Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Wrap Up

Sorry, I couldn't help myself. These are pictures that must be published. Enjoy.

Meet the neighbors.

Meet the "trick or treaters".

A First Halloween as a dinosaur. I had to see who was inside the costume.

The pacifer was the icing on the cake, I thought.

Every Trick or Treater was eager to have their pictures taken. Hams ... one and all. It was hard to choose just a few pictures. It wasn't the largest crowd we have ever had, but all seemed to take great care with their costumes.

The Haunted House

Happy Halloween Everyone!

And yes, there appears to be a haunted house in my neighborhood. They have a sign out side and everything. I walked by this house all month wondering if they planned a haunted open house - like the sign said. Did they have an actual website? Is this a string of haunted open houses? Questions, Questions.

So today, on Halloween, I checked the website listed on the sign. I am so gullible. When you key in the website address in google, it directs you to a site that sells Halloween stuff - and this sign is one of the things they sell - and they are "Sold Out" of the sign. :-)

So it appears that this sign is just one of the many decorations for this house.

Pretty darn cute. A real "trick".

Doesn't look too haunted to me!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I love a Marching Band!!

Today I was rewarded big time for walking around 9:30 am. A marching band was parading right along my walking route! How great is that!!

Hammond High School, the neighborhood high school for our area has a Home Coming Parade every year in mid-October. This year I figured I had missed it because it was already October 30 - and no parade! When I started out I could hear the drums in the distance. I was thrilled.

The football team participates as well. No marching in step for them.

And then there are the cheer leaders. Guess the little short skirts are too old fashion for them.

They take a route through the neighborhood every year. There are floats and cars with the Home Coming Courts for each class. They also get a police escort so that traffic can be held up for the passing of the parade. Since I was on foot, I could see some of the drivers who had to wait. Some were enjoying the parade. There were others who seemed annoyed that they had to wait - (the wait was probably only 15 minutes). But I couldn't help feeling annoyed with the drivers who weren't enjoying the view. Here we have a small positive demonstration of the effort and talent of our upcoming generation. The kids weren't being loud or disruptive. They weren't causing any damage. They were celebrating, and sharing their celebration with the neighborhood. There is just no pleasing some people. Thankfully there were far more people just like me who were enjoying the parade.

It brought back memories because my daughter was in Marching Band when she attended Hammond High School. I have tons of pictures of it and wonderful memories.

This is part of my fall as well. How many people are lucky enough to have a parade march through their neighborhood ... right by their house ... like I do every year for the last 25 years!

I so love a marching band!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Frustration - Navel gazing

I really seem to make my life more difficult than it needs to be. The next 20 years shouldn't be more difficult.

When I was a working person, I always set the bar high. My employers loved me. People who set the bar high don't need much managing. Managers love employees who don't need much managing. Less work for the manager.

But I am retired! No boss. No job. No bar setting. But obviously the old bar-setting behavior is still rampant.

For example: This month has been pretty poor in getting in all my walks. My average steps per day in October are 7,699 (in September is was about 10,400 per day). To reach that 10,000 goal between now and October 31st I would need to walk over 34,400 steps per day for 3 days! And when I discovered that fact on Walker Tracker - I immediately thought - "well, that is possible. I could do that ... just for 3 days ... I might need alittle Advil, but ... "

So, let's see raised hands on just how insane I was for that 5 minutes.

Today while I was riding into Bethesda to pick up Milo (a bright spot in my life that I can't do without), while riding in the car (which means I was sitting - not walking - which means no steps *sigh*), I got to thinking. I should approach this whole process looking at what I can do, what fits into my life, ... and stop trying to apply an arbitrary structure - which ends in frustration when I miss the goal. I really do my best thinking when I am riding into Bethesda. I am by myself, no radio, no pod casts, no distractions.

Tomorrow I am going to enjoy the 2 hours of peace I have first thing in the morning when I am the only one up - instead of mentally arguing with myself about going for a walk in that time. I am not a morning person - so sitting quietly with coffee, checking my email, watching the birds, harvesting my crops on "We Rule" ... accept the quiet stuff that fills my early mornings and quiets my brain as well. The walk will come and so will the steps. But not on a schedule.

