Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 509: Greater than through love and support: Journey with the Cape Fear Heart Walk and Adam Freeman

It would seem that Mondays are my day to "start" something new. Like Saturday is still reserved for debauchery and sloth and Sunday is repentence..so Monday must be the penitent state for me. Hmm..Not really...Saturday was a down day, Sunday was a healing day..and today has been some renewal...so, I guess, Monday is RENEWAL day! there..that sounds better..more RENEWAL..
Well, I RENEWED myself at 5-a-damn-clock in the morning! LOL! I committed to changing my work out time with Adam to 6 instead of 7. It actually is a better time..and it is such a gift..but it is going to definitely take some getting used to. But, as I forced my eyes open..once I got myself up..it was really nice. It is deadly quiet at 5 am...semi dark with a hint of light coming through...and I am at peace. It is nice. The work out was intense..and there were not a lot of folks in gym (surprise! LOL)..but it was nice...clear...like I said..peaceful.

Last week I started really focusing a day at time on my snacking..but more importantly my habit eating. Once I started, I was having a hard time stopping (habit eating that is) and i was doing really well, one day at time with the issue. I found myself, however, this morning as i was talking to Adam about it getting really defensive. I told him what I was snacking on, and he mentioned that I need to be careful with a couple of things i mentioned.

What I was hearing as we talked was that what I was doing "was not enough or was not right"..when what he was actually saying was, "I am concerned about you". Gee..did that sound familiar for me! This weekend, Michael tried to tell me he was concerned when I bought this bag of chex mix (Ok..this may sound stupid..but it was a big deal at the time!). You would have thought he had just insulted my Mother I got so upset. What I HEARD was "you are not doing it right"...and off I went!

I am actually glad in a way that both these things happened because it really got me to look and respond to what is in my head.

The funny thing..the truth of it is that it has NOTHING to do with what HE is saying..it is what is still left in MY HEAD...what I SAY TO MYSELF..that voice that says "you don't do enough".."you are not doing it right.." and the like. I am gratteful, at least, I don't have the "you can't" in my head anymore. But the the voice of bs is now much more subtle and much more..shall we say, southern passive agressive. But it is there, and it is something that I have to continue to grow in as well for better health..because with these outward changes there has to come the inward ones too. The ones that stop the "tapes" that drag me down and hold me to a standard that is not my potential.

The people around me, particularly Michael, want the best for me. What they say to me is out of love. My closest friends, people like Adam, who really want me to be successful, they are the exact same. But sometimes, what they say gets filtered through my own "fat" mind. The mind that came from before when treating myself to bad health and to a less than healthy life was ok.

What is nice now, is like what happened this morning, when we were talking and when I was able to back up and put all this together..realize how much I am loved, supported, and cared for...and take that in..and somehow..through that..I heard what I was being told. No longer did what I hear sound like a chastisement..but what someone who cares would say...but the voice that was the most caring was my own.
There is an old saying that I heard 22 years ago from a group of people who entered my life in one of the worst periods I have ever been in. They said to me "we will love you until you can learn to love yourself".
Well, I do love myself today. But I am still learning and growing and becoming as a loving person...both inwardly and externally. It is all part of the process....and i remain grateful!

Thanks be to God!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 508: Greater than through love and support: Journey with the Cape Fear Heart Walk and Adam Freeman

the first email I got this morning was from my friend and chair of the housing authority, Deb, which said that fellow commissioner Macy McRae had a massive heart attack last night and passed. To say it was a shock would be an understatement. Macy was a member of the "zipper" club and had had open heart surgery and had, over the over 5 years i have worked with him, taken such great care of himself...stunned.

I still have the image of Macy, when I turned as Windell hit the floor at my right leg from his own massive heart attack, turning Windell over and working on him..doing everything he could to breathe life into the body. Macy was working on his friend, but also, as I would find out, working from experience on his own near death episode with heart disease. He was trying to give Windell the very life that he was given..the reprieve. But it was not to be.

Selfishly, part of my anxst this morning was that Macy and I had not seen each other much in recent months...I was not able to connect with him the way that I would like. His last email that I saw as a commissioner was one that I respected and it was the Macy that I knew to be thoughtful and deliberate and NOT divisive. His heart...ironically...was strong. very strong. Though we did not always agree, we both cared deeply about what was being accomplished.

Macy, Deb, and I are among the only three left from a time that was...to say the least..a trial for a public board. Someday I will be able to write the whole story, but it was a frightening time that was led by faith and truly by a desire to see something done correctly. Sharing that conference room with he and deb, looking each other in the eye when the decisions were made..it was a critical time...and no matter what...we moved forward to better ends with ethics and integrity. You learn a great deal about each other during times like that...and it is never taken for granted that part of our lives where left in that activity... But it was a growing time.

What I learned from that and from my own experience then and since then of being judged by what you do when you make decisions that create change is to become more compassionate towards those who are in those places. I truly believe there are folks who can separate themselves from their emotions and make decisions and just move on. Well, bully for them.

For the rest of us, decisions come with emotional costs and they stick to our souls. When we make them we make them because we truly believe we are doing the right things and IF we make a decision that does not stick right, it sticks out and stays out...and causes..not pain..but it sucks. Some would say that you just have to "get over it" and move on....well, I am not one of those folks. I like being around people who think AND feel their decisions..BUT ultimately who can MAKE A daggone decision..and not be afraid to do so. We did that and continued to do that...no matter the muck and the mire that surrounded us outside and in...and Macy..Macy was a part of that. Macy had a soul that felt his decisions...that felt what he was thinking.

I wish I had told him more of that recently. I know that i thanked him for that time after Windell's passing..but...it is another reminder to stay connected.

