Confirmation


I actually wrote this on February 12, 2010. I was going through old drafts that I never finished or posted. This is one of them.

February 12, 2010

My son Adam was confirmed today. And I recalled many things past and present about being Roman Catholic.

The holy sacrament of Confirmation is usually the fourth sacrament that a Roman Catholic receives. A Christian baby is baptized soon after birth and then around the age of eight makes his or her Confession and receives his or her First Holy Communion. Then around age twelve or thirteen, usually, he or she makes a conscious decision to denounce Satan and become a Christian, unlike Baptism where an innocent baby has no choice but to be baptized a Catholic.

I am a Roman Catholic (or just plain Catholic). There were times in the past when I told people that I was an ex-Catholic or a lapsed Catholic. I was once hospitalized at St. Anthony’s Hospital and when I was asked my religion I said, “Catholic” just out of guilt. A Catholic priest then came to visit me everyday. I told him that I wasn’t sure if I was still Catholic and he told me that it was normal to doubt. Now, whenever someone asks me my religion, I say I’m Catholic. If I think about Catholicism very objectively, I realize that, once you go through all of my religious training, I will always be a Catholic and never an ex- or lapsed Catholic. That would be the equivalent of saying, “I used to be Mexican.”

Today, I tried to compare Adam’s confirmation to mine. But I couldn’t remember my confirmation because I was baptized in México when I was about two months old. When it came time for my class to get confirmed at Holy Cross, my mother told me that I was already confirmed. That was news to me! Whenever we had confirmation classes, Sister Cecilia would just look at me with disdain and shake her head. She couldn’t understand how Mexicans could confirm babies. That was so contradictory to the whole concept of confirming that one voluntarily and willingly wanted to be a Catholic. Well, I was an outsider during the whole confirmation process. I had to go to the Confirmation, but I couldn’t sit with the class because I wasn’t getting confirmed. I didn’t feel very Catholic that day. Or today when I tried to compare my confirmation with my son’s.

I was happy for my son, but this was an awkward day for me. Since the divorce, we no longer celebrate anything as a family. But such is life.

Haircuts


“Did you get a haircut?
“No, I got them all cut!”

Photo by Mati Mango on Pexels.com

I have been getting haircuts my entire life. For as long as I can remember. I’m sure I even got haircuts before I could remember them. My mom was my first barber. I am reminded of my haircuts now, because I just got a haircut.

Most of my barbers have been Italian, except for my mom, of course. I had two Italian barbers who were both named Aldo of Italy. I patronized both for about ten years each. My next Italian barber was at UIC, but I cannot recall his name right now. My present barber is Vincenzo who has an enthusiastic sense of humor. My mother’s name is Carmen, and although she’s not an Italian barber, she does have an Italian name–except in Italian, it’s a man’s name.

I found my barber Vincenzo because of my present wife Beata, who also is not an Italian barber, nor does she have an Italian name. I was complaining to Beata about the long wait at the UIC barber shop because the two older barbers had retired and the youngest barber, but not so young anymore, told me after he hired a couple of twenty-something barbers, “I remember when I was the kid of the barbershop!” Tempus fugit!

Anyway, my wife has a half-Yorkie, half-Shi-Tzu dog named Pluto that needs regular haircuts at the dog groomer. So, one day, she comes home after dropping Pluto at the groomer and tells me, “I found a new barber for you!” The barbershop was right next door to the dog groomer. Since I didn’t like the wait at the barbershop at UIC, I went longer intervals without haircuts, which annoyed my wife because she liked me better when my hair was short.

The next time Pluto needed to be groomed, Beata took Pluto and me for a ride. We dropped Pluto off at the groomer and then she walked me next door to the barbershop. This was a real barbershop, a man’s barbershop for the macho he-man. Vincenzo didn’t introduce himself to me, nor did I. He swept his open palm invitingly to the barber chair where I sat down. My wife sat right across from me, as if I would try to bolt out before getting my unwanted haircut. Vincenzo asked me, “How do you want your haircut?” I pointed to my wife and said, “You have to please my wife.” Without missing a beat, Vincenzo said, “No! You have to please your wife!”

My wife laughed, I laughed. Vincenzo laughed. Vincenzo has been my barber ever since.

Warming up


Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

The first step is always the hardest. That applies to just about everything in life. Some days, starting a run is extremely difficult. Some days, I have trouble putting on my running clothes and getting out the door. But once I’m outside and I start running, I know I will complete my run. Once I warm up, that is.

Warming up is very important to me. I never stretch before a run like I once did. I reached an age when the warm up alone seemed so tedious that I didn’t want to run afterwards. So, now I never stretch before a run, but rather start out running slowly and gradually settle into my normal running pace. I usually warm up after a mile or two, depending on many factors. But once I’m warmed up, my run is very enjoyable.

