Saturday, August 27, 2016

Triathlon Inspires – The inspiring story of Sister Madonna Buder "The Iron Nun"

- Triathlete, Nun, Author, and Motivational Speaker -

"Determination is the mind willing something to happen by the grace of God"

"I've learned other life lessons along the way, but the ones that I'd look back and tell my twenty something self now are: It's not what you say, it's what you do; don't pay attention to how old you are, only focus on how old you feel"

Sister Madonna Buder was born in St. Louis, Missouri in July 1930, and she was never into running as a child, but she was clearly born with a determined streak from the start. As a kid, she was a decent athlete, including, she recalled, winning a national championship in equestrian events as a 16-year-old. She entered the convent in her early 20s, and though active and trim through adulthood, she didn't become a committed athlete until hearing the urgings of that Catholic priest during a retreat on the Oregon coast.

She decided she wanted to become a nun at the age of 14 from the influence of the Visitation Sisters at the all-girls Visitation Academy in St. Louis, Missouri, that her parents put her in after sixth grade, and Marie Dorthy Buder was 23 years old when she followed her first calling in life and became a nun; it was then that she realized the importance of being of service to others. She entered a convent called the Sisters of the Good Shepard in St. Louis and served there until 1990 when she changed orders and was sent to Spokane, Washington, to serve with the Sisters for Christian Community. In 1970 she left the congregation to which she had belonged to join 38 other Sisters from different and varying backgrounds to establish a new and non-traditional community of Sisters. As a member of the non-canonical Sisters for Christian Community, independent of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, Buder has had the freedom to choose her own ministry and lifestyle. More than two decades later as Sister Madonna, she found her second calling: Running.

During those days, there wasn't any organized races, (including marathons and triathlons) for women. Those races came out for women eventually, but what she had was just organized by schools. Sister Madonna was 48 when she started running for fun — "Father John told me it would be good for my body and mind" — and it wasn't until 1977 that she actually ran her first race who wasn't really sure if it was OK for her to be running races, since she was the only nun doing so realizing the public wasn't used to a nun running. So to avoid creating slanderous conditions, she checked this all out with the bishop in advance. She told him she wanted to run for the cause of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), but that she wasn't sure how the media would handle it, so she wanted his blessing. He said, "Sister, I wish some of my priests would do what you're doing."

The deal was sealed then and there, and Sister Buder ran her very first 8.2 mile race, 'backwards' she says, because the only place she had ever trained before was on a tennis court. After that, she joined a running group, where she thrived on the group mentality, and it was here she eventually learned of the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii. Her first thoughts were of how claustrophobic she would feel swimming along with so many others, her second was that she couldn't conceive of sitting in a bike saddle for so long, and her third was that she simply had to try it.

The steely nun competed in her first triathlon in Banbridge, Ireland, at the age of 52. The course was hilly, she swam in the 'darn cold' water (before wetsuits had been invented), and she was riding a second hand men's bike she had scored from a police auction. Nevertheless, she finished the race and cooled off with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. "I felt an immense amount of accomplishment after I finished that race; I was content", she said.

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd sent Sister Madonna over to Hawaii, and the woman in charge of the triathlon told her that she could get into the race. In the meantime, she practiced on a nephew's bike when she would visit her parents, who still lived in St. Louis. She quickly earned the title of "The Iron Nun" after completing the 2005 Hawaii Ironman at 75 years old, obtaining the record of the oldest woman ever to complete the race. She finished one hour before the 17-hour midnight cut-off time. Then, she went on to beat her own record the following year, at 76, finishing the same race with an amazing time of 16:59:03!

Since 1982 she's powered through more than 340 triathlons, including 45 full Ironmans (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26.2-mile run). In 1996, she completed an Ironman in 14:27:14--fast enough to break the world record for 65 to 69-year-olds. And at 75, Buder became the oldest woman to complete the Hawaii Ironman, a title she repeated in 2006. But it wasn't until she became the overall Ironman world record holder for finishing the Subaru Ironman Canada on August 26, 2012, in 16:32:00 that everyone started to know her name. Sister Madonna beat the record previously held by 81-year-old Lew Hollander, who finished the Ironman Kona World Championship in 2011. Her new goal is to establish that same record at the Ironman in Hawaii, but since that day, she has opened up about five age groups in her life (so that older folks can run too) that never existed. She thinks when she reaches the age group for posterity, she deserves a rest.