This morning, I went to church and I saw someone I had held to a higher standard than I would have even held myself while this person was going through a tough position and I wanted this person to do something I deemed important. When it did not happen the way I wanted it to, I became resentful and since that time had been distant. I thought this morning of the finite time we have. But also of all the good this person had done and "who was I" kind of thing. I have learned through my own 'leadership' that it is a blessing when someone takes the time to think that maybe I have reasons for what I do rather than to just judge me. If that is what I want for me..by God, I better exercise that same love for others...that same compassion. I used this moment with Macy's passing to make amends and reach out to that person.

This is not emotionalism. I don't feel this connection to amends because of his passing. This whole weekend has been tough. I spent all  of yesterday evening recovering in bed...healing from all the stress of the week...all of what is going on around us (and a particular bump from a run)..budgets..prices...my own career/job...involvements..personalities...there are times when it is just SOOOO Much...and I hit a wall. But being compassionate...growing older and really trying to walk in someone else's shoes....that helps so much. It does not excuse or disallow disdain for bad action..nor does it hold me or anyone else less accountable for their own actions...but it does...it does keep us all on the same playing field..kneeling on the same ground...human...somehow level with one another....and somehow it feels, if it is real and not condescending or patronizing, but authentic..and real empathy..sympathy..love...compassion for what another walks through..goes through..feels and thinks...somehow it just makes things more peaceful.

I am rambling I guess. All I know right now is that Macy is gone in "blink of an eye".
he was a decent and loving man with whom I worked with and he was a part of the solution.
In the end if I am "part of the solution"...that is a blessing.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 506: Greater than through love and support: Journey with the Cape Fear Heart Walk and Adam Freeman

Lots of stress this week: our insurance rates are going up, no raise in 5 years and prices have gone through the roof, we have to PAY to park at work..and the budgets and everything else shrink while we try and meet the needs...so many needs..so many things...

And in this this week I decided to enter into a pact with myself to cut out snacks between meals, to tackle one of my biggist issues still remaining in my life. Why? Well, if I waited till life was calm and serene and all was amazing and gentile and sweet to make any changes..well, I would still weigh 350 lbs..probably more and be either dead or heading that way...Nope..it don't work that way. Life is gonna happen..stress is gonna happen. It is how I respond to it. No, I don't have to load on all sorts of mess at once and try and tackel ten things at a time..that is how I set myself up for failure and thus give myself an excuse to do nothing..But I cannot put off making A change or some change becuase life is happening. In fact, making the change can be the very thing that adds to the better part of making it better.

That is exactly what happened this week.

By addressing my habit eating..I did not eliminate snacks as I had planned, I stayed foscused on my health and made that a priorirty so that as things got heated and weighed heavy at times (pun intended! HA!)..I had my priorirties straight..there are things in my control and things that are not..the budget, taxes, my insurance, prices..they are not in my control..ME, MYSELF, and I..is/are in my control! :)

So,  I listened and I paid attention...realized that eliminating all snacks would be bad for me becuase it would make me ravenous when i got to meals and probably make me sick. However, having A..or ONE snack..something healthy and stopping there...well, that would work..AND I incorporated more WATER into this week. It is the habit eating, not having a snack that I had to address...so my usual..all or nothing was not applicable here..and thank God I was open to listening and hearing that..

Each day..with the exception of one when i let my stress get to me a little more than any of the others..was awesome and I was able to follow through with out reaching for food as a means to cope! Even on the one day when it was so high pitched, it was better than others and I was able to recognize it and not let it get out of hand. This set the tone for a day at a time habit I can do!

This morning Adam got a little glint in his eye and he pulled out his phone. He set the weight I was pushing and told me to hold it..I can't see what I am pressing with my legs and half the time I don't knwo what I am up to..I just know it is so much better..he took a photo, then he stepped back and took a photo of me..he smiled and said, "do you realize you are working out on this leg press with your old weight?"
Well, I am slow and I was like, " you mean I am not doing as much as I was before?"..and he was .."NO..you are pressing 350lbs!!"..It was pretty cool..but also pretty amazing that I was pressing my old weight...that what I used to weigh is what I had underneath my feet on this machine. It was powerful to realize!
So, off to the weekend!
Thanks be!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 504: Greater than through love and support: Journey with the Cape Fear Heart Walk and Adam Freeman

It was in 1990 I think that one of my spiritual advisers told me "the only thing you can EXPECT is change. Understand and accept that, learn how to go with that and His will, and you will have a long and happy life". Well, to be honest, I come from a long tradition of what I let go off having claw marks on it..so change was not one of the best things I accepted well. But over the years, I ahve learned that by giving up control..I gain power. By becomeing "powerless" and trusting and having faith in a power much greater than myself, I actually accomplish and am able to do more. My role is to do the footwork, show up, listen, trust, follow my gut. Change happens every minute of everyday..sometimes in small ways, sometimes in huge ways..but it happens..and when it does, the pain or the pleasure, the agony or the ease involved in it is completely an totally up to the amount of resistance I put into it or against it.

This has been true of this part of my journey for health and welleness, for losing weight, for all these changes. It is not so much the effort, but the resistance to it. I hear so much how folks "hate this" or "hate that" about foods that are healthy or exericing.....but that is resistance..that is obstinence..that is pushing against that which, ironically, in the end will make me feel better. Over time, just giving in..showing up..and trusting what I am told and making the "change" is what gets me through to the other side. That powerlessness...that sense of "I don't know what to do, but someone, something else does..and I can trust that and give myself over to it" and be filled with empowerment as a result for a whole new life..a whole new way of living...what a blessing!

A change has come for our Adam this week when he was given the opporuntity to go in to work with Nick and Wanda Kentrolis over at Crest Fitness. Today was the first day I worked out there and I am so very excited!

