Friday, March 26, 2010


Back in Minnesota, Tom spent a lot of time watching the Weather Channel.

The Weather Channel is an integral part of any retired guy’s life. It is important to know how to plan your day: how to dress, where to fish, and whether or not to put away your snow blower and take out the lawn mower. Important decisions were made based on the information provided by the Weather Channel.

However, down here in Arizona, the Weather Channel isn’t so spellbinding. The weather is just kind of sunny and in the 70s or 80s—day after day after day. Sometimes it clouds up a little and sometimes the wind blows a little harder than other days. But it’s not worth spending much time watching the Weather Channel to get the details.

So how does a retired guy fill the time that formerly was spent watching the Weather Channel?

He expands his social life—hits golf balls, goes for walks or runs, skims leaves off the pool—and goes to tea parties.

No, really. He goes to tea parties.
Everyone on the “A List” was there: Mickey Mouse, Suzie-the-blond-doll, Frog, and, of course, Colbie—you know, the Hollywood crowd.

I kept hoping that the weight limit on those little chairs was at least 160 pounds or so. If Grandpa breaks a chair at a tea party, he might not get invited back.

And then he’d have to go back to watching the Weather Channel. Alone. No tea. Life would be empty.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


First, the healing.

Yesterday morning for the first time in a week and a half, I was able to walk a three-mile trek at my normal pace. Progress! The tendonitis is still there, but it gets better every day. Now that I know I’m not going to be permanently crippled, chronically maimed, or everlastingly scarred, I am more confident about increasing the pace and the distance.

But I have learned a lesson about warming up and stretching out, before and after running. I have learned about ice and elevation. I have learned about the structure of a knee, especially tendons.

Always read the fine print.

Second, the idiocy.

Yesterday, while I was watching Colbie, I told her that we would go outside to play. She knows that means putting on shoes, so she happily trotted over to where I had kicked off my shoes by the front door and brought one to me. Upside down. Imagine my surprise when I looked down and saw this:
In the four weeks since we’ve been in Arizona, I have completely gone through the bottom soles of my shoes. I was walking/running on the cushion insoles (or whatever cushion was left of them). How dumb could I be? I will need to replace these shoes before I try running again.

I plan to try a short sprint again this weekend, using a McDavid runners’ knee band (to reduce pain from patellar tendonitis) that my daughter-in-law lent me. Just think: two weeks ago, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as patellar tendonitis. And two weeks ago, I had no idea that a guy named McDavid was dreaming up a knee strap just to help people with conditions like that.

I will also need to find a shoe store which will sell a pair of shoes to an amateur runner who is too dumb to consider that part of her problem might be that her shoes are worn out.

Anyway, I’m back on track. Just thought I’d admit that I’m not getting any smarter as I age.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


In my other (pre-retirement) life when I lived in Minnesota during the month of March , the first day of spring, March 21, always seemed like a mistake--a cruel-joke calendar miscalculation on the part of the ancient Egyptians.

In Minnesota on March 21, there was often still snow on the ground—and even if the ground was bare, there was always a spring snowstorm or icestorm being threatened on the weather channel. We were never completely out of the woods snow-wise until maybe June 1 or so. So March 21st was just a date on the calendar—not safely and absolutely spring.

Arizona is certainly the desert state, full of cactus and sand and heat (if you’ve ever been here in July when the temperatures are in the 100s, you’d know for sure). However, the month of March truly is spring out here. Right now, the yard of the house we’re staying in is in full bloom—flowers everywhere.

So instead of cactus, we’re looking at this:
And instead of tumbleweed, we’re admiring this . . .

And this . . . And instead of snow banks, this . . .

And this . . .

Everybody here is bracing for the Arizona heat and dryness that are surely on their way. Summer is the time of year when Arizonians run their air conditioners like we Minnesotans run our furnaces in the winter. But right now, the scenery is spectacular and it’s hard to remember that there might be snow on the ground anywhere else in the world.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I haven’t been doing so well in the last week.

Er, wait a minute . . . that sounds pretty melodramatic. People whose houses are being foreclosed on or who are being held hostage in guerilla prisons in third world countries—well now, those folks aren’t doing so well.

So let me rephrase that: I have been doing fine. But my knee hasn’t been doing so well in the last week. After my personal life-changing 3-mile run a week ago, my knee started acting its age. “Hey, buddy,” I coaxed the achy-breaky joint, “61 is the new 51! Didn’t you get the memo?”

A mild, self-diagnosed case of tendonitis in my left knee has forced me to temporarily shelve the running and cut back on my walking to a tortoise-paced two miles a day. I’ve iced and elevated and rested the offending knee. I’ve even taken Aleve a couple of times.

