Sunday, December 27, 2009

Life Uncommon

Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And you shall lead a life uncommon

~ Life Uncommon by Jewel

When I think of making resolutions, I think less of something I want to accomplish or change and more about the person I want to become. It’s a never ending process, becoming that person. And I have a long way to go before I get there. But I am working towards it, every day, every year.

I think back on people in my life that I admire, those who have lived the “life uncommon”. Some are living and some have passed on. All taught or are teaching me something. They aren’t perfect people, in fact, they are quite flawed beings. That’s ok. It keeps things interesting. And maybe I’m teaching them something. Maybe.

09-12-2005-10-35-34-328 My mom is at the top of my list. Although she passed on a few years ago, she’s still teaching me. I see so many things now that I failed to recognize when she was alive. My mother was a strong woman but you had to get to know her to see it. She seemed amiable, compliant, and non-confrontational. She was all of those things to a certain extent. But once she made up her mind about something, it was going to happen. Several years ago, Mom wanted to go to Egypt to see the pyramids, sort of a spiritual journey. Dad was not interested. Really, no one was. So she went by herself and she had one of the best times of her life. She went with a tour group and one of my favorite pictures has her sitting on a camel in the desert in front of a pyramid. The look on her face is one of pure joy. She was not afraid to go halfway around the world by herself to do something she alone wanted to do. There are many more stories like that – being the first in her family to go to college, graduating from college despite getting married, having 2 small children and no money, getting her masters degree at 39 while pregnant with my youngest sister. She never let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something and if she wanted to do it, she did, no matter what got in her way.

IMG_1914 Each of my siblings have inspired me and also taught me things. We are all so different from each other and there is a lot to be learned from each other. My brother’s dedication to his children and his efforts at personal growth encourage me. My middle sister is one of the most giving people I’ve ever met and her strong dedication to her faith inspire me. My youngest sister is one of the smartest people I know and her enjoyment of living make me want to close my eyes and dance, just like she does.

My children teach me and inspire me every day . . . to be a better parent, to be a better person, and to have fun every day. I can allow myself to be a little introverted and they pull me out, get me to do things and encourage me to just have more fun.family photo_3 The picture at right was taken when we were making our annual holiday photo. None of us were really in the mood. We had done the traditional thing in front of the tree, in front of the fireplace, etc. As my daughter’s friend, Sara, our photographer was fooling with the lights, the jumping began. First my daughter, then my son and my daughter. Eventually I joined in and Sara clicked away. We laughed and had the best time. And this was the photo that went in our Christmas cards along with one of the traditional ones. It shows our true personalities.

There are friends too, many of them. Some I see daily and others not for years. Some I work with, some I work for, some I scrapbook with, some are relatives that are friends, some I just hang out with. Others are from high school, some were long lost and now found on Facebook, and some are blogger friends I have never met. They are in my life for many reasons, not the least of all being to teach me to move myself towards growth and knowledge and patience and bravery and love.

I’m working on Living a Life Uncommon. Please be patient with me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where Are You Christmas?

angel bokeh

Where are you Christmas ? Why can't I find you? Why have you gone away?
Where is the laughter you used to bring me? Why can't I hear music play?
My world is changing, I'm rearranging. Does that mean Christmas changes too?

As sung by Faith Hill in “The Grinch”

Every year it gets harder for me to find that Christmas spirit.

I have always loved Christmas – the extended family gathering, the huge meal, that feeling of “niceness” that comes over everyone, the spirit of giving. I used to be so excited about getting out and shopping for that perfect gift for everyone on my list. Then I would put on holiday music and wrap presents for hours.

When my children were small, I loved to see them excited about Santa, the tree, the lights, and the giving of gifts. Making the holiday special for them was important to me but it was also fun. As they grew up, watching them do their own shopping and seeing their dedication to our Christmas traditions was rewarding.

After my husband passed away, I decided that the kids did not need another pair of jeans or another CD but they did need memories. So every year, either right before or after Christmas, we took a trip together. We went to Disney, on a cruise to Cozumel, took an amazing trip to New York City, and one year we rented a cabin in Gatlinburg and invited friends. And we made some great memories. But then they got older and their job schedules made it more difficult to coordinate a family trip around the holidays.

Over the years, I have grown to strongly dislike shopping, not just during the holidays but year-round. Our families are blessed with good jobs and homes and very little need so buying gifts became more and more difficult because when we want something, we get it ourselves. I feel so grateful that we are all so lucky and feel like it’s such a waste of money to buy something that it not really wanted or needed, just for the purpose of giving a gift. One side of my family got smart this year and we are only doing gifts for the kids while the adults will give the gift of time spent with each other, just enjoying the holiday together.

That old feeling is starting to return as I am reminded of what this holiday is about. Last night at my ABWA Christmas Party, one of our members shared a story from her church. Each church member was given an envelope with cash in it, in amounts ranging from $1 to $20. They were instructed to use their money for the benefit of others. They were not allowed to keep the money or to give it back to the church or to any of the church’s charitable events. My friend and her husband received $1 each. She is a teacher so she and her husband put their money together and she told the children in her classes that any money they brought in for the Empty Stocking Fund, she and her husband would match, starting with their $2. Within 3 days, the children had brought in over $60. Her point was that it didn’t matter how much you had or how much you started with, if you put it with others, you can do something good for someone else. After she told her story, most of the women in the room dried their eyes and one by one, quietly went to her and gave her the cash they had on them. Including me. It felt like Christmas again.