Let me back up to explain a full picture of this connection. When Windell passed and I got involved in the Heart Associaiton, I remember going to this holistic health fair on racine and there was this body builder there who was really psyched about not only the Heart Walk but our Mayor as well. He was an amazing person and wanted to get involved. He had a tent and I never saw anyone more upbeat and engaging and just driven to be invovled. He was dedicated to Wilmington like no other. Well, as things go, it was Nick and he sponsored a team each year for the heart walk and sang the Star Spangled Banner and he and Wanda would come to the Heart Ball and I came to find out that they owned this fitness club.

When I began my journey, he became one of my biggest cheerleaders. Never once did he worry that I was at another club or not using him as a trainer, he was just pscyhed that I was living this life, and every step of the way he was supportive. What I loved about he and Wanda though, as i learned more about them, was that they are from here and that they are LOCAL business owners..involved in the community and give as good as they get. Lately we have been in there a lot since we have been doing dinners with Mike Clay and Custom fit meals (and we love them) and that was another thing we LOVE about Crest is that they were offering that too!

If you all have read ANYTHING in this blog..you know I love me so local businesses..from Shawn Spencer at Bike Cycles to Dave Boseman with New Balance, Boseman's and Good Life to Ashe with all his Restaraunts to Jeff and Shannon with Pita Delite..these are the life blood of our community...and for me personally..they have been my "family" as I have gotten healthier.  So, when Adam was looking to make the next step in his own career..this was a no brainer...and now he is there with more opportunity and a chance to do more and grow..and so one of the best couples in Wilmington have truly the best and hardest working trainers..with the biggest heart and a truly dedicated fitness expert joined with them...this will truly make an unbeatable team.

It is Change..and change is good...it is good when, in particular it is for good people who do do much good... Now I get to actually SEE my friend DEBBIE who Nick works with..maybe I get to see my friend Kiki! :) and this morning already I saw some men from my church! :)...but most importantly..that feeling of family that I have found in all of this journey continues.

I will always be grateful for every step of my journey and as things change, I don't forget where I come from or brought me, as Lousie says, "to the dance"...but I Thank God each day for the miracles and the blessings that unfold and am glad for the sight to see them, the heart to feel them, and the soul to embrace them.

thanks be!

Monday, June 20, 2011

I need your help

Yep! I am starting something new today and I am ready. I have been mentioning it off and on for weeks and today, one day at a time, one minute at a time, I am going to start something new. I just need your good thoughts and prayers.

When I was 30 years old, I quit smoking. It was a miracle and I had the horror of that addiction lifted from me. It was the second time in my life that I knew a new freedom and a new happiness. I am a VERY addictive personality and physicolocially I am wired that way if you have not seen that through my posts.
What I did not realize at the time, but have come to realize as I have begun this new "phase of happiness" is that much of my eating is a great deal like my smoking: habit based. I find myself just eating when I am at work, watching tv..just occupying my time and inbetween great, and health meals.

I have most assuredly changes what I eat in those "habit" eatings, but they are empty, not needed calories that are occupying me spiritually and are impeeding some of my growth and I want it to stop. I want to change this behavoir...and today..just for today..I am making that stand.

I do not know what is going to happen. I know from prior experience that habits formed from years of use are difficult, but I also know that prayer, meditation, "changing a throught, moving a muscle" and all the tools I have been given work.

What i need from the "greater than through love and support" of all of you is good thoughts, prayer, and the love that is always there. I know I can...I believe I can...I balanced on one foot on the bozo ball yesterday! I can do anyting I set my mind and heart too....

Now....it is about NOT habit eating. Now it is about just having those three square, wonderful and blessed meals and nothing in between. Now it is about the blessing of health and the connection of my spiritual self to something other than a habit that fills me with things and now substance.

So, here we go....

Love you all....There I said it...it is out there..can't take it back. When I hit send...I have lifted up this prayer and I have put it out there....and the next step is taken...it is the step that is the hard part..the letting go...
now, if I can just stop typing and hit send.......

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 503: Greater than through love and support: Journey with the Cape Fear Heart Walk and Adam Freeman

(by the way, for those of you who get this is "reader" or in email, there is a pic and a vid in this post i think you have to go to blog to see). 

So here is another goal met. Yep...when Adam stuck me on the bozo ball the first time, he told me to stand on one foot...well, i could barely do that and I had to do it near the machines to steady myself. Well, fancy pants-trainer-man hopped on it and not only did it with one leg, but then did a one legged squat. When he hopped off, he said "you'll be able to do that too" On the oustide I smiled and probably said something like "ok..cool"..but on the inside after I finished cussing him out for showing off and then smiling that smile that only really skinny healthy people can smile that is so sincere that you want to punch them (LOL!) ...I am pretty sure I thought...NEVER! Lol.. But I learned as we went from that day forward that never was not in the cards..and I found that I was capable of a lot more than I ever imagined and he helped me to see this. 

So, about 8 months in I said "I am gonna do that one legged squat one day". Since then, every once in a while I have hopped up and tried, but no luck..but I have kept on trying. Well, today as I was stretching before my run, I was thinking about that and hopped up on the ball and went for it. I was stunned first when I could balance on one foot for an extended period of time. I got excited and decided to slowly lower myself down on the my left leg and I did it...then I did it on my right leg! I was ecstatic! I yelled out of Michael to come and "look at me" like some thee year old learning to ride a friggin tricycle! :) It was exhilarating! I got back on the ball and sure as poo...I did it again! :)  It was not a fluke! :)
Then I asked Michael to video me just standing on one leg on the ball...and I was able!

video
I am blown away! and it feels great!
I went for my run to celebrate. This is the first run in a week for me. I have been riding my bike and using the eliptical since I had the issue with my hip last week. It felt so good to run! :) I did the campus run, but about the time I got to the baseball fields, which is a little over 2 miles into the run, I had to go to a walk. I have learned to listen to my body and the heat this afternoon was just horrendous. I was getting nauseated. But by going to a walk, I was able to keep my heart rate at 140 (it was over 155 on the run) and keep going). So I got a great work out! I am glad I have learned to listen and to slow down when i feel that way.