It’s not a serious case; I can easily keep up with a 15-month-old toddler’s pace, so I can still fulfill my important grandmotherly obligations, thank goodness.

It’s just frustrating. I felt like I had finally broken down a mental barrier with that 3-mile run, and now this setback.

When I read up on tendonitis, the first thing my source said was that “middle-aged adult runners are very susceptible to tendonitis in the knees.” If middle-aged runners are susceptible, do the math and imagine how susceptible senior runners are. Guess I should have read the fine print before I decided to run a 5K.

Anyway, the knee is slowly getting better. At my age, everything occurs slowly. Why should knee healing be any different? I still plan to run in the 5K on May 15 but will need to be more careful about warming up, wearing the right shoes, and eating lots of chocolate (I just added the last one to see if you were paying attention).

This is not really my knee. But let’s just say this knee looks the way my knee FEELS!

And I don’t want to hear anyone saying, “See, this is proof that old ladies weren’t meant to run in races.” Seriously, don’t say that. Don’t even think that.

“Buzz . . . buzz . . .mumble . . . murmur . . . if God had intended old ladies to run in races . . . would have given them titanium knees to begin with . . . ” What did I just say??? I don’t want to hear it! Don’t even whisper it!

Even with the tendonitis, I would still much rather have my tombstone read, “Died while hobbling along in a 5K” than “Died on living room couch clutching a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos watching Real Housewives of Orange County.”

So seriously, no smug ‘I told you so’s.’ I am still convinced that this has been a very positive experience, and that in the end, I will earn the tee-shirt that comes with finishing the race. (In the final analysis, it’s pretty much all about the tee-shirt.)

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Some people chase their dreams. A few people chase rainbows or dragons. Other people chase their destiny or ghosts or storms or pirates.

I chase curls. A squirrelly little mass of light brown ringlets.

The curls are usually toddling away as fast as the two little legs beneath them can carry them.
I toddle along behind, smiling happily. Grandbaby curls.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


This morning, I got up early to run. I knew I was going to try to run the entire three miles, even if my training schedule said I only had to try for 2¼. Sure enough, I was able to do it—three miles.

Slower than molasses in January, but three miles nonetheless.

In my own defense, I did have a few spurts of a graceful, gazelle-like running gait inspired entirely by vanity. If a car was stopped at a stop sign waiting for me to cross the street in front of it, the driver idly watching me run, I would feel compelled to step it up a notch. The fake gazelle-like gait would last exactly as long as it would take for me to get across the street and for the car to drive away. Not a moment longer. Then it was right back to my own personal old-lady shuffle.

Once I got home, I decided to have a serious talk with various body parts that have, over the past three weeks, been protesting my new pastime of running.

“It’s not like I’m asking a lot of you,” I said firmly to an obscure muscle in my upper left thigh, maybe the Sartorius muscle, but don’t quote me on that. “I’m not asking you to run a marathon or even a 10K. It’s just a little 5K, and I wish you’d cooperate.” I gave the muscle a nudge. “You’re well padded in squishy layers of fat and saggy skin. I’m not making you slap against a bare femur with no cushion . . . Whaddya want? Packing peanuts?”

“Then you—you behave.“ I scolded my left knee. “You can be replaced, you know,” I threatened in my most severe voice. “They have these really cool titanium and polyethylene artificial numbers, so it’s not like I have to put up with your nonsense.”

“And you, you freeloader,” I said, exasperated, to some obscure trapezius muscle on the side of my neck. “What in the world do you have to complain about? It’s not like you’re doing any of the grunt work in this whole process.”

I know that most runners are lean and thin, so their muscles and joints aren’t under quite so much strain. I could easily weigh 105 pounds—if you surgically removed all my bones and internal organs and just threw what was left on the scale. But that’s not going to happen, if you know what I mean. I come from a long line of eaters. Me and my kin, we like to eat.

I did bring a bottle of Aleve along to Arizona with me for emergencies (accidental limb amputations and the like). I’ve probably taken about five Aleves in the past year all put together. But lately, I’ve found myself thinking—obsessing—about that bottle of Aleve. Thinking it would probably feel pretty good to toss down a couple after breakfast—maybe one or two before I go to bed. I might be on the slippery slope to drug addiction, I’m not sure. So far, I’ve fought the urge, hoping that my various body parts would grow accustomed to actually working a little for their room and board. So I’ve tried hard to just say no to the drugs.