Asking how she trains for these triathlons, she says she runs to church every day and bikes 40 miles to swim in a lake near her home. She also jogs to her regular visits at the local jail, when it's nice out to talk to the inmates about Jesus and read scriptures to the them - an activity which she says makes her feel "so blessed" to come home from. As for her diet, Sister Buder sticks to a mostly raw diet of fruits and vegetables, but incorporates carbs and protein powder into her meals, and she says she 'listens' to what her body tells her it needs. Last year she had a biking accident where she fractured her pelvis, so while her body heals, she has been water jogging at the YMCA and going in the hot tub to let the jets and heat treat the nerves that are tender, and then she does the elliptical even though her doctor probably wouldn't advise that.

It's clearly a hobby she feels she can't let go. 'I don't know what I'd do without running!' she exclaims. "I love the feeling I get when I whiz past people younger than me and they say, I want to be like you when I get to your age!" And while she cherishes the opportunity to be a source of inspiration to others, claiming she races now mostly out of 'camaraderie', she does have certain fellow-runners place her a little too high on the pedestal. "Some of them treat me differently because I'm a Sister," she confesses. "I feels like they think I'm supposed to be their mascot and pray for good weather for us or something."

Sister Madonna is was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame in 2014 and according to "The Iron Nun" has 12 age-group victories at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and has won dozens of national and world titles in Olympic-distance events.

"I've learned other life lessons along the way, but the ones that I'd look back and tell my twenty-something self now are: It's not what you say, it's what you do; don't pay attention to how old you are, only focus on how old you feel; and be patient — one of my worst enemies is patience, I'm still trying to fine-tune it so that I'm able to stop and smell the roses.", she exclaims.

Sister Madonna Buder is on a mission. "I'd like to give up, actually," she said with a laugh, one that revealed her poorly masked fib. "I have no excuses, as long as God's keeping me more or less fit. I feel like God's puppet, that's what I feel like. First I am down, then he pulls me up with strings, and then he pulls the strings to put me hither, dither, and yon. I guess maybe he just wants people, especially as they are aging, to get off their duffs and do something."

Sister Madonna Buder is 85 years old, has run more than 340 triathlons, and doesn't know what all the fuss is about. She decided to write a book named "The Grace to Race", where she shares the no-nonsense spirit and deep faith that inspired her extraordinary journey from a prominent St. Louis family to a Catholic Convent and finally to championship finish lines all over the world. Sister Madonna holds dozens of records, has broken dozens of bones, and tells of dozens of miracles and angels that propelled her to a far-flung race. "It is my faith that has carried me through life's ups and downs," she writes. "Whenever injured, I wait for the Lord to pick me up again and set me on my feet, confidently reminding Him, 'God, you know, my intent is to keep running toward you.'" The Grace to Race is the courageous story of a woman who broke with convention, followed her heart, and found her higher mission. Her book is available from different third-party sellers, including Amazon. For more information, visit the following link The Grace to Race.

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How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity & How to Stop

"Spending today complaining about yesterday won't make tomorrow any better." ~Unknown

When I was about sixteen or so, one of my parent's friends got into some trouble with the law. When we'd visit him he'd often shake his head from side to side and mumble, my life is in the toilet.
He said it many times, for many years, even when things seemed to have gotten better for him.
My life is in the toilet was his mantra.
At the time I thought it was funny, so I adopted it for myself, until one day I started to believe it. I've since dumped that charming phrase and gotten a new mantra.
Things haven't magically become ideal for me since I did that. I mean, there's this pinched nerve in my neck and those construction sounds across the street, and I could really use some more work, and…

