The String Thing, 1

I feel like I should explain why I am explaining. It’s more now than memories; more toward the end of the story than the middle. Based on past success, it’s a hopeful reminder that I can get there, yet.

So, where were we?

I stayed in Adrian 4 more years before moving to Ann Arbor. During those years, I drove a commuter van from Adrian to Ann Arbor, with one stop in Tecumseh. I started out as rider and by default became a driver. Cost-wise, those 3 years were very helpful to my budget.

As a driver, all I had to do was collect gas money from my riders and deliver the van for regular maintenance. The responsibility kept me going after my loss, and the extra “busy” time meant I spent less time at home; alone.

After I got home, after chores and sometimes dinner, I still had time on my hands. A lot of time. I also had a treadmill, a healthy collection of angry music and International Music Feed.

The more I used it the more addictive it became.  15 minutes became 20. 20 minutes became 30. 30 was always my goal. By then, I usually surpassed that waiting for a song to end or wanting another tenth of a mile to round off the distance. I’d set it on manual so I could control the pace.

Eventually, 30 minutes wasn’t hard, so I challenged myself. I’d use the programmed interval incline. I’d switch it up by using the cardio program. I found myself adjusting the speed down during cardio, but would still follow through with ups and downs.

I also didn’t sleep much. Oh, I’d shower and crash after exercising, but then wake up around 2 AM. I’d wander to the TV and watch whatever happened to be on. A predictable variety of infomercials of questionable integrity aired during these odd hours.  Slicers, dicers, miracle pills, body transformers, pot, pans, and the upside down inversion thing that was so popular, back then.

Cuddling a cup of tea on just another normal after-midnight night, my life changed. A different sort of wee-hour, call-now advert caught my attention. In between sleepy sips and throwing our Jack Russell Terrier Sadie’s favorite red ball down our longest hall, what I was hearing made sense.

I paid a little more attention which left me more awake. It was the opposite of what should have been achieved by watching mindless drivel; boring myself back to sleep. What I was seeing was what I wanted, attainable or not.

The core of the pitch was a “core” building hip-hop dance program regaling the importance of balance and stance.  I stopped playing fetch with Sadie when she plopped down in the middle of the hall, swiveling her cocked head longingly between me and the bedroom, silently suggesting as only dogs do.

It figured; the one night I managed to tire the hyper missy out, I ended up all hyped up .

So, that’s how I learned about the string thing.

Quote for the Week:

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Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Inversion:  Something Like This

That Red Haired Lady: The Infomercial Queen

Know Your Hawker: More Infomercial Faces

Another 30 seconds

The treadmill followed us to Adrian, where it sat in the den gathering dust.

Until late 2005, when it became clear Jeff would never be able to return to work. I think up until this time, he thought he’d be able to beat it.

Despite medications and injections, his blood sugar averaged 350. What we hoped was temporary neuropathy, turned into a permanent nightmare. Unhealable ulcers covered his legs, which were in danger. Poor circulation and deep wounds prompted one doctor to speculate on the future, citing potential, eventual amputation.

Jeff wasn’t depressed. I was terrified. Carrying 298.7 pounds on a 5’3” frame, I realized I was in no shape to help if it came to that. I wasn’t concentrating on taking baby steps. I didn’t have to. My body determined my pace.

It seems incredible to me now that one full minute was as far as I got the first day. Within two weeks though, I had achieved a regular, comfortable 3-minutes. I mean comfortable as in not gasping for breath, seeing little black spots or needing to chug a glass of orange juice to counteract my blood sugar drops from the exertion.

I’d been to my yearly physical, which I tried to avoid by only going every two or three years. I was declared obese, of course, and pre-diabetic which believe it or not was a shock to me. Wearing a size 28 should have been a clue, but that’s not how I saw myself, mostly because that’s not how Jeff saw me, either.

We developed an evening routine. I would come home from work, change my clothes and treadmill for 3 minutes. By the time I’d finished my shower, picked out my work clothes for the next day, Jeff would have dinner ready.

One evening, Jeff stuck his head through the kitchen pass-through.  “How many minutes do you have left?” he asked.

“I only have 30 seconds,” I answered.

“Well,” Jeff said, “dinner’s not ready, yet. You can do an extra 30 seconds.”