When I was younger and I was running a weekly twenty-miler for marathon training, I didn’t always have the motivation to go out and run that long run. Some days, I would feel like quitting at six miles, but I would tell myself that I had to finish my long run if I wanted to improve my marathon time. Amazingly, I could will myself to keep running and then a few miles later I would pick up the pace. Honestly, before I even began some of those long runs, I didn’t think i would finish them. On a few occasions, I felt so good that I ran twenty-six miles. And I could have kept running on those days, but I didn’t want to overtrain.

Over this past winter, I had a few days when it was extremely cold and snowy that I wanted to quit even before I ran the first mile. But, I recalled my youthful determination and willed myself to keep running, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, until I ran nine miles. All I had to do was warm up. Once I was warmed up, running was easy. Well, maybe not easy, but easier.

Warming up also applies to other things I do. For example, I didn’t feel like writing a blog post this morning, but I would not have felt good about it. So, I started putting one word in front of the other until I reached the end. Once I was warmed up, I finished this post.

And now it’s time for me to go running. I hope I warm up quickly.

Sightseeing


Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Yesterday, I had a good run. It was the easiest run, but I was sightseeing while running. I always sees new things when I run and that’s why I enjoying running without the distraction of listening to music. Running through Glen Ellyn is very interesting because of the old buildings from the 1800s. I enjoy looking at the expansive mansions and fantasize about what it would have been like living there. Or what it would have been like living in that era.

Yesterday, when I had to wait for red light at Main Street and St. Charles, I decided to check out Stacy’s Tavern. I always run past it, but I never really saw it until yesterday. Just by chance, I saw that the museum for Stacy’s tavern would be open that day from 1:30 to 4:30. So I returned later that afternoon for a visit. I really enjoyed the guided tour. I also felt grateful to live in our present age with all the modern conveniences.

Well, I’m off to run and see what new sights are in store for me today.

Treadmill


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One thing I hate more than running laps is running on a treadmill. I had always been curious about treadmills and stationary bicycles. For the longest time, I thought I would be interested in riding a stationary bike during the winter when I didn’t want to run in the snow and ice. It would be nice, I thought, to get an aerobic workout without braving extreme winter weather. I often thought about buying a stationary bicycle until I heard about treadmills. Then, I wondered what it would be like to run on a treadmill indoors instead of running through the snow, slush, and ice on a wintry day. I suppose I could have joined a health club instead of buying a stationary bicycle or a treadmill, but somehow, I thought I would use the stationary bicycle or treadmill if I owned one.

The more I ran outdoors, the less I thought about buying either apparatus. I hate the repetitiveness of running laps because I keep seeing the same scenery repetitively. However, running and cycling in one place would be even worse because of the lack of change of scenery. But I never actually ran or cycled in one place.

A few years back when I was in México, my cousin suggested that I go to the health club with her. I have never been a fan of health clubs, but I was curious to see what a health club in México was like, so I went with her. Well, it didn’t look much different than a health club in Illinois or California. Anyway, I decided to run on the treadmill just to finally see what it’s like to run a treadmill. I had not run for about a month prior because of constant pain in my right foot, so I wasn’t sure how fast or how long I could run, but I was running alongside my cousin Jaqueline. She was happy that she didn’t have to miss her workout on account of my visit. I told her I could handle running even though I had not run recently.

So, I felt a little pressure to show her that I was a real runner. I set a goal of running for thirty minutes, which I was confident I could complete. We were able to watch TV while we ran. It had never occurred to me before to watch TV while I ran. I don’t even listen to music when I run.

Well, running on a treadmill did not seem like real running to me. I jumped in the air and the belt beneath me moved my foot back. So, I was running without going anywhere. It seemed absurd to me. I sped up the belt slowly, but it still didn’t feel like real running. My cousin was enjoying her workout. She kept asking me how I liked it and I would just say it was great and smile back at her. Then I thought of increasing the incline that is supposed to simulate hills. Well, running on a steeply inclined treadmill is nothing like running hills. All I had to do was raise my foot a little higher and the belt would move it backwards. When I run up a hill, I can feel my legs carrying my entire body weight up the hill, not so with the treadmill.

Well, I managed to run for thirty minutes comfortably, but I didn’t feel like I really exerted myself very much. The pain in my right foot didn’t bother me at all. After that, I lost all desire to buy a treadmill. I’ll just stick to running on the road and running hills without watching TV or listening to music. Well, I must run now.

Running laps


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Ideally, I enjoy running one, and only, one lap. However, running is seldom ideal and occasionally we must run more than one lap. Last summer, I found my ideal running course, ideal for me, anyway. About nine miles with gently rolling hills and enough variety in scenery to keep my run interesting. I saw and greeted enough runners on this course to make me feel like I was running with someone else. This course was perfect for me! Especially since it was only one lap long!