Type of Drains

Everyone complains, at some point, at least a little, says Robin Kowalski, PhD, a professor of psychology at Clemson University.
There are different types of complainers, according to Kowalski, such as The Venter. The Venter is a "dissatisfied person who doesn't want to hear solutions, however brilliant."
Venting. We're just letting off steam, right? Maybe not. I've personally found that the complain drain can be soul draining, not just for the complainer, but for all within earshot.
Other types you may have met along the way (or may be yourself) are the Sympathy Seekers, the I got it worse than you do, and the habitual everything sucks folks.
The Chronic Complainers, those living in a state of complaint, do something researchers call "ruminating." This basically means thinking and complaining about a problem again and again. Instead of feeling a release after complaining, this sort of complaining can actually make things worse. It can cause even more worry and anxiety.
No one is suggesting you be a peachy-keen-Josephine and pretend all is swell when it isn't. What I've learned in my mindfulness practice is to aim to do the opposite.
In mindfulness meditation, we try to experience fully the truth of the situation, in this exact moment, and allow it to just be. Easier said than done (but what isn't?) Still, with practice, the need to express our dissatisfaction for things not being how we'd like them to be lessens.

Can't We Just Call Roto-Rooter?

Running with this drain analogy…
Call Roto-Rooter, that's the name and away go troubles down the drain!
When I was a kid I loved singing along to those Roto-Rooter commercials. Wouldn't it be cool if we could "away go troubles down the drain?" Well, maybe we can.
Most of us may have been unintentionally reinforcing the nasty habit of complaining, by virtue of… complaining.
There's something called "experience-dependent neuroplasticity," which is the continuing creation and grouping of neuron connections in our brains that take place as a result of our life experiences.
Neuroscience teaches us that neurons that fire together, wire together. Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist, coined that phrase back in 1949. What this means is that whenever we think a thought or have a feeling or physical sensation, thousands of neurons are triggered and they all get together to form a neural network.
With repetitive thinking, the brain learns to trigger the same neurons each time.
So, if you keep your mind looping on self-criticism, worries, and how nothing is working out for you, your mind will more easily find that part of your brain and will quickly assist you in thinking those same thoughts again.
This shapes your mind into greater reactivity, making you more vulnerable to anxiety.
Imagine a truck driving down a muddy road. The wheels create a groove in the mud, and each time that truck drives down that exact spot, the groove gets deeper and deeper.
The truck might even, eventually, get stuck in that mud rut. But it doesn't have to. Instead of repeating the same negative complaints, we can drive our thoughts on a different road so we don't get stuck in that negative mud rut.
Throughout our lives we are wiring our brains, based on our repetitive thinking. We get good at what we practice.
If we worry, creating more unease and anxiety, we become stellar worriers since our brain is responding, making it easier for us to worry each time we do it, thus creating our default mode living.
Default mode living is our habitual way of going about our lives. It's our reacting minds as opposed to our responding minds.
Our reacting minds are often knee-jerk reactions to something. We often say or do things that we've said and done in the past, as if we were in that default mode living, on automatic pilot. But our responding minds come into play when we give ourselves a pause before responding to a situation.
We ask ourselves what's really going on and what the next best step is. It's a clearer response in the moment that's not linked to past responses. So, how do we respond instead of react?

4 D.I.Y. Tips – Stop The Drain!

You're stuck in traffic and not only are you complaining out loud to the cars that are in your way, you're imagining getting home and complaining to tell your significant other all about it. You're practicing this conversation in your head while in the car. Your heart races, your forehead tenses up. It's all so very annoying! What to do?

1. Catch yourself.

During meditation we soon find out that our minds will wander. The moment when we notice it wandering and we bring it back to our focus, our breath, that moment is what one of my teachers calls "that magic moment."
The catching yourself is the practice. Also, the not judging or berating yourself for having a mind that thinks thoughts. All minds think thoughts. That's their job.
So to stop the drain:
  • Catch yourself in a complaint.
  • Stop complaining.
  • Congratulate yourself—you're aware!

2. Be grateful.

I've tried it; I simply can't seem to complain and be grateful at the same time!
I'm stuck in traffic, but I'm grateful to have a car. I'm grateful for the song that's playing on the radio and the sunny day.
It doesn't matter what you're grateful for; it can be the smallest thing, just notice. Complaining could very well be the evil twin of gratitude. Favor gratitude.

