Smoking the Competition

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Last week, while enjoying a long weekend in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, I took a spin class at the lodge’s adjacent athletic club. Partly, because I try to get in two spin classes a week and hadn’t reached my quota and partly to mitigate damages caused by the all you can eat breakfast buffet included in our getaway package. This buffet contained every breakfast item known to man from lox and bagels to grits and sawmill gravy, Belgium waffles to Spanish omelets, doughnuts to granola. It had it all. Y’all would be proud of me, though. I didn’t go crazy, stuck to only one plate with granola and yogurt, a little fruit, a turkey link, some grits (excuse me, I was on vacation) and just one teeny tiny bite of Brian’s waffle.

So, after we returned from a day touring America’s biggest house, the Biltmore, I went to the nearby Asheville Athletic Club for a spin class advertised in the lodge’s list of amenities.

I got there right as the class was starting. The lights were already dimmed. Now, if you haven’t taken a spin class, let me explain. Basically, there are rows of stationary bikes lined up in a dimly lit room. Why dim lighting? Probably, so the others don’t see you sweating, grunting and gasping for air. You hop on your bike and pedal your legs off, all while listening to the instructor shout commands over blaring music.

As class got underway, I realized we were situated in front of a wall completing covered by mirrors. I had never seen myself spin before. None of my spin classes back home have mirrors in them. I was shocked at what I saw. I was pedaling like a machine, comparatively speaking. I glanced around the room nonchalantly surveying the silhouettes in the darkened room and you know what? I was kicking everyone’s butt. The lean lady dressed in a black racer back tank, probably some stock broker’s trophy wife. The tall earthy guy more than likely one of those granola, recycling, Birkenstocks wearing types. The curly-haired guy closest to the blonde ponytailed teacher who kept flirting shamelessly with her. The lady about my same build struggling to keep up.

I was throwing down. Lance Armstrong didn’t have nothing on me. I was giving it all I had and these poor people looked like their legs were gonna give out at any moment. As I watched me smoke what I had deemed the competition, I thought back over the last six months, about how far I had come since my first spin class where I thought I might just die. Now, here I was, out pedaling every single person in class including the instructor.

I was fierce. I watched myself in the mirror noticing how my athletic legs pumped the pedals, how my breathing was deep and steady, how my arms were beginning to show signs of muscle definition. Who would have thought it? I was untouchable, unstoppable, undeniably the best in the class. In my mind, I might as well have just won the Tour de France. I had smoked the competition.

With class over, the lights came on. That’s when I saw it, the sign that quickly ended my short-lived victory. “Silver Sneakers Spin”. My so-called competition were all over the age of 70, senior citizens, elderly, long in the tooth, whatever you want to call it. They were old as Methuselah. The svelte lady in the black racer back, the tall tan gentlemen to my left, every last one of them.

Except for the instructor. She looked to be my age. I took that chick to school.

Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
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Yesterday, while listening to the greatest hits album of Matchbox 20, one of my all time favorite bands, I posted some of their song lyrics on my Facebook page. “Reach down your hand in your pocket, pull out some hope for me, it’s been a long day, always, ain’t that right.”

I wasn’t feeling down and out. It was just some nostalgic song lyrics from my early twenties bringing back memories of dusty back roads and young love. After posting the comment, I dashed into a three-hour meeting. I checked my phone after the meeting was over and it was full of missed calls and “Everything ok?” type texts. After the fact, I guess the status update did come off a little cryptic and depressed, sparking some alarm. I didn’t need anyone to reach in their pocket and toss me a little hope. My day had been great, a long but productive day of meetings capped off with barn burner of a basketball game between two local middle school rivals. I didn’t need anyone else’s hope. I had enough of my own.

Today, all that changed. Moma called me crying this afternoon a little after three. She was crying so Daddy got on the phone and asked me if I understood what she was telling me. My voice cracked as I said, “uh huh.” A dear sweet lady from our Church died today. A charter member of our Church, in fact, and one my family was very close to. A spunky fading red head with a sweet, playful smile. Seemingly healthy and pretty agile for an eighty-six year old, she went up in her attic to sort through some items for our Church’s upcoming annual rummage sale. Apparently, she had a stroke and fell through the rafters in her ceiling passing from this life a few hours later. I have been in complete shock ever since Moma called me crying.

I know what people will say to comfort those mourning her loss. I’ve said those words myself countless times standing in front of dark stained cherry caskets speaking softly to family members dressed in black grieving their loved ones passing. “She led a long full life.” “Jesus called her home.” “She died doing the Lord’s work.” “At least she didn’t end up in a nursing home.” “She’s in heaven now.”

