What I Have Learned from Running

I’ve learned a lot from running and while running.  I didn’t start running until I was 42 years old.  I quit smoking, cold turkey, on August 6th, 2007 (and that’s a whole other story all to itself) and started running.

The first important lesson I learned was there is way more inside of me than I ever knew.  My tank is never completely empty.

The second important lesson I learned was all aspects of running can be used in analogies that can then be applied to all other areas of life.

The third, and most recent, great revelation came to me today while I was running and really wanted to quit 15 minutes into it.  The fog of physical discomfort parted from my brain and the word NOW flashed in my mind like an old Broadway sign.  Suddenly, I knew.  Suddenly, I was made privy to the deep meaning of Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan.  Mother Teresa knew it: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”   Gandhi was in on it: “The future depends on what you do today.”   All the way back to Horace who coined the phrase, “carpe diem.”  I had suddenly been brought into the fold, a new member of the club of the enlightened.  In that very moment when I wanted to quit and walk back home and had come up with a list of reasons longer than the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights put together why it was permissible for me to quit this one time, I understood what it would mean to quit.  I understood the importance of my decision in this very moment in time.  If I were to let myself quit, I would make it ok for me to miss the mark in future endeavors, fall short of goals, and delay dreams.  And that is not ok.  Making it ok to live by excuses to perform less than my best is not ok.  Living by excuses is living in the graveyard of goals and dreams long dead.  I think Gandhi said it best.  Whatever my future is to be, depends entirely on what I do today.

The discomfort I was feeling at the moment was supplanted by my mind’s voice repeating, “All I have is NOW. Be who you want to be NOW.”  I knew I did not want to be a quitter!  NOW kept flashing at me.  Flashing.  Flashing.  NOW flashed in my head all the way to the finish line.

NOW

I finished the run.  Yessiree!  I finished and every step, every thought, every action after that run has had NOW flashing all over it.  Which explains how I got to be sitting here writing in my little piece of the world today.  Right now.  No more putting off until tomorrow.  No more dreams for the future that I am not bring to live in the present.

And sitting here staring at that picture of my NOW, just made me realize that NOW spelled backwards is WON.  If I want to win, if I want to reach my goals and live my dreams, then I must live right NOW.  Do it NOW!  All I have is NOW.  Let us begin.

Lessons Learned – some pleasant, some not

Last night G-man and I were out walking when we decided to stop by our favorite produce place.  Why is it our fav?  Well, because it’s close to our apartment, the produce is beautiful, and, most importantly, the people who work there are WONDERFUL!

First off, for the unfamiliar, buying produce here is a different process from buying in the States.  At the little produce stores, the shopper does not touch the merchandise.  Tell the shopkeeper what you want and they pick it out.  For CASL (Castilian As a Second Language) speakers like ourselves, fruit and vegetable words were not at the top of our essential vocabulary list.  Our produce shopping involves pointing, saying a number and reenforcing the crappy pronunciation by holding up the appropriate number of fingers.  After about our fourth or fifth time in there, out of the blue, the young guy that normally helps us spoke to us in English.  Broken, heavily accented, beautiful English.  My head whipped around and my mouth hug open.  Seriously, I almost hugged him.  That simple, kind gesture sealed the deal.   We will forever buy our produce in that shop!  He simply asked, “where are you from?”  We chatted back and forth a bit, us with our horrid Castilian and he with his few words of English.  It was awesome!  Ever since that moment every time we stop in we get treated like friends and, the best part!, they teach us new words!  They’ve never spoken English to us again and we appreciate that as we need every opportunity to learn Castilian.  I think they get it.

Ok, so back to the story….   We’ve learned the words for celery (apio), asparagus (espárragos), sweet potatoes (patatas dulces) and onions (cebollas – say-BO-shas, not say-BO-yas).  But, tonight we needed none of those things. Time for a new lesson.  By now, all the clerks know we don’t habla well, so they all speak slowly and help teach us new words.  I love them!  Last night we bought bananas (yep, exact same word but with different pronunciation), péras (pears – and yes they are delicious, sister-in-law-love-of-my-life), and arándanos (blueberries).

bananas peras & arándanos
bananas peras & arándanos

And then for a less than pleasant lesson…  Ever since we got back from The Wedding, we’ve noticed an unpleasant smell in the apartment coming from somewhere in the laundry room area.  The putrid smell of stagnant water.  Like, sewer water.  Really gross sewer water.  I assumed that since the laundry room had been closed up for a week and the sun beats on that side of the apartment, maybe that’s what was causing the nasty aroma.  The smell seemed to dissipate after a day or two of the room being opened up and running a couple of loads of laundry.  But this morning when we walked into the kitchen, the smell was back.  With a vengeance.  Like, how many dead bodies that we can’t see are piled behind the washing machine?  Holy cow!

