Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Next Batch of Marbles

Drink more water (plop). Drink less wine (plop). Do Yoga and posture exercises every morning (plop). Ice my neck at bedtime (plop). Take a sleeping pill every night (plop). One more batch of marbles on my way toward a better life (slide).

I met with my MD today. After MONTHS of not sleeping well at all, I finally got desperate enough to make an appointment, actually show up, and say, “Dr. Suze, I need medication to make me sleep at night.” A radical measure for me to say the least, as I am VERY reluctant to take ANY kind of medication if it can be avoided. But, I’ve tried EVERYTHING ever suggested by ANYONE, and I’m still not sleeping at night. I’m exercising, I’m taking my vitamins, I’m doing relaxation exercises, I’m taking hot baths, I’m taking Melatonin and/or a natural sleep aid, and it’s just not doin’ the trick. On a GOOD night, I’m getting 4-5 hours of restful sleep, and am wakeful the rest of the night. On a BAD night, I’m getting 1-2 hours at a time, with long stretches of wakefulness in between. As any layman can tell you, sleep deprivation is really Bad Juju for anyone, and if left unchecked can lead to an individual who is really grumpy at best, somewhat unstable on average, or flat-out psychotic at worst. If memory serves, it’s been about eleven years since I’ve had a normal sleep cycle on a regular basis. So, it’s kinda time I started sleeping.

So, Doc Suze recommended an OTC sleep aid to try for a few nights. The one I already tried only worked on the first night then fizzled, so I’m not terribly enthusiastic about OTC’s. But, what the heck, I’ll give it a shot. If that doesn’t work, she gave me an Rx for some “real” stuff to try. “It may take a couple of weeks of taking it every night before we know whether or not it’s going to work for you”. Peachy. I’ve procrastinated on this to the point I don’t have much patience left with the issue, but I’ll have to just deal with it. One more step toward a normal sleep life. Right?

The other stuff, well, it’s pretty much self-explanatory. Except maybe the ice part. That’s something my chiropractor is reminding me I need to do every night, since I’ve got stress-and-alignment issues in my neck. So, I’ve stuck a sticky-note on my mirror that says “ICE”, so I remember to go fetch the icepack after I brush my teeth and take my vitamins at bedtime.

I seem to have turned into a project. Can't wait to see how it turns out...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Two-Week Follow-Up

Today I met with my Wellness Coach at the YMCA. It’s been two weeks since she set got me set up on a workout routine and we talked about some goals. She nudged up my five existing Cybex machines to two sets on each, adjusted the range of motion on the leg curl (currently my mortal enemy), and set me up with two new machines; the back extension and the abdominal. We set a new short-range goal of doing cardio three days a week, which I’m already doing…even through the holiday busyness. She also gave me the green light to start bumping up the weight on the machines by 5 lb increments if I feel like I need a little more push. After our meeting, I hit the treadmill for 45 minutes, then went back to the Cybex room and did one set on each of the two new machines. Since I’ve got back “issues”, I wanted to get a feel for the movement the machines require and be sure I don’t have a dorsal revolt tomorrow, before I try two sets next workout.

So, what results have I seen in these two weeks? Well, it’s hard to draw a line between the last two weeks of weight training, and the weeks of walking I had done previously. But, overall, I feel good. Even on “bad” days when I’m having some annoying premenopausal symptom (like aching legs, headache, nausea, lower back pain, etc.), I feel better than many of my pre-exercise “good” days. My energy level continues to hold at a pretty high level, at least based on what I’m used to. I can go all day without completely exhausting myself. My mind is clear and eager to tackle intellectual and creative pursuits (even when I don’t have time to indulge in them). My jeans fit nicely, even though I haven’t lost more than about 1 lb. Even Brother Bear commented today that I look trimmer. And, of course, Papa Bear definitely appreciates the changes.

But, there have been two pretty significant changes. First, I have been sleeping. I mean, really sleeping. I had gotten accustomed to a “good” night of sleep meaning I slept deeply for about 3-4 hours before waking, then spending the rest of the night in a state of restless half-sleep. For the past week, at least five nights I have enjoyed a state of deep sleep for 5-6 hours before waking. You wouldn’t believe how much more energy and enthusiasm I have in the morning after a “decent” night of sleep. I daren’t even imagine what I could accomplish in a day after a full 8 hours of deep, restful sleep.

