About ten years ago, I learned of a program that re-purposes race medals and gives them to children and other patients fighting difficult illnesses. I got it in my head that I would part with my medals in this way, even though some of them have intense personal meaning for me. The clipping from Runners World has lived on, in To Do list after To Do list.
Fast forward to now, when I am in a 30-day De-Clutter Challenge, requiring me to get rid of 456 items from my home this month – more about that another day. Since I can’t even find that clipping now, I found the program online: Medals 4 Mettle.
They take marathon, half-marathon, and triathlon medals only and they describe their program this way:
Medals4Mettle (M4M) is a non-profit organization that facilitates the gifting of marathon, half marathon, and triathlon finishers’ medals. Runners from around the world give their hard earned medals to Medals4Mettle. Our worldwide network of physicians and volunteers then awards these medals attached to a Medals4Mettle ribbon to children and adults fighting debilitating illnesses who might not be able to run a race, but are in a race of their own just to continue to live their life.
As I had planned, for about ten years, I learned to let go and I parted with these medals by capturing their image one last time, before sending them off to do some good:
I didn’t think I needed to learn anything about making scrambled eggs – what is there to learn? But my sister-in-law, Jane, had a lesson for me in the premier edition of Milk Street magazine. Christopher Kimball – until recently of America’s Test Kitchen – contends that we’ve been doing it all wrong, and now I have to agree. His method: use only olive oil, heat it to just smoking, toss in the beaten eggs and watch them PUFF, turn immediately with a soft spatula and cook within seconds. There is a whole scientific explanation of the chemistry, in the recipe. In summary, you are getting big steam from the hot oil.
We did this wrong – not hot enough – and then I did it again and it was beautiful, delicious, and FUN!
I have learned so much since November, and I plan to share much of it here, but the most important thing that I’ve learned is to, whenever possible, to engage with other people directly, rather than only in bulk and online. This means stepping away from Facebook, but not necessarily very far away, as you’ll see here.
For me, this means:
Looking people in the eye, everywhere I go. It turns out that I have a habit of not doing that, and apparently that’s why I never remember who our server is, in restaurants. In public, this gesture is fleeting but it’s a connection, and it feels different.
Trying to focus completely on the people I’m with. We all try to do that, right? I’m working on putting my phone out of sight and silent while I’m with other people – another work in progress.
For friends far away, seeking a more connected connection, which has meant fewer “me too” Facebook replies and more emails, texts, or FB messages or even phone calls, if I have something to say, including Happy Birthday. This has led to more conversations, more connections, some of them quite profound.
For friends and family closer, making the effort to spend time together, in person. Everyone is busy and logistics take work, but this is the deepest joy of my life and it’s worth the effort!
You’re in a race. You see someone in distress. You can’t tell if it’s big problem or a little one. You can’t immediately get in touch with a race organizer or anyone in charge. What do you do? You call 911!
Sally and I wasted so much time and effort before we figured this out, although it seems SO obvious now that we are out of the scene.
We were running in a casual race at a casual pace, so nothing dramatic was going on around us. A young woman took to the side of the road, clearly out of it. We stopped to try to help, eventually drawing a small crowd of equally clueless people. We all did lots of stuff that didn’t help: Sally RAN back to a water stop – the people there were volunteers with no contact with the race organizers and they brought water, which was or wasn’t a good idea. One woman said “Is anyone a nurse?” and another woman trying to help said “I am but that doesn’t mean that I know what she needs!” Eventually, precious minutes later, we said “Dial 911” and someone did.
What were we waiting for? We all had phones. There was an ambulance at the finish line for just this kind of thing – ready for our call. Why were we trying to figure out how to reach them? So what if we are calling a generic call center in town, miles away. They know how to reach the ambulance on site!
I don’t know how this turned out. I just know that an ambulance showed up immediately and we learned an important lesson.
How many of your phone Contacts have photos? Just the people, right? Because that’s what it’s made for, right?
Well, I have learned some more uses for that handy feature:
Membership cards: AAA, museum memberships, whatever is in your wallet! Anything that you need to flash – but not necessarily punch – can be found and displayed from your contacts.
Trail maps: You don’t even need the Contact part of this – just take a photo or screen shot and use it on the trail – but if you’ll ever be on this trail again, why not store it where you will find it.
Glasses or Contact Lens Prescription: Take a photo of the whole page and make it your eye doctor’s contact photo. You’ll always have it with you – who knows where you’ll need it?
Gayl taught me this one: If you come across a locked phone and need to know whose it is, just push the button and ask Siri: “Who am I?” Yes, you’ll look a little nutty – just like you will right now when you try it – but it works!
