Short But Sweet

We are in Tucson. It was a long trip. We’re glad to be home.

Our first evening in Tucson, Bill and I went out to dinner. The yard is big. Jojo is small. We thought she was inside with Bella. Instead she was outside on her own. By the time we returned, two hours later, she had torn a hole in the new slider screen door that was the size of a VERY large dog. She still didn’t get inside because the glass slider was closed. I expect Bella was on the far side of the glass saying a doggie style, “Neener, neener!” We’ll hear today how much it will cost to repair the screen. The amount will probably in the same range as the cost of replacing the hearing aid Jojo ate. Having a puppy around can be EXPENSIVE!

And so can wells. Our house in Tucson came with water rights when we bought it, and the city let us know that we needed to either “use it or lose it.” So we had a well dug—450 feet deep. The well stopped working in October. We just learned that the pump will have to be pulled. That’s part of the price of having two homes—it’s always something.

For those of you who have been walking with me, keeping score, and cheering me on, please know I’ve just passed the 60 pound benchmark. In my insurance agency days, the agency manager, Gilbert F. Lawson, used to tell us, “Know the score; keep the score; report the score. The score will improve.” Please consider the score as having been reported.

And now the reason for this very short blog. I am working, writing the next Joanna Brady book, Downfall. The deadline is actively ticking.

Talk to you later.

PS: It’s later.  Following is an email I wrote Geoffrey A. Fowler after reading his article in the Wall Street Journal:  Stop Counting 10,000 Steps; Check Your Personal Activity Intelligence.

Dear Geoffrey,

I want you to know that today’s article in the WSJ put me in … well … high dudgeon.  I’m writing my response to you but I intend to post this on my website blog on Friday morning at www.jajance.com.  By way of introduction, I am a 70 year old, 6 foot 1 inch tall mystery writer.  Fifty some book and counting, but I digress.  That’s what writers do—they digress.

I would like to introduce you to who I was growing up in Bisbee, Arizona, back when I was someone named Judy Busk.  I was always tall. From kindergarten on, you would find me in the middle of the back row for classroom photos with all the other kids going down in stair steps on either side of me.  I always had long legs, knobby and mostly scabbed over knees, and out-sized feet which meant I was CLUMSY!  From second grade on, you’ll see me wearing glasses in those same class pictures.  I was intensely nearsighted and had a terrible astigmatism.  Until I had Lasik surgery in the early nineties, I always felt that elevators were round. 

In other words, I had zero depth perception.  I never saw balls coming until they hit me in the face—with astonishing regularity, breaking my glasses time and again.  I was, as Janis Ian would say, the girl 

Whose name was never called.

When choosing sides for basketball.

I could name off right this minute the girls in grade school who weren’t like me—the golden girls—the ones who never met a ball they couldn’t hit; a race they couldn’t win; a sport at which they didn’t excel:  Sharon; Barbara; Vedie; Sally; Carol.  I remember them all, although they probably have no remembrance of me.  But their message was clear.  YOU ARE NO GOOD AT THIS! (Whatever THIS was.) SO DON’T BOTHER TO TRY!  Needless to say, I stopped trying.  I hated PE.  I hated exercise.  I hated the very idea of going to a gym where already buff folks were busy styling and showing off their Spandex-clad bodies to all those “mere mortals.”

Then, eight months ago, our family doctor gave us a severe talking to.  This is old news to my blog readers, because they’ve heard it before.  But I want YOU to hear it.  My husband, Bill, is 75 years old.  In grade school he was the polar opposite of me—short and round—but with the same “you’re not one of the chosen ones” experience.  He’s had a permanent back injury that stems from a time when, as a 30 something, a car engine fell on him in an open garage in Chicago in 10 degree below zero weather. The only way to save himself was to LIFT the engine, and his back has bothered him ever since.

At the time we went to see our doctor, his back was in terrible shape.  On previous occasions when our doctor had told us that we needed to walk, we both rolled our eyes at one another and said, in printable words, what a crock.  But this time there were a couple of added components.  The doctor said that, he was sure at this point Bill suffered from metabolic syndrome, that he would never be able to lose weight, and that most likely his next step was an electric cart.

We went home and started walking the next day—both of us.  We counted steps on our respective iPhones.  I gradually built up to 10,000 steps a day—the bench mark you so thoroughly denigrated in your article today.  I’m too annoyed with scanning the article to go back and reread it in its entirety because I suspect that what you’re really doing is marketing some other “health tracking device” which you deem as superior.  But here’s the deal.  Bill and I walked and counted our steps.  We counted them every day.  Right now, eight months later, AVERAGE steps for the year—for eight months—is 9,887, but whose counting, right?  Who cares, right?

