Why I Love History

Okay, so as many of you know, I love history. It is an intense passion of mine. Getting my degree in history was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. And I am currently looking to pursue graduate study in the subject as well. In particular, I'm interested in French history, specifically the years 1750-1870. I'm really looking forward to getting the chance to pursue my dreams.

In the meantime, I discovered something fascinating. Did you know that there are FREE distance learning courses that you can take online at colleges like Stanford, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, etc.? You don't receive course credit for these classes, so they won't be on your transcript, but the lecture materials are provided online. Several of them even provide video lectures, midterms, finals, essay questions, etc. Now, I know my inner dork is showing, but that's okay lol. If you're interested in looking at some courses, you should google free online classes or free online open courses and get started! For me, this was a great option since I'm thirsty for knowledge. The courses I'm taking are from Yale, Carnegie Mellon, and the Open University in the UK. It is absolutely mind blowing to be able to learn from so many different sources and utilize the knowledge they are offering for free! It's really expanding my horizons and I want to share it with all of you!

Anyway, the whole point of this blog post is to share a poem one of my history professors just shared in class. It really sums up my love for history and my desire to know the who, what, when, where, why...the particulars of history. The poem was written by Bertolt Brecht in 1935. I just wanted to share it with you :-)

"A Worker Reads History"

Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with the names of kings.
Was it kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?

And Babylon, so many times destroyed,
Who built the city up each time?

In which of Lima's houses, 
The city glittering with gold, live those who built it?

In the evening, when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go?

Imperial Rome is full of arcs of triumph.
Who reared them up?

Over whom did all the Caesers triumph?
Byzantium lives in song.
Were all he dwellings palaces?

And even in Atlantis, of the legend,
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.

Young Alexander conquered Indai.
He alone?

Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?

Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet was sunk and destroyed.
Were there no other tears?

Frederick the Great triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?

Each page a victory, at whose expense was the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man.
Who paid the piper?
So many particulars...
So many questions...

And I'm on a mission to dive into the history of it all! The future looks amazingly bright :-)
~Pam ♥

Summertime Blues

So, it's been a LONG time since I've done a blog update but I figured now would be a good time to do so. Life has been pretty interesting this summer...I won't go into details about EVERYTHING, but I'll just say that there's been a good amount of stress. But, instead of writing pages and pages of high stress stories, I'm going to focus on one of the main reasons I hate summer: THE HEAT DOES CRAZY THINGS TO MY SKIN!

Okay, so for those of you who know me, you know that I have a few skin conditions, which go absolutely INSANE in the summertime. With one of my conditions, I break out into hives every time I exercise. Basically, my body responds to the temperature outside and the warming up of my body during exercise as an allergic reaction. I can usually stop this by taking an antihistamine prior to exercising, but in the summertime, it generally doesn't help. It's like, my body is fighting against the heat and losing miserably. Even when I exercise indoors, the hives are unbearable. Also, one of my other conditions causes me to get abscesses due to excessive sweat. And, of course, with it being sooooo hot, there's a lot of sweat to be had.  So, after several visits to my dermatologist, I have had to put off exercising for the summer...so I literally haven't worked out since the beginning of June after my first breakout. It has been pretty lame.

But, there is an upside to this sad tale...I haven't gained any weight!!! I realize that after all this time of trying to be healthy and eat healthy, perhaps I've finally learned what my body needs to prevent weight gain. It's been almost 3 months and I haven't gained any weight. Now, I haven't lost any either which, ya know, isn't all that great. But, I've kept off those 25 lbs, which is what matters most to me. So, even though I haven't been able to work out, my body is still doing just fine. I'm staying in out of the heat. I spend a little extra time walking my dog when it's time for her to go outside, so I get a little bit of exercise. But, I'm looking forward to fall, so I can get back out there and work it out again!

So, thanks for stopping by! Hopefully, my next update won't take 3 months to get around to lol.
 ~Pam ♥

Coping With Injury

Coping with an injury as an athlete is VERY difficult...I know the last time I blogged, I had run my second race and was preparing for my third, which was to be next Saturday. I joined a running club and was soooo pumped about getting the opportunity to train with other women & run a race. My goal was to run a faster 5k by the end of our 10 week clinic.

I was off to a wonderful start, I was motivated & I was pushing myself to get up at least 4 times a week to go run. As a beginning runner, I was doing a combination of walking & running.  And I felt great! The high point for me during my first month was when I stepped on the scale and saw that I had lost a total of 25 lbs!!!!!! I was ecstatic. I just couldn't believe that in a few short months of trying to get healthier, God had worked a miracle in my mindset & my body. I was enjoying my running...and I was getting better! I was ready for race day!

