Walking a Marathon. A painful, enlightening experience. If you can endure a marathon, you can endure anything.

In the early 90’s three friends and I signed up to walk the Chicago Marathon. The only walkers permitted were required to fundraise for juvenile leukemia research.  I have referenced bits of this experience in my blog post of April, 04. Click here if interested.

Preparing for the marathon meant grueling months of walking mile after painful mile.  Three of us, Gray, Mo and I, would rise before the sun to begin trudging through our neighborhood.  The fourth walker, Carol, usually trained alone.  I asked her how she kept boredom at bay.   She said she recited the prayers repeated when praying the rosary.  I’m not Catholic, so I just looked up what is repeated doing rosary beads.  It seems there are enough entreaties to fill several marathon walks.

When we were training for the Marathon, I was suffering from anemia caused by undiagnosed celiac sprue.  Chronically exhausted, I wasn’t fit to walk a marathon.  Gray, one of the most forthright women I’ve ever known, stated firmly, “Alice if you aren’t able to keep up, do not to expect the rest of us to slow down and assist you.”

The night prior to the Marathon we stayed in the city.  We rose before dawn to begin walking. We marched the first few miles in the dark. Finally, the sun rose over Lake Michigan, gloriously painting the sky crimson, pink and orange.

Shortly thereafter a herd of gazelle-like runners thundered past us.  They had long, lean, muscled legs, minuscule butts, and rippling abs.  I turned to Gray and asked, “If we run, instead of walking, will we look like them?”  She laughed and replied, “Those are the elite runners.  Those athletes run in marathons all over the world.”

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Next passed a group of good runners.  They weren’t as sleek as gazelles, but they were strong, toned, comfortable with their pace.

We were overtaken by many levels of racers that day.  The good were followed by the mediocre.  Eventually, we were confronted with hopefuls vomiting into the gutters.  Taking on a marathon isn’t for sissies.

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The most inspiring runners weren’t runners at all.  They were the wheelchair division.  Men and women with withered legs, propelling themselves ever forward by the strength of their good arms.

We saw them on slight inclines.  The temptation was to help.  But helping would be to diminish them.  They needed to succeed on their own terms, with their own hearts, pushing through the misery, accomplishing it alone.

I so clearly remember one particular wheelchair “runner.”  He had two useless legs, one dwindled arm.  Yet he soldiered on.  He was the picture of courage, determined to push himself over the finish line.

I too needed to cross that finish line without assistance.  Nearing the last mile I remembered Gray’s words,  “Alice if you are unable to keep up, do not to expect the rest of us to slow down for you.” And suddenly I grew astonishing resolve.  I gathered my soul together and willed myself to cross the finish line inches before Gray.

I, like all Marathon finishers crossing the finish line, was wrapped in a sheet of mylar.  A medal was hung around my neck.

In agony, I hobbled to the curb.  There, on the same Chicago corner, draped with mylar, was the man with no legs and only one arm.   He had reached the finish line before I did.  I can picture his slumped shoulders, heaving with sobs.  He accomplished the impossible. With merely one withered arm and a heart full of belief, he crossed the Chicago Marathon finish line.

That withered man didn’t, on the surface, have the skill set to prevail. Yet he did. He did because he believed he could.  Anything can be accomplished if we have faith.

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Positive thinking, Shel Silverstein and my marvelous Book Club.

In March of this year I had a profound, personal experience.  In spite of my willingness to share many intimate life struggles, my March reality will remain private.

The experience moved me so deeply I began my journey of learning how, exactly, the power of positive thinking can be harnessed.  Since March I’ve read several books about how to manifest the life you truly want.  The life I truly want is to be a published author.  My current read is The Circle. Author, Laura Day, says to tell yourself you already ARE the thing you want to be.  State it with conviction.  My statement, “I am a published author.  My life changed when one of my blog posts went viral and was seen by an editor at Simon and Schuster.”

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I am only about halfway through The Circle.  There are lots of things to wrap my brain around, and I still need to do the workbook section.   However, I have to put it aside because my book-club read arrived.

Our book club rule—all members must finish the book or just stay the hell home on book-club night.  I don’t want to stay the hell home.  I love our book-club.  We sit around dining tables, drink wine, share snacks and have the most interesting discussions– sometimes deep, occasionally hilarious, and never about politics.  (Remember, I live in Florida, opinons vary widely.)

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This is our current read.  The author uses the language with such brilliance . I am high-lighting certain passages.  Here are two short ones, “Ribbons of stars swirled like milk.” “…one eye on the horizon, my heart on tiptoe.”   How does a heart stand on tiptoe?  I love the mental picture those words create.  I don’t want to race through this excellent book.   I started reading early and will absorb it carefully.