And while all of those words are true, none of them make me feel any better right now. I need somebody to reach in their pocket and pull out some hope for me. It’s been a long day.

Job 17:15 And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it?
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November Means Basketball

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Today, I am thankful for basketball. November marks the beginning of basketball season. I’m not talking the Kobe Bryant, Laker girls, high dollar salary, corporate sponsor, big arena basketball. I’m talking basketball played in cramped gymnasiums, scoreboards with missing lights, young ballers playing purely for the love of the game and bragging rights against the cross town rival. Basketball for basketball’s sake.

Regular season play for the Sycamore Middle School Knights began today. My nephew Jackson was making his debut on the junior varsity team tonight and I was determined not to miss it. I rushed from a meeting weaving in and out of rush hour traffic and made it to the gym a couple minutes into the game. It had been my intent to change into jeans and a royal blue sweatshirt sporting the school’s colors but I ran out of time and ended up wearing my 9 to 5 attire, wine colored patent leather high heels and tweed skirt trimmed in black leather with matching jacket. I looked more like going to a high-powered board meeting in the Big Apple than a middle school ballgame in rural Tennessee. Next time, I’ll carry a change of clothes in the car. Not only did I look completely out-of-place, it’s pretty hard to sit lady like on bleachers. I got more of an inner thigh workout trying to keep my knees together for the four quarters of that junior varsity game than I do during an hour long Pilates class.

As I watched Jackson go up for his umpteenth rebound, I realized basketball and this weight loss thing were a lot alike. Most of these kids’ first shots didn’t go in, not the Sycamore Knights or their opponents decked out in John Deere green uniforms. They had to get the rebound and try again. Life’s like that. Most days, aren’t perfect. I eat something I didn’t intend to. I miss getting in a workout. I act like a raving lunatic. I have to get the rebound and take another shot, the next meal, the next workout, the next day.

Ball handling is important, part of the reason I never played basketball. I can’t dribble to save my life. The other reason was God had given me a set of lungs that could yell DEFENSE and REBOUND so loud the other teams ears would bleed so a cheerleader I became. Back to ball handling. When the kid dribbling gets too loosey goosey with the ball, dribbling too far out from his body, too high or doesn’t have good control, the other team has a better chance of stealing the ball. Same thing with food. If I plan it, I prepare and I control, I stand a much better chance of staying on track for a slam dunk. It’s when others have control over food that I tend to have more of an issue, a baby shower, a wedding, a business luncheon, a quick meal on the go at a restaurant. The less control I have over where and what I eat the better chance I stand to eat more fat, more calories and more carbs.

I’ve watched many of these boys play since they were in third grade. Now, they are half-grown seventh graders. It takes every last one of them to play the game. From the tall dark-haired center towering above the others to the quick as lightning kid with a buzz cut. Whether it’s zone or man to man defense, it takes all five boys on the court to make it happen. Heck, it even takes the five or six sitting on the bench. The starting five get winded, get tired or get fouled and substitutes have to be made. My life is no different. Some days, I get winded and need someone to come from the bench and give me a break. Some days, I need my someone to fist bump me and say “Good job” or pat me on the shoulder and tell me to “Shake it off” and try again. I need a team. I can’t do this alone.

Every now and then, when the team is facing a two point deficit and the clock’s down to just seconds, the point guard dribbles down and pops a three from the top of the key sinking the sweetest shot right as the buzz sounds winning the game. Those are the moments that make all the practice, sweat, and sore muscles worth it. A magnificent, glorious three pointer at just the right time. I think feel one coming on.

1 Corinthians 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
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Thirty Days of Thankful

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It’s day two of thirty days of what I’m thankful for and I’m already a day behind. Seems to be my life these days, a day late and a dollar short.

So, what am I thankful for on Day 2? Parents, not just mine which are pretty awesome, but all parents. Parents who coach soccer, lost as last year’s Easter egg because it didn’t exist as far as our small town was concerned when we were kids. Parents who stand up, clap their hands and stomp their feet just to show support for their pom-pom waving cheerleader daughter even though they secretly wish she’d have chosen to be a ball handling point guard. Parents who endure hours of squeaking and squawking while their young maestro tries to master the clarinet.

Today, I ran in the Panther Prowl, a 5k benefiting a local elementary school, one where my sister is a teacher. I crossed the finish line in about thirty-eight minutes, in no way qualifying me for one of the top three finisher’s medals. Of course, if they had a 35 – 40-year-old overweight women’s category, I’d have easily smoked the competition.

After finishing the 5k, I stuck around to watch the kids’ fun run. My sweet little nieces were running and I couldn’t miss cheering them on. Ready, set, go and off went a pack of kids with parents mixed in to chaperone and offer encouragement. Mary Ella took off with a group of her kindergarten classmates while Naomi zig zagged running along side her Daddy.

