Saturday, December 24, 2011

About That Bread Machine...

AWE-some! In case you were wondering how my loaf of bread turned out the other night, when I was writing my last blog entry, here's a picture of it in all its glorious perfection:

It was perhaps the nicest loaf I've ever made, even nicer than all the loaves I've lovingly shaped by hand over the last couple of years. It was so light and fluffy, I could scarcely believe it was 100% whole wheat (freshly ground in my Nutrimill grain mill, of course).

Since then, I've made three more loaves, including apple cinnamon bread. My Zojirushi Mini is so small I can leave it out on the counter all the time--which annoys Bill just a teeny bit. See, its footprint is only a bit larger than the toaster:

If you look closely at the picture, you'll see that it has a Jam button. Naturally, I've already tried it. I made strawberry jam the other day. I just dropped in the mashed fruit, some demerera (natural) sugar, some lemon juice, and a bit of Sure-Jell pectin. Then I turned it on and waited one hour and 20 minutes.

It was a little thinner than I'm used to, and not quite as sweet. But really quite tasty. Next time I'll add more pectin.

I still have to try the Cake setting: banana nut bread, apple cake, and zuchinni bread. Next will be the pasta setting; I'm a little scared about that one.  Oh, and I've got my eye on a gluten-free recipe from the Zo Mini manual; it calls for brown rice flour, which I can grind up in a jiffy using my grain mill. I'm curious whether the bread machine has the touch that I seem to lack when it comes to baking gluten free bread. You'll be the first to know when I find out.

This thing will keep me busy for weeks--or at least days. You've got to get you one!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Joys

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, on the recommendation of a woman I met during my training for the 3-Day Walk. It’s slow going because she has a very odd writing style, but I’m getting a lot from her message: that we draw closer to God and live in peace when we take time to be thankful for all our blessings, no matter how small. For example, she thanks God for the beauty of the fragile, iridescent soap bubbles when she’s washing dishes.

I think I’ve lived more in an attitude of thankfulness since I’ve been reading; it’s so easy at this time of year. Here are just a few of the joys I’ve been thanking God for:
·         Holding hands with my sweetheart in front of our beautiful tree, adorned with the kids’ humble handmade ornaments—just like Mom and Dad’s tree when I was growing up.

·         Christmas traditions, old and new—such as making homemade marshmallows. (This is my second time to make them, and Allyson has been begging for them the entire year.)

·         The wonder of Christmas music that makes my heart rejoice over the gift of our Savior.

·         Dear friends, old and new. I can’t believe how God has opened my heart to so many friends in the last couple of years. I’m not the shy, withdrawn woman I once was. (Hallelujah!)

·         New truths revealed after decades of reading the Bible, like today’s lesson that it’s not my job to seek God’s will, only to seek God, who reveals His will to me by changing my motives and desires. I’m seeing this in my life, and it thrills me. Example: I realized on our last weekly nursing home visit that I was actually having fun; it was no longer just an act of obedience.

·         The way God has answered my prayer to let me see the beauty in people whom I might have deemed unlovely, and in others I might not have even noticed—like sweet Estella, who loves cardinals, and who grew up watching birds in Nebraska where “there wasn’t much else to do back then.”

·         Seeing Allyson’s delight as she played Santa’s helper today, holding out a box of Kleenex to each elderly patient as Santa handed them a bag. She brought them so much joy, and it made my heart glad.
Allyson with My Coworker, Mike

·         The opportunity to visit with family at our Christmas celebration. It’s such a pleasure seeing my nephews growing up and getting married, and getting to know them as young adults.

·         Watching Ethan grow into a considerate young man, who helps me with cooking and helps Bill with yard work (with a bit of arm-twisting).

·         Volunteering with Bill at Allyson’s very first school Christmas party and seeing her in her “natural environment.” (Also meeting her so-call boyfriend Elias. Daddy’s not too sure this falls in the joys category.)

·         Christmas cards to remind us of all the friends and family we love so much.

·         And… my brand-new Zojirushi Mini bread machine, which bakes a day’s worth of bread so we can have it fresh every day! It just arrived about two hours ago, and of course my first loaf is already inside. Bill’s rolling his eyes at me, but I think he’ll change his tune when we’re enjoying that hot loaf. Then again, he probably has the sense not to eat bread at 11 PM, and by morning it will be a bit stale. And I will go to bed happy but with a tummy ache.

Do You Think She’s Family?
I know this is supposed to be a bullet list, but I can’t resist adding one story about our last nursing home visit. We were saying goodbye to one of our favorite patients, Fabian, when his roommate pointed at Allyson and asked, “Do you think she’s part of my family?” (He’d never spoken to us before.)

I said, “No, she isn’t. But she’ll probably give you a Christmas hug if you’d like one.”

“I’d love a hug from a pretty girl like her.”

She hugged him then, and his grin almost brought tears to my eyes. Next, he surprised me with a firm handshake and a strong, confident voice that reminded me of an executive. “I’m Bob,” he said.

When I told him my name, he said his oldest granddaughter is Sarah too. And then he told me all about her career as a teacher in Japan. I was shocked that I could have an enjoyable conversation with someone who… well, someone so senile. Now we have one more favorite patient to add to our list.

My cup runneth over!

How about you? What are you thankful for this season?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Even in a Webinar

Have you ever been amazed at the unexpected ways you can hear God's voice? Each time I think I've seen the most amazing way--like God speaking to me through my Pilates teacher's instructions--He goes and tops that...
Last week I was sorry for my fall Bible study to end, but I have to admit I was looking forward to seven weeks off so that my evenings would be a little less full during the holiday season. Still, I scarcely hesitated this past Tuesday when one of my Bible study friends, Angel, asked if I'd do another Priscilla Shirer study with her over the Christmas break--Discerning the Voice of God: How To Recognize When God Speaks.
Here's how I explained it to all the friends whom I invited to join us:
If you’re like me, you need to focus on resting during the Christmas season, so
your first instinct may be to say, “I don’t have time.” But consider that
working on a study keeps you accountable to stay in the Word, which helps you to
rest in God. And getting out one hour a week with other ladies could also help
rejuvenate your spirit.
And that's how I ended up at the kitchen table yesterday morning, rubbing my hands together in anticipation as I cracked open the lesson for Day 1. It began with the story of Habakkuk, who initially questioned God, asking how long he would take to answer. God's reply took my breath away: "Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days--you would not believe if you were told." (Habakkuk 1:5)
Priscilla invited me to list the personal circumstances that have been troubling me and then focus on how God is speaking to me concerning them. The first two came easily, but my pen stumbled over the third concern that came to mind; this was one I was trying to let go of, one I'd given up asking about. The last concern was another one that I hated to write down because surely God must be tired of my endless waffling over whether/when/how to finish my novel.
At the end of the lesson, Priscilla told me to write out a prayer expressing my confidence in God's control of my circumstances and my desire for Him to speak to me about them. Here is part of what I prayed: "LORD, you are kind and merciful. You are a God who hears, who calls, who answers. I praise you for what you are already doing [in these situations]."
Although it was a quick prayer, and I was in my kitchen instead of my beloved prayer closet, it was one of those times when I really felt the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and I prayed with fervor and anticipation.
Imagine my delight about 30 minutes later when I read an email that spoke directly to that concern that I'd hesitated to write down. As I checked the time of receipt, my heart skipped a beat. Yep, it was sent shortly after my prayer. Coincidence? Maybe.
Just a couple hours later, God spoke to me for the second time. I was in a webinar, an online presentation called "Training Online: Creating Visual Stories That Resonate." Now I do enjoy this type of presentation on some level, but I really much prefer the classroom environment over listening to a stranger's voice and watching PowerPoint slides on my computer. So I never expected to be riveted, utterly captivated by this speaker as she explained how to use the classic story arc to draw in your learners and motivate them toward lasting change. It wasn't exactly new information to me; I'd heard this before in my fiction writing classes. But there was something about the way she presented it that spoke to me personally.