I might have still had my crabby pants on from work, but I took umbrage. There I was sweating my brains out, seeing the light at the end of the torturous treadmill tunnel and he thinks I’ve got it in me to go another 30 seconds?

But, what I said, was, “Oh, really? Another 30 seconds? You get over here and do 30 seconds if you think it’s so easy!”

Of course, there were a few things wrong with my response. Jeff hadn’t actually implied I was slacking. He hadn’t said he thought it’d be easy. And it was a ridiculously inappropriate suggestion since his feet were continuously painful and he had a great deal of trouble walking.

But, Jeff just laughed. He found it endlessly amusing when I became flustered or got feisty. He wasn’t at all offended . And because that distinctive laugh was unavoidably contagious, I ended up laughing, too.

As Jeff wiped his doubled-over, guffawing tears from his eyes, I glanced down at LED readout.

“4 minutes!” I shouted in astonishment. “See?” Jeff said. “I knew you could do it.”

 

Quote for the Week:

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Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Interval Training for Beginners: Go All Out for 20 Seconds

4 Signs it’s Time:  To Change Your Routine

The Importance of:  Fitness Buddies

jdrf-2015

2 Fries Short

My first encounter with a treadmill was 2001. Jeff and I purchased one mainly for him. His diabetes was starting to swing high and he was logically advised to lose weight.

As recommended, we went to a one-on-one meeting with a nutritionist. After discussing Jeff’s eating habits and work schedule, it was suggested that he continue to go through whatever drive-thru he would like. My eyebrows began to draw together.

The remedy was to downsize from large to medium. I squinted a little.

The last instruction was to leave 2-3 fries uneaten. Then, throw them away. I was not amused. The experience created another descriptive Jeffism;  a few fries short of a full bag.

Joining a gym didn’t make any sense with his unpredictable work schedule. So, we bought a piece of equipment just a few months before we moved from the Tecumseh townhouse to Adrian. We each used it a few times, and then it became a cliché coat rack.

Hindsight is interesting. I’m not going with that 20/20 thing, but I will admit now, there was a bit of merit to the advice Jeff was given. I was more than extremely unhappy when Jeff passed, a bit before that, too. When it finally hit me, 5 years after the fact, I needed assistance. I told the therapist I really wanted to take advantage of the gym that came with my Ann Arbor apartment. It seemed monumentally impossible, though.

The solution offered was to start by placing my sneakers at the apartment door. Then maybe in a week or so, I could put the shoes in a bag, add some socks…..  At some point, I would actually put a shoe on and tie it. Then in a few days, maybe I’d be able to put two shoes on.

That’s where I scoffed and interrupted and said that was ridiculous. If I’m going to put one shoe on, I’m also going to put the other one on.  As soon as I heard myself say that my frown turned into a teary smile. I got the point. It was French fries, again.

Start small, or start micro small, but start somewhere.

Quote for the Week:

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Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Leave a Little:  Food on the Plate

Healthiest Fast Food:  If You Must

Beginner Walking:  10 minutes

No Chickens on New Years

An update and a correction:

  1. Regarding the politic of cows, I have been informed by a very reliable party, that I am guilty of glamorously rephrasing. Jeff’s true 1988 election sentiment was, “No matter who is the President tomorrow, I still gotta pull tits in the morning.
  2. Christmas was at Jeff’s brother’s the year Sally died. Nannee came for a while, but asked to be taken home because she was feeling sick.

Neither of these is an earth shattering revelation. The first makes me laugh, and the second one leads to another story.

But let’s talk about New Year’s. This was the year I learned that we’d never have chicken at Nannee’s on New Year’s Eve. That would be a bad omen. Chickens, she believed, would peck away at your money and bring poverty to your door.

Despite that, Jeff bought me a crowing cookie jar. Made of plastic, it looked a little like Foghorn Leghorn but different enough that there’d probably be no copyright infringement.

Tilting the hinged head to get inside would make it squawk-a- doodle do. I remember thinking that would be a good diet enforcing, snack-deterring tool. And I’m sure it would have been, if that had been where we kept the cookies.

Instead, it sat atop our fridge in our chicken-décor kitchen, not in our everyday line of vision. Once in a while, Jeff or I would re-notice it perched up there, and mischievously crank that chicken’s neck back just to hear it crow. It was such a random thing to do, and, to be honest, we both enjoyed the laughter that cackle encouraged.

