Thursday, April 16, 2015

Evolve

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“Liepard is the evolved form of Purrloin, mommy,” explains Pickle. “She’s in Team Rocket.” Except from the mouth of my three-year-old, it’s more like “Team Wocket”.

“Oh?” I lean in to see the images she’s pointing to as we flip through the pages of the Pokemon stats and facts book that she had deliberately picked out for herself from her sister’s school book sale.

 

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She goes to bed with it every evening, and since she can’t read, she tries to find pictures of the characters she encounters on the TV show and makes up her own stories, which explains why the book is worn and taped in several spots. When asked to pick a bedtime story, she’d prefer to point at different characters and have me read their specs aloud to her instead, which I do:

“Zorua, Tricky Fox Pokemon, Possible Moves - Scratch, Leer, Pursuit, Fake Tears, Fury Swipes, Feint Attack, Scary Face, Taunt, Foul Play, Torment… Zorua can use the power of illusion to make itself look like a person or a different Pokemon.  It sometimes uses the resulting confusion to flee from a battle. It’s the pre-evolved form of Zoroark.”

I sometimes explain to her what she doesn’t understand, but for the most part, she gets it. She beams at me and shares what she recalls about Zorua, one of her favorite characters, on the show, “One time, Zorua and Ash went to…”

I am thrilled that she’s enthralled by these creatures. For one thing, it’s Goodbye “Frozen”, Hello Pokemon. After a year of constant “Let it Go”’s I’m so relieved that they finally Let. It. Go. I’m also amused to see that she’s rather Pokemon-ish herself - adorable, feisty, and capable of destruction all in one cuddly little package.

My girls’ obsession with Pokemon is a welcome change from many years of overtly didactic, educational PBS shows that teach and entertain kids (the color red, the letter “T”, be kind to your neighbors, etc.).  It reminds me of the cartoons I used to enjoy growing up, like “Voltron”, “He-Man”, “She-Ra”, and “Thundercats”. Sure, kids don’t learn their shapes and alphabets from good versus evil battles, but there’s something to be said about stories of friendship and loyalty.

Besides, how many three-year-olds have a vocabulary that includes “capture”, “strategy”, “transform” and “evolve”, which Pickle has surprisingly used correctly in different contexts? Evolve is an especially great word. I think it’s because it hits so close to home for me these days.

I love seeing this evolved form of Little Miss and Pickle, going from playing Disney’s damsels to powerful Pokemons when they’re together. Adorable little things don’t have to be helpless is a subtle lesson from the show, but an important one nonetheless.

And I like that, after a year in Austin, we have all evolved into slightly different versions of ourselves. The changes are minor, but the effects ripple across our everyday lives.

If you’d told me a year ago that I would spend most of my weekends on yard work, I’d laugh at your face. But here we are, toiling away - weeding, mowing, planting, watering - to do our best to transform (hey, another Pokemon word!) the yard from its dormant state in the winter to a vibrant, productive one in the summer. 


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Last year we inherited a vegetable garden, which we only needed to water before enjoying the fresh tomatoes and peppers that the previous owners had planted. This time, we decided to be more ambitious and went with tomatoes, jalapenos, sweet cherry peppers, sugar snap peas, watermelon, and spaghetti squash, not to mention the myriad herbs that appear in the dishes I make. I know - what happened to baby steps right? We figured hey, if we killed half of it, we’d still have a decent yield. Hah.


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Since a house with a yard this size still feels new to us, we have much to learn, and we recognize that we can’t do that without getting our hands dirty. We spent the year studying what we already have - the grass, the trees, the irrigation, the hedges, the delightful perennials (and the awful ones too), and the beautiful rose bush that continues to wow us, especially when it sprang to life with such gorgeous blooms after the winter, despite the fact that we hardly touched it (maybe that’s the key). Now that we (kinda, sorta) know what we’re dealing with, it’s time for us to add our own touch to it.

 

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The yard feels like it, too, is evolving. To be honest, I’m nervous but also really excited to see what it will become in our hands.

Because of my recent conundrum with running, I’ve also had to evolve in other ways. I surprised myself by becoming the runner I never thought I could be nearly three years ago, but with a busted hip, it may be time for a change again, even if I hate the idea.

As a consolation, my sweet friends reminded me that if I could fall in love with running, I could do the same with another activity - I just need to give something else a shot. And they’re right. My pre-evolved form couldn’t even imagine running a mile, let alone a half-marathon, so why not wrestling? Or rowing? Maybe even Javelin throwing?

As for Little Miss, she started soccer again after a failed attempt at age four, when she hated “all that running” and chose to admire the dandelions in the field instead. Now her burgeoning interest in running is fueling her enjoyment of soccer, and it’s lovely to see her so excited about a sport. Neither My Guy nor I were athletes in school, and it’s easy for us to let that part slide, but I’m realizing that not only is cheering for my girl on the field fun, it’s also thrilling to watch her learn the merits of teamwork and losing graciously, especially since Little Miss had always been a me-me-me girl who couldn’t handle not winning at any game.


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I notice the difference in her: high-fiving with big smiles after a game despite losing terribly, emphasizing on the fun rather than the competition, learning not to boss her teammates around and accepting that the coach is boss, not her. She’s also more likely to get outside and play now, shooting hoops and practicing soccer with her daddy. It’s great to see her evolving into an active little girl, although the moment we get back in the car, she’s back to her usual self again.

