Will Nelson – LikeTheDew.com https://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Wed, 06 Feb 2019 18:35:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.3 https://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png Will Nelson – LikeTheDew.com https://likethedew.com 32 32 Enhancing the Benefits of Walking https://likethedew.com/2014/11/11/enhancing-benefits-walking/ https://likethedew.com/2014/11/11/enhancing-benefits-walking/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 19:23:50 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=58343

walking-feetYou spend a lifetime in your body, so why not enjoy it? Now, some consider their body simply as a vehicle to transport their head from point A to point B. Others are quite focused on and interested in engaging and using their body. Obviously, some activities, like sex, are very body-centric. That said, a happy body means a better sex life – and vice versa.

Beyond sex exists the practical matter of relying on our body to get around and help manage our life. After sleeping, sitting, and standing, walking represents the next level of activity for the body. We certainly don’t walk as much as we used to in a given day. Paradoxically, we often plan to “go for a walk” as a way of getting some activity and breaking up the routine – sort of like we walk ourselves now instead of just the dog.

Your walk, like your talk, proves unique to each of us – involving the same pace, length of stride, arm movements, etc. And while walking gets proper accolades for being a beneficial activity, that’s true… to a point. But the challenge associated with walking reflects the problem in virtually everything you do with your body today – more repetitive movement.

Those whose lives revolve around technology (that doesn’t leave out many people, does it?) will recognize that movement itself becomes less necessary and mostly repetitive. Yet, what your body longs for, besides a fantastic vacation, is random or non-habitual movement, free and unstructured, like that of a child. Think loose and fluid. Nimble. Agile. Variety does spice up your life and your body appreciates that. The outcome: extending the prime of life longer with more physical freedom, less pain, and greater agility.

So let’s apply variety to that noble activity known as walking. Incorporating random movement greatly enhances all the benefits of walking. This starts with varying your stride and pace. Alternate shorter strides with longer ones. By doing so, you will challenge the muscles and joints of your legs more thoroughly and completely. Consider varying your pace by bending your knees a bit more – as if marching. And it doesn’t have to be real obvious. Simply raising your leg an inch or two more than normal do will result in all kinds of productive brain and body interaction.

Notice the difference between walking on flat surfaces versus traversing up and down hills of various grades. Steeper grades take more effort, but also require the body to adapt and use muscles and joints in more functional ways to maintain balance and coordination. This demonstrates why hiking is so beneficial – the terrain goes up and down and you primarily walk on uneven surfaces, causing your feet and ankles – and legs for that matter – to be more fully utilized. But you can get the same benefits, same results walking on flat, even surfaces by simply varying the movement.

So taking it one step further (pun intended), look down at the angle of your feet as you normally walk. Now, point your toes inward slightly or pigeon toe them as you walk. Next, do the opposite and simply point your toes further outward as you walk. This puts your hips through more range of motion, which results in more bonus points for you. If you can carry on a conversation with your walking partner, then you are truly multitasking effectively.

I routinely train both athletes and fitness enthusiasts by having them walk sideways, backwards, march, skip, or hop: anything but the same relentless stride and pace. Doing so enhances neuromuscular activity, balance and coordination, and puts you in present time. Ultimately, walking with variations provides a great way to get focused and connect your mind and body together in a safe and sustainable way. You might call the experience “fun” and congratulate yourself for being pro-active. So next time you “walk this way,” a la Aerosmith, remember to mix it up.

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One Human Instinct – Always in Our Service https://likethedew.com/2014/10/13/one-human-instinct-always-service/ https://likethedew.com/2014/10/13/one-human-instinct-always-service/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 22:10:40 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=57985

Photo of Will Nelson

Some are born lucky. Others are born rich or marry into money. Still others create endless streams of opportunity. And perhaps when we can’t answer yes to the aforementioned, we can easily feel entitled.

But in other ways, the playing field remains level. Certain attributes of the human condition we have control over, starting with the meaning we assign to the events of our life. And yes, positive events lead us to assign more pleasant meanings.

There is enormous manipulation, pursued in the name of profit, to get us thinking about our bodies with a “cattle mentality.” Once we buy into what we “should look like” or otherwise physically function, a host of pills, potions, and remedies are available – close as the nearest Walgreens. And this can be difficult to sort out – the fact from the fiction, the reality from the make-believe.

That said,the body itself reflects a damn good design. Amazing, really.This is due to certain built-in instincts our bodies possess as a way to survive and deal with crisis (lack of food, water, etc.), but also to thrive. Possibly the most thrive-based instinct we have compels us to stretch, stay loose, and basically keep the body mobilized in a relatively pain-free manner.