So, as the song says, “my world is changing, I’m rearranging”. So maybe that’s my answer. I need to rearrange what my idea of Christmas is and turn it into something that helps others. Giving to those that do not have what our family has, who are truly in need, that might be just where my Christmas spirit will be found.

At least until I have grandchildren!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Non-Traditional

Berry BokehEvery year, for as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has always been about family. Growing up, if we were living in the US, we all piled into the car and traveled from wherever we were stationed to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in Tennessee and Kentucky. Since we moved to Tennessee in 1997, we have spent our Thanksgivings on the road to Alabama and middle Tennessee to see my own children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

A few years ago my Mom passed away and my house became Thanksgiving central for my Dad, my middle sister and her family and I loved it. They would all arrive the night before and we would spend Thanksgiving day eating all our family favorites. It was much too far for my brother and youngest sister and their families to travel but at least part of our family was together for the day. The day after would see everyone leaving for home or to visit more family in Kentucky and once the house was cleared out, my kids and I would head for Alabama to visit with their paternal grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.I'm Just Vine How Are You

This year was different. As our children have gotten older, gotten jobs, and have become involved in school activities and sports, travel becomes more difficult for all of us. The weeks before this Thanksgiving were spent in conversations about how this year would have to be different. My sister’s boys were playing football and they had a playoff game this weekend. They would not be able to travel but she invited us to Louisiana. I tried to make it work but after getting my kids work schedules, I would have had to go alone and did not want to leave the kids alone for Thanksgiving. I also wouldn’t be able to visit my in-laws in Alabama if I did that.

Dad had some commitments with friends and would not be traveling either. My brother-in-law and his wife had a family wedding and would be staying in Mobile. After speaking with my in-laws they decided they would drive down to Mobile to spend the weekend.

cabinMy friend Robin and I were discussing our mutual frustrations with this Thanksgiving and, after quickly deciding against her suggestions of Ihop and Waffle House for Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to rent a cabin in the mountains of nearby Townsend and invited Robin and her family to come along. We would all just hang out and it would be close enough that all the kids could come and go for work as needed.

Apparently, lots of folks spend Thanksgiving in the Smoky bonfireMountains. I thought I would NEVER find a cabin. Mind you, there are literally thousands of cabins for rent in the Smoky Mountains. There were almost none available. I spent hours searching online and finally found a 2 bedroom available in Townsend and for a pretty good price. I was a little hesitant but went ahead with the contract. The website said the cabin had a hot tub, a volleyball net, a bonfire pit, and had horses on the 11 acre property. We could make this work.

I decided to go up by myself on Tuesday afternoon. Everyone else would come up after work on Wednesday. The kid’s friends would join us on Thursday evening. Some of the kids had to work on Friday and we would all leave on Saturday. Smoky View SunriseThere might be a lot of coming and going and sleeping on the floor but we are a laid back group and it would be fine. I just kept thinking mountains, hot tub, and bonfire.

What we got was amazing. The cabin was small but we made it work. When there were too many people in the house, we went outside. The kids fed the horses lots of apples, carrots, and bread. We explored the property looking for the pond which we never found until we were packing the cars on Saturday. There was an inspiring view of the Smoky Mountains and the sunrises were just beautiful from the rocking chairs or the swing on the porch. The hot tub was perfect and we had a bonfire each night. The sky was so clear and as we sat by the fire drinking hot spiced cider and staring up at the stars you could see every star in the sky. We all pitched in and cooked a yummy Thanksgiving dinner combining each family’s favorites. And I took lots of pictures. All the pictures here were taken around the cabin. I think this might have become one of my most favorite Thanksgivings ever.

I missed my family but I was with my family. Robin and her family are our family too. We vacation together at the beach every year and I am thinking this Thanksgiving thing might become a new tradition too. And I will be returning to that cabin again. It just reinforced why I love the mountains.

As we sat in the hot tub, my daughter said “I could live here”. Me too babe. Me too.

feeding horses

zack and horse

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Weight Loss Update Time

It has been awhile since my last update and a few people have asked so I thought I would let everyone know how things are going. It’s kind of funny because people are a little afraid to ask. I think the feeling is “What if she went off her diet?” I guess they want to spare me the embarrassment of having to say I failed. But I haven’t failed, I am still plugging along, looking down the long road ahead.

Here are things I have done that are working:

1. The Daily Plate at Livestrong.com. I have mentioned it in before but it has truly been a huge help to me and I have recommended it to so many people. Basically, you log all the food you eat each day and it tracks the calories. I usually hate logging my food but this is really easy. I have the mobile app on my blackberry so I can keep track on the go. There have been only a few foods that I have not found in their database. They have calories for grocery store foods, restaurant foods and even for recipes. As I lose weight, the daily calories adjust and I stay on track. It is easy to use and I use it every day.

