both especially poignant and especially necessary. COVID has wreaked havoc on many lives. So many in my circle have lost loved ones this year. Some due to COVID, others for other natural reasons, but COVID took away our ability to gather and mourn in the way we all want and need to. Still others are hunkered down at home to protect themselves and loved ones, which brings all the pain and challenge of isolation, disruption of routine, and more.

It has just been a heavy year.

I started hearing about the “Christmas Star” (or Great Conjunction) a few weeks before Solstice. Again, the symbolism of Solstice, this unique astronomical happening, and the stars were literally aligned.

I also had it in my mind to go caroling this year. I say every year I want to sing for people more (and not just the poor people at the gym who have to hear me sing along to the soundtrack when I’m squatting). I don’t know why I expect opportunities to be a backup singer for Yacht Rock Revue to fall out of the sky. This Solstice I see I need to create those opportunities.

Who could I bring some light to? We decided to visit two special Moms who have had challenging years, each in their own ways.

I loaded my car and started the night by going out to see the Christmas Star. I went to a parking lot in a remote park about 15 minutes from my house. I was surprised to find about 25 other cars in the lot, all there to view this planetary wonder. I just took some time to quietly look and think about this year and its gifts.

Then, it was over the river and through the woods to the first grandmother’s house. A couple of friends and family members joined in. We dressed silly, I brought my sleigh bells and song books, and off we set to spread some cheer. Our living room concerts brought laughter and tears, smiles and singing along. We took requests. We flubbed the lyrics and stumbled over melodies. We jingled our bells, giggled, swayed and twinkled. In the end, we brought cheer and good tidings and light. On the way to grandmother two’s house we saw lights and so many other holiday sights.

Both these women have lived through this challenging year. They’ve made the most of it. I hope we brought some light and hope to their lives this December. I know their smiles and delight lifted me up. As one of them put it, when we said our goodbyes, “same time next year!”

It’s a date.

friendship

A Beautiful Day for a Cup

Today was a beautiful fall day. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just the right average temperature to me.

I had to run an errand and hit up the local Starbucks to get my first holiday cup of the season. A creme brûlée in the pretty holiday cup. A definite favorite of mine.  I savored each sip. I marveled at this year’s holiday cup. I smiled. I sighed. I reflected on the little cup and how much joy it brought me. I even enjoy the little crystal bits that are sprinkled on top. They slide right through the cup opening for a sweet surprise. I snapped a few pics and sent one to a friend that is miles away but we unite each year around the holiday cup. It’s a little weird but fun to see who goes first each year. It’s also super cute to have a long connection over a holiday cup that makes us think of each other after many years. Another smile is on my face. 

It might sound a bit corny but the cup of joe hit the spot. A sweet treat. A nice way to enjoy the fall air on a Sunday with not a care in the world.

 I recently got an electronic gift card for Starbucks. It was a great surprise and motivator. Today I gifted another to see if the effect would be the same. Since Covid is infectious and a downer in communities let’s flip the switch and donate a holiday cup to a friend who may need a pick me up. Sure Starbucks doesn’t need the money but the people working there need jobs and your friend could be inspired by the gift of generosity.

Pass on a cuppa cheer this week. You will feel good knowing you shared happiness for about $5.  I will probably get another tomorrow or the next morning to see if it hits the spot the same way. Bring on the holidays.