Health Quality of Life: What Matters to you Now?

Part 1

In January I looked over my training log for 2015 and counted the days that I had done something active to improve flexibility, strength or cardiovascular health. The sum was a paltry 116, just 32% of the 365 days. If I had actually been training for distance events, it would have been more. In my thirties, and forties it would have been more.

Nonetheless, put simply by past American College of Sports Medicine President, Steven Blair, Some is better than none, and more is better than some. And since I accomplished 150 minutes of at least moderately intense exercise each week, I satisfied the recommendation for adults by the U. S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy.


So is 150 minutes enough? The answer partially depends on what matters to your personal health quality of life (HQOL). In a recent conversation with Nancy Clark, Sports Nutritionist for the Boston Red Sox, she said, Don’t you think most people just want to lose weight and have more energy?  I agreed, and added, But for me, I also want to stay out of the doctor’s office and off medications.

Years ago, my mother’s doctor told me at a routine visit, Most people your mother’s age are on 6-8 medications. Your mom is on just two. She was in her seventies at the time and had been playing tennis several days a week since her 50th birthday. One of the ladies in her tennis group was 95 years old and played tennis five days a week. Though it’s probably not in my longevity genes, I’d be happy hiking even two days a week if I live to be 95.


So at this point in your life, what matters to your HQOL? Think hard about it. As you think, consider the things that are out of your control—age, gender, family medical history, and to a certain degree, metabolism. Here are some ideas:

  1. Mobility (to keep hiking or paddling or playing baseball!)
  2. Injury prevention (as we age, or sage, injuries take longer to heal and can trigger other more serious health issues)
  3. Agility and skeletomuscular strength (to prevent falls and fractures)
  4. Reduced risk of family medical conditions (know your history!)
  5. Flexibility
  6. Energy
  7. Clothing size (frequent changes can be costly)
  8. Weight loss/management
  9. Flat stomach (I hear this all the time from folks of all ages)

The list is in the order of what matters to my health quality of life now at fifty-something, in order to stay out of the doctor’s office and off medications, with an understanding of the influence of the sage-ing process. Numbers 1-5 were in close competition. Our priorities change, in fact, just before posting, I switched numbers 4 and 6.

So was 116 days enough for me? Probably, since many of the days I trained at higher than moderate intensity and often a single day exceeded 150 minutes.  Is there room for improved health in 2016? Of course, and I was reminded on Valentine’s Day when my daughter and I took Yoga on Tap at Claremont Craft Ales; reduced flexibility increases my risk for injury.

Think hard and drop a line to share what matters to you now, in regards to your health quality of life. I really want to know!

Look for Part 2 in March: Determining Moderate Intensity and Not Counting 150 Minutes.

Again, thank you for reading.

Micellaneous 072

Inching Toward Wholeness at the Grünewald Guild

Employing the imagination and the creative process sparks the core of who we are. God is, perhaps first and foremost, Creator, and we are beings created in that image. We were designed to create. The creative process through observation and cultivation nurtures our very souls: that place in the middle holding together mind and body, ideas and life, spirituality and the world1.

Painter Richard Caemmerer described the creative process during Matins this summer, I take every part of myself and give it color. I hope to do something similar in this small writing project—a canvas of sorts—and a reflection on three classes at Grünewald Guild. Three art classes, carefully selected from dozens of options, that immersed me in the creative process. And I loved the surprises that came with each class.


I took Old School Printmaking with Master Printer John Thompson because I wanted to know what printing was like before it became mundane. And now I know a little more and have a greater appreciation for the rigor one image goes through to make one print.

I was a newbie in the company of talented veteran printers—Mary, Ruthie, Olga, Rick, Karen—and to my surprise, my vocabulary swelled with choice words: dry point, whiting, scratching, etching, straight biting, roulette, softground, intaglio, aquatint, collagraph and putzing. (Actually, I’m not sure if putzing is a real word in printmaking, or maybe I checked out when John explained it).

John also served up a daily dose of stand-up comedy. Mind you, I’m not an easy laugh, but he tried with his jokes, and kept trying, but mostly I just looked at Olga from Moldova and rolled my eyes, until one day he finally busted me up with a story that ended with “Hey ma, put your teeth in!”