2. I eat small meals and carry food with me daily. I eat something every 2 – 3 hours. I always eat breakfast then a few hours later I eat some yogurt or fruit. Then a small lunch and a few hours later some veggies or fruit or almonds or a snack bar. A few hours later I eat a medium size dinner and then later some fruit or a pudding snack or some dark chocolate. I pack a cooler in the morning with food and water and I keep a bag in my car with snack bars, almonds, and low cal snacks. The small meals every few hours keep me from getting hungry and having healthy food with me allows me to make good decisions rather than running through a drive through fast food restaurant.

3. The 90/10 Rule. There have been many situations over the last few weeks where I found myself unable to control what I ate or where I gave in to temptation. I had an out of town 4 day business meeting where the meals were chosen for us and we celebrated my daughter’s birthday among other things. That’s life. So guilt is not an option. The key is getting right back on the diet the next day and not looking back. I try to do what I am supposed to do 90% of the time and then allow myself a little “fun” 10% of the time. I’m in this for the long haul and I have a long way to go so the expectations have to be realistic.

4. Calorie counting is easier than I thought. Of course, having access on The Daily Plate to the calories of almost everything I eat makes it really easy. I have done WW points, low fat, and low carb in the past and never wanted to mess with counting calories. But ultimately, weight loss means putting fewer calories (whether they are made up of fat, carbs, protein, or something else) in your body and burning more calories so it really is all about the calories. No food is really off limits, you just have to be careful how much you eat of it. Having that flexibility leaves me lots of choices, which I like.

5. The Wii Fit will make you sweat! Who knew? I sure didn’t. We have had it for a year but I had not really used it because I didn’t really understand what it did. Last week, I had my daughter show me. I loved it! Then I went and bought the new Wii Fit Plus disc ($19.99) because it has many more games and allows you to track the amount of calories you are burning. It’s fun and it doesn’t feel like exercise. But I am sweating and actually getting a workout – try it for an hour, you will see. There is yoga, strength exercises, balance games, and aerobic activities. I feel great and can see improvement every time I use it.

So the results today are that I have lost almost 40 lbs. And it feels good.

Compare down 38

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The End Just Means A New Beginning

Golden This time of the year usually signifies endings of some sort. The end of a season, the end of a calendar year, businesses end their fiscal year, and school semesters are ending for students everywhere. But do things really end? All of those endings bring with them a new beginning. Hopefully. An end is really more like a marker for change. One thing or way of life ends and another begins. Things change.

Many people in my life have endings going on in their lives – relationships, jobs, normal daily life as they know it. It is difficult to watch them go through it. I can’t just tell them things will be ok. Well I could tell them that but they might hit me. I can only be there to listen and that’s ok with me. But it’s hard when you can’t fix it for them, no matter how much you wish you could.

There will be new beginnings for them – new relationships, new jobs, new normal in their lives. I don’t know when those new beginnings will come but I know that when they do, those things will be better for them. I feel it. I’ve been through it and started over. Change is hard. Things are different but they really are better.

Eventually.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Accept Me As I Am

What exactly does that mean? People say it all the time but what does it mean?question-mark

I have been on E-Harmony now for a while and, on occasion, I receive the profile of a man who is looking for someone that can accept him “as I am”. I often hesitate to reply to those profiles. My mind goes to all kind of places. Is he severely obese or does he have a disfiguring disease? Is he a former felon or a child molester? Or could he possibly mean he is looking for someone that is not going to change him? I don’t know.

When I hear people say “accept me as I am”, I wonder what they’ve been through. Not just people on E-Harmony but in everyday life. Who hurt them? Who didn’t accept them? Why weren’t they accepted? Was it their fault or someone else’s?

Mostly I consider why they are not willing to change. Change usually means growth. We change all our lives. Hopefully.

As a child, we throw tantrums until we change our behavior after learning that tantrums get us nowhere. Or we don’t change and grow up to become controlling, whiney adults. Adults who are unwilling to change.

There are many things about those in my life, as well as myself, that I can accept – bad habits, personality quirks, falling short. We all struggle with making ourselves better people and we all have bad days. But to ignore the need to change and grow is a deal breaker. Work on yourself and I accept that. Self-awareness is key.

So I still don’t know what those people mean when they say “accept me as I am”. It may just be a terminology issue. They could have said “Please accept that I have flaws and I am working on them” and I might not do so much thinking about the whole situation.

But then, what would I blog about?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hands

“My hands are small, I know, but they’re not yours, they are my own.” ~ Hands by Jewel

kneading

From a very young age I have had a fascination with people’s hands. I think it started with my grandparents. My grandfather was a farmer and his hands were worn and wrinkled and he had short fingers. My grandmother had large, strong hands but they were always so soft and beautiful. When they held me, I took comfort in their hands and understood the love that came through them.

My mom’s hands were a combination of both her parents. Her hands were small like her father’s but looked like her mother’s. And they were always soft and beautiful. Her fingers were perfectly shaped and she always filed her fingernails into a sort of pointy shape. Her fingers taper perfectly just as if you were drawing a picture of what a hand is “supposed” to look like.