Anyway...lots to look forward to this week!

Thanks be!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 501: Greater than through love and support: Journey with the Cape Fear Heart Walk and Adam Freeman



I have not done a side by side comparison in a long time. This one was a shocker. I have a lot to be grateful for and a lot to keep moving forward with!
Adam sent me the "day one" pic as a reminder a week or so ago and we took this "progress pic" on wednesday. It was like he was reading my mind that day he sent me the the first one as I was hearing a lot of "old tapes" in my head and thinking I had not progressed very much and was "fat".

It is amazing how the mind can be such a powerhouse of both negative and postive. The picture came to my phone with "I am proud of you and all you have accomplished" as the note. I was humbled with this from someone who has helped me so much, but also, was overwhelmed with how "on time" the message was. How much I needed to hear it. How rich and how powerful it was at that moment.
It was a great reminder of what power I have, we have, to effect each other with something as simple as a "proud of you" or "thinking of you" or something positive. Or how what I do that is not so positive has the opposite effect.
Today on my status I said I was "shaking my shoes off and moving on and away from those who would harm me or be negative". I was referencing Mark in the bible where it talks about those who will not hear the love..well..you gotta just shake it off and move on! I cannot spin my wheels on those who want to be ugly, deceptive or mired in the negative. I CAN be loving and compassionate..but there a difference in getting mired in another's negativity and accepting that which I cannot change lovingly and moving on. There are too many things, blessings, opporunties for LIFE to let that happen (well, to let it happen more...LOL!)


So much to be grateful for..so much to live for..to continue with...to enjoy..to live!

This week I have tried to get back to some basics: my work outs in the mornings and cardio in between. I have also been doing the custom fit meals and they are great. They force me to try diffferent things and I have not had one yet that was not good..and most are delicious. All are right on when it comes to filling and they are amazingly balanced and none would be considered "diet food".

While I eat well in many ways what I still struggle with is habit eating. I have to get this one. This is the one that is the biggest challgenge for me. What I know though, is that when I am ready, it will happen.

I am off to enjoy this weekend!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Special Post: Another Connection through Eulogy...a must read

yet another connection..another moment when I sat and thought "the voice of God coming through another". This time it was Barbara Ocain, the partner of my dear friend Gary Shell. She was giving a Eulogy at our Celebration of his life that I was honored to be the host of. And there I sat and heard her explain suffering and loss in a way that..well...you have to read it. Truly, I have found another friend for the rest of my life..only through Gary would I have made this connection..only through my God would I be privileged enough to sit and hear this...

I thought of all who have lost a love too soon, of all who have lost to the indiscriminate nature of cancer. What a powerful and healing eulogy....I selfishly have bolded part that was so, so incredible to me...All I can say is "thank you Barbara".