She showed a fascinating analysis of two very different speeches that captivated audiences, Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" and Steve Jobs's introduction of the iPhone. Both speeches began with what is, moved to what could be, back to what is, back to what could be, etc. And both speeches ended with a call to action.
She ended her presentation by modeling two of the strategies she'd suggested: anticipating and overcoming objections, and a call to action.
This phrase flashed on the screen in simple white letters: "But I'm just..."

"I know what you're thinking," she said. "You're thinking, 'I'm not Martin Luther King or Steve Jobs. I'm just a trainer, an instructional designer, a...'"

She paused for a moment to let us acknowledge the truth of her assertion, and then she went on in a voice low and heavy with emotion. "The truth is, you've been called. You have the power to tell your story as only you can. You can deliver your message in a way that will create lasting change. You have to tell your story, and tell it with passion."
Tears of wonder slipped down my cheeks. There were 999 other people on that call--the session maxed out at 1000--but I knew that Nancy Duarte was speaking directly to me. And the hair on my arms stood on end as I recognized the anointing of the Holy Spirit in her words.
How do you do this, God? How do you continue to surprise me? I wondered. You're not supposed to be this inspired by an ONLINE WEBINAR. Everyone knows online training is boring!
I was positively giddy for the rest of the day, and today too. I've got my passion back, and I can't wait to put pen to paper again!
But God wasn't through. There were two more requests on my list.
Tonight I was enjoying some Christmas music while I washed the dishes that couldn't go in the dishwasher. I sighed when the music faded out and the DJ took another one of those sappy calls about the theme of the night: the best Christmas gift ever.
I half listened as a woman fought to hold back sobs while she told how her family had fallen on hard times. Her husband had lost his job and drifted into destructive behaviors, and her marriage had been shaken. For a couple of years, she continued to love him and extend grace, all the while praying for his salvation.
I perked up at this point, my soapy hand hovering over the dishpan.
"And now, he has given his heart to God," she said, as I shared her happy tears. "We still have nothing, nothing. But this will be the greatest Christmas ever because now we can share.... He finally understands why we celebrate Christmas."
She went on to encourage everyone who was praying for someone's salvation not to give up. "Even if you've been praying for years, and you think it's never going to happen, don't give up."
A grin broke out as I realized God had just encouraged me about my last two requests. I can't wait to see how God will bring those two to himself. In the words of Habakkuk, "The vision is yet for the appointed time.... Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay." (Habakkuk 2:3)
Have you ever been flabbergasted at how God spoke to you? Would you please share your story?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Show Me the Beauty

I hesitate to share this story for two reasons: 1) I don’t want to come across as a saint. 2) I don’t want to come across as an uncompassionate clod. But here it is…

As you may recall, Allyson and I had been intermittently visiting a couple, Jack and Jeanne, whom we met at a local nursing home. I got to know Jack especially well while transcribing his autobiography—one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

They so loved having visitors, and Jeanne utterly adored Allyson, so I tried to get out for a visit now and then, but not nearly so often as I should have. After a particularly long absence, we found that Jack had passed away. My heart was pierced for Jeanne, whose dementia made it hard for her to remember why he was gone and why he never came back. I resolved to visit her much more often, but I seldom made the time to drive out there, even when Allyson reminded me that we really ought to visit Miss Jeanne.

I’m not sure how long it had been—months, I’m sure—but we finally went out to the nursing home last Wednesday. Someone else was in her room. My heart sank when I learned that she’d passed away just a couple Fridays ago. Oh, why didn’t we visit more often?

But I have to confess that a tiny part of me—the little part—felt relieved. I was sorry she was gone, but relieved that I wouldn’t have to make time for trips to the nursing home, or feel guilty about not making the time. I tugged Allyson’s hand and started for the front door.

But another part of me immediately said, “No, no!” And that bigger part of me pulled me over to the information desk. I waited in uncomfortable silence for what seemed a very long time until one of the staff members acknowledged me.

I explained how Allyson and I had been visiting Jack and Jeanne, and how much they’d enjoyed seeing Allyson. I cleared my throat. “Can you think of another resident who might enjoy our company, someone who doesn’t get many visitors?”

The nurse rubbed her chin and then replied, “Well, yes. I guess you could visit Jackie in room 54.”

And that’s how Allyson and I ended up on our new mission, armed with only a first name and a room number. My heart pounded as we walked down the long hall. What would I say to this stranger? Would she think it rude of us to barge in? I said a quick prayer asking God for courage and for the right words.

Jackie was nothing like I expected. She was quite young, maybe in her 50s. “Are you Jackie?” I stammered.

She nodded and mumbled something unintelligible.

I ignored the heat in my cheeks and plowed on. “Hi, I’m Sarah, and this is Allyson. We…”

“Ohh!” Jackie exclaimed, reaching one hand toward Allyson. “She’s uh-DOR-bul.”

“Thank you,” I said.

She wiped some slobber off her chin, and I looked away. “I’m sorry,” she said.

I leaned closer, trying to decipher her slurred speech. “Pardon?”

“I’m sorry.”

I felt myself turning even redder. I waved my hand, brushing away her apology. “No problem,” I mumbled.

Allyson hid behind my leg and stared at the floor.

“What’s she afraid of?” Jackie asked, and then repeated herself so I could understand.

“Oh, she’s just shy,” I said, brushing a knuckle over Allyson’s cheek. I stared at the ceiling, wondering what I could possibly say to this stranger.

“Allyson’s in Kindergarten this year. She’s learning to read. And she loves to draw,” I said.

“Oh,” said Jackie.

Allyson nodded and beamed.

“She’s getting very good at drawing because she practices so much,” I went on. “Her favorite thing to draw is birds.”

Jackie’s face lit up, and I understood her next words perfectly. “Oh, I love birds!”

“Allyson loves to draw owls and robins. What’s your favorite bird?”

“I like d-doves.”

I turned to Allyson. “Do you think you could draw a dove for Miss Jackie?”


“And maybe we can get a book about birds and you could read it to her.”


I promised Jackie we’d return in two days, after Thanksgiving. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you!”

I felt humbled and almost guilty about her gratitude over our very brief visit and the promise of a dove picture.

We headed straight to the library for a birding guide, and Allyson drew an astonishingly good dove as soon as we got home. (Wish I’d thought to take a picture.) For the next two days, she kept reminding me that we mustn’t forget to go see Miss Jackie on Friday.