But for today I have put Circling the Sun aside. There is another project on my desk.  I am coloring in all the illustrations of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends.  This book is a favorite of mine.  The book, and coloring, are a gift for my seventeen month old grandson, Tate. I’m hoping he will love it as much as Nana does.  Where the Sidewalk Ends is 183 pages long.  I’m on page 115.

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I hope to get this enterprise completed before the kid heads off to college.  Determined to put my nose to the grindstone this afternoon, I decided to continue my  positive thinking learning by turning on YouTube. I stumbled across Oprah Winfrey.  She is the world’s best example of someone who truly manifested  her own destiny.

Even so, I surprised myself by choosing her.  I get her magazine and don’t like it. ( I can hear you asking, “Then why get it, stupid-head?” Answer– I never subscribed so have absolutely no idea why it turns up in our mailbox.)   The articles make me feel like I’m a “fixer-upper”, always making suggestions for how to improve myself.  I spent years struggling to learn to like Alice Katherine Jay.  I don’t want to be made to feel I need repair.

However, Oprah proved to be the ideal person to watch.  She shared the interview that most impressed her as proof that we control our future with our thoughts.  Oprah said, “That conversation was with Jim Carrey, of all people.”  While on her show,  Carrey talked about his early years struggling to become famous.  He said he would drive into the Hollywood Hills, look down at the lights and simply KNOW his rich and famous life was already out there.  It was in the air he was breathing and the moonlight on his head.  It existed and the Universe was moving it toward him.

Carrey, broke, wrote himself a check for ten million dollars, dated it five years into the future, and slid it into his wallet.  He said he carried that check around until it was thin as tissue.   Five years later he made that ten million dollars when he  starred in the movie Dumb and Dumber.  He believed himself into his reality.

I’m going  to manifest my future as published author.  I don’t know what sort of writing will be published.  Maybe I’ll come up with a book of wacky poems, ala Shel Silverstein.  Perhaps a coming of age story?  Whatever my writing future is, it exists right here and now.  And the Universe is rolling it my way.

  I posted the above in the wee small hours.  Early today, in my morning dream, a poem whispered to me.  The image–a line drawing– Tate, seated on my lap. I was reading him this poem— 

“Wibbely Wobbely Weebely Wooooo.  I’m in love! In love with you!

Wibbely Wobbley Weebely Wheee.  Are you in love?  In love with me?

I hope so.”

Going to Church, Newark Delaware in the 50’s

My family attended Newark United Methodist Church every Sunday except the monthly communion Sunday.  Mom and Dad said the communion service was too long.  Personally, I liked the grape juice served in itty bitty plastic cups.   But that is all I liked about church.

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When I was very small Sunday school was kind of fun.  I remember playing  “The Farmer in the Dell” in the church parking lot. Debbie Fieldhouse was in my class.  She taught me how to tie a bow with my hat-string.  The hat-string was a continuous loop, not two individual strings.  It was a blue winter hat with white fake fur trim.

On the Sunday school room wall was a picture of Jesus.  I now think of that guy as “surfer boy Jesus.” He was strawberry blond with blue eyes.

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Can’t you picture him, riding in a Woodie, surfboard on the roof?

As I got older Sunday school began to bore me.  The church sanctuary was on the second floor.  Daddy would hand me change for the donation basket, then he and mother would head upstairs. There was a brass letter slot on the wall into which people could drop their contribution checks or envelopes. I would slip a nickel or dime through the slot, sneak out the front door and take myself down the block to Rhodes Drug Store.

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Once at Rhodes, I’d climb up onto a spinning soda fountain stool.  Using the rest of the money intended as church donation I’d buy a cream cheese sandwich on white bread.  The sandwiches always came with a pickle slice on top.  I never ate those.

The waitress was a very short black woman with the most bowed legs I’ve ever seen.  Mother said it was from rickets.  Keeping an eye on the clock I’d happily work my way through the sandwich and be back in the church lobby by the time my parents came down from the sanctuary.

Following the service, in the vestibule, Daddy handed my sister Marilyn and me our weekly allowance. My family would then cross Main Street to the Newark News shop.  We called it “Newark News Stand” but I see in the photo below that wasn’t the name.  The News Stand was a very narrow store.  Some of the magazines were wrapped in brown paper.  I didn’t know why.  They also sold cigarettes, tobacco, and other smoking stuff.  Everyone smoked then.  My parents smoked Kent cigarettes.  Later they moved on to Tareyton.  I started smoking at sixteen when I swiped Tareytons from their packages.

