Accentuate The Positive

I’m on an “away” trip this weeknd, a combination family reunion and 10K race. I signed up for the race first, and the family thing just happened to work out that way. Curiously, it’s also the ninth anniversary of my mother’s passing today, which makes this impromptu gathering that much better, or weirder, depending on poin  of view.

I was in the hotel lobby, enjoying a small but decent serving of eggs and potatoes and orange juice, when a band of teenage boys shuffled through. I never had teenagers at home, but grew up with brothers, so I know how they can decimate a breakfast buffet. But these lads merely grazed on fruit, nibbled on hard-cooked egg whites and sipped the smoothies. They didn’t touch the cereal, pastries, waffles and assorted sweet, caloric toppings. Turns out they were members of a high school wrestling team, and they spent their time checking their phones and talking about “making weight,” which is important for that kind of competition.

Listening to their conversation, I am reminded of young people and body image in general. At the pool, which my master’s groups share with high schoolers, I constantly hear the girls put themselves down, denigrating their features, calling themselves fat and pointing out their flaws. Where’s the beauty in that, I wonder? Don’t they know they’re perfect? How does this negative conversation even start? Who starts it? And more important, how do we stop it?

Ending the negativity begins with strong, reaffirming, postive words, early and often. Reminding kids, whether they’re ours or not, that they are loved and valued regardless of size, looks or life choices.


And that includes the grandma at the table next to me, with the adorable little granddaughter, both of them enjoying breakfast together. OK, grandma is in the hotel lobby breakfast area barefoot; maybe not the best look after a certain age (and not the best idea in a public place where food is served). But that’s a story for a different post.

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What’s Wrong With Being The Best?

It finally happened. I got tired of being the best employee at my job. I’m quitting.

I’m not leaving tomorrow, or next week or even next month. But I have decideimagesd to retire from full-time employment next year. There are other factors playing into this besides that opening statement, but the current state of office culture is a big part of my choice.

I’ll be honest; I don’t blame the millennials or Gen-X or any other age group for what’s going on. And it’s not just this job. I am seeing a general decline in workplace ethics, the #MeToo movement aside. It’s an overall don’t-give-a-crap mentality, as if slacking off is a company benefit. In my current job, it seems to be an expectation, coupled with an extraordinarily high turnover rate and the notion that it’s OK not to get assigned work done, because a) it will still be there tomorrow or b) someone else can be counted on to get it done for you. Too often, I am turning out to be that someone else. It gets old fast. You’re too dependable. Everyone leans on you and skips out on learning the hard stuff because, well, you’ll take care of it faster and better.

Case in point: I requested one week of vacation this past October, and put in the request seven months ahead, in March. And I repeatedly reminded staff and managers of the time off and that other people needed to be trained and ready to do tasks I was doing. The result when I did leave: chaos and disorder. Not sure what part of “you have xx amount of time before I go out of town” was hard to understand.  This is on top of staff chronic call outs, lateness and the need to spend a lot of time socializing loudly in our very small, non-soundproofed space.

The other reasons for moving on: I’d like to do other things with my life before I leave this world for whatever lies in the Great Beyond, so the plan is to work part time and write full time. I want to get out of the house enough to keep myself and The Husband sane. Home all the time with each other, one of us would be buried in the backyard and the other explaining that strange smell to the neighbors.

So the countdown has begun. I’ve started lists and gotten documents together and working on the whole point of this blog: real Notes for My Next Life. You knew sooner or later I’d get there, right?

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Filed under Careers, employment, freelancing

Missing Sock Superpower

I have a cycling competition tomorrow and one of my cycling socks is missing.

I hate it when this happens. I like this pair of cycling socks, mostly because it is the only pair I have just for this sport. A pair of little pink socks, a gift from The Husband. One of them was found clinging to a clean car washing towel in the garage. As for the other, it has apparently sprinted off to some unknown location.

I’ve checked the items I would have washed that day, such as the other car towels, bed sheets, bath towels and T-shirts; the garage and area around and behind the washer and dryer. indexIt has vanished into the great beyond of Laundry Limbo.

Everybody jokingly refers to how sometimes the dryer eats one sock and spits out the other. Now, that could be, since we had to replace the dryer vent hose some weeks back. The old, angry dryer vent hose might have taken one last act of revenge and nibbled the sock, then sucked it up and spit it out in a place far, far away. I prefer to think the sock is still out there, balled up in a corner, waiting to be found, reunited with its pink partner and placed on my feet, then stuffed into a shoe and worn until it’s putrid. I meant no harm and only want to honor the socks as I see fit.