On Friday we presented her with Allyson’s picture and a Happy Thanksgiving note she’d carefully lettered. And then Allyson sat on the bed next to Jackie and read her a book about birds, with lovely prints of various species.

This time, Jackie not only thanked us, but she gathered both of us into tight bear hugs. Again I felt unworthy of such profuse gratitude.

On the way home, I felt even less worthy when Allyson gave voice to my own thoughts. “It really stinks in there.”

“Yes, honey. Sometimes people have trouble controlling their bladder when they get old or weak. That’s just how most nursing homes smell.”

“Yes, but it smelled worse in Miss Jackie’s room. Do you think it was Miss Jackie?”

“I don’t know, baby. Just try not to think about it. Definitely don’t ever say that you think it stinks, or you’ll hurt her feelings.”

As soon as I had a chance to be alone with God, I poured out all my ugly feelings. I confessed that I don’t really WANT to go to the nursing home every week even though I feel that I should, and not just because I’m too busy. I complained that I feel awkward because I can’t understand her, and I feel uncomfortable looking at her—or not looking at her.

“Help me to see Jackie as you see her,” I pleaded. “Help me see the beauty in her. And help me to really LOVE her. I don’t want to just do good deeds because I know you expect me to. I want to be kind to her out of love. I want to fall in love with her and take delight in spending time with her.”

I didn’t give much more thought to Jackie until this evening, when I arrived at Bible study (Margaret Feinberg’s Verbs of God). Our study leader, Roberta, asked what I thought of this week’s lesson: God Calls. I admitted that I hadn’t even looked at the study since Bill’s been out of town and it’s all I can do to hold our family’s routine together. “Is it about God calling Samuel?” I asked.

“Ah, ‘Here I am LORD, your servant is listening’? No. It’s about Jesus calling the disciples.” She said she hoped that the ladies would be able to recognize how God is calling us in our daily lives, and that we would respond as the disciples did, by following Jesus.

Are you calling me, God? I thought. I heard one word in reply. Jackie.

Is this really my calling right now? I wondered. Or is this just something I stumbled onto?

I didn’t have to wait long for my confirmation. We started the study with a video about a woman who went on a mission trip to an Asian orphanage. The video cut to pictures of a baby in a crib, a baby with a horrendously deformed face. She had not only a cleft palate and cleft lip, but also a cleft face. A red crevice ran diagonally across her entire right cheek, her nose was in the wrong place, and her blind left eye bulged from its socket.

You could hear the sharp intake of breath as many of us gasped in unison. The woman explained how she was drawn to this baby who had no chance of a normal life. “All I saw when I looked at her was beauty,” she said. “I knew I had to help this child.”

I sobbed quietly as this woman recited back my own prayers to me. And I let the tears fall as she described her experiences with just holding this baby and loving her. “Help me love that way,” I prayed.

The missionary didn’t just give the baby a few hugs and go on her way. No, she refused to give up. She found a surgeon who could rebuild her face, and she went through all the red tape of a foreign adoption. Three and a half years after she met the baby, she took her home to America.

Tomorrow Allyson and I will visit Jackie again. We’ll bring her coleslaw, her favorite food, and Allyson will read her another story, probably about birds. And I will probably feel awkward, but I’m praying that God will go with me, and that He will let me feel his heart for Jackie. And maybe we will all begin to fall in love.

Please keep us in your prayers. Specifically, I need God to show me ways to make Jackie feel loved. Any ideas?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Halloween Pictures... Just in Time for Thanksgiving

I figure I ought to post the Halloween pictures before we hit another major holiday. Since I have a cold and I'm tired, I've resolved to just post the pictures this time. No stories! Let's see if I can pull that off.

Friday 10/28/11
Allyson getting ready for school, dressed up as a favorite story book character...

Don't you just want to pinch her cheeks?

Sunday 10/30/11

Jack O' Lanterns - Bill's, Allyson's, Ethan's (which he traced and carved all on his own)...

Halloween Night
I cringed when Bill cut up one of my old suit jackets for Ethan's hobo costume. Bill rubbed my back and spoke in soothing tones. "It's o-kay. You have enough clothes to wear." I protested that I wasn't worried about having enough clothes; it was just that I had that jacket in the Goodwill pile. Bill said no one would miss my out-of-style suit.

I have to admit it worked pretty well for Ethan's costume. See the soot on his cheeks and shirt? Bill practically had to hold him down in order to rub that on him. When did he suddenly become a clean freak?

Ready to go...

Allyson and I went out with Ethan and the neighbors across the street, our usual trick-or-treat buddies. After only a couple of blocks, Allyson announced that she had more candy than she needed (!), and she asked to go home and hand out candy with Daddy. Ethan stayed out another hour or so and came home with about five pounds of candy.

Sifting through her loot...

Looks like she got a yucky candy...

The highlight of my evening had to be eating a piece of pumpkin pie, freshly made from a pumpkin I'd roasted the night before, with a crust I made myself, topped with freshly whipped cream. YUM!!!

There, I did it. Pretty much. Those weren't stories, right? More like captions. Happy late Halloween to you, and happy early Thanksgiving too.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

That's My Boy on the Jumbo-Tron

As I mentioned in my last entry, Ethan's school football team had a playoff game on Saturday. That in itself was pretty exciting since they were expected to have a losing season. But the most exciting part was the venue: the ridiculously monstrous and elaborate Dallas Cowboys Stadium! Among other things, I'm told it has the heaviest electronic door in the world, plus the largest retractable roof.

Since the game prices are about as big as the stadium, this was our best chance at getting inside (though Bill had already toured it once with his parents). We got tickets to the playoff game for just $8 each, including two for my parents. Both Mom and Dad were very excited to see the stadium, and of course to hear Ethan's band play in the halftime show.

Although I had seen the pictures from Bill's tour, I still caught my breath when we first walked in and looked down on the field.

After a bit of gawking, we settled into the blue cushioned seats and watched Ethan's team get trounced. They didn't score a single point, though they had some maddeningly close chances. While we watched, Allyson bought some $5 cotton candy (with some help from Grandma), and then chased that down with a $5 bottle of 7-Up.

The halftime show, at least, did not disappoint. I could just make out Ethan behind the chimes, and now and then I could hear him playing.

Luckily, there was a Jumbo-Tron that Bill estimated to be twice as wide as our house. Can you spot Ethan in the bottom left corner, between the chimes and the big bass drum?

Yes, it's just the back of his head, but how many people can say they've seen their son on the Jumbo-Tron at the Cowboys Stadium? Pretty cool, huh? (It looks like he was looking up at himself on the giant screen.)

After the game, we hung around trying to get Ethan's attention. When he spotted me and Bill, he gave the subtlest wave, just a wiggling of his fingers. He almost smiled but caught himself just in time. When Mom and Dad stepped down to the railing, I figured I should warn them not to expect much acknowledgement.

But Ethan gave each of them a full wave AND a big grin! I hope it warmed their hearts as much as it did mine. It was a great experience, one that many of those kids might talk about for the rest of their lives, or at least all weekend. Ethan did, at least.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Smelly Dog, Smelly Dog... What Are They Feeding You?

