Persistent Rain is a DOWNER but not a MASTER

It’s been raining for days.  Not terribly cold.  Very few rays of sun making it through the thick, gray sky.  Rain, mist, drizzle, some thunder, some toadstranglers.  If you’re not familiar with the term toadstrangler to describe a kind of downpour, go look it up.  Highly descriptive.

Such weather makes me want to go to bed, stay in bed, and pull the covers up.  Three or four days of this weather and I’m pretty sure I become belligerent and crabby, and unreasonable without even knowing it.  People tell me.  I hate it – and them, and you, and puppies, and butterflies, and chocolate cake.

Walking is about the ONLY effective treatment.  Walking and my almost 2 year old granddaughter who is more fun than 6 monkeys in a room full of opened honey jars.  So, I stick to the walking – with and without the granddaughter.  She’s a trooper.

Since I much prefer to walk outside – especially on park trails – I have a wardrobe of shoes, pants, and toppers that can get wet and muddy.  Strollers are not properly outfitted for this dirty work, so baby stays home.  I walk at a state park near my home, ford the creek when it rises due to all the rain, and blaze new trails around the worst mud puddles that block the trail.  If it’s not lightning, I’m good.

Of course, said walk on said trail is not a quick outing.  Suiting up, then cleaning up after, take up a fair amount of time.  Muddy car, extra laundry, not to mention the hair disaster that ensues.  A 30 minute hike turns into a 2 hour ‘event’.   But, it’s often worth it.

Rain is predicted here for the rest of this week.  Bummer!  I will need to get creative just to keep my head on straight.  I’ve noticed that crabby, puppy hating, chocolate deprived people create the kind of drama I don’t want following me around.


Podcasts For Walking – Zombies, Terrorists, and Scotland Await………….

One of my sons called me today to let me know about a series of podcasts he had recently learned about.  He is a walker and biker and usually has something playing in his ears.  He knows about this blog and assumed I was still writing frequent articles.  He knows that despite my poor performance as the author of a blog, I continue to be a dedicated walker.

The series of podcasts he shared with me are called ‘Walker’.  My research into the matter makes me want to download the first one and get started.  The thing works like this:  The author has written about 30 episodes of the serial, each meant to last about as long as a 1-2 mile walk.  The premise is uncomplicated but genius!  There has been a massive terrorist attack carried out by some extremists.  The police are on the lookout for the terrorists AND they think YOU (Walker) are one of them!  So, you are on your own in escaping both the destruction created by the attack AND the police as you make your way across the country of Scotland.  The author is Scottish.

She has written a previous series, ‘Zombies, Run’ whose premise seems pretty straightforward, based solely on the name.  I’m not a fan of the modern craze of zombie fiction – but many are.  There’s a reason it’s popular, right?

The author, Naomi Alderman, was interviewed on NPR as I was driving home, less than an hour after my son had called to tell me about the podcast.  She was a charming interview.  One question that developed in my mind as my son was telling me about the whole thing was:  how fast and far must one walk (run, bike, hike) to stay in the timeline of the podcast?  The interview answered that question.  Alderman wrote the series, intending it to be used by everyone ‘on the move’.  She stated that even a person in a wheelchair could participate.

How does the podcast actually work?  In a rather military fashion as though you (Walker) have a high grade military earpiece linked into the scene, you hear what’s going on.  You are autonomous – with no indication of age, gender, race, etc – and receive messages all the time in the form of characters who chat with you (the mechanism used to get their backstory into the narrative), maybe bombs crashing, and gunshots whizzing by and some intelligence reports.  Also, you’ll be guided to look for (avoid) the guy sitting on the bench at the park down the street and similar scenarios as you achieve various milestones (time or distance traveled).

Does this not sound cool?  Does this not make you want to go lace up your walking shoes RIGHT NOW and begin the first episode?

I can’t wait!

Not All Walks Go Somewhere

The other day I had the opportunity for a very leisurely walk on a lovely afternoon.

It was totally enjoyable.  I was able to fully appreciate the beauty of the Fall colors, avoid most of the sweet gum balls, and count a bunch of acorns.

