Furguson…My Two Cents

Uh oh…I’m off on another tangent. I hereby issue a warning…this post has nothing to do with the gym so please feel free to close your eyes while reading it! As you know, I’m sometimes moved to pen and post a few lines that are off topic. Tomorrow I’ll post a progress photo…

 

There is a perspective you may not see on TV or in print these days regarding being black and being an American. It’s not the vision advanced by the powers that be. For what reason…I cannot say. I’m currently mulling it over and I have some ideas but I’ll leave the expression of them for another day.

If you haven’t heard it recently, there are plenty of black people who are proud to be American. I am only one of them. I love this country. I’m grateful to God that I had the good fortune to be born here. Over the course of it’s history America has provided greater opportunity for economic (and social) advancement and a higher standard of living to more of its people than any other country on the face of the earth. Is it perfect? No. Has it had dark days? Yes. And even so, it stands out as the best example we have of a country that embraced a philosophy, set forth at it’s inception, that allowed vast numbers of its citizens to enjoy levels of prosperity not seen anywhere else.

Perhaps it will surprise you to know that my father was a physician, my mother was a chemist (when she retired from that work, she went back to school and became an accountant), my aunt was a nurse (then went back to school and became an attorney), one of my uncles was a pediatrician and another one a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force. I have countless other relatives who worked as teachers and owners of small businesses. They were all black. They were all born in the 1920s and 1930s.

Not one of them came from privileged families. They were almost all born into poverty…but it was economic, not mental poverty. They were never told they couldn’t make it in the world (except by outsiders) or that they couldn’t advance because of the egregious and deeply injurious injustices of slavery and segregation. They were encouraged in every way possible by their parents and teachers to take advantage of the opportunities they had. They were told and expected to work hard and to grab every chance at education that came by…and they did. It wasn’t easy. It came at great sacrifice. When other, less dedicated students were out having fun and enjoying themselves they sat at home studying and planning for the future. That work and dedication is what eventually moved them out of economic poverty. They believed they could triumph and indeed that belief coupled with diligence bore fruit.

Today I see many people deemed black “leaders” (many of whom enjoy great wealth and hold positions of national power) and white apologists joining a deafening chorus that tells black people in poverty that they have no way out because the system is rigged to prevent their success. The blame is placed at the feet of the rich, of white people, of a political system not created for “them.” The constant repetition of this refrain has taken hold in the minds of those they’re proporting to help. Stripped of the thought that they can be successful, they move through the world dispirited, and mentally impoverished. Hope is drained and people are left unmoored…and angry. These same “leaders” show up when incendiary things happen bringing sympathy but no solutions. They take any chance they get to stoke the fire by telling people that, indeed, things are so unfair and difficult that any reaction (looting, shooting, rioting, throwing molotov cocktails) is understandable. They’ll stop short of actually saying it’s acceptable but any intelligent person reading between the lines feels the undercurrent of support for those actions.

The helpers aren’t helping. They’re so enamored with the narrative that America is marred and that whole groups of people can’t advance that they studiously ignore millions of great success stories like those of my parents, my relatives and their friends.

Nowhere else is there such ripe possibility for moving up and changing fortunes, for those born in poverty, as there is in the United States and yet the story advanced at every turn is one of the impossibility of such progress. Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

What we see in the news is the result of the belief that there can be a better future, replaced with rage and self-pity, and therefore the abandonment of dignified behavior. We observe the actions and railings of people who’ve swallowed the poison pill of perceived personal helplessness…and you see disingenuous people from outside the community rushing in to soothe them by telling them they’re right. They only pretend to make the situation better. They give the community reinforcement and support for wrong action with one hand while continuing to steal their belief in the possibility of a brighter future with the other.

Until the dominant narrative changes, nothing in the community will change. In order for people to enjoy success, they have to first believe it’s possible. We need leaders who broadcast that message, who urge people to make decisions that help and don’t hinder their progress and who showcase people who have already blazed a path. We need leaders who love America, and who understand and communicate that the opportunity for prosperity here is better than in any other place on the planet.

 

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The Big Squeeze

Yesterday I got two catalogues in the mail. Both were selling undergarments. One was from Victoria’s Secret and the other from a company I’ve never heard of before. As you know, Victoria’s Secret has lots of cute, flirty little things to offer, most of them designed to look best on a reasonably fit body.