Remember that time I just about killed our dog Lola when Bill went out of town and left her in my care? Well, I probably should have disclosed that story to our neighbors when they asked if I could take care of their dog, cat, and fish while they went on vacation.

The first day, Friday, went very well. I almost forgot to go over that morning, but remembered by 9:00 or so. No harm done. But Zeus, a beautiful German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix, looked pretty mournful. I asked him if he wanted to come play with Lola, whom he'd met the night before, but he just cowered on his bed in the master bathroom. "I'll be back this afternoon," I promised as I pulled the door almost closed--just the way I'd found it when I arrived.

True to my word, I came back after work and brought Zeus over to our backyard. Lola was ecstatic. She circled Zeus, did lots of sniffing (I won't say where), and basically dogged his every step. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)
Lola on Left, Zeus on Right

Zeus endured her enthusiasm patiently as he methodically explored the backyard. On the way back to the neighbors' house a couple hours later, I marveled at how well behaved Zeus was on the leash. Not only was there no pressure on the leash ever, but he also stopped and waited politely whenever I fell behind.

On Saturday morning, all still seemed well. I mounded up the food in Zeus's bowl and watched with satisfaction as he gulped it greedily. Next, Allyson and I played with the cat for a few minutes before heading off to Ethan's football playoff game (more on that later).

Everything was wonderful until Sunday afternoon, when I was hosting a little gathering for my missionary friend, Melissa. While I sat and nibbled meatballs and finger-sized desserts with my friends, I sent Bill over to pick up Zeus for a playdate. Noting that he was gone an exceedingly long time, I figured he'd put his feet up on their couch and was enjoying the peace and quiet.

When he returned without the dog nearly an hour later, I mouthed, "Where's the...?"

He just shook his head, pressing his lips together tightly, as he passed through the living room. Once the party was wrapping up, he beckoned me to the kitchen and quietly debriefed me.

"That dog is SICK," he informed me.

"Oh no! What's wrong?"

"There was crap and puke all over the bathroom, and some in the bedroom too. That's why I was gone so long."

"Oh no! You had to clean it up?"

He shrugged. "Well, I couldn't leave it there, could I? I wiped everything down with bleach spray and put the dog in the backyard until the fumes dissipate."

[Is my husband a saint, or what? But if you've read this blog long, you already knew that.]

Back at the neighbors' house that evening, I thought about how Zeus had polished off two full bowls of food each day. Was I overfeeding him? Elizabeth had assured me that he self feeds, so I should just give him a full bowl. Maybe he was overeating because he felt insecure without his owners, I reasoned.

I gave him just a tiny bit more food and closed him in the bathroom, this time shutting the door tightly. "I hope you feel better, Zeus." I called over my shoulder.

This morning there were four more piles of diarrhea in the bathroom. Ugh! I needed to run an errand before work, so I put Zeus in the yard and left the mess to deal with later.

About 3:30 this afternoon, later rolled around. I took a deep breath of clean air and asked Bill for pointers on cleaning up the mess, which thankfully was limited to the bathroom tile this time.

"Just mop it up with paper towels and spray the heck out of it with bleach spray," he advised.

I thanked him and asked if he could run to the store for me to pick up some cream cheese I needed for the meatball sub casserole I planned to make with leftover meatballs from yesterday's party.

"The store?" Bill groaned. "I don't feel like going to the store."

"Oh, and the bank," I added. "I didn't get to go on Friday because of Veterans' Day, so we need money before you can go to the store."

"Never mind," Bill grumped. "I'll go take care of the mess and you go to the bank."
I tilted my head and studied him, my eyebrows scrunched in disbelief. "You mean to tell me you'd rather clean up dog crap than go to the bank?"

He shrugged. "I don't feel like going to the bank."

"Suit yourself," I said, traipsing off to the bank with a spring in my step.

While I was in line at the bank, my cell phone rang. It was Bill. "Did you say you were feeding the dog out of the little bag inside the big plastic bin?"

"Ye-es," I answered cautiously.

"The one with the picture of the cat on the front?"

I put a hand over my mouth and rolled my eyes up at the ceiling. "Oh my gosh..."

"The bag that says, 'Specially formulated to prevent hairballs'?" he continued.

"No way. Oh my gosh."

Now for all you dog (and cat) lovers out there, be assured that I do realize this is NOT funny. Not at all. I don't think either Bill or Zeus saw any humor in the situation. But I couldn't help laughing at myself, howling actually, right there in the teller line. "I swear it said dog food when I looked at it on Friday," I choked out as tears streamed down both cheeks. "I just don't understand how-"

"You are something else, woman!"

"I gotta go," I said. "Talk to you later."

The two tellers in earshot were intrigued, so I told them the whole sad story. All three of us laughed ourselves silly. "Oh that poor dog," my teller said ruefully.

"Yes, poor dog," I repeated, thinking back to how I'd been congratulating myself for winning Zeus's trust--all the while trying to poison him with cat food! (Speaking of the cat, Charlie scarcely ate any of the dog food I mounded up in the bowl. Hopefully she suffered no ill effects.)

After eating some of his actual food (the big pieces of food in the giant plastic bin, as opposed to the tiny pieces of food in the little bag), Zeus seemed quite chipper. He stayed with Lola in our yard until Shawn came for him just before dinner.

Shawn listened to the whole story quite graciously, but I rather doubt I'll be asked to keep those pets again. Can you blame him?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Still Rejoicing

Yesterday morning, Gentle and I woke up around 4:45 to cram all our stuff, including air mattresses and sleeping bags, into our duffle bags. Then we had to figure out how to tear down the tent and stuff it into its impossibly tiny bag. Luckily Gentle has a lot more patience than I do.

We had breakfast, put on considerably fewer layers than the two prior days, and lined up to board a bus to the drop-off point for the day.
Fellow Walkers

As I took those first few steps on my aching feet, the hours stretched long ahead of me, but then I glimpsed the hat of the woman in front of me:

"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD"
The first tears of the day welled up. I could have kissed that stranger. Instead, I laid a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you," I said. "I really needed that verse this morning."

The morning was pleasant. I savored the breeze on my bare arms and legs, but I didn't like the look of the heavy gray sky. I politely asked God if He'd mind holding back the rain for us, but told Him I'd praise Him and rely on Him to help us through it either way.

We walked through a gorgeous neighborhood, Highland Park, where I had an aching longing to walk on the cushy grass instead of the hard sidewalk. But I stayed on the straight and narrow (most of the time). Ah, that grass felt so good when I had to step aside to pass or be passed.

Around mile five I started feeling a telltale hot spot on the ball of my left foot. I sat down in some of that cushy grass and applied another strip of moleskin. At the next rest stop, I added yet another strip. But apparently I missed the target by about a millimeter because by the last pit stop, I had my very first blister! Nooooo!!!

Sorry, Couldn't Help Myself. Can You See It? 
Gentle gave me a blister band-aid and I put on two more strips of moleskin over top of it, right up to the base of my toes. Those last five miles hurt so much more knowing there was a blister there.

