WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

August 29, 2013

WordFood to Fool Ourselves

The State of Colorado is one of the most gorgeous in the lower 48, and among our great gifts are the fourteeners, the many fourteen thousand foot mountain peaks that dot our landscape. These magnificent mountains provide terrific opportunities for tourists and those of us who live here to enjoy the high country, whether we’re out for a day hike or pushing ourselves hard for training.

Lately, after a long time away from hiking, I’ve dug into my basement and pulled out all my gear, added some cool stuff to update my collection, and started a weekly program of one big hike a week in the high country, usually midweek, such as a Wednesday or Thursday. Since I’m training for Mt. Kilimanjaro, this is a serious practice because the only way to get ready for a long hike is to, well, hike. That means breaking in your boots (absolutely positively of the utmost importance) getting familiar with your water supply system, learning what works and what doesn’t, finding out how often you need to replenish your body on a long hike.

These hikes have been instructive. Those of us who have lived here a long time all know that going up into the high country means being prepared for anything at altitude. That means absolutely anything, any time of year. Ask any resident who’s been caught up  high in a t-shirt in a snowstorm, in flip flops, and been intensely grateful that another seasoned hiker had enough gear to save his life. He was sure it was going to be a a beautiful day all day based on the morning’s weather. Sure.

So last week I was on my first hike up Gray’s Peak. I parked at I-70 and climbed the road to the parking lot. The point is to hike the miles, not necessarily to summit. By the time I made the parking lot, it was about 10 am. After a food and bathroom break, I noted the gathering clouds, and figured I had about an hour of hiking before I’d have to turn back. Sure enough, I made it to the sign that said I had 2.7 miles to the summit, and the clouds really started to gather.  There I picked my break rock for lunch, a big bottle of chocolate milk, and decided to head back.

As I made my way down I passed two couples. Couple number one was college kids. Tank tops, no backpack, flip flops, short shorts. I pointed upwards and said kindly, “Might want to watch the clouds.” The young man snapped at me, “Nothing’s going to happen for another two hours!” O-kay. Next I passed an Asian couple, similarly dressed. Said the same thing, politely pointed at the sky, they just looked at me like I was a dolt.

About half an hour later I barely made it under the  lip of the ladies’ bathroom in the parking lot to avoid the pouring rain, hail and snow that was pounding the trail and everyone’s cars- and those two couples up the hill 60 minutes up the mountain. I took out my down vest, my rain pants and jacket, my neoprene gloves, tightened up my Goretex mountain boots and blithely- and completely dry- headed down the mountain.

We fool ourselves all the time with thoughtless WordFood. No worries, we’ll be fine up there. No problem, we won’t need a jacket. Today as I hiked down James Peak, I passed two young women in extremely light workout wear headed up the mountain. I had just been rained and hailed on. Neither was carrying any protection, including SPF.

As people move to Colorado, Montana, Arizona and other mountainous places, they see these spots as playgrounds. Fine. But they are also deadly. Those two couples and the young women I passed could easily get wet- and with a good wind whipping through the hills they’d lose heat fast. With body heat plummeting they’re ripe for hypothermia. Suddenly a day hike isn’t so fun anymore.

These people probably think I’m an old fuddy duddy when I note the clouds or ask if they have a jacket. But it’s our tax dollars and our rescue teams that have to scrape them off the mountain in worsening conditions because folks fooled themselves into believing that the Colorado high country was a walk in the park.

There are excellent guide books and resources available everywhere in Colorado and in every state that has mountains which provide a list of things you must always have with you. Never ever head into the hills without adequate supplies of food, water, sun protection, footwear and warmth. Yes, the mountains are breathtaking. And they are utterly unforgiving of those who don’t respect their power.