FOR GARY
Thank you everyone for being here tonight to celebrate Gary.  However, if he were here, he would be leaning over to whisper to me, “ What’s the matter with these people?  Don’t they all have anything better to do on a Saturday night than to sit around and talk about me”?  But he would be flattered and humbled.
And a special note of thanks should go to all those who planned this event, especially his dear friends Tara, and Bo, without whom the loving coordination and the special touches would not have happened. And a VERY special note of thanks to his dear lifelong friends and hiking companions from the Appalachian Trail, who join us tonight having once spent months in the wild with Gary – they have come significant distances to honor Gary, and get a sense of who he was in his other world, with his other friends, his family and his city to whom he devoted years of his life in his effort to make his community a better place to live and play. Thank you all.
And let me be sure to thank, and honor, his family – his mother Dot, brothers Tom and Bruce & their families, who stood by and supported Gary and me and warmly accepted me as part of their family.
The startup line from a very popular song by the band Train plays on the radio daily. The line grips me when I hear it:
Forever could never be long enough for me,
To feel like I’ve had long enough with you.
We did not get forever.  We got less than two years.
And I am so jealous of those of you who had so many years with Gary.
Gary was the most wonderful person I have ever known, and will probably ever know. After all these many decades we found each other.  I loved him more than I realized I could love another human being – a real awakening for me. I adored him – and he adored me.  We told each other every day.  Like a lot of couples in love, we had a sweet little ritual - a personal exchange. Everyday Gary would say to me, “who loves you Sweetheart? And I would respond, you do Gary – and who loves you right back? Gary would respond, you do Baby.  I miss that.  
We were the most synchronized, compatible two people bonded in love and spirit that you would ever find.  It was almost eerie - we agreed on everything – except for his preference for the band Journey and my love of boiled peanuts.  His loss there.
 Rationalize this all you want, but Gary’s death was random, senseless and unfair, and I make no apologies for feeling the way I do about his passing, angry that someone so vibrant, with such a big soul, loving and spirited could slip thru my fingers – with so much more to live for and do.  Let’s face it - We were robbed.  And in Gary’s classic words, he would sum it up by saying, “It ain’t right.”
With me, Gary was the sweetest, most tender, thoughtful, gentlest man I have ever known. But don’t get me wrong.  I know Gary could be hardheaded, opinionated, free spirited and passionate.  He was all those things we recognize in ourselves but social restraints suppress in us.  Not Gary. One of the many things I loved about him was his wicked sense of humor, his irreverence, his spunk, and his rebelliousness – he took you right to the edge of inappropriateness, dangled you there on the brink, then would playfully back off with that wry smile and twinkle in his eyes.  I’m sure you’ll offer up the stories to validate these observations in a few minutes.  Gary was not afraid. Always a “big picture” guy, Gary would take you on and when you challenged him, he would raise his eyebrow, arch his back and come back to get you…and be your friend after he had enjoyed the joust.  He had extraordinary people skills. And with his wit and personality he was so likeable, playful and genuine that it was difficult to not like him. 
When such a man of tremendous depth, vibrancy and wisdom, tenderness, and fun dies – and in a manner so punishing and at a time so cruel and inconvenient, we cannot help but be troubled by the unfair distribution of suffering in the world. As intelligent, caring people, we ask those hard questions. Why? Why Gary? Was his death a test? A lesson?  Is the lesson learned that we should be more sensitive, more compassionate, more appreciative of life and health because of this experience?  If so, it’s my opinion the price for this lesson is much too high and such reasoning shows far too little regard for the value of an individual’s life.
I can only respond to questions about his illness in terms of biology, science, chemistry and medicine.
I don’t know why my Gary was sick and dying and in pain.  I couldn’t tell him why life gave him this terrible fate or that he had been chosen because he was so special or brave and therefore was being tested.  But in a world in which we all possess immortal spirits and everlasting energy inside fragile and vulnerable bodies, life gives strength and courage to those who, unfairly and thru no fault of their own, suffer pain and the prospect of death.  Gary never complained. Not once.
And as he labored through this cancer, I hope I helped him remember that he was more than a man with a cruel and senseless illness. And I hope I helped Gary receive compassion and the reassurance that he was an amazing person and a cherished friend by you all.   He was a man with a loving family and a life partner and with many devoted friends, and with enough iron in his soul to remain a living person in the fullest sense of the word until the very last day.
I don’t know why people are mortal and fated to die, and I don’t know why people die at the time and in the way they do.  Perhaps we can try to understand it by picturing what the world would be like if people lived forever.   That is impossible.  As Gary would say, “It ain’t right.”  Being born immediately makes us eligible for the universal calamity of human nature - - death.  Vulnerability to death is one of the given conditions of life.  We can’t explain it anymore than we can explain life itself.  We can’t control it, or generally can’t even postpone it.  All we can do is try to rise beyond the question, “Why did it happen?” and begin to ask the more important question of:  ”What do we do now that it has happened?”
I am still saddened and depressed, wondering what might have been.  But tonight is a symbolic first step towards healing and the process of reparation. Tonight, we will all make the effort to put the loss behind us and look to the future.  And while understandably it may take me a bit longer than the rest of you, we will begin to recall what he gave us and celebrate the memory of his life and the legacy of his gifts. That’s what he would want us to do –and he would tell us we are making much too big a fuss over this.
I want to thank you for the outpouring of your thoughts, expressions, your sweet words, cards, emails, notes, Facebook posts, letters, - and your prayers.  Gary was not a religious man. He found his form of spirituality in the great outdoors. Yet in spite of his protests, we witnessed every possible variety and form of prayer and religious support possible offered up for Gary - regardless.  He and I shared a number of conversations about this, and eventually he resigned himself to the fact that prayer made others feel better – that it was one way you all thought you could help Gary.  Were your prayers answered?...    Gary died right on schedule, of predicted causes; there was no miraculous cure for his illness. How could that be?
I am here to tell you that at a time when he and I felt so desperately alone – and now - when my heart aches of loneliness without him, we found out that we were not alone at all.  I now have found out how many other people loved Gary and were hurting for us, and with us….and that is no small thing.
You were trying to tell us that this was not just happening to us because he had done anything wrong. You were trying to tell us that Gary’s life meant a lot to you too, and that whatever happened to Gary, that his family and I would not be totally alone.  That is what your prayers were saying, and it made a difference.
It has enabled me to reach deep and find strength for him I did not know I had.   With my love for this precious man, buoyed by your support, I would not and will not be broken by this awful set of circumstances.  I, and his family, will go on living, caring and loving. 
 So I did not get a miracle to avert this tragedy, but I discovered people around me and strength within me, and faith beside me, to survive this and continue loving Gary in a whole new place, time, and manner. 

I offer that as an example of your hopes and prayers being answered.
Knowing Gary has enriched my life immeasurably and made me a better person – and all of you in your many unique ways and experiences helped shape Gary and therefore helped shape me.
Why do go people have to suffer?  We want happy endings with good people rewarded.  I step back to 10th grade English class and remember the author, Thornton Wilder, who offered the image of a magnificent  tapestry.  Viewed on one side, it is a beautifully woven work of art, drawing together threads of different lengths and colors to make an inspiring picture.  But turn it over and you will see a hodgepodge of many threads, some short and some long, some smooth, and some cut and knotted, going off in all different directions and colors.  Wilder offers this as an explanation of why good people have to suffer in this life.  Life has a pattern into which all our lives fit, and the pattern requires that some lives be twisted, knotted, or cut short while others extend to impressive lengths, not because one thread is more deserving but simply because the pattern requires it.  While the concept of ‘deserving’ may seem arbitrary and random, like the backside of a tapestry, every thread, every twist and knot has its place in a great design that adds up to a wonderful work of art.
Gary’s life, and his love – and his death – have an indelible place in this work of art. 
So, I did not get forever with Gary.  I got less than two years.
But he left his mark in this city, in your lives and in my heart.
Who loves you Gary?  I do. We all do.
  Thank you for being here this evening in honor of Gary.

Presented June 11, 2011, at the Celebration of the Life of Gary Shell  Ceremony                                   Halyburton Park, Wilmington, NC                                                                                                              by Barbara Rushing O’Cain

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 496: Greater than through love and support: Journey with the Cape Fear Heart Walk and Adam Freeman

I have a great sense of humor..that is something I am very comfortable with..in fact, I consider humor one of the ways I have survived over the years some of the worst and best events in my life. Laughter..real, honest laughter is healing. I remember when they where filming that Robin Williams movie on Campus at UNC..we were about to move that year and I heard about the doctor that he was portraying and the techniques he employed. It made perfect sense to me. To use laughter, humor, fun in a positive way to make a difference, help get through a bad spot, see myself or oneself in a way that takes some of the stress off of "taking myself so damn seriously'..just lightening up and breathing and being humor. One of the best lines I heard about taking it easy and laughing a little was from dolly parton when she yelled out "get off the cross honey, sumbody might need the wood!". Lord did I understand that and am glad she said it cause I have needed it many times since then.