More than ever, I relied on the love and support of the spectators to give me the courage to keep walking. I was thankful for:

  • The passing sweep vans with their crazy decorations and loud music. (They continually circled to pick up exhausted and injured walkers who needed a lift.)
  • The "walker stalkers," friends and family who shadowed the route to give out Kleenex, gum, handi wipes, and even champagne to not only their own walkers but to anyone else who passed by. 
The Craziest Walker-Stalkers

  • The neighborhood residents who handed out donuts and kolaches and thank-yous.
  • The double rows of encouragers at each cheering station.
  • The safety crew members who told us how many miles to the next stop as they helped us across the intersections.
  • The amazingly kind and supportive Dallas officers who worked the biggest intersections. I was moved to tears by one officer who told us about his wife, a ten-year survivor. 
  • The costumed dogs that never failed to make me smile. 

  • The inspiring words and scriptures on posters, on the backs of T-shirts, and on signs pinned to backpacks. 

  • The fact that the rain held off until we entered the grounds of the closing ceremony site (Fair Park). Thank you, thank you, God!
  • The constant company of my sweet friend Gentle.

Manicure by Gentle, Gloves from Bill's Mom

I think Gentle was hurting about as bad as I was, or maybe worse. I don't know if I ever told that you she broke her toe about five weeks before the walk. She was supposed to be in her boot until just before the event, but she was able to take it off and resume training the last couple of weeks. Still, she missed about a month of crucial training, so I was amazed at her fortitude. We praise God that He healed her toe and gave her the strength to keep walking.

We walked the last two miles mostly in silence. I tried to take in all the sights around me and enjoy those last steps even though my feet were NOT HAPPY AT ALL. Still, I knew I would be sorry for the journey to end. 

Periodically we were forced to speak when people questioned us about our Five Finger Shoes. On the first two days, we raved about them: "Yes, we've been wearing them the whole way. Yes, they are quite comfortable. No, they don't provide any support or cushioning; that's the whole point. No, we don't have any blisters." 
Mine on Left, Gentle's on Right

But by the end of day three, our typical answer was. "Fabulous. Just fabulous." 

I really was amazed that my tired feet could support themselves without all the padding of traditional shoes, and that in fact I seemed less sore and less blistered than the other walkers. I think if your arches can support themselves for 60 miles, you really don't need expensive, high-tech shoes. God is the most ingenious designer!

But I digress.... One of my favorite crossing guards, a Harley rider who always greeted us with a giant grin, warned us about the finish line: "You WILL cry." 

I figured I would, but I wasn't prepared for the onslaught of emotion as I walked the last 300 yards or so. On either side, families and other walkers who'd finished earlier shouted and clapped and grabbed our hands. "Way to go! You did it! Thank you for walking!" 

I looked left and right, wishing Laura could be there to fold us in a group hug as she'd planned. I wanted her there walking beside me, taking in all this praise that I didn't deserve. She was the real hero! I remembered one of my favorite pictures of her crossing the finish line at Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure:

As I pictured that amazing grin, my happy tears turned into sobs. It was the kind of crying you don't really want to share with strangers, ugly and snotty and embarrassing. 

I wasn't sure why I was crying. I was overwhelmed by joy, triumph, relief, sorrow, exhaustion, and loss. Just when I thought I couldn't bear another moment, a woman stepped out of the line on my left and pulled me into a tight hug. I clung to her for several seconds, wiped away my tears, and raised both arms in triumph as I crossed into the holding area. 

As we paraded up to the closing ceremony, I strained to spot my family in the crowd, but there were just too many people. Bill did catch a glimpse of me, though. When I met them in the baggage recovery area, I was delighted to see that my mom had come along. I squeezed them all tight and then trudged a long, long way to the car, chattering the whole way. 

At home I was thrilled to find a welcome home poster on the door, laboriously lettered by Allyson. "Walking for Laura.... 60 miles... 11.... Way to go!... I think you did a good job." In the middle was a darling picture of me and Gentle walking on a long path. 

On the table were six pink roses and a touching card from Bill. Soon after, Bill served us fettucini alfredo--delicious! 

After dinner, he urged me to go up and soak in the tub. I went up to find the (clean) bathtub lined with candles. There was an assortment of bubble baths and mineral salts, and my robe hung from the towel rack. I felt so loved as I sank into that warm water and let the day's aches melt away. 

The bath probably wasn't as relaxing as Bill had envisioned because two minutes into it, Allyson bounded in. "Can I get in with you?" I hesitated for just a moment and then opened my arms. So we soaked together. And splashed. And got water everywhere. But it was all good. I was right where I wanted to be. 

Thank you to everyone for your love and support. I love you guys!

P.S. Before she went home last night, Mom prayed that my blister would heal while I slept and that I would "jump out of bed rejoicing." And that's exactly what happened! I think the blister is gone, but I can't be sure because I can't get the blister band-aid off. (It's crazy sticky!) My feet still hurt, but I don't have any pain where the blister was. I'm still rejoicing. Over everything.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

One Foot in Front of the Other

Today was our longest day--21.3 miles (don't forget the 0.3!). Gentle and I started just before 8:00, again with our multiple layers, and got back to camp a little before 6:00.

The highlight of my day was seeing my mom, my sisters Amy and Emily, and Emily's kids Savannah and Charlie at cheer station 1. They'd been waiting for us about 1.5 hours in the cold, but they were having fun cheering on all the other hundreds of walkers. It was so moving to see them waiting there to give us hugs and encouragement. It was hard to say goodbye, but we had to move on so we wouldn't miss the cutoff for the next pit stop (in which case we would be bussed to the next stop).

As we walked away, tears streamed down my face because everyone--EVERYONE--was so kind and loving. This has been one of the best experiences of my life.

It was good we had so much support because we really needed it. It was tough today! Our feet were aching, and our backs, and our shoulders. And we were flat out exhausted. As we drug into pit stop 4, the second to last, I wondered if we could make it. There were five miles more to go, and we were out of steam. But we drank our sports drink, peed in the surprisingly decent flushing porta potties, did some stretches, and headed back out. Oh, and we said a prayer asking God for strength.

And he answered. Those last six miles were the sweetest. Everyone was festive, all part of one team sharing one goal. We got giggly at times, going into what I call slumber party mode.

As we finished those last miles, the supporters were more and more encouraging. "Just 2 more miles, ladies!" "Only 0.3 miles to the next stop."

And then we hit our last mile. "We can do it," I said, assuring both of us. "We just have to put one foot in front of the other."

A couple blocks later, there was a lady holding a sign saying exactly the same thing. "Just one foot in front of the other." I cried again, for the 15th time today.

And then there was the older woman who didn't just high five me, but actually clutched my hand. And there was the family who handed out donuts and hot chocolate from their front yard, and even offered their bathroom to us.

It was an awesome day, one when we found out what we are really made of.

Tomorrow, we get to do it all again.
Last Pit Stop--3 more miles to Go!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 1!

