Sunday, January 27, 2019

Second Lining

It was a party in the street tonight, New Orleans style. Outside The Second Line restaurant in Midtown Memphis, dozens of Saints fans and I witnessed a jazz funeral and second line for the 2018 season that ended with the non-call heard 'round the world.

Chants of Who Dat and "When The Saints Go Marching In" filled the air in the frenzied yet restorative power of the traditional Crescent City eulogy.

As a casket made its way down the aisle, we booed the refs who stole from us. We cheered memories of past Saints who brought us where we are today, and we gave thanks to Drew Brees for returning for another season with the black and gold.

Nothing brings out the best in a Saints fan like cocktails and commiseration.  That's because, arguably, nobody knows the ecstasy of victory or the agony of defeat quite like the men and women who don the black and gold every fall and put just as much of their hearts on the line as the Boys. Talk of the Super Bowl XLIV victory brings out euphoric nostalgia. Equally as emotional, heads are bowed and cups ever so slightly raised in reverence to the lean years of brown paper bags and losing seasons.

I watched that fateful game against the Los Angeles Rams with my sister-in-law at her home just north of New Orleans. We were struck speechless watching live, then replay after replay, footage of Rams Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman slam into Saints Tommylee Lewis. A blatant pass interference that played out in front of the referees, an entire Superdome of fans, and millions more across the country.  Each slow-motion recap a gut-punch.

And as the seconds ticked by with no flag thrown, it became clear that Robey-Coleman was going to get away with murder. In the end, the Rams punched their ticket to the Super Bowl. Fruit of the poisonous tree.

The missed call was so egregious, league officials called Coach Sean Payton after the game and admitted that there should have been two penalties on the play.

After a week of trash talking the refs, the Rams, the league and anyone who might even remotely have a dog in that hunt, the outcome of the showdown remains the same: the Saints were robbed and the Rams players involved in the incident have proven themselves to be classless, perhaps a more heinous offense to some Saints fans than the actual blown call.

So tonight, we buried the season here in Memphis the only way that could bring any measure of closure. We cheered for the Boys, cursed those who wronged us, and took a walk down the street to the melodies of a brass band.

And because even a funeral is a party in New Orleans, there were smiles and selfies with old friends.

Maybe some day, we'll bow our heads and raise our cups ever so slightly in memory of this heartbreak. Maybe.

Bless you, Boys.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

It Counts

I scrolled across this gem on Instagram today and it really spoke to me. I stopped and pondered it for a few minutes this afternoon, letting it wash over me and really trying to nail down a number: how many hours do I spend on self maintenance?  Not mindlessly watching television, or treating myself to some decadent dessert. I mean real self maintenance. The kind that matters. The kind that changes your life (not that a good dessert isn't capable of such a feat, who are we kidding?).

In addition to my list of dreams for 2019, I have a carry-over goal from 2018 that I haven't talked about with many people. Only a handful of my nearest and dearest really know.  Back in October, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. October 31 to be exact. The day of candy. Super.

I am quite ashamed of my condition, I confess. I feel like a lifetime of bad choices prompted my body to betray me. But really, wasn't I betraying my body first? Carbs, sugar, crap. All crap. And I think back to the times when I invited it into my life with wild abandon. Pints of ice cream, cheeseburgers, french fries, pizza. For my lifetime of dieting ups and downs, this is how I repay my body.

My doctor broke the news in a very roundabout way, after measuring my blood sugar for two solid weeks. We did this at my urging because I just felt like something was off. Something was not right.

"Diagnostically, this graph shows your blood sugar highs and lows. You can see the spikes here (points to ridiculously high number) after you've eaten a meal... and blah, blah, blah, more big medical words..."

And because I am someone who needs you to just spell it out for me...

"So... do I have Diabetes?"
"Yes," she answered.
"And I will always have Diabetes?"

I did not take it well. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, weak and defeated. I asked questions about my condition. Had I been making terrible choices my entire life? I have always struggled with my weight. I have always struggled with my willpower. I have always struggled with motivation.

I play chicken with deadlines in my life every day and win, but this time, all those subconscious dismissals of my health caught up to me. No more I'll do better tomorrow. My number was up.

"Is there a chance I've had Diabetes for years?" I asked, suddenly acutely aware of every single malady I've endured since high school.
"Yes, but there's really no way to know." she said.

In that one hour visit to my doctor, I felt my life become redefined by Diabetes. Over the past few months, I've dedicated hours of my life to Google. Most of my searches include specific foods followed by the words "glycemic index." The number of things I love that I should not have is sort of heartbreaking.