The other catalogue featured undergarments for those who need extra help with shaping. The funny thing is that they used models who obviously don’t need the undergarments.

What in the word are these girls trying to hold in?  They don't exactly need these products!

What in the world are these girls trying to hold in? They don’t exactly need these products!

Imagine wearing this in August as you walk across a big, blacktop parking lot to get to your car...I'm thinking heat stroke...

Imagine wearing this under your clothes in August as you walk across a big, blacktop parking lot to get to your car…I’m thinking heat stroke…

For those of you men out there who think the undergarments in the catalogue don’t look so terrible, good news…they have “solutions” for you too!

The guys don't need to feel left out.  Here's something special just for them!

The guys don’t need to feel left out. Here’s something special just for you!

A product to help MEN hold in those tummies.  Your choice...black or white.  Personally I think black is more slimming.

A product to help MEN hold in those tummies. Your choice…black or white. Personally, I think black is more slimming.

Need a little help with a flat behind?  No need to squat, just put these "uplifting" shapers on in the morning.

Need a little help with a flat behind? No need to squat, just put on these “uplifting” shapers in the morning.  I like the wording “controls legs.”  I guess wearing the butt fluffer keeps you from performing those unintentional Ninja kicks that just happen from time to time.

Looking through both catalogues taught me something. I NEVER want to feel compelled to wear some medieval looking, fat restraining garment to help me feel better about how I look. Fat or not, there’s no possible way I’d ever resort to stuffing myself into such things. The truth is that if you feel you need to wear something displayed in that catalogue, you should consider increasing your fitness activities. It doesn’t matter if you can put something on to make the lumps and bumps look more pleasing under clothing, you still have to take the thing off when you get home for the day. It’s not a solution for lack of exercise, poor nutrition or lack of will and ultimately it’s not going to make you feel any better about yourself.

I say do your best to keep yourself in reasonable physical condition so you don’t WANT to rely on tight bodysuits to look better. Imagine how you’d feel on a hot, summer day encased in one of those things.   The very thought is enough to motivate me to go for a long run.  Suddenly, I have even more incentive to try and stay on the Victoria’s Secret side of life!

Health Is A Precious Thing

 

It's a precious thing and worth protecting!

It’s a precious thing and worth protecting!

 

In general, I stick to light topics here but now and again I feel called to speak out about particular things.  The thoughts that have taken up space in my mind lately are directly related to physical health and well-being and as such, I’ve decided that it’s an appropriate topic for this blog.

As some of you know, my mother was a scientist, a chemist by training and she worked in the Infectious Diseases Department at the University of San Francisco Medical center.  Growing up I was often privy to conversations between her and her colleagues about disease migration and listened to discussions surrounding the in and outs of things such as the Bubonic Plague, Trachoma, influenza and AIDS.  My mother was one of the first to work with other scientists who were trying to uncover what was causing the illness and death of so many young men in San Francisco in the late 70’s/80’s (HIV/AIDS).

I’m not a scientist, My doctorate is in Education.  I’ve spent my professional life working in schools with young children (and now with college age students).  I served as the Director of a private, non-profit school for 15 years.  I have devoted much to my time and energy to keeping children happy and most importantly, safe.  Perhaps its a mix of my exposure to matters of infectious disease at an early age and my work with children all of these years but I have some rather pointed thoughts to share.

We currently have an influx of both adults and children (a huge number of them are 14-17 year old males who are not considered children in their countries of origin but are considered children under American law) from Central America (and other places too) flooding across our southern border.  There are differing opinions of why this is happening but the fact is that it IS happening (yes…men, women and children have been coming across regularly for many years but there is an enormous spike in numbers currently).  The facilities available for caring for them on the border are inadequate and therefore the Feds are moving them into the interior of the US…via bus, van and even flying them around on airplanes.

I have my own feelings about this whole issue and the absurd (and tragic) circus surrounding transporting minors and family groups around this country without background information on them or on a significant number of the people they’re being placed with once here. I will spare you further comment on that subject, however you do need to know that while there is an attempt on the part of government agencies to screen and vaccinate the people who’ve crossed the border before they are transported there are certainly some slipping through the cracks..  There are cases of serious infectious diseases being carried….drug resistant TB is only one of them.  Since many of the school aged children have been (and will continue to be) taken to the interior of the U.S. and many are never detained in the first place, my admonition to you is to be aware of what’s happening in your local community and schools.  If there are new, shiny faces in class when school starts don’t be afraid to ask questions or insist your administrators be sure immunization records are in order for all students.  Make them answer direct questions regarding the immunization status of the new arrivals.  Don’t just assume it’s taken care of.  You have a right to know.  You have a responsibility to protect your children and those who already live in your community.