August 20, 2013

The WordFood of Permiso

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 6:17 am

Ever since a friend inspired me to commit to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro a number of months ago, I’ve been putting in longer hours at the gym, at Red Rocks, hiking around the neighborhood, hitting the hills, cycling, swimming, and taking on all kinds of athletic challenges to up the game in preparation for this adventure. Part of what that’s done is put me in contact with body parts that I’ve not spoken with for a while, and it’s also given me a chance to see a great many other people who are in various stages of training, at all ages, shapes and conditions.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a learning lab for anyone who is curious about exercise physiology. There are those who do the three hour free boot camp that is held from 8-11 on weekend days for anyone brave enough, and then there are the folks who bring their entire families to simply climb once to the top and watch everyone else sweat. As a journalist, and someone who has come to love Red Rocks for the beautiful surroundings it provides for my exercise routines, I love the place for the people I meet and their stories, especially about how they’ve learned to work within their limitations. Hence, Permiso. Permiso is about permission- when we learn to politely ask our bodies whether or not we can do this today, in this heat, at this age.

For example, the other day I met Lisette, an African American woman. She’s about 5’3, runner’s body, energetic and enthusiastic. A few years back, Lisette weighed 305 pounds. Astounded, I asked her how she did it. “No special diets, no pills, nothing,” she said proudly. “I just started out slowly and steadily, watched what I ate, and exercised as I could.” That’s what Permiso is all about. Not demanding that our bodies do what they cannot, but working within the limits and asking them to perform as they can. With respect.

Another woman, Annie Bitsy, comes out regularly. Annie is one tough cookie. Afflicted with cancer as a child, she lost her left leg. Annie does the stairs on crutches, smiling all the way up and down. Nothing slows her down. When she gets tired, she takes a shade break. That’s Permiso.

There are days that I get to Red Rocks after 8 and the sun has warmed up the concrete stairs. It gets hot fast, and running eleven laps or going up with a weighted vest is demanding. You need to slow down. One part wants to be the drill sergeant and push on. The wiser part says, “take a 30 second break here. Have some water.” That’s Permiso. You ask your body permission. When we treat ourselves with respect, feed our physical machines with food for fuel as well as pleasure, they will respond magnificently.

It is humbling and inspiring to see so many amazing people take on Red Rocks- octogenarians and Millennials alike. But what I admire most are those who tackle the facility despite a challenge, and they are working within a limitation. They teach the rest of us humility, and courage. Physical fitness is all about working with what we have, not some unreasonable and unattainable ideal. That’s Permiso, asking ourselves what we need, for a bit more effort. It’s astounding what we can do when we treat ourselves with respect- the mountains we can climb, the marathons we can run, the fitness levels we can achieve.

Ask yourself Permiso today. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Then as Nike says, just do it!

August 9, 2013

JunkFood We Feed Ourselves

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 5:01 pm

The other morning at 5 am, dressed in a neon bright pair of Lycra gym pants, mountain hiking boots and high socks, a weighted vest and bright pink shirt and a ball cap, I set out to do my 6.5 mile walk along the major roads near my house. Now this is to accomplish several things: break in my hiking boots, break in my feet to long hikes, build my endurance, and generally challenge my strength. Why? As mentioned earlier in this space, I have a forty mile hike to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in November, and to do that well, you have to train for it. The best way to train for long hikes is to, well, hike. Since I’ll be carrying a 20-lb day pack, I don a weighted vest, the same one I wear to build leg strength out at Red Rocks when I climb the stairs.

So as the sun eased into the cloudy sky and I walked the sidewalk along the broad thoroughfares near my house, I bid good morning to fellow walkers, runners and cyclists. One man jerked his dog away from me when I spoke kindly to it. Two elderly women gave me the hairy eyeball when I cheerily bid them a good day.

At 6:12, I made out the sound of a siren. A female cop was waving me over, so I pulled out my earbuds and walked to her vehicle. She got out and as she approached, she started laughing. ” We got a call about a dangerous person in a bulletproof vest wandering the neighborhood,” she said. “Yah,” I said, “Some terrorist, in bright neon pants walking along all the major streets in full sight,” I chuckled.

Then I thought, how many people, terrified by overwrought police procedurals and Hollywood blockbusters, are aiming their double aughts at me from their kitchens without thinking? More than I want to know. So mid morning I was at the station with my vest, meeting the cops and giving them my ID. They are going to contact me first if there’s another fearful call, and give me fair warning about my neighbors, not the other way around. And I also just bought a bright orange safety vest.