Second, I’ve turned into a gym rat. I actually WANT to be in the gym. I WANT to be exercising on the machines. I WANT to be blazing a trail down the treadmill, pushing up my heart rate and feeling my legs work. (Oh, I guess there’s one more change; it’s taking more exertion to get my heart rate up to my target zone. I may even break into a trot next visit, just to see if I can.) I’m even preferring the treadmill to walking in the park, simply because it’s more comfortable (yesterday’s “high” was just under 50, and the trail at our park is currently under construction). I'm actually feeling impatient to get to my next workout. I was just at the Y working out this morning, and I want to go again. Right now. I want to get in there and start bumping up the weight on those bloody machines. I wish I had more time for classes and other challenges. Weird, huh?

In some ways, I think I may have created an advantage for myself by being pretty much sedentary for the first four decades of my life. I’ve waited until I’m on the verge of falling apart physically, feeling really run down and weak, before starting an exercise regime. The turn-around, being able to see and feel noticeable, life-improving progress in a fairly short period of time…well, that’s a huge motivator. I can see where folks who have been athletic their entire lives might start getting a bit deflated as they start feeling the effects of age. Same exercise, same effort, but continuing to decline in strength and endurance. Me…I can only improve from my original starting point. Even as I continue to age, I’ll be better off than I was six months ago. Nice.

The other part is, my time at the gym working out is “me” time. I’ve spent the last ten years very focused on caring for my family. My “me” time has been in bits and snatches, here and there, fitting in around my other obligations. Trying to read and study classic literature, study classic guitar technique, write, and maybe even read a little something frivolous from time to time, but mostly my time has not been my own. My time at the gym is not time being taken away from something else I’d “rather” be doing like hanging out with friends or going to a movie. I’ve had so little time away from my family, all on my own, to do exactly as I like for an hour or two, that this time spent on the treadmill is actually a blessed break for me. A full 45 minutes to listen to a full lecture from The Teaching Company without interruption (I’m currently working through my 2nd listening of “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music"). No one wanting my attention. No one needing my help. Everyone else at the gym pretty much ignores me, and I actually really like that.

So, my challenge beginning next week is to keep up with regular exercise and trips to the Y once we're back to homeschooling. I am deeply blessed to have a husband who fully supports my physical metamorphosis, and who has a schedule flexible enough to help cover things at home. Even so, I may have to let some things go to allow enough time for regular exercise. May have to get up earlier in the morning (which will be distinctly do-able if I'm sleeping better). But, with the loving support of my dearest, it is possible. Look out, 2010, here I come!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Left-Over Turkey Pot Pie

I first saw this recipe on Paula Deene's show, and have modified it to suit my taste. It's perfect for using up the last of the left-over turkey and that spare pie shell that didn't get used.

2-3 cups left-over turkey, coarsely chopped
6 very small thin-skinned potatoes, cubed
½ cup milk
1 med onion, coarsely chopped
1 yellow squash, coarsely chopped
1 zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 ½ cups frozen mixed vegetables
3 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 – 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 prepared pie shell, thawed
Salt, pepper & garlic powder to taste
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp water

Put the potatoes and milk in a large sauce pan and simmer until the potatoes are just done. Add the soup and vegetables, bring to a simmer, and warm through thoroughly (until frozen veggies have thawed). Add cheese and simmer until melted. Season to taste.

Transfer to a large baking dish. Cover with pie crust. Beat egg yolk and water together, and paint pie crust with mixture. Slice crust in a few places to vent. Bake at 350 for about 20 min, or until crust is browned and mixture is bubbly.

Three out of for kids devoured this dish and went back for seconds. I made myself stop after one serving. Way yum.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day

Evidence of St. Nick's visit... snowy bootprints from the fireplace to the tree.

Pie eaten, milk drank, and carrots nibbled.

New winter footies from Nana.

Molly B enjoying her holiday treat.

New LEGO set being assembled by T-Bear.

Teamwork: Brother Bear and BooBoo working on LEGO's.

Mama Bear's new easel awaiting an artist. Guess I better start learning to draw.

We are truly blessed by the most wonderful family and friends. Our deepest love and affection go to each one of you who have been part of our lives this past year. Blessings to all in the coming year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve

Is this a picture of home, or what?

Papa Bear's family tradition includes having a miniature train set up around the tree...

The miniature village...

Papa Bear leading carols at the piano...

....and reading "'Twas The Night Before Christmas".

I love Christmas :)

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Papa Bear and The Cubs preparing to deliver The Pies to friends and neighbors...

