So what do I do??

I imagined this scene the other day where I was at a dinner party and someone asked me ” So what do you do?”

In my somewhat twisted mind that is a bit of a loaded question. I could answer everything from “well I walk my dog everyday”  to “I’m a nurse” to  ( if I really feel like being a smart ass)  “I “do” lots of things like sleep, eat, drink, laundry, dishes……”  Yet I know in reality and in my imagined scene they were asking what I do for work and I reply “I am a writer”and this person says:

“Oh really?  And would I be familiar with any of your works?”  “What have you written?” Not that ANY of my friends talk like that and it was recently suggested to me that if they do I need to get new friends but lets move on.

Of course they are expecting me to name a book  they can find on Amazon or in their local Barnes & Noble, or a magazine article or some newspaper byline  but in reality my answer would be ( again with a touch of smart ass)  ” Well lets see I’ve written tons of grocery and to-do lists, papers for school, permission slips for kids and nurses notes but I doubt you would find any of those on Amazon

“Oh and I blog.”

Finally a somewhat plausible answer to that question. In reality the real answer is “I am a writer because I write.” I write for pleasure, for the joy of it,for personal soothing,as a release and because I love creating sentences out of words. Just because you can’t find me in Barnes & Noble doesn’t mean I am not a writer. I am a writer because I write. End of story….pun intended just so I can entertain myself!

It is the same with running (or whatever you favorite activity is). I am a runner because I run. When people ask me about a race as in “How did you do”  I use to think they were asking for my race results and I would hesitate and stumble over my answer and the words “slow” and “not very good” often punctuated the sentences I managed to form.

I quit doing that awhile back when I realized that my finishing time did NOT matter. What mattered was I did the race or the daily run and I was out there running. So the answer I always give now to “How was the race?” is “It was great! ” “I had a blast and I’m so glad I did it!” Sometimes people will clarify their question. “No I mean what was your finishing time?” And I say truthfully “I have no idea!” “I started, I finished and I had fun!” If they keep talking I keep walking!

So claim your answer to whatever it is you do! If you bike you are a cyclist, if you write you are a writer. Whatever it is you do that brings… Click To Tweet

Do fill your paper with the “breathings of your heart” or your belly if it is a grocery list..or fill the air with your beautiful music, or your soul with poetry…as Nike says “Just do it”

And don’t forget to have fun while you are doing it and above all else you have my permission to channel your inner smart ass when answering that question “What do you do?”

Now go out and tri!

 

 

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Update on My Year of Wonder!!

Wow this year is flying by!!  On January 4th of this year I wrote a post about My Year of Wonder Project.  You can read the original post here !

Here it is March 14th and I seriously can’t believe everything I have learned from this simple project.  For the last 69 days I have taken and posted a photo to my Instagram account  representing My Year of Wonder.  I have to admit I missed a few days while on vacation and I am busy catching up but not beating myself up over it because that sort of thing happens.  This was never meant to stress me out or be a chore.  It was and is intended to keep my word of the year “Wonder” in front of me and help me stop, pause, and appreciate all the beauty and wonder around me.

Some days I really wondered ( no pun intended) if something, anything would show up for me.  Max ( the famous goofy golden) and I would walk pretty much the same walk every day and most days something would just pop out at me.  Other days nothing would pop but I remained patient and sure enough something would appear that was just right for my Instagram post.

Yesterday’s post came to me in the kitchen and is one of my favorites because there is something so soothing about snapping green beans.

Other favorites include a rainy day that I dreaded going out in and it ended up being delightful!

 

And a snapshot of a letter my parents found that my husband had written to them while on a Navy Deployment and our second baby was due to arrive hopefully after he returned ( she waited for him to come home thankfully!)

And another of cloud lines that were just begging to be written on!

I could go on and on and nobody is more surprised than I am about how delightful this so called “exercise” has become and how much I enjoy it.

Feel free to start you own “Year of Wonder” project.  Or just enjoy mine on Instagram!

Keep wondering and keep triing!

