A cautionary tale: Horror in the stairwell.

Dear friends,


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It’s one of those months.

Kate goes back to college in 24 hours; Parker starts his senior year of high school in less than a week; it won’t stop raining in Missouri (not typically a bad thing in August except when people lose their homes and lives and the Department of Transportation shuts down the interstate, which is the ONLY way you can get nearly everywhere from where I live); and I have three business trips to make during three consecutive weeks, which equals less time for things like communing with my family, cooking, crafting, and — you know — pursuing the life I’m interested in blogging about.

This time last year I had a very similar August, without the Biblical floods, but including the busy schedule, the parental angst and the sudden onset of unspecified but likely seasonal melancholy. And I responded by taking to the sofa to wallow in a sea of fattening snacks and mindless television programs for days and weeks on end.

This year I vowed not to repeat history and I readied myself with alternative coping strategies.

  1. My frig and pantry are STOCKED with fresh veggies and whole foods and my healthy eating is at an all-time high. (By the way, have you discovered quinoa and chia seeds? If not, you should. I may just write entire posts devoted to these two miracle foods soon, but until then, Google them and find out for yourself what you’re missing.)
  2. I have honored my summer vow to engage in 30 minutes of activity five days a week. (Note I’m not calling it “exercise.” Exercise is a word that looms large on anybody’s schedule and the last thing I need is intimidating expectations about what counts as exercise.) Just getting off the sofa for a portion of the evening this time of year is a huge win for me.
  3. I have a drawer full of interesting projects at the ready, including two new quilts I can’t wait to show you when I finish them. I won’t be lacking for creative outlets to boost my mood this time around.

Strategies 1 and 3 have worked like a charm. Strategy one is working so well, in fact, I’ve lost a couple of pounds. Bonus!

Strategy 2 is where my tale of woe begins. My evening activity has mostly consisted of half-hour walk/jogs through my neighborhood. My right knee has been bothering me for the last several weeks so I’ve been trying not to overdo it. Plus, if I tell myself I “must” run, I’m more likely to stay on the sofa than if I give myself permission to go for a walk (and then break into a run if I feel like it). It was all working great until Monday night.

I was on Trip #2 of my three-trip swing and found myself in a hotel room after a long evening with clients. It was too late and too dark to stroll around an unfamiliar neighborhood and the hotel treadmills looked wholly unappealing as an activity option. I have a fit, male colleague whose sole form of “activity” is running bleachers three times a week, so I decided it might be an interesting and challenging change of pace to run stairs. Clearly, I didn’t think this through.

I was in a 10-story building so I started at the bottom and headed up as if the place were on fire and I needed to exit. By the time I reached the 5th floor, I knew I was in trouble. My legs and lungs were on fire, I was light-headed and stunningly dizzy, and I realized I had better slow the heck down or risk passing out. I made it to the top where it was immediately clear that “running” stairs was not in the cards for me. I was relieved to turn and head back down, but it took me the full 10 floors to catch my breath and overcome my lightheadedness. Worst of all, I looked at my watch and realized only five minutes had elapsed on what was supposed to be a half hour of “activity.” I turned again and headed back up, one floor at a time, at an embarrassingly slow and plodding pace, at times holding both handrails to steady myself.

I managed to hang in there for the full 30 minutes, climbing and descending 10 floors of stairs, five times in a row. I barely made it back to my room on the worst case of noodle legs I’ve ever experienced. (I was so weak I had to sit on the bed to change into my pajamas. And once changed, I crawled under the covers and didn’t move the rest of the night.)

For the last two days I’ve been hobbling around like a double amputee who’s just learning to walk on prostheses. It’s embarrassing because my gait would lead you to believe I’m seriously injured. The truth is, only my vanity took a hit.

Only a woman who believes she can make her first quilt without a pattern would think she could go from moderately paced walk/jogs to running stairs with no side effects. Only a woman who knows her age is 50 but thinks her body can respond like it’s 30 would even attempt such a thing. Only a woman who attempted such a thing would thank her lucky stars there were no hotel guests in the stairwell to witness the sweaty, red-faced, wheezing woman take leave of her senses and her dignity.

With gratitude {for deserted stairwells, empty hallways, and other cleared pathways to “activity” anonymity},

Joan, who now understands you must walk stairs before you run