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Marilyn and I spent our allowance money on comic books.  My favorites were Little Lulu, Betty and Veronica, and Casper.  Marilyn usually chose Mad Magazine.  Mother’s friends disapproved of comic books, but Mom reasoned that it got us to read–which was a good thing.  Both my sister and I continue to be avid readers.

And my sister continues to be an avid church goer.  Me, not so much.  I’m more likely to spend Sunday morning perched on a Starbucks stool.

My parents never knew I skipped church on a weekly basis.  It wasn’t until a few years before mom’s death that I told her.  She was suitably horrified.

Textural Triptych

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Each of these paintings are 72′ tall by 24″ wide.  Mounted on top are three smaller canvases.

After years of decorative residential and commercial painting, I finally hung up my brushes when product design opportunity rolled into my world.   The product design experience was a fantastic one, but eventually travel to China became too hard for this old girl.

I  planned to move on, but struggled with what to move on TO.  I walked, prayed, and dropped it into the hands of my Benevolent Force.

One random day I got a phone call from house painter Gary Monaco.   Years before he had introduced me to a home owner, Karen. That introduction led to years painting in nearly every room of her huge home.

Gary began the call by saying, “I have clients who would like you to paint for them.”  Making the assumption that decorative painting was the request, I replied, “Thanks, Gary, but I’m out of that business.”

Gary then told me his clients didn’t want me to paint on their walls, they wanted canvases to hang on a specific wall in their home.

Thrilled to have opportunity to pitch my work I called the clients, Sam and Ann Wagner, scheduled a day to visit and put together a small portfolio.

I drove to their vast rural farm where an elegant sprawling home was located at the edge of a large pond.  As far as the eye could see there was rolling land topped with lush vegetation.  I felt overwhelmed at the notion of creating original artwork for people who clearly had very discerning tastes.

Clutching my meager portfolio, I took a deep breath and rang the bell.   Ann was home, Sam was not.  She graciously led me to a huge kitchen over-looking the pond.  There, at the granite counter, I nervously showed her my work.  I then asked for opportunity to wander their home and observe the many original paintings.  I needed to get a handle on their preferences in artwork.

After measuring the giant wall, I went home and dug into coming up with lots of feasible options.   Did they want nine canvases,  three rows of three?  One big canvas?  Four in a row?  Four, two rows of two?  A triptych?  And how would they feel about a collage using dried vegetation from their land?

Her response was, “Yes to the triptych.”  I then worked up a pile of triptych possibilities, with suggestions for color direction etc.  At that point Ann said, “You choose.  It all confuses me.”  Wow!  Free reign!

Shortly after, on a clear fall day,  Jim and I met Sam at the farm.  He gave us his rugged all wheel-drive truck.  We drove the bumpy fields gathering mountains of twigs, leaves, corn husks, weeds.   The painting above is what those bits and scraps became.  The metallic streak across the three paintings is gold leaf.

Happily the Wagner’s were delighted with the final result.

I don’t believe this opportunity was an accident.  It was manifested by positive thinking and prayer.  Now on to meditate.  I am excited to see what my Benevolent Force will offer next.

 

 

Pony Club Wanna’ Be

I went to a huge birthday luncheon yesterday.  There must have been thirty women, of whom I knew about five.   I rarely attend big functions because I can’t hear.   I take my response cues from visual indicators when a person speaks to me.

If you smilingly tell me you’re having your head amputated tomorrow, I will grin and respond, “That’s terrific.  Sounds like fun.”

But I like the guest of honor, so I crafted a small gift, filled out a lovely Dollar Tree card and hitched a ride in neighbor Lynda’s fancy new white BMW.

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That’s Lynda in the middle.  Gayle, on the right, has all the red carpet poses when being photographed.  She has tried to teach me.  It involves a lot of twisting hips one way, shoulders another, and crossing legs in a balancing act I’m incapable of.  They were both laughing at my Joe Cocker-like attempts to “Gayle pose”.

By now you might be wondering why I titled this post “Pony Club Wanna’ Be”.

Here’s why:  In an attempt to meet a few strangers seated near me I began asking, “So, what do you do when you aren’t attending birthday luncheons.”  The woman across from me said she rides horses.

Horses!  I was immediately transported to my youth when I so BADLY wanted a horse.  I’d watched both the movie National Velvet and the early 1960’s TV show of the same name.  At one point the TV show offered a colt to the viewer that came up with the best name Colt name.

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I mailed in many name possibilities.  One was Misty,  after Misty of Chincoteague.  Certain I would win, I begged my mother to allow us to house Misty in our backyard.  We lived in a suburban split level on 1/4 acre.  Amazingly, she agreed easily.  In retrospect granting Misty a home was a simple “yes”,  since the odds of my actually manifesting that animal was slim to none.