Then, in the 4th week of clinic, I was running with Gaia, my faithful running partner, and I suppose I stepped wrong or pushed myself too hard...I'm not sure what was happening. I just remember a pain shooting up my left leg. I stopped & stretched and decided to walk the rest of the way. When I walked, it felt better. I came home &decided to rest. A few days later, I tried to run again and the pain came back. I spoke with my running coach, and she suggested rest & ice it as well. So, I waited another few days and tried again...the same thing happened.

To make a super long, depressing story short, I had strained a tendon in my left leg. And since I kept trying to get back out & run, I kept re-injuring it. I've never been an athlete, so I didn't really understand what "rest" meant. My leg hurt so bad that I could barely walk at a leisurely pace for longer than a mile. I went from running, losing 25 lbs, & feeling great...to not even being able to power walk. I missed 4 weeks of clinic while trying to get my leg to heal...so I ended up having to drop out because I was so behind. And instead of preparing for my third race, I'm slowly but surely starting to run again. I was so down & hurt when it happened though...I just felt like I had failed myself because of this injury. I was disappointed...and honestly, angry. But, one of the best things I heard during this time was from my running coach's husband. He sent me an encouraging email with a lot of running advice. The best thing he told me was, "The real value is to be able to walk/run forever, not the distance." It meant so much to me when he said that. That is my goal...I want to run forever...I want to enjoy it forever. This pain was only temporary...it almost seems like it happened ages ago today. I'm already getting back out there, I'm just having to encourage myself to try again. 

So, that's my injury story...if you have any encouraging words, they're always appreciated. Thanks for reading :-)

Almost There

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. because I just could not sleep. My nerves were all over the place & my stomach had butterflies. I’ve never even done a 5k, but I was dreaming about what it would be like. When I woke up, my mind was racing. I immediately turned on the weather channel and to my dismay, there was a 70% chance of rain at 8 a.m. when the race started. But I had prepared for that in advance & decided that rain or shine, I was going to keep an open mind. So, I made myself some oatmeal and ate some fruit...but my stomach was in knots, so I couldn’t eat it all. After getting dressed, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “this is it.”

On the way down to Little Rock, I had one of my favorite songs on repeat, “On My Way to You” by Mercy Me. The lyrics were so perfect for what I was about to do.  Almost there, almost where I'm supposed to be. It's not all clear, but you keep showing me. With every step, the more my heart moves to your beat. Just like where I'm headed, there's joy in the journey . Teach me to think like you think. Show me the things that are true. Finish the work you have started in me. As I'm on my way to you. Create in me a pure heart and make me new. Less of me, Jesus more of you. Here I stand, still I'm drawn down to my knees. It's not my strength, but yours that carries me.” So, that’s where my mind was when I pulled into the parking lot for the 5k. There were people stretching & warming up...and I was intimidated...but determined. I kept reminding myself of the old saying, “slow & steady wins the race.” I wouldn’t be the fastest person, but I was determined to cross that finish line. I got help from a fellow 5ker to pin my number on and afterward, I got someone to take a picture for me. I wanted to remember that this was happening...and breathe in every moment.

I began warming up by walking & jogging a few blocks. Then, I found a nice secluded corner to stretch my shins (cause shin splints SUCK) and pray. I just asked God for strength...I was going to need it. As it got closer to 8, a crowd of eager racers started to form. There was so much diversity, from ethnicity to age to height to weight...I saw a little bit of everything. From serious runners, to literally just fun walkers in big, fancy hats. I thought I would feel out of place...but once I was there, in a sea of almost 1,000 people, I found that what many of you who encouraged me throughout this process kept telling me was exactly right. We all were there for the same purpose...to finish. Sure, there were people who also wanted to finish in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place...but everyone still had the common goal of getting across the finish line. I fit right in.