My walking companion was my 16 month old granddaughter, Addie!  And, she never misses an acorn.

I am her ‘outside’ grandma.  Her other grandma, Grammy, is better at the indoor stuff.  But when Addie sees me, she knows it’s time to put on her shoes and head outside.  Of course, we read books and sing to the teddy bears too, but we are much more fond of blowing bubbles and listening to the neighborhood dogs bark.

This is a way of walking that I highly recommend.  No hustle or bustle.  No keeping up a pace.  Just a meander.  Walking just for the sake of being in nature – and in the company of a wonderful kid.

A Distraction

We all need a distraction from time to time.  One of the blogs I regularly read had a recent article bemoaning the ‘good old days’ of the blogger’s life – back when s/he had time/money/youth – you pick.  Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda.  It’s always the same.

When I was reading the article, it became clear to me that what the writer needed was a distraction!  Get over all the things that are part of the past.  We were all once younger, thinner, cuter, richer, poorer.  All of us.  Certainly that younger part.

Of course, from time to time, I recognize a longing for some day or period of my past.  But not for long.  I can distract myself pretty easily.  One of the very best distractions for me is to go for a walk.  Could it be simpler?

Simple does not always mean easy.  KISS – keep it simple, stupid.  That’s a great acronym that reminds me to focus on what’s important rather than what seems urgent right now.  While I might feel that a chore or errand is important, it’s probably just urgent.  My health is important.  That’s my mental health as well as my physical well-being.

Should you find yourself stressing over what Christmas gift to buy, or where you’ll find the money to buy the Christmas gifts, how you’ll ever get the house clean for all those guests coming for dinner, or what the neighbors will think about all those leaves still clinging to the grass in the front yard, remember to take care of yourself first.

If you take a walk, I guarantee that the leaves will still be there as will your neighbor’s opinions.  Christmas is still on December 25 (every year!).  The guests will appear whether the house is cleaned or not.  The money WILL come.  I guarantee all of that.  I also guarantee you’ll feel better about all of it!

Different Kinds of Walks

There are a range of kinds of walks.  There is the stroll, hands behind one’s back or being held by another person.  There is the dog walking the human walk, kind of like my paddling a canoe downstream, floating from one bank to the opposite one, not in control of the canoe or the dog.  There is the ‘on a mission’ walk, a business event.  There is the taking in the sites walk, varying pace depending on the scenery and the conversation – but getting to the end is not the goal.  There is the we gotta get out of this place walk, a frantic rush to the end, wherever that is.

Then, there is the defined walk – the kind I like to take.  Walking with a purpose but not with my pants on fire.  Eyes ahead to take it the sights, dog on close lead so she does not delay or distract me, maintaining a nice pace while, often, carrying on a friendly conversation.  I like to talk while I walk, so if it’s just the dog and me, I spend the whole walk engaged in ‘conversation ‘ with Lizzie.  She is a good listener.

There’s a time and a place for all these walks.  There’s no right one or wrong one.  Well, for me, the dog walking the human is not gonna happen.  Other than that, I routinely participate in all the kinds of walks.  But, when I write or talk about my walking, or taking a walk, I’m referencing a specific type of walk.  Me with a goal, a destination, a pace, good shoes, enough time, and a strong preference for an unpaved trail in the woods.

What are your walks like?  A business walk is what gets us from one class to another in school or from one meeting to another at the office.  The sight-seeing stroll is lovely and we all do it.  The dog walking the human is just a mistake – one that I see every time I am around humans with dogs on leashes.  More than half of those duos will be led by the dog rather than the human – a disservice to both.  A bit of training will take that walk to a whole new level, better enjoyed by both dog and human.

So, walking is such a part of our lives that we often just don’t even think about it.  I must give it some thought since I need to pay attention to my pain level and treat ahead of time with some Tylenol.  I must have my good shoes and socks available.  I need a layer of sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.

