R-T-H: Month in Review 10.31

If you are a dreamer, there is nothing like a goal to keep you moving forward every day. It focuses your efforts and keeps you tethered to reality.

Helping you move closer to the vision you have created for yourself. Guiding you to the commitment you made, whether you made it to yourself or to someone else.

The achievement of that goal can be what forces you to move when you don’t want to, or it can convince you to push yourself when you really just want to take it easy and finish quickly. To achieve that goal, you not only need to be able to measure your progress, but you need a deadline.

And my deadline is looming.

Last week, I realized that the 3M Half Marathon that I signed up for in July is only 75 days away, on January 13, 2013.

75 days more days to train.

75 days to get up and out every day to assure that I achieve my goal.

My goal is not to run the race. I have run quite a few halfs in my past. Not a big deal.

My handicap is that I have not run one recently. The last one was the Sarasota Half in February 2011. With proper training, this one should be like getting back on a bicycle. But, again, I don’t just want to get back on the bicycle. I have a more difficult goal.

I want to get back on that bicycle and go faster.

My goal is my time: I want to run this in under 2 hours or fewer.

A half-marathon is 13.1 miles. I ran the Sarasota half 2 hours 4 minutes. To date, that was my personal best on a half. My very first half-marathon – the Rock ‘n Roll Half in San Antonio – I completed in 2 hours 27 minutes.

By January 2013, it will have been nearly 2 years since my body ran 13.1 miles in one stretch.

To achieve this goal will require daily training, both mental and physical.

So, I have added a countdown to my site. I will post my progress in my training every day, even if it is just a one-liner.

Here’s to day 75 and the next 2 months!

For an idea of what it takes to train and prepare for a half-marathon, check out this site!

© 2010-2012 Kimberly Yoss. All rights reserved. No part of this online publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior approval from Kimberly Yoss.

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Spotify As A Creative Outlet

What is your relationship with the music you enjoy listening to? Is it comfortable and dependable, the same artists, the same tunes, all the time? Or is it electric, dynamic, and changing with the scenery and your mood? Is it vinyl or electronic? Mobile or stationary? Does your music affect you or do you affect your music?

I never used to think about any of these. I used to listen to all the same artists, all the same CDs, all the same radio stations playing the same playlists in the same order…over and over again. And it all evoked the same emotions in me…over and over again.

I never realized how boring it was until I became Spotified.

By now, most people have at least heard of Spotify. If you have not, here are some main points:

  • Spotify is a cloud-based music library that was launched last year in the U.S.
  • Since then, there have been a few glitches and complaints about it but mostly it is growing in popularity.
  • By joining Spotify, you can stream to your computer millions of songs from every genre…for free.
  • You can access dozens of Spotify themed radio stations to your phone.
  • You can create and maintain your own playlists and interact with the playlists of your Facebook friends.
  • You can add friends in Spotify, even if they are not on Facebook.

In other words, in regards to music, creativity, and interactive capabilities, Spotify has all of it.

But, like any new idea, I balked at it for awhile. I was blindly happy in my musical cocoon because I didn’t know any better. Even though I was told a new way of listening to music was out there, I was unwilling to try the new way. Give me my CD case and I was happy. Give me my rock radio station and my alternative radio station and I was happy…even if they played the same music every day.

It was something I could depend on.

I was first introduced to Spotify during a weekend road trip. Entertainment during the 12 hours of driving was provided by Spotify playlists. I was instantly enthralled by the huge variety of music. Much of it I had heard before, but not in years. The other part of it I had never heard but it piqued my curiosity.

But I continued in my musical darkness, even when the pinprick of light representing musical freedom and creativity was out there…somewhere.

When I did venture out of my musical cocoon long enough to investigate what Spotify had to offer me, I was pleasantly overwhelmed. At the click of a mouse, I was able to get to all of the music that I loved, and still love, from my youth. Bands like Boston, Billy Joel, Guns ‘N Roses, Aerosmith, Ratt, Def Leppard, and more. That list is exhaustive, but easy and dependable.