My dad’s hands were small also and perfectly tapered with short fingers like his mother’s. And his hands were hairy. But he really does have pretty hands, as people say, for a man. He used to bite his nails when I was younger but he got past that stage and he has really nice hands.patting

My hands are a combination of my mom’s and dad’s, small with short, tapered, well shaped fingers. My husband’s hands were very different from those in my family. He had longer fingers and large, wide palms. His fingers were wide and a little knobby and not so perfectly tapered with rough places around his nails where he wouldn’t take the time to find nail clippers and would just bite off a hang nail. But they were gentle and caring hands. I remember when he died and we had the viewing. I really didn’t know why then but I just stood beside his casket and rubbed his hand. It was oddly comforting.

Hands say something about the person to whom they are attached. It’s not like we can change our hands to fit our mood but I see personality in hands. It’s the first thing I look at when I meet people.rolling I can tell if someone has worked hard in their life or if they don’t care about their personal hygiene. You can tell if they spend way too much money on their manicures or if they are a practical person who would prefer to take care of their filing and polishing themselves. For the record, I spend money getting my nails done but mostly because I’m lazy and would walk around with jagged cuticles and chipped polish. Go ahead, judge me.

These pictures are of my mom’s hands. She is teaching my kids how to make her famous biscuits. I used to love watching her make biscuits. It was like art. As she mixed the dough and my kids helped, I decided that I wanted pictures of my mom teaching my kids but I also wanted pictures of their hands. I have a scrapbook page that I made from all the photos. You can see my son’s hands in one of the photos also. His hands and his sister’s hands are a combination of his dad’s and mine.

I think about all the things my mom’s hands have done for me and it makes me quite emotional. To not see her hands and feel their comfort has been hard since she died. Just like when my husband died, at the funeral home, I stood beside her and touched her hands. It breaks my heart now to think about it. But these pictures give a small amount of comfort and I am so glad I took them.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Life Happens

I love my blog. I have no aspirations to be a writer but I do love writing. I enjoy telling the stories of the people in my life, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and there is always a lesson to be learned. Sometimes, the blog allows me to say things I can’t or just don’t say to others. I want to say them but in most situations it would be awkward. So I say them here.

Beach chair lake chairI write when I have something to say or a story to tell. Usually I have something to say a couple of times a week. Sometimes I write once a week. Rarely does a week or more go by but it has happened. That’s when life happens. Plain old boring life.

Several times in the last few weeks I have wanted to write about something – my kid’s adventures in redecorating, my new photography project, my trip to Kentucky for my first horse racing experience, Halloween adventures, weight loss milestones, and more. But writing takes time and I was busy letting life happen.

I sat down a few times and started to write but got caught up in archiving my second year of blogging into book form. Or working on a photography project. I was working longer each day and in the evening, searching the internet for healthy low calorie recipes or playing on Facebook. When my old clothes got too baggy, I shopped on line and in stores for some new, slightly smaller clothes. I listened to my kids tell me about work and school and friends and parties. And I never got around to writing.

I missed it. I missed my blog. So I am writing about, basically, nothing today. Just because I miss writing. But I’m writing.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Check Yourself

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And today . . . I had my yearly mammogram. I got the results back today too. No problems, all clear. It’s really nice not to have to worry.Boobiethon 09

I’m not really a worrier so why would I worry? I have friends that have or have had breast cancer. Way too many of them. But they have survived even if their health has been affected in other ways as a result of the treatment. It’s a scary disease. But when your mother dies way too young as a result of a teeny, tiny lump in her breast, you worry.

Mom’s cancer started with a small “spot”. It was so small that when they did the biopsy, the doctor told her they got almost all of it during the procedure. But the biopsy came back with bad news and they recommended a lumpectomy which was performed on June 1st of 2001. They said she wouldn’t need chemo but recommended radiation. Just to be sure. Mom politely declined. Five years later, she passed away. It was 5 years of a lot of pain, a lot of searching for answers, a lot of denial that cancer was causing it all and finally, acceptance. She taught us a lot of things in those 5 years.

I hate cancer . . . of any kind. It makes me really angry. So I worry. I worry for my daughter and my sisters. I worry for my friends. Males are not safe either. Look up those statistics. I recently heard of a married couple who are both suffering from breast cancer . . . both the husband and the wife.

So I remind everyone. Check yourself, have your doctor check you, get a mammogram. Regularly. So you don’t have to worry.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Aline Dewees Wiggins Cunningham

alinewigginscunningham

Aline Dewees Wiggins Cunnigham was the second daughter of Blake Baker Wiggins III and Eddie “Trinkins” Cabaniss of Jackson, Mississippi. She was born June 16th, 1892. Aline was a tall girl, almost 6 foot tall, and prone to slouching to hide the fact that she stood head and shoulders over many men of her time. She was quite pretty and her hair was long and thick. So thick and heavy that when she wore it up, she got headaches from the weight of her hair.

Aline was somewhat shy but very friendly and sociable. She loved her family and parties and learning new things. Her family was well known in the Jackson area and she had many opportunities to travel and meet many different people. Her friendships were strong and continued throughout her life.

Sometime around 1913, Aline traveled to Clarksville, Tennessee to visit her sister Mae who had moved there after her marriage to Herbert Hambaugh. Because travel was difficult, visits to family were extended, sometimes for months. While in Clarksville, Aline met a young man, a very tall young man named Frank Cunningham. Frank was from a good family and was quite charming. And he was tall. There were parties and a courtship. And Frank was charming enough that Aline agreed to marry Frank and to move to Tennessee, away from Mississippi and her family. They married in 1914 and settled in Clarksville, close to Frank’s large family.