This journey has needed a lot of laughter. Primarily because it is hard sometimes. I have been and continue to be faced with overcoming limitations. Seeing myself in ways that are truly humbling. Hell, remember a year and half ago when I first started and I could not do a squat. If I could not laugh, if I could not make fun and have fun with all of this I never would have made it! I named all the exercises...bozo ball, cirque de se bo ball, the horse. etc etc etc. It all made the awkwardness of the change, the challenge of growing muscle, learning how to use muscle, accepting the changes in me as they occurred and not as I would have them, finding something in all of it to be happy about.

I was glad that those around me had a sense of humor too.....Adam helped me when I got angry or frustrated to laugh...to stop being so demanding of myself in a negative way and remember that I was making a difference every time I stepped in that gym, every time I made the decision to do something other than what I was doing that got me to the point where I began this part of the journey. In fact, getting pissed off when I "couldn't" was not and is not allowed..that anger just did not have a place...frustration and anger did not burn calories and frankly could get me hurt because I lost or lost my focus and push in a way that is not healthy. But stopping, taking stock, and laughing...remembering the journey, how fortunate I am, how many blessings there are...that did the trick to get me back on track.

But there is humor and and "being funny" that is not helpful and can actually be very destructive. Humor that masks something that I need to say for real, but can only do it by making light of it, and humor that is supposed to be smart, but falls short because it shows insensitivity to another. Both of these forms of humor I am aware I have been and am involved in and work very hard to eradicate. But it is progress not perfection. I am more sensitive to the latter, though, when it comes to weight or health, and/and or addiction. The other day someone I care about, who has struggles with overeating and has been on her own journey of weight loss, posted that she wanted chocolate. I posted back about these amazing protein bars that I have found that are AMAZING and can be easily gotten now at Harris Teeter (they are called Pure Protein and only have 2 grams of sugar and 19 grams of protein).

After I posted that someone else I like posted that I had given "bad advise" and instead she should go and get this double chocolate thing that was full of fat, sugar, and all the things that would impact her progress unhealthily. I knew this other person was being "smart" funny. But the more I thought about this, the more I got, not angry, but saddened. I see it all the time. People trying to be "cute" or "funny"...but it shows a real lack of understanding and frankly a real lack of care. I mean, do you offer sugar and fat to someone you know is struggling with their weight? or do you reinforce healthier options...or just say nothing?

Part of the reason that I was so thrilled when Donnie "branded" my journey with the gift of "greater than through love and support" is because I have been overwhelmed with people who have wanted to see my success. When I post a "progress" picture or a status that is about another milestone or adventure and I get the comments from folks, it is...I cannot it explain it..it is overwhelming. They are as much a part of my change and health as I am with all that positive love and conneciton. It is powerful!

How horrid would it would have been to post about craving something that would hinder my progress to have someone post about me going and having a whopper. No, I would not have had the whopper and sure, it is up to me to stay on target, but what a missed opportunity for love. The gift we have to offer others of being supportive of the best for health and wellness...that is such a blessing. That is what this journey at its root really is. It has shown me more deeply that by loving, and allowing others to love me, I can be more loving. By being sensitive and open to the pain or struggles of another, we can and I think we do become more loving and more capable of caring. God is the fountainhead, for me, of all this love, but I know that Michael loved me through all my sizes and has been there everyday! Then my friends and my Mother and Stepfather, and as I was loved, I saw that and was able to return that love. Some of this even came through me. But all of it connected in such positive ways, and it continues too. 

It goes to a larger issue for me about what I do in all my relationships. I cannot determine what is best for another. However, I have learned, through my own experiences and I continue to learn, what is best for me, and I can share that. But I just don't find anything "funny" or "smart" in offering an addict the drug from their addiction or reinforcing its use. That, for me, just does not feel loving. But moreover, if there is a chance to love...if there is an opportunity to lift someone up, to be positive, then there is just no other choice having experienced what I have in this journey.

thanks be! 

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Day 492: Greater than through love and support: Journey with the Cape Fear Heart Walk and Adam Freeman

Connections: it just keeps happening. But then again "connecting" is my whole story for the last 22 years of my life. I read a quote this weekend (and I will explain more later) that is actually in the title of my blog "living in the heart of God". The quote is from Kahlil Gilbran's work, "the Prophet". The Prophet said: "When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God.""

I remember the first time that I read that, I meditated on it but for some reason, of which I would grow to understand I grew, I "connected" with that statement. Somehow it defined what I was feeling and the state I was in. I felt a certain warmth from it. I knew, somehow, that my higher power, whom I chose to call God, was not confined within me, but rather, I was, by choosing to live a certain way, to act in a manner that was more harmonious, more in tune with His will, living in the "heart of God". By doing so, the world in which I woke to each morning was in fact, the world of a living God, a higher power, a source...call it/him/her what you will, but for me, there was and is no denying it.

A world that was connected, spiritually by something much greater than myself. Maybe that is "too too"..but I remember my first time feeling that sense of peace, the first understanding of that connectedness...and while I have had willful actions, and while I totally ignore at times for whatever reason the opporunity for peace, I have not lost that sense of belonging or "connectedness" sense then. I have never not felt that. It is a constant in whatever stage of growth, whatever trouble, whatever joy that my life has.