From this base, I began to create playlists. I began with one labeled Adrenaline, which included Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ratt, Metallica, Nickelback, Foo Fighters, U2.

I got bored, in a way, and began to venture into other music. Not only music from genres and bands that I have never heard of before, but songs from bands that I have heard of but that never got airtime on mainstream radio.

I am now a fan of bands and artists like Richard Ashcroft, Jason Aldean, Imagine Dragons, David Gray, Matthew West, Easton Corbin.  With the help of artists like this, I created a few more playlists, like Chill and Introspection and Perspective.

As you can see, the pinprick of light was growing. My cocoon was cracking. I was being freed.

I have established a love affair with artists that I have heard of but never truly had the opportunity to experience freely, like Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Dream Theater, Apocalyptica.  Some of the music from these artists ended up in my Dream On playlist.

When I attended Austin City Limits (ACL) recently, I used Spotify to research the line-up. By this method I learned about artists like The Avett Brothers, NEEDTOBREATHE, Noah Gunderson, Royal Teeth, and Moon Duo.

I have used all of this new music to update my five active playlists: an eclectic mix of the old, and the new. None of which would have been probably as cheaply, easily, and quickly as it is with Spotify.

Now, I am completely free; no longer bound by physical media or held at the mercy of the radio stations that only play what they are told to play.

I choose; I create; I listen; I enjoy. I am free.

I highly recommend Spotify to anyone who is bored with their current music and is interested in expanding their old musical tastes in new ways. Who wishes to experiment with music and engage their creativity.

I guarantee that for the open-minded and curious, Spotify will not disappoint.

 

© 2010-2012 Kimberly Yoss. All rights reserved. No part of this online publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior approval from Kimberly Yoss.

Image of Austin

Swan Lake? Nope…just a tranquil swan enjoying the early evening peace of Lady Bird Lake.

© 2010-2012 Kimberly Bluth or Kimberly Yoss. All rights reserved. No part of this online publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior approval from Kimberly Yoss (Bluth).

Election 2012 Part 1: My Spin on My Apathy

Are you feeling apathetic about the upcoming election? The candidates, their platforms, their tactics, the debates, the general process?

If you are not, my hat goes off to you (if I were wearing a hat). You are a better person than I am.

I hate to even write this, but I am feeling apathetic. In fact, I gave up on our political process years ago.

I am not the only one. It is a well-known fact that since 1968, voter turnout in general elections has declined by almost 10%. In presidential election years, 20% more voters actually show up and vote over the every-two year congressional elections. This means that 20% fewer of registered voters think enough about electing their congressional leaders to actually get out and vote. Check out the URL link to the chart.

There are many myths and perspectives on these numbers. It can be spun quite a few ways. I liked some of the points from the Cato Institute, even though their analysis is almost 10 years old. Here is another URL that you might find of interest if you want to investigate the issue further: http://www.fairvote.org/voter-turnout.

For me, I believe it started in or around the 2008 Presidential election. At that time, I considered myself a Republican. I was convinced that its platform and delivery represented what was best for me, my family, and the nation as a whole.

Was it perfect and complete? By no means. The Democrat platform covered issues that the Republicans turned their backs on, and vice-versa; these were issues that, in relation to my perspective at that time in my life, were important but not show-stoppers. Indeed, the fact that they were even wasting air time was a nuisance.

I used to do my homework, too.

  • I listened to the news daily.
  • I regularly read several blog sites and political websites.
  • I kept up on the fine nuances of many of the issues.
  • I knew and could debate the spin on those issues.
  • I Googled.
  • I nodded my head along with the Sunday morning ‘talking heads’ on shows like Fox News and Meet the Press.
  • I could tell you the names of many of those ‘talking heads’.
  • I yelled in outrage at the T.V. when anyone said something that I didn’t agree with.
  • I voted in every general election, and most congressional elections. But, unless these coincided with a local election, I did not make an attempt to vote in the local elections.