Make the end of the month a "discovery" time - rather than a charge to the finish line.

Darn uptight Type A personalities ... why couldn't I have been born a more relaxed Type B.

We made the news!!

Here is a wonderful news article on our Tai Chi group written by Maureen O'Donnell. This article was published in a new online local news site called The Columbia Patch. The link below takes you into that web site. If you are a local reader, you really need to check out The Columbia Patch.

Thank you Mo, it is a great article and really captures the essence of Tai Chi.

She even captured the sound and beauty of our Friday practice site, Centennial Lake.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No shortage of enthusiasm

Just a shortage of time and energy.

I have massively scaled back my activity tracking to something that I can maintain easily - without getting an ulcer and added gray hair. I am still striving to walk, to do Tai Chi, to stretch, but I am not breaking it all into little pieces and documenting in a bunch of places.

So here is the plan.

I will track 2 things - average steps for the month and percentage of steps that are aerobic. These 2 numbers are easily gotten off of Walker Tracker. I am going to stop documenting in Map My Run. Tracking my activity in 3 places is just too hard to maintain. The Tab called Walking Report Card will hold that information.

Using Walker Tracker I can convert any other activity into steps so it is a consolidated number - a reflection of everything I am doing - when I report it at the end of the month.

I was doing great in September and I am doing not-so-great in October!!

Tomorrow is another day! Onward! ;-)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mo Writes: Canine Epilepsy...

Mo Writes: Canine Epilepsy...

Please take a moment to check out Maureen's wonderful blog posting on Canine Epilepsy.

Our dear Meaty, suffers from this condition and it affects so many lives beyond his own. He started an added medication just yesterday to help control his ever increasing seizures, and he is in the adjustment period now.

Hard on him and hard on us, but necessary.

He is hands-down the best English Bull Dog ever! (and my first born Grand Dog).

I love you, Meathead!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Feathered Visitors

This picture of my two boys, Max and Wally, is pretty typical. The deck just beyond the slider is where I feed the birds and where the squirrels visit. And the two cats love to sit quietly and watch. In case the picture doesn't show it, Max is sitting on the chair above Wally who is on the floor.

We are allll bird watchers in this house.

And the birds have been fairly quiet this month. I guess there is plenty for them to eat without my seed. I haven't even seen much of the squirrels. That is unusual.

I get the typical typical Wrens and Chickadees - and we have a lot of Cardinals year round. But the woodpeckers have started to arrive.

Left is a Red Bellied Woodpecker (which is what the book says even though it is his head that is red and not his belly).

Right is a Downy Woodpecker. He wants me to go away.

I see these two guys all the time.

Several times this summer I saw a Blue Jay. He was big and beautiful, but recently he has been absent.

I am pretty sure the bird population will increase at my feeder as the season changes to winter. It is a busy feeder come December.

This evening all my dog buddies have gone home to their owners. The house is quiet beyond belief. We are a pretty quiet bunch - my mom, my husband and I. Meathead had another seizure this afternoon around 4:00. It was a short one, but all his seizures seem like hours to me when they are going on. As hard as they are to watch, I am always grateful I was present. The thought of him having seizures by himself makes me sad. It happens, of course, because he frequently is at home alone when my son goes to work. But when he isn't alone, we can give him meds to shorten the seizure and make sure he is OK.

Yesterday I put flannel sheets on all the beds. And today I heard that we are going to have a warm up for this week. Figures!! Think I will go upstairs and switch out my summer clothes for my winter ones. That should send the temperature gauge into the 90's with my luck.

I am also going to do a major clean out of clothing. A visit to the Good Will truck is on the agenda for tomorrow. And tomorrow looks like a killer day. Too many things to accomplish.

Happy Sunday to all.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dogs and Dumpsters

Today was another dog weekend - a three dog weekend. It is always alittle like taking care of toddlers at a "play group". There is always one little guy in the group with immature social skills, bratty behavior, and interested only in what feels good to him. In our play group that would be Milo.

