Everything I know about weight loss I learned after 50.


“Bony Joanie”

Dear friends,

The headline is not exactly true; on some level I succumbed to the allure of so-called “click bait.” But it is true that I’ve had a lifelong struggle with feeling okay about my body/managing my weight. And the struggle is — mercifully at age 54 — virtually over.

As a young person, I was known as “Bony Joanie.” The photo above makes the reason for my nickname abundantly clear (knock knees much?). But despite how angular I was — a good thing by modeling standards — I felt bad about my appearance. Being buck-toothed and freckled didn’t help a girl who desperately wanted to look like Malibu Barbie. But mostly I was a head (or more) taller than my peers and in my mind, height equated to being “big.” My senior year in high school I was crowned Football Queen and I was taller than my escort. My adolescent psyche found this humiliating. (Let’s think about this: I was voted “Queen” by a group of male contemporaries and yet failed to accept it as an affirmation because of a single physical attribute. What can you say about the mind of a young girl?) So even though I was 5’10” and 130 pounds, I still felt BIG.

I was in my late 20s before I owned my stature. Marrying a man who is 6’6″ and broad-shouldered probably had a lot to do with that. The good news was that I no longer felt too big to be around others. I even started wearing heels regularly. It was a real breakthrough.

Still my weight fluctuated a lot. By 25 I was no longer bony. I gained the Freshman 10, then packed on another 10 post-college. My weight went up and down with the vicissitudes of my life, including pregnancy and job stress. I lost 30 pounds before my wedding; gained 52 with my first pregnancy; lost 18 in preparation for my 20th high school reunion; and lost 10 pounds too many times to count when discontent surged as a result of tight clothing. Through it all, I pinballed between 1) careful eating and regular exercise, and 2) sloth and eating with abandon. It’s a pretty typical story for many of the women I know.

But a couple of years ago, I started eating better. Like, really better. And it’s made a difference in my weight maintenance. I fluctuate between being vegan and vegetarian, but I’m not a nut about it. I eat the occasional chicken wing or hamburger when the cravings are strong. But 18 out of  20 meals are plant-based and involve a predominance of whole foods. I rarely eat desserts or sweets. My biggest vice is diet soda. (Sometimes I swear it off for months at a time. Other times, I indulge regularly. Such is the continuing saga of human cravings for comfort and familiarity.)

And I run regularly. I’ve been a runner for 31 years. I’ve taken off for long periods (especially in the baby years), but I’ve never entirely stopped. In the last decade, I haven’t laid off for more than a few weeks at a time. And it’s made a difference in my fitness level.

A couple of years ago I read an article that said weight management is 9 parts eating right and 1 part exercise. It’s proven so true in my life that I think the two ought not to be talked about in the same breath. Because here’s the deal: you can be a healthy weight but a long way from fit. And you can be overweight and demonstrably fit. I’ve been both combinations so I know fitness and weight are not inextricably linked. So here are my two truths:

If you want to be fit, or strong, or have improved stamina and endurance, EXERCISE to achieve those results. Fitness is a health and lifestyle goal in and of itself. If you exercise only to lose weight, you likely aren’t enjoying it (meaning there’s a good chance it won’t “stick” as a lifelong habit). Besides, I know plenty of people who have lost a lot of weight while doing nothing more strenuous than walking. So the goal of losing weight doesn’t have to “condemn (you) to the gym.”

If you want to lose or maintain your weight, EAT to achieve those results. Weight management is a goal in and of itself. It’s true that adding a little exercise to your routine jump starts your metabolism. And regular exercise allows you to eat more than if you were sedentary. But it’s not necessary to your weight management goals.

Ten months ago I saw a photo of myself that I didn’t like. Even though I had been eating healthy, I had been consuming more calories than was necessary for my age, metabolism and activity level — and my weight had crept up over time. I decided to cut back on my portions and it made an immediate difference. I lost 10 pounds quickly and felt measurably, physically better. A few weeks later, I realized I had let my fitness slip considerably, too, so I amped up my running program. I lost another 10 pounds. Eventually I lost six more pounds and realized I weighed less than I had in a decade. I was tempted to say “Holy cow, that was easy.”

It wasn’t, of course, easy. What I mean is that it wasn’t fraught with panic, self-loathing, guilt, deprivation or any of those other emotions I know so intimately.