But no matter what happens, no matter how that feels,  I have not lost the sense of awe, that sense of..I was going to write gratitude, but that is  more of an action...not a reaction...I have not lost that sense of humility when the connections to people, places and things occur and somehow I am involved.

That brings me to this weekend. Some time ago a student who graduated about three year ago, one I adore and I have always loved, called me and ask to come see me. An adult now, she is working professionally, was seeing someone, and had become an incredible young, professional woman. But in she walked to my office and the expression on her face resembled the first time I ever met her years before at freshmen orientation..wide-eyed by reticent. She clearly had something to ask me, but was holidng back.

She first told me she had gotten engaged and I was thrilled! Her husband to be also worked with us and was a great guy. She was happy. And then she asked me what she came for: to be the officiant at her and his wedding. I was blown away. I say I am honored alot..and well, I am. It was amazing. I am fortunate that students have told me on a few occassions how they feel about me and their experience over the years, but this was truly stunning....What a precious gift to be invited to bless, officiate, be involved in the union of two people...to be thought of...well, it was stunning.

This too was something I have wanted for a very long time, personally, and had been wanting to pursue ordination. Well, this accelerated the process and while I am ordained outside of our church, I am on a path and doing something I love in addition to so many other wonderful things! A very precious gift was that my own priest outfitted me for the ceremony with vestments that were appropriate. Having her do this was a blessing that is hard to explain...and one I very grateful for.

So, this weekend was the time for wedding. I was nervous, but not afraid. I was excited, but not intimidated. It just felt right. That is what I am talking about regarding being in God's heart. When it is right. When it is supposed to be. It all happens. Everything, of course, happens for a reason, but this, this is so powerful when there is this feeling of peace during excitement..when it so special and there is this presence and love....

I sat in our garden and wrote out the order or worship and some of my own reflections for the service. As the fountain trickled and I hear my next door neighbors working in their garden, I was able to write about family and love. When I gave the ceremony as written to the bride and groom, they were thrilled. But i left one thing out. I wanted to give them something at the ceremony and so, after their vows and before I pronounced them maried, I read the short piece in the prophet on love. I was able to tell them that when Michael and came off Mt. Pisquah almost 15 years ago, my mother gave us this book, a book I had grown up with all my life but only until I was much older did I really understand and embrace. I wanted my wish for their happy life together to be what my own Mother had wanted for me and Michael..and so I read that piece....

See, it was another connection....all my life that book was in our house. Now it was not only the most special work in our own home, a blessing on our marriage, but i was able to pass this on. Throughout the weekend there were these amazing connections to people in wedding party that was nothing but love..her amazing parents, friends that knew friends of mine, other former students who are thriving and I am so proud of..and then, after the wedding, we are all sitting around as the dancing began and in conversation one of the guests said to another, "you know he has lost over 100 lbs." To which she said that her son, sitting across the table, had just opened a gym. So they asked me how it happened and I stated talking about connections: Windell's passing, the heart association, then meeting Adam, Kayliegh..and when I got to Kayliegh..well, the woman who's son has a gym is in health care in Raleigh, and before I could finish Kayleigh's name, she was telling me her story. She knew it and knew of her inspiring journey! Tears filled my eyes...joy and just being amazed. She looked at me..and this woman was amazing..and said "everything happens for a reason"..and she smiled. Now, tell me there is not power in that..there is not a connection...this is not something greater than myself...ourselves.


So, here is the prayer that has blessed my home from my mother, which now is blessing them...and maybe it will connect with you.....All I know is that I am sure that if this blog is being read, we are in God's heart together...

From the Prophet: On Love: 

When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God."
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Day 485: Greater than through love and support: Journey with the Cape Fear Heart Walk and Adam Freeman

My blog is turning into three categories of entries: workouts and progress, experiences, and gifts. All of these entries are about this journey and that is what this blog is supposed to be: a recording, an opportunity to share this change, reform, challenge, joyful venture, whatever it is, this path that I have been walking on for 485 days (that is an extension of a path I began 22 years prior and one that was first cast on a map for me 44 years ago).

I say this because sometimes when I have days like today It may seem silly to relate it to this "journey" of the changes in my size and health..but I go back to my deep understanding that I am a three fold being "mental, spiritual, and physical"...and part of the "experiences", part of the "events" I have been have lately or in the last year, have occurred because the "physical" aspect of the triad that makes me me has been possible. I have been present and ready for it, them, whatever to happen.

About 5 years ago I met a woman named Jean Beasley. I had never heard her name until it was presented at a committee meeting of faculty concerning nominees for the Albert Schweitzer Honors Scholar Award that my office gives in collaboration with the Library every year to recognize someone in the cape fear region who exemplifies the work of Dr. Albert Schweitzer.  My director had and shared her story and the amazing work that she did rescuing turtles and rehabilitating them. The more we all learned, the decision came very quickly that she would be that year's recipient.

The award is an amazing honor and recognition, but it asks the recipient to speak to our first year honors scholars class as well. Jean was only too willing. My job in all of this is to find a piece of art that we can give the person (it is better than a plaque and much more in keeping with Albert Schweitzer and his love and support of art), and I do the promotional materials, press releases etc. I found a wealth of information on Animal planet and a distinguished award she had won, but like most of our recipients, she was about the work and was humble, so not a lot of details and at the time, not a lot of pictures. But she and I corresponed and it was a delight to go back and forth with her by mail and the occassional call.

On the day of the award, in walked this, and I am not trying to be cute when i say this "smile with a purpose" into King hall. Jean was a woman who resembles in many ways my own mother in stature and demeanor. She has an aura of peace about her and a smile that can and does light up the room. She hugged me before I think I got my name out, because she already knew me. She was delightful.
Now, my honors students at UNCW are amazing, but I could see a few faces that had 'what is this woman gonna tell us" looks..particularly with Jean's white hair and very sweet disposition.