We all love children.  We all want to see them thrive.  I don’t blame the Central American children being dispersed in this country for any of this.  I am extremely sympathetic to their plight but I refuse to let my compassion and love for children be used as a weapon against me, my children or the children in my community.  My first responsibility is to protect my own children. My primary loyalty is to the children already here who will be sitting side by side with the recently arrived children in classrooms all over this country.  I’m not afraid to be a voice for them even though I know there is a strong possibility of being labeled all kinds of nasty things….xenophobic, anti-immigrant, mean, anti-child, lacking in compassion, hateful, ignorant, hard-hearted, a fear monger, anti-Christian, racist, hispanophobic and all the rest.

All kids depend on adults to protect and care for them.  My heart is heavy for the Central American children who were sent by adults, charged with their welfare, on long, treacherous journeys  into a foreign land. I hate that the adults in their countries can’t provide them a safe, healthy environment.  I’m sorry for the conditions that pushed (and pulled) them into the country.  It’s not a pretty story any way you look at it. A good number of children died, many were abused and many more psychologically damaged by the ordeal.  It’s a horror for any reasonable adult to contemplate. This does not mean, however, we should just shut our mouths and not insist that the children already here in our schools be protected.  It’s our responsibility as adults not to further extend the wreckage of this crush of people crossing into the country on our southern border.

*The intent of this is not to alarm you, It’s to make sure you’re aware of what’s going on so that you can make informed decisions.  The chances of these children passing infectious diseases isn’t at an extreme level but it absolutely DOES exist. There are actually more worrying people crossing the border (from countries currently stricken by the Ebola virus and people from groups who are ideologically opposed to the American way of life and who bear us ill will)….but that’s for a different conversation.

Until next time…keep going and stay strong!

 

 

 

Football Camp, Stray Thoughts (And A Progress Photo)

Yesterday I took my ten-year old to his second day of football camp.  I was watching the practice which was two hours long and toward the end I noticed that many of the boys were starting to wilt.  They were just tired out.  That’s a normal thing after a summer spent just sitting around for many of them and the purpose of the football camp is to start getting them back into the physical condition that athletics requires.  It happens every year.  For the first week especially, there are a whole group of kids who droop toward the end of the practice.  I’m happy to say that my son wasn’t among them.  We had already decided at the beginning of the summer that physical activity was on the menu.  He attended three weeks of a formal sports camp over the course of the summer but when he wasn’t in sports camp we did lots of exercise together.  We went swimming, hiking and toward the time for football camp to begin we’d go down to the track each morning while it was cool and do a little easy jogging.  He loved it and I loved it.  Our time spent together doing something active was wonderful.  It’s when we had our best conversations without any distractions from the TV or electronic devices including the cell phone.  I would have to say that those undistracted conversations have been the highlight of my summer days with him.

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I’m a people watcher and waiting a couple of hours for football camp to conclude gives me ample opportunity to observe.  The past two days, I’ve set up my chair fairly close to where another woman sits.  When her son has a water break, he trots over to get his thermos and she always asks him if he’s working hard.  She asks him if coach is happy with him.  She tells him he needs to run faster in the drills, that it doesn’t look like he’s working hard enough.  She says it nicely and she isn’t pushing him too hard.  She’s encouraging him but I’m fascinated by the conversation….and fixated on the fact that she’s clinically, morbidly obese.  She can only walk a little, with great effort.  For all intents and purposes she’s a prisoner in her own body.  I think about what she says to her son, about the way she firmly pushes him to exert himself and it strikes me as odd that the things she wants for her son; physical excellence, maximum effort in pursuit of a sport and competitive competence (which are the rewards of sustained effort) are things that she doesn’t require or pursue for herself.   I wish she knew the deep pleasure of a body in motion…one that feels good, strong and capable.    She clearly sees the value in it for her son.  I wonder why she doesn’t see the value in it for herself?

betterdoctor-health-quote-8

 

I’m diligently working to get into top shape by November 1st..  I’m having a great time with my workouts now that I have a specific goal and timetable.  It’s been a real pleasure digging in and putting some energy into my quest.  I’m still not messing around with my diet.  I’m just being sensible but not “dieting.”  I probably won’t do much with my nutritional intake plan before the middle of August.  Even then, I don’t plan to go overboard with restrictions.  I’ll just increase my cardio to help me shed fluff and shred up a little.  So far, so good….