It was, however, rooted in awareness. “This is what I’m choosing to eat today.”

It was rooted in discipline. “I’m keeping track and monitoring the result.”

It was rooted in patience. “I allowed myself to lose track of my weight and fitness goals for a while now. It’s not realistic to turn this ship around in two weeks. (Or two months.)”

It was rooted in equanimity. “All things come. And all things go. Accept the seasons of your life for the lessons and gifts each bring.” (Let me tell you . . . of all the gifts being over 50 have brought me, equanimity is surely at the top of the list.)

Interestingly, I had an overly indulgent February. Two business trips and plenty of good food and alcohol later, I noticed my weight had crept up a bit. Not a lot. Five pounds. I didn’t panic. Nor did I beat myself up. I became aware. And a couple of weeks after becoming aware, 2 of those 5 pounds vanished. It was another breakthrough, of sorts — the kind that makes me ponder the long trajectory of wisdom and my intersection with it.

By the way, I feel compelled to point out I’m no expert on health and fitness beyond the impacts both have had on my own well-being and what I’ve learned, mostly informally, through an awful lot of research, reading and reflection. The diet and exercise industries are a combined $40+ billion enterprise so there’s plenty of expertise right at your fingertips. You know you better than anyone else, so read up and ask yourself how it applies to you (if it applies to you). Ask a knowledgeable friend or professional source for additional resources. Trust your body intuition. Become aware.

Most of all, tell yourself the truth about the choices you make, the motivations inherent in those choices, and the predictable results. Because that’s where the real breakthrough — at any age — comes from.

With gratitude {for, what else, the awareness and equanimity that seems to come with age in Mother Nature’s ironic trade-off},

Joan, who nobody calls bony anymore but whose dear friend recently called skinny and lit up the pre-frontal cortex of Joan-Marie’s brain in a Pavolovian response tied to her Barbie-worship days


“Skinny Joan”

Day 3: The race.

Dear friends,


I did it!

I ran my first race.

I finished my first race.

It was so much more than I expected.

It was more nerve-wracking. (Where-to-go and what-to-do issues worry me. Fortunately, everybody was very helpful and answered every single one of my questions. And my irrational fear of getting off course because I’ve fallen behind and can’t see the runners ahead of me never came to pass, not to mention the course was well marked.)

It was more challenging. (Uphill start, roller-coaster middle, uphill finish tells you everything you need to know.)

It was more taxing. (I started too fast and never really caught my breath, but managed to push through it nevertheless. I think my loud wheezing scared a couple of people, especially when we realized I was breathing too hard to drink the cup of water handed to me by the race volunteers. But, hey, nobody questioned my effort.)

It was more rewarding. (I came in 31st out of 61 runners. Middle of the pack, baby! I had no idea being solidly average could feel so damn good.)

It was more interesting. (I ran with all kinds of folks. Among the people I beat was a 13-year-old boy in his pajamas and robe, and a woman I only know casually but who’s very fit and who I would have wagered could smoke me. Among the people who beat me was a women about my age who confessed at the starting line that she’s a heavy smoker and runs in the hopes it will persuade her to give up nicotine, and a colleague who’s 10 years my senior.)

It was more fun. (Afterwards, race organizers invited runners to the local brew pub, where we all enjoyed a complimentary beer. After that, my regular running buddy and I went to breakfast with two other racers. Corned beef hash, eggs over easy, and biscuits and gravy were a fabulous prize for having conquered my fear.)

It was more surprising. (I placed third in my age group and won a prize. How’s that for positive reinforcement? Yes, there were only five ladies in the 50-59 category, but I was less than three minutes behind the first two.)

It was more alluring. (There’s a local race on Thanksgiving morning and I’ve already persuaded Kate and her college roommate, Kris, to join me. I have a feeling there are many more races in my future.)

It was more more. (Who knew a little weekend competition among souls of all ages and abilities could bring out the athlete in me?)

With gratitude {for unrealized fear turned into inspiration},

Joan, who kindly asks that you hum the Chariots of Fire theme song when you think of her

This is how lazy I am.

Dear friends,

I have lived in Missouri for exactly 649 days.

And for exactly 649 days I have complained to anyone who will listen to me about the ratcha-fratching hills.

