The Beauty of Habit

whatwerepeatedlydo-@allielefevere

This morning, I got up and read my Bible, swishing coconut oil as per usual.  I prayed.  I looked at the weather forecast (pouring down rain for the foreseeable future:  check). I checked email and Facebook, and posted a verse on my page.  I found a kettlebell workout on YouTube and sweated in a new way. I did not clean up cat vomit. That’s nearly become an everyday thing, thanks to Chloe.

All of these things have become habit for me.  I don’t think about them. I just do them.  They flow together into a seamless whole for the morning. I alternate between running and weight workouts to keep things interesting.

You might criticize my habits and say, Well, Susan.  Facebook?  At 5:00 a.m.?  Is that necessary?  Maybe not.  Since I’ve started working full-time, I don’t check Facebook as often.  No time, plus the city’s computers track all the websites I touch.  Gulp.

The word habit has a bad reputation.  When we think about habit, it’s usually in the context of breaking a bad habit.  Habit means:

  • a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up:  “this can develop into a bad habit
  • an addictive practice, especially one of taking drugs.”a cocaine habit”
  • general shape or mode of growth, especially of a plant or a mineral
    a shrub of spreading habit”
  • a long, loose garment worn by a member of a religious order or congregation.

Leaving out the clothing angle, you can see even in the definition, it garners a negative connotation. But habits aren’t all bad.  In fact, if something has morphed into a habit, it means somewhere along the way, you mustered up enough discipline to make it  permanent part of your life.  Perhaps it happened unconsciously, like drinking coffee or petting your cat.  The cat rubbed your leg, you sat down and he/she/it curled up in your lap. Cozy habit formed! If you worked at something with a will, like setting a goal of some kind, it took effort on your part. Or maybe you surrendered to the inevitability of biannual dental checkups or eating an apple a day.

As they days grow shorter – and wetter – I find myself examining some of my previously ignored habits.  Should I keep doing that?  What about this?  Can I crowd out some lingering baddies with new good things? Life is fleeting. I’m getting older, and I want to do things that propel me forward in Christ, further good relationships, good health and foster continuous growth both in my life and in those whom I get to encourage.  I want to jettison any flotsam or detritus I’ve picked up over the decades. You can teach an old(er) dog new tricks.  I’m ready.

This post inspired by lonestarrungirl.  Thanks!

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Seven-Minute Drive

rain on pavement

There’s only one way to describe this morning’s run:  wet.

I dithered about whether to even go out.  I’ve been cold all week, at work and at home.  This is what happens when the rains start up in earnest.  The damp gets to me.

I’ve got a sore spot on the ball of my left foot, so I took a few days off to rest and rehab it anyway.  Time to get back at it.  I tucked my shirt in for warmth and hit the streets. The cool rain hit my face and I remembered something that happened yesterday.

I drove Zac to the high school.  The days shorter now, our 7-minute drive took place in the dark.  The windshield wipers thunked a beat in the silent car’s interior. Neither of us had much conversation.

Then, suddenly…

“This is my favorite,” Zac said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.  Zac majors in sarcasm, so I needed clarification.

“The lights in the rainy morning.  They reflect off the street.  It’s so cool.  It’s beautiful.”

I grinned in the darkness. The colored lights of the streets and intersections created a pastel painting of sorts, bleeding onto the roads. I could see it.

“Yeah, I like that, too.  The pavement has a satin finish when it’s wet.”

Zac gave me a withering gaze, unmistakable even in the near-black.

“That’s sateen, Mom.”

End of moment.

I love it when life – via God –  throws out little surprises.  We never know what’s up around the bend, but we dive in every day.  We just might get a kick out of a teenage boy’s insights or a puddle-jumping run. God is in the surprise business.

For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

Run Like Hell Half Marathon Recap

Today I ran one of my favorite races:  Run Like Hell, in Portland, OR.  As a nearly native Portlandian (if there is such a word), I love this town.  And I want to go on the record saying I lived there *before* it was cool.  Art cars, exceptionally talented street buskers and Benson bubblers are part of my heritage.