I didn’t win, but later I had the opportunity to (sort of) have a horse.  One winter friend Ann Purcell’s parents took in two camp horses, animals ridden hard at summer camps and needing foster care for winter.  Ann and I spent hours riding those animals.  Her’s horse was named Party Line, far more spirited than the short, round, brown and white animal I rode.  (name forgotten)  I loved old What’s-His-Name.

Such a delicious experience.  I can still picture looking down the road between my horse’s  ears, watching Party Line’s russet rump and tail swaying.  There was one big hill where Party Line would take off at a gallop. What’s-His-Name and I would race along behind.  I could still hear then, and the sound of thundering hooves was thrilling.

One day in late spring our mother’s gave us permission to cut school and spend the entire day riding.  We rode those animals all the way into Newark, Delaware, and right to our houses.  Yay!  Even though it wasn’t Misty, I finally did get to have a horse in my own backyard!

I’m glad I stepped out of my silent comfort zone and went to yesterday’s party.  It gave me an opportunity to reflect back on that happy horsey experience.

I used to ask, “Why me?” Now I say, “Why NOT me!”

Positive thinking can manifest whatever we desire.  My entire beautiful life was created by dreaming it up.  The manifestation of this life began after I ended my first marriage.

I was floundering with fear.  My lovely niece, Katie, sent me a small book, “The Prayer of Jabez.”   It’s a short little prayer.  Short was good.   My brain was so fried I couldn’t focus on much.

The prayer is composed of four parts. First, Jabez asks God to bless him. Second, he asks God to enlarge his territory or increase his responsibility. Third, he prays that God will be with him and stay close. Lastly, Jabez asks that God keep him from harm so that he will be free from pain.  In my prayer I changed that last bit to, “Let me cause no pain”– a largely impossible feat when breaking up a family.

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That first summer I walked miles, praying the prayer like a mantra.  Amazingly doors simply flew open.

Probably the most astonishing door was the one leading to product design.  NOTHING in my background would indicate I had the ability to design three-dimensional product, made in China, sold at Costco.

But a wonderful neighbor, Cynthia Voetsch, saw my struggle.  She owned a business that did exactly that–designed and manufactured lawn and garden items, as well as furniture–all of which was sold at Costco not only in USA, but England, Mexico, and Canada.  Cynthia  hired me on monthly retainer.  Here is one of the first products I ever designed in collaboration with my later partner, Mary Beth Vieha.

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This is Sarah.  She is a resin sculpture/bird-bath.  When we first bought our copy she was nice and clean. I lined her bowl with ice, topped the ice with lettuce and she served shrimp cocktail.    Now she stands in our front yard.                                                                                    Yes, that is a chain around her ankle.  We don’t want her to run away from home.

I even got to have my picture on the box!  You bet I’ve saved that giant piece of cardboard.  Co-worker Mary Beth touched up my make-up.
Another, Terry Pfister, dragged me outside to stand in front of a tree and shot several pictures.  This is the one that made the cut.

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Many of  my friends and neighbors bought Sarah.   Judy Nolan sends me photos of her Twin Lakes, Wisconsin Sarah every season.  Sarah has acres of lush flowers and foliage at her feet.

Costco sold a ton of those Sarah’s.   In fact, last summer while visiting Chicago, I ran into a Sarah in Roscoe Village.  I felt fancy.

So, take it from me, positive thinking can change your world.  Now I’m off to meditate.  Will put a post-it note on my chest saying, “Meditating not sleeping.  DO NOT HURL THE POOL BALL.”  Life is excellent.

Crow Nazi

We have a nice back-yard bird feeder complete with a squirrel baffle that truly baffles the squirrels.  The feeder attracts loads of colorful feathered beasts, up to and including crows.

I believe the feeder should be an equal opportunity joint–all are welcome to come dine in our yard.

My husband, Jim, sees it differently.  He is a Crow Nazi.  Jim makes it his JOB to watch the feeder and if a crow deigns to approach, Jim hurls a pool ball across the cage.  (Floridians call the screens around their pools “cages”.  They are really just screened in porches, but cage sounds fancy, right?)

The other day I was quietly meditating:  breathing in God, breathing out love.

Crow Nazi took that moment to pitch the largest ball across the pool, thus loudly interrupting my kind, generous love-out breathing.

I breathed out something way less fortunate than love.

Later that day while Jim golfed I called him to say, “Hurry home–crows at the feeder!”  I know it’s wrong to interrupt him at the office, but someone needed to  handle the situation.

Lesson learned, Crow Nazi?  If you monkey with my meditation, I’ll  screw up your backswing.

