Why all the radio silence….

It’s because life is so busy for the last two years! I have some terrific ideas for blog posts – usually during the middle of the work day – and then once I get home (late) after running errands, get dinner and do any chores – I’m ready to collapse into bed. Darn this time change. I want to hibernate.

So, let’s start over.

Hello friend. (as a dear Toastmaster I once knew used to say.)

Here are some things I’ll be posting about in the days to come:

  • my no-added sugar Christmas
  • 50 things before I turn 50
  • my health journey
  • Toastmasters and the joys of leading volunteer groups

Can’t wait to talk with you soon.

Aunt Jim

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Quick Takes

Some of my favorite blogs do a “quick takes” style post once a week. This weekend (and week) has been too crazy for me to think of any type of organized topic or essay, so that’s what I’m going with today!

1. Exhaustion

I’m exhausted by my new schedule. Last week was the third week in a row I’ve exercised for 3 days during the week. The workouts are a combination of stretching, some cardio, core work and strength training. One hour each – at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and 8 a.m. Saturday. Yikes. By 10 p.m. (now) I can barely keep my eyes open. I’ll keep you posted on how well it’s going – but now, I’m getting up those 44 stairs from the ground to my second floor office a lot quicker. I only huff and puff once, at the last landing.

2. Oscars

I’m not watching the Oscars tonight. Why? Not because I’m not interested in who wins … I’ll look online for that info. And I’ll definitely want to see “who wore it best.” What I can’t understand is why, in 21st century America, our biggest award show has to honor entertainers. I’m not trying to disparage actors and others in the movie industry, but just questioning perspective. Where are the dramatic award shows for scientists? Why don’t we have award shows for returning soldiers? Or firefighters? When will an award program for teachers be televised nationally, on broadcast television? I’d like to think that a small business owner who built a business out of nothing and now employs hundreds of people could one day get a big award and the ovation she deserves, too.

3. Angel Food cake

Today I made an angel food cake to celebrate my Mom’s birthday (which is actually March 5. We’re getting in an entire birthday week here!) I used a mix and it tasted great – but it sure looked funny. Not sure what happpened – when I released it from the bundt pan (after cooling it upside down on a bottle like the instruction said) one side of the cake was all fallen in. Nothing a ton of frosting couldn’t fix … if only I was going to frost it. Ah, well, with Cool Whip and berries, it still tasted great.

4. This darn weather

Today it was cold. Yesterday it was colder. Last Thursday it was 32 degrees – and two days before the temperatures reached 70! This is why people get sick! I’m ready for my consistent 80 degree days now, thank you.

5. CBAP prep

So how did my resolution to up my studying go for my Certified Business Analysis Professional exam? Well, this past week: I blew off studying Thursday night (and watched The Big Bang Theory), got too busy to study Saturday and finally forced myself to study today, Sunday. Two hours! Go me.

5. Lunch at work

Salad again … sigh. Sticking to this plan of eating mostly lean meats, fish, chicken and vegetables is hardest at lunch. I don’t think I was made for low-carb. But it is working ….

6. Paleo

That reminds me (and I’m cheating here with this take) – I’m going to have to post on some of the Paleo sites I’ve been reading.

7. Something to make you smile

Here’s a day brightener …. watch this and you’ll feel wonderful! Keep going through the first 90 seconds…then get ready to dance.

On friendship

It’s been a long time since I posted, but now’s the time to start again. I’m going to take the pressure off myself by posting only once a week – and maybe only once every two weeks. Another time I’ll explain the long gap in posts. Today is about friendship.

Tomorrow my friend Jill moves to Alabama to be closer to her family – especially her 70-something father. Jill and I have known each other since 1999, the year I moved back to Columbia. 15 years! We celebrated our 40th birthdays together with a trip to New York City. Every year for the past eight years we’ve been going to the S.C. Book Festival together, coming home laden down with new books. She is one of my oldest friends and I’m going to miss her terribly. I’ve already planned my first road trip to Alabama on the first weekend of April.

Ever since she told me she was leaving, I’ve thought long and hard about friendship – how so many of my friends have left my life, how my shyness prevents me from opening up and making friends quickly and deeply. I have so many acquaintances … and I’d like to turn them into real friends. Then I start to think, how can I show them love? How can I be a friend to them? (The best way to have a friend: be one, or so I’ve heard.) Over the years numbers of dear ones have moved away, like my friend Karen who’s now in New York with her kids. It’s been almost 8 years since I’ve seen her, but I still remember her fondly and we send each other Christmas cards. And there’s Grace, the military wife in Virginia. Now she’s one who learned to make friends quickly. I need to ask her for tips. Thank God she loves to post on Facebook and keep us all up to date. That’s the only way I know what’s going on with her and her crew.