The Illuminated Word

I took Bro. Mickey McGrath’s class, The Illuminated Word, because I love the written word, and what Mickey does with the written word is brilliant, “to deliver the good news about deep and often whimsical connections between art and religious faith.” Art history from Mickey, lectio divina from Angela and writing exercises, such as a haiku, from Dan launched us into meditative creativity to form letters to sketch words that told a story through color and design.

Through observation and revelation, two wood piles on the Guild campus—one whose logs were cut, uniform, stacked orderly and ready for use, the other a dumped and untidy log pile of all shapes and sizes—reminded me of the aging process. The aging process comes, in part, with the weight of shadows and a heap of memories whose shadows manifest itself through a word, a glare, anything overt that brings darkness to self or others. And it requires time, accumulated time to experience loss, to fail, to struggle, to be wounded, in myriad ways, and then to neatly order mounds into manageable layers that help us feel tidy and less exposed.

FullSizeRender (2)


My pottery attempts before Grunewald include dropping out of a community college class and decades later throwing one pot at Holden Village. This summer would be different. Under the instruction of Scott Dillman I managed to center a few pieces and be content with what I accomplished in just a week’s worth of effort. I didn’t expect to love the feel of the clay in my hands—on the wheel, off the wheel, after the bisque firing and after the final firing. I couldn’t stop turning it over again and again to see the nuances of each piece. Scott taught us that making pottery is a partnership. I threw and trimmed and glazed and my role was done. My pieces were now at the mercy of the kiln and its temperatures’ influence on the composition of the clay.

I thought of the ancient story of Jeremiah who went down to the potter’s house to hear from God. As he watched the potter at the wheel, the clay was marred in the hand of the potter. The metaphor was a poignant reminder of our vulnerability and fragility even as we walk with God. But there is hope: so he made it again, into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. I did that too. When the clay wobbled and split in my hands, I cut the top off of what started out as a bowl, then fashioned the remainder of the clay into a tea bag coaster. And on this medium I am hooked!

FullSizeRender (3)

All summer long—over meals, during matins, at Eucharist service, Friday vespers, in class, and faculty presentations—imagination and the creative process were a hot topic among guests, faculty, staff volunteers and interns. As I listened, a common theme surfaced for me every time: if we intend to inch toward wholeness in this life of beauty and brokenness, thoughtful creativity must be integral to our approach.

Thanks for reading.

  1. Thomas Moore

Improving Your Digital Vocabulary

The article Reboot or Die Trying, by David Roberts, is packed with good things, but my blog post will be limited to a vocabulary lesson and a short message from The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis.Why a vocab lesson?  Because, as it turns out, these terms aren’t new just to me, but to my friends of all ages. Like any decent vocabulary lesson, I’ll define each term (paraphrased from the article), then use it in a sentence (my own, unless noted). So buckle up, there might be a quiz! 

  1. Phantom vibratingyou think you felt your phone vibrate, so you check it, but it didn’t vibrate at all; similar to phantom pain for an amputee. Consider the implications that phantom vibrating is similar to phantom pain for an amputee.
  2. Ceaseless pinginga notification for every email, text, voice mail, bill payment, alarm and reminder. Is ceaseless pinging the precursor to phantom vibrating?
  3. Gamifymonthly clubs, points and rewards systems that keeps you coming back for more. When Starbucks gamified their coffee with a gold card, I stopped visiting the independent coffee companies.
  4. Contingent communicationa signal sent gets a signal back. According to David Siegel, an expert in early childhood development, contingent communication shapes us as a social species.
  5. On line denizenan internet resident. An on line denizen considers “Ordinary life has come to seem torpid [stagnant] and drab relative to the cascade of affirmations we find in contingent online communication.”
  6. FOMOthe fear of missing out. Better just to keep my phone with me when I pee, dress, drive, shower, cook, eat, visit, babysit, work, study, sleep, for FOMO.
  7. Continuous partial attentionnever being completely where you are, never entirely doing what you’re doing. The phrase, continuous partial attention is more accurate than multi-tasking.
  8. Digital snowthe piling up of emails, which eventually need to be shoveled out of your inbox. Right now the digital snow in my work box is piled 2,045 messages high.
  9. Soft fascinationsthe rhythms of nature. She who practices the heeding of soft fascinations finds peace and rest.
  10. Meat spacenon digital interaction with another person. Meat space, you know, having a face to face conversation.