Anyway.

This Halloween-infused race changes themes every year.  This year’s theme?  Under the Big Top.  Racers came dressed to match it.  I saw a strong man, complete with shiny body suit and handlebar mustache.  I saw a young gal dressed like a lion.  One guy ran the whole way engulfed in a giant box of popcorn.

But truly, Portland – and this race – doesn’t discriminate.  Two men in puffy sumo wrestler suits ran side by side.  A slice of pizza crossed the finish line ahead of me. Wonder Woman and Super Man put in an appearance. Several male fairies, bedecked in sparkly wings and bows, charged down the street.  Let’s not forget the requisite rainbow-wigged guys and gals, and the standard tutus.

But don’t let the goofy costumes and festive atmosphere fool you.  This is a full-on race.  Start time:  7:30. I put on the pants I wore from the You Go, Girl Half and the shirt from that race.  I didn’t realize it until right before the race.  My subconscious dressed me for victory. The sky dawned partly cloudy, with rain later on.  I prayed to outrun the rain.  Running a race this time of year comes right on the cusp of our seasonal weather change from mostly dry to mostly wet.

The first 4 miles took us up Terwilliger Blvd.  And I do mean up.  We reached a great park, stumping along under drifting fall leaves. We had sweeping views of the river and Mt. Hood silhouetted by the sunrise. Can I be honest here and tell you I considered turning back?  I do hills at home, sure, but not 4 miles.  In a row.  But then, we hit a curve and trooped downhill towards Naito Parkway, which runs along the Willamette.  I love running downhill.  I made up some time here, and thought I still might do well provided I stayed strong.

I did alright, for another couple of miles.  Around mile 9, I started to feel tired.  I walked a little, then ran some more.  By mile 10 (which seemed to take a rather long time to appear), as we zigzagged into Northwest Portland, I knew I’d better cut back on my pacing.  My mood plummeting, I decided to manage expectations.  I would run 2 minutes and walk 1 minute.  My calves tightened up. Then my hip started aching.  The joys of aging!  Sigh.

Then I started thinking.  I trained for this entire race while working full-time.  Never done that before.  For me, this meant early morning runs, the majority of those in the dark.  I missed a few on my schedule but did the bulk of them.  I even threw in one extra long run for good measure. Plus, I’ve finally embraced the wisdom of carb loading.  Why, oh why, did I ever doubt this?!  It made a huge difference in my stamina and how I felt when I crossed the finish line.

I drank water at almost every station, since my very first half marathon I ended very dehydrated.  Not pretty.

“Unicorn tears and rainbows in a cup!” said one helper in  sing-song voice, handing out water cups to passing runners.  He wore an oversized sombrero.  I cracked a grin.  How could I resist? Unicorn tears should not be wasted.

We had street buskers for the Naito Parkway stretch, several in a row.  Their steady music helped, as did the brass band at miles 8 and 10.  After the Boston Marathon bombing, races got locked down in  big way.  Very few spectators lined the street.  A few little kids in pajamas stood outside with their dads, marking time until their moms ran by.

Because of this, the race seemed more serious. No goofy signs, or costumes on the race monitors. Not entirely solemn, however, as a mad hatter in an orange felt suit whizzed by me.  But less spontaneous, less ebullient.  I hadn’t run this race in 5 years.  Maybe I’ve changed as well. Only 5 minutes later than the time I’d hoped for, I ran under the finish banner just as the rain fell in earnest. I got discouraged along the way but didn’t let it dissuade me.

Sometimes the successes we really want get superseded by other  ones – like recovering well from a race vs. reaching a time goal. If we keep our minds open to learning and growing, every race can be a win.  I can say, as the race started and finished in front of the 610 building on SW Broadway where I used to work, it felt like a little taste of home-brewed victory.

Run Like Hell medalHeavy medal.