 

 

 

 

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Trying to overcome my swimming anxiety…

Yes I have swimming anxiety.  Not the kind that makes me fearful to go into the water.  As a matter of fact I’ll be the first one to jump in the deep end with my grandkids and the last one to get out.

I love the water.

I hate the water.

Wait..what??  It’s true.  If you ask me to go swimming, go to the ocean or the lake I am there before you can finish inviting me.

Yet last year when it came to doing the one and only sprint triathlon I had signed up for I chickened out.  The anxiety about the swim part grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

I had done this tri before so I knew the drill.  It was an outside pool swim and you were seeded according to your swim time.  The last time I did it I was the next to last to get in and  out of the pool and I barely made it.  I promised myself it would never happen again.

I have no problem being the last out of the pool. That’s okay but what I didn’t like was how I struggled with the swim.  I thought I had trained enough but obviously not.  I knew what I had to do.

So last year I signed up for it again knowing that I REALLY needed to practice, train and train some more.  And guess what I did?

I got a PhD in swim procrastination.  I did some training but by the time the triathlon was 10 days away I started to panic so I rationalized as to why it wasn’t a good idea to participate.  My lame reasons amuse me now but I remember waking up the morning of the tri and thinking “Wow that was such a good decision” and then a week later beating myself up for not at least giving it a go.

One of my main reasons ( aside from the lack of training) was the waiting by the pool for a good 2 hours before it was my turn.  Not only was it in the blazing sun but there were women  (it was a women’s only tri)  already crossing the finish line by the time I got in the pool.

An embarrassing, anxiety inducing, heat exhausting wait.  Nope wasn’t going to do it.

The joke was on me.  They used two pools this past year to avoid the wait.   Beat myself up some more upon hearing that.

So here it is January 2017.  There is 8 inches of snow on the ground and I am thinking about  wiggling and contorting my post Christmas, post birthday celebration body into a swimsuit and going for a swim.

Snow and swimsuits  brrrrr

Of course the main problem ( which I always blame my lack of training on) is there is no close by indoor pool   I have been patiently waiting for the one to be finished that is about 25 minutes away but it’s taking forever.

Wouldn’t you know as I was online checking on the pool construction status I find one on our local military base that is not only what I need but can use right now.  It’s a little farther away but doable for once or twice a week.

And my anxiety started simultaneously with the excuses as to why I couldn’t manage this. Everything from:

  • there will probably be all these fit young military people swimming there..how embarrassing to be the slow poke
  • to the old standby “I don’t have the time for this”

I got myself into such a state of anxiety I was starting to think about the leftover birthday cake downstairs that would taste so good with a hershey kiss chaser.  So far I am resisting…barely.

After a couple of deep breaths I made a decision!

I WILL swim this week Thursday* because despite all my reservations, all the silly excuses I make up,  all my anxiety over doing it, and not really wanting to put on my suit I KNOW that I will be so disappointed in myself it I don’t at least try..or should that be tri.

What will you Tri this week???

 

P.S. Its Thursday because it fits into my schedule but most of all the roads in my community won’t be iced over by then!

 

 

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The Two Things Carrie Fischer and I have in common!

The world lost a unique individual last week.  Like many of you I have been following all the news posts about Carrie Fischer’s life, and if it wasn’t enough that we lost her, then her mother, Debbie Reynolds, left us as well.

The first thing that surprised me about Carrie was her age.  I actually had no idea how old she was but assumed she was a bit older than me.  Turns out she was only a couple of months older than I am.

WOW… my first thought was she was way too young to die.  And she was!!!

You see as you read this I will be celebrating my 60th birthday and while it sounds old I sure don’t feel 60 ( that’s the good news) .  As a matter of fact one of my recurring thoughts as I approach this milestone is

“Wait, how the hell did this happen?”

I just don’t think of myself as 60..its just too big a number to get my head around.

Turns out neither did Carrie.  Her sister Joely Fischer said that one of their last conversations revolved around Carrie saying she couldn’t believe she was 60.  I am right there with her.