One of the more poignant, disturbing messages from David Roberts article was the Larger political, economical, and social forces at work when it comes to the ceaseless pinging of an online denizen. When I read that, I thought of what Uncle Screwtape, a senior devil, wrote to his nephew, Wormwood, a junior devil in the satirical book by C. S. Lewis:

Noise defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires. We will     make the whole universe a noise in the end. The melodies and silences of heaven will be shouted down in the end. But we are not yet loud enough. Research is in progress.

Screwtape was published in 1942. There is even more noise 70 years later, but perhaps the “research” of which Uncle Screwtape speaks, has led to a more modern and relevant distraction in our digital age: the ceaseless pinging, continuous partial attention, on line denizens, the pace of digital life, the piling of digital snow, gamifying, and 24/7 availability.

To read the full article by David Roberts, click below.

Again, thanks for reading.

Shareworthy Quotes, 2014

I considered writing the last blog post of the year about our recent Christmas day adventure at the Mount Baldy Notch restaurant, which, in the retelling to friends was an uproarious good time. I don’t think, however, it would translate well into the written word. It’s a story meant for meatspace. Instead, here are selected quotes from things I heard or read in 2014.  (And in case you’re racking your brains trying to connect the photos’ content with the quotes, don’t bother, they’re just a few of my favorites). Happy New Year.

Fey the Faithful

 As often happens with the best of friends we were not in a very good talking mood—only that pleasant sense of security that comes from being with those who understand you. C. S. Lewis

I’ve been a potter for 25 years. It was nice to be a beginner at something. A silk-art student at the Grunewald Guild

Sept 2014 057

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. The Gospel of John

A doormat is sure to raise a pair of boots. Barbara Kingsolver

Sept 2014 025

French women love bread and would never consider a life without carbs. Mireille Guiliano

…to call your mind easily back to God, to keep it in the presence of God. Brother Lawrence

Sept 2014 017

…to be moving toward the holy ground of home, with bare feet and empty hands. Macrina Wiederkehr

The moon mattered. Mike Brown (the astronomer)

Sept 2014 074







A Poem, a Letter, and a Consumer

Lately a persistent tension exists: accumulate or purge. When I’m happy I accumulate; when I feel helpless I purge. Lately I mostly purge. But Christmas is coming, and like a child, I’m keenly aware of things I want more of–furniture, clothing, books, music.


This summer I heard a poem, Tourist or Pilgrim1, by Macrina Wiederkehr, and I devoured the words: tired of seeking for treasures that varnish…luggage is heavy…hungry for the holy ground of home…you’ve not loved the pilgrim in you yet…to be on the move…to notice your luggage becoming lighter…comfortable with your heart’s questions…moving toward the holy ground of home with empty hands and bare feetthere is a road that runs straight through your heart. Walk on it.


And it dawns on me; pilgrimage isn’t necessarily moving physically to reach a destination, as we think of it, say, through Chaucer. The poem is metaphorical, right?

For example, unless we’re dealing with a commercial airline, we really only use the word baggage to mean the dysfunction we bring into relationship.  Maybe Macrina uses the word luggage in a similar vein—that which derails us (physical or not) from the road that runs straight through our hearts, the road that takes us to the holy ground of home.



Does the accumulation of things interfere with movement toward the holy ground of home? Accumulating adds weight, and purging, lightness, but certainly we can have a light physical load and still not be moving toward the holy ground of home.

And what is this holy ground of home? Is it the afterlife? Is it wholeness in this life? Is it those moments when we sense the presence of the Divine? Is the holy ground of home simply knowing when enough is enough?

June 20, 2010 224

There was an elder who wrote a letter to a young man about having enough: Godliness with contentment is great gain. Do you have food and clothing? Be content. (I would like to add shelter to that short list).

