Five-Minute Friday: Heal

(Note: “Five-Minute Friday” is an activity I participate in based on Kate Motaung’s blog, linked at the bottom of the page. Each week, Kate posts a one-word prompt, and people write for five minutes straight, free-write style with no editing and no over-thinking.)

The cover story of Time magazine’s most recent issue focuses on the power of exercise, more specifically exercise as medicine and its power to heal. The story starts with an experiment on mice that had a genetic disorder that causes them to age prematurely. The scientists let half be sedentary and the other half exercise. After a period of time, the sedentary group of mice showed the effects of their disease, but the same diseased mice that exercised appeared not physically different than mice that didn’t have the disorder. Exercise apparently stalled the effects.

This revelation can hardly be called one since it echoes what Hippocrates and others from centuries ago have long argued: with diet and exercise, we can heal ourselves. But, thanks, Time, for the reminder.

My husband and I are training for the Chicago Marathon…again. This will be the third year in row we will have run it, and I am happy to say this is my best training season yet. The last two years, I had aches and injuries – tendonitis here, tendonitis there, a wonky knee here, an angry foot there. But last week, we successfully ran 20 miles, and I have never done that consecutively in training. Our mid-week runs have been speed workouts on our country club’s treadmill, mainly to avoid the ridiculous heat and humidity that Cincinnati can’t seem to shake, and I think these have contributed to our successful season.

20 miles on a Sunday is excessive, I admit, and my preferred leisure run post-marathon is probably 5 miles, maybe an occasional 8 for a challenge. But I have long since relied on running to cure what ails me. I don’t always get the benefit of a runner’s high – in fact, I can probably count the times on one hand, and I have years of running behind me – but I have yet to find a comparable activity to achieve the mental clarity and sense of accomplishment running gives me.

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Five-Minute Friday: Happy

(Note: “Five-Minute Friday” is an activity I participate in based on Kate Motaung’s blog, linked at the bottom of the page. Each week, Kate posts a one-word prompt, and people write for five minutes straight, free-write style with no editing and no over-thinking.)

As my summer winds down and I prepare to go back to the scheduled life of school, I thought this was a good week to get back into the 5-Minute Fridays, too. How fortuitous that the word is “happy” given that I have just had such a happy time off.

This week, I returned from a 7-day diversity leader training with an intense schedule. From 7:30 am until 9, 10, 11 pm, I participated in sessions with 55 other educators from across the country (and beyond). While I was happy to be there, that is not why I am including it in this post.

One of the videos we watched when discussing gender was this amazing poetry slam, “Pretty,” in which the poet includes a line that says the poem is “about women who will prowl thirty stores in six malls to find the right cocktail dress, but haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how to wear joy.” (Warning: if you watch the clip, there is one use of the F-word.)

The slam is powerful, but upon listening to it, I felt relief that I am not one of those women. I DO know how to find fulfillment and wear joy.

Here is what makes me happy, in no particular order:

  • My family, especially when we are all in the same place
  • Knitting
  • Running
  • Kayaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Being quiet, enjoying the stillness
  • Coffee
  • Working to leave the world better than I found it
  • Ice cream
  • Time off to enjoy all of the above

At this new job that isn’t so new anymore, administrators have the month of July off. This perk was one of many that ultimately drove me to accept the position, and I have to say, I underestimated the power of having such a large chunk of time off to recharge, regroup, and restore my soul.

Will I return to work next week happy? Indeed.

 

Dead Dad Day #7

Today marks the seventh anniversary of my father’s death, the most life-changing event I have experienced that now serves as my “before” and “after” marker. I have always honored Dead Dad Day, as I refer to it, as a kind of Sabbath, a day I do not conduct business as usual but spend time reflecting on the painfully beautiful unraveling it caused me.

I have written about my rituals on DDD before. Some years I didn’t work on February 11, some I did. Some years I reread sympathy cards, some years I didn’t. What has always been the tradition, though, is a family dinner with my crew and my mother, sister, and brother-in-law. We have a margarita, one of my dad’s favorite adult drinks, toast to a wonderful, complicated man, and share memories.

This year is different. A shared meal is not possible now that we’ve moved 1,000 miles away. Had we been home, it would not have happened anyway, as my sister is in the home stretch of her nurse practitioner program and has class from 1-8 tonight. And though I have always kept the evening of February 11 clear, tonight Owen has a make-up basketball game. Having him skip it would be a very UN-Tom-Pesola move.

Life has changed for us all, as life tends to do. And for the first time since that terrible day on February 11, 2009, when my 59-year-old father unexpectedly died in the middle of the night due, in essence, to Type 1 diabetes, February 11 feels…normal.

I will continue to honor this day, of course. I am looking forward to a great day at work. I will attend a College Board workshop on examining PSAT data, participate in a lower school PLC meeting on math curriculum, finish the annual report to our endowed fund donors, and discuss ways we might compbasketballact the curriculum for our advanced upper school students. After school, I will help coach the middle school Girls on the Run team, our first meeting of the year. Then, we will squeeze in a family dinner before heading to Owen’s game to watch #66, the next generation of my father’s #33, play a great game.

 

I am also donating $33 to Spare a Rose, a foundation I fortuitously learned about last night. My father and Owen were lucky to have been born after the discovery of insulin, but just because insulin exists does not mean all children have access to it. To coincide with Valentine’s Day (the day we buried my father), Spare a Rose asks people to give the value of one rose to help provide diabetes supplies and insulin to children in degoofyveloping countries. How can I not support that?

So, cheers to you, all of my family and friends who have supported us on our journey of grief these last 7 years. And, cheers to a father who consistently supported me with love and kindness and encouragement. I hold my memories a little closer and dearer today.