Now, a lot can affect this ability – injuries, lifestyle, obesity, etc., but we’ve all got a trump card in this particular card game. The body is amazingly self-regulating and self-maintaining. The evidence becomes clear if you simply move your body in a random manner for about a minute or so. You will notice a universal and profound sense of your body taking over. This is different than the traditional movements associated with standing, sitting, walking, driving, texting, etc. Magically your body, not you, initiates safe and effective movements designed to loosen you up and return you to homeostasis. You don’t have to think, just show up.

We only have so much energy to expend each day before we must rest and recover. The more efficiently we expend that energy, the longer it lasts, and frankly, the more effective we are. The body wants to keep itself properly aligned relative to gravity because the body recognizes that moving efficiently in relation to gravity,which is basically any time you’re not lying down, saves energy.

How wonderful if we all had time and motivation to spend an hour at the gym, doing yoga, or what have you. Yet, the plain and wonderful fact of our survival teaches that standing and moving about in a random, non-habitual,manner for about a minute or so activates an instinct as powerful in you as any world-class athlete. This opportunity exists for all of us.

This calls to mind the adage that “less is more.” Just try a few times to stand up, move your body to and fro, shake it a bit back and forth, and raise your arms and legs up and down. Shrug off the stress of the moment. Witness for yourself the magic of your human instinct to stretch and stay loose that is completely unaffected by your economic and/or social status – or anything else. You are human.The instinct to stretch is part of the human condition and quickly becomes automatic once you attempt to access it a few times. People routinely report that getting up and moving about in a random manner loosens them up in ways they never thought possible.

Yes, an hour at the gym, doing a yoga class, or walking around the block after dinner all are wonderful, all helpful. But don’t see them as an all or nothing proposition – your only option for effective self care. Understand that you have an instinct to stretch, and if simply accessed once or twice a day, these movements will make a huge difference. You will feel looser and more comfortable. You can even sit for longer periods without the associated stiffness and loss of range of motion. And if you can get to the gym or a yoga class, or walk the dog, by otherwise doing a little random movement, these activities will prove even more beneficial.

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Stretch, move, walk around … instead of sitting at work all day https://likethedew.com/2014/10/02/stretch-move-walk-around-instead-sitting-work-day/ https://likethedew.com/2014/10/02/stretch-move-walk-around-instead-sitting-work-day/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 15:27:57 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=57860


The realities and consequences of our sitting all day become obvious… yet overlooked… except to our bodies.

Actually, our bodies emerge as the brave soldiers here, now doing what they were never designed to do: SIT. Hour after day after week… too bad our IRA’s are not accumulating assets like this.

Sitting is sometimes compared to smoking. Is that legit? Well, yes and no. Yes, from the standpoint that the ultimate cost of sitting: obesity, problems associated with poor circulation, head, neck, shoulder and back problems, etc., will far exceed that of smoking. We have to sit, because that’s the nature of work today. From that perspective, sitting and smoking are vastly different.

We could blame technology for the gradual decline of our bodies. But nobody, certainly not our employers, will abandon technology this five minutes.

With that in mind, any time spent NOT SITTING helps. Think in terms of “movement moments.” The computer doesn’t need breaks, but your body does. Getting up and simply walking around a bit won’t remedy the situation when we still have six more hours of sitting today.

So yes, there must be a method to your movement. For starters, think in terms of random movement. Examples are: lightly shaking out your body, randomly moving your joints around, raising your arms over your head, and shifting your weight back and forth while standing. After a minute of this, you will experience an amazing phenomenon – your human instinct to stretch.

The human instinct to stretch is best exemplified by watching infants, toddlers, and pets when they first wake up. What do they do? They stretch. But it doesn’t look like yoga, does it? Or calisthenics. It’s more, well, organic, individualized and random – not likely repeated exactly the same way each time.

So stand up, move away from the desk, and look out the window which also gives your eyes some much needed range of motion. Start to lightly shake your body. You see, vibration is the key to fluidity. Fluidity is the opposite of rigidity – rigidity being the outcome of sitting.

Also, change your workstation from being static, i.e., sitting in the chair the same way all day, to doing some work standing up. Move the monitor position. Use voice software and generate copy while getting up and moving around. If you talk on the phone a lot, use a headset. This allows your body freedom of movement.

You can get movement even while still sitting. Grab any area of your desk or chair with one or both hands and while keeping them fixed in place, gently move the rest of your body. You can also reach behind your chair with one or both arms as a way to gently stretch.