I’ll save you the details of the discovery process and cut right to the lessons learned.  We have five bathrooms in this apartment (yeah, the company did us right – more on that later).  We are two people.  We only use two of the bathrooms.  We keep the doors closed to the other three and forget about them.  We have NEVER used the bathroom right next to the laundry room.  What we discovered is when water is not been regularly run in the fixtures of said unused bathrooms then the water in the drain pipe in the floor stagnates giving off said horrific odor.  Once I figured that out, I went around to each of the unused bathrooms to run the water in the sinks, tubs, and, oh for good measure, why not include the bidet as well.  You don’t see too many bidets in the States.  For those of you unfamiliar, you’re meant to sit on the bidet, turn on the water spout that shoots water up at a surprisingly impressive rate from the spout in the center like a water fountain one might see in a park and give your nether regions a little refreshing splash.  YouTube it if you can’t visualize the process, then come back and continue reading.  To help set the stage for the next lesson, I’ve included the picture below.

the source of Three Stooges entertainment
the source of Three Stooges entertainment

That little floor drain off to the right is where the offensive odor emanates from.  The big white toilet looking thing is a bidet.  The little silver thing dead center of the bidet is where water shoots out at the rate equivalent to that of water coming from a fire hose putting out a fire at a fire works factory.  The nozzle at the top of the picture is what one uses to turn the water off and on AFTER one has placed one’s backside above the water spout.  Anyone want to know what happens when one unwittingly leans over the bidet and turns on the water full force?  One gets a thorough cleansing of one’s head and chest.  Lesson learned.

Random Observations on Our New Life in Buenos Aires

Drool worthy streetscape

Here we are into our eighth week living in Buenos Aires.  Right up front I have to say we haven’t put much effort into truly becoming invested in and exploring our new home town.  When we arrived in mid-October, we knew we were going back to the States 1st December to see our son wed his beautiful bride.  (More on that later!)  Our focus has been elsewhere.  That being said, I do have a random collection of observations that I’ve made in the totally distracted short time we’ve been here.  In no particular order –

On speaking Castilian

Right off the bat – in BA, the language is referred to as Castellano, not Español.  Growing up in Florida and living in Atlanta for 15 years, we’ve been exposed to A LOT of Spanish.  None of it sounds like the language of the porteños, as the locals like to call themselves!  Double Ls are pronounced like “zha,” not like a y.  To a CASL (Castilian as a Second Language – I just made that up) speaker, that tiny difference creates an entirely new language!  Fortunately, every single local that we have met has been kind and sweet and gently helped us along.  Truly, every encounter we have had has been lovely.  And then there are somethings that don’t need translation….

Somethings don't need translation...
Somethings don’t need translation

 

On food

The produce available is exactly that which is in season.  Novel idea considering where we come from everything is available year round.  Friends and relatives who know our passion for coffee, brace yourselves.  The local coffee, at least at our neighborhood Cafe Martinez, is better than the local Starbucks.  It’s tastier and less expensive.  And another huge bonus to life in BA?  There’s nothing you can’t get delivered.  Food of all sorts, ice cream – yeah, read it and weep, and groceries, too!  That’s right.  When you finish your grocery shopping for an extra $5 or so, you can get it delivered to your house.

We haven't met a pastry we didn't like
We haven’t met a pastry we didn’t like

On architecture

We love the old stuff and our neighborhood is full of it.  Beautiful old houses.  Gorgeous old shops.

Drool worthy streetscape
Drool worthy streetscape

Sometimes there will be an entire block of old houses, but most times what we see is a gorgeous old belle squished between boring boxy high rises.

old & new
Old & New

I never stop trying to image what the streetscape looked liked before the neighboring old buildings were torn down to make way for the new.

On dogs

Before we arrived, we heard quite a bit about the copious amounts of dog poop on the sidewalks here.  However, much to our pleasant surprise, it really isn’t that bad.  Every now and then we’ll encounter an “obstacle,” but no more than we would in the States.  Buenos Aires is a city of dogs.  We see them everywhere, in singles, doubles, and variety packs.  Dog walking is a major business here.  And!  The vet will come to your house.  That’s right!  Our friend, Margarita Maria, has a vet who comes over for the regular check ups, shots, whatever.  Oh, that must be awfully pricey, you’re thinking.  Nope.  She pays less then we would in the States.  A lot less.  I had some great pictures of dog walkers walking their packs, but I can’t seem to find them.  So here’s a picture of a dog enjoying a little time at an outdoor cafe.