Old age, new problems. I feel like such a jock.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

RUNNING AND SAN DIEGO (no, not running TO San Diego)

First, an update on the 5K training situation. This morning, I ran for two miles without stopping and walked the last mile. Progress, progress (please hold your applause).

Oddly enough, the longer I run now, the more normal and even my breathing gets. It seemed like I sounded in more distress for the first half mile than I did for the last mile and a half. Is there a physiological reason for that? (Anyone? Anyone? Is there a doctor in the house?)

Second, we did a two-day trip to San Diego on Tuesday and Wednesday. Riddle for the day: What has four legs, four arms, two heads, and doesn’t stop talking for 24 hours? Answer: Two old army buddies who haven’t seen each other since February 1969 when they left Lai Kai, Vietnam, to come back to the U.S.

Tom and his army buddy have kept in touch over the years at Christmas and birthdays (they share a birthday—same month, day, and year). And since we were only a few hours away in Arizona, Tom decided that it was time to see his old buddy in person. When his old friend opened his front door, the men smiled, shook hands, and immediately assured each other that they hadn’t changed a bit except for a little less hair. It was like those 41 years melted away and they were “Jimbo” and “Tombo” again.

“We haven’t changed a bit."

Our very good hosts took us to see some beautiful spots around San Diego including Coronado Island, Cabrillo National Monument Park, Balboa Park, Old Town San Diego, and the San Diego Bay area.

Here are a few shots of the breathtaking scenery.

Sunset on the Pacific Ocean

View of San Diego Bay from Cabrillo National Monument Park

Old Town San Diego

Of course, we needed much more than a day to see San Diego, so we put it on our list of places to visit when we can stay a little longer.

However, the main purpose of this trip wasn’t to see San Diego. It was a chance for Tom to revisit a time of his life when he was young and in a war zone, very far away from his sheltered life in North Dakota. His old friend “Jimbo” was one of the people who helped him make it through that tough time in his life. After five minutes of checking each other over, those intervening 41 years disappeared. Once again, they became 24-year-old second lieutenants, laughing over pranks and reminding each other of names and places they had in common from the 1960s.

It was like they had never been apart.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


There’s an old saying that it takes three days to develop a bad habit and three weeks to develop a good one. I’m going to modify that old saying a bit as it seems to take me only three minutes to develop a bad habit—while the good ones, it seems like I battle with forever.

But I did have a breakthrough yesterday.

After six weeks of struggling with short sprints/walking in my 5K training and seemingly getting nowhere, I finally made significant progress. Right after I hit the “Publish” button on yesterday’s whiny, negative blog, I tied on my running shoes, girded my loins (whatever that means), steeled my mind, and hit Palm Valley Road.

And I ran without stopping for 1 ½ miles. Without stopping even once. That’s half a 5K.

I didn’t struggle, I didn’t think I was dying, and I wasn’t afraid. I just ran.

I passed a much younger, thinner person walking down the road who smiled encouragingly at me. I passed an old man pushing a toddler in a stroller, holding a dog on a leash, who nodded at me. An 80-year-old man on a bicycle rode past me and said encouragingly, “Lookin’ good!” I ran past a postal worker emptying mail from a blue drop box, and she didn’t even look up, so my panting must not have been EMT-summoningly alarming.

And I ran. Just like Forrest Gump. Well, slower. Much slower. It wasn’t pretty, but I ran.

Monday, March 08, 2010


What in the Sam Hill was I thinking when I agreed to run in a 5K on May 15? I never was an athlete. Ever. I may not have been the very last kid to be picked on the team, but I was certainly the second to last kid to be picked.

I will be fair: there is improvement. When I first kicked up the speed on my treadmill back in February, I was able to run for a grand total of 30 seconds. And then I felt like dying. Last Saturday, I ran/walked 3 miles and one of my sprints, the longest, was 5 minutes and 15 seconds. After which, of course, I felt like dying.

The positive thing is that 5 minutes and 15 seconds is 10½ times longer than I was able to run a month ago. The negative thing is that I need to be able to run for about 35 or 40 continuous minutes to run a 5K.

The calendar is ticking away. (Do calendars tick? Mine does—like a time bomb.)

My body is protesting: my thighs ache, my heel goes numb, my finger hurts (well, to be honest, I sliced my finger on the jagged edge of a can I was recycling).

My left lung may have collapsed (why else would breathing be so difficult?). My heart has developed an extra chamber to accommodate the increased blood pumping, and my face has taken on a permanent ruddy/sweaty/blotchy pallor. (What happened to that healthy glow all the fitness magazines promised?)