Mary Ella sped towards the end like a rocket crossing the finish line in less than 10 minutes. To be quite honest, I was pretty shocked. Mary Ella is a girlie girl who at just six years old accessorizes her outfits and dreams of living in New York City, shopping and eating Chinese food, financed by her career as a rock star. I just didn’t think she had it in her to run like the wind for a whole mile. Naomi grinned like a Cheshire Cat as she crossed the finish line holding her Daddy’s hand. I knew she’d finish. She’d been asking all morning when it was time to run.

When the last little runner crossed the finish line decked out in their yellow and black Panther Prowl t-shirt, the crowd began to thin. That was until we noticed a teeny tiny little bright yellow dot in the distance. The youngest of the runners had not quite finished. A police car was following this miniature marathoner, her Daddy right by her side. The crowd learned her name was Sadie and we began to chant encouragement to this little darling. She looked for a moment like she might burst into tears, her little legs giving out, but when she realized we were chanting her name, a smiled spread across her face. The guys in charge quickly put up the finish line again and little Sadie broke through completing the Fun Run.

Sadie’s parents let her learn a valuable lesson today. Her dad could have picked her up running the short mile with her in his arms. Shoot, I might could’ve myself. She couldn’t weigh twenty pounds soaking wet. Instead of grabbing Sadie’s hand and running with her the last few feet, her mom could have let her stop short of the finish line.

Sadie may not realize it but today her Mom and Dad taught her to finish the race, even if you feel like giving up, even if you don’t think you can, even if you are dead last. Finish the race. Mom and Dad will be there cheering you on holding your hand.

Today, I’m thankful that on days when this healthy living thing gets tiresome, when I want to give up and eat my weight in cupcakes and cookies and cream ice cream, and when I want to lay my big old butt on the coach instead of hitting the pavement for an evening run, I’ve got parents running alongside me encouraging me to finish the race.

Maybe they’re not technically running but you get my drift.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.image

And So It Begins

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Sitting in Church Sunday morning, I prayed God would give me a revelation regarding our Halloween costumes for that night’s annual trunk or treat. Originally, I had come up with the idea of having Brian wear his tux and me a gold sequined cocktail dress going as James Bond and one of the sexy Bond girls. Hey now, I may not be the now infamous seductress Pussy Galore from the classic Bond flick “Goldfinger” but let me throw on a shiny gilded cocktail dress and matching spiked heels and I’ll give her a run for her money, at least in my husband’s eyes. After some thought, I figured the only way to truly get the Bond, James Bond theme across would be with martini glasses, shaken not stirred, roulette tables reminiscent of Monte Carlo and a plethora of pistols, rifles and shotguns none of which belonged in the Church parking lot surrounded by children all well under the age of accountability.

Somewhere between Amazing Grace and the closing prayer, an idea popped into my head. Saturday, the University of Tennessee suffered a most embarrassing loss at the hands of our beloved Crimson Tide. What better way to memorialize this defeat than to decorate our trunk as a tailgating scene between two opposing fans. I drew the short stick and had to dress in the bright orange of the Tennessee Volunteers looking vaguely similar to Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin, something ex-coach Phil Fulmer could surely relate to on the sidelines in his bright orange track suit.

Brian and I were decked out like two fanatical fans, one a Rammer Jammer houndstooth loving Alabama fan and the other a Rocky Top singing Go Big Orange yelling devotee passing out candy to little witches, mini Minnie Mouses, army men, famous sports figures, and a variety of Disney princesses. Not only were our football teams opposing, so were our theories on candy. Mine: Buy only candy you despise so as not to eat any. Brian’s: Buy only candy you love, eat as much as you can while you pass it out and then get sick on whatever’s left over.

Our basket was full of Sweet Tarts, Laffy Taffy, Nerds, Twizzlers and grape flavored Bubble Yum. I had stocked up at Family Dollar on all my least favorite candies. Brian was all kinds of tore up because we had no Snickers, no Kit Kats, and absolutely no Twix. They might as well have been crack cocaine, crystal meth and a handful of OxyContins as far as I was concerned. I had a plan to help me abstain from Halloween candy and there was no deviating.

And, it was working. Right up until the time I spotted Captain America’s trunk filled with Kit Kats.

And so it begins, a two month march to New Year’s Day, candy corn, pumpkin pie, Santa Claus cookies, and coconut cake all along the way. The next two months are a blur of social functions filled with tradition, deep-fried Cajun rubbed turkeys, honey baked spiral cut hams, and pots full of black-eyed peas with a dime for good luck. Four back to back holidays revolving around food.