Progress photo....working hard and having FUN!

Progress photo….working hard and having FUN!

 

 

 

 

Not Gonna Do It! (The Rear Bikini Pose That Is)

As most of you know, I’ve decided to keep my friend company on his road to the stage this November by doing the contest prep with him.  I’m not going to actually enter the competition but I decided it would be fun to pretend I was and to see what would happen with my physique if I concentrated on getting stage-ready.  My intention is to post photos as I go so I can track my progress and to keep myself accountable.  I figured on November 1st (the day of the competition) I would post photos of myself  doing the traditional bikini poses to see how my physique had developed over the previous three months.  That’s until I saw the rear bikini pose.

Rear pose for bikini competitions

Rear pose for bikini competitions (photo from Google images)

Uhhhh…..NO!  I’m not a prude by any means but this is a pose I wouldn’t feel dignified doing.  It seems more like a “come hither” pose….like one I’d save for a person I was in an intimate relationship with and not something I’d be interested in doing for the public at large.  This is not to criticize bikini competitors in general or this particular competitor.  To each her own.  She’s striking a required pose perfectly and her physique looks great but I wouldn’t be willing to stand like that, on a stage, under the lights for all to see….or to post photos with me in this position.  When I tried to pinpoint what I don’t like about the pose, I finally came up with the fact that it’s the leaning forward posture I’m not comfortable with.  You don’t just turn around to let the judges/audience see if you have a nice v-taper, good muscle development and your legs look proportionally pleasing, you have to lean forward (thereby pushing your behind out) to smooth the appearance of your glutes/hams.  To me, it’s a much more provocative stance than the one figure/bodybuilding women perform.

This is a photo of a rear view pose in a figure competition. (photo from Google images)

This is a photo of a rear pose in a figure competition. (photo from Google images)

In contrast, I don’t mind this rear pose at all.  I would feel perfectly fine standing on stage like this.  Call me Grandma (I don’t mind…she was a great person) but the bikini pose and I most definitely won’t be going public!

Independence Day – 2014

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day!

Sending you wishes for a safe and happy Independence Day.  Yes, I know I”m  day early but I couldn’t wait!  As you probably guessed, this is one of my favorite holidays and I got a new bikini just to celebrate it…but now I’m wondering if it will hard to walk on the beach in these shoes…

The following quotes are some of my favorites.  I think it’s good to reflect a little on the rich and abundant gifts we enjoy as Americans and to remember that it’s our responsibility to protect and nurture them so that we may pass them on to our children.  Matters of freedom and liberty require our attention…and our work.

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” — Thomas Paine

 “Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

“For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

laba.ws_USA_Independence_Day

*It has come to my attention through a good friend who wrote to me, that there is a good veteran’s support organization that might be of interest to some of you. This seemed like just the right time to tell you about it.  This is the information he sent me.

“The Veteran Tickets Foundation is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to giving back to those who gave us so much. They team up with major sports teams, leagues, promoters, organizations, venues and everyday ticket holders to provide free and discounted tickets to more than 21 million Military and Veterans in the United States. Check out the link below.”

http://www.vettix.org/ref/192106

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Preparing to Compete in the Bikini Division

Those of you who hang out in the gym like I do, know that sometimes you’ve got the mojo and sometimes you don’t.  Not having the mojo doesn’t mean you don’t show up at the gym but it does mean that it’s more of a grind and not as much fun as when you’re “in the groove.”  Over the last 22 years I’ve noticed that it’s a cyclical thing.  Most of the time I feel very strong, energetic and I look forward to my time lifting but inevitably there are those times that I have to drag myself in the door and I can’t seem to muster the kind of intensity that I like.  That’s what I mean when I say I’m suffering from low mojo…and it must be battled.  When that feeling steals over my inner landscape, I look for new things to peak my interest, get the juices flowing and challenge me.  That’s why I’m going to use the next few months to prep for my first competition.  November 1st is the day…and I’ll be prepping for the bikini division!