Me with Some of the Kind Strangers Along the Route

I have time for just a quick post tonight. Just finished day 1 of my 3-Day Walk, 17 miles so far. Gentle and I spent the night with my old Girl Scout friend Diana. We had a wonderful visit last night, and then she drove us to the opening ceremony this morning.
We were up at 5:20 and out the door by 6:00, wearing lots of layers. I believe it was 38 degrees, but there was very little wind. The only thing cold on me was my toes, which were about frozen in my 5-finger shoes. We stood around waiting for over an hour before the opening ceremony. They were playing loud, fun party music, and my feet were tapping even as my eyes kept filling with tears. I was waiting behind a beautiful young woman with stubbly black hair. From the back, I could imagine she was Laura, walking with us just as she dreamed of doing.
I asked God if she could walk with us, like I felt she did a few weeks after her death. (That time, I went for a one-hour training walk and talked to her the whole time about every memory I had of our short, sweet friendship. I turned at one point and said, "Are you holding my hand?" I really think she was.)
This time, I just felt she was looking down from heaven, along with so many others who battled cancer. I missed her so much, but I was happy knowing she was at perfect peace.
My next tears came when I saw the long line of strangers cheering us on as we finally embarked on our journey. There were mothers, teenagers, babies, dogs, and Harley Davidson riders, and they all high fived us as we passed and said, "Thank you for walking."
We saw the most amazing and hilarious costumes along the way, like a man wearing only shorts, a pink bra, and a Miss April sash. Also a dog wearing a pink leotard and a black tutu.
Throughout the walk, people cheered, shouted, and high fived us. In the morning, we passed an elementary school where the children lined up in rows and cheered like we were movie stars. At that point it was still very cold, but their love really warmed me up.
In the afternoon, it was much warmer, a gorgeous 70 degrees or so. By then I was down to a T-shirt and a tennis skirt. Just before the last pit stop, we passed a high school where about 100 kids lined both sides of the sidewalk. Some of them just stood there looking bored, but many of them--both boys and girls--seemed very sincere as they thanked us for walking. Remember my recent negative experience with kids at the football game? Well, these kids restored my faith in teenagers.
When we arrived in camp around 4:00, two young men who looked to be college age asked if they could carry our bags to the tent site. When we got there, they informed us that they were going to set up the tent for us! Neither Gentle nor I has ever set up a tent, so we were ecstatic. I think they were our Komen angels for the day.
I wish I'd thought to take a picture of the tent; maybe tomorrow. Our twin air mattresses filled the entire space, and we had to leave our bulging duffle bags outside.
Well, that air mattress is calling me. More soon!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Soggy Bottom Sisters

Here is what will likely be my last 3-Day training update before the big event--one week from today!

I did my second 18-mile walk about four weeks ago, a lovely walk through Downtown Fort Worth. I met several great ladies and enjoyed hours of endless conversation that helped me forget my tired feet. (The Advils I downed with breakfast and lunch helped too).

Along the way, we spotted this firetruck that the city had decorated up for breast cancer awareness month:

The next morning I popped a few more Advil, slipped back into my Five Finger shoes, and headed out to Lake Grapevine for a 15-mile walk. I was delighted to see several of my new friends waiting in the semi darkness. My friend Kelly, the one who sent me the angel book, also came out to walk with me.

But I'm afraid Kelly soon regretted that decision. The first hour was lovely as we walked through the trees beside the lake and watched the sun rise. Before long, though, it began to sprinkle. I got my $3 pancho out of my backpack. It stopped raining. I put it back. A few more spatters fell. I got the pancho out. It stopped. I put it away.

And then it started to rain in earnest. Everyone pulled out panchos--except Kelly, who'd been in a rush and didn't bring one. "Maybe it will stop soon," I said.

But it soon became apparent that this was the kind of slow, steady rain that lasts for hours. Or days. My pancho kept me fairly dry, but I learned that the Five Finger shoes provide zero protection from water. They're basically just fancy toe socks with a thin rubber sole. The water flowed freely over my feet, gumming up the protective moleskin I'd applied to prevent blisters.

After eight miserable miles, we arrived at a great hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Burritos Locos. They were crazy burritos indeed--crazy big!

By the Way, That's Ethan's Gaudy Sweatshirt, The Only One I Could Find at 6 in the Morning
While we enjoyed our breakfast burritos, we hemmed and hawed over whether to continue the walk. Jennifer, the walk leader, said her husband would be glad to come shuttle anyone who wanted to call it quits to their cars.

One by one, each woman agreed that would be the most sensible plan. I nodded my head, but inside I really wanted to do the 15 miles. Jennifer said, "If anyone wants to keep walking, I'll go with you. But no complaining." I looked around the table, but no one met my eyes. I didn't want to be the one to make Jennifer get back out in the rain.

"Okay then," she said.

It was now or never. I cleared my throat. "I'd kind of like to keep walking," I said. "But I don't want to make Jennifer go if I'm the only one. Does anyone else want to finish the walk?"

One by one, hands went up around the table. Evidently we'd all been holding back out of consideration for the others! In the end, six out of eight changed into dry socks and donned our panchos, which had been drying on chairs at an unoccupied table. (Kelly was one of the ones who went home since she was the most drenched.)

My fresh socks were soaked before we got out of the parking lot. But I felt warm inside for following through even when it got tough. I think the others felt the same way because we were all suddenly quite cheerful. Marching along through the puddles, we sang "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes."

Okay, maybe it was only Jennifer who sang, and what she actually said was, "We'll be soaking in a hot tub when we come." I was singing on the inside.

Jennifer lamented that her behind was soaked because she hadn't put her pancho on straight. "You know what we are?" she asked. "We're the Soggy Bottom Sisters."

I laughed. "I'm using that for the title on my blog entry."

For the record, my bottom was perfectly dry, though my cold, stiff feet had long since shriveled up like prunes. But I finished that walk! What's a little rain?

The Scaredy-Dog
I've continued to take Lola on my solo walks, always sticking to the neighborhood streets and avoiding the park, which is infested with other dogs. About a week ago, we were strolling down an empty street when Lola suddenly stopped in her tracks, stiff as a statue.

I followed her gaze to the yard on my right, where a giant inflatable cat with glowing eyes moved its head back and forth, looking ready to pounce.

"Come on, Lola," I coaxed, trying to pull her along down the sidewalk. Lola whined and lunged into the street, taking me with her. Thankfully there were no cars coming. I tried to drag her back onto the sidewalk, but she pulled harder the other way, wrapping her leash around the tree in the foreground. I finally gave up and walked in the street until the cat was well out of sight.

"Scaredy-dog," I taunted.

Want to Go For a Walk? Never Mind
A few nights later, my dear friend and 3-Day partner Gentle came over to walk with me. Lola, who was in the kitchen for some reason, followed me around as I filled my water bottles and slipped them into my belt. When she heard the jingle of the mace whistle I always wear on our walks, she began to dance for joy, almost tripping me up. She was glued to my side as I completed my preparations.

"Lola, you're not coming this time" I said gently. "Gentle and I are walking in the park, and you just can't go there again. Ever. I'm sorry."

She continued her leaping dance, literally turning circles in the air.

I felt so rotten. "Not this time, Lola," I repeated. "Allyson, would you put Lola out, please?"