It was going to take me, Jesus and a set of scales to get through the next two months. Help me Jesus!

Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
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Produce Department Spontaneity

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Some weeks, I get tired of the same old thing. Seems like I eat grilled chicken breast with steamed broccoli, baked salmon with green beans, pork tenderloin with a giant salad and REPEAT. I decided this week to shake things up so when I walked through the produce department Saturday to stock up for the week, I spontaneously grabbed a couple bunches of dark green curly leafed kale and a handful of leeks. Having kale and leeks in my buggy made me feel like a fancy gourmet cook. You can shake a mule’s tail and write your name on a barn door but that don’t make you a farmer and having kale and leeks in my buggy sure didn’t make me a Top Chef either.

I’ve cooked kale before. Sautéed kale, baked kale chips, or even finely chopped in a salad. While kale chips are good and satisfying if you are a fan of salt and crunch like me, you are completely delusional if you can fake yourself into thinking they are salty, crunchy deep-fried golden Lay’s potato chips.

I’ve never cooked leeks before. I googled how to cook leeks for at least a half hour and found one common denominator among the recipes. Apparently, heavy cream and leeks are meant for each other. Well, that and leeks are the hardest vegetables known to man to clean, full of sand. What was I thinking when I grabbed this vegetable that looked like a green onion on steroids?

After searching recipes online for what seemed like eternity and wishing heavy cream and a stick of butter were considered heart healthy, I settled on leeks sautéed with garlic in a little chicken broth. So, tonight’s menu is mustard glazed sockeye salmon and sautéed leeks.

These leeks better be good. After googling, you-tubing and cleaning these cousins of the onion, I still have to cook the darn things.

Broccoli takes like three minutes in the microwave. So much for spontaneity!

Ecclesiastes 11:6 In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.image

Spas and Stadiums

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Some days are hard. Some days, I want to shove milk dunked Oreo cookies in my mouth until the black chewed up cookie makes my smile look like a methhead’s rotted toothy grin. Some days, I want to dial up the pizza delivery boy and dine on a circular disk of nothing but carbs and fat rather than eat the umpteenth grilled chicken breast that week. Some days, I just don’t care.

On those days, I have to remind myself about all the little things that are better now because of the lifestyle changes I have made. Tonight, I thought about two things I was recently reminded of.

1. Have you ever been to a spa where they hand you a robe and instruct you to change your clothes and head into the relaxation room? I have. Let me tell you, when you exceed the unadvertised weight limit of those spa robes, the relaxation room ain’t so relaxing. First, there’s that anxious moment when you try the robe on and pray to God Almighty that the thing will at least wrap around you enough to maintain some shred of common decency. It is extremely hard to relax when you think all the folks sipping herbal tea listening to the sounds of trickling water in the relaxation room can see everything you got and then some. Those darn little robes are always marked “One Size Fits All” which is a flat-out lie from the devil. I had a massage a couple of weeks ago. When they handed me a robe, initially, an anxious feeling flooded my mind as I slipped the satin fabric around me. I had forgotten I was smaller now and it wrapped around with more than enough to cover what didn’t need to be seen. Now, I could actually relax in the relaxation room.

2. We are huge football fans. Tennessee’s Titans and Alabama’s Crimson Tide are our teams. They balance each other well. Bama almost always pulls out a win and Tennessee almost always forgets to play the last quarter of most games. Tennessee keeps us humble. If we were strictly Alabama fans, we could get obnoxiously cocky rooting for the most dominating powerhouse of all time playing in the most dominating powerhouse of all conferences, the Southeastern Conference. But, without sounding too unabashedly arrogant, I digress. Being a big old football fan, I find myself going to football games in stadiums across the south. No matter what stadium, no matter where, one thing holds true. Stadium seating is not One Size Fits All. I have wedged, squeezed and stuffed myself in plastic stadium seats, ashamed of my fat rolls billowing out the side encroaching on my neighbor’s personal space. I have sucked in my gut and side walked the row to get to my seat trying not to take out small children with their cotton candy and grown men with their plastic Budweiser beer bottles embarrassed of my thick thighs and wide rear. At the latest football game, I realized I fit in my seat. My seat and only my seat. So what if I hip checked the old man who sits down the aisle from us and screams like a wild hyena every play. It wasn’t because I was too big to fit down the aisle. It was my passive-aggressive attempt to shut his screaming up once and for all.

Most of the time thinking about all the little victories along the way doesn’t make the days any easier. It just makes the way I handle them better. I mean Oreos are awesome but even they can’t make my problems any less of a problem. But cupcakes on the other hand……….nah, not even cupcakes.

Proverbs 10:22 The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.image

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