He is still quite young - only 6 1/2 months, but we are trying to instill some rules like - don't nip at Meathead jowls or Meathead feet. Don't jump Meathead while he is sleeping. Don't hump Meathead 'cause that is really bad form. Eat all your meals and don't beg at the table. Do not eat sticks and bugs and leaves and bird droppings, or random pieces of bark and tree seed pods. This is only a partial list of stuff we are working on, of course. :-) But when you look into that darling little face, he is hard to resist.

For example: Earlier in the week, Milo was busy chewing on a bone. Suddenly, (very suddenly - so suddenly that he forgot what he was doing,) ... suddenly, he heard something outside. He jumped up ran to the window - bone still in the mouth!

How can you resist a face like that?

Grandma, are you laughing at me? I am protecting "hearth and home"!!

Anyway, he is "a work in progress". Being cute saves his butt more times than I can count.

Actually that is exactly what happened with my 2 children, if I remember correctly.

"Cute" saved their butts!!

I did manage to get some cleaning done and I am in a pitching mood. No matter where I am in the house, I make an effort to look at stuff and decide if I want it. Usually it goes in the trash or the charity donation bag. I suppose I could start in one closet and do a complete clean out, but I can't seem to get focused enough to be that organized. So I am just randomly looking at stuff and pitching as needed. It is amazing just how much stuff you can have right in front of your eyes, that you don't actually see. And when you look ... really look, you can't help but wonder why xyz was kept for so long! Xyz hasn't been touched in years. Xyz has an expiration date that expired two years ago. Xyz hasn't been worn for a long time and probably won't fit. And if xyz did fit, the fashion passed 10 years ago. Xyz is just adding stress to my life by its very existence.

This weekend our neighborhood association had dumpsters delivered to our street. These dumpsters were for large things that cannot go with the regular trash pick up. We got rid of about 6 items. One was a 10 foot board that was part of my son's bed when he was a child. The bed has long since gone. And my son is 37 years old. This board was just one of those things that had been here in front of our eyes, but we just didn't see it. Now we really can't see it because it is in the dumpster!! :-)

It was a productive day. Hope your day was just as productive.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Silly Season

We are in the midst of what I traditionally call "the silly season". We have been suffering through the pre-election period that will blessedly be over the beginning of November.

Politics is not my favorite subject. In fact I considered making this a "soap box" topic, but my comments in that section are really closed to discussion. When I want to rant about something, I don't really care for feedback.

Not so with Politics. I would love to hear others comments on this topic.

Where to begin. I am annoyed and disillusioned by so many aspects of the election process that I don't know how to start.

I should say that I am not a politically astute person. I am not registered with either political party - I am registered Independent because at various times I am frustrated with both parties. I just cannot align myself with either of them. I do believe strongly in participating in the voting process. I don't think that frustration with trappings of the politics should get in the way of casting a vote. It is the best way to state how you feel about our government's actions and to make a change. And change still seems to be the mantra of our population.

What drives me absolutely crazy is the terrible waste of resources and the twisted finger pointing and spinning of facts used to get your vote. For example:

The road signs are a total waste of time and money. They clutter the yards and highways. They provide no information whatever about the candidate - other than the "vote for me" message. I can't believe that any one's vote is changed because they saw a sign in their neighbor's yard (or 10 signs like some yards have). The cost of the signs and the man power used to distribute them and clean up is really of no value to educating the voting public.

Candidate materials that show up in your front door and mail box have limited value. At least they have some of the candidates positions on them.

Robo-calls are the most annoying. I don't know how much they cost - probably not that much because they are machine generated, but the interruption factor in your home is most intrusive. I hang up as soon as I get one and so no information is imparted through that method in my house.

And then there are the TV ads. Holy cow! They are expensive beyond measure, repeated until you want to throw a shoe at the TV screen, they are usually filled with slanted content about the opponent that at times is so ugly and exaggerated that you wonder how could someone "approve this ad". There is only one senatorial candidate in our area whose TV ads are reasonable in frequency and focused entirely her record. I respect that so much that I would vote for her regardless of her views. Isn't that sad.