Who doesn't like a sidewalk table?
Who doesn’t like a sidewalk table?

On the Tango

If you know how to Tango, you can do it just about anywhere!

Escaping My Comfort Zone

Live in the moment!  Be where you are.  Sounds easy.  Seems logical.  As a matter of fact, you may very well be asking yourself how you can be somewhere other than where you are.  Well, I do it all the time.  The more I think about it, the more I think I actually spend a lot of time somewhere else.  See, I’m a “future thinker.”  I’m always thinking of and planning for tomorrow, next week, next month….four years from now when G-man retires.  Any thoughts of the here-and-now are usually focused on how to get through today so I can get to The Future.  The Future is going to be amazing when I get there!  We are going to have so much fun in The Future!

Mmmmm yeah.  Newsflash to self – If I want The Future to be amazing, then I have to make TODAY the amazing future I see in my head.  I have to be the writer, photographer, fit person I see in my future, T O D A Y.  Let me give you a little For Example.  I have had this image of Future Me in my head where I’m sitting at an old, but well loved, little desk with Queen Anne legs in front of a window in a far away place clicking away on my laptop telling a tale of a recent adventure.  I include delicious photos that pull the viewer in and put them smack in the middle of that far away place right along side me.  I see myself as a writer and photographer.  My own version of Ernest Hemingway.  But in reality, in my TODAY world, I am waiting.  Waiting for the adventure to come to me so that I can write my story.  I’m waiting to arrive in my future instead of making my future my today.  Is everyone following the circle I’m talking in?  Hhmm….seeing as a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a better example.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a vision of myself in amazingly fit condition.  Yeah, well, if I am doing THIS today:

couch-potato

 

I will not be this tomorrow!

images

 

 

 

So TODAY, I ran. TODAY I wrote. And TODAY I worked on a photo project.

Some may be wondering what all of this has to do with escaping my comfort zone.  My biggest comfort zone was the one I was keeping in my head.  TODAY, I realized this is no way to live.  If I want to live the big adventure I imagine, then I better start TODAY.

And you?  What about you?  Close your eyes.  Picture your ideal you.  No, you are not allowed to put any limitations on the ideal you.  All things are possible.  Picture your ideal you.  Now, right now, do something that ideal you would be doing.  Every single day be that ideal you and before you know it your ideal you IS you!

The Victory Pose

1Victory

Study: The Pose of a Champion is Innate

(from livescience.com) – It turns out that the stereotypical image of a victor — head tilted back, chest puffed out and arms in the air — may be an innate human response to success.

A new study found that blind athletes who have never seen such a display make similar gestures of pride as sighted athletes when they win, and also slump their shoulders and narrow their chests in shame when they lose.

I took this picture of G-man last Sunday while we were out on a bike ride.  Little did he know I was taking the picture hoping to be able to use it for this very post.  And joy of all joys, the results are in.  He passed the Spanish test!!

Thank you everyone for the positive thoughts, prayers, ritual dancing, chanting, spirit fingers (who know who you are!) you sent our way!

Request for Positive Vibes

Here’s the deal…  Back in September or October, the G-man’s company posted an announcement for an opening in their Buenos Aires office.  Figuring the odds were not in his favor, but keeping our fingers crossed all the same, he put in for it.  You know how it is.  You really want something, but don’t think you’ll actually get it so you kind of downplay it to yourself to keep from getting excited so you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.  Makes perfect sense….and a really long run-on sentence.  Around December-ish he found out he had been selected for the position.  WOO HOO, we said.  Cheering!  Jumping for joy!  Calling family!  Calling friends!  We don’t speak Spanish, but how hard can it be, right?  We knew his company would send him to six months of language school and, shoot, we’d never heard of anyone not passing the test.  See, he MUST make a minimum passing score in an oral proficiency test or he doesn’t go.  For whatever reason, the company believes he should be able to communicate with his Argentine counterparts.  Since January, we have been living in Spanish 24/7.  Spanish TV, actually American shows in Spanish, Spanish radio, Spanish labels all over our apartment.  In case you were wondering, NatGeo Mundo is a great show to watch in Spanish as they speak slower.  Documentaries, in general, are great for slow speech patterns.  NOTE – When learning a new language, DO NOT attempt to watch any type of reality television in said new language.  When people get excited, they speak very fast.  It doesn’t matter what the language is when we get emotional, our mouths switch over to full auto.  We have been so intense that I have started dreaming about Spanish.  Make it stop.