Do you want to get rich? Temptation, traps, harm, ruin, grief, and destruction may follow. 

Are you already rich? Then don’t be arrogant. Hope in God. Be generous and share, then you can take hold of the life that is truly life.

Life that is truly life? In his final days, Jesus prayed something similar for us, this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God…I think we’re closing in on the holy ground of home.

The elder continues: we brought nothing into this world, and we take nothing out of this world. That is a maxim I’ve witnessed. My parents came into this world naked (well, that I did not witness), and my parents left this world only as falling ashes into holy garden soil (this, I witnessed in sorrow). Upon their departure, all that they had accumulated in 70-something years was still sitting on a 3,427 square foot lot. The accumulation of things is part of life, but it isn’t life itself, and it certainly is not eternal life, because if it was, we would take it all with us, no?  We would be more than falling ashes into holy garden soil.

The letter-writing elder knew what he was talking about. He had lived with abundance, and he had lived with little. I too have lived with little, and with abundance.


The tension comes from feeling called to live smaller, to both purge and accumulate less of particular things: clothing, living space, food sources, fossil fuel, entertainment, books; a big sigh on that last one, but it’s true. In October, 20 of my books moved out of their first home, my book shelf,  and relocated to their second home, my Amazon seller account.

The tension will probably always exist in this life: accumulate or purge, but it loosens each time I feel and think that enough really is enough. And it happens most often through the creative process, and through cultivating and harvesting, and rich solitude and holy gatherings. In those moments, godliness and contentment meet and there is great gain. Perhaps then, I’ve moved further from being tourist and closer to being pilgrim.


Living Small, in the Woods, with Artists

Thanks to an invitation from my friend Lindsey, I spent three weeks this summer at the Grunewald Guild in the Eastern Cascades. I went primarily to work, but living at the Guild also provided opportunities…

…to minimize

Sept 2014 116

After visiting two tiny houses nearby, I named my tent Naranjita (unofficially translated “little orange”).


…to retreat

Sept 2014 112

Naranjita was pitched on the banks of the Wenatchee River, a world away from the suburbs of Los Angeles.

…to enter community

Sept 2014 111

Together we worked (preparing rooms for guests), played (cooling off in an invigorating swimming hole!), shared meals (fresh and leftover), worshiped, exercised (walks and hikes), and rested (in handmade hammocks from Twin Oaks).


…to explore art and faith

I set out to develop the notion that the creative process of doing art is an integral part of wellness. I came away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of how that process can nurture the social, physical and spiritual health of the doer.


Sept 2014 110

An alfalfa farm in Plain

…and to dialogue

Bonnie is an artist in residence, and one day I said to her in the print studio where she was working on a tapestry, You often refer to “Spirit” when you’re working on a project.  She explained, Yes, because it’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, or breath, who guides me in my art.

Bonnie was smitten by the lichen, commonly called Wolf Moss, found in abundance on the forest floor of the Guild property. Spirit nudged her. It needs to be in a project. So she took some of the brilliant chartreuse stuff to her studio, sat it near her loom and began a tapestry, using a wool yarn that was a close color match.  A few days passed; I watched her progress. Then one day she announced in the dining hall, I undid the whole thing. It just didn’t feel right. A few more days passed, and I went down to the print studio for a visit. Bonnie was beside herself with what she had discovered when she studied this tuft of fungus-photosynthetic-algae more closely. She was fascinated to see the sacred geometrical pattern throughout that started with a longer thread then became three off-shoots of shorter threads. Spirit nudged her. That’s what I need to focus on, rather than weaving an entire likeness of lichen into my design. (To see images of Wolf Moss, Bonnie’s weaving, and her hand made paper using lichen visit

Later in the week during tapestry class, Bonnie suggested that, as we wove our various weft threads over and under our nine warp threads, we might consider whether or not our daily actions reflect our virtues or values.  That was a challenge for me. I was busy doing art. Kindness, contentment, self control…I was unhappy with my work, even before comparing it to the work of my classmates. Virtue-shmirtue.  Then it happened. Spirit nudged? Bonnie had stepped out of the studio, leaving me floundering with fiber arts, and when she returned, she held up a handful of green pine needles. Anyone want to add this to their tapestry?  I answered, YES!  And I did. It was my lichen.


photo (4)

Inside the amulet we tucked a prayer we had written on a piece of paper.