I said I’d be prepping…and that’s exactly what I meant.  I have absolutely no intention of actually setting foot on any kind of stage in my tiny bikini, posing for a panel of judges BUT I have a good friend who is actually going to get up on stage on November 1st.  We decided I could tag along on the journey as a cheerleader…not the kind with pom-poms but the kind who keeps you company even if only in cyberspace.  I know from experience it helps to know someone else is suffering…I mean, working along with you.  I’m going to do the workouts and the nutrition plan just as if I was going to let a panel of judges have a look at me.  I think it will be fun and it gives me something to work towards.  It will be interesting to see what my physique looks like on November 1st.

Here is a very high quality photo of what I look like today.  I know...chicken legs!

Here is a very high quality photo of what I look like today. I know…chicken legs!

 

Side shot today.  Another very high quality phone photo!

Side shot today. Another very high quality phone photo!

I chose to prep for the bikini division instead of the figure or physique because I don’t think I have enough muscle for figure or physique unless it was a local, small competition.  I don’t have time to gain the mass I’d need to really be competitive so I’ll concentrate on just getting good and tight for the bikini division.  In reality, I’d probably get marked down in bikini since there are parts of my body (shoulders and back) that typically show some striations which is not what bikini judges want to see.  It would be safe to say that as my physique stands now, I’m not a great candidate for any of the divisions.

Now that I’m going to prep for a competition, I have to eat like it.  This was my breakfast this morning.  See how you have to suffer to prep?

My breakfast

My breakfast

 

Ha!  I just put this photo here to horrify some of you.  I know it looks unappetizing but this is what I eat for breakfast almost every morning.  I LIKE IT!  It has nothing to do with competition prep.  It’s a 4 egg white omelette (with nothing inside) and a piece of sourdough toast with butter.   Later in morning I had a half a peach and .620z almonds (100 calorie pack), Lunch was two chicken tacos on flour tortillas with guacamole and pico de gallo.  Afternoon snack was a peach (I love them) and buffalo jerky…yum!  Dinner will be an 8oz beef filet, three large shrimp, broccoli, and a big salad (no dressing…I don’t like it).  This represents a normal eating day for me although I often eat green veggies with my lunches.  I have no idea how many calories I typically take in.

I won’t change my diet until about 8 weeks out from the competition and then I’ll be more strict with my planning.  Until then, I’ll just eat sensibly as I always try to do and keep working hard in the gym.  I won’t start a lot of extra cardio until about 8 weeks out either.  I’ll just stick with my 15- 30 minutes, 5 days a week.

Gee….all that talk about stricter food intake and more cardio made me hungry….I want a dark chocolate truffle…and some potato chips!

Don’t Listen To That Little Voice!

Just get those workouts done, no matter what!

Just get those workouts done, no matter what!

Sometimes the hardest exercise you’ll face in a day is pushing back against that little voice that gives you ready-made excuses for delaying your workout.  It’s so easy to come up with reasons to wait to get your exercise done.  We all do it at times, even me, although I usually look forward to my workouts.  One thing I’ve learned is to just make myself get into the car and drive.  The times I’ve listened to that little voice telling me it’s OK to wait or a good idea to delay my workout until later I’ve usually ended up not getting the job done.  I’ve learned that the little voice inside my head is lazy….and wily.  It will give me all kinds of reasonable excuses regarding why it’s a good idea to wait to exercise.

NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO THAT LITTLE VOICE WILL NOT GO AWAY!

IT will always be there trying to convince you to put your workouts on the back burner.  What you have to learn is to ignore it.  If you listen to that little voice, you’ll never reach your goals.

The following list was posted by Arianna Rebolini on April 16, 2014 at 3:02pm.  It made me laugh and I wanted to share it with you.