But to complain without offering a solution is just as bad. I have thought about solutions.
  • Limit campaigning periods to a set period. Six weeks should be enough for anyone to get get educated and make up their mind about the issues.
  • Limit campaign expenditures - everyone should have a fair shot at getting their message out - not just the person with the most money. If you manage to collect more money than is allowed, the overage could be used to promote ecological issues or provide educational funding for talented individuals - promote positive community efforts in the name of the candidate who contributed the funds. They get a publicity bonus that counts for something, but they don't get to slam us to the point of insanity with campaign materials, ads, phone calls, TV spots.
  • Require that some funds go to a central independent group for the consolidation and publication of each candidate's position, so that voters who want to be educated about the various candidates can have a single publication - a consolidated position document to review and make decisions about.
  • Require 2 or 3 debates that are open to the public - either in person or through some sort of media (TV, radio, newspaper) something so you can get a sense of the person and how they comport themselves.
  • Allow a "none of the above" choice on the ballot. So many people don't vote because they don't support either candidate. Give people an opportunity to vote and express their frustration with the choices rather than voting against a candidate without really supporting the person they voted for. I heard that option on my local radio station and I thought it was genius!
Just those 5 bullet points would make the process so much more civilized.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Of all the Halloween decorations I have seen so far,
this one is the best of all.

Doesn't it just make you smile?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Walk and Chinese Carry Out

I pushed myself out the door right after breakfast. And I am very glad I did. It was overcast and cool. The sun was out but it was so hazy behind the gray mist. But it was perfect for walking.

As I was coming down the last street of my walk I noticed 3 deer munching away on someone's front yard. There are two on the right and one on the left behind the bush. They were so peaceful ... and yet watchful. They kind of looked like the same deer I saw a few weeks ago. All 3 young, but 2 were younger than the third.

I decided to walk up to them. They watched and then slowly moved away. I moved forward, and they kept looking back. Then they slipped around the side of the house away from my view. So in true stalker fashion I went around the opposite side of the house where there was woods (thank goodness the occupents of the house were at work). The deer grew in number to about 10 - all young at various ages. One was a young buck.

In these pictures I was pretty far away. My camera zooms to about 10x (whatever that means) and recently I discovered that if I hold my finger on the zoom again while at 10x, it can zoom in to about 40x. I also know that the pictures were terrible unless I braced against a fence or tree because any movement at that range (movement like the pulse in my fingers, or my breathing) blurs the image. For a point-and-shoot camera, this one zooms great.

This afternoon I went to Tai Chi class - always good for my mood and then we had Chinese carry out for dinner. And the rest of the time?? I sat on the couch knitting a sweater for Mr. Milo.

I am glad that I had today, because tomorrow will be just crazy. Food shopping first thing in the morning, and CVS for a prescription, then out to Bethesda to get Milo for the weekend, and because he has a rash on his leg, I will be taking him to the vet as well, and then after that is settled, I need to go get Matt's dogs. I think I better crank up the crock pot tomorrow morning.

Little chance of blogging or a walk on Thursday.

Just another crazy Thursday.

Walking Self Talk - its a whine

I feel like I need to whine! And not the good kind like a tasty Cabernet Sauvignon wine! This posting is "self talk" - a chance to pour out some frustrations with my walking progress this month. Feel free to check in with me on another day if you can't stand whining.

October has been almost a bust with regards to walking. The most beautiful month of the year, and I am struggling to get out the door. I have missed so many days of walking this month, that it will be next to impossible to break the 10,000 steps per day average mark for October.