3. Practice wise effort.

In Buddhism, wise effort is letting go of that which is not helpful and cultivating that which is skillful.
In the book Awakening the Buddha Within, Lama Surya Das breaks down wise effort into four aspects, the first one being, restraint: "the effort to prevent unskillful thoughts and actions."
Make the effort to pay attention and catch your complaining, negative thoughts before they become words.
Try it out and see how it feels. You might be surprised as to where you habitually have been putting your energy. Everything takes a certain amount of energy.
Next time you find yourself caught in a complaining loop, pause and regroup. Make the choice to put your energy elsewhere. The more you do this, the easier it gets.

4. Make a new groove.

Just the way our thoughts created that groove to make negative thoughts easier to replicate, we can create a brand new groove for pleasant feelings.
The more often we allow our minds to remember the good stuff, the easier that kind of thinking becomes.
Do you want to be the person who's never satisfied and can always find fault in others, yourself, and the world at large? Or would you rather be someone who sees things as they are and finds a way to make peace with it? Let's pretend it's up to you. Oh, wait, it is up to you.
So, what do you say? You don't need Roto Rooter to flush your troubles down the drain. Just make a new groove.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dear Republicans, You Deserve This

Dear Republicans,

You remember how this started, right? You got in bed with the 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore' Tea Party. You saw the Harvard Law Review Editor who just happened to be black and you lost your minds. You called him a Socialist. You said he never read the Constitution. You said he was a Muslim as if that were some slight when Muslims have fought and died for this country right beside citizens of every other religion. It was never enough. You never seemed to run out of the venom you spewed.

You played to the fears of white, male America. "He's coming for your guns!" How many did the Great Gun Grabber actually get? You stared at twenty children slaughtered in Sandy Hook and turned up your palms and said, "This isn't the time to talk about gun control."

You listened and half-believed the conspiracy theorists who talked about the great conspiracy of Sandy Hook and too many of you accused the parents of being actors. The best of you, who used to care about your country first and your party second, kept silent and eventually began to participate in the madness.

You sold your souls because you saw after Romney lost that you weren't going to be sitting your man in the White House anytime soon. Reince Priebus presented his autopsy of that election. To even be competitive, you have to carry 40% of the Latino vote and 45% of the women's vote. Let's not even consider the black vote which Romney lost by more than 90 points! Romney only got 27% of the Latino vote.

Did you learn from it?

You certainly swelled your ranks with a fresh infusion of "populist" infantry who had the audacity to say Obama was going to invade Texas in Operation Jade Helm. You said that he was born in Kenya and a secret agent of the Muslim Brotherhood. You were more angry at Hillary than at the murderers at Benghazi. You stood there, silent and complicit as every maniac with a mouthpiece or radio show lied and incited their listeners to hatred and worse.  When your cries of wolf fell on deaf ears, you turned up the volume.

The night Obama won, the establishment met in secret and promised to do everything to make him a one term president even if it meant hurting the country. That's what your partisanship wrought and what did you achieve? You wasted millions in taxpayer money to flog the Benghazi horse and you voted to repeal Obamacare sixty times. While you strained to do anything to make the President look bad, you shut down the government and cost the economy $24 billion. While you played brinksmanship with the full faith and credit of our government, what you really achieved was to convince the vast majority of Americans that you are incapable of governing.

This time you went to the natural end of your rope and jumped the shark with Trump costing you stalwart republicans like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol and any steward of the Nation's security. You nominated a man for his success in business even as many of his businesses were going bankrupt and are under investigation for fraud. You apparently learned not a thing from the political train wreck that was George W. Bush.

But this time is different and you know it now. There is no hiding the fact that white supremacists and the full complement of other racists and xenophobes have embraced your nominee publicly and loudly.  The last Univision poll Jorge Ramos reported had Trump with an 83% disapproval rating among Latino voters. The party that claims to be the defender of "family values" sent dreamers back across the border or deported their parents  so they have to visit them across a fence. Not only have you proven that you care nothing for their lives but your nominee intends to deport eleven million of them .

You've turned your back on the very heart of America by refusing immigrants citizenship because you know who your constituency is afraid of and what gets them to the polls in droves. You've refused to accept the economic reality that your supply-side economic dogma has failed everywhere it has ever been tried and it has wrecked economies in almost every red state to the point that we have a negative population growth because millennials are so saddled with debt that they can't afford children.