Aline was much like women of her day. She left her family of origin and became part of a new family, that of her husband. She had children, two boys. Blake was named after her father and Frank was named after her husband. Aline missed Mississippi, her parents, and her siblings but travel was not easy so visits were few. But she was a wonderful letter writer and shared the news of her young boys and daily life with her family and friends back in Mississippi on a regular basis.

Aline was a sentimental soul. She researched her family lineage and corresponded with many long distance cousins through letter writing and sharing documentation. She saved letters, postcards, clippings, journals, and baby shoes. She gave her all to her husband and her boys and was, by all accounts, a beloved wife and mother. And an amazing cook.

Aline was a gentle woman who rarely even raised her voice. Later in her life she was ravaged by rheumatoid arthritis and was confined to a wheelchair. But she never complained. After being so selfless all of her marriage, there were times her boys and her husband did not appreciate her pain. She had given all to them and they were quite selfish. But others saw the truth. Both her daughters-in-law saw it as did her grandchildren. And they talk about her strength to this day.

I didn’t know Aline that well, really not at all. She died when I was 4. She was my great grandmother. I have memories of sitting beside her and looking at her hands. They were twisted and she couldn’t move her fingers much but she was so gentle. She enjoyed playing cards. And I remember when she died. We weren’t there but when my mother got the phone call, I remember her getting down on her knees and praying and crying. She wasn’t her grandmother. My mom married one of Aline’s grandsons. But Mom had such admiration and respect for Aline and they were close. My grandmother used to say that my mom reminded her of Aline.

The stories of Aline have inspired me all my life to be a better person. Different from Aline because the times are different but taking all of the good in her and trying to live my life better. There may have been bad and I just haven’t heard it. I would hope so since really, no one is perfect.

It is said by some that when you die and the people that knew you die, it’s as if you didn’t exist. I don’t want that to happen. So I write about Aline here. And other family members that have passed. Now you know a little about them too. And they can live forever.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Welcome October

stuck

"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn."

- Elizabeth Lawrence

I am so very glad to see October arrive. Fall is my favorite season and in Tennessee, October is one of the most beautiful months. The weather cools off, the light changes, the leaves turn beautiful colors and the countdown to the autumn holidays begins.

There are a few other things that I love about October:

  • It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • College Football is in full swing
  • It’s my Blog’s 2nd Anniversary!

Last year, I found Blurb. It is a website where you can download the software to your computer that allows you to lay out and create a book of anything you want. Once you get it all laid out, you upload it to the website and they print the book for you. The cool thing is . . . you can download your blog into the software and then print it in hardbound form, saving it forever. I did that last year for the first anniversary of my blog and will doing it again soon for the second year. I figure that way, maybe my grandchildren will one day read about how it was way back in 2008 and 2009 and will maybe know their old grandmother a little better.

Weight Loss Update - I am going to try to keep my “scale days” to once a month around the first day of the month. As today is the first day of October, I weighed this morning and I have lost 30 pounds in 10 weeks. I am very happy with the progress.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Full of Hot Air

balloons_5For the last 6 years, Pellissippi State, a local community college and now the college my daughter attends, has held a Hot Air Balloon Festival. I have never been. I wasn’t really sure it was something I would find interesting. I wondered what it involved but never more thought more than that.

Last Friday, the festival kicked off and my daughter called to see if I wanted to go with her friend Sara and Sara’s parents. Why not? We went and I had no idea. There was a great band playing, an area with activities for children, a rock climbing wall, tons of stuff to see, interesting food (had to have a funnel cake) and then . . . after dark there was the Balloon Glow.balloons_7

I knew they lit up the balloons, I had seen pictures. But I had no idea they did it to music and it went on for about 20 minutes. It was quite a beautiful and amazing sight.

They had one section where the balloon in the center from Pellissippi State began to rise and below it was a waving flag. Patriotic songs played and the balloons lit and faded in time to the music. I don’t usually enjoy the cheesiness factor of those kinds of things but it really brought tears to my eyes.

I am so glad we went and very glad we decided to go on Friday night as everything on Saturday was cancelled due to the torrential downpour we had all day. And I will be back next year. You should join us.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Think I Can

Several of my recent blog posts and Facebook status updates seem to have involved the enjoyment of food leading some of you to ask if I am still dieting. Yes, I am. I will be “dieting” for a long time.

I still hate calling it a diet although I have no idea what it should be called. Diet seems temporary. Lifestyle change doesn’t really do it either. I haven’t found an appropriate term yet and don’t know that I ever will. This change to the way I eat will become normal at some point. It has to become a normal thing for it to work. I must pay attention to what I eat and the amount I eat, not as a diet but as a normal way of life. I think I can

Several friends have asked how much I’ve lost and I don’t really know except that my clothes, even my yoga pants, are getting too big. Many think it’s weird that I have no idea. As I stated in earlier blog posts, the scale is not my friend. I first said I would weigh when I could really tell a difference in my clothes. I did that after 4 weeks and I had lost 17 and a half pounds. That was a great motivator although I am quite aware that I will not have that much of a loss again. That’s an average of over 4 lbs. per week and it would be unrealistic to expect that to continue. I am shooting for an average of about 2 lbs per week. I will probably weigh again towards the end of the month and will let you know how it’s going.