Also she and I share a weird sense of humor.  In Carrie’s back yard against a wall is the rear end of a Lion with all his glory hanging out.  Now I have not seen this so I do not have the  details, but just the description alone made me laugh and realized she and I could have had a lot of laughs together.

I saw this in Omaha last spring and laughed hysterically.  I think it would fit perfectly in Carrie’s backyard. Cracks me up that it’s hung over a picnic bench.

Giant nose with pimple in Omaha

The only thing it is missing is a giant finger in one nostril.   Too bad someone around here won’t let me put this in our backyard over our picnic table!!

I would like to think that Carrie enjoyed her last birthday celebration with great gusto as I plan to do. Plus I wish I could thank her in person for finally finding a way to include the funny nose photo in a blog post.  I think she would approve.

Enjoying a good celebration must be genetic as I obviously loved a great party from an early age.

imageLast I want to remind everyone to celebrate everyday( not just your birthday), laugh until you pee your pants ( not that hard as you get older) and put something absurd in your yard, house, car or office that makes you laugh..tell them Carrie and Jennifer made you do it.  And I am off to enjoy the last 15 minutes of my fifties…its going to be an amazing year!!!

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My year of Wonder!!!

Every year for about the past 5 years or so I have picked a word of the year.  One year it was “inspire”.  My intention was not only to inspire others but to inspire myself.  In 2016 my word was “focus”.  I wanted to focus on what was really important in my life.  I also think the underlying intention was to help me set boundaries with the big black hole of the internet and social media.

This year I thought for sure, hands down, positively that my word would be “fearless”.  I intended to use the word to give me even more courage to try new things and do them fearlessly.

And yet it wasn’t fitting somehow.  My mind wiggled around it much like someone wiggles in an itchy wool sweater.  It was a great word, it fit..sort of but it still wasn’t quite right.

January 1st I woke up excited about the new year.  Excited or excitement sounded like a really good word of the year.  That lasted a couple of hours until I realized I had donned that itchy wool sweater again and I started to twitch a bit and knew it didn’t fit.

Another word came to me that morning and it ended up being the right one in so many ways.  It fit a new project I was starting.  It fit my desire to be more present every single moment and it also fit my desire to have a my feet dangling in that black hole of social media, electronics and the internet but not get sucked in every minute of every day.

And the word is  ( drum roll) :

WONDER

I believe it has been lurking in my mind for awhile but was not wanting itself to be known just yet.  You see every morning I walk this goof ball for about 1 1/2 miles around the neighborhood.

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Max

Our neighborhood has wide streets with lots of trees, bunnies, deer, and wooded lots that all those critters can hide in.  It never fails ,even though I have been on this walk literally hundreds of times ,that I see something new.

BUT only if I pay attention.

When I do slow down and take it all in I am always amazed that I somehow I have walked past this sight and  I start to look for more things I might have missed.  It puts me in a state of wonder.

Wonder is definitely my word for 2017 and it is also the theme for my new project:

            “My Year of Wonder”

Starting on Jan 4th I will be posting a photo each day for a year on Instagram.  Each photo will be taken that day and my hope is that it will do a couple of things.

  • remind me to slow down and be present in the moment
  • renew my sense of wonder  each day
  • help me find gratitude and joy in the things and people around me
  • make the people who see these photos smile and encourage them to find the beauty surrounding them

I can’t promise the photos will be earth shattering pieces of art but they will be authentic, original and shared with a smile.

So one last thing.  Why January 4th??  Well, its the best day ever for me!  It’s my Birthday and if you know me you know I love my birthday..always have.  And I am starting a new decade of my life so what better way to start than with  a sense of Wonder!!   I just have to tri!!!   Enjoy!

P.S.  You can find me on Instagram as jennifebross . Please note that at the time when I created my Instagram account  I obviously could not spell my own name and left off the r in Jennifer…cracks me up and Instagram is a bit of a stinker when you try to change things so it will remain the way it is..just going with the flow!