I went on walks with Tricia, also an artist in residence, and we had a talk over cuppa on the patio of Plain Hardware Store. She told about her journey from teaching theology and art to becoming a freelance artist. We shared so many nuggets about family and tiny houses, and men, and becoming a better cook, and men that choose to become better cooks, but  I also asked her, How has your theology informed your art?  She explained,  Art and creating, reflects my identity with a God who creates. Art allows me to be present to others. Art manages my stress. Tricia’s answer was the poster child for my approach to wellness: the integration of spiritual, social, and physical health.  


Sept 2014 117

Bunnies made by Tricia the felt maker.

Liturgical Arts week marks the end of the Guild’s summer program. The next day there was a grand finale of sorts, where the participants presented their work as part of Sunday worship before Eucharist. I’ve been in church services where art has been programmed in-a dramatic performance, or a potter at the wheel, or a painter brushing a canvas. The Liturgical Arts participants presented at least five different media: dyed silk, personal altars, sketches, paintings, and a vector illustration. The holy text was presented five different ways: read in English, read in Japanese (by seven Japanese student volunteers), through silent drama, paraphrased by a participant, then in story form written by Jan Richardson. One artist-turned-silk -art-student commented, “After 25 years of being a potter, it was fun to be a beginner at something”.

In closing, what I’ve written here seems like such a narrow glimpse-a blink, really-into three inspiring and energizing weeks with a small quiet community who provided space and time to retreat, explore art and faith, enter community, and dialogue. I haven’t even mentioned everyone with whom I connected, or impressions made by that all important thing we call place. But it feels like a too-long blog post as it is, so if you’re still reading at this point, I extend my deepest gratitude!

Take good care.


Long, Slow, Distance and Whole Health

Photos by Todd Frantz

Years ago I read an article in Outside Magazine entitled, Get Out and Stay Out. That notion is what this blog post is about, and in particular, getting out and staying out on trails in the woods.

Eleven Miles, 7 ½ hours

Usually the Mt. Baldy summit is a turnaround point, but on this day, it was a means to an end. Destination: Wrightwood, by way of the Devil’s Backbone, North Backbone, Pacific Crest, and Acorn Trails.

In this Google Earth image, the red line shows the up-down nature of this trek. The steepest section, right off the peak, dropped 1200’ in .8 miles. All told, the elevation gains and losses were 5341’ and 6769’, respectively, and peaking at 10,064’.


baldy-wrightwood -sw


We met two depleted trail runners who were considering going south to Mt. Baldy. They wanted to know about the trail, because the terrain behind them (where we were headed) was gnarly, and required a lot of arm usage-ground they weren’t anxious to revisit. It’s a nice trail, we told them. Then we soon found out what they meant: rocks, all manner of shape and size, and large sections of loose, unstable terrain and sections where using trek poles presented the risk of the tips getting stuck and then wreaking havoc on our balance and coordination.

 North Backbone Trail

N. Backbone


But we kept calm and trekked on. The runners were right, and in spite of just one slip and fall and a few aches and pains, 11 miles and 7 ½ hours later, we made our way to the Acorn Trailhead in Wrightwood where our ride home was waiting.

Whole Health

There are plenty of shorter trails that can provide a challenging work out, and most days they’re more practical. But distancing oneself further and longer from suburbia offers greater perspective, quiet, extended time with friends, and the discipline of body, mind, and soul.


When I get out and stay out, I find myself quoting Scott Kerschner who said, We are not the dominant species in this valley. He was comparing a winter community of 100 people in the Eastern Cascades to the multitude of evergreens that draped the landscape. On this trek, I said it again, when, from across a deep valley, we could spot a speck of color from a trekker’s clothing against the backdrop of a massive mountainside, or moving in and out of a dense glen of towering cedars and pines.

Then at one point a silent glider circled above us repeatedly and so low that we could clearly see pilot and passenger. Correction, not silent-there was the sound of the wings cutting the air; it was that close.

