My Memories of Former President Jimmy Carter

On August 20, 2015, Former President Jimmy Carter announced to the world that the melanoma that he’d been battling has reached his brain. I was saddened by this news. True, President Carter and I weren’t buddies or friends or even acquaintances. But he was the first US President to whom I’d ever written a letter (complete with a P.S. Tell Amy I said “hi.”) I remembered March 26, 1979, when my mother (a future survivor of metastasized melanoma) ushered me and my siblings into the living room of our home in Fort Bliss, Texas and told us, “Watch this! You are seeing history in the making.” She then explained to us how these two countries (Egypt and Israel) had been at war with each other for years and how President Carter had helped them to write the agreement that they were signing in front of us; how they were promising to make peace from now on.

I guess I didn’t realize what a huge impression this moment had on me. It affected my life in ways I wouldn’t understand until much later. I remembered crying when President Reagan took office in 1980. I could not understand why so many Americans were blaming President Carter for domestic problems like the gasoline shortages and international issues, such as the American hostages taken by Iranian students during an Iranian revolution. I remember the yellow ribbons tied everywhere on post; around trees, light posts, telephone poles, mail boxes. I, too, wanted those Americans to come home. But I didn’t understand why President Carter was being blamed for what other people did. So I started reading the newspapers beyond the comic strips and  Ann Landers.

I continued to study current events and didn’t think much about President Carter after that. I finished high school and started taking night classes at the community college near my home. Eventually, I started working for the government; not uncommon for people living in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. It wasn’t until I had gotten married to an Egyptian man in 1994, that I realized exactly how much President Carter’s assistance in the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Accords at Camp David affected my life. I mean, would I have met him if he’d gone to war during his conscript service in the Egyptian military? My husband has a deep respect for President Carter, as do most Egyptians. Peace is a huge deal to a kid who has only known that his country is at war for his first 12-14 years. Of course, being an American, I only had “Oh! I remember watching that on t.v.” to contribute to that conversation. But…I remember it.

President Carter continued what he did best after leaving the White House. He worked on peace initiatives, human rights, and building homes and fighting diseases through the establishment of the Carter Center. Jimmy Carter is a great man. He lives his beliefs every day through service to his fellow humans. He’s filled his 90 years of life with greatness. I am blessed to have been touched, even indirectly, by his leadership, kindness, and deep respect for all human life. I pray that he lives the remainder of his days pain-free and surrounded by those who love him.

“We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes — and we must. ~Jimmy Carter, Nobel Lecture

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Like Riding a Bicycle? I Think Not

So, obviously, I’m not as young as I used to be. But how does your mind not know that which your body is so quick to tell you?

In my 30’s, I was able to move furniture, roll up and then beat out large area rugs, scrub them and hang them out to dry, scrub down walls, mop floors and put all the furniture back in its place, shower and make dinner, all between the hours of 9 and 6. I attempted to do that on Saturday (skipping the rugs because I cleaned those last month) and I managed to get only one room completed. I’m still exhausted two days later and I think I’ve met my match in the Me v. Dust competition.

I know. Who cares? Just do  little at a time. It’s no big deal. Right? Wrong. I came to the realization years ago that I’m just not  great housekeeper. I mean, I do okay and we’re not living in filth and squalor. But I make up for the fact that we have dust bunnies (read: dust buffaloes) by being an amazing cook who is very good at delegating the tasks she hates to those rotten teenagers that she is raising. But when I want deep clean of a particular room I’m going to have to do it myself and I swear, it’s taking 3 and 4 days to recover any more.

When we age, our minds like to convince us that we’re just wiser and not at all limited at 46 than we were at 26. I am raising the bullshit flag at my mind while giving the one-finger salute. Yes, I’m wiser now than I was at 26. However, I’m ignoring that brain of mine that’s trying to convince me that the creaking I’m hearing is from the floorboards of my 55 year old house when I know damn well that it’s really coming from my old-ass knees and ankles. You know that adage “It’s just like riding a bicycle?” Uhm, it’s not. You may mentally remember how to do a cartwheel, clean an entire 1400 square feet thoroughly, and run 12 errands spread across 99.98 square miles in 3 hours time…..but your body will laugh and laugh and laugh at how naive your mind can be. It is NOT just like riding a bicycle. Maybe a Rascal…but not a bicycle.

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The Best Laid Plans…

So, when I started this whole “Walking 1000 Miles” thing and I’d planned to get up early, walk my 2-3 miles and then shower and write daily, I had no idea that I’d end up down for the count  with bronchitis for a week and also that we’d be suffering through a 104+ degree heatwave for 2-3 weeks straight. Still I managed to get some of the walking and a lot of the showering done. The writing? Not so much.