Allyson led Lola onto the back porch, but before she could close the screen door, Lola darted back in and ran up to my side, whining. I took her back out and closed the door myself. "I'll take you for a walk tomorrow," I promised.

"Why are you being mean to the dog?" Bill asked. "Why did you get that fancy leash and make her think you were going to walk her every day, but now you just leave her at home?"

I pursed my lips. "If she didn't lunge at every dog she sees, I could take her with me."

Gentle arrived just then, and I didn't give Lola another thought. But she had not forgotten. When I got back home over an hour later, she was still waiting at the back door. Her tail started thumping the moment she saw me.

"We're not going for a walk," I said.

This time Lola actually seemed to understand my words, and she started to cry. I don't mean the usual whining. It was the closest thing to sobbing that I've ever heard from a dog. She cried and cried. I knelt on the other side of the screen door and spoke softly to her. "I'll take you for a walk tomorrow, Lola. I promise."

She continued to whine.

"You broke Lola's heart," Bill accused.

"She's breaking my heart now, so we're even," I said. It was true. I never expected to get so attached to her, despite all our struggles.

True to my word, I did take her for a short walk the next night. And all was forgiven.

But Bill won't stop teasing. At random moments he walks up to the open screen door and says, "Wanna go for a walk? Oh, never mind." But she doesn't fall for it. She knows it's only walk time when I'm wearing the shoes and the water belt and the whistle. And carrying the poop bag.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Get Your Feet Wet

For the last five weeks, I've been enjoying a Priscilla Shirer Bible study called One in a Million. It's about what God taught the Israelites during their time in the wilderness, and how He moved them into the Promised Land. I've learned many exciting truths over the last few weeks, and tonight I just feel compelled to share how God has been speaking to me.

Nevertheless People
When the Israelites reached the edge of the Promised Land (Canaan), Moses sent out 12 spies to see what the land was like and what kind of people lived there (Numbers 13).  Upon their return, all 12 spies reported that the land was flowing with milk and honey, just as God had promised. As evidence, they brought back a single cluster of grapes so big that two men had to carry it on a pole between them.

But 10 of the spies tacked something on the end of that initial report. "Nevertheless," they said, "The people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.... All the people we saw there are of great size.... We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

So they saw the cluster, the sure sign of God's blessing, and their answer was, "Nevertheless."

What about the other two spies, Joshua and Caleb? "The LORD is with us," they said. "Do not be afraid of them."

But the Israelites listened to the report of the 10 spies. They saw the promise, but refused to believe. The result was 40 years of wandering for that entire generation. Out of about 2 million people, only Joshua and Caleb got to enter the Promised Land. (Each of them was "One in a Million.") Not even Moses got to enter, although God did allow him to view Canaan from a mountain on the other side of the Jordan River.

Priscilla urged us to consider the new territory God wants to take us to. She suggested that we make a "cluster keeper," a journal or some other record of the clusters of blessings God has already given us. When we feel afraid, when we feel tempted to say "Nevertheless," we should focus on our personal proofs of God's goodness and faithfulness. God has selected US to break through the barriers, to break out of our religious complacency and go where He leads us.

Wet Feet
After Moses saw the Promised Land, he died and Joshua became the new leader. The Israelites mourned for 30 days, and then they moved forward under Joshua's leadership (Deuteronomy 34).

  • Joshua acted immediately in obedience to God. He didn't linger or procrastinate. "Early in the morning, Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over." (Joshua 3:1) They camped there for three days, getting a good look at their impossible circumstance; it was April, and the river was swollen with melted snow from the mountain.
  • Joshua acted fearlessly in spite of insurmountable odds. Right there on the banks of the raging river, he told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you." (Joshua 3:5)

    Just as God had instructed, Joshua told the priests to carry the ark of the covenant and go ahead of the people. At the beginning of the exodus, when God parted the Red Sea, the previous generation had stepped out onto dry land. But this time the priests had to step into the flood waters. They had to get their feet wet and trust that God would hold back the water as he had promised.
  • Joshua acknowledged the presence of God. He instructed the people to watch the ark of the covenant. When they saw the priests carrying it, they were to move out from their positions and follow it. (Joshua 3:3)
So what does all this mean?
  1. "The bigger your deep waters, the more enormous the opportunity for a miracle. Celebrate!"
  2. Get up early, literally and figuratively. Start your day by seeking God's direction, and make Him your first priority.
  3. As you look around at your impossible circumstance, or you contemplate the impossible task God has called you to do, anticipate miracles. Don't let Satan's stronghold of fear hold you back from pursuing God's will.
  4. Wait for God to move before you move. Just as the Israelites waited for the ark of the covenant, which represented God's presence, we must watch for God's leading. And don't be distracted by all the good things around you. "Every good thing is not a God thing." If you get too busy doing good things, you won't be able to accomplish God's purpose for you.
  5. Get your feet wet. When you see God leading you, go ahead and step out. God will hold back the waters, but you have to take that first step in faith.
As Priscilla shared all these truths, I felt a stirring in my spirit--excitement for the future and dissatisfaction with life as usual. But I can't just charge ahead. I have to know where God is leading me. I'm going to take Priscilla's advice and pray that God will heighten my spiritual senses and make me aware of His presence. I'm going to spend more time with God and find out what good things I need to pass up so that I can focus on doing only His will for me.

I fully expect to see evidence of God's leading in my life. I intend to get my feet wet as soon as He gives me the signal.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Am Soree

I've been amazed at how quickly Allyson's writing skills are developing. It absolutely thrills me to see how she's learning to communicate her thoughts on paper, and how she loves writing as much as I do.

But today I learned that the thoughts she communicates aren't always pure, lovely, and of good report.

We were just walking through the door this evening when my cell phone rang. I shut the door behind Allyson, waved absently at Bill, and stood in the back door so I could hear my friend better.

Within moments, Allyson was whining loudly and Bill was grumping, so I stepped onto the back porch to continue my conversation. Even through the closed door, I could hear Bill scolding and Allyson wailing.

When I finished my call, I came back inside to find Bill alone at the kitchen table. From upstairs came the muffled sound of Allyson's sobs.

"What was all that drama about?" I asked.

He explained that Allyson had pulled out a bunch of snacks and was going to pour some honey, but he made her stop. Despite her tears, he remained firm. So she looked him in the eye and licked the top of the honey bottle.

"She what??" I gasped. Now I understood why I'd heard Bill yelling.

"Oh, but that's not all. After her time out, she brought me this..."

When he handed me the paper at the top of the picture below, my eyebrows rose in shock. Hoo boy!

Where did our 5-year-old learn to say something like "shut up"? And how did she know how to spell it? (I was pretty sure Bill hadn't dictated it for her.)

"Where is she now?" I asked, once I'd regained my power of speech.

Bill pressed his lips into a grim line. "In her room."

When Bill opened Allyson's door a few minutes later, she shyly held out the paper at the bottom of the picture below:

"I Am Soree Thet I Wus Noteye Dadee"
My heart melted, but Bill struggled to maintain his frown.

"I'm sorry," Allyson whispered.

Bill knelt in front of her. "I'm glad you're sorry about being naughty. But why were you acting so naughty to begin with?"

Shrugging, she put her arms around her "dadee", and the last of his resistance slipped away.