Something is different this time and I don’t really know what it is. I have tried to figure it out but cannot really come up with why I feel differently. I am so laid back this time and feel no pressure to do this. But I really want to do it and have not really found it hard to do. Not getting on the scale allows me to keep from getting hung up on that up and down everyone experiences as a part of weight loss. My approach has all the hallmarks of failure according to the experts. I have little to no “support” – I don’t go to group meetings, my family is supportive but we don’t really talk about my “diet”, I don’t have a doctor helping me, I don’t even really have a plan. It’s my choice what I eat and I am choosing to stay within my calorie range and make healthy decisions. I have chosen to eat at restaurants and to enjoy, on a couple of occasions, home cooking style food that is laden with calories. But I make better choices at the restaurants by looking up the calories on Livestrong.com on my cell phone and when I enjoyed biscuits and hashbrown casserole at the Loveless Cafe, I only at half of my food, stopping when I was full. And then the next day, I go right back to my regular healthy meals.

I have found that I love Greek style non-fat yogurt, especially strawberry and peach by Chobani. I am not a cottage cheese fan but have you tried Rachel’s flavored cottage cheese? Flavors like Pear Mangosteen or Cucumber Dill or Lemon Verbena Berry have got me hooked. I am eating more protein but still struggle with craving carbs. Laughing Cow Light cheese has saved me on more than one occasion when I really needed some mac and cheese. Lean Cuisine frozen entrees are my favorite lunch for work. Right now I am craving a turkey, romaine, and avocado sandwich on Ezekiel Bread that was mentioned and photographed by my online friend Becky, better known as Dyxie.

So give me another couple of weeks and I will update you again with a total pounds lost thus far. I can’t wait to hear it myself.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

One Short Day

From the song, One Short Day from Wicked, The Musicalwicked-the-musical

Elphaba and Glinda:

Where so many roam to
We'll call it home too
And then just like now we can say,
Were just two friends
Two good friends
Two best friends
Sharing one wonderful,
one short...
...day!

Have you seen “Wicked”? If you get the opportunity, go. If you have no idea what I’m talking about . . . “Wicked” is a play . . . a musical to be exact . . . about the Wicked Witch of the West (her name is Elphaba) and Glinda the Good Witch from “The Wizard of Oz”. But it’s the story of what happened before Dorothy and Toto came into the picture. Very funny and the songs are amazing.

My son and I love musical theater. My daughter, not so much. I heard “Wicked” was coming to Nashville and as soon as I could, I went online to purchase tickets. We have wanted to see this for a long time. Nashville is a 3 hour drive so we debated driving back after the show but the earliest that would get us home would be 3am. I just wasn’t up for that so on Friday afternoon I got a reservation at a hotel in downtown Nashville so we could walk to everything. We would leave Saturday around noon.

My son and I don’t get to spend much time together now. Our schedules overlap – he goes to work at 3pm and works till 11pm. Then he usually goes out with friends and comes home very late (or early as the case may be), falls into bed and sleeps until about 11am the next day. My schedule is more “normal”. I usually hear him come in at night after work and he tells me goodnight. That’s about it except for a little time on the weekends.

So this was going to be fun. Just me and him for a change.

When we arrived and checked in, I remembered that one of my favorite Nashville restaurants, Mambu, was close by. Mambu is an eclectic little restaurant with amazing food and a great atmosphere. It’s not as well known as other places but it should be. So we headed over for dinner and had a great time eating great food before taking a taxi to TPAC for the performance.

At intermission, I headed for the restroom and stood waiting for an elevator. Out of the elevator stepped my old friend Tammy and her husband, whom I had never met. We have been friends for about 15 years while she lived in St. Louis and Atlanta but I have not seen her since she moved to Nashville. We chatted for a second and then she said “Well, we will see you in there. We are in row L”. I said “We are in row L too”. She said “We are in seats 30 and 31.” I said “Don’t tell me we are sitting next to each other! We are in 32 and 33!” I was sitting next to her husband for the whole first act and had no idea! So we enjoyed the rest of the show together.

Have you ever been to one of my favorite places, The Loveless Cafe outside Nashville? If you aren’t aware of The Loveless, you are missing out. It used to be a small motel along the Natchez Trace. The cafe became famous for their southern cooking and their homemade biscuits. It has attracted many famous folks whose pictures hang on the walls. It has changed ownership several times, the motel has been converted into small shops and the cafe has been expanded but the recipes for the food (and the amazing biscuits) have been passed down so the tradition continues. So guess where we went for breakfast? It was just yummy and so much more food than either of could eat. But we tried. The biscuits are melt in your mouth with real butter and homemade peach, blackberry, and strawberry jam. It all reminded me so much of being at my grandmother’s kitchen table.

None of this was planned. Well, except for “Wicked”. And we had One Short Day of fun and being friends. It was the best!

