Saturday, November 28, 2009


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 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.


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


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


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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