Putting Her Talents to Better Use
Thankfully, Allyson usually uses her crayons to deliver more wholesome messages. Here's an example from last week:

After learning to draw an owl in art class, she decided to draw a bunch of owls to sell in our upcoming garage sale.

"I made each picture a little different," she explained. "That way people can pick the one they like best."

"Honey, I don't think people will buy pictures of owls," Bill said.

As I surveyed her work, my heart swelled with pride. "Oh, I think they might," I said. "If I saw a kid selling pictures like these, I might buy one."

"Sure you would," Bill retorted, and I knew he was thinking about my fanatical adherence to the Dave Ramsey budget.

"She can sell them at her lemonade stand," I said.

"Ooh, and this time I can keep all my money!" Allyson's face lit up as she remembered all the cash she'd raked in at our last garage sale.

Just in case the art sale doesn't pan out, Allyson has a few other ideas:

She can give art lessons:
"Example Made By Allyson"

(She already gave free lessons to Bill and me, and I have to say she is quite an exacting teacher.)

She can also sell her illustrations to science book publishers:
"Migration in Owls"

So, would anyone like to buy an owl picture?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Four Weeks and Counting...

...until my 3-Day Walk. I don't know whether to be excited or nervous. A little of both, I guess. Here's an update on my progress.

On average, I walk around 30 miles a week now, but sometimes I walk more than that in just one weekend. I typically do my longest walks on Saturday, anywhere from three to seven hours, and slightly shorter walks on Sunday. And then I try to get in at least two shorter walks during the week, about one or two hours at a time.

I had to slow down for a couple of weeks after I fell down the stairs. I could walk only an hour at a time, and I was only able to walk a little over two miles an hour, when previously I could walk up to four miles an hour. That was frustrating, and rather painful but not unbearable.

Saturday before last was my first long walk after the injury, and I was ecstatic to be able to complete the 18 miles with a large group of 3-Day participants. It was both easier and harder than I expected: easier because my sore hip did not bother me at all (though I did take Advil, and I did have to walk at a relatively slow pace); harder because my feet go SO sore on my second lap around White Rock Lake. What surprised me the most was how utterly drained I was after walking 6.5 hours. I had to slap my cheeks repeatedly on the one-hour drive home to keep myself awake. And when I got home, I collapsed in an easy chair for a two-hour nap. After that, I was STILL tired. In fact, I was exhausted for three days!

Waking up early the next morning and slipping into my Five Finger shoes for another 10 miles took all the discipline I could muster. My calves were tight, my feet still hurt, and I felt like I'd been rudely awakened in the middle of the night even though it was 7:00, two hours later than I'd risen the previous morning. But I drug myself out of bed and walked 7 miles, which was all I had time for before church. My feet had felt bruised, but walking actually seemed to loosen them up. Same thing with my leg muscles.

I've got another 18-mile walk scheduled this Saturday, followed by 15 miles on Sunday. That will be the peak of my training. After that it will wind down in preparation for the event--walking 60 miles in three days.

I should also share that I have exceeded the minimum fundraising amount for the walk, for a total of $2432.79. Thank you to everyone for your generous donations, your prayers, and your support. And thank you to God for blessing my recent garage sale fundraiser not only beyond what I expected, but beyond the beyond.

I can't wait to share the story of my 3-Day adventure. In the meantime, here are a few tidbits about my training so far....

Training Buddies
Here are pictures of some of my training buddies over the last seven months. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

My Hubby
(For a Couple Blocks Some Nights, If I Sweet Talk Him)

Sister Melody, Me, Aunt Sue, Sister Amy, Sue's Dog Miley, Allyson

Elizabeth and Daughter Abigail

Gentle, My 3-Day Partner
Ethan, If I Beg

Lori with Daughter Abigail (Now age 4)
Abigail always says, "Are we walking with Sar-wah today?"

Pamela, the Girl Who Saw the Angel When She Was Sick with Appendicitis

New Buddies That I Met at White Rock Lake
On that walk, I saw three couples on tandem bikes, a man on a unicycle, two cross-country skiers on wheels, and a sexy girl perched on a pink Vespa scooter in leopard skin pumps pretending to read a book (no photographer in sight). Plus about a hundred cyclists who kept whizzing past us.
Allyson and Me at a Charity Walk, Two Weeks After My Injury
I walked so slowly we were almost dead last. Even a barefooted toddler passed us up.

Sweet Laura, Of Course 
Man, I Miss That Grin

I didn't think to take a picture, but on Saturday I walked 10 miles with Kelly, the friend of Laura who mailed me the book on angels. She also plans to walk with me part of the way at the 3-Day event, though she is not an official participant. I think we will be good friends.

My Most Faithful Buddy 
There's one more walking buddy, the most faithful and enthusiastic of all. Guess who? Yep, Lola. Her new harness makes her almost manageable. 

Notice anything unusual about the picture? Look closely at the leash. That's right: there's slack in the leash! We've never had that before. 

In a world without other dogs, she'd be a great walking partner. The harness really works miracles in averting her natural instinct to pull against the leash--except when another dog is within five feet or so. Lola is strong enough to just about pull me off my feet when she lunges at other dogs. We follow a circuitous route, avoiding all the fenced dogs in the neighborhood. But we can't go to the park at all; it's teeming with dogs on a mild day. I don't know which is worse, the embarrassment of dragging my naughty dog past other people with their perfectly behaved dogs, or trying to separate her from other naughty dogs who hurl themselves at her. 

A More Noxious Problem
The most embarrassing problem of all is one I never expected to face. In the four years we've had her, Lola had never, ever pooped anywhere except our backyard. But I guess our frequent long walks have made her more comfortable outside her own turf because last Wednesday she dropped a big load when we were still about a block from home. Uh oh! 

I'd been so presumptuous over Lola's sense of propriety that I hadn't even brought a plastic bag along. For a moment I was seized with the temptation to slink away and pretend my dog had nothing to do with the steaming pile of dung, but my conscience wouldn't let me. The poop was in the worst possible spot, at the edge of the road right next to the front door of a parked car. (Don't worry, I didn't take a picture!)

We hurried home for some plastic grocery bags. On the way back, I silently prayed that no one would come out of the house and find that poop before I could clean it up. God must have thought I needed some humbling, though, because when we got back my worst fear was realized. A woman was in the front yard! 

I skulked past and walked a few more houses down, then casually retraced my steps. Whew! She'd just shut the front door. I knelt on the sidewalk and tried not to breathe as I did my very first pooper scooper duty. It wasn't so bad, I guess, except that I had to carry that smelly poo over a block. I felt so ridiculous carrying a grocery bag full of crap down the street. 

On yesterday's walk, Lola blithely pooped not two minutes after we'd left the house. I think she's enjoying this. 

Oh well. She is a dog, after all. And I have to say, it's most gratifying the way she dances with joy and whines in expectation when I bring out the leash. None of my other walking buddies do that.

I'm thankful for all my walking buddies, many of whom would not even be my friends were it not for my 3-Day training. I've been blessed in so many ways, and I look forward to seeing where this adventure will lead. 


Related Posts with Thumbnails