What you've shown is that there is no amount of money you will not spend to go to war but there is no service or entitlement you will not cut for the people who fight those wars. Our veterans can't even get routine healthcare because of your opposition to VA funding. You sold everyone on the premise that the free market and private business would run everything more efficiently than the government.  Yet recently the Justice Department announced that it will no longer renew contracts with the private prison industry after they proved over and again that they had no interest in reforming the abuse of the people they incarcerated and that the civil penalties you imposed were weak and ineffective.
You loved the free market so much that you put in a rider in Medicare Part D that forbids our government to negotiate prices for any drugs. The result for that unbridled "free market" efficiency is  $800 bags of saline solution! We pay four times more for healthcare than other industrialized countries and we get worse results. Where is all this free market efficiency you keep talking about? Medicare runs perfectly well and it's run by the government that you hate.

Then there's the post office that you have done everything imaginable to break. You set a precedent never seen anywhere in the world by sneaking in a rider that requires it to fund its health care costs 75 years in advance! You only wanted that so you could say that the post office which normally runs a profit is in the red.

Lies have a cumulative effect and now you're going to pay the price.

There are so many lies that you've told that you can't even spot the truth anymore. You've fought to destroy the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act in the vain hope of crippling the regulations that protect the people. You send buffoons to the Senate who toss snowballs in the Senate chamber as proof that climate change is a hoax while ignoring the fact that this past July was the hottest month ever since records began to be kept. Meteorologists are now saying the deluge of rain in Louisiana is a 1000 year flood that's done more damage than Katrina. What's your answer to these very obvious and troubling facts? You nominate the father of birtherism to say that climate change is a lie.
Fortunately for humanity, the millennials are now the largest voting block in American history and they aren't stupid enough to fall for your lies. They've had a sample of them and they know what it means when Republicans refuse to help ease the costs of student loans. They know what it means to be debt slaves because that's the American dream you've left for them and it makes them sick. They see you voting to repeal the ACA 60 times while they struggle to find housing.

That's what your intransigence and recalcitrance has bought them. They're not happy about it either. You're going to lose the presidency and the senate. You succeeded in gerrymandering the house so much that you might just keep it for a few more years but you are about as popular as Nickelback right now. That you won't get that allusion is demonstrative of how divorced you are from the youth you've fettered to protect your own bank accounts.

The conservative site is desperately trying to put their finger in the dike.
But the current polling is so bad, as Donald Trump trails Hillary Clinton, that the toss-up states don't even matter anymore. Excluding the toss-up states, RCP has Clinton up 272-174, which means Trump could run the table of NV, AZ, IA, MO, OH, GA, NC, FL and he still loses 272-266.
I grew up in a city that was a Republican stronghold back in the '80's, in the midst of a love affair with the trickle-down economics of Ronald Reagan, and I attended many gatherings in which your representatives at the time said all the things in private that you still don't have the courage to say out loud.

In a long article, "A Tale of Two Conventions," in the August 8th issue of The New Yorker, Jill Lepore–no supporter of your candidate–had the courage to say out loud that as the progressive movement began its gradual slide to the right as far back as the 1940's,
"a big problem with postwar liberalism was liberals' failure to really listen to the continuing populist criticism of the idea of progress" (Christopher Lasch. The True and Only Heaven).
In short, we have blinded ourselves to the flood waters of destruction rolling in from Tea Party Republicanism because our naive belief that all is well and our refusal to look reality in the eye have kept us too long trapped by our own dangerous idealism.

We might be less guilty than you, but we are not innocent.

In the eighteenth century, philosopher Edmund Burke famously said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Toward the end of her article, Lepore offers this startling bit of history:
"In 1992, the year Bill Clinton was elected, a letter to the editor appeared in a small newspaper in upstate New York. 'The American Dream of the middle class has all but disappeared, substituted with people struggling just to buy next week's groceries,' the letter writer argued. 'What is it going to take to open up the eyes of our elected officials? America is in serious decline.' It was written by a young Timothy McVeigh."
Dear Republicans, good men and women are finally fed up.  Watch your backs.  You deserve what's coming.

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