Sometime during the run-up to the 2008 election, though, my resolve faltered. Everything I heard, even from my beloved Republican party, was a lie. The media spin was not only a lie, but confusing. I got to the point where I couldn’t recover from the spin, couldn’t wade through the lies fast enough to form a solid opinion. The right and wrong of the issues became blurred in my head.

I found myself following the party line, voting for the candidates because they were Republican. I was not cognizant anymore of what the issues were or how the candidates stood on those issues; I began making assumptions that sounded something like, “he’s Republican, so he must think and believe what I believe.”

I got lazy. And then I proceeded to vote blindly. No research, no knowledge, no opinion. Straight party ticket.

When things get blurry like that, I need to step back so I can get the big picture.

Fast forward to present time. Presidential election 2012.

Things are not as blurry as they were four years ago. The reason for this is because I am now completely convinced that they are all liars and spin doctors. The politicians, the media, the government. But the lying and the spin is equal opportunity, color blind. It sees no boundaries between Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal. It doesn’t recognize green, black, or off-white. Probably the only instance in our American society that is NOT truly color blind.  

So why are we still pretending that we don’t see it? Why are we still getting wrapped up in debates that we know are fixed? Why do we feel so compelled to argue about issues that we know deep inside will not get resolved to our liking, nor even get solved for the good of the whole, even though our candidate of choice assures us from the podium that he is the one to do it? Why are we still convinced that the president is the only one who matters, when in reality Congress is more powerful? Why are we still believing that the popular vote can change anything at the presidential level when it really is the Electoral College that elects the president?

Because we are human and it is in our nature to be concerned?

Because we are good citizens and it is our civic duty to speak up? To vote?

Probably a combination of both, and more.

But, from here going forward I plan to change that. I realized that what has gone away in our so-called ‘democracy’ is ‘democracy’. We are not by and for the people; we are by and for the people who can swing the vote in a two-party boxing ring.

How does that get changed? I think it has to happen at the grassroots level.

Tune in later this week for Part 2 of Election 2012: My Spin….

© 2010-2012 Kimberly Bluth or Kimberly Yoss. All rights reserved. No part of this online publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior approval from Kimberly Yoss (Bluth).

The Apathy at The End

What do you do with a situation that simply cannot be changed? A person who simply will not be moved? No matter what the situation or who the person. That person might even be yourself.

You have tried, cajoled, relented, persuaded, prayed, pleaded, reminded, relaxed, re-grouped, prayed, re-analyzed, adapted, dreamed, prayed…and nothing.

The thought of it begins to make you physically sick. The mere image of that person causes you to cringe.

You cringe in fear, at first. You fear the pieces of you that you will give up next, where else you will turn to make it work this time, what other rationale you will use to talk yourself into getting through the next encounter. Each time you give one of these pieces, you get to a point where you start to feel the chips and the widdles.

And you wonder what shape you will be in at the end of it all. Like a piece of pottery on the wheel or the sculptor’s clay. Except, you hope that at the end, you will be a piece of art that someone will admire and want. Polished, refined, beautiful.

But, you think not because some of those gouges are large, and they hurt too much as they were coming out. You can see them as plain as day and you wonder if you will be able to hide them by turning this way or that.

You fear that you have failed the other person. That maybe there was a different way you could have approached something, a better word to say, stayed silent that last time instead of speaking your mind.

After a time, the fear turns into a certain indifference, an apathy. Where before you cared too much, now you care too little. You are indifferent because all the other emotions hurt too much, continue to hurt too much.

The pain of what is happening, the pain of what it is doing to you, the pain of feeling powerless, the pain of the vision at the end.

You want to care, to take action, one more time. But, deep inside you know that you have done all you can do. You care only on the inside…deep on the inside.