When we teach these simple “movement moments,” people are amazed at how much activity their body can generate simply while sitting and/or standing at their desk. Consider setting a timer as a reminder to get up and move around, only now you’ll move with focus and a purpose. And if the timer goes off while you’re closing the biggest deal of the year or finishing the great American novel, well, I guess it can wait a little while. But not too long. One way or another, no matter how successful you are, however measured, you’ll appreciate having a pain-free functional body to enjoy that success.

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The Democratic Process Is A Most Personal One https://likethedew.com/2012/03/02/the-democratic-process-is-a-most-personal-one/ https://likethedew.com/2012/03/02/the-democratic-process-is-a-most-personal-one/#comments Fri, 02 Mar 2012 08:44:02 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=37532 My heart sank. A neighbor showed up who lives a few blocks away. He only turns up when trouble's brewing. Usually it’s a developer seeking to rezone nearby land, typically for apartments. But it’s always some damn thing that threatens what little character our neighborhood has left. This continues after 20 years of relentless development - all in the name of progress. Well, progress comes at a price, but so long as the price is not too steep, we can call it progress.


My heart sank. A neighbor showed up who lives a few blocks away. He only turns up when trouble’s brewing. Usually it’s a developer seeking to rezone nearby land, typically for apartments. But it’s always some damn thing that threatens what little character our neighborhood has left. This continues after 20 years of relentless development – all in the name of progress. Well, progress comes at a price, but so long as the price is not too steep, we can call it progress.

Oh, we knew the drill alright: have a meeting with whatever neighbors we could get to show up, and then plan strategy. Foremost is the delegation of duties: somebody to check with the planning commission on assorted details; who’s going door-to-door with the petitions to get the word out; whose going to speak.

One of my big gripes is when they go to rezone an area, they put up a sign the size of a postage stamp to let you know. And with traffic flying by and a million things on your mind, you never see it. Which is exactly what they want to happen.

In my neighborhood, we go through this routine every couple years. Personally, I’m getting sick of it. But I figure I’d better suck it up (we’ve only got four days til the commissioners vote on it), and we’ve got to get cracking. The guy spearheading the operation, Tom, is a grizzled veteran of such affairs, and immediately cuts to the chase. He knows the commissioners have heard it all and are weary… more traffic, more crime, more overcrowding, more this, more that. It gets old. The trick is finding something new to say.

But Tom soldiers on, and I fall in line behind him. I try, not easily, to pivot my mind from one of resentment over having to lose a weekend yet again because this issue has surfaced before, to being grateful that I live in a democratic society. My voice will be heard, if not agreed with. I also have good neighbors. And when people give a damn and care enough, and rally together, we can speak up and effect change.

There’s always the last minute stuff to sort through. Good homework and preparation gives us choices. We’re coming from a position of strength, not scrambling around like idiots. Clearly, the Board of Commissioners knows the difference between a well considered perspective and disorganized ramblings.

Getting petitions signed is a gigantic pain in the ass. And who wants to go door-to-door anyway? You don’t know what’s on the other side of the door. The person on the other side doesn’t know why you’re there either. It’s a little uneasy. No, it’s a lot uneasy, but you’ve got to knock anyway.

Tom, to his endearing credit, is fearless. Out of about 130 homes, he got 80 signatures, between himself and others he motivated. One person in particular, also named Tom, spent several hours canvassing the neighborhood. He also gave an excellent speech himself. Me? I got eight, seven if I don’t count myself. My job was writing the speeches, hopefully given eloquently and passionately, in the ten minutes allowed for our rebuttal. This had been my role previously. You have to hook them with emotion, better if it’s universal in scope. Stay away from sentimentality – it quickly becomes maudlin, leaves a bad taste, and sets a bad tone.

Meeting time arrived. We’d done our due diligence. It was time to make the pitch. Then the hard part would come – turning over the results. We were sitting at a table talking amongst ourselves. I was still struggling between my resentment over having to do this and my gratitude for the democratic process.

I looked up to see an elderly woman in a wheel chair coming toward me, pushed along by her granddaughter. I immediately recognized her as the oldest of the “old guard.” Our street is named after her family. That’s old guard. Someone whispered that she was struggling some since her husband’s death at Christmastime. My heart sank. Mr. Haney had died. I didn’t know. I was somewhat overcome with emotion. I had visited with him often over the years. Boy, could this man spin stories. He had ‘em. He lived ‘em. He told ‘em. I listened.

Along the way, I bought a grammar school desk he claimed was the one he used in third grade. All I could think about was that desk, and him not being around any more to tell more stories. The old guard is dying and they want to put up apartments.

Once inside the auditorium, we took our seats in the second row so we can scope out the mood and take the temperature of the commissioners. I just wanted to cry, frankly, having heard the news of Mr. Haney’s passing and what that meant. The master link was gone.