Walking is easy for most of us and we give it little thought.  When we move walking from casual to either defined or ‘business’, we also move its place in our lives.  Essentially the same activity changes roles and redefines itself.  But, whatever you call it, the movement is good for you on several levels.  So, keep it up.



We’re Into The Fifth Generation

My love of walking was not created in a vacuum.  It occurs to me that with my little granddaughter (now 16 months old), we are into the fifth generation of walkers in the family.

My mom died April 6, 2017.  She walked every day up until a few months before her passing at age 94.  Before mom, there was her mother (my mamaw) who loved a walk in the woods more than just about anything else she could name.  She lived in a tiny town in rural Northwestern Arkansas, surrounded by heavily wooded hills, clean creeks, numerous lakes and ponds, and a nearby canal that led to the Arkansas River just a couple miles from her home.  She walked to pick berries (muscadines were a favorite), to listen to bird songs (mockingbirds and cardinals were favorites), to get to the canal to fish (never ate the fish from that canal), and to get from here to there.

My mother fled that small town at age 18 for the big city and WWII where she was a Registered Nurse in the US Army for the duration.  She did not begin her daily walks until she retired from nursing in her 60’s, despite the fact that nurses probably walk 10 miles a day during a shift at work.  But, a different kind of walk.

I had taken many walks with my mamaw when I was a child.  She was such a fun human being that I spent as much time with her as I could.  She could make most things fun!  The journey from picking berries to making jam seemed really long to me as I had absolutely no interest in any domestic ‘arts’ as a child or teen.  But, my appreciation for nature was born in that era.

It only took me to about age 50 to begin daily walks.  What started as a strongly stated second-rate activity because I had been forced to give up my beloved racquetball, soon became not so second rate with me.  While I would go back to racquetball in a heartbeat, I would never willingly give up my walks.  I’d enthusiastically do both!

Fast forward several years to the present.  I have a daughter who invites me to walk with her once or twice a week.  She has discovered the wonders of walking for her physical well being as well as for its tension relieving qualities.  She enjoys walking and swimming, and walking in the pool.

And, for the fifth generation, little Addie (the daughter of my oldest son) and I take at least one walk every day I babysit her.  We walk outside in heat, cold, rain, and soon, snow.  We just suit up and show up and the walk proceeds.  While walking with a 16 month old will not result in much of a work out, it has other benefits and lots of charms.  We have a great time!  Addie is constantly searching for rocks, sticks, and acorns, picking them up, sorting them, moving them from one location to another, making piles here and there, sharing them with me and others, and generally making an hour’s activity of all this.  We ‘run’, walk, jump, and stomp, crunching those dry leaves in a way that can appeal only to a toddler.  We even carry a rock ‘purse’ to save select rocks found during our walks.  Since we are not purists, some of those ‘rocks’ are black walnuts masquerading as their far less edible counterparts.  These daily walks occur mostly on the sidewalk between her house and the end of the street – five driveways.  That world is plenty big enough for a toddler surveying her world under the watchful eye of a loving grandparent.

My fun-loving mamaw would be so pleased to learn that her great great granddaughter was happily tramping on trails similar to those blazed by her a hundred years ago and four hundred miles away.  So far, the beat goes on.  No evidence it will every stop.

Brisk Autumn Days

I am NOT superstitious!  But, I prefer to use the term Autumn rather than Fall for this time of year.  Goofy, I know.  But, having fallen a couple of times in my life, and suffered injuries both physical and to my dignity, I shall refer to these brisk, sunny, beautiful days as days of Autumn.  No Fall allowed.

I have rediscovered the pleasure of walking alone – rather with just my dog, Lizzie – on week day mornings.  I had gotten away from that for some time due to a busy life, general disorganization, and dedication to friends who must walk later in the day.

So, who says I can’t walk twice in one day?  I say I can, at least on some days.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays are dance days for me.  So, now, I take a short walk in the morning and continue to dance for about 1.5 hours on those evenings.

I cannot sacrifice the opportunity to spend time in nature on crisp Autumn mornings just because I have commitments later in the day.  It’s well worth it to me to take the extra time out of my daily schedule.  Too bad if anyone else thinks it’s frivolous for me to do so.