Then there’s that funny spot that developed on my left foot, so I put Tinactin on it. I have no idea what the spot is, but Tinactin is my cure-all for everything even remotely foot related including club feet, hammer toes, gout, and blue toe syndrome.

If God had wanted me to be a runner, I think He would have said something earlier and not waited 61 years to tell me. It would have been more like a Forrest Gump inspirational thing. Remember Forrest?

“That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going.”

No, I’m no Forrest Gump. There’s no Mrs. Gump saying encouragingly, “Run, Rachel, run!” There’s just the sound of my time-bomb calendar ticking away to May 15.

Friday, March 05, 2010


Nobody ever told me that when I got to be the age I am, time would hurtle by faster than the speed of light. I kind of thought that in my senior retired years, time would just totter along on a walker or a cane, each minute hobbling by, stretching into long, old-lady days.

Instead, just the opposite is true. It doesn’t matter how early I get up in the morning, there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done that I want to get done. If I get up at 6 a.m., before I know it, it’s 9 a.m.—and then it’s noon—and then it’s late afternoon—and then it’s time to go to bed. Our Arizona vacation is already one-third over, and I feel like it has hardly started.

Especially when I’m with Colbie, the time just flies by. Was that two hours? Unbelievable! Naptime already? Time for bed? Where did that precious time go?

So let me warn all you young whippersnappers out there. If you are waiting for retirement and your senior sunset years to leisurely do all the things you want to do, don’t count on it. Do it now—make the time—travel, write your novel, climb that mountain . . . whatever.

Old age is like Warp-10 speed on Star Trek: the maximum speed limit for the galaxy when you can be at all places in the universe simultaneously. A new day starts, and then suddenly it’s over, blazing by at 500 times the speed of light.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


With all the traveling we had been doing in the past week-and-a-half, the 5K training program had been put on the back burner. While we were in Minnesota, all I had to do was trot down the basement stairs and jump on my treadmill, the evil machine that measured my time and distance with space-shot accuracy.

After we arrived in Arizona, the 60- and 70-degree temperatures outside made it easy to do the daily 3- or 4-mile walk. But the big question became, where could I run? I was used to running in the privacy of my cellar with no one to see me except the non-judgmental spider in the corner. The thought of running in a public place made me very uncomfortable. Would someone call the police? Summon an ambulance?

I shouldn’t have worried. Phoenix is a city of 5 million people, and they all seem to be in their cars driving somewhere. Fast. But I think I’ve found a place or two near our temporary home where nobody will panic if they see old people running down the street. In fact, I’ve found that Phoenix is a place where you see lots of old people running down the street. The place is crawling with old people running down the street. In fact, you feel a little out of place if you aren't running down the street.

So if you are in town and want to see and hear much huffing, puffing, panting, and perspiring (and who doesn’t), you might catch me on Palm Valley Road:

Don’t dial 9-1-1. Don’t stop and offer us CPR. Don’t offer us a ride home. It may look like a medical emergency, but I’m just training for a 5K with Tom trotting by my side for moral support. It may look like we’re gasping for our last breath, but that’s just an optical illusion. In reality, we’re floating along in a smooth, slow motion shot, with “Brian’s Song” swelling in the background. At least I think it’s “Brian’s Song.” It’s tough to tell over the sound of our gasping for air.

Monday, March 01, 2010


Just when you think you’ve seen darn near every beautiful place on earth, up pops another one. This time, the beautiful spot was at the south end of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the area of the Sequoia National Forest, overlooking Kernsville (California), the Kern River, and Lake Isabella.

We spent the weekend at a cabin that my daughter-in-law’s family built with their bare hands, 18 months of sweat equity, and a jackhammer. Nestled into the side of a mountain overlooking Kernville is their weekend retreat, a cabin that gives you the feeling of floating somewhere up near the clouds.

In order to get there, we first did some seat time in the car. Colbie is not a car sleeper. She stayed awake every minute of the eight-hour ride to the cabin and the eight hours back. What a trooper, although Mickey Mouse on the video player helped a lot!!

My traveling companion, Colbie
Arriving at Lake Isabella

View from the Deck of the Cabin

View of the Inside of the Cabin (every board, every beam, every coat of finish has a story)

Walking in the Mountains

View of the Cabin from Above

Colbie and Grandpa Visiting the Kernville Museum

Since Tom and I are not handy-type people, I am always amazed at what other people can dream and build. This cabin was built with incredible skill and an equal amount of thought and love. The dream was to build a retreat where the family could be together, a place where the grandchildren would love to come and hide out in the fort or climb the rock wall, where there would always be something to do and somewhere to explore. And their dream was successful . . . a beautiful retreat at the top of the world.