Before the meeting started, a large number of eagle scouts shared their achievements and received awards for their outstanding service to the community. In their fresh young faces, I saw the person I once was. But now I’m in the 50 to dead demographic. I had to squint a little bit. They were exhorted to keep up the good work.

One of the board members then said a prayer, asking God to help us with the decisions we were about to make tonight. Next was the Pledge of Allegiance. It is impossible for me to say those words without tearing up. I think about what has been sacrificed in human life and more, just so I can stand and take that pledge. I mumbled a few of the words, I fought back the tears, and I thought, “This is not a good space to be in when trying to give an impassioned message to a group of people about to greatly influence my future.”

I sat and looked amongst the row of people that I did not know very well at all. And yet, in this moment, my life was inextricably woven with theirs.

When it was our turn, the developer’s side went first to plead their case. A fresh, young, newly minted lawyer was charged with the task. Talking fast, waving the pointer around frantically, she declared all sorts of positive reasons, in their estimation, as to why these apartments should be built. And how the project would have minimal impact and somehow improve our neighborhood.

At once I started to consider what she was saying, and more importantly, the outcome if the board agreed with her. It was like somebody popped me upside the head. The adrenalin was rushing now. Sentimentality over the loss of Mr. Haney and the old guard was instantly replaced by gearing up for a fight. We were going to preserve all he stood for, right here, right now. Fortunately, the lawyer didn’t say anything of substance we didn’t already know.

Next up was that cryptic little moment when the weight of clashing idealism is set ever so delicately on the head of a pin. That’s what I felt when Tom said to me, “Will, you have to hit them heavy. Hit them hard.” Well, alrighty then.

First I inquired how much time was remaining. I had timed my speech. I could deliver it in three minutes. I had five. I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” I smiled at the board members and thought of Mr. Haney. After a paragraph or two, it was evident the Board was hearing a different perspective. I told them there’s a point at which we cross a line and a neighborhood loses its essential nature. And that’s where my neighborhood stood that night.

I also said every neighborhood has a responsibility to provide for more than simply its immediate needs. Then I pointed out the litany of events my neighborhood had to deal with over the last decade or so: building the Mall of Georgia, a sewage treatment plant, an Environmental Center, and some day, another major road. Near as I could tell, we had contributed our fair share.

I was followed by my roommate, freshly transplanted from Florida, who said he moved into my neighborhood because it had a small town feel. Just like his town, St. Petersburg, once had a long time ago. He was followed by another fellow who just bought a house next to the proposed apartments. He said had he known apartments were going in next to him, he would have bought elsewhere.

Their lawyer had three minutes left to rebut. I hung on every word she said, because we had 25 seconds left, and I damn sure was getting in the last word. She talked in generalities and said nothing substantial. I started to get up but the head of the Commission asked me to sit back down. They had heard enough. Very well.

The decision was rendered in favor of our neighborhood petition. There was no applause, or back slapping, or anything. Just silence and great relief echoing in the mostly empty room. Once again, the democratic process had come full circle.

One of the Board members and I chatted briefly about some trails in the Environmental Center that she liked to walk on. We compared notes. She was no longer a board member. She was a person.

I turned around and looking back, saw an old woman in a wheel chair, sitting quietly by herself. Whatever amount of effort it took for me to get into that room, I’m sure it took her, in her current condition, much more. When the meeting was over, I took her hand and our eyes met. She said, “Thank you.” I said, “No, thank you.”

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Southern Traditions: More Than Biscuits & Grits https://likethedew.com/2011/09/14/southern-traditions-more-than-biscuits-grits/ https://likethedew.com/2011/09/14/southern-traditions-more-than-biscuits-grits/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2011 10:00:51 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=30377 Tradition? The South drips and sways with them. Little did I know this when I arrived ten years ago - a Yankee from Michigan via California - but Great Grandpa fought for the Confederates, so perhaps it was inevitable that I ended up here.

California traditions only last five minutes, so there are really few customs save the New Year's Day Rose Parade ...


Tradition? The South drips and sways with them. Little did I know this when I arrived ten years ago – a Yankee from Michigan via California – but Great Grandpa fought for the Confederates, so perhaps it was inevitable that I ended up here.

California traditions only last five minutes, so there are really few customs save the New Year’s Day Rose Parade – most memorable for the floats created from thousands of flowers and for the “Perpetually Perfect Parade Weather.” What we did in California was make it a tradition to scramble over each other, feet first if necessary, in an endless attempt to climb anything – up the corporate ladder or into bed with somebody.