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And I’m okay with that too. Naturally.

I believe some things stay the same to keep us grounded. I will never be an extroverted go-getter like My Guy, nor do I want to be. But then again, I had also said I’d never be a runner.

This brings me back to the “Dear Sugar” podcast I heard while running, when Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond both said in their advice to a reader wondering about the state of her relationship that “the years are long” - we are constantly changing, growing, evolving. What we were 10 years ago can be radically different from who we are today. Hell, even a year ago. And I am proof of that.

I’ve written about change before, firmly believing that it’s never too late for any of us to try new things, break old habits, become someone we never thought we could be. It’s this constant evolving that makes every spring so compelling while we watch the natural world come back to life. Some things remain the same, but having survived the harshest parts of winter, they’re also different. Hardier, better.

These were the first perennial I planted last year, and I was pleasantly surprised to see them come back this spring. Not only that, they seem bigger and stronger.


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I am in awe. After years of thinking that all I have are brown thumbs, it’s lovely to discover that there may be a gardener in me after all. What an incredible evolution. I still have a lot to learn, of course, like how I probably shouldn’t be wearing white while doing yard work, for one. But I’m at least ready to see how far I can go with this.



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As I watch my friends share where they were or what they did one, three, five years ago a certain day on Facebook, thanks to its latest feature that prompts users to share a significant moment from a past post, it makes me wonder, where, or more importantly, who will I be one, three, five years from now?

What about you? Who will you be?

 

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“Explore, experiment and evolve your beautiful world.”
― Lailah Gifty Akita

Friday, April 10, 2015

You can’t always get what you want

So what happens when you’re told that something you love is also the same thing that’s hurting you? I know this could be applied to many things, but in my case, it’s running. After enduring a year of nagging hip pain, I finally bit the bullet and went to the doctor with my issues.

The news wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either.

“Do you have to run?”
“I don’t have to but I would like to…”

“Then no running on hills and paved roads” was my Physical Therapist’s advice. Which means I pretty much have to kiss neighborhood running goodbye, and that SUCKS because one of my favorite things about running is just lacing up and getting out the door. Plus I really do love my neighborhood and enjoy being able to spot the fall colors and spring blossoms all around me, so having to end this pains me even more than what I feel in my hips. 

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You don’t get these from working out inside a gym…

 

My PT also pointed out that I have no arches in my feet. Flat-footed? Me? How is it that I hadn’t known that all these years? She said it affects the way I run, which must have affected my hips. She hasn’t quite figured out what exactly is wrong with them - we’ve only had three sessions so far - but she warned against continuing as I have because it would mean surgery, and who wants to go down that road?

I took her advice seriously and started to cut down on running and looked to other cardio activities. I tried many group classes at my gym and settled on Zumba (I love dancing; it’s so fun!) and Cardio Combat (makes me feel like a badass!), but when I reported that to my PT, she shook her head: “Nope. These classes have too many repetitive motions that will continue to hurt your hips.”

What. The. Fuck.

How ironic that my quest for better health is actually detrimental to my health. Before I started running, I don’t even remember ever having to go to the doctor for any medical issues. However, I knew the risks of running before I started; it was just wishful thinking that I could avoid them.

I signed up for a 10-mile race back in October, and I informed my PT that it would be my last long-distance run for awhile. It was the Austin 10/20 - 10 miles, 20 bands - and I ran it with a fellow mom who’d been my Sunday morning running partner this past year. I knew I couldn’t push it, but it was also important to me that I finish this race.

I’m glad I did it because it was a really fun race, but that last mile was painful. Literally. My hips started to hurt, then my knees, and finally my ankles. Man did I feel broken. But there was only a mile to go, and I just couldn’t stop then. Having my partner there to cheer me on got me through the finish line (thank you!). You can imagine how fantastic that felt, especially since I wasn’t sure if there would be another like this in my future.

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After 10 days of rest, I ran again yesterday, but I followed my PT’s instructions to find a flat gravel trail and attempted a few slow miles. I drove to a neighborhood park with a small wooded trail and aimed for three miles, but it felt so good that I easily reached four. My hips weren’t crying for help, so perhaps there’s hope yet for keeping running in my life.


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This nagging pain may still be a mystery, but I’m wearing orthotics to fix my flat feet (and secretly thanking the stars that they’re looking more fashionable these days than the old-lady shoes of the past) and I’m (begrudgingly) avoiding hills and paved roads when I do run.

 

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My daily arch-support footwear around the house. Could be worse I suppose.


I haven’t given up on finding something to fill the running void for when I absolutely have to stop, but I’m hoping that that day wouldn’t come either. I can fathom taking a break, especially during the summer when it’s hot all day and night here, but I can’t imagine stopping altogether.

My girls are starting to show interest in running, and I’d like to continue for their sake. I don’t think it’s the only way to get healthy, but to me, running is more than just cardio. It’s the fresh air that fills my lungs, the scenery that both enthralls and surprises me, the solitude as an escape, and even the meditative effect of a long run that, apart from cycling, which isn’t my thing, I just can’t get from other activities.

And that’s why I’m doing what I can to preserve what little I can do because I hate to be told I can’t do something, and I love a challenge. So we’ll see.

I’m just not ready to give up on it yet. I just hope my body doesn’t give up on me first.

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