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. 


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