I've learned that yes, I have been making bad choices. Even the ones I thought were okay. I've learned how to test my blood sugar at home which does involve that most painful of all medical procedures: a needle stick to the finger (paper cuts coming in a close second). I've learned that the neuropathy in my feet is incurable, but manageable.

And I've learned that I can turn things around.

This is where that carry-over 2018 goal comes in.

Back in October I vowed to be off medication by October 31, 2019.  One year after my diagnosis. I can do it, and it involves a lot of self maintenance and self discipline, a character trait that doesn't come to the party very often.

My method to conquer this condition is not even a little bit groundbreaking. Doctors have been begging us to do it for years. I make it a point to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Some days I don't do much more than bang out 30 minutes on the treadmill. Other days I demand more of myself.

Just like with my new year's resolutions, there are plenty of opportunities to succeed, and just as many to fail.

Either way, I'm doing it. I'm doing something that matters. It counts.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Gift I'm Giving Myself

Photo by Crazy nana on Unsplash
I started writing this post about two weeks ago in the thick of the Christmas holiday. The season seemed to come and go so quickly this year. I don't know if it's because I'm living during daylight hours again after several Christmases of struggling to stay awake, or simply because it's just one of those years when time flies.

Either way, it's all over now. I packed away my Christmas tree, stockings and all the knickknacks scattered around the house. The season of driving past house windows lit with warm twinkling lights is finished for another year.

This is the first time I've put the tree in the window for passersby to see!
I didn't publish the post earlier because I was caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays, and I knew I wanted to devote some serious time to my resolutions this year.

It's no secret that New Year's Day is my favorite holiday, even behind Christmas. I get swept up in the dreamy idea of a fresh start. It's an extremely satisfying feeling for me, whimsical and hopeful. All the ups and downs of 2018 are over and it's time to look ahead to all the possibilities and potential of 2019.

I know each day is a chance to start over, but not every day stands on ceremony quite like January 1. The fireworks and pageantry of midnight, and the quiet stillness that comes the next morning. It's in the air. The newness of it all. Another trip around the sun.

Every year I make many of the same promises to myself: exercise more, eat right, save more. Sometimes my resolutions don't get much more profound. This year, though, I want to be more mindful of these little life contracts.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

So in 2019, my resolution is really more of a gift to myself: better use of my time.

It's a pretty vague resolution, I know, but I do have a small road map of things I want to accomplish this year that ultimately do just that: make better use of my time than sitting around thinking about all the things I want to accomplish.

Topping my list: more road trips.

I scroll through Instagram often, liking other people's pics of far away places, sunsets and vistas. And I think, I have so much of this within half a day's drive of my own front door. But I never make the plan, get in the car and go.  It's sort of a lofty goal, but I am making a sincere effort to get out of town once a month. That's twelve trips. Nothing high dollar, just exploring.

Great Smoky Mountains 2018

Second: improve my photography.

I have actually referred to myself as an amateur photographer once or twice, and I cringe inside, thinking that title is quite an over-sell. I love photography, and can't imagine a better use of my time than working to get better at something I love. My goal is to get into the habit of bringing my fancy camera everywhere I go because taking pictures brings me joy.

Indigo Bunting

Third: Get involved in things that inspire and excite me.

Like many people over the past couple of years, I found myself wondering, "what can I do to make a difference?" I was fortunate to make several new friends in 2018 who inspire me with the ways they touch other people's lives. I aspire to be as committed as they are, and hope to find opportunities to give more of my time to important causes this year.

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

Finally, I vow to write more.

I have been challenged by a friend to blog at least once a week. This is a perfectly reasonable goal. I make no excuses for lagging behind in the posting department. I have good intentions, and with the opportunity to publicly commit to doing better... here I am.

And there they are. The dreams I have for myself in 2019, inspired by life, family, friends and fantastic Instagram posts.

Finding better ways to spend my time in 2019 does not mean each day will be a victory. Some days call for a couch and Law & Order. Other days demand time in the sun. There will be plenty of chances for me to succeed, and just as many to fail.

Bonus resolution: practice self-forgiveness.

It took my a very long time to submit to the idea that goals, people and plans can all change. I used to have the mindset that once I went public with a declaration or sentiment, that was it. To later admit to a differing opinion required backstory, explanation, and some sort of mea culpa.

I'm learning that I am allowed to pivot. I'm learning that some things require no explanation. I'm learning that just because I laid out intentions and goals for myself on January 6, 2018, I do not have to remain committed to ideas or plans that just don't work for me anymore. And that's okay for resolutions and the rest of life stuff, too.

As for my list.. I'll keep you posted.