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Before I could run I had to fall in love again…

I used to think a 5k was easy. Let me be honest.  I used to think a 5k was “too short” or in other words beneath me as I was a more “accomplished’ runner and did 10k’s and half marathons and had aspirations to do a full marathon.

And then I stopped running.

I stopped running for a variety of reasons.  It wasn’t intentional.  I broke my wrist in April when I fell during my attempt to do a triple toe loop at the ice rink.  Translation: Tried to  complete the last lap around the rink after my lesson and lost my balance.

After that aside from the fact I really didn’t want to jostle my broken wrist I also had a great fear of falling and breaking it again although with a plate and 8 screws in it that was highly unlikely.

Then there was our incredibly hot summer.

I tried.  I went out for the occasional run and would start out like a shot and be winded halfway into the first quarter mile and feel discouraged and out of shape.

So I did other things like the elliptical, biking and hiking but I missed running.  I really did.

What stopped me in the summer ( the weather) has been calling to me on these bright fall mornings.img_1346

I went out this morning.  I ran but this time instead of starting out like a shot I decided to do an easy pace. Laughing I remembered a running shirt I saw that said “I run like a turtle, slow as shell”   Yup that would be me but it felt right and I quit beating myself up for not doing it faster or longer.

In the words of Forrest Gump: I just felt like running! Click To Tweet

It was a whopping 1.25 miles.

I’m proud of this “short” distance. I did it because I wanted to get out and celebrate the nice weather, get some exercise and find the joy in running again.  Not to train for a race, go faster, or even to check it off my daily to do list.

I can’t even remember why I started running but somehow the pleasure of just being out there got lost in the “shoulds”.  You should do a faster pace, you should do a longer run, you should push yourself.

All those “shouldings” on myself sucked  the pleasure out of running and made it another chore on my “to do” list.

The other “aha” I am having is that I need and want to do this for myself.  Just me.  I will still do some “races”.  I love to be with the other runners and its a bonus if there is some “bling” at the end but I only do the ones that I find fun.

Say “Hi” if you do see me at a race..I’ll be the one the one with the big grin on my face because I fell in love again with running.

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It’s Thoughtful Thursday! The Boomerang Effect of Great Ideas!

So a couple of years ago I had this idea.  I have no idea where it came from but it certainly came from a place of love.  We had 5 of our 6 grandchildren in quick succession.  One a year for 5 years ( 2 are only 5 months apart)!

Whoa!  I barely had time to get used to being a Grandma when they came fast and furious. Obviously my little talk about us being a fertile family did not take!

Needless to say it was a little like Romper Room around here when they came to visit.  And just when I was wistfully thinking about what I would do with 3 pack n plays little Tristun made an appearance to even us out at 3 granddaughters and 3 grandsons!

I wanted some one on one time with each of them so I came up with Grandma and Me day.  It has been a huge success and a scheduling challenge since 5 out of the 6 are now in school and we love to do it in the summer!

Here is the very amazing part.  While it is my gift to them I have had the privilege and joy of getting to know them outside of their family and away from their siblings. It was so surprising to see how different they are when it is just me and them!  I get to see a whole new side of them and it is so fun.

We get to talk, do quiet or very loud things and lately VERY adventurous things
( hope my body holds out).

I see aspects of their grandpa, their parents,  and their aunts and uncles.  Common traits that touch my heart to see them continuing on in a new generation.

So all this time I thought I was doing this really fun grandma thing FOR them.  Little did I know how very much it would also be fun and heartwarming for me!

From shoe shopping and fashion shows ( with my clothes and shoes) to swimming, ice skating in the summer and swinging from the trees at “Go Ape” it has been a blast.

So my Thoughtful Thursday challenge to all of you is this..go have some one on one time with someone you always see in a group or family..it could be your Mom or Dad, a sibling, an Aunt or Uncle, a co-worker, or a friend.  You will appreciate a whole new vision of them and it will do your heart good! And as always..go make it a Thoughtful One!

Here are a few photos from our latest adventures!