My husband started out shuffling in baby steps—using a cane—for maybe 2000 steps a day, if he was lucky.  He routinely does 6000 a day now, and he strides out purposefully now with the gait and confidence of a man who knows where he’s going and how to get there.

We hired a trainer named Dan.  He comes to our house twice a week, primarily because both Bill and I knew we wouldn’t be caught dead in a gym. Right now, while we’re out of town, he’s doing our twenty-minute workouts via SKYPE.  Dan started us out with baby steps in the workout department, too.  He’s helping us with life skills—I’ve fallen and I CAN get up; balance issues; things we need to be able to do EVERY DAY.  In July I couldn’t do a single sit to rise without using the arms of my chairs.  Today I did 17.  Bill did THIRTY!!

Dan is someone who has been involved in the fitness world for decades.  He works with people with severe deficits—people who have suffered strokes; people who are preparing for joint replacement surgery; people who have HAD joint replacement surgery.  (Bill had his dual knee replacement surgery in 2008.)  Dan has also taught us that most of the most of the trainers in gyms don’t like to work with people who have deficits.  Guess what?  They want to work with the BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE rather than with ORDINARY PEOPLE—the ones who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing Spandex.

Your right, of course, walking alone is not the sole answer.  We walking and working out—using no “weight training” equipment other than our own bodies.  We also have changed the way we eat.  We eat less.  We watch our carbs and calories.  Except for holiday meals when the grandkids were in attendance, we’ve had no bread in our house since the first of May.  And guess what? We’ve both lost more than 60 pounds!  And we’re both down multiple sizes in clothing.  Bill’s back is better.  His blood pressure is down and so is his blood sugar.  I started at 264 pounds.  I’m at 203 right now—and counting.

Other people—people like us who aren’t currently capable of intense workouts—and who have followed our journey on my blog, have written to let me know that they have joined the battle in their own small ways.  I cheer for all of them.  No matter how many steps they take.  Encouraging words, mind you, Geoffrey, rather than discouraging ones.

I felt you did all of us a serious disservice in what you wrote today—drawing the same kind of circle in the sand that said whatever you’re doing or think you’re doing, it just isn’t good enough anyway because, after all, no matter how much you exercise, you’re not going to live a day longer than you’re going to live.

Indeed.  That is entirely true.  My younger brother, Jim, was a firefighter who trained religiously and ran four to five miles every single day.  He died of a heart attack due to an undiagnosed heart ailment while swimming in the ocean on vacation when he was fifty.  

No, we may not extend our lives one day beyond the appointed hour, but the walking Bill and I are doing right now—and the walking many of my fans are doing—has seriously contributed to improving our individual qualities of life in the here and now.  Bill and I are both looking forward to going on a cruise later this spring when last year at this time—thousands of steps, sixty pounds, and several dress and pants sizes ago—we both believed that our cruising days were over. 

We’ve regained all kinds of things we both thought we had lost for good.  As a consequence, it was very disheartening to open the Wall Street Journal this morning, read your article, and realize that whatever we’ve been doing for months now and using as one of our key benchmarks counts for … well … nothing in the sight of the exercise gurus who have never had any physical deficits or issues. Lucky for them, perhaps, but do they have to sneer at the rest of us?

Our grandson calls this our “step game.”  He’s joined in and so has his mother.  Would they really be better off not playing because it IS a game.  It’s a way of keeping score, and as far as our family is concerned, it’s working.

So thank you very much for telling all those folks whose Fitbits are still, as you said, “gathering dust in a drawer,” that it’s no use for them to take those devices out of the drawer and fire them up.  After all, since they probably weren’t athletes in grade school, there’s no point in their bothering to start now. Right?  It occurs to me that this comes very close to qualifying as a kind of “hate speech.

By the way, you can mark me down as 10,831 steps for today—5.12 miles—but who’s counting?

Sincerely,

J.A. Jance

32 thoughts on “Short But Sweet

  1. Well said! Having grown up in Philadelphia, Pa, I have long regarded the WSJ to be one of the best newspapers (we live in a fair sized city in NC,, but wee compared to Philadelphia…..the newspaper is here is quite pathetic). But what an idiotic, elitist article. Having gained and lost several times, I know that doing something as simple as walking ( my preferred method), can make a big difference…it’s free and it’s fun. Awesome to learn of all the benefits you and your husband have experienced by the slow but steady strategy. Walk on, and enjoy that Cruise!

  2. You go, girl! I read the article, too. I was dismayed that anyone would discourage the average person, trying to improve their health, from using whatever means they have avaialble, to be healthier. I am looking forward to seeing you in Phoenix on your next book tour.

  3. Thanks for the great comments to the article. I’m sure you have helped all those who were going to say I might as well bunch it because it won’t matter.
    Keep on writing!