Wrapping, labeling and bowing.

Guess what this one is?.....

T-Bear donning his Santa attire...

....and Brother Bear doing the same.

All wrapped up and ready to go....

Decked out and ready to hit the trail.
Don't ask about BooBoo's puppy hat...I don't have a clue.

All loaded up in the sleigh and ready to go.

It has been reported by Papa Bear that the Cubs delivered much, much more than just pies. They delivered a huge bundle of joy with each drop-off, along with a volumous bellowing of "Merry Christmas" accompanied by huge grins. The huge grins were repaid in kind.
Isn't that what the Christmas Spirit is all about? I just love it when the kids play Santa :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pie Day!

Apple pie assembly line.
Peeling (Papa), washing and stem removal (BooBoo), and slicing (Brother).

Brother Bear with the corer.

A pile of apples waiting for sugar and spice.

BooBoo mixing the sugar and spice.

Brother mixing.

Pecans awaiting syrup.

Mini pecan.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Travel Tradition

It has long been a tradition of Papa Bear’s to bring home a T-shirt or some other clothing item for each Cub from each city he visits in his business travels. Saves me from having to buy many shirts for the kids, and gives them lots of colors and themes to choose from as they dress in the morning.

But, it has now become a particular tradition for Papa Bear to visit H&M when he’s visiting LA and staying with Big D and Family. The first trip, he came home with some totally cool cargoes for each of the boys, which they are still wearing. This time around, he came home with not only cargoes, but also jeans and semi-dress shirts, all of which were awesome. At about $25 each, the cargoes are a pretty good deal, VERY well made with great details, and NOT made in China. It’s hard to beat that. And, there are now several locations in the Atlanta area.

BooBoo in new shirt, cargo pants, and Mama Bear's boots.

Brother Bear modeling his new shirt, pants, and tie featuring pix of him as a baby. Cute, huh?

Goals and Assessments

It seems almost inevitable that at the end of each year I get a bee in my bonnet about “doing” homeschool “better” next year. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I’m sure this urge is related to the Seasonal Resolution Virus that just about everyone gets infected with right around now. So, I’ve decided that I’m going to get back to setting quarterly goals (or objectives?) and writing up quarterly assessments, at least for the older two Cubs. Although I've written assessments in the past, I’ve never really done formal educational goals with/for the kids, but I think the time is ripe for Brother Bear to begin participating in that process.

So, I pulled out my tried-and-true assessment form, which I originally took from Lynn Stoddard’s book Educating for Human Greatness. I feel it supports the TJEd approach, with its focus on developing the individual rather than pressing conformity to a system. Assessments have never been my strong suit, mostly because I have very little idea what to write, especially about my own children. But, this format gives me some basic areas to focus on, and something to think about. It still may take me a month to finish the assessments, but at least I’ve got some place to start.

If you happen to be looking for an assessment format, here’s the basic outline.

For the older students:

Directions: Please indicate how much you feel this child is growing in each of the categories listed below:

1. Self-esteem, self-respect, and self-confidence.
2. Sense of responsibility for his/her own learning and behavior.
3. Awareness and development of his/her unique strength, talents, gifts, interests, and abilities.

1. Kindness, trust, thoughtfulness, tolerance, and respect for others.
2. Social attitudes and skills; the ability to listen with understanding, express ideas, and get along with others.
3. Enjoyment and ability to express him/herself in writing.
4. Responsible citizenship, understanding of the workings of the democratic process, respect for environment and laws.

1. Enjoyment of learning.
2. Enjoyment of school.
3. Curiosity, initiative, self-direction, and independence in trying to learn.
4. Studying and seeking information from a variety of sources.
5. Ability and desire to read for recreation and personal growth.
6. Ability and desire to use knowledge to create, invent, think, and solve problems.

To this form, I’ve added the following:

Academic Goals/Progress: Last Quarter’s Goals, Progress, Next Quarter’s Goals
1. Language/Communication:
2. Literature:
3. Reading:
4. Writing/Grammar/Composition:
5. Penmanship/Keyboarding:
6. Math/Economy/Finance:
7. Music/Art:
8. Physical Fitness/Health:
9. Domestic Arts:

For the younger children:

Directions: The parent or teacher is to read each question orally to the student, who then draws a smiling face, a frowning face, or an “in-between face” to represent his/her feelings about the question:

1. Do you do a good job of learning?
2. Are you good at some things?
3. Does your teacher like you?
4. Do your classmates like you?