The world changed for us after 9-11, but we also allow ourselves to be fed junk food through the programs we watch and radio we hear. Whether we are radicals or Republicans or regular Reggie, we take a diet of information that feeds our fears. If we believe we are in imminent danger, which most of us most assuredly are not, especially in my bucolic little Colorado neighborhood, then we’re likely to act out of unreasonable alarm. We don’t ask intelligent questions, like what operative would be wearing eye-searing colors and be on the major roads, or attack a calm little neighborhood when higher value targets are far more important, like the airport? Nobody thinks. We just react, out of fear. In my mind, this is how the terrorist has already won the war.

I’ve told this story to friends, who have shared both the laugh and the realization that this is the world we now live in. But everyone has a choice. What we feed ourselves, the pap that is on the talk radio shows, the overblown, overstated, out-of-proportion sensationalism that is presented as “facts” that have caused the average American to not trust his neighbor. I continue to believe in the intrinsic good of my neighbors and my country. But I shudder to think about how many of them have guns, and would have used them on me out of irrational panic yesterday morning.

Roosevelt said it years ago: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” That is even more true today than during the Second World War. It’s important to consider what Junk WordFood you’re feeding yourself. If that diet is causing you to stockpile guns, fear your neighbors, hate your government, call the cops on an athlete in training or lock yourself inside, well. I’d seriously consider the cost to my psyche, my love of country, and my well-being, and shut down the source. And reclaim the happiness that is my birthright.

August 5, 2013

Withholding Nutritious WordFood

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 5:03 pm

In the latter part of July, I spent about two weeks with dear friends. My friend Jill has always been a good mentor and advisor, and it’s a great pleasure to have extended time with her and her family. I’ve been struggling to finish my third book and this time around her input was particularly valuable in putting the manuscript into perspective, and a new set of eyes was just the ticket needed.

Among her many talents, Jill raises, races, and writes about horses. Most particularly, her breeding stallion Commander, whom she has made into a local and national celebrity by giving him a “voice” in her articles and blogs with his enthusiasm for breeding mares and his sage comments on horse issues. Jill’s regular articles in horse magazines have made her a popular writer, and Commander a popular breeding stallion.

While I was visiting, Jill’s ranch was visited by a couple of men, one of them an African who had never been close to a horse, most certainly not a stallion. Jill brought Commander to the fence and let the men pet him. Commander’s calm demeanor and good behavior allowed both of them to appreciate him, and Jill’s handling of him. Jill took out an oversized pair of sunglasses and perched them on Commander’s face to show off his stardom, and Commander patiently allowed her this bit of fun. Both men were amazed at his good behavior. The Kenyan was utterly blown away.

When Jill came home to tell this story to her husband, I was standing in the kitchen. He stood with his back to her as she recounted, with genuine delight, Commander’s excellent behavior and his positive impact on these two men. How they complimented the horse and her, and how they had come away with such a positive impression of the ranch because of Commander. Jill radiated pride in her stallion and such pleasure that her horse had done such a good job.

Her husband never acknowledged the story. He never said “Yes, he’s a good horse.” He went on with his business and left the kitchen. Jill told me later how much it hurt her when she would come home and relay stories like this, and receive nothing in return. “I heap compliments on him, but he doesn’t return them, ” she said sadly.

We cannot know why people withhold kindness, compliments, recognition. We aren’t privy to their reasoning or their justifications. But when someone does withhold nutritious WordFood, it rots inside, like keeping good fruits and vegetables too long. They go bad. The environment we’re holding them in is toxic, or else we’d have happily expressed pride, pleasure, our own delight at the happiness of other people. Nutritious WordFood spoken aloud graces us as it comes through us, it feeds us as well as the other person, in fact even more so. It makes us glow with the gift of the profferred words of encouragement. They give us power for we are giving power away- which is the source of true power.

Some believe that if you hold back a compliment, you’re punishing someone. The opposite is true. You are punishing yourself. You grow small and mean and negative and bitter when you withhold your grace from others. Whether it’s to a stranger, or, much more challenging, to someone who is difficult for you to like, either way you are making an effort, and that effort pays untold dividends.
The more we withold our nutritious WordFood from others, especially those we love, the more those potentially gracious exchanges turn to garbage inside us. Offer a gift, a kiss, a hug, a compliment to someone today, now, send a tweet, an email. You will be better for it.

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