  4. Bravo! Heartfelt applause for putting into words and standing up for all of us who are trying to turn our lives around to lead more active lives. We may not be super athletic, but we are trying to improve our quality of life. Thank you!

  5. I didn’t bother to read the WSJ article, but I very much love your response to it. I always felt rather awkward as a kid, though I did plenty of running and playing and enjoyed the outdoors (and did plenty of chores) on our farm. I also spent all the spare time I could, reading, and that is still my favorite recreation, so I thank you for being a good author and giving me lots of new books to read. I’m glad to hear a new Joanna Brady is on the way. Good for you and your husband for making your lives better, and good for you for encouraging the rest of us, too. I have a foot problem now which won’t let me walk the 30 min. a day that I did for years, but I can do my exercise bike, and I do.

  6. Go you! Nicely said and very much to the point. I am not athletic either, don’t enjoy it and not interested. I know I need to be more active and have many exercise videos to prove it! For the last nine months I’ve been painting my condo and climbing stairs and working a delivery job that I enjoy so I figure all those contortions and steps up and down qualify as exercise that accomplishes something which is what I prefer. My weight is stable and even slightly down which is a good thing! I’m working at it and play outside with the grandkids when I get the opportunity, every bit of activity helps, so keep counting your steps and moving so you can live long, keep your brain, and keep writing!

  7. I thought of you while I was reading the news article yesterday, and was not surprised today at any of your comments. Thanks for lending your considerable writing talents and using your personal story to hold Mr. Fowler accountable for what I consider to be irresponsible journalism. I believe he used the 10K steps phrase to draw attention without having any consideration for those he might be discouraging because they might decide they are not doing enough, so why bother.
    Enjoy your stay in beautiful Arizona and enjoy that Cruise!
    P.S. I am glad Jojo did not suffer any harm while stuck outside.

  8. Love your blogs. I need to start walking. Because I have fallen and couldn’t get up.. thanks for letting this guy know he doesnt know everything… love Brady and Beaumont books. Haven’t been able to get into the other ,(Walker?) Waiting the the Brady.

    • Sandra, the Walker books, they are thriller books.
      Scary, but still interesting to read. And good books.
      If anyone would manage to do a good movie of these, those would be quite scary.
      Atleast I think so.
      + I would skip watching them. I think.

  9. You wrote an excellent response to someone who can’t see past his own inflated ego. You and your husband should be commended for your dedication to your health, and the results you are achieving. Who cares if you have a FitBit, jump rope, hiking boots or if you ski off thematic of Mt. Rainer, what matters is your improved health and how you feel physically and mentally. Keep up the good work!
    And welcome back to Arizona, glad you missed all the rain a few weeks ago.

  10. Good for you in your reply to that reporter. He was touting a new activity gadget, which gives you credit for anything that causes your heart rate to go up over a period of time. In other words, I can get credit for dusting! But what you and Bill have done is nothing short of amazing! Have fun on your cruise.

    • That’s the way to tell him! I lost weight by walking and cutting back on the unhealthy stuff but I would walk 3 times a day and I felt better. I started having back and knee issues tho and didn’t get out and walk the way I should have but I did lose 80 lbs so every step does count!! Congratulations to you and your husband it’s awesome of how you both stepped up for your health!

  11. Just checking in, 84 lbs. Still walking, even in our Puget Sound rain, screw some fitness snob, we are all better for our actions!

  12. That’s the way to tell him! I lost weight by walking and cutting back on the unhealthy stuff but I would walk 3 times a day and I felt better. I started having back and knee issues tho and didn’t get out and walk the way I should have but I did lose 80 lbs so every step does count!! Congratulations to you and your husband it’s awesome of how you both stepped up for your health!

  13. Thanks to all for … well … weighing in! What I thought criminal about the article was his unconscionable denigrating of other people’s efforts while advocating yet another “gadget.” Congratulations, Deb! You’re 20 pounds ahead, but who’s counting? Wait. Did I say that?

  14. You tell him, Judy! After a devastating period from late October to early January, I have finally turned the page and am Into My Program. My goals are pretty simple: be able to walk as I once did, without aid devices, with balance, grace, and stamina. That simple goal(s) open the door to continued independence. I’m a low-budget person so my tools are prescribed visits to a physical therapist and an inexpensive pedometer. And the streets in Seattle. Just keep walkin’…

  15. I don’t care what a person uses to keep track of anything, if you don’t have the personal diligence to keep doing it nothing will happen, whether you dust or don’t dust your house. I don’t know if there is a gadget out there to change your mindset, aversion therapy possibly, but change has to come from within. As soon as the newness of a gadget wears off you revert to type, generally.
    Judy, you two were lucky enough to see results quickly with your walking, new eating style and your ability to hire in a good trainer. Weight loss and feeling better is great incentive. Having Bill as a partner in crime (giggling, good one, rita) didn’t hurt, misery loves company when it comes to exercise. I am sure your Doctor is running around with an inflated chest, using you two as his poster children for change at any age. I would be, if I were him. Something he said must have nudged you in the right direction. We are all glad that he kept poking until it took.