Last fall, I showed you this photo of the hills by my house that I despise every single moment I am running up and down them.


(You commiserated with me. Thank you for that.)

What I haven’t told you is that while it’s really hilly where I live, there are some relatively flat stretches in town. In fact, there’s a municipal bike/walk path about five miles from my home that is pretty darn flat and that I have inexplicably ignored.

See, that’s how lazy I am. If I can’t throw on my shoes and run out my door, I’m not interested.

I have a twitchy fear of complicated, ambiguous undertakings. (Actually, most of my work life is complicated and ambiguous, so I avoid those characteristics in my personal life. I haven’t succeeded, but still I try.) And figuring out where the path goes, or the best place to start and finish, or where to park, well . . . that seemed like a lot of effort when I could just open my front door and go.

But Friday night, Mr. Mom and I went to a dinner party and noticed  a good stretch of the path ran through our friends’ neighborhood. So I came home, determined to overcome my fear and investigative inertia, and I spent a half-hour on the internet using various search terms and looking at Google maps trying to figure out the perfect route.

And I found it — a 7.3 mile route that appeared to offer minimal ascents and descents (or so it seemed to a girl who can’t really read Google maps). So I scrutinized the map, looked for landmarks I could remember, determined where to park, and tried to commit the route to memory.

I headed out Saturday morning and found a trail-head right where I expected it to be. And 20 minutes into my run, I realized I had wandered off course when I crossed a busy highway that I didn’t expect to encounter until much later in the route. (Two workmen were standing beside the highway as I ran by. I heard one of them say to the other, “See, that’s what we ought to be doing right now.” Not a bad boost for an old woman.) It seems I was lost and had no idea how to get back to the path. Worse, I didn’t have a clue how I wandered off it.

Which is exactly the kind of complicated, ambiguous result I had been steadfastly avoiding.

So I just kept running. I wasn’t lost-lost. I was familiar with the part of town I was in. But I was turned around and didn’t know how to find the route I was originally pursuing, or whether or not I’d make it back to my car without calling Mr. Mom for a rescue.

Fortunately, I made out just fine. I never did find most of the route I was looking for, but I found another section of the path that proved scenic and satisfyingly flat. And I made it back to my car  precisely when I was ready to quit anyway, at one hour, 25 minutes.  Success!

I estimated my distance to be at least 7.5 miles based on my time, which means I broke my Missouri distance barrier. (Around my house, I have never run farther than six miles). More success!

Which made me wonder why it took me 649 days to give it a try.

With gratitude {for the post-run healing power of bubble baths},

Joan, who figures there’s probably an app for charting runs but also has a twitchy fear of the iPhone app store unless somebody tells her straight-up which one to download


Dear friends,


This is Ed. Part Golden Retriever, part Labrador Retriever, Ed is a rescue dog that came into our lives some eight years ago after Parker begged for a canine companion of his own.

We had lost our Black Lab, Cassie, some time earlier and Ed came bounding into our lives just when our household of four broken hearts, two active children and one neurotic Chihuahua most needed him.

He’s lived in three towns with us, two in Oklahoma and now one in Missouri. He has adapted to spacious yards, small ones, the noise of city streets and now — a wooded 15 acres filled with deer and turkeys and rabbits and all kinds of woodland friends he loves to chase.

Of late, he’s been chasing something else.

My 1000 mile goal.

Ed is my running buddy. He’s covered every mile I have since I announced my goal and he’s done it with far more enthusiasm and grace than I have.

I never ran with Ed before we moved to Missouri. I’m not sure why except I just never did. Once we moved to Missouri, things changed. For one, we live in an area far outside the city limits where most of the dogs run free. Our pasture is fenced, but it’s far enough from the house that Ed and Frito (the aforementioned neurotic Chihuahua) were miserable when we first moved in and tried keeping them there (and tried convincing them to sleep in our barn). About a month in, we caved and let Ed and Frito run free like the other dogs. We moved their doghouse from the barn to a sheltered spot not far from our kitchen door and they were gloriously happy to cavort with neighborhood dogs at will and nap by the back door.

But once they were unfenced, our two outdoor dogs couldn’t help but follow me as I headed out on my runs. Whether I wanted it or not, I suddenly had running companions. After Frito died last year, the plural changed to singular, so now Ed is my trusty exercise buddy.