It was not three seconds at the podium, as her PPT went up on the screen and a giant picture of the earth encircled her before this group of venerable 18 years old that Jean literally captivated them. She gave a talk about the connection between those turtles and our earth and the viabitilty and sustainability of our earth being predicted by the very care of those ancient and wise animals. This captivating smile that had walked in the room still beamed, but her beacon was a message of truth, understanding, fact, reason, and SOLUTIONS. She challenged those students to be involved. To be active. To understand what the impacts were...TO CARE! and by the end of her lecture they were on their feet. And trust me, it was not just those students, it was me and everyone there.

To this day those that I still am in touch with from that class remember her and remember that moment. Now, I don't want to be ungentlemanly, but this from a woman who has surpassed her 70th year and continues....

So that was our meeting and to this day she and I have kept up with each other on Facebook. It has been one of my greatest blessings to have her on my "journey", to hear from her, to see a little of what she was doing and the thrill when she clicks she "likes" something...cause there are some who when they do that...well, it means a lot!

But, I have not been the hospital like I wanted to. I have not been to a release. A large part of that was wrapped up in not being able to. Literally. No matter how active I was when I was larger, I was not good about doing things i thought would be "physical" and I would make excuses.  Not today. Today, the new life that I have been "released" into allowed me to do something I have been dreaming about for a very long time.

Back at Christmas my director and my friend gave me and Michael one of the most special gifts I have ever been given...an adoptee named Chase. Chase is an amazing sea turtle who was rescued and I am his adopted Father. Kate, my director, gave a donation, and in the mail came his adoption papers, picture and all sorts of information about Chase. I have had his picture on my wall and I literally pray for him everyday. (by the way, if you are EVER stumped for a present for me...well, an adopted turtle is just fine..thank you very much!).
Anyway, as I said, Jean follows my facebook and when she saw the commissioning of the Gravely, a beautiful turtle was rescued about that time and they name him "Gravely" in honor of the amazing crew and how cool to name this survivor, who overcame so much after the Admiral who set the standard and overcame all the barriers that allowed for African American's to serve as Admirals in the Navy!

So Saturday, I got an amazing message from Jean inviting me to come for the release of Chase and me and Louise McColl, who was the chair of the commissioning of the Gravely, to come for the release of Gravely. I was on top of the world! Not only because after all this time I was finally going to meet Chase, I was finally going to see a large turtle, see the hospital in person, and see Jean in person again, but also, I knew that physically I could go up for the release and enjoy the day! I was on top of the world!

Louise and I headed out this morning and it was a gorgeous day and a perfect drive up to Topsail. I had been told the night before that Chase was not going to be released because he needed a little more care, but we were going to join Gravely and release him. I was not at all disappointed because what this meant was I got to see Chase today and be with him in September when he is released and then be there to walk with Gravely today and experience this for the first time.

We met Gravely almost immediately and he was amazing. So calm and ready for sea. Majestic, beautiful, noble. The opening ceremony was so special. The escorts for the turtles were gathered at the hospital and Jean stood on a little stool. In tears of "release" of her own she shared the joy of the new building that would be coming in August (they hope), down the street, that was another milestone from the day when it all started with a bucket and a flashlight and a desire to make a difference. But the tears came because in this smaller, un-air conditioned space, you can hear the turtles breathe, she said. She never wanted to loose that sound. It was so very moving, particularly when she announced that today they would release 25 turtles back to their homes and this would mark over 300 for the facility since it opened! thanks be!
Jean called out each turtle, told of its history and success and named the escorts and we were named to go with gravely...an honor...a huge huge honor...never ever to be taken for granted.
When gravely was put in the truck, he was covered with wet towels and the more experienced folks showed me how to pat him to keep him calm, explaining that he reponded to that patting and back scratches and like it. I could feel him underneath me, at ease. He was so calm. He knew and I knew he knew. It was awesome riding with him. this amazing teacher, beth, rode with us. She knew and knows a lot about all this and I listened to her intently. So many folks in all of this who care so deeply. I was with and surrounded by so much love. God was so rich and powerful in this place. It was powerful.

We got to the beach and there were literally hundreds on both sides. Lots of kids everywhere.
When they were ready for us..they turned to me and said "you can carry him"....I was blown away...but I moved like in a trance and followed Dr. Obrien's instruction on how to pick him up. The underskin was so thick..but supple. I was afraid to hurt Gravely, but the doc said he was ok. Gravely flapped and slapped with excitement..not anger. There was no anger..I was carrying pure, unadulteraded joy. Right when they asked me to do this I handed my camera to a complete stranger and said, "I don't know if you can..but take a picture if you will". She took a ton and these are some of the best moments of my life. the best is seeing what I know was a smile on Gravely's face.

When we got way into the water and put him down and let go, he turned his body from one side to another and was off like a shot..he was home...where he belonged. I shook for 20 minutes out of complete and total joy and gratitude. I think I inappropriately kissed a few folks..hell, I don't care. It was amazing.

Louise and all of us stood there and watched as they took them all to the water..it was amazing.
Afterwards, when we got back to the hospital, Jean took me inside and I finally met Chase. chase came over to me and i used what I learned and rubbed his back and scratched him....he turned and brought that beautiful head out of the water. Jean says that when a turtle looks into your eyes they see your soul.I know he saw mine...I felt it. I could have stayed there..well..I could have stayed there.

I am grateful to have gone up there with Louise. The Gravely was an experience of a lifetime and this turtle will prosper as the Admiral did..overcoming, living, becoming, and sailing into a legacy of wonder.

I owe so much, as do so many to Jean..but today...today was just magic. I cannot wait till September.
But, none of this would have happened, I could not have carried gravely, lasted in that heat, been present in Mind, Body, and Spirit, without this journey!

I thank God! As Jean said, The God of the Universe!