As I look over it, I don’t think I’m too harsh in thinking I’m to blame for letting so many friendships either wither or fade for lack of care. How can I fix it? By cherishing the ones I still have and mainly by listening better. So often I find myself listening at the start of a conversation, then drifting off to think of something else. The writer Russell T. Davies once said that conversation, real conversation, isn’t so much one person taking, and the other person listening, as it is one person talking – and the other person waiting to talk. Ouch. If I listened better – I’d know so much more about the friends I have – so many more details, and be so much more a part of their lives.

But, thank God, there are new friends to make, and new friendships to deepen. In the last year I’ve started to get to know Janie, a fellow member of my Toastmasters club. She’s such a fascinating individual – and a worthy friend to have and cherish.

In our language, we speak of cultivating friendship. That makes me think of gardening. Just as it’s now time to plan for the spring planting, it’s time to get to work on friendships, to cut away the vines and dig up weeds, clear away dead pine straw and till the earth. It’s time to bring forth something beautiful.

Swimming for God

Eight weeks ago when I started this spring’s edition of Run for God at my church, I knew I’d be in the walking program. (Last year I started on the 5-K running team and had to drop out halfway thru due to work schedules. And joint pain.) My goal this year: start more realistically and finish. About four weeks into training I hurt my back. Then it became Stroll for God … That was about as fast as I could go. Last Saturday, when I limped into the chiropractor’s office after our practice, he took one look at my gait and told me to lay off the walking for a couple of weeks.

Fortunately, swimming makes me feel like a normal human again and not a hermit crab. So, Swim for God it is until the doc releases me to walk again.

So thankful

Today I had brunch with a dear friend after a morning of busy activity … Exercise and a chiropractic appointment. She brought me up to speed on all the cool stuff she’s doing, like organizing a retreat next weekend. Then it was off to do errands in a leisurely, no-stress way. … Just the way I’d love to live my life if only I could be one of the ladies who lunch! Working for the man has its perks (hello, generous benefits) but that 9-10 hour block out of the middle of the day can be a little trying. Like my dad always said, the only problem with work is that it’s just so daily. . . .

Crossing items off the to-do list is one of the best feelings in the world! I have a lot more to do but my computer at home has gone iffy, so I’m taking that as a sign I should relax now.

And many other things are going well… A friend who was in ICU was moved to a regular room earlier this week. Today she’s going home! A great praise.

Loosey goosey

Around here it’s all back treatments, all the time. Today I got the results of my MRI (abnormal disc extrusion between the L4 and L5 veterbrae – but yea, no surgery needed!), had more muscle work at today’s chiro sessions — yes, that’s sessions — got cleared by my doc and chiropractor to start Pilates on Tuesday and went swimming tonight for the first time in months. After my 25-minute swim my back felt fantastic. I actually walked like a normal person out to my car, instead of using the modified Charlie Chaplin impersonation which has been my preferred means of locomotion for the past two weeks.

Aunt Jim Can’t Bend … again

It’s another go-round of serious back pain for ol’ Aunt Jim. Since March 8 I’ve been seeing my chiropractor for back pain. This is a 10 or 12-year-old injury which flares up from time to time. Usually a few visits to Dr. Jones-McCaw take care of things. But it’s been three weeks, and after making seven chiro visits in seven days, and sleeping in 45-minute stretches last night, both she and I knew it was time for my second MRI.

Today I called in sick and got the works done. First, the appointment with my family practitioner, a great doc who’s seen me through this before. He immediately sent me for x-rays. (Technology has progressed since my last set. Then I had to carry the X-rays from the lab to his office. Today they were digital. He just logged on and checked them.) After he saw them I got the news I expected – degenerated interveterbral disc – and we scheduled an MRI for 2 p.m. It’s still the same sensation of being in a washer during all the cycles … agitation, rinse and spin. I should get some results in about 48 hours.

Being unable to bend means certain lifestyle adjustments. I turned a long box sideways and put the cat’s bowl on the inner bottom side and grasp the top side to lower it to the floor. Getting into my clothes is a form of aerobic exercise and requires extra time. And my house is a mess. If I drop it, I literally can’t bend over to pick it up unless I grab a countertop and execute an Arabesque penchée. Surprisingly, that ballet move adjusts the weight on my lower back (especially my sacrum) so I can bend over. Otherwise, not a chance.

But whenever God shuts a door, he always opens a window. Now I have a great excuse for hiring someone to clean out my gutters!