But now that the 4 teenagers are all completely registered and in school and the 20-yr old is completely registered and has some of his books and has started his classes, I am able to at least attempt to walk and shower and write daily. We’ll see how it goes.

In an effort to save money, I sat down and wrote out a menu from the 15th of August through the 15th of September. I scoured sales ad papers, clipped coupons, and arranged my shopping trips according to the furthest store on the map and made my way back to the house, hitting each one along the way and testing the full capacity of trunk space in my 1998 Chevrolet Metro. Who knew that you could stuff so many bags into the back of one of the world’s smallest cars if you just remember to pull all of the usual crap out of the car before putting the back seat down? I hit 4 different grocers hard and made it home within 3.5 hours with just over $200 spent and so many bags that the kitchen floor was barely visible.

Of course, school didn’t start for another 9 days after this grocery shopping trip, so 2/3 of that food was gone by the time the teenagers boarded their school buses on the 24th. *sigh* And while I still have a large amount of the staples in my cupboards, alas! The supply of meats, poultry, and produce are sorely lacking again on the 31st. So no matter how much effort I put into savings, coupons, research and shopping smart (and not hungry,) I’m still out of food in 15-16 days. AUGH! Whatever. One day I’ll figure it out.

But in the mean time, I’m getting healthy due to the walking, keeping friends due to the showering, and keeping my kids fed whether we want to or not. It is what it is, folks. Not really completing the planned tasks, but definitely attempting to do so.

Also, this may be the single most boring post I’ve ever written.

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Recovering from Vacation

I took the kids and went to Alabama for about 5 days. We were getting along and I had a captive audience (literally) so I played the audio book my dad bought for them last year and once we could all get past Rush Limbaugh’s atrocious nasal voice, we enjoyed it. (Not enough to buy the second book, Dad.) We stopped at a rest area outside of Shreveport, LA and walked around a bit. The kids got to see that Spanish moss is not just a prop in old movies but a real live thing. We got back on I-20 and within a mile I ran over a piece of retread that had come off of an 18-wheeler. The front end of the car started to shake so violently that I thought I’d blown a tire. I pulled over and checked….everything looked fine. All four wheels were inflated and I suppose that I should have reached in and checked the tires manually but come on! I had been driving 80 mph and it was in the high 90’s and that’s a lot of heat to be sticking my hand into. So I drove on. The car was fine until I hit about 60 mph and then the front end would shake again. So I figured there was something wrong with the alignment and just crept to Mobile at 60 mph all the way. When I asked my cousin about it, he said it sounded like there may have been an air bubble or something causing the alignment to be off and that we would check it in the morning. Only he left for work at 6:30 a.m. So I talked to my uncle and he said, “Let’s go take a look at it,” which I thought would be interesting since he’s completely blind and we walked out and I showed him which wheel and he felt around and told me, “Baby, come take a look at this.”
I did. OH CRAP. I had driven across two states with only half the tread on my front tire. The inside half had come off completely and this was why it was such a rough ride over 60 mph.
During the course of the visit with my most amazing relatives, my oldest son and I were developing a cough. He spent most of the week on the couch and I was fighting an urge to spit because I’m too much of a girl and can’t hock a loogey without getting it all down my clothes and chin or swallowing it and dribbling just saliva down my face. We went out to my other aunt’s house to say “Hey” (that’s pronounced with 3 syllables in Alabama) to them and my cousin and her family who had just come back from Germany. Then we took off to Dauphin Island for a quick trip to the beach. I hadn’t been to Dauphin Island in over 20 years and my first time back I threw up and wet my pants while doing it. Yay aging. I thought it was just being dehydrated since I’d had 4 cups of coffee and no water all day. It was pretty hot out there. We went home and the kids all got showers and I changed clothes and took a nap. My aunt had started the shrimp gumbo in the morning before we left and I managed to get up just in time for dinner. She said I always did have a knack for timing.

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James Brown Probably Suffered Bronchitis At Least Once

So, eight days into my walking regiment and I’m hit with an upper respiratory thing. I am prone to bronchitis which is caused by fluid build-up behind my ear drums which is caused by acid reflux AND exacerbated by the sinking foundation of our house. Who knew that I could cure/prevent a bronchial spasm cough by avoiding spicy foods and hiring Bob Vila?

I’ll get back to walking as soon as I’m off the antibiotics.