So I will keep looking until the last possible moment tomorrow morning. I have a backup pair to use, but I will be thinking about my first and best-loved pair. I know they will be together again.

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Filed under athletic competition, Clothes, Cycling, Exercise, Laundry

Two Seconds, Then Divine Chicken Time

I took second place for the second week in a row: a 5K last week and a 10K this week. Not too shabby for an old lady. Nothing hurts too much, though it probably will tomorrow. It was a long, long ride to get to this venue. Two hours and country away.

Today’s race was my first on an Indian reservation. I’ve driven on interstates that bisect their territories, but never stopped, much less participated in anything there. This time, it was different. An eyes-wide-open-with-fear ride across part of Alligator Alley/I-75 (dark, very dark, no lights other than the cars around you) and then an 18-mile two-lane road to the reservation. That 18 miles felt like 180. Rough paved road, no streetlights, bugs, fog, armadillos, no other cars around until I was about halfway through the journey (and at that point, I assumed an ax-wielding murderer was driving behind me), and finally, the blessed flashing lights of the tribal police and the bright lights of the rodeo venue where the race began.


Dixie Chicken: Where the bird is the word.


You know a race is going to be an adventure when the race director starts out with, “Attention runners! If you see or hear anything that hisses, growls or roars, run faster.” I neither saw nor heard anything like that. Then again, the half-marathoners went out ahead of us 10K folks. I am assuming a head count was done and all were accounted for.

Post race, I followed the advice of a friend and drove a long way to find the best friend chicken in the state. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall, neat square building of a place called Dixie Chicken in Belle Glade, FL. I ordered, waited maybe 10 minutes and that box and bag came out hot with a smell that could restore energy and optimism to the dead. I ordered too much (I took some home to The Husband), and I could not eat fast enough. Chicken with that thin, crispy, seasoned coating that compliments but does not hide the bird beneath it. My favorite type of coleslaw (mayonnaise-based with a slight bit of sugar and pepper). Corn nuggets (think hush puppies with freshly shucked corn), French fries done right (double-fried crispy) and collard greens that shame everyone else who makes them. And sweet tea, which I normally hate, but actually works with this food because it is made fresh.

I texted my friend and told him he was a very bad man (in the very best way) for sending me there. I could eat there every day, and apparently, some of the people who came in while I was there are frequent customers. There was a lot of chatter and story-swapping, and the counter ladies never missed an opportunity to chime in with their opinions while calling out orders and dishing up banana pudding.

It was a good day after what’s been a hard week. My first time on a reservation, first time drinking (and liking) sweet tea, and first time seeing a rural swath of my own state I’d neverknown. Competitions will be tougher and more frequent this year and there will be some other life changes coming soon. Fried chicken and valued friends help you get through everything.

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Filed under athletic competition, cooking, food, hunger, Running, travel

For The Love Of The Laundromat

Blame it on the king-sized comforter. And the cat. And the hairball the cat deposited on the king-sized comforter. I am in the laundromat today, because this comforter does not fit in my washing machine.

I have my quarters, my legal pad and pen (low-tech companionship that works everywhere) and my digital notepad (high-tech companionship that doesn’t), and have 90 minutes tlaundromat-reflections-washing-machines-1027534o be creative and thoughtful.

My local laundromat is as low-tech as my legal pad and pen: an off-white, square room, glass-front store in a strip shopping center. Washers to the left, dryers to the right, a narrow path crowded with folding tables and wheeled carts. Soda, snack, video and game machines crowd a corner near the blue plastic tables and chairs. Tan tiled floors in need of a little TLC. A booth up front for the tiny, rail-thin attendant, who never sits there. She’s darting from washer to dryer to folding table to supply shelf, texting or talking while sorting, folding, filling and emptying machines, tagging orders and stacking clean clothes, towels and sheets for those who cannot, will not or lack the ability or time to do this chore themselves. I notice the booth’s top two shelves are filled with rolled and trash-bagged comforters, done for clients who drive by, drop them off and get them back in exchange for no hassle and about $25.