It’s been interesting, this journey into my own fitness that’s also a journey into Ed’s. At about 8 dog years, he’s older than me. His age shows most in the expanding mask around his eyes and the increasing time it takes him to rise after resting. But it sure doesn’t show on the hills, at least not as much as it does on me.

On weekday mornings we run before dawn and the neighborhood is deserted so I allow him to run off-leash. For the first month, I was so slow on the uphill climbs that he would often stop a few yards ahead of me and patiently wait for me to catch up. Occasionally, he would look over his shoulder at me as if to say “Come on. Can’t you go faster?” But mostly he just slowed his pace and/or patiently waited on me.

On weekends, though, I run much later, usually when cars and walkers and other dogs are out and about, so I put him on a leash. On those days that he is tethered to me, he can only get a leash’s length ahead of me and I don’t feel so slow. He is a good dog so he never tugs.

On Saturday, we ran late — almost noon — so I had him on a leash. And even though we put in six miles, I noticed I got far enough ahead of him on the final downhill run that I had to give him a little tug. It was probably unkind to Ed but it was good for my ego. “Come on, old boy,” I said out loud. “Keep up with this old gal. I’m beating you.”

It made me think about how fortunate I am to have such a faithful running companion. He never begs off, never gives up, never gets sick, never brags, never complains. Whether 7 degrees or 85 degrees, rain or shine, dark or light, he shows up. Tethered or not, he is my loyal sidekick who doesn’t know we have a goal but is determined to meet it every time I open the door and call his name.

With gratitude {for this family’s best friend},

Joan, who thinks if anything keeps her running for 52 weeks straight, it will be Ed

Oh. Hey. Hi.

Dear friends,


This lovely 2013 day planner is available here.

I haven’t intentionally been ignoring you.

I have been unusually content in some ways, and contentment for me often leads to quiet reflection.

Life has been both perfect and hard, and I’ve been living it instead of writing about it. But I’ve missed you and I thought I ought to pop in and say so.

Our holidays were everything I needed. Kate was home from college for three weeks and I luxuriated in her company. Christmas break was low-key. On Christmas Day, we had a Barbecue feast that was super-simple to prepare and left me plenty of time to laze around with the kids. We dragged an air mattress into the den and piled on blankets and pillows for a marathon movie session. We tackled a zigsaw puzzle. (Who knew CupKate was a puzzle whiz?) We invited friends over and played board games. We had a bonfire. And then we spent New Year’s Eve in Memphis watching my alma mater (The University of Tulsa) kick butt in the Liberty Bowl and enjoying the flavor of Beale Street blues and seafood. The last two weeks of 2012 were so perfect I was lulled into a dreamy stupor, making Jan. 2 a particularly sharp jolt back to reality.

So the hard parts? Well, there’s been more developments on the mountain. Nothing I’m ready to write about. In fact, like most of the saga, Mr. Mom has been handling it alone in quiet frustration because I’ve blocked it out, so I really don’t understand the details of the latest developments yet; mostly I just tried to distract myself while I watched him spend hours on the phone with attorneys and surveyors and adjacent landowners and the dozens of characters that populate this unfathomable story. My most fervent wish is that this chapter of our lives will end in 2013.

Also — I’ve been running, chasing the thousand miles I said I wanted to conquer in my 51st year.  Lawzy, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  It’s been a mental and physical challenge that I wholly underestimated. The first three weeks almost reduced me to tears several times and very nearly convinced me I could never do this. I have ached. I have been so tired I lost all concentration at work, and I have gone to bed at 7:00 pm more than once. I have mentally shouted at the gods and cursed them for my lack of strength and  stamina. I have found myself hating Missouri and blaming its godforsaken hills for my misery. I’ve sunk to the lowest possible emotional depths a runner can reach without quitting.

I have a glimmer of hope, however, that I’m turning a corner. In fact, I need to wrap up this post so I can head out for a run. I must log a minimum of 10 miles this weekend and I’ve got a hot date with Mr. Mom later this afternoon so I need to get after it.

But, hey, you know what? My waist is making a slow reappearance in my life. It used to be a beautiful thing and it just might be again, who knows? And the other evening my left leg was aching so badly I asked Mr. Mom to massage it. He did two better: He massaged it, he told me how toned my legs were becoming, and he brought me a heating pad. A good man is such a glorious thing and I never fail to count my blessings when I notice them.  Which is one more reason I need to make an appearance here and remind you to do the same. It’s a great way to ease into 2013, friends.