As the time got closer, my heart was beating faster & faster...then the countdown began...10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...and the guns went off. We all took off. There were people flying by me and also people that I was leaving behind. Cameras were flashing and news videos were rolling. I heard a few faithful fans cheering & yelling “good luck!” A few cold raindrops started to fall, but we kept on pushing. After about a half mile, I found my pace & got comfortable. And then...it started happening. The hills. I haven’t trained for hills...heck, I didn’t even realize downtown Little Rock had any hills. Maybe it’s because when I’m in my car, I don’t feel them. They’re not steep, but man, trying to keep pace on them is difficult. My fastest time to complete 3.1 miles during training was 51 minutes 4 seconds. I wanted to at least do that well again...but I just didn’t know how it would work out with it being so cold, wet, & windy...plus the hills...geez, it was rough. I had my phone with me to help me keep time since I don’t have a stopwatch. I was getting all sorts of encouraging texts & phone calls, but I didn’t look at them because I didn’t want to be distracted. There were no ½ mile markers or anything, so every time I felt like I had walked/run close to a mile, I would get anxious...and of course, the mile marker was always further away than I thought. I passed a few people who had raced ahead of me at the beginning...unfortunately, some people had already dropped out. My legs were feeling pretty good by this point and I started my 3rd mile. Then, the pain started...my sides were hurting...and while my body was not cold, my lungs were not happy with the chilly winds & air I was breathing in. My left foot was hurting...and here comes another hill...and then another one. I was in so much pain, but in the distance I could hear the voices of the announcers & cheering fans riding on the wind that was constantly hitting me in the face. I started to remember the words to the song I was listening to. “Almost there...almost where I’m supposed to be. With every step the more my heart moves to your beat. It’s not my strength, but yours that carries me.” I remember praying, “Lord, please let this be over soon...I’m in so much pain...please just let me finish. My strength is fading...but I know your grace is sufficient for me. When I’m weak, you are strong.” I felt tears starting to well up in my eyes...and as I looked at my phone to see the time,  right as I was in pain and praying that God’s strength continue to carry me...right when I was thinking in my mind, “how far away is the finish line? I’m getting closer & closer to the sounds but I can’t see the finish line...” Right at my weakest moment, I felt God’s strength take over. I pressed even harder towards the mark.

I’ll never forget what it was like when I rounded that last corner...and fans were standing around cheering & taking photos. I heard people cheering, “You can do it!” “Go girl!” Then I heard, “And we’ve got Pamela Johnson crossing the finish line folks!” When I crossed that finish line...I just couldn’t believe what had happened. I turned around and saw where I had come from...I thought about the distance we had gone. I thought about the pain I felt during the 3rd mile...and there I was, receiving a medal for finishing my first 5k. People were high-fiving me & volunteers were offering me water, fruit, protein bars, etc. Once again, cameras were flashing. And I had made it. My official time was 49 minutes 30 seconds, which was better than my best training time! I had endured the rain, cold, wind, & hills...and did better than what I had hoped for. When we started, there were almost 1,000 people...but only 753 people finished. And I was one of them.

Later that morning, I looked down & saw a huge red stain on my left shoe...turned out to be blood. I had managed to scratch one of toes during the race. It was a tiny cut, but I had bled profusely. I didn’t even feel it until afterwards. Of course, if you know me, you know this whole ordeal wouldn’t be complete without some kind of injury lol. So, now I’m sitting at home, tired, sore, and with a swollen, bandaged toe...and I am more proud of who I am physically right now than I’ve ever been. Now, that’s what I call success!

“For the race is not given to the swift or the strong...but to those who endure till the end.”

Determined to Finish

Wow...I can't believe it's here so fast! There's only ONE MORE DAY until I take on my first 5k. I can't lie, I'm nervous but I'm also beyond excited. I have all of these questions running through my head like, what will it be like? What if I get cramps in my calf muscles (which has happened to me A LOT)? What if there are hills? What should I eat the morning of? What will I wear? Soooo many questions...but so much excitement. I have been walking 4 days a week now for 2 months & have gotten my 5k to under an hour, which I know isn't super fast by any means at all...but for ME, it's fabulous. It's so amazing to me that literally 3 months ago, if you would have told me that I would be walking a 5k by myself, training 4 times a week, and enjoying the feeling that working out has given me, I would have laughed. I honestly wouldn't have believed you. My life has changed so much since I started working towards this 5k. Every time I would go over a mile, I would complain & say that I was going to quit...now I'm able to comfortably walk 6 miles! This whole experience has been amazing.

When I cross that finish line on Saturday, I will have achieved the biggest fitness accomplishment of my life thus far. One of my close friends & co-worker, Rachel & I made buttons for race weekend. She's walking the half marathon, which I hope to be able to do next year. I made a button that said, "Determined to Finish" and that's my motto for the day. I bought a lightweight poncho because there's a 60% chance of rain on Saturday. Rain or shine, I will be there, ready, excited, nervous, anxious, and determined to finish!

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