Anyway, back to New Year’s. The resolutions are flying and folks everywhere are crowing about goals. I get that. I make a point to give voice to mine or text it to someone because the possibility of being asked “did you treadmill today?” makes me that much more likely to actually follow through.

So, Resolutions.  All the fail safes, plotted reminders, and spiritual encouragements don’t mean much if they’ve fallen into background noise. You have to remember to see them, pay attention to them.  It’s not good enough to fill up space with them; fill your heart and mind and soul.

I don’t have that jar anymore, but I think if I did, I’d keep it on the kitchen counter closest to the basement stairs. I’d joyously tip the cockscomb-ed head back each time I emerged from treadmill land.

Instead, I’ve push-pinned my Wounded Warrior Project calendar to the very past its prime inherited thin wood paneling that wraps the treadmill room. I’ve added an old green felt-tip to mark my efforts, but that all doesn’t seem “shiny” enough.

Yeah, I’ll use it, but I’ve eyeing that blue storage tote just a few feet away from my Sole. I’m gonna pull out one of those Christmas jingle-bells I put away last week and relocate it to one of the three built-in spaces designed to hold stuff like water bottle and hand weights.

That way it’ll be handy for vigorous shaking – signaling the end of exercise mode for the day.

I could possibly retrain my own Pavlovian response to jingle bells signaling the season of non-stop holiday eating. With enough repetitive reinforcement, I could end up feeling compelled to leap from my seat and take a few laps around an extended-as-far-as-it-will-go family table.

I could probably get a grant for that… just sayin’.

#imakemyselflaugh.

Quote for the Week:

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Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

How to:   #

How do:  Bells Jingle

How you:  Resolve

 

Schmaltz from the Mustard Guy

Jeff & I talked about his possible conversion to Judaism, before and after our wedding.

He bought The Jewish Book of Why, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. By the end of those he knew more than I did about the history of Judaism. Which wasn’t that surprising. The Sunday school snippets I had studied 30 years prior, hadn’t stuck well, and was mostly lost due to our non-practicing dynamic.

Jeff studied The Joy of Yiddish that had come along with me in my book collection. I told him that was a mostly lost language, but he thought it would be fun to be able to throw terms at and around with my dad. He threw them at me, too. Those had stuck well, go figure.

I came home one day and found Jeff reading 1,000 Jewish Recipes… like a text book. Cover to cover. He did that with every cookbook. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone else who read cookbooks like Jeff.

I mentioned that I was surprised he’d done that. I wanted to know why he didn’t just pick a recipe and make something.  Jeff answered, “Well, you should never do something without knowing why you’re doing it. Might not come out right.” He always wanted to know why. Why do you add this after that? Why should you use this ingredient instead of that? In this case, he was looking for the history behind the recipes. So, he could learn a little more.

Let me tell you, Jeff made a mean rye bread and amazing latkes. Cooking was one of Jeff’s passion hobbies. He subscribed to cooking magazines, bought cookbooks, and visited many online recipe sites.

I definitely benefitted from that. He’d cook and I’d clean up, except when something shot up out of the food processor or mixing bowl. In that case (or those cases), Jeff was in charge of cleaning the ceiling and cabinet doors.

Years later, Jeff discovered a new vendor to help supply our store. He was tremendously excited. He emailed me and then he called me to make sure I saw the email. He couldn’t wait until I got home to tell me that he’d found us schmaltz supplier.

Schmaltz, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is gathered chicken or goose fat gathered from previous cookings. It’s a staple iin traditional Jewish cooking. Much the same as pig rendered southern lard.

We went to an Ann Arbor temple a few sporatic Friday nights. We’d stay in Ann Arbor after work, and have dinner before. We went to the Passover service and the Rosh Hashanah service. He enjoyed both, especially the shofar blowing.

The more he learned, the more aware became of similarities in our religions. He took the time to explain them to me. I knew very little about his, except for vague notions of Christmas and Easter and that their bible was very different.

We stopped going because it was getting more difficult to get there. Jeff’s work hours depended upon delivery assignments, and Friday nights were busy.

I’m still amazed that Jeff would even consider converting, so he could share Judaism with me. I never asked him to, and I never considered converting to Christianity.

But, truly, based on how things turned out, I know the reason he never got that far.

Quote for the Week:

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Bonus: still makes me giggle…

 

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