Funny side story.  I get distracted easily.  Bear with me.  A few weeks ago, the hallways in our building were being repainted.  In my comings and goings, I passed the painter on several occasions and said a polite hello and apologized for getting in the way.  I’m pretty good with accents and I would have sworn the guy was from an eastern European country.  Of course, I had only heard him say two words….and they weren’t both spoken on the same day.  About day four, he knocks on the door to ask if he can tape the threshold so he won’t get paint on it.  Ah ha!  That’s a Spanish accent.  So I ask him in my amazing and newly acquired Spanish where he is from.  (I’ve been doing Pimsleur while G-man has been spending 7 hours a day in a total immersion class – more on that later.)  He says, A R G E N T I N A!!!!  Now picture this.  I’m standing in my open doorway and he is kneeling at my feet with painter’s tape in hand. Based on the look on his face, I’m pretty certain that, based on the look on my face, he was 100% certain that I was going to attack him.  Yeah, so my eyes got really big, my hands shot up in the air and I started screaming, “OH MY GOD!  OH MY GOD!  NO WAY!  OH MY GOD!”  What else could the poor fellow have thought?  Once I explained to him the cause of my slightly over the top reaction, he stopped clawing and scratching and trying to get away from me and agreed to come over for lunch that weekend and speak Spanish with us.  No lie.  Martin the Painter came over for three hours on a Saturday afternoon, during the World Cup mind you, hung out, ate ribs, and took on the role of new Spanish teacher.  He was an absolute delight.  Detailed story of that day to follow.  Wow, I have so much catching up to do.

Alright, so where am I going with all this and what does it have to do with positive vibes?  THE TEST is Wednesday the 30th.  NEXT WEEK.  G-man needs all the positive vibes he can get.  We have discovered one thing in the last six months.  G-man is not a linguist and never will be.  His first language is English and he still struggles with it sometimes.  He is good at so many other things, but language is his Achilles heal.  So please, please, if you have a moment, send your best positive ray beams in his direction.  If he doesn’t pass this thing, not only will he be crushed (and seeing him crushed will rip my heart out), but we’ll have to think of a whole new adventure and I’m really starting to like the idea of this one….especially since we just got pictures of the new digs and they aren’t too shabby.  More sharing on that later.  So, please, please, please, if you have a moment, just point your ray gun at the G-man.  And I point mine back your way tenfold!

Hello World!!

What happened to me?  Where have I been?  Geez, I am asking myself the very same thing.

I have not posted since our last day in Rome, October 22, 2013.  Nine months later, to the day, here I am.  And, uh, no.  I didn’t have a baby.  But now that I think of it, I have been absent the length of time it takes to create a human being and the significance of that is not lost on me.  We have a totally different life with a totally different direction in nine months!

Ok, so let’s do a quick catch up.  Returned to Italy two days after the last post.  Went through total culture shock.  Seriously, who wants to return to the real world from the land of food, wine, and beauty.  I think it really knocked the legs out from under me.  I didn’t want to blog.  Every time I saw my little notebook with all my copious notes from our unbelievable tour of the Coliseum and the Forum, I couldn’t bare to look at it.  I hid it in a drawer to I wouldn’t accidently catch a glimpse of it.  We didn’t want to think about Italy.  We were in mourning.  We just recently quit wearing black.

Then in December we found out…..we are moving to Argentina for four years.  Yeah, you know.  Job transfer to Buenos Aires.  It happens.  Further explanation forthcoming.

Then in April, we bought 36 acres in Texas in a town with 330 people.  Short story – Buenos Aires is the last stop before retirement.  We wanted some place to come back to where we can meet up with our sons and their fantastic wives and just hang out.

And then what happened after that???  Well, boys and girls, something magical happened.  This past weekend our neighbors came over to tell us that they are going to Italy the beginning of October….to elope!!  We got so excited it was like we were back to planning our own trip to Italy all over again!  Even G-man got excited enough to yank off the black mourning cloth from the digital picture frame so we could stare at our pictures from Italy.

Aaaahhhhh, the clouds from post-Italy depression were lifting.  And I knew the best way to firmly shake off the last of it was to pick up my laptop, log into my blog and write something.  Reconnect with the world.  Reconnect with my like-minded, pro-travel, pro-adventure, pro-take-life-by-the-horns people!  Carpe diem, folks!  And, I’m carpe-ing!  I’m carpe-ing!  Hello world!  Gosh, it feels good to be back.

And now we plan the next adventure….the Paris of South America!