1. Do you learn about the things you want to learn about?
2. Do you ask a lot of questions in your class?
3. Do you read outside of school?
4. Do you like to figure things out by yourself?

1. Do you get along with other students?
2. How do you behave in school?
3. Do other people listen to your ideas?
4. Do you get along with your family?
5. Do you like to write?

That’s about it. I feel like I need to add a "spiritual" category to the form, but not sure what I'd say about it. Regardless, hopefully I’ve started the process early enough I can get the assessments done, and some goals sketched out before we get “back to homeschool” next year. While I'm at it, maybe I need to set some goals for myself, too….

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Lights

No words necessary...

Papa's Pride
I just LOVE Christmas :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Restless Leg Syndrome

I’ve had mild bouts of RLS off and on for several years now. But it was so random and intermittent and mild, I’d forgotten about it, or that I had it, until the other night when at about 3:00 am I suddenly woke with the overwhelming need to hop out of bed and do a hundred jumping jacks or go mad. Oh, yeah, RLS. Maybe that’s part of the whole insomnia thing.

So, what is RLS? According to The John Hopkins Center for Restless Leg Syndrome, RLS has four primary features:
  • Uncomfortable sensation in the legs with a clear need or urge to move the legs
  • The symptoms are worse at night
  • The symptoms come on with rest
  • The symptoms are relieved with movement
Kind of strange, huh? But, unless you’ve actually experienced RLS, it’s really difficult to describe or explain. Basically, “If you do not move the effected limb, you will go insane” is pretty close, and it lasts for hours, mostly in the middle of the night. Makes sleeping kind of – well – not possible. And, it can also affect the arms, though that apparently is not as common. Unless you’re me. Thus, the burning desire to perform jumping jacks in the middle of the night. And I don’t even like exercise. May also explain my deeply felt desire for aggressive walks now that I’ve started walking. I can feel my thighs begging me for a nice, hard pounding down the path for an hour…or more if the rest of me can keep up.

Now, lest you think this a one of those “It’s all your head, dear” kind of things, I personally know two women with RLS, both of whom have been put on medications used to treat the involuntary tremors of Parkinsons Disease. That’s kind of knarly. You can find more info at the John Hopkins site. Apparently it often strikes during middle age and gets worse as you get older. Yipee. Needless to say, I’ll be bringing this up at my appointment with my MD next week. Along with the perimenopause thing. In the meantime, I’m not sleeping much, so I may as well blog…..

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ain't No Gym Rat

I am not a Gym Rat. Not even close. In fact, it might be more accurate to call me a Gym Chicken. But, today was my first official workout at the gym. Technically, it was the YMCA, but it’s pretty much the same thing. All by myself. No one to hold my hand and pat my head and tell me what a good girl I am for doing this. Just me, doing my best not to look like a ridiculous out-of-shape middle-aged woman who really ought to be home with the kids right now. I did my strength training workout as prescribed by my Coach, and even remembered to log out on the FitLinxx Kiosk before I left. On my way out, my Coach greeted me with a big, pat-on-the-head smile.

It really wasn’t that bad. I had decided going in that this would be my “orientation” work out. No goals, no profuse sweating (thank goodness), just getting familiar with the machines and my routine. I started out (very slowly) on the treadmill. No, it’s not as easy as it looks in the movies, and yes it is as easy to hurt yourself as it looks in the movies. It certainly is not walking on my paved trail through the park, but after a ten minute warm up, I felt like I could get used to it. Then, off to the Cybex room, logged on at the Kiosk, and started my circuit. Went to the wrong machine at first (oops) which told me I was at the wrong machine. Got the right machine on the second try. Figured out all my settings, did my reps (the machine only honked at me four or five times to tell me to slow down or not let the weights touch between reps), and progressed in a similar manner through all five machines. I was awkward, and self conscious, and I really wish they would get rid of those damn mirrors. But, I didn’t hurt myself, and I did not suffer complete humiliation at the mechanical hands of those Terminator machines. I’m sure the next workout will be a little smoother and a little more comfortable.

