Tiny Gratefuls

Published in the Ferndale Record, November 27, 2013

November, in her chilly, stormy glory, ends up being about gratitude. Like friends and random people I don’t know on Facebook, I’m grateful for the gifts of life, home and family. Following is a bit of minutiae that also keeps my happy motor running.

I’m thankful that spiders can’t fly. I’m thankful for Cruisin’ Coffee’s chocolate nonfat yogurt shakes, with no whipped cream, an extra shot of chocolate, and one of those dome-shaped lids.

I’m thankful that four rolls of toilet paper at Rite Aid are only 88 cents on Tuesdays, and that two tiny loaves of banana bread at the Starbucks’ drive thru total $5.33.

I’m grateful for people you don’t know who pay you a compliment out of nowhere, and for grocery checkers who aren’t compelled to make small talk while scanning my items.

I love that the universe is so much bigger than me and that I don’t understand everything yet, leaving me with a constant source of untapped knowledge to break into. I’m thankful for friends who inspire me to be a better person.

I’m sincerely thankful for an honest mechanic who not only knows how to fix my car, but gives me a fair deal – every time, and I’m grateful that the seven years I wore braces really straightened my teeth – forever.

I’m thankful for cinnamon-flavored dental floss, and that because I live alone I don’t have to clean up my mess or do the dishes everyday. I’m thankful I can go to bed as early as I want, which one night not long ago was 6:30pm.

I appreciate people who smile with acknowledgment when I wave them into traffic. I’m thankful for those flower baskets hanging downtown Ferndale every spring and summer, and for the guy in the little water truck that keeps them hydrated and looking spectacular.

I’m thankful that Stephen Colbert, his over-the-top pundit character and talented writers come up with brilliance that makes me laugh, sometimes to the point of tears. I’m also thankful for artists and musicians who know how to string words, sounds and images together, making my brain travel into places it normally wouldn’t go.

I’m thankful I bought gas for my car at $2.99 per gallon last week, and that at work, a kind person gave me a box of chocolate covered mint patties. I’m grateful for mornings when I can sleep in until I wake up naturally, and for BelleWood Acres apple cider.

I love that when I lay in my bed I can see the river gurgling by and tall trees waving to me in the breeze. I’m also thankful for people who remember birthdays and are not afraid to venture a little past silly – sometimes way past.

I’m thankful for these qualities in an individual: Quick wit, a sincere listening ear, and someone who gets my obscure movie and TV references. For instance, when I say I “crossed the streams,” and another person recognizes it as a line from Ghostbusters, I’ve discovered a kindred soul.

Thankfulness for tiny things makes up my days, which, I suppose, makes it pretty significant. But then, gratitude has a clever way of creating a joyous life, which is what most of us want. And there’s nothing unimportant about that.

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Running For My Life

Published in the Ferndale Record, October 30, 2013

Part of being a grown-up is getting real. It’s finally knowing, for the first time, that while there are things you’ve always dreamed of doing, you will probably not do all of them. It’s also realizing there are things you must do, and that you’ll find a way to accomplish them because you can’t not do them.

For example, I’m an adult onset runner. When my children were young, I developed a love for running and what it does for my spirit, body and mind. But years, responsibilities and bad habits got in the way. I started and stopped. I read books. I yearned. I watched the Olympics. I went to the gym. I danced, lifted weights and learned to kick box, but I didn’t run. I was like everyone else with good intentions but little resolve.

I saw people of all shapes and ages running and something reached within and seized my essence—every single time. It wasn’t just, “Wow. Good for her!” or, “Look at that guy go,” it was tactile, moving and emotional. It sliced into my soul with the impression, “I have to do that.”

This was followed immediately with thoughts like, “You’re too old.” “Even if you start now, you’ll never be that good or fast,” or the subtle but blistering, “You’ve never followed through before and you never will.”

Then something shifted inside. I knew it was time, and that despite fear, lingering doubt and lack of natural ability, I had to find a way to run. Ten years ago I invested in a treadmill. It survived my recent purging of cherished household items, and a few months ago I decided to employ it on a regular basis and haven’t looked back.

I’ve started to remember what focus, determination and ongoing commitment does to my body and life. But this time it’s not about courage, discipline, weight loss, doing it for another person, strict denial or a reward at the end. It’s because I have to do it, and I’ve finally given into whatever it is that calls to me about running.

So, now I run. Very slowly. I am turtle and slug slow. The only record I’ll shatter will be the one for the most heavy-footed and plodding participant. I run slower than most people walk. I’ll never be a world-class athlete, I don’t see myself as a driven competitor, and to get what I want out of this, I don’t have to be either. I simply have to be willing, and this time, I am.

I’m careful about what I eat during the day not because I’m afraid of unwanted pounds, but because I want to run well when I come home from work. I’ve turned that proverbial corner, not because of fear, but because of deep want.

In his book, “Run or Die,” Kilian Jornet says, “It’s what we can’t believe will ever happen… and yet it is what finally happens. It is as if something in our unconscious is constantly telling us that it is impossible, that it would be too wonderful, too brilliant, too incredible for it to become reality. And when you cross the line, when you look behind and see that it is for real, that you are flesh and blood, and that what seemed possible only in dreams has become real, you realize that that is the real victory.”

Maybe it’s my milestone birthday approaching, but I doubt it. I think it’s more about giving into the genuine desires of my heart and not worrying about how I might look doing it. It’s that sweet gravy that comes with age and experience.

And if I’m hit by a bus tomorrow and never walk again, I can say I was a runner. Because I am.