This is where, I believe, the negative connotation of apathy parts ways with hope and the will of God. Because, apathy and indifference are normally used in a pejorative sense. Apathy is not good.

But, is it OK if it comes after you have done everything any human can do? I think so.

You may wonder where God is. As a believer, I question neither where He is nor whether He is; but, I always ask Him what I must do to follow His plan. Do I stay or do I go?

In my experience, it is when this phase begins to set in that I know I am close to God’s plan. I have done and tried everything, even by changing and adapting myself. It is His sign to me to give it back to Him.

As I turn my back and walk away, I pray that I have done everything in my power to do His will. I pray that in turning away, I fulfilled and satisfied His need for me in the situation, or the life of the person with whom I struggle. Or maybe even His plan for shaping and molding me…because, realistically, He is working on both issues. He is multi-tasking.

I have personally experienced several of these situations in my life. And I know my journey is not done.

I only pray that in the end, just like a piece of pottery, that I will be what He intended and that I will have done His will.

© 2010-2012 Kimberly Bluth or Kimberly Yoss. All rights reserved. No part of this online publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior approval from Kimberly Yoss (Bluth).

Plutocracy

I haven’t done a Words Unveiled post in at least a week. I guess I was at a loss for words to unveil that would be worth reading about.

Luckily, I came across one today in the most unlikely place. I was at the gym, lifting weights, transferring my attention between two TVs: one was broadcasting the Texans-Ravens game and the other was showing a generic news program with the generic ‘talking political heads’ discussing the economy. The footer on the screen indicated that the ‘talking head’ on the screen at that time was a woman who had recently written a book about plutocracy.

That got my attention away from the football game (easy at that point because the Texans were blitzing the Ravens). I didn’t really have to worry too much about missing anything; it was late in the 3rd quarter, with a 30-point spread. Texans were guaranteed a win no matter what the Ravens brought on.

So, like it or not, today’s word is plutocracy.

What is plutocracy? The mini-blurb on the footer of the news program show defined it this way: when the super-rich edge everybody else out of the economy. The middle class becomes marginalized financially. Or something like that.

That definition screamed at me for more research at the same time that it reminded me, painfully, of how few basics from college history and political science that I actually remember.  

Ouch! So, I hit up Google.

Wikipedia confirmed the basic definition, and in a more concise manner:

Plutocracy is “rule by the wealthy.”

Basically, if you have money…a lot of it…you can sway politics.

Here are some facts to think about:

  • It is not rooted in a political philosophy. This means that it can happen in any political system or environment. Democrat, Republican, Socialist, Communist, Independent…everyone is welcome. Just bring your checkbook.
  • It is usually referred to in a pejorative sense. This means that it is not a compliment when someone refers to you or your political leanings as ‘plutocratic’.
  • Endorsing it, or even tolerating it, can lead to class conflict, ignoring social responsibilities, and corruption by greed.
  • Examples of historical plutocracies include the Roman Empire, certain city-states of Ancient Greece, and pre-World War II Japan.
  • Modern plutocracy is alive and growing. Whether through PACs, corporations, or wealthy private investors, any money can sway decisions and influence policy.

I guarantee I will be reading Chrystia Freeland’s book Plutocracy: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. It won’t happen for awhile, because there are a few good reads ahead of hers. But, who knows, I might juggle the list if only to find out how far I have really fallen in the political sphere of influence and how much my one vote truly does NOT count in the current state of democracy in America.

© 2010-2012 Kimberly Bluth or Kimberly Yoss. All rights reserved. No part of this online publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior approval from Kimberly Yoss (Bluth).

Middle Aged Body

In the middle of a 20 mile cycle not too long ago, a scary thought struck me. Blindsided me, actually.

What will happen to me ~ my body, my mind, my mood, my soul ~ when my aging body can no longer support my daily exercise? In simple words….when I get old.

That is a loaded question, isn’t it?