And, how did I reward myself for going to the gym? I went for a walk in the park across the street from the Y. A nice, brisk, head-clearing cardio walk in the light mist (at one point it qualified as rain). It was awesome, the fresh air, the cooling mist, and droplets of rain dripping from my eyebrows and nose into my cleavage. Very refreshing, and just what I needed after the foreign environment of the gym. I even remembered to log my walk when I got home. I’ll have to remember to pack a cap in my gym bag for those days when it’s a little damp for walking. And my heartrate monitor, water bottle and a hand towel. Oh, I guess I need to find a gym bag first. I’m starting to sound like one of those exercise-obsessed people I’ve always been mildly puzzled by. Go figure. I wonder if I can sneak out for another walk this afternoon.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rolling Marbles and Sliding Tiles, Part Three

But, Sliding Tiles is not just about moving furniture around and helping our home to fulfill a natural balance. Our lives, particularly our family life, is very much like the sliding tile game, with particular elements being arranged and rearranged, each slide of a tile creating a new picture of our lives. Sometimes this picture looks very much like a work in progress, making little sense, a state of temporary chaos on the way toward the creation of a more balanced and harmonious vision. And, once that harmonious state is reached, well, a new element is added, the surface adjusts to accommodate the addition, and the sliding of tiles begins again to create a new picture, fulfill a new vision.

Each marble that plops through the hole becomes a new tile to slide. Each new habit we inject into our lives impacts other aspects of our lives. It takes an adjustment, a little rearrangement, a little moving things around until the new picture emerges, almost of its own accord. And, suddenly, WE have changed. Our lives have made a small evolution toward our ultimate vision.

I post each day to my grandmother’s poetry blog (plop); and I gain a deeper understanding, appreciation and love for her and for whence I came (slide). I take my vitamins every day (plop); and I have more energy and emotional balance and mental clarity to commit to my life and my family (slide). I carve out an hour to walk or exercise each day (plop); and am afforded quiet, reflective time to pull together my thoughts enough to write them down coherently (slide), eventually slim down to a natural weight (slide), and ultimate live a life that is long, healthy and full of vitality (slide).

It can also work the other way ‘round. We make changes to our environment which will help support the establishment of a new habit. Dedicating one room or one corner of a room to an instrument or two and filling your home with music to entice the habit of playing regularly. Placing a beautiful antique desk, or a comfy overstuffed chair, or a fully stocked easel near a sunny window to encourage the habit of sitting down to write, or sitting down to read, or sitting down to draw. Creating a dedicated and comfortable personal study space for yourself and for each student to encourage daily study.

Our lives are in a constant state of change. Some change we seek out, and some change is thrust upon us. A child is diagnosed with a life-threatening chronic illness. Our spouse is called away on business more often than we feel we can manage. A relative needs some extra assistance to get through a rough patch. As much as we may like routine, and planning, and scheduling because it gives us a sense of being in control of life, the fact is there is always some new marble plopping and transforming into a tile, whether it’s us doing the plopping or the Universe. It’s up to us to just keep slidin’ those tiles to create the new picture. We can either slide tiles strictly to accommodate the Universe’s plopping and see what the picture turns out to be, or we can work on plopping our own marbles to add into the mix, and lend a part of ourselves and our own vision to the creation process. That, in my humble opinion, is about as much “control” as we really have in our lives.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Evolution of A Pantry

We live in a very nice little home built in the 1970's. As much as we love our little home, and as perfect and we feel it is for this stage of our family's evolution, there is one distinctive drawback to living in a 1970's home that is difficult to overlook, and that is storage space. The closets are tiny. The laundry room (if it exists) is tiny. The pantry (if you have one) is tiny. So, when Papa Bear embarked on a mission to revamp our home about two years ago, part of the revamp included the relocation and expansion of the pantry.

Here's what used to be our pantry, which is now our cleaning supply closet.

When the new upstairs laundry room was finished, the original laundry room off the kitchen became the new pantry. We've had temporary shelving in there for a couple of years.

Papa Bear started installing permanent shelving yesterday.....

...and finished up today. After loading up the new shelves...ta da...a new pantry!

Now, to finish the floor in there...

Rolling Marbles and Sliding Tiles, Part Two

So much for the Rolling Marbles part. How ‘bout the Sliding Tiles?

You know those kids’ games where you’ve got a bunch of tiles fitted into a flat framed surface, and you have to move them all around until you succeed in making the picture? Each time my kids play the “Finding Nemo” game and come to one of the sliding tiles puzzles, they beg me to solve it for them. I always manage to do it. But, the funny thing is, I can’t for the life of me figure out HOW I do it. I can’t “logic” my way to a solution, I just have to sit there and slide the tiles around until they all, suddenly, inexplicably, fall into place. Thank goodness my life is a bit more logical.