When a reprieve from the July heat came in the form of a glorious cloud filled sky paired with a cool breeze, I gave a shout out to the Almighty, orchestrator of the elements.


Conversation ground to a halt, more than once for lack of O2 in ample amounts. I checked my heart rate when it felt maxed out, but it never reached that point. Rather I managed to sustain a manageable pace and a safe training heart rate on the steepest inclines. These often repeated bouts of elevated heart rate improved VO2 max and increased our k-cal expenditure beyond the often suggested, 100 k-cal “burned” per mile.

Lunges on the uphill and squats on the downhill; sets and repetitions were likely to be in the dozens and hundreds, respectively (perhaps one day I’ll count them on the trail). The resistance: my body weight against the slope of the mountain going up (concentric contractions) and gravity going down (eccentric contractions). Strength gains and delayed onset muscle soreness were primarily the result of excessive downhill. Minimal upper extremity strength training came with the use of trek poles approximately 8.5 of the 11 miles. Biceps are flexed at 90 degree in isometric contraction, and the anterior and posterior deltoids flex and extend with every step. And of course, core strength gains occur with walking in general, but more so with the changes of the trail’s slope as the low back and abdominals make frequent adjustments to support the entire body.

As we age, balance and coordination decline, and that decline is the culprit of an increased number of falls and fractures among older adults. Some trails demand greater balance and coordination than others, and this was one of them. Proprioception, or, knowing where our bodies are in space, paired with careful foot placement on the trail helps to keep us on our feet and off our bum. There is equipment that can improve proprioception, but as long as I’m able bodied, the varied terrain of a trail presents ample opportunity to improve it through balance, coordination, strength, and agility.


To get out and stay out with trek mates brings a sense of security on the trail and a sense of belonging on and off the trail. Memories are made. Conversation happens. Friendships deepen. We talk about writing, travels, books, mutual friends, our kids, best ways to die, foods we brought, and activities that fall into the category, stupid. This last one came from Mike’s spouse, Brenda-it’s what she said to him before he left for the day. It’s hard to picture you being stupid, Mike, so what falls into Brenda’s stupid category? I asked, and Todd added, yes, this, from the woman who sky dives and bungee jumps. Mike laughed, Well, just being out here, pretty much, and from then on we had fun pointing out other stupid trek activities.

 Mike the land surveyor




Whole Health and the Soul

Off and on for the last few years, I’ve been scratching out what may one day be a memoir. I stopped writing when I reached my life at the age of 14 and then hired an editor to offer developmental feedback. I was telling a super smart friend about this and he said, have you ever heard of a spiritual memoir? I hadn’t, but it reminded me of one particular comment by the editor, Religion and spirituality are a strong theme in your story.

And so now I’m entertaining this idea of writing a spiritual memoir. Honestly, I cannot remember a life without God, even during the times when my life looks and looked Godless. But I don’t have great faith. I never have. On the contrary, it is like a mustard seed, to use the familiar agrarian metaphor, and maybe smaller. And yet, a rich and strong sense of spirituality, of a life with God, has been my constant companion.

If I listed themes or lessons, in no particular order, that have shaped the way I now “do” spirituality, it might look like this:





 The poetry and music of  Messiah, by George Frederick Handel.

The energy in Antonio Vivaldi’s, Four Seasons (especially Summer 3. Presto).

Death, Americans, and Nepalese.

The mountains, as cathedral.

JanuaryFebruary 207

 The need for artist dates (thank you Julia Cameron).

When trips to Nepal and Kenya ruined me as an American consumer.

Bible Study.

A keener eye and deeper appreciation for religious art (thank you Juliet Benner).

The Angelus



 Friends and family sharing intangible gifts at Christmas.

Significant meals.

Unexpected divine lessons in literature.

Learning and understanding Namaste.

JanuaryFebruary 033


 St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween movie traditions.

The Body and the Earth, an essay by Wendell Berry

Care of the Soul.