I went on some fabulous hikes last year. What a great way to be outside in the fresh air, have an adventure, be active, and socialize, all the same time. Oh and eat! The way we do it there is always food and it tastes SO good at the top of any size hill.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned from my hikes.
Dehydration is dangerous, and takes on many forms. On two separate occasions, many years apart (which is my excuse for not learning this the first time… I guess) one member of the hiking party fell apart without the rest of us noticing why. In one case, the hiker sat down with a severe headache and didn’t want to go on. We were lucky enough to be on an AMC-led hike that day and the leader pulled out his extra liter of water and had her drink up. She popped up, refreshed and fine. She had set out on a longer hike than she had in mind, hadn’t brought enough water and she hadn’t felt dehydrated but then again she wasn’t thinking clearly by then.
Flash forward a couple of decades to a longer hike with a group who had prepared all summer. It’s the way down, and one hiker can barely put one foot in front of the other. The park crew comes up to see what we are up to and gives us flashlights because we are hours later than expected and now it’s getting dark. We coax and prod and soothe our friend, but it’s a hard slog for the last two hours. Then we get to the parking lot, she guzzles some water, and she’s fine! How did we miss this? The biggest problem was that she didn’t feel thirsty – and she even had some water left for most of the time. But once dehydration set in, again, she couldn’t think straight. We all missed it, but I hope to never miss this again.
95% of hiking accident happen on the way down. This statistic comes to us from the Monadnock State Park info sheet and it also matches my personal experience. Just think about the idea of stepping up onto something steep compared to stepping down from the same height – I can just feel the difference in stability from here (and I’m sitting in a coffee shop, stepping nowhere at all.) Which brings me to the next lesson:
Hiking poles are the best invention ever. OK maybe not ever. Vaccinations are better. And the wheel is really good. But hiking poles are so great for turning us into stable three or four legged creatures and reducing the impact on our knees and other joints.
All this makes me want to pack some water, grab my poles, and do some hiking! Want to go with me?? Send me a message!
Hi! I missed you all! I have missed sharing what I learned. I’ve been writing down things as I learn them, all along: on little scraps of paper, in notes on my phones, in reminders that I tell Siri to set, all with big intentions of getting back in here to write it up. What I have not yet learned is how to keep this momentum going and keep the blog posts coming. So come along with me, watch this space one more time and we’ll see if it sticks this time.
I have learned that I’m not ready to give up. My greatest blog supporters (also among my greatest life supporters), my two sweet daughters, sometimes remind me that one option is to just let this go, call it a thing that happened and has ended. Not yet. For one reason, the very concept of a Lessons Learned blog keeps my eyes and ears open at a certain level of awareness that I want to keep.
I have also learned how much I love to share what I learn. It’s not like it was when I was in my 40’s, the years of what some of us call Be Me Be Jane University, in which I knew everything and just wanted everyone to do everything my way (also why did any of you even LIKE me then??) Now I know that I don’t really know anything at all, and I want to share the joy of learning as I go and find more and more ways to learn from you.
I learned a new way to make a tough decision. Actually, I learned a new way to find out what you already know. Lava told me this a long time ago and I used a variation of it last night. Here it is: Flip a coin and see how you feel about the result. There’s your answer!
Last night I crowdsourced my exercise decision for this morning: Should I go to spin class, water aerobics, or yoga? I put it out on facebook where thirty friends weighed in. As I watched the voting and read the comments, I realized that although I always love yoga, I really needed a workout and I wanted the answer to be water aerobics. Yoga won the vote. I had committed to go with the results, so I did both!
Next time, I’ll flip a coin. Or maybe ask my friends – it was so cool to hear what they thought – I have so many yogis in my midst! And then I’ll see what I think of the answer.
Why was it so darn important that I got my mom a new phone, and that it worked? Well, of course I want to help her, and of course it didn’t help her to give her a half-working phone, but if you had seen me thrashing around her nursing home room, more frustrated by the minute, when I could have been peacefully visiting her, you’d think I was some kind of crazy person. Even as it was happening, I didn’t know why it was so important. At that point, although she was asking for it, she wasn’t even very interested in using the stupid phone.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that what I was trying to do was to fix the whole situation.
We’d all had a long hard month since the night my mom fell in her apartment, one that had recently included a 911 call, a trip to the the hospital, and now the adventure of rehab. In that time, there was very little that I could DO to fix anything. “Fixing” the problem of providing a phone for my mom took on way too much importance, like it was going to make everything OK. And it really wasn’t.
Fortunately, other people, starting with my mom, are doing the work that will make a difference. The phone is just a nice-to-have, and I’ve learned a little bit about what I can fix, and what I can’t.