Recently hubby and I got a bug in our mutual bonnet and decided to rearrange the house. It was sort a wholesale redefinition of spaces and redistribution of furniture to accommodate said redefinition. As we were mentally working through how we were going to manage this feat, he said, “It’s like a Chinese puzzle.” Or, a sliding tiles game. Each move must be made in the proper order, everything will be sort of jumbled for a bit, until, suddenly, each room will be a comfortable, orderly, peacefully balanced space fulfilling its destined purpose. At least for a few months.

Our Sliding Tiles looked something like this: move all three kids into the old master bedroom, move the downstairs study into two upstairs studies, move the entertainment/media room from the basement into the living room, move all of the kids’ toys and projects into the basement, move the shelves from the pantry into the basement and build new shelves in the pantry, rearrange the dinette sans desk to make it more comfortable, and rearrange the family room to accommodate the Christmas tree. Of course, the devil is in the details, and there were, and still are, a hundred details to this rearrangement. We should be finished sometime next year.

So, what is the ultimate picture that is magically dropping into place? Well, aside from having each room fulfill its own purpose in a more comfortable manner, and a sense of overall peace and balance to the house itself, now, almost magically, there is a space for the kids’ Nana to come and stay with us as she recovers from surgery. There is now a spot in the new living room for a hospital bed where she can sleep and rest, on the first floor so she doesn’t have to negotiate the stairs, where she can have the kids sit and watch movies with her and visit when she wants, where she’s central enough to be checked on regularly and looked after as needed. Just a short walk to the powder room, the kitchen, and to the dining room. There’s even space for her dog. Papa Bear and I are both very impressed with ourselves at being so clever.

On to Part Three....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rolling Marbles and Sliding Tiles, Part One

As Mimi and I were walking together recently on one of our infrequent but treasured “us getting healthy” walks in the park, I was rambling on about the list of new habits I’ve been instituting, and ever so slightly whining that my new chiropractor seems intent on adding to the list. I said (with appropriate nasal accent), “If I try to add one more new habit right now, all my marbles are going to start rolling off my plate.”

I’ve decided that new habits are kind of like that WiiFit game you play on the balance board where there’s a semi-flat surface suspended in space with a marble on it, and you have to maneuver the marble across the surface and drop it into a hole by shifting your weight on the balance board. Like injecting a new habit into the larger context of your life, you have to focus enough attention on the marble you’re maneuvering, while at the same time remaining aware of the surface itself. Once you plop the marble into the hole, you don’t have to worry about it anymore, because it’s pretty much been incorporated into your universe.

But, the thing about this game is, each time you get the marble in the hole, a new surface appears in space, and one more marble is added. Now, you’ve got two marbles to maneuver on a slightly different surface, two marbles you’ve got to plop into the hole or holes. While you’re working on marble #1, you’ve got to be aware enough of marble #2 that you don’t let it fall off the edge of the surface and into oblivion. And, of course, once you’ve mastered two marbles, then there are three marbles, and a different surface. Then four marbles. Then five. Then six. You get the picture. Starting to sound like your life? It sure sounds like mine. Only thing is, I don’t seem to ever have just one marble at a time; they usually come in bunches.

My current bunch of marbles looks something like this: walking six days a week, taking vitamins and supplements twice a day, wearing trifocals all the time, wearing shoes with support all the time, seeing the chiropractor weekly, sleeping with a cervical pillow, baking bread instead of buying it, and posting to my grandmother’s blog daily.

They say it takes about 8-10 weeks for a habit to really become part of your lifestyle. It’s been about two months since I started the walking and vitamins, and the rest have fallen in line pretty easily. The next bunch of marbles is shaping up to look something like this: drinking more water, strength training at the Y twice a week, postural balancing exercises daily, Kegel exercises, and adjusting Brother Bear’s braces every day.

So far, all my marbles are staying on my plate, and a few have even plopped.

Stay tuned for Part Two...


I met with a Fitness Coach today. No, really, I did. I went down to the YMCA and, by appointment, met with Cindy, a very nice middle-aged lady whose job is to help people who have no idea what they are doing get into an exercise program. That’s me: don’t have any idea what I’m doing. In a gym. I don’t particularly like gyms, don’t particularly like the idea of gyms, certainly don’t like being in gyms, and have managed to avoid being in them for most of my adult life. So, why am I at a gym meeting with a Fitness Coach? Because I have to. Because if I don’t I’m likely to degenerate into an oozy blob of goo in my elder years, and I’m just not liking that idea.