This is not a comprehensive list, of course. After all, I didn’t list people in my life, major events, or all the authors who played their parts; I’ll save that for the book. But what these all have in common is that each serves to nurture the core of my spirituality, that is, my soul. And what we choose to do, watch, listen to everyday either nurtures or disturbs our soul. That place in the middle, holding together mind and body, ideas and life, spirituality and the world. That is the soul1.

  1. Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore




Shade Running, and What I Learned on My First Try

Shade running is just what it sounds like:  a runner looks for shade, and runs in it. So Cal is in a way too early triple digit heat wave, and so I decided to give shade running a try. It was a much needed variation on running, and here’s what I learned:

A predetermined course is out of the question.

A shade runner may appear erratic, but is actually being strategic in her next move.

Running for time replaces running for distance (unless you’re plugged in).

Sometimes  a shade runner must forego the scenic and opt for a less than inviting, I daresay shady, alley or parking lot.

 The terrain varies more than the omnipresent grass, concrete, and asphalt because you’re at the mercy of where the shade falls.




Backtracking is always allowed, and sometimes necessary. The largest bougainvillea plant in the United States happens to be in my neighborhood, and it grows along three borders of a condominium complex. I enjoyed the shade of two borders, twice.



I planned to turn toward home as my water supply got low. As I did, a resident was setting up her wave sprinkler. She looked sideways at me and said, You must be hot. Can I cool off in your sprinkler? Of course. I’m trying to run only in the shade, so it’s not too bad really. Thank you and enjoy the day. That was the second sprinkler of the morning. The first was a bit of a tease, as I leaned way over a garden gate for a meager spray that only cooled my lower legs.

If I was a non-stop runner, as in days of old, it might be frustrating, since sometimes I had to stop for a minute or two just to select the best route. Not route really, but direction. The least distance between shade spots, the longest stretch of shade, while observing the sun’s strike. But I run-walk now, and that’s compatible with shade running. It started three years ago when the orthopedist told me I had runner’s knee-which means, I think, that my patella doesn’t track straight. Strength train and don’t run downhill anymore, doc told me. So I’ve been careful, and have taken injury prevention a step further by adopting Jeff Galloway’s run walk method.

I started out with a 5:3:1 formula, a five minute warm up walk, then three minute run, one minute walk, and repeat. I trained with it, made the adjustment, forced myself to walk even when I didn’t feel like I needed to, and, as my dad would say, lo and behold, I didn’t feel so beat up after a long run. And my pace didn’t suffer. In 2012 I ran the Holcomb Valley 7 mile trail race. It was the first time I used 3:1 in an event.  When the starting gun rang out I walked. For five full minutes. Which is how I trained. Off went all the runners. And there I was at the back of the pack. After a couple of minutes, I couldn’t see anyone. Then I ran, and walked, and ran, and started passing people. I passed thirty-nine people in all, men and women, young and old, and I placed 1st in my age group. (I hope you’re getting the run-walk message and not a brag bite.)

3:1 Holcomb Valley

Later Todd asked me, why? Where did you get the idea to shade run? Well, I said, years ago a Nike commercial featured a Nike-garbed girl running, making what seemed to be random stops and starts and turns, once trailing behind a slow moving truck as she made her way through an urban setting. At the end of the commercial just two unspoken words appeared on the screen: Shade Running.

Pairing Social Support and Social Justice

Social support is likely to be part of a comprehensive whole health model, but not so, social justice. Yet I believe it to be an integral component, and I offer a glimpse into a recent gathering at the home of one of my Soroptimist sisters, and then I’ll close with why I believe we do what we do. But first, a little history, beginning with a statement from a British Soroptimist in 1939:

“Two things are clear to us in the midst of the bewilderment and distress of these present days. One is that, as a band of women whose aim is the furthering of international understanding, we must stick together and keep in active working order our Soroptimist organisation, the value of which is greater than ever before. The other is that when we emerge from this nightmare and the struggle is over we must be stronger than ever to see that all our influence is cas[t] on the side of a just and lasting peace.”

Soroptimists embarked on rescuing members of the Vienna club and their families, who were threatened by the Nazi regime. American Soroptimists donated funds and clothing. Many clubs across Europe were forced [to] meet clandestinely, making clothes, mending and preparing all manner of items needed. Service projects included opening Rest Rooms for women in the forces. A New Zealand club set up a refugee relief committee for people escaping from Europe.1

For our club, the month of March falls between two major fundraisers, and Sue had the truly bright idea to gather, to relax, and to share a meal and conversation before we hit the ground running into the May event.