With gratitude {for a sparkly, blessed, challenging, infuriating, totally-normal new year},

Joan, who invites you to tell her how you’re easing into 2013 and what you hope the year holds for you

A Thousand Miles.

Dear friends,


I am a runner. I have been for more than 20 years. I don’t look like the women above. For one, I don’t wear those silly short-shorts. (I’m prone to chafing.) Two, those strides? Well, those are not the strides of a 50-year-old, nonathletic woman running 11-minute miles. But when I’m running, in my mind, I am one of those kinds of women — strong, determined, capable.

And maybe that’s why I run. Because whether it’s real or imagined, I like feeling strong and capable. I like feeling as if I’ve done the hard thing. I like defeating the voice in my head that says “Don’t get up. No big deal.”

So after two years of mostly anemic running efforts, I have pledged to run a marathon. A different kind of marathon, one I call the year of a thousand miles.

I’ve mentioned this quest to a close circle of family and friends and they all say the same thing: Why?

And I say why do people climb mountains? Why do people compete in 26-mile marathons or Ironman competitions? Why do people push themselves physically to achieve hard things?

I don’t know. Maybe we’re trying to prove something to ourselves. To others. Maybe it’s part vanity, part human competitiveness.

Whatever my combination of factors is, I want to spend my 51st year doing something hard. Mustering discipline like never before. Digging deep and finding something new and/or startling inside me.

And that’s why I chose this particular goal. Because I’ve been running a long time. I’ve run a half marathon and multiple 8-, 10- and 12-mile runs. I’ve run 20- and 30-mile weeks many times. But I have never ran 20 miles a week for 52 weeks in a row, and that’s what a thousand-mile goal represents.

Twenty miles a week is a little less than three miles a day. To many runners, three miles is a piece of cake. But the thing is, if you take a day off, you need to run six miles the next day. If you take two days off, you need to run nine miles the next day. You can do the math — a runner can fall so far behind it’s impossible to catch up, so exceptional discipline is required. And it’s the discipline part of this puzzle that appeals to me.

I’m three weeks into this deal and I’m about five miles behind schedule. A three-day layoff due to a business trip my first week out of the gate put me immediately behind, but I’m determined to chip away at my deficit. Actually, I’m determined to bank some miles so that if I get sick or go on another business trip or have any unplanned life experience, I won’t fall seriously behind.

All of this assumes I don’t experience an injury, of course, and that’s a real wild card. I’m already feeling the increased miles in my knees and hips and I have no idea if my body will hold up under the strain. But I think it will feel good to try.

My previous personal record is a little more than 800 miles in a year (two years ago, in 2010). Close, but not so close I have confidence I can ace this.

By the way, if you read this post, you might be tempted to assume this is all a mid-life crisis. Maybe it is, but it doesn’t feel that way. If I have any great insights as I run my way through this, I’ll let you know. In the mean time, I welcome your good thoughts.

With gratitude {for two legs that have so far held me in good stead},

Joan, who has already informed Mr. Mom that if she meets her goal, she plans to throw one hell of a Thousand Mile Party on her 51st birthday

The activity formerly known as awful.

Dear friends,

After a couple of months of flat-out laziness, I vowed two weeks ago to get back in the running groove. I bought some news shoes hoping they’d put a literal spring in my step and I hit the road.

And lord was it awful.

During the first run, it was so awful I thought I would vomit. And I wanted to cry. Vomit and tears, the awful combo.

During the next run, I thought it was so awful I wanted to collapse at minute 3, and again at minute 11, and again at minute 24 and again at 29:30 when I finally gave up and walked the last 4/10ths of a mile home.

During a couple more runs, I thought it was so awful I seriously questioned why I was doing it and why I shouldn’t just throw in the towel. Lazy is as lazy does, I thought.

During another run, I thought it was so awful I might never again enjoy this thing I started doing in 1985 and have done regularly since then (where regularly equals taking a few lazy breaks and having a few lazy pity-parties now and again).

During the next run, I thought it was merely awful. (No elaboration needed.)

And after yesterday’s run, I thought to myself: Well, that was not awful.  Not good. But not awful.