It reaks of fear and it echoes the assumptions established by our society that after a certain age, when a certain set of physical characteristics take hold (like wrinkles and loss of hearing), I will no longer have the ability to do what I want to do.

It assumes that “my” body will degrade after a certain point. And that rate will be normal. But what’s “normal”? And, for that matter, what is “old”? Those are subjective observations. Opinions. Possibly even judgements.

I certainly don’t feel my age by any stretch of my imagination, even though my kids call me old and, when I used to teach, I would use my age as a joke to break the ice in a roomful of teenagers.

Even over the past six months, as I have donned reading glasses and have to ask people to repeat things more frequently, I don’t look as old as I am, or at least that’s what most people tell me. Based on that then, it might mean that I have an extra ten years before I get to “normal”. It is a fact that aging is accompanied by decrease in muscle size, destabilization of bone structure, and tightening of ligaments and tendons. However, it is also known that those who start exercising relatively early in life and continue to do so into the later adult years can slow down that natural aging process.

And what about the impact of good diet and nutrition, which many times are in tandem with the athletic mindset? Furthermore, genetics and overall demeanor. These must all play a factor, somehow, I hope. Like I said, maybe I am not “normal”.

Let’s assume for argument sake that I can keep up with this routine for another five, hopefully ten, or so years. After all, when you have athletes like Jack LaLane (remember him, is he even still alive?), Lance Armstrong, Brett Favre, et.al. setting the standard, it is kind of hard to sit back and use the excuse that I’m getting too old for this. Every race I have been to has tons of “old” people, gray hair, wrinkles and the like, running. This includes the half-mari’s that I have run.

As you can see, there is a precedent for the aging body continuing to do its thing well into “old” age. So, somewhere between 50 and 75 my physical ability will decrease. I can probably count on slowing down, so instead of a 9:10 mile I will have to settle for a 15:00+ mile. OK, I guess I can handle that, as long as I still have a choice to run, or not to run.

Maybe that is the key there: choice. I want to retain my ability to choose.

I don’t want that wrenched from me because of an aging body.

OK, so with luck, as I age, I will figure out “other ways” to cope without the intense exercise. But what ways?

I know I use exercise as a pacifier now. Sure, it helps me keep in shape, better shape than I have been in my entire life. This, in turn, helps me feel good about myself in general. But, more than all the surface-level results, it calms my thoughts, my moods, my very soul. If I go more than three days without it, the fog creeps in, making me dark and gloomy. My muscles ache more than usual. I start bingeing on foods that under normal conditions I would never consider ingesting. When I have a physical goal I am striving for, whether it is six mile slow run early on a Sunday morning or training for a half-marathon three months down the road, I feel at peace with myself. I feel productive, effective, and serene all at the same time. It’s almost like my physical activity, the little and big challenges in that arena that I overcome every time I set a goal for myself, is an element of me that would be painful to lose at any cost. And, like a severed limb, would continue to ache even in its absence.

This is my fear.

If I get to 75 and have to give up the extreme sports, like skiing and cycling and running and weight lifting (OK maybe not swimming because I don’t particularly like swimming to begin with), what would I replace those with? Shuffleboard, bingo, walking. My mind reels. I hope by then I will have lost the inner need for the intense physical activity. Every “older” person I know seems to have reached and confirmed this eventuality. But, if that is what it means to get “old”, I don’t want any part of it.

I will try to hold it off as long as I can. I will thoroughly enjoy every minute that I have using my body, aging or not. I vow to come somewhere between beating it into the ground and pampering it for fear of injury. I don’t want to get to that magic “old” age, whatever that number may be, and be sorry that I didn’t try and do everything that I could before I lost my ability to choose.

At that point, it will all be too late.

Here’s to keeping it active for as long as possible.

© 2010-2012 Kimberly Bluth or Kimberly Yoss. All rights reserved. No part of this online publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior approval from Kimberly Yoss (Bluth).