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It’s Thoughtful Thursday…Cherishing those 45 seconds

It was a busy weekday afternoon.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Life at my daughters’ house was full of kids, laughter, teasing and loud voices.

The voice of  urgency to get everyone ready for soccer practice rang out a familiar tune as kids ran around getting things together, filling water bottles, looking for lost shoes.

A little deja vu for me from years past.  I sometimes missed those crazy days and enjoyed being in the midst of all the chaos for a bit.

Ava Grace sat on her Dad’s lap getting soccer shoes tied with her long wavy hair in tangles around her head sweaty from a day of soccer camp.  She jumped down and handed me her hair elastic to help her put her hair up.  I was grateful there was no need to brush out the many tangles but I made an attempt as I gathered her hair up and stroked it gently…braid or pony tail ….pony tail…I gathered up her hair like I had done her for her Mom for  many years and quickly made a pony tail wrapping the elastic around it…akin to riding a bike, something I could do blindfolded.

How many times and how many pony tails had I gathered up for my daughters?  Did I relish the moment?  Did I cherish it? Did I know how special it was to have that moment.?  Nope. And  today I got a do over in my heart .

It was only 45 seconds.  Ava Grace did not give it a second thought, but I did.  There is something special and elegantly simple in creating a ponytail.  It is just an everyday ordinary moment that I have done a zillion times. And yet today it meant something.  If felt like an honor to do something so ordinary, so simple.  It is those simple things in life that connect us.  Making a meal together, doing dishes, brushing hair, whispering good nights.

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It is the simple things in life that connect us Click To Tweet

My wish for you on this Thoughtful Thursday is to honor those wonderful but often ignored moments.  Cherish those 45 seconds and savor them.  They are quick but oh so important.  Now you know what to do 🙂  go out and make it Thoughtful One.

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How I “became” a “real” runner on Saturday!

I recently read a comment from a fellow runner on another blog that said despite the fact she had run 20 marathons ( yes 20!) she still didn’t consider herself a “real” runner.

WHAT???    20 marathons is 524 miles….whoa.

It got me to thinking what makes someone feel like a “real” runner.  Obviously completing 20 marathons wasn’t enough for this woman.

OMG

I have never done a marathon.  I might never do one and yet I felt more like a “real” runner this past week-end than I ever have.   Before I tell you what happened I have to share a passage from a favorite book that has the best description of what it is to be “real”.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

So for runners I would change that last line to:

“But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be slow, or last or not a good enough runner, except to people who don’t understand”

You are a real runner because you run nothing more, nothing less! Click To Tweet

As promised here is why I now feel like a “real” runner.

This past Saturday I ran an 8k (5 miles).  It was suppose to be a half marathon (13.1 miles) but my training went poorly so I changed to the 8k and wasn’t even sure I could that.

A couple of days before the race I decided that no matter how I felt I was going and I would run with joy and to have fun.  I was a little nervous especially since on Wednesday I had barely eeked out a mile, but I went.

It helped that the day was chilly but gorgeous.  I put a big grin on my face and just trusted that this would be okay.The first two miles were stop and go.  I had to stop and tie my shoe, then I had to stop to get a pebble out of my  other shoe.  As we approached Mile 2 it became evident that I needed a porta potty quick.  I gotta tell you seeing those line of porta potties at Mile 2 was a beautiful site.  I ran in, ran out and joined the race again.

It was all okay.  Never had to stop that many times in the first two miles but I didn’t stress about it.

I looked around at all the runners.

It reminded me of the old Oscar Meyer Weiner Commercial:

“Fat kids, skinny kids, kids that climb on rocks. Tall kids, short kids, kids that have the chicken pox”

Hopefully there was nobody there with the chicken pox!

The variety of ages and sizes was beautiful and we were all encouraging one another.

And I ran with joy and gratitude to just be out there.

That’s when it happened.  I became “real”  and I was surrounded by “real” runners because we were out there and we were doing it and we all had smiles on our faces and we were triumphant in the “doing”.