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Friday, September 4, 2009

I Just Can’t Take It Anymore

Hiding2

Okay, I rarely talk politics on my blog. Not that I haven't shared my feelings on some things in the last few years but I just don’t care to make this blog about politics. I am very “middle of the road” when it comes to politics (and most everything else in life) but every now and then, something puts me over the edge. Today it was this article:

Obama Speech To Students Sparks Controversy

If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, the summary is that President Obama has a speech scheduled on Tuesday that is directed at students, telling them to stay in school, work hard, and that they are responsible for their success in school. School districts have been encouraged to air it to students during the school day.

The controversy seems to enter because there are some who think Obama is forcing his “socialist agenda” on students or that he is trying to sway students politically. President Bush did something similar in 1991 and of course, was criticized by the far left. Many school districts are fielding calls from parents demanding their children not be forced to watch. Schools in many states have opted not to air the speech. This quote particularly incensed me:

"As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education — it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality," said Oklahoma Republican state Sen. Steve Russell. "This is something you'd expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein's Iraq."

Here is my problem – this man is the President of the United States. He is our President whether we agree or disagree with his politics or his policies or his speeches. We elected him just as we elected George Bush and Bill Clinton before him. These school children get up and say the Pledge of Allegiance every day and he is the leader of the Republic that is represented by the flag. He should not be censored.

I am sick of the politics going on in the last few years but particularly in the last few months. The health care reform bill has brought out the crazies on both sides. People have avoided reading the facts and have listened to fear mongers and liars on both ends of the health care debate. Now this craziness over a speech to encourage kids to work hard in school.

I am truly an independent, not a Democrat or Republican. I voted for George Bush both times but had very little confidence in him. In fact I came to see him as ineffective and polarizing. But I condemned the far left for working against him to further their agenda. I voted for Obama and felt renewed and full of hope. I am still giving him a chance and watching carefully as it is so early in his presidency but he has his work cut out for him. And I condemn all of the far right that openly voice that they plan to ensure he fails. How is that good for America?

I long for the days when we respected our President whether we agreed with him or not. We taught our children not about liberal or conservative politics but respect for the office and our country and the process of being a part of a democracy. Now we have parents demanding schools refuse to show our President’s speech to our students. That scares me.

I am stepping down off my soapbox now. But I’m still sad.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Seeing Progress

I was not ready. I didn’t want to be let down which would result in frustration. I wanted noticeable results. But my curiosity got the best of me. green2

On Friday, I put on an outfit that I had worn last month. The pants were brown legging type of pants, knit and slightly fitted. When I put them on that morning, they were baggy. Not like falling off or anything but noticeably baggy. But I was not getting on the scales. I went on to work and decided that I would weigh soon but not yet.

At lunch I had to run pick up something at my house. I went up to use the bathroom and there it was . . . the scale . . . staring at me. Did I dare? What if it was only a few pounds. It’s been 4 weeks and if it was only a few pounds, I know I would get frustrated. But it had to be more than a few pounds, I just know it. Should I or should I not? I shall.

I stepped on it to wake it up. The digital display circled and rested at zero. I stared at it. Then I stepped forward . . . one foot . . . then the other. I looked up so as not to see the number. Then I looked down. Really??? I quickly did the math in my head. This must be a mistake. I stepped off. I stepped back on. The same number. I did the math again in my head thinking I had made an error. Nope.

I lost 17.5 pounds in 4 weeks. I have lost almost 20 pounds. I am one happy girl. One very, very happy girl.

I have been counting calories. Not really counting them exactly, more like just tracking them. I have been using The Daily Plate at Livestrong.com which allows you to track your food online. They have an extensive database, larger than any I have seen, with grocery store food, restaurants, and just about anything you can eat. I just look up an item, click on it and it adds it. They also have an application for blackberry and iphones so I can track it during the day away from the computer. It will track exercise and activity also and add back calories burned. It’s been fairly easy to track and manage and I have only gone over my daily calories a few times.

I am really enjoying the bike riding, especially with my daughter and my friends. I can do activity or exercise all day long if there is a social or fun side to it. I don’t care for the gym or jogging or the treadmill. I used to play basketball and I was pretty good. I could run up and down the court for hours on end, never wanting to stop. But if you said I had to run laps, I hated it with a passion. When I was playing, my mind was not on the running. When I ran laps, it’s all I thought about. So I know I have to have exercise that takes my mind off what I’m doing and it has to be fun.

So the journey continues. I’m glad I peeked but I will not weigh again for at least another 4 weeks. Or until the curiosity wins again.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

She’s All That

shoppingista

Sometimes I forget to tell my children that I am proud of them. I tell everyone else about things they do that I am proud of but rarely do I share that with them. My dad did that too. We knew he was proud of us but it sure is nice to hear it occasionally. You know how, when you are growing up, you say “When I grow up I won’t do this to my kids”. Yeah, well sometimes you do.

I have shared with you both my children’s frustrations with their school experience. They are smart, articulate, and motivated in life but their high school experience turned them off to continuing on to college. I was really not given an option when it came to going to college and I left after two years because getting married was a whole lot more important to me than finishing college. I didn’t want to push my kids into it, I wanted it to be their decision. I wanted them to WANT to go and I encouraged them but I didn’t push. There was some interest but no real movement in that direction. So I thought.