64 Thoughts Everyone Has Before Going To The Gym

1. Ahhhhh, 6:30 a.m., a beautiful morning, time to go to the gym.
2. Actually, you know what, I’ll just sleep a little more.
3. WHAT?! HOW IS IT 8:30?????
4. This is cool, though, I’ll just go to the gym after work.
5. My workouts are always better at night anyway.
6. I’ll be one of those late-night gym rats!
7. The gym somehow seems calmer at night. And cooler? Calm and cool, just like me.
8. I should look into a 24-hour gym.
9. How cool would it be if I started going to the gym at, like, two in the morning?
10. I’d probably have the whole place to myself.
11. I’d have so much time to really master the weights!
12. And then I could start giving tips to everyone else.
13. I bet I could be a trainer.
14. I should probably get a second slice of pizza for lunch, since I’m going to have such an intense workout tonight.
15. Important to carb up, you know?
16. Maybe I should be protein-loading though?
17. Should I buy some protein powder?
18. Amazon has some for really cheap.
19. I can’t wait to start making smoothies with my new 3-gallon tub of vanilla protein powder.
20. I’m going to get ~ so ripped ~.
21. I should buy some new clothes to show off my new, awesomely ripped body.
22. Aaaaand some new workout clothes, to motivate myself.
23. Sometimes spending money online doesn’t even really feel like spending money.
24. 5 p.m., time to clock out and GET. TO. THE. GYM!
25. Although, you know what, lunch was pretty early and I’m feeling kind of faint.
26. If I worked out now I might actually pass out.
27. I should eat something first, for the sake of the workout.
28. It’s about the QUALITY of exercise, not the QUANTITY. Right?
29. I’ll just grab a quick dinner on the way home.
30. And some froyo.
31. OMG I never want to move again.
32. I know, while I’m digesting I can update my workout playlist.
33. Geez, when was the last time I updated this?
34. When did I download “Be My Lover” by La Bouche?
35. Be mah lovaaah wanna be mah lovaaaah
36. Wait, am I old?
37. Maybe I should start running to podcasts.
38. How does someone… find… a podcast?
39. This American Life, that’s a thing I’ve heard.
40. I could exercise for literally seven hours and not run out of listening material.
41. This is going to be the best workout ever!
42. Oh, but I should charge my phone first.
43. OK, cool, food is digested, playlist is tight, phone is charging, I’ll be ready to go in liiiiiike a half hour.
44. Just enough time to watch one episode of Parks and Recreation.
45. Nevermind, three episodes of Parks and Recreation.
46. OK! NO MORE EXCUSES! GYM TIME!
47. Where are the new socks I just got? The cushiony ones?
48. It seems like a waste to go to the gym wearing dumb, ratty socks when I just bought top-notch socks specifically designed for exercise.
49. When was the last time I organized my dresser?
50. If I organize my dresser while wearing workout clothes, does it count as exercise?
52. OK, socks are on, sneakers are on, headphones are on, let’s go.
53. Wait, water.
54. Didn’t someone just tell me I should mix apple cider vinegar with water?
55. Do I have apple cider vinegar?
56. Oooh, peanut butter.
56. OK apple cider vinegar and water is the worst thing I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. This can’t be right.
57. Let me just Google it…
58. What the hell is in apple cider vinegar and why is it apparently a cure for everything?
59. Ugh, when did it get so dark out?
60. Is it cold out? Should I change into long sleeves?
61. Wait, what time does the gym close?
62. Whatever, I’ll just go tomorrow morning.
63. I’ll get to sleep early tonight, and wake up so early tomorrow.
64. My workouts are always better in the morning anyway.

Wishing you all productive workouts in the days ahead!

Grandpa’s Shoes (Lessons In Getting Where You’re Going)

There is an old pair of men’s dress shoes in my car. They are on the way to the repair shop at the request of my oldest son. The shoes are his. They used to be my dad’s. He gave them to my son a couple of weeks before he died. My son loves them and wears them anytime he needs to dress nicely. He wears them to church, on formal dates with his girlfriend and when we go out to dinner.

My oldest son with my father's shoes

My oldest son with my father’s shoes

They don’t quite fit. They’re a little large but I never say a word. My dad’s shoes are big shoes to fill…both in reality (he wore a size 14) and metaphorically too.

My dad was born in 1923 in Oklahoma in an all black town. Some people don’t know but our country was dotted with small, completely segregated towns at that time in our history. His family had no money and relied on subsistence farming to keep themselves going.

My dad grew up and held a series of jobs. He farmed, he flipped raisins in the hot California, Central Valley sun, he drove a bus. When he was 40 he graduated from Medical School.