My local laundromat lacks the cool vibe of some newer ones, tucked inside restaurants, bars and bowling alleys, where your duds suds while you sip a craft beer, down a gourmet burger or groan about your gutter balls. But it does have character, a long history of service (it has outlasted everything else in the shopping center) and it gives customers what they need: clean clothes to face the day.

Laundromats are necessary in a tidy America, even as their numbers decline, thanks to affordable home washer/dryer systems that fit in even the smallest apartments, rising real estate values, repair costs and laundry wash-and-delivery services.  It’s not the meeting place it once was, but if your pricey washer or dryer break down, or you have a hairballed king comforter, you’ll be glad to know one is still around.

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Filed under frugality, home improvement, Laundry

The Light Of Friendship In Darkness

“J” and I have been friends for over 20 years. A kinder, stronger, gentler and more generous soul is almost impossible to imagine. He’s also tough, resolute and can take on anyone and anything. The fact that’s he’s usually armed and an excellent shot helps (he’s a former cop), but it’s mostly because he’s mentally and emotionally armored against life’s weapons of personal destruction.

He’s been a de facto single parent for a long time, due to lack of presence and caring best-friends-2616075_960_720by his estranged wife, and he will soon legally assume that role when his divorce is final. His daughter is beautiful, athletic, accomplished and smart. She has her daddy’s heartstrings neatly tied around her little finger, but he clearly keeps discipline and control front and center, even if he admits to spoiling his girl. They are a tight duo, a family unit between them that speaks to strength against emotional odds.

I am proud that “J” is a friend. His life’s list contains a fair measure of mistakes and crazy moves, but we all have those. And to decide to divorce and single-parent a teenage girl takes more than chutzpah. It requires the saints’ patience, plus athletic-level endurance and the steely fortitude to say “No” and mean it when the begging, crying, pleading and tantrums threaten to implode the relationship between father and child.

Seeing “J” with his daughter recently showed me a side of him I’d never known before. He was always the funny, high-energy guy we depended on to show up in times of trouble and get the job done. He’s still that person. But now he’s a deeper, more thoughtful man. Experiencing personal pain and working through it does that. Having a child does that, too. I’ve told him that I’m there for him, no matter how his current situation turns out. You don’t give up on the good ones.

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Filed under Children, mental health, Relationships

I’m on the “Salt” Side Of Life

I got a haircut today, and after a quick glance in the mirror, I realized that the “salt” portion of my salt and pepper hair is taking over. In fact, it’s pretty much overwhelmed pepper and is now running the show.index

People tell me I look good with two-toned hair. Which is a good thing, because I have no plans to return to hours in a stylist’s chair and money leaving my wallet in an effort to cover a battalion of silver tresses. The gray roots come in faster than presidential tweets, and I could never keep up with the coverage necessary to fool anyone that a dark brown dye job with burgundy highlights could maybe, possibly, perhaps be all my own.

I spent years coloring my hair, and doing it quite well. I should say I spent years spending money on people who colored my hair quite well. But it’s time-consuming, and I found better ways to throw money and caution to the wind. My triathlon/swimming/running/cycling commitment is pretty pricey. I’ve also learned to love and appreciate good groceries in my later years, though I draw the line on alcohol spending, as I don’t drink enough to make expensive booze worthwhile.

I don’t know when I will wake up and all hope and dark hair will vanish, replaced by the mix of steel, pearl white and gunmetal gray shades coming in. The women in my family dyed their hair until they died. The men kept the mixed shades well into their seventies, when they died. So I think it could be awhile until the pepper in salt and pepper goes to pot. But it could be worse. This totally beats having no hair at all.



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Filed under Aging, Exercise, health and beauty, humor, Running, triathlon gear, Triathlons

In Support Of The “Sick Shelf”

I am home with bronchitis. It really sucks to be sick and older. You don’t bounce back from this stuff like you did when you were half your age.

Fortunately, I have sick time available at work. And I have a “sick shelf.”

food shelf

Since I left home over four decades ago, I’ve always had a dedicated space in my pantry, with items I might need if I were too far under the weather to venture out in it and get what I needed to sustain myself through a bad cold or worse. I rarely used any of the food items on it when sick (it’s been over a decade since I’ve even used a sick day). I either use them for other purposes, or donate them to a food pantry by the end of the year.

But right now, with a heavy cough, overwhelmed sinuses and only a few hours’ sleep all week, it’s nice to know the basics are there and I don’t need to drag my weary butt out the door, into 100-plus degree heat, into my roasting rack of a car and out to the store.