However, during the fall, the days became shorter, and darkness covered the course much earlier than I would have liked. The first few runs of shortened daylight, I ended my run in darkness. When I lived in Chicago, this wasn’t a problem because of the streetlights. However, in Glendale Heights and Glen Ellyn, there were no streetlights anywhere except downtown. I was running in the dark. And I could barely see where I was running. I was also blinded by the headlights of oncoming cars. I had to adjust my starting time so I could finish my run by dusk when I could still see.

Then in addition to the shortened days, I also had to contend with one of the wintriest winters of my life. The first snowfall, I was able to run my usual course as the snow was fluffy and fun to run in. However, as the snow melted and refroze into ice, it became a slippery hazard, especially on the downhills. The first time I encountered an icy downhill, I re-pulled my already pulled left hamstring. I had only run about a quarter mile, but I had to limp back home at a slow trot, even slower than my already slow pace. I was able to run my course a few more times until repeated snowstorms struck. Not only was my running course dark by 4:30 P.M., but it was also at least ankle-deep in snow in ice in most places. Not everyone shoveled their sidewalks.

I was just getting into the groove of running, so I didn’t want to slow down during the winter. Before I started running this nine-mile course, I was running laps around our housing complex. Each lap was about 0.9 of a mile. I ran five laps as many times per week as my body would allow for 4.5 miles. I’m quite sure the lap was 0.9 of a mile because I measured it with my iPhone 2, my car, my Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and my car again just to confirm the distance. So, I was sure I was running 0.9 of a mile with each lap. And the reason I was running laps in our complex was that I lacked the self-confidence to go out and run on an out-and-back course. I was afraid I wouldn’t have the endurance to finish, and I would be stranded miles from home.

Anyway, once the snow and ice accumulated on my running course, I began running laps again, out of necessity. What I hate about running laps is that they’re repetitive, but because they’re repetitive, I also find comfort in running laps. Despite the snow and ice outside of our complex, snowplows cleared the street of our housing complex, and the street was salted so I had a good running surface on most days. I ran ten laps on most days last winter. I didn’t run on the coldest day of the year because my wife was told she didn’t have to go to work because of the extreme cold and so she was home to forbid me from exiting our front door. Otherwise, I would have run that day, too. Don’t get me wrong, but I enjoyed not having to brave the elements that day. Thank you, wife! Especially, for the hot chocolate you made me that day.

One thing I learned from running laps is that life is also about running laps. We do many things repeatedly in life and running. In running, it’s left foot, right foot, repeat. And I keep repeating putting one foot in front of the other until I finish running my desired distance. Or, until I can’t run any longer, for whatever reason, extreme weather, or lack of desire or endurance. In life, we repeat many things such as education: grade school, high school, college, graduate school. I have run many laps in my life, in many different areas, but it’s all repetition. I choose to enjoy the repetition of these laps because of the comfort they provide. I enjoy the comfort of life’s laps.

However, when I run, I still prefer to run only one lap!

Schedule


In order for me to run regularly, I have to schedule everything around my run. My daily run determines what time I go to bed, what time I wake up, and when I eat. All these activities revolve around my run. Since I run about nine miles per day, I have to time my meals so they don’t adversely affect my run. I can’t eat a full meal and then decide to go out and run nine miles. I have to prep my body in order to run and fully enjoy my run.

My preferred time to run is early in the morning, usually after I wake up and drink some black coffee. With no cream or sugar, which would change my blood sugar and negatively impact my running. I know that if I eat and drink too soon before a run, I feel a little dizzy and my legs feel heavy, like lead. Running with a full stomach slows me down now, although when I was younger, I could occasionally run on a full stomach. Now, I prefer to eat dinner in the evening, have a light snack before going to bed, and then wake up in the morning early to have a cup or two of black coffee. Somehow coffee helps me run. Not only is it a stimulant, but it’s also a diuretic, which helps avoid logistics problems on the run. And you know exactly what I mean if you’re a runner. Only then, after following my morning ritual, do I feel ready to run.

Lately, I’ve decided, since I’m on summer vacation from teaching, to wake up, drink coffee, write a blog post, and then run. So far it’s working out well. During the academic year, I usually run after school, but running in the morning is better for me because then I feel as if I have the rest of the day for myself. Working a full-time job really takes up much of my day, so I enjoy my summer vacations!

Well, I finished my coffee and this post. I’m off on my run!

Miles, not calories


I count miles, not calories. I’m into running, not dieting. Many people are obsessed by the number of calories they eat when they should be exercising more. Now I’m not one to preach about the benefits of any form of exercise, but people always seem to know the exact number of calories I’m about to consume when I raise a soft drink to my mouth or get ready to order junk food.