The journey from raisin flipper to physician was a long and arduous one. He wasn’t always treated well as he pursued his goal to become a doctor. Tangible racism was rampant…the institutional kind where it wasn’t just a matter of people not liking you or not wanting to sit with you at a table but it was doors of well-paying jobs and educational programs being closed. In those days you didn’t need to rely on conjecture or supposition.  Employers would tell you outright they didn’t hire black people. One school program told my father that although he met all the qualifications to get in they wouldn’t accept him since they already had a negro in the program. That was the Medical school at UCSF (University of California San Francisco). Things like that were nothing new in his life. Years before he was accepted into an undergraduate program at Iowa State University. Their literature stated that they provided housing for students in the program but once he arrived they told him they didn’t want a black person in the dorm with the other students. At that same school although they seated students alphabetically in one class, they sat him out of order because they didn’t want him sitting next to a white female student.

So what did he do when these things happened? When he heard an employer say they didn’t hire black people, he left and applied somewhere else. When They wouldn’t let him live in the dorm he found a place off campus to live (an elderly black couple let him stay with them in exchange for help around the house). When he was moved out of alphabetical order, he stayed right there in class in his out-of-order seat and learned the material. When UCSF wouldn’t take him he applied other places. He ended up having to leave my mother behind for 4 years since she had a good job in San Francisco while he attended medical school in Tennessee.

In the 49 years I was blessed to have him, he never once said anything derogatory about white people. He never dwelled with anger on the many challenges he had to overcome. He loved America and the opportunities it afforded him even though his goals weren’t easy to reach.

When confronted with each obstacle, he had a choice. Would he lie down and quit or keep his eyes on the prize and persevere? Nobody would blame him if became enraged by his circumstances and stopped trying to get better jobs or into good schools. He had a built-in excuse. The playing field wasn’t level and he wasn’t treated fairly (and could demonstrate it in example after example).

But that’s not what he did. At each quit-or-go-on juncture he chose to keep bitterness at bay and to continue moving forward. It took him until he was 40 to realize his goal of becoming a doctor. He ended up with a thriving practice, a job that allowed him some economic freedom and the satisfaction of delivering over 7000 babies.

You know what he taught me? That you’ll always have something you can use as an excuse in life. You can get your friends, family and often strangers to sympathize with your plight and to support your excuses. You can get a whole huge segment of society to feel sorry for you…to weep, wail and rail along with you. You can all shake your fists at the moon….but that only gives you company in your misery. It won’t help one bit in getting where you were trying to go.

My dad gave his shoes to my son…and those shoes will be hard to fill. Nothing could please me more as a daughter and a mom than to see my boys grow into men who understand that their legacy is one of strength, perseverance, dedication and success. They, of all people should eschew the Siren’s call…that silky trap of sympathy that makes one comfortable in defeat.

Life will place roadblocks in your path and some people may be unkind but if you set a goal, keep your emotions under control and put in the work you can overcome. My father was living proof.

My dad playing with me and our cat Miff

My dad playing with me and our cat Miff

My dad with my sons about 8 years ago

My dad with my sons about 8 years ago.  I hope they develop his work ethic and persistence.

 

This little baby is now wearing his grandpa's shoes!

This little baby is now wearing his grandpa’s shoes!

 

Happy Father’s Day to all of you out there! Never forget, the lessons you pass on to your children are those you teach by example.

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Born To Run

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My boys have always wanted a dog and had recently resorted to telling me that if I continued to deny them the opportunity I was going to ruin their childhood.  That’s not what made me finally relent but now that they are older (10 & 16), they’re able to shoulder the responsibilities of pet ownership (under adult supervision, of course).   We now have not one, but two husky puppies at our house.

Huskies are bred to be working dogs.  They like to have a “job.”  They are curious and very energetic.  All the research I did on the breed told me that they need and want A LOT of exercise and that’s where I come in.  It seems I’ve added two cardio partners into my life.  A happy husky is a well exercised husky.  They are born to run….they want to run….they NEED to run.

Did I ever mention I’m not a runner?

What I should say is that I wasn’t a runner until now.  Part of the commitment I had to be willing to make was to see the dogs get proper exercise.  They don’t love the heat so early morning exercise is best for them.  Conveniently, this is when the boys are at school (or in the summer at work/camp etc).  That leaves me.

I’ve accepted the idea and am now actually looking forward to our runs.  Luckily, they are too young to go quite yet so we’ll start with slow walks, then fast walks, then jogs…then jogs with some real running thrown in.  We’ll grow into it together.

The good news is that for the next number of years I’ll have a built-in reason to exercise every day.  While I might be willing to flake on myself once in a while, how could I ever deny my new little favorite, bestest, most adorable, darling babies…..I mean, the puppies, their daily excursion?

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