  16. I didn’t read the article closely as thought he was just hawking some gadget that the City folks have to have. Typical of the folks who come for weekends in my area.

    You folks have done a wonderful job without some expensive “toy”. I’ll be surprised if he replies to you.

  17. You are inspiring in and out of your books! I so look forward to your blog. I feel I am on the same page as you and that is very encouraging. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  18. Mr. Fowler did reply. He said that I missed the sentence in his piece that said “Doctors say that anything that encourages people to move is good.” And I’m sure that sentence was buried in there someplace. What I didn’t miss was the bold headline that said: STOP COUNTING STEPS. I’m worried about the people who saw that and said to themselves, “Right, why bother?”

  19. Proud Fitbiter right here. I don’t think I’ve necessarily lost any weight, but I definitely am more aware of how much I move and when. My heart is in much better shape, I don’t get winded and I make a point of walking more than I normally ever would have. That includes taking the faraway parking spot, my husband and I even argue over who is returning the shopping cart, that’s extra steps!

  20. I’m sorry, one sentence, which is nothing but a CYA sentence, does not make up for an entire article of irresponsible journalism. There are responsible ways of marketing his product, that would not have done the potential harm his article did.

    Congrats on the positive steps you have both taken to improve your quality of life. Your encouraging words are helpful to many, and harmful to none. And THAT is quality writing….as are all of your books!!

    Thanks!!

  21. BRAVO! Thanks for putting into words all the frustration I’ve had since childhood! I was the kid who couldn’t perform a simple somersault or cartwheel. PE was agonizing for me as I was a small child and very clumsy. Always chosen last for Red Rover…..
    But I think I may be thanking you in advance, too. I was diagnosed with MS back in 1972. I went on full disability and retired in 1995. The clumsy kid grew up to be an even clumsier adult with a neurological disease! What can I say? I am one person who never wants to be asked to walk a straight line by the police!
    Back to you….I think you’ve inspired me to try your step routine. I doubt I’ll even get close to the 1000 mark but I wouldn’t mind shedding a few pounds. I’d like to be in better shape to enjoy my spring gardening…..why not try it?
    So, I’ll be off to shop for a FitBit or a reasonable alternative. And for that, I thank you!
    As for the author of the WSJ article, there is always somebody who is a wet blanket on another’s happy day. You just founds yours.

  22. Thanks for setting that guy straight. My wife (age 70) and I (age 75) have started working out at the Y and “stepping up.” I just had lumbar surgery #5 three months ago, I’ve got two knees and a plate in my neck that I wasn’t born with, scoliosis, stenosis, neuropathy, and I’m carrying too much weight. My wife has neuropathy and needs a new knee, and she is a diabetic. Since the first of December we’ve worked up to over 6,000 steps per day … some days putting a scare in 9,000, and we’ve both lost 13 pounds. We’re taking a cruise in April to celebrate our 50th. anniversary and are on track to being able to wear clothes that have been hanging in the closet for a few years. Keep walking and counting. We are.

  23. Bravo! As a 64-year-old reader of every book you write, my husband and I started walking every morning before work back in May. His mother had passed away after spending the last 15 years of her life with very limited mobility, being miserable, avoiding any kind of physical exercise. Did not want to go there! I’ve lost 40 pounds and he has lost 25 and we have added workouts at a normal people gym. The benefits of getting off the couch are not only looking and feeling better, but we actually have an hour of conversation while we walk. We have gotten reacquainted! It’s never too late to count or do whatever it takes to open the door and take that first step! So glad that you did it because there will be so many more Beau, Joanna, Ali and Walker family books for me to look love!

  24. I found your blog very inspiring. My friend and I were talking the other day about how hard it is to lose weight. We are both in our late 50’s and still working at sit down jobs. It seems that you have to work out harder as you get older and that just doesn’t seem fair. We live in Mesa, AZ and getting out to walk when it isn’t dark right now is a bit tough. And then of course, in the hot summer it is even tougher and we have to resign ourselves to the gym! But reading your blog at least gave me some hope that I can still lose some of those stubborn pounds! Exercise DVD’s here I come! Love all of your books and the fact that you interact so much with your fans!

    • When time runs out, I walk inside the house. We’ve been using a two-pronged approach–exercise and watching carbs and calories. This morning, lying in bed, I could feel muscles in my thighs. I’ve been told that muscles weigh more than fat. To be losing weight and gaining muscle is surprising. For someone OVER 70.

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