My daughter has been out of high school for over a year. She has been working and has put off applying to college several times. A few months ago, she mentioned that she sent in her application to the local community college. Ok, cool. I waited and watched but didn’t push. About a month later she mentioned that she had sent in a check for registration. Really? With your own money? Impressive. But then it wasn’t mentioned again and deadlines were approaching. She shared with me that she had not heard anything yet. I suggested she call.

Turns out the school had both the application and the check but on separate accounts. Things were straightened out and the next thing I knew she was taking a placement test and had an appointment with an advisor. She had planned to start out with 6 hours of classes but went with 12 hours. She had not applied for financial aid so she looked into setting up a payment plan. That’s where I stopped her. I always told my kids that if they wanted to go to college, I would pay for it. I told her if she was committed to doing this, I would pay.

So on Monday, I paid my first ever college tuition payment for one of my kids. I am excited for her. She is starting a whole new chapter in her life and will be majoring in something she is really good at – Interior Design. But I am so proud of her for doing this all on her own. Making the decision, doing the legwork, being a grown up.

Yep, she’s all that.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yet Another Gadget

If you are Gadget Girl like me, there is always some fun new and interesting gadget on the market. But if you are a cautious techie like me, you don’t buy them as soon as they come out. I must be convinced that the new gadget is something I would use and use frequently. It must work well. Any new gadget goes through several incarnations before they get the kinks worked out so I never buy the first version of anything. Kindle2I must do research and read reviews. Lots of them. And when I decide I might NEED the new gadget as much as I WANT the new gadget, then I buy it.

I have been hearing about the Kindle since Amazon came out with it in late 2007. It is an electronic book reader. Basically you buy your books or newspapers and they are downloaded to the reader (which holds hundreds of books) and you can read them anywhere, anytime. It has other nifty and awesome things it does too but basically, you read books on it.

I love books and I love paper and ink. The feel of a book in your hand, turning the pages, smelling the “new book” smell, curling up in a chair on a rainy day and feeling the weight of the book on your lap – how was this giant Ipod looking gadget going to do that? But hmmmmmm, the books are really cheap, less than $10, even for new books and those on the NY Times bestseller lists. Books that I recently paid $15 - $40 for were available for $9.99. That’s a plus. But I was not convinced. So I waited.

The more I heard about the Kindle - on Oprah, on the radio, on TV - the more intriguing I found this device. I read reviews which were mixed. Still not sure it was for me, I waited some more. Then Amazon came out with a new version – The Kindle2.

All the customer reviews were excellent. Amazon had listened to the customers and fixed the problems, making the whole thing better and at a cheaper price than the original. I did more research. Based on the number of books that I buy, the cost savings on books could pay for the Kindle in a year. Not an excellent gain but at least I would be saving money and trees and it was good effort at rationalization. And the thought of not having to store all those books – less clutter in my house. And I could put it in my purse and have all my books with me at anytime – stuck in traffic, in the airport, in the doctor’s office. I am a pro at rationalization. So I gave in. I ordered one.

I got my Kindle today. It is so much like reading a book, it’s a little freaky. I quickly and easily downloaded two books, Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster and My Life In France by Julia Child. I had just finished Jen Lancaster’s book Such a Pretty Fat and it was hilarious. I couldn’t wait to get another one of her books. And I recently saw the movie Julie and Julia and had been left wanting to know so much more about Julia Child. She is NOT just the tall TV cooking lady with the funny voice I remember from childhood, she was quite a saucy broad who led such an amazing life from what I understand. I guess I will find out.

So tonight, I will fall asleep reading in bed as I always do. Except tonight, I won’t lose my place when I fall asleep and the book drops from my hand, pages fluttering as the fan blows. It will be automatically electronically bookmarked and waiting for me when I pick it up where I left off. A lot less romantic sounding but much more practical.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Project 50 . . . check. What Comes Next?

The Future

To the left is my 50th photo in my Project 50 series. Project 50 involves taking 50 photos in 50 days with a 50mm lens.

Ok, so I took longer than 50 days. I did pretty well until I went to the beach for vacation and then to California for my sister’s wedding. I ended up taking a week during the middle of the project as a break. My creativity was stretched and my photos were suffering. It’s difficult to take a photo every day and keep it remotely interesting. So I gave myself a break when needed and then got back on track so it actually took me a little more than 50 days, 87 to be exact.

So I am on to my next project, whatever that is. I haven’t found one yet so stay tuned. I love the idea of a project to keep me focused and trying new things. Even when you love something, as I do photography, you sometimes need a push to keep you moving and learning new things. In fact, when I started Project 50 it was really about learning to do new things with my lens. A 50mm lens is a fixed lens which means , among other things, it doesn’t zoom at all which would be a change for me. But the project became something else – a sort of diary of things going on in my life that day or things going on in my head. I took photos of things that were meaningful to me and shared the stories. I also took photos of mundane things that were going on that day. I took photos of the food I was eating. As I looked through the series I got a sense of me and what I was doing over the last 3 months.

So here are some of my favorites from my Project 50 series:

Pierced Navel curvy Ranier Cherries mother and childaround the bend gumballs My View Schwin-tastic