Wait there was one more “real” moment after I crossed the finish line when I turned to another woman runner around my age and said “Wow, what an awesome day and great race!”  and she asked “What was your time?”

My reply: ” I have absolutely no idea”

That is what sealed the deal and made me a “real” runner.  I ran with joy and because I could. IMG_2458

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Living Single While Very Married: On the road again…sharing a seat and a laugh with George and Gregory Peck!

So a little over 2 years ago we began this adventure.  It has had it’s up and downs and we are ready for new adventures of “Living Together While Very Married” !  That is what we both signed up for but we keep hitting the replay button on this “Living Single While Very Married”   What?  Nobody is more surprised than we are and fingers crossed we will end this journey in 2016…BUT in the meantime let me catch you up.

So Paul took his “dream” job and I am keeping  the home fires burning here on the East Coast.  We had ( still do) really great reasons for doing this and there have been some really good things that have come from this arrangement.  There have also been some really difficult times and despite seeing each other as often as possible we miss each other tons.

One of the first parts of this was our road trip to get Paul to his new job.  Flying is great but there is nothing like a road trip to really see the country.

As we made our way across the United States we had fun seeing family in Ohio and Michigan/Indiana ( also known as Michiana) and we made my one requested stop to my childhood stomping grounds of LaGrange, Il just outside of Chicago.  I spent my “wonder years” there and still love the place.  As kids we had such freedom and walked EVERYWHERE ( school, the movies, shopping)  In the summer we left to go play and we were lucky if our parents could get us in for dinner.  Good times.

623 S. Kensington Ave LaGrange, IL

My “Wonder Years” home..good memories!

As we left Illinois and ventured onto RT 80 in Iowa we discovered some really interesting and fun places.

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Just in case we weren’t sure what road we were on!

We, of course had to stop at the “The World’s Largest Truck Stop”  Paul  heard a rumor they served the world’s largest hamburger ( his favorite meal) but turns out it was just a rumor.  Still it was fun.  Here are a few photos:

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Just in case we forgot where we were

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And just what you need to find at the World’s Largest Truckstop!

 

My  favorite stop was “The Wilton Candy Kitchen” ( not to be confused with the Wilton Cake Company)  I had envisioned this quaint little town, bustling with visitors and a busy old fashioned candy and ice cream parlor.

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Not exactly what I had envisioned..but I loved it!

Well I got it partially right.  We drove through Wilton, IA and the town looked like it was on vacation and the Candy Kitchen appeared to be closed.  I got out to take photos and up drove Thelma and George….the proprietors.  Thelma was busy bustling around, complaining about George ( in a humorous way) and was out the door before we knew it with ice cream sodas for some good friends.

George had worked in the Candy Kitchen since he was 6..he was 93 when we met him and very entertaining.  We felt like we stepped back in time.  I was wondering if  Sheriff Taylor, Barney Fife and Aunt Bee were nearby.

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I swear Barney Fife is near by!

We ordered some ice cream sodas and watched as George operated the machinery like he was still 6 years old.

They were very proud of their famous celebrity guests  Gregory Peck and Brooke Shields.

I even got a photo behind the counter with George but first I had to promise him that I would never tell Thelma he allowed me behind the counter.  Evidently Thelma wore the ice cream pants in this family.

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George really loved serving up ice cream!

It also looks like she had no problem having Gregory Peck behind the counter!!!

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We asked George to take a few photos…I think the digital camera threw him off a bit but he gave it a good shot.

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I was a little sad to leave and promised myself we would stop by when we made the trip back in a few years.

Sadly if we do get to stop George will not be there.  He is now serving ice cream to all the angels.

It would have been easy to just blow through Iowa and not stop anywhere and make a beeline for Paul’s new stomping grounds.  So happy we took the time to see the sights and meet the people.

We only spent an hour or so with George and Thelma but I smile each time I think of them.  I might have to go out and have some ice cream in George’s memory.  Won’t be as good as his homemade ice-cream but I can pretend!

As always keep triing!

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