Several weeks ago, I listened to the audiobook Younger Next Year For Women and started walking. The book explained in scientific term not just what exercise does for you on a cellular level, but also exactly what NOT exercising does TO you on a cellular level. Let’s just say I was horrified at the prospect of where I was headed in my comfortably sedentary life. “Holy crap”, I think, was my exact, gut-level response. So, I started walking about 45 min to an hour a day, four to five days a week (my goal was six days a week, but whatever). That was Stage One of The Exercise Plan, and it’s gone really well so far. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to manage escaping from the house for an hour, six days a week, but with Papa Bear working from home and the Cubs and I in a fairly flexible homeschool routine, it’s been working out (pun). And, the funny thing is, I actually crave walking now. I get itchy and antsy if I’ve not been walking, and can’t wait to get out to the park and blaze down that nicely paved trail through the trees along the creek. It’s kind of great that it’s been so fulfilling, because it’s made it easier to stick to.

So, now I’m looking Stage Two straight down its nasty gullet. Strength training two days a week. Ugh. That means a gym. And those machines. And people. Really, when I’m sweating and turning pink I really do not need an audience. Yeah, I know they’re not looking at me, but I’m still just not comfortable with the whole idea of exercising around strangers, ya know? And, is it just me, or are all of them attractive with really great bodies? And I’m not. Do they really have to have all those mirrors? But, I digress…

Cindy sat down with me and we talked about why I was there (because I have to), what I liked to do for exercise (not much), and what some of my long-term goals were (to not degenerate into an oozy blob of goo in my elder years, and maybe lose about 15 lb somewhere along the way). She had me fill out some questionnaires basically designed to let her know how much of a project I was going to be, and how perky, motivational, or downright pesky she was going to have to be to get me fit (she has my e-mail address, and somehow I don’t think she’s afraid to use it). Then she took me into the Cybex Room (yes, it is as reminiscent of The Terminator as it sounds), showed me how to log on at the FitLinxx Kiosk, how to log “other” workouts like my walks, and how to retrieve her messages to me and leave messages for her. Then off to the machines she had decided I should start with (only five for now) to show me how they work.

Now, the FitLinxx system that the Y uses actually makes working out about as idiot-proof as you can get. Everything is set up by your Coach so you’re not hurting yourself by taking a stab in the dark at which machines you should be starting with, how much weight to use on each, how many repetitions to do, etc. When you log on at the Kiosk, you can look up your routine (called a circuit) so you know where to start. Each machine has its own little computer screen that you log onto when you get to it. If you go to a machine that’s not on your circuit, it tells you, “Wrong machine, dummy. Try again.” Not really, it just tells you that machine is not on your circuit. Once you get to the right machine and log in, it tells you where to set the seat, back, leg, etc., how much weight to use, and how many reps to do. After you’ve finished your reps, it tells you which machine to go to next. When you’ve finished your circuit, it tells you you’re done and reminds you to log off at the Kiosk. And everything you’ve done is recorded in the FitLinxx computer. Kinda creepy, but in a really helpful way.

After I escaped from Cindy I took my usual walk through the park. When I got home, I pulled up the FitLinxx website, figured out how to set up my online account, and how to log my walks. It told me how many calories I burned on my walk and added it to my accumulated workouts for the month. At the end of the month, it will e-mail me a report showing my progress to date; total weight lifted (expressed in numbers of elephants) and total calories burned (expressed in numbers of chocolate sundaes).

So, I’m all set. Now all I have to do is actually go to the gym.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm A Good Puppy....Really

"I'm not laying on the couch, really,
'cause half my feet are still on the floor."

"But, I'm really, really, happy."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tree Trimming

It was a two-day gig this year. We picked up the tree on Saturday afternoon...

Papa Bear attempting the usual trimming of the stump... BooBoo Bear watched.

The handsaw just was not cutting it,
so out came the powertools...
...which inspired a larger audience.
And, finally, the levelling of the tree by Brother Bear.
Day Two...

T-Bear workin' the ornaments.

BooBoo Bear trimming.

Our traditional break-proof ornaments...

And, my favorite traditional Bride's ornaments,
which only go up top where the cats (and kids) can't swat them off.

Papa Bear topping the tree.

Counting down...

The tree in all its glory.

And, the final touch...the train.

Boo's in charge of the railway.