What’s on my sick shelf? Glad you asked:

  • Canned and packaged soups
  • Fruit juice
  • Herbal and black teas
  • Liquid and powdered protein supplement drinks
  • Protein bars
  • Cereal
  • Dried fruit
  • Oatmeal
  • Honey
  • Canned salmon and tuna
  • Juice-packed fruit cups
  • Flavored gelatin

In the freezer, there’s usually frozen berries (to make a smoothie) and plain all-fruit bars or pops. A shelf in my bedroom closet has basic cough/cold/flu meds: cough syrup, throat lozenges, pain meds, decongestant, nasal spray. This is enough to get me through a few days of misery and self-pity, until I muster the energy to shower, slap on make up and appear sufficiently human to face the world’s judgement in the grocery aisle.

Because it’s been so many years since my last bout with illness, I feel especially guilty about being home, alternating between sitting in front of the computer writing, doing laundry and fighting sleep while vegetating on the couch. Then again, no one at work feels bad enough about me to step in and do my job. It will all be there Monday.

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Filed under Aging, health and beauty, illness

Recent Races: Injuries And Insults

I just did something I’ve never done before. Two 10K races in six days. The first one was practice for the second one. The second one was a bucket-list race I’d always wanted to do. Sounds like a fairly sensible plan.

Until it wasn’t. I got hurt at race #1.

It wasn’t my fault, really. I was trying to do the right thing (avoid another runner). It was in mile five of six-point-two (a lucky thing, as opposed to happening in mile one). My toe caught the grate of the drawbridge and I body-planted on the metal grate. Lacerated both knees, both hands, forehead and nose, plus a nosebleed, plus monumental pain in my biceps and triceps, which took the brunt of the fall (sparing the rest of my body and likely my teeth and eyes) from serious damage.

It was the mrunners21ost serious competition accident I’ve ever had. I bounced up and endorphins raging, finished the race. I couldn’t imagine why no one wanted to look at me at the finish line. Until I found a restroom and took a look at myself. I don’t bleed much, so once cleaned up, it wasn’t that bad. Add a severe toe blister to the list and the overall damage was considerable, but could have been far worse.

Jump ahead to the next race; still bruised, but the cuts have closed. I have a blister bandage on the toe. On line to use the restroom at race #2, I overhear the usual pre-race banter, and a couple of perfectly coiffed and glammed-up gals complaining how they expect their time to be slow today due to the inclusion of a bridge in the route. How their eight-minute mile pace will suffer.

That’s the insulting part of this. All of it, really.

The not-a-hair-out-of-place updos, the totally matched running outfits, flawless skin, jewelry,  but worst of all, the fact that you’re upset about your eight-minute mile slowing slightly. Honey, the race route was published when the race was first announced. The bridge was not added as a last-minute surprise. I’m doing this as an old, injured person. I’m pretty sure old enough to be at least your mom. And probably injured enough to think better of this, but not smart enough to do so.

It was a good race. Challenging, but in a sense, fueled by those same endorphins that got me through race #1. I felt decent enough today to work in the yard this morning. And tomorrow will be better, and back to workouts. After all, there’s a triathlon and an ocean swim and a 5K coming up next month.



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Filed under athletic competition, Exercise, Running, Triathlons

When It’s Good To Be A Target

indexI was the object of someone’s competitive ire today.

After a local 5K race, a woman came up to me and said she’d been following me the entire time, about 50 yards back, trying to catch up, but not quite getting there, finishing about a minute behind me. “I could see you the entire time; I just could not get up to you. But you kept me going the entire race. Thanks!” she said.

It’s not often being a target is a good thing. With ever-increasing political angst and bad social media manners the norm, targeting individuals and companies for everything from race and gender identification preference to decades-old improprieties to who they choose to support on either side of any debate often results in economic and emotional backlash befitting a far greater offense. That’s not meant to belittle anyone’s righteous reaction to a deserving situation. Only that some targeting exceeds the “over the top” designation; instead of allowing a reaction or retraction, it bulldozes rebuttal and upends unbiased thought.

But today, at that moment, being a target was good. It means you’re faster and better (and in this case, older by one age group). It means someone is out to get you on the course the next time. It’s good to be getting older and still able to do this. And still work in a little target practice on the side.

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Filed under athletic competition, social media, Uncategorized