(Photo by bunchofpants / Creative Commons)

Universal reverence for the elderly was the tradition I immediately recognized upon moving to the South. I came to work on an old Victorian home for an iconic, Southern family. They put me up with Paw-Paw, the family patriarch. He and I lived downstairs, with the younger generation one floor above. Knowing my penchant for cooking, the family hoped my presence ensured Paw-Paw would be well fed. He was.

One day the family came over – the whole rootin’-tootin’ lot of ’em. Evidently word had gotten out, and I was asked to make pancakes, as I had done so many times for Paw-Paw. There, at the long dining table, generations of Jenkins sat, forks in hand, ready to give ‘er a go. But I could only make one pancake at a time, so my conundrum became who gets the first one. About the time that cake was ready, Paw-Paw moseyed over and sat down at the head of the table. Now, I was a bit smitten with one of the family members and wanted to give her the first pancake – maybe curry some favor.

In the end though, after the blessing, I slid the pancake down on Paw-Paw’s plate. His eyes met his son’s, those two pair of eyes met the grandson’s, and back and forth this went for a moment. There was a hanging silence, then Paw-Paw either grunted or farted, I wasn’t sure which, and the son glanced over at me without a word. After that, I was in – I was one of them – because I understood. There’s a hierarchy here, and that’s how it’s done. It’s tradition.

I got a gigantic jolt of tradition going to Ole Miss on game day and partaking of the action down at The Grove. I had long since given up on much civility from large crowds, especially when the alcohol was flowing. So I was flabbergasted to see young men sporting coats and ties, young women wearing dresses that actually covered up their bodies, and the total absence of paper plates.

Instead, everyone laid out rich tablecloths, fine utensils, and linens of all types, not to mention some mouthwatering food. This was no backyard barbeque. This was a big, formal party and everybody respected the rituals. The entire place vibrated with a prescribed hospitality I thought was long gone with the wind.

At one point, the band played Dixie and the entire crowd fell silent. Everyone removed their hats and bowed their heads. No cell phones chirped. Not even church was ever this solemn. In an instant, I was transported back, helped along by having heard the story, just ten minutes prior, that in the “War of Northern Aggression,” over 2,000 students from Ole Miss left and took up arms. Zero came back.

LSU won the game that day, and though the result was in doubt until the very end, the outcome seemed to take a back seat to the other activities, with one exception. That would be the Ole Miss cheer. It’s better after a couple of beers, but even sober, it has a nice ring to it: “Hoty-Toty Gosh O Mighty, Who the hell are we? HEY! Flim flam, Bim bam, Ole Miss by damn!” I asked a dozen people where the cheer originated. It didn’t matter. Nobody cared. Tradition.

With the game now behind us, the party revved back up. Only now, the festivities moved to a private residence. The owners were proprietors of a general store in Oxford – another generation maintaining their position and safeguarding the family business. They were pillars of the community and their house dated from the 1850’s. History and patina stood front and center – along with the folklore.

The resident matriarch was in her 70’s, resplendent with perfect posture and a commanding presence not unlike that of Kathryn Hepburn. Though disappointed with the game’s outcome, she cheerfully pointed out, “The boys gave it their best, no need for anyone’s head to hang as a result.” By God, there weren’t going to be any whiny babies here. Not at her house. Not on her watch.

At one point, the thirty-odd guests jumped to crisp attention and formed a receiving line when the mother of our hostess arrived. I was off in another room noodling on a piano, wondering about all the fuss. I quickly absorbed yet another tradition, and realized that not joining the crowd to “pay my respects” to “Mama” was a certain breach of etiquette. I had more than sand to brush off my languid, California feet.

Soon after, I piped up and asked for a tour around the various rooms, commenting on many of the exquisite pieces of furniture and the deep, rich history. We made our way to the dining room where the main table included a piece of glass better than an inch thick. It rested on what looked like two massive columns – obviously cut down to size and probably the remains of some former, big entry way.

I mentioned the table, especially the beauty of the columns, and inquired about their origin. Immediately, our hostess, the epitome of style, charm, and grace all evening long, turned bitter and sour and full of rancor. I would soon discover why.

She menacingly turned toward me, and with her face tightened down like a vice, said, “That’s all that’s left after they came and burned the courthouse down.” Then her eyes got even bigger. Sensing a foreigner in her midst, in a very cold and accusatory voice she said, “By the way Will, where are you from?”

I said a fast prayer. I needed a save, right here, right now. My prayer was granted. I took a breath and casually replied, “Well, Ma’am, I wasn’t born in the South, but I got here quick as I could.” She backed off only slightly, then muttered as she walked away, “Well, you did the best you could.”

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