Now for my excuses (there are no excuses, but I have them anyway):
  • It seems that my life is filled with activities from the time I get up until my head hits the pillow. That is a pitiful excuse, but it is my struggle. Now don't get me wrong. None of these activities are jumbos - like trying to hold down a job. But they are the things that make up my life, that I can't drop because they give me satisfaction and/or they are part of taking care of my family. I can't just drop taking care of mom. She is so dependent now. And neither family member drives, so I can't just say "Sorry, I don't feel like driving today" - not that either of them demand much in that area. I spend 5 to 6 days a week taking care of my children's dogs. I must have them for sanity! But when they are here, I can't leave the house much because neither mom nor my husband could manage the 3 - I can hardly manage the 3. I won't give up knitting, reading, knitting group, Tai Chi, weaving, blogging, walking or any of my other interests because the loss of those would make my life so colorless. Walking alone couldn't make up for the loss of my fun stuff.
  • I can give up house cleaning and cooking (and have done so - sadly), but you know what will happen. At some point I will explode and just becoming a cleaning machine, angry with myself for letting things get so far behind - skipping my fun stuff - including walking.
  • Sometimes the balance of being in the house and not being in the house is a challenge. Mom is pretty much house bound. For example, just a trip to the bank can be an effort at times. So she is stuck in the house. She isn't one to have hobbies. Her only hobby (other than watching me) seems to be reading, and she doesn't do that as much as she used to. So my absences from the house seem to weigh heavily on her. Many of my activities take me out of the house - so at times when I am ready to walk, I have already been gone alot that day for other stuff. It is hard to put my walking shoes on and leave once again.
And so those are my frustrations. I still haven't heard back from God on my request for a 36 hour day. Some have suggested that I get hire a caregiver to come in for mom so I could get more time away ... but neither my husband nor my mom would like that. And I am not sure that would make things better anyway. It is sort of like being a teacher. Teachers do more work to prepare for the substitute teacher than if they just stayed did the job themselves. Care giving is like that. To hire a professional in home caregiver would require much prep work as to negate the positive benefits you are aiming for. And I don't think it would add much value to mom's life either. She hates change.

I think that I have to accept that care giving of an elderly person alters your life no matter how much you struggle to prevent it. Many of those alterations are subtle, not readily evident to the casual observer. And it is one of the hinderances to getting a daily walk.

Now for the Walking Self Talk
  • You will go out for a walk today.
  • You will not look back at your poor performance so far in October.
  • You will find a way to keep everything in your life - just not to excess.
  • You will be happy that you have all these things in your life - because you want them there!
  • You will allow yourself to whine occasionally, but you won't dwell on it.

I feel so much better.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hidden Power by Kati Marton

When my sister lent me this book and said it was good, I will admit to being a bit skeptical. I mean, it is a book about First Ladies. I couldn't help but wonder if this was a "chic" book - something that would only appeal to women. I was sure that there would be no surprises. After all, the First Ladies were all from the 20th century, with one inclusion of the Bush's from this century. I lived through many of the periods they talked about.

I was pretty much wrong on all counts.

This book focused on the marriages more than the First Ladies. It was sort of glimpse inside the lives of twelve couples who happened to live inside a "fish bowl" called the Presidency. The book details the behind-the-scenes dynamics of these couples starting with their early life together, their climb up the political ladder, and how they managed as a couple within the confines of the Presidency.

Achieving the job of President requires a certain talent, ego, and luck. Historically it seems that it also takes a special pair of people to manage the supreme effort it takes to get that job and to survive in it. It was abundantly clear that no matter how dysfunctional the marriage was, the strengths of the first spouses balanced the weakness and tempered the responses of the person holding office ... sort of like two sides of the same coin. It was an interesting study in human nature.

It is worth a read if you are interested in a behind-the-scenes look at marriages under unusual circumstances.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pink Poop

Just a quiet Sunday. But a great walking day. And Halloween just keep popping up all over the neighborhood.

I didn't get out for my walk today until 4:30. Way late for me, but grand dog Milo was here and he is still just a baby who needs careful monitoring.

For example: left unwatched for a short 10 minutes this morning and he found a pink 3x5 card that he chewed up in little pieces. When I discovered him, he had already eaten part of it. So the walk waited until my daughter arrived.

And now we wait for the pink poop!

Hope your Sunday was just as beautiful as mine was.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blogging Journey

I feel like a teenager who is counting the monthly anniversaries of the person they are dating!! Too silly, really. But it has been almost 3 months since I started blogging!! Who would have thought!