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That bell on the pole drives the squirrels nuts.  Happily for them, the birds drop loads of seeds to the grass below.

Jim is on the golf course again today.  I just went to the back yard and shouted, “Everyone  welcome!  Come and get it.”  As I type, there is one crow gobbling seed and another perched on top waiting for his turn.

Coffee makes life good

It wasn’t until age who-the-heck knows–somewhere after twenty-five and before sixty–that I embraced coffee.  Now I adore it!

But only iced with (shame on me) full-fat milk and stevia.  I pretend the stevia un-does the whole-milk damage.

Todays breakfast is in a wee teeny glass Jim stole from a bar in Hong Kong while on leave from Viet Nam.

I LOVE this little glass.  Jim maintains he swiped it just for me.  Since I am embracing the “manifest-your-future” thinking I pretend he knew I was–eventually–a part of his life.

It’s cute, right?  For a long time it lived in the garage holding pencils.  I only recently promoted it to kitchen favorite.

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Only about five inches tall.  I wonder if the Imperial Hotel still exists  Project for today:  Figure out if that Hotel is still in business.                                                              Note to self: DO NOT MAKE A RESERVATION.  I’ve had enough visits to China to last a lifetime.  Visiting China was a wonderful life experience.  Happy to have done it. Happy to have it in my rear-view mirror.

I have to amend the “no go to China” thing.  I would LOVE seeing Jim Peng, Maple and Miss Gao again.  They were an enormous gift in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m deaf, and this is good because…..

Jen Sincero writes that we need to think positive thoughts in order to manifest all great things in our world. If there is something negative in your life, you tack on the words, “….and this is good because.”

Tried it with my husband, Jim. His was, “I’m bald. And this is good because I don’t have to comb my hair.”

I’m deaf. I’ve been deaf for about 15 years. Lost my hearing when I had pneumonia.

Being deaf is good because…..

Loud noises don’t wake me up at night.
When I read I simply take out my hearing aids and instant quiet.
I get attention by saying, “I’m hearing impaired.”
I’m learning to lip read.

Try this little exercise! Last night I talked to a great friend who has very little money. She tried it. She said, “Being poor is good because I don’t have to worry about fluctuations in the stock market.”

Keeping the positive vibrations flowing. So, all of you, go forth and prosper. Have a beautiful positive day. Hooray for today. Is anyone reading this? Maybe not many, but eventually the multitudes will discover my blog and yay yay hip hip hooray I’ll be rich and famous and tall with long legs.

jen sincero    Go buy her book!  So great!

High School Reunions

I recently got this letter in the mail from a fellow Newark High School graduate Chuck Cover.  Seems I sent it to him about fifteen years ago, prior to a reunion.  I tried to trick him into thinking me fit and fancy.

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I’ve been to several NHS reunions, but two  stand out clearly in my mind.

My favorite reunion prank was played with a writer friend, Jane Guill, author of Simon and Schuster’s Nectar From a Stone.   Jane and I made up a fancy classmate, named her “Deweybrat” and spun an exotic world trotting lifestyle for her. Weekly we would meet for breakfast. Jane would dictate tales about  beautiful Deweybrat, owner of a lingerie factory.  Dewey traveled the world marketing her products.  She also had a gorgeous hunk handsome man in her life.  Jane based him on her hunk handsome Welsh husband, Andy.

I  asked family members and friends if they had any exotic trips coming up.  Jane wove the locations into our letters. My friends then posted mail from all over the world!   I have no idea how many we sent, but the prank went on for the better part of a year.  I even paid for a ticket for me,  as Alice, and for Dewey, anonymously.

It was a gas, and we had the reunion committee racking their collective heads to figure out who Deweybrat was.  There was some finger-pointing, but I denied any knowledge.

Deweybrat, being fictional, was unable to attend.  Jane invented a fire in Dewey’s garter belt factory.   Emergency!  Deweybrat couldn’t attend!  I then sent the committee a last-minute Western Union telegram voicing Dewey’s regrets.  Boo Hoo.

I specifically asked Western Union if point of origin would show  up on the telegram.  I was assured not.   WRONG.  My cover got blown on the afternoon of the reunion.   That evening the committee presented me, aka Deweybrat,  a white feather boa.  It was very Deweybrat-ish,  but a  disappointment after nearly a year of crafting letters and sending them from afar.

My second favorite reunion was my ex-husbands.  I wore the name tag of some woman who failed to show up.  All evening people were talking to me about how I’d changed,  Pretty funny.  There were amazing and amusing stories I learned about my fake me.  Fibbing has its advantages.

 Nectar From a Stone by Jane Guill

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