By the way, awful has nothing to do with my performance in terms of time or distance. It has to do with how I feel. Awful — all 70 or so degrees of it — refers to how bad my legs hurt, how weak I feel, how taxing the hills are and how much they make me want to scream at the heavens, how bad my lungs burn, how loud I wheeze, how embarrassingly red and blotchy my face gets . . . you know — awful.

Anyway, as soon as I mentally declared yesterday’s run as not awful, I wondered what it would have been like to spend the last two weeks describing degrees of good.

As in “That run was one-part-per-million good.”

Or “That run felt really good for both of my hands.”

Or “That run felt good for exactly three minutes” or “good for nearly four blocks” or “good for the first 100 strides.”

I like to think I’m not usually a glass-is-half-empty kind of gal, but holy cow, what does it mean when I describe a part of my life in degrees of awful?

Yes, it means I’m out-of-shape. Yes, it means I’m feeling sorry for myself. Yes, it means I’ve got a long ways to go to feel comfortable and strong in my stride again. But it also means I’ve got a lesson or two to learn about finding the right attitude to conquer this thing called life.

So I snapped myself out of it and vowed to extend a little gratitude to the activity formerly known as awful.

And then I remembered that just a couple of weeks ago during a dinner party, I chided a guest for describing her running as jogging. “I’m slow,” she said. “I don’t really run. I jog.”

“Are you kidding me?” I snapped back.  “Anytime you are not walking, you are running! Give yourself credit. You could choose to walk, but you don’t. And if you’re not walking, you are running, sister!”

I’m running, baby. And it may only be 189-parts-per-million good right now, but that’s better than any part awful.

With gratitude {for any part of good I can get},

Joan, who thinks her friend Nancy is right when she said “Turquoise shoes always make you run faster”

Whatever it takes.

Dear friends,

Mr. Mom and Kate and I were having lunch yesterday (we were out test driving more cars!) when Kate just happened to bring up the topic of her quest to get fit.

She’s known all summer that college tennis would be a step up for her. And she’s been working out regularly. But she got an email from her college coach this week telling her to report for duty on August 9 and to “come back fit,” and there’s nothing like a direct order from your coach to light a fire under your tail. Suddenly, she’s worried her cardio isn’t up to snuff.

Mr. Mom responded that she ought to interval train and suggested a running regimen that he I and used years ago with great results. Kate actually acted interested for the first time ever (her father has only been giving her fitness advice her whole life) and even asked “What time does the sun come up?”

Let me just say . . . any mother worth her salt knows that’s an open door if ever she saw one.

Joan: 6:00 am. Actually a little before that. Hey, I have a great idea! How about if I get up and interval train with you? It’s a little tricky the first time you do it, so you might appreciate having a partner who’s done it before.

Kate: Um . . .

Joan: Really, Kate. This would be great for me, too. I haven’t been running and interval training would be a great way to help me get back on track. It’ll be good for both of us and we won’t have to do it alone.

Kate: Um . . . I guess that would be fine.

Joan: So it’s a deal! We’re getting up at 6:00 am tomorrow morning to run! This is great! I’m excited!

I know . . . it’s tragic. Only a desperate mother whose daughter is leaving in three weeks would be excited about getting up at 6:00 am in July to interval train. But, hey, whatever it takes, you know?

With gratitude {for 21 more days},

Joan, who has only one word for you after this morning’s training: oy!

Walk this way.

Dear friends,

Source: Going Places 2 on Etsy

So I probably haven’t mentioned that I haven’t been running.

It’s true-confession time here folks: I haven’t gone for a run since the week of this post (wherein I embarked on a cleanse).

I can’t say exactly why I’ve puttered to a stop. I could blame it on the hills, but then I’ve already done that. What I want to say is that I lost motivation, but that’s kind of a cop-out. I mean, who really ever has motivation to do the hard things in life? I never do. But many times, I find the discipline. Or I find the incentive. And one or the other keeps me going.

But in the case of my running, I just flat out fell off the wagon. Kaput. And whatever mental trick (or discipline) had kept me going for two years — well, it ran plumb out, as we Okies like to say.

I’ve been beating myself up for it for awhile. But I bet you know as well as I do that’s a total waste of time. Self-flagellation usually doesn’t motivate us and hardly ever gets us back on track.