Loretta was giving me a ride to the party, and when I arrived at her house I met her 19 year old cat. Its sister cat died two weeks ago, and when I approached him, he arched his back, and I think I felt every vertebra of his spine. By strange contrast, there was a rat in the garage (which I did not see); it caused engine damage to Loretta’s car, so she had laid out poison but hated doing so. What about a trap? I asked. She replied, I couldn’t bear to deal with a trapped rat!

We arrived to the warm welcome of our host who was out on her front porch. Inside we loaded our plates with good eats while sisters filled our glasses, then we found seats in the living room and kitchen. But as is my party habit (there are worse), I moved around with my food and drink, until finally landing, for good, on the back patio, following Rose, our club president, who went there to smoke. Everyone should be out here, I said, there’s a nice breeze, more room, and less echo. She agreed, Right, and I can keep smoking and still visit.

I asked Rose about her mother. Rose temporarily moved in with her mom. She can take care of herself, but I have a daily routine that includes setting things out that I know she’ll need, for meals and so forth. In appreciation for 45 years with her company, Rose was given an iPad. She showed it to her mother, taught her how they can play Scrabble on it from a distance, and her 88 year old mother was hooked. She pretty much confiscated the iPad. Scrabble is how Rose checks on her during the day while she is at work 40 miles away. If her mother hasn’t made a move in a while, she calls her up. Brilliant.

Jo soon joined us, and I liked listening to her story about how she and her husband met for the first time while vacationing in Puerto Rico, she from New York and he from California. After a scant three encounters they were engaged. They were married for 40 years before he died, and last night she spoke of him with such affection. When asked, So what drove you nuts about him? What didn’t you like? (There had to be something!). She could only answer, He was just such a nice guy.  Jo moved to California when she married, but she shared her dream of returning to New York and living in a loft apartment in the city, I don’t want to go anywhere once I’m there, just sit and watch the world go by. I like that.

One sister was visiting from out of state after having returned to her home state in the south a year ago. Her house and community were inconveniently located in the path of the 2014 too-far-south polar vortex, and she spent at least two weeks holed up with just her beloved cats for company, while the snow powdered and piled. I worried about her, emailed her, she was fine. She maintained her Soroptimist membership and, as former membership committee chair, still tries to recruit new ladies for our club. I asked her, after hearing her tell of the new life she’s settled into, You seem settled, but what’s missing?  She quickly replied, My friends, I don’t have any friends. And that made me sad. But then I thought and said, We will pray (quoting a friend in Kenya) for friends to show up this spring.

At different points in the evening, Sue, Bonnie, and Loretta asked and commented with concern and interest about my new business, How are you marketing yourself? You need to convince people that they need you! How was yesterday’s meeting with so and so? I’ll get you on our program schedule. And I know she will.

Indicators of social support are a sense of belonging, of self-worth, and of security, and I’ve experienced all three from serving with Soroptimist International. And yet I daresay most of us would have never met had we not been drawn to a common social justice cause. In our business meetings there is some chit chat, but mostly it’s work.  And the work is the business of how to best serve women and girls in need. Soroptimist, after all, is best translated from Latin as the best for women. Every year we raise and give over $20,000 to empower the lives of women and girls in various contexts of life. Some are victims of domestic violence who are in transition, and some are teens who overcome major personal obstacles yet still display leadership on campus.  It can be gritty as we work to live out our mission, but for the ladies who stay, who push through, and put up, we see the outcome and impact of an important union of social support and social justice.

Have a read of two authors who express well why social justice matters to whole health:

To be really at home is to be at peace, and our lives are so intricately interwoven that there can be no real peace for any of us until there is real peace for all of us. Frederick Buechner

A sense of justice comes with the kit of being human. And, The line between justice and injustice, things being right, and not being right, can’t be drawn between us and them. It runs right down through the middle of each one of us. N. T. Wright

Thanks for reading.