The Beauty in Braces

braces

Earlier this week, I took Zac in for his first orthodontist consultation.  I should mention here that I had atrocious chompers as youngster.  Kind of hillbilly teeth.  Zac has inherited some of it. Since braces took up nearly 3 years of my teenage life, Jonathon figured I could take Zac to his appointment.  I could talk the jargon of brackets, rubber bands, wires and pain.

We drove Hwy. 101 in the Pepper-car.  Zac, ever prepared, brought his music along.

“Wanna hear some Childish Gambino?” he asked.

I did.

Turns out C.G., aka Donald Glover, is quite talented. I don’t generally listen to rap, but I can appreciate creative rhymes and rhythms.  It’s essentially poetry set to a beat. Music optional. Warning, though:  swearing happens.

We reached the office and filled out the requisite paperwork.  Ushered into the examination room, the pretty be-fleeced assistant talked us through the process.

“The Dr. Perlot will see you shortly,” she told us.

Dr. Rob, as he likes to be called, entered the room.  After some bantering with Zac about World of Warcraft and hordes, he looked over at me.

“You’re petite,” he stated. “Where does the height come from?”

Flummoxed, I told him my husband and I both have tall brothers. Usually, the question is, “Why are you so short?”

Dr. Rob seemed satisfied with this explanation. He turned back to Zac.

“You need to grow, mister,” he said.  “Your jaw line will grow as you grow.”

Dr. Perlot implied if we’d brought him in earlier, Zac’s mouth wouldn’t have been ready.  Any later, and Dr. Rob would have considered surgery to correct Zac’s overbite and overjet.  We’re overachievers in this family.

The whole scenario felt almost prophetic.  Zac will be 16 next month.  He’s about 5’5″ right now.  We’d love him to push 6 feet.  But we have no control over such things. We pray.

Just in this past week, Zac has started talking about college and getting his grades up.  He’s thinking about the future.  He’s picking up the next pieces of pending adulthood. His outlook has started to move beyond “what’s for dinner?”

As we drove home, I realized that growth keeps on happening, if we’re willing.  Physical growth is a function of life. We endure it – or the lack of it – as best we can.  Emotional and spiritual growth happen because of choices we make in light of our circumstances.  No doubt in a couple of years, Zac will outgrow Childish Gambino.  He might even put down his shorts-n-t-shirts wardrobe for something more interesting, more professional.

For now, it’s enough to see him to keep growing into the man God plans him to be.  He’s no longer the towheaded little boy, fascinated by bouncing balls and Legos, running around in the sun.  He’s taking up responsibility for himself.  He’s discovering what he’s good at. He’s growing up.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.  – 1 Corinthians 13:11

Innocence Sleeps

This morning, Rex sleeps on the Barney couch. His eyes are shut tight, with feet curled in the air.  He snores softly.  His black fur gleams under the lamplight. He looks, for all intents and purposes, like a picture of innocence.

But we know better.

The addiction.

The addiction.

What we thought a cute stunt – fetching random sections of leftover PVC pipe from Jonathon’s many projects – turned into  major issue.  See those pieces of chalk, the colored objects?  Not ours.  Some little neighborhood kid has lost their ability to create their artistic masterpieces because of Rex’s thievery.  Rex prowls the block to feed his need.

To top it all off, he’s proud of his conquests.

“M-WAO, m-WAO,” he’ll call at the back door.

I’ll look out the window.  Rex will look up, smiling around a cylindrical object.  Sometimes a Nerf dart, sometimes an old tree branch. Or chalk.

Aside from the stealing, he also chases rodents.

dead rat dead squirrel

Sorry if this is too graphic too early in the morning.  But Rex is a stone-cold killer.  Small furry mammals, you’ve been warned.

However, even this has escalated.

Rex's latest kill.

  Rex’s latest kill.

Whose baby is this?  No idea. It just showed up in the carport one morning, facedown on the concrete.

From thief to doll killer.  When will it end?!