So you know what I have been doing instead?

Walking. Briskly. For 30 a minutes a day around my neighborhood.

Instead of feeling bad about the thing I’m not doing, I’m trying to feel good about the thing I am doing. It’s not the same level of exercise I had been used to, but it’s a far sight better than the month I spent on the sofa doing nothing but wallowing in my laziness.

I’m going to take it as a sign I’m learning moderation. I’ve already told you it’s feast or famine around my house. I’m either running 20-30 miles a week, or I’m spending every spare moment on the sofa.

Walking — for me, it’s a real step forward. It’s a sign I don’t have to conquer the world, and I don’t have to give into every sedentary inclination that tempts me.

All I really have to do is overcome the little voice in my head that tells me life is all or nothing.

With gratitude {for lesson #1 this week on moderation, with news about others yet to come},

Joan, who felt a little antsy when a jogger passed her by last evening but let the negative feeling flutter away with the breeze and counted it as “personal growth”

One little teary burst of joy.

Dear friends,

Before I started this blog, before I moved from Oklahoma to my new life here, I poured my heart and soul into a blog and into a life rooted in my hometown. I called my town Mayberry for every reason you can imagine having to do with the good and true souls who live there.

For three years I wrote about the place and the people I love most. I retired that blog when we moved because . . . well, because how could I possibly blog about Mayberry and its people from afar?

And then, like the ninny I am, I failed to routinely back-up my beat-up laptop. Just before Christmas, my four-year-old MacBook Pro died a sudden death, taking with it many treasured photos, essays, and all the files associated with my former blog.

Some very bright college students have spent the last two weeks refurbishing my laptop and recovering many of my files. I got my laptop back last night and began sifting though the recovered files, many of them corrupted, but some of them readable.

I tripped across one of my stories, filed under a name I didn’t recognize. As I began reading, I had no memory of writing it or publishing it on my blog, but the experience it relates from two years ago came rushing back to me in a flood of happy memories. I sat in my chair and cried — tears of joy — not over a recovered file because how silly is that? I cried because that day is so very clear to me and the memory so very precious to me.

I hope you enjoy the story. I was blessed to have lived it.

With gratitude {for being reminded of a day when I found joy in everything I saw},

Joan, who has finally realized, duh, she’s just a teensy bit homesick

Gone and Away

Mr. Mom and I have been away from home for almost two weeks.  It feels like forever. We got home last night, exhausted from travel and worry and stress of all varieties, including the news that one of my colleagues died while I was gone after a long battle with Lymphoma.

This morning I arose early, anxious to put on my running shoes and soak in my beloved hometown.  I ran seven miles, striding long and strong as if every step would somehow pound Mayberry back into my homesick soul.

I ran through the center of town past a small boy in a blue windbreaker creating a grand thoroughfare in his front yard with nothing more than a tiny plastic shovel, while his watchful mother drank coffee in her pajamas on their porch.

I ran past the edge of town and through the cemetery where I thought of my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and all of my memories of them so rooted in this place.

I ran down country roads, past cow pastures so green they were the color of fake plastic grass in an Easter basket.

I ran past modest white and grey farmhouses and big red barns and tranquil ponds surrounded by undulating and endless fields so peaceful they always make me think country living must be like a dream.

I ran down deserted gravel roads where nary a soul drove by, past herds of cows who ignored me and two horses who nodded and snorted hello.

I ran past wildflowers twisting into barbed-wire fences and a thicket of purple peonies in full bloom by a small stream.

I ran by a man making slow progress mowing what had to be a 10-acre yard, kicking up cut grass so fragrant and sweet it was like 50 summer evenings concentrated into one.

I ran up a long, steep hill that led me back to town and into the edge of a dark blue-grey sky and heavy spring air that threatened the kind of Oklahoma thunderstorm that thrills me.

And about a mile from home, just as my legs started to tire a bit, I ran past a white car driven by my friend Julie’s mother, who gave me the kind of big smile and exaggerated wave an older woman gives a younger one she’s known for 40 years.

As I waved back, a swirl of cold spring air swept over me and a flurry of goosebumps arose on my arms and neck.  But it wasn’t the gust that tickled me, I figured.

It was the essence of Mayberry, seeping under my skin and into my bones and pulsing though my heart, welcoming me home.