Lately, people have been asking me how I lost so much weight. I dropped about thirty pounds and went from a 36-inch waist to a 32-inch waist. They’re disappointed when I tell them that I run about nine miles almost every day. They either don’t have time to run or they have a back injury or bad knees that prevent them from running. I don’t have time to run, either, but I make time to run because I enjoy the physical exercise and the time for ruminating about my daily activities. I work out some of my daily problems and plan my day while running. When I don’t run, I feel as if I’m missing out on something vital. Yes, eat, breathe, sleep, run. They’re all very important. And just as important, reading, writing, running.

And in order to keep running, I eat fruits and vegetables everyday. Every morning, I eat a banana, an apple, and an orange. I also enjoy eating a granola bar and a yogurt in the morning. I’m not happy unless I eat three pieces of fruit everyday. I also eat peanuts and/or pistachios everyday. I love eating peanuts and pistachios! I used to work in a peanut butter factory and I could eat all the peanuts I wanted. And I enjoy drinking orange juice, the pulpy kind. I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, but I like going without meat on some days. I once tried being a vegetarian, but I only lasted about a month before I began craving meat, any kind of meat. I guess deep down inside, I’m a carnivore!

My daily goals are to run as much as possible each day, or at least walk a mile or two, and eat some healthy food before I eat all the other junk food and sweets that I crave and can’t seem to live without. Overall, I feel good, but people I shocked that I run so much and by some of the things I eat. Well, I’m not here to please others. I want to enjoy my life. I can only please others or please myself. I choose me!

Form


Very few runners think of form when running. Form is the last thing I think about when I run. However, form is what makes running easier or more difficult. Once upon a time, I focused on improving my running form. I found it very difficult. Basically, I mainly focused on landing on the balls of my feet, keeping my body facing forward, and swinging my arms with as little motion as possible. This helped me conserve energy, which was very practical when I was training for the marathon.

When I first started running races, I noticed that my arms ached. I found it ironic that my arms would hurt while running. So, I started lifting weights to increase my upper body strength and that improved my arm motion while running. My favorite exercise was swinging dumbbells in the same motion as my arm movement while running. I started out with light weights until I could swing thirty pounds or so on each arm, I don’t remember the exact weight. Whenever I tired during a race, I would visualize how difficult it was to swing my arms swinging the weights and my running would become easier.

As far as shifting my foot strike from my heel to my forefoot, I can only do it when I focus on my foot strike. I tried when I was younger, but I always reverted to my natural form. When I feel fatigue while running, my body seems to go into some sort of protective mode that causes me to run more efficiently. If I try to focus on my running form too much, I feel as if I will not finish my run. When I’m tired and I don’t feel like running another step, I focus on lifting my knees a little higher. That seems to help, but I can only do it for a half-mile or so. But it is a refreshing respite.

I have heard of runners taking classes to improve there running form. I would never take a class like that, because I never really entirely listened to my coaches’ advice. I would accept what seemed appealing to me and reject the rest. As far as developing form, I think all those high-mileage weeks developed my form more than all my other efforts to improve it. My body naturally developed an efficient form that preserved energy and protected me from injuries.

I started out by focusing on form and improving it, but now, I don’t worry about form at all and worry more about getting from point A to point B. After all, finishing is more important than how I got there.

Aches and pains


I have always had aches and pains throughout my body. Perhaps it’s only one ache and/or pain that travels around in my body. Occasionally, I feel a pain and/or ache in two different parts of my body. I have felt them since I was little. And I never take aspirin or pain killers for them. Enduring the pain makes me tougher. Or, at least it makes me feel tougher.

Last year, after I increased my mileage, I felt a constant sharp twinge in my lower abdomen right above the crease of my right leg where my lower abdomen and leg meet. I felt the pain every morning while I awoke and when I attempted to get myself out of bed. The pain was excruciating. I felt it for about a month. I had felt this pain eight years before along with extreme back pain that made it a challenge to get out of bed. At that time, I felt as if I would die soon, but I didn’t go to the doctor. However, I could still go running because the pain would subside after about the first mile. I always feel that whatever is ailing me can’t be very serious if I can still go running.

This time, I only had the abdominal pain by itself and the pain would subside once I was running. I would only feel the pain during the day when I thought about it. And when I laughed. Yes, it only hurt when I laughed. However, I decided to go to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t something serious since I felt the pain for about a month. I was sure I was dying of something! Well, the doctor examined me and told me he couldn’t find anything seriously wrong with me. It was probably just muscle strain and that I shouldn’t worry about. Easy for him to say!

As I said before, I have always felt aches and pains my entire life. I have grown accustomed to them and I rarely go to the doctor for them. Luckily, I haven’t seriously injured myself by running so much.  Something always hurts me when I run. And whatever hurts me usually hurts me for a year or two and then something else hurts me for a year or two. I’m not so sure these pains have anything to do with running or any other physical activity. They come and they go. I have learned to accept them.

No pain, no gain. Mind over matter. If don’t mind, it don’t matter.