Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

I did that this morning, by the way. I woke up and smelled the coffee and realized it was going to be another Covid-free day. Two of our granddaughters who live 2000 miles apart came down with Covid. One is a mother with three kids three and under. Her symptoms were mild and didn’t require hospitalization, but she continues to deal with fatigue and, at this point, she still can’t taste the difference between horseradish and mayonnaise.

So Covid is still lurking out there. It has taken so much from everyone this past year, including almost everything normal or joyful. Usually at this time of year, when I send my readers a newsletter with my holiday greetings, it includes a notice for an upcoming paperback. Not this time. Because of the pandemic, pub dates got put off. Last year’s Ali hardback, Credible Threat, won’t be out in paperback until next May. Last year’s scheduled Joanna book, Missing and Endangered, has been moved to February 16, 2021, and the next Ali hardback, Unfinished Business, is now due out on June 1.

One thing that has stayed the same has been hearing from fans. A week or so ago, I heard from a reader who said, “Please keep writing. As far as I’m concerned, you’re an essential worker.” And so I have been doing just that—writing. For the first time in a career that spans almost forty years, I have two completed books waiting to be published and as well as a 10% down payment on the next Beau book, Nothing to Lose. So I’m still working and have been, not only writing books but also writing my weekly blogs. Each week when I sit own to write the blog I try to find a little bit of hope and cheer to pass along, and I’m doing the same thing today.

Although this won’t be published until Christmas Day, it’s really a New Year’s greeting, because if I want anything for Christmas this year it’s a happier next year.

That being said, I’ve never been any good at making New Year’s resolutions because I never carry through. I start out with good intentions which fade away in short order. One Christmas when I was about twelve, I was given one of those five-year locking diaries. I waited until New Year’s Day to make the first entry. I didn’t continue past week two. For one thing, in a little book designed to last five years, each entry was no more than six or seven lines long. These days that might be fine for Twitter, but it wasn’t enough for me. As my husband, Bill, says, “With you there are no short stories.” A diary entry that was only a paragraph long just didn’t work for me.

So today I’m going to talk about a resolution that had nothing to do with New Years. Five and a half years ago, during our annual physicals, our then-physician took us to task and told us that, if we didn’t lose weight and start exercising, we were done. He predicted that if we didn’t use it, we would definitely lose it. The way we were going, he warned was that, within two years, Bill would be using an electric cart. We started walking the next day.

In my natural state, I walk less than 2000 steps a day. To begin with, getting our “Ten” seemed like an impossible task. I’d wake up in the morning and think, “OMG. I have to walk 10,000 steps today!” At that point, when I weighed in at 265 pounds, getting those steps was almost overwhelming, especially since I had to sit down a rest every 700 steps or so. But walking around in summer sunlight, and seeing the shadow of my very wide hips told me why I was doing this—why we were doing this.

We didn’t just walk. We hired a personal trainer, one who specializes in “old people.” He does a 30 minute workout with us three times a week. The workouts consist of “Sit and Grow Fit” style exercises, and they’ve been very helpful—especially after Bill’s back surgery and my frozen shoulder episode. Since Dan, our trainer, is our age, which is to say older than dirt, we’ve been Skyping our workouts for months now.

We also changed our style of eating—from three meals a day to two. As retirees, we eat a late breakfast and an early dinner. We eat pretty much whatever we want, but with far more attention to portion control. I lost 65 pounds. This morning, weighing in at 202, I’ve kept off 63 of those 65 pounds. Instead of wearing size-26 pants, I’m wearing size16 along with one ancient and very faded pair of size-14.

I use the Pedometer ++ app on my iPhone to keep track of my steps. I like that one because it gives me a running total every day. We do not have a tread-mill. In good weather we walk outside, either in the garden or on the driveway. At our ages flat surfaces are preferred. In bad weather, we walk inside. I have a two hundred-step lap mapped out in the house, and I count the laps with my fingers until each stint adds up to a thousand. I usually walk 10,000 steps or more a day. Bill, who is older than I am and with some underlying health issues, generally walks 4000, and he’s still not stuck in an electric cart.

This fall, as I watched the grand total on my step-counter gradually move up, my goal was to hit 10,000,000 steps by the end of the year. I made that grade this past Saturday. That amounts to almost 5000 miles. (Actually 4750, but who’s counting?). All done one step at a time. All done wearing out several pairs of Skechers without ever once visiting a free-standing gym or wearing a single article of spandex clothing.

So this is my New Year’s “Use it or lose” it message to you. I’m not an athlete by any means. In fact, I used to tell my doctor that my major form of exercise was “jumping to conclusions.” But five and a half years and ten million steps down the road, I’m still walking.

Covid took away a planned cruise and family birthday celebrations along with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it didn’t take away my steps. You don’t have to walk 10,000, but walk some. Just doubling your number from where you are now will help. You don’t have to have an iPhone. Count off a 200-step route inside your house and then keep track with fingers and hash marks on a piece of paper. Work up gradually as your endurance improves, but here’s the real secret—TELL SOMEONE!

That’s what I did. The week I started walking, I wrote about it in that week’s blog. Unlike that long ago diary which disappeared without a trace, I figured my blog readers would keep me honest. Over time I’ve apprised them of my progress, and I’ve heard back from fans who decided to join me in this self-care journey. Now I’m including my newsletter readers in that circle as well.

As I said, I’m no athlete. In fact, my fellow students from Greenway School and Bisbee High School would tell you I was the least athletic kid in the bunch. And yet, at age seventy-one and half, I started walking and made it work.

My readers may regard me as an essential worker, but the same holds true for them. Readers are essential, too. As my mother, Evie, often said, “God helps those who help themselves.” So get off your butts, stop making excuses, and walk! And when you have to sit down and rest after 500 steps or so before you can continue, just remember The Little Engine that Could. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” is what that little blue engine told himself as he pulled the train loaded with “dolls and toys and good things to eat” over the mountain to Yon.

If he could do it, and if I can do it, YOU CAN, TOO. And if you don’t have anyone else to tell that you’ve started walking, by all means, tell me. I’ll be happy to be part of your cheering section.

Now get moving, and Happy New Year. As that famous Canadian philosopher Red Green always says, “Keep your stick on the ice. We’re all in this together.”