I am very fortunate to have the support of my husband and other family members about this.  Everything else that’s supposed to get done each day will ultimately still get done if I spend an extra 45 minutes walking.  I’ve written about that before.  If you’ve read many of my blog postings, you are well aware that putting myself high up on my ToDo List and letting other things take care of themselves works just fine for me.

That said, I truly do not need much prompting to lace up my shoes and hit the trail when the weather is so inviting.  Autumn is full of allergy triggers for me, but walking proves to be quite an effective tool to ward off those ill effects.  Sort of like an Autumn-Allergy-Immunization!

While I am not an early bird, not an early riser, not particularly energetic in the morning, I find that taking a brisk walk for even just 20 minutes turns me around.  I am energized, both physically and mentally, by that walk and look forward to knocking items off my ToDo List.

A new you could be just a brisk walk away!  Try it.

Smart Walking Info

The November, 2017 issue of Family Circle Magazine has a nice one page article featuring a round up of walking statistics.  The article focuses on many of the points I have tried to emphasize here.

* Walking is good for us;

*Walking is easy;

*Walking offers great rewards with minimal effort.

What could be wrong with any of that?  According to this article by Gabriella Vukelic, there’s more….

*Walking up and down stairs for 10 minutes offers the same energy boost as caffeinated soda or coffee;

*Walking in nature for 60 minutes improves short term memory by 20%;

*Walking while texting can be hazardous to your health.

There’s more in the article.  You can read it yourself.  It’s brief, to the point, and pithy. And, consider this point.  If you wear a Fitbit, you are 50% more likely to jog (and I hope walk too) on Thanksgiving Day!

And Still I Walk

My feet hurt.  My hips hurt.  Often, my shoulder hurts.  I get migraines.  I overheat pretty easily.  I have two different sleep disorders.  I have arthritis and have had two total knee replacements.  And, I’m no Spring chicken.

And, still I walk.  Why?  Because it makes everyone of the complaints in the paragraph above better.  Really!

My brother has a theory that you can’t have pain if you focus on something else as you can only think about one thing at a time.  I must be remarkably talented because I seem to be able to think of many things, all at the same time.  A book I just read may explain this difference.  According to the author’s (fictional) character, women’s minds are always busy, buzzing from one thing to another while men’s minds focus on only one thing at a time – I’m hungry, I’m horny, I’m handsome, etc.  Women would get awfully bored in that one-thought-at-a-time mind.

At any rate, I find that walking purposely for 20-60 minutes ALWAYS makes my day better.  Much of my pain is diminished.  My outlook improves.  I’m happier.

And, still I walk.  Now you know why!

Thorn Apples and Dogs Don’t Mix

Thorn Apples are very attractive.  They have a pretty flower and grow wild.  But, beware!  They are also known as Jimson Weed (will make horses crazy) and Devil’s Snare (will make the rest of us crazy).  Check the plant out here. They have a viscious barbed seed pod that is almost impossible to remove from the fur of a long-haired dog.

While walking along a creek bed in Castlewood State Park yesterday, Kris and I went to take a look at some late blooming flowers.  These were near the Thorn Apples we had identified earlier in the year.  The Thorn Apple seed pods are quite large – as much as .75 inch long and .50 inches around.  Dog friend Lizzie was with us as usual.  Nothing unusual about the walk or the company.

About an hour after our walk, my husband noticed that Lizzie was limping.  I checked it out and identified a burr in the pad of one foot.  We teamed up and attempted several times to remove the burr.  Nothing doing!  Lizzie, a very mild-mannered, good-natured dog snapped at both of us.

So, a trip to the vet was in order.  That happened this afternoon.  It didn’t take them very long to remove the burr – but it was FIVE burrs!  Poor doggie!  She does not like the vet on a good day.  This was definitely not a good day for her – except that once she was free of the burrs, she was back to her usual frisky self.

Later, we walked at Castlewood again.  On a different trail, far from those darned Thorn Apples.