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I Am James Brown AKA I Feel Good

So I have 6.6 miles logged on my app that tracks my 1000 mile journey.  (Truth be told, it should be 8.3 miles because I got 1.7 in the first day before I downloaded that app.) Whatever. I’m off the couch and I’m pushing myself to up my pace everyday. It’s not consistent. But I’ve gone from a 22.5 mph average to 17.45 mph average and today is only day 4. I’m awesome. And I know that 17.45 mph averages aren’t anything Guiness would even pick up the phone over. But that’s almost my average time for jogging 2 miles when I was younger and far healthier. And I’m WALKING not jogging. (Why pee your pants when you don’t have to?)

My friend, Kim, who works out regularly, pointed out that it’s an addictive feeling; that overall GOOD that you feel following your workout….well, more accurately, following the SHOWER after your workout. And HELLS YEAH. She is so right. It is addictive. Yes, my science geek friends:  They’re endorphins. They’re like Prozac, with ONLY good side effects.

Here’s the thing. I have a sway back. So when I fell into bed last night, literally, I slept on my face. Thanks to Menopause and her twin sister, Night Sweats, I rarely use the covers and sleep with the ceiling fan on. But sleeping face down forces my lower back to dip down just before the sway up at the tailbone and no covers plus ceiling fan plus sweaty back equals “Honey, please  help me get off the bed before I wet my pants”  in the morning. I was so stiff and unable to move without pain that I was lucky to make it to the coffee pot.
My husband told me to take today off and rest.

At first I thought, well, maybe a 1/2 mile walk at a “Sunday stroll” pace. Just to keep up the momentum. Then when I got outside, the weather was so nice and there was a nice breeze, so I just ended taking a slightly different route. Instead of taking it easy, I walked 2.72 miles in 48 minutes at an average pace of 17.45 mph. A personal best. Yay, me.

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My Journey of 1000 Miles Began With 1.7 Miles Today

It’s official. I’m about 100 lbs overweight according to all the BMI charts. For MY personal comfort level within my own skin and my clothes, I’ll own about 75 lbs overweight. And either way it sucks. Yeah, according to some chart that floats between an Army orderly room and the vapors of the internets, I’m considered obese. But you know what? It does NOT define me.

You see, while I’m officially fat, my “health numbers” are all good, with the exception of my cholesterol. That’s been high my entire life and I’m pretty sure it’s probably gone DOWN in the last 6 years even though my weight has gone up. But that’s because I make better choices in food. I don’t fry anything anymore. I don’t overdo sweets or fats. I eat vegetables everyday. I eat fruit quite frequently. I drink water. I’ve managed to pack on the pounds mostly because I moved to the US.

In Texas, you drive almost everywhere. You know that song with the lyrics, “Nobody Walks in L.A.?”  That’s pretty much the truth in Arlington, TX, too. Unless you don’t own a car yet. You certainly aren’t going to ride a bus unless you are leaving the city from the university campus. For some reason, usually tied to air pollution from exhaust of city buses, they keep voting down public transportation. And that reason is stupid since all the city buses in neighboring Fort Worth and Dallas are powered by natural gas.

In Egypt, I walked EVERYWHERE. We did not own a car. The beach was 1 mile away. We walked. School? 2.5 miles away. We walked. Nearest supermarket? 2 miles away. We walked. Nearest bus stop to get downtown? 1 mile away. We walked. During the school year, I walked the boys to school 2.5 miles away and came back through the open-air market on my walk back home. Put away the groceries, started laundry, woke up the girl, walked her to school (girls middle school was in the afternoon in the same building as the boys’ grade school) and then walked the boys back home. Made dinner. Walked back up to the school to pick up the girl and walked home.

I was still fat. But according to my complete heart workup at the cardiac hospital, I had the heart rate of a 35 year old. I was 44 when I had that done.

Now that I’m back in the states, I find it so incredibly easy to be lazy. I cannot afford to go to a gym or yoga class. But I know all the ways that I can exercise for free. (Weight and size battles have been an ongoing struggle my entire adult life. Not my first rodeo, Cowboy.) So really, it’s just a matter of committing to do this. And today I have.

I woke up at 0730 and had a cup of coffee this morning. I dressed and plugged my earbuds into my phone, found a great internet radio station, and I walked. I walked 1.7 miles in 30 minutes. Not a super fast pace, but it’s sure faster than sitting on the couch! And I did it.
And I feel great. And I’m going to keep doing it. And you know what else? All the Judgy McFatShamers can choke on the fact that I’m doing this because I CHOSE HEALTHY and  not because of anything that they said.

MY journey of 1000 miles began today with 1.7 miles. How’s yours going to start?

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