Blogging is an interesting experience. I always thought that blog "talk" existed within a limited sphere: the posting, the comments and building a list of readers who "follow" publicly. But it is so much more. Almost daily I hear from someone who has visited the blog - leaving no trace that they were there, but who drop me a private email or stop me in person to comment on something I wrote or a picture I took. I am thrilled when I hear from a family member or friend, but I am very excited to hear from total strangers as well. In fact, most blogs I visit are created by people I have never met and yet we have developed a kind conversation about events in our lives and shared interests. It is great fun.

This week I had a real surprise. In a previous post I spotlighted a crock pot cook book by Stephanie O'Dea called Make It Fast, Cook It Slow. And the author actually commented on my blog post. I was thrilled. What a generous gesture for her to make. It was just one more surprise in the blogging journey.

Now I won't say it isn't a thrill to see my list of public followers grow (I am up to 13!!!) But it seems like public followers are just the tip of the iceberg in this whole blogging process. To someone like me who is pretty much tied to the house, this has been a great way of reaching out to people and hearing back from them.

Thank you all who have become public followers. I love it (not that I am counting or anything, but 13!!!) A huge thank you to those of you who regularly comment. As you know if you read a previous posting, I am a big pod cast listener. Pod casters always plead with people to leave comments in iTunes for each recording. I think I better understand why they want comments. The process of blogging and pod casting is somewhat similar: it is a one-way communication. It is so much more fun if it becomes a conversation.

So if you are reading this posting, don't be shy! Use that comment box. And if you really want to make my day - become a public follower! Have I told you recently that I have 13 public followers so far!!!

Not that I am counting.

Oh no, not me!
I am not counting.
I am not obsessive at all.

As my son's girl friend said so eloquently when she shared an article she had written with family and friends ... "Stop Shameless Self-Promotion". :-)

And I responded with: I LOVE shameless Self-Promotion ... obviously!!

Thanks for stopping in!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pod Casts - a tale of obsession!

This is a tale of obsession.

I am hoping that someone will read this and say ... Oh, yes, this happened to me too. And then I won't feel so so different!

Four or five years ago, I was given a Apple Nano iPod for Christmas by my son. I remember opening the box and thinking "oh, my - whatever will I do with this." Being a good mother, I quickly expressed my thanks. He started showing me how to use it. I search the Apple box for a booklet of instructions. There were no instructions. My thoughts raced. (I am a Microsoft person. I wanted, expected, prepared for complicated processes when it came to technology. I wanted written instructions. Darn. I would have to focus and remember what he said .)

And then he showed me how iTunes worked (oh man, no instructions there either ... keep focused on what he is saying, nod your head, ask questions, look interested!). He then showed me all the music I could download (I guess he didn't know that I really don't really listen to music.)

And then the first inkling of what was possible dawned. I felt a small buzz.

He started talking about pod casts. Pod casts are similar to radio shows. Some are done by professionals and many are done by talented amateurs. And the topics run the whole gamete - any topic you can imagine. (hmm, maybe there was something in this I might enjoy.) He asked me what I was interested in, and I said "knitting" (ha! good luck getting a hit on that topic). He typed "knitting" in the search box. A whole bunch of free pod casts on knitting popped up. (oh no, pages and pages of free knitting pod casts filled the screen.)

I don't actually remember much after that - truthfully ... the next 3 weeks were a total blur. I was busy searching for pod casts on all kinds of topics, downloading, listening, deleting ones I was done with, searching for more, and downloading again, over and over and over ... several times a day for weeks.

At some point my son dropped by for a visit. I held out my Nano and told him that he had given me a "life sucking" piece of equipment. I was no longer the master of my own life. I was addicted to this thing. What had he done? He just smiled.

Fast forward 6 months. I moved on to a iPod Classic ... way more memory ... able to store gazillions of pod casts. Yes, in just 6 short months I had 2 iPods. Addiction counselors would see the signs of escalation - red flags. Warning! Warning! - someone spinning out of control! I listened to pod casts of every description. At one point I had over 500 free pod casts on my iPod. Some were as short at 10 minutes, some ran to 90 minutes. I figured out that if I listened to pod casts non-stop, around the clock, until they were all gone, it would take me over 12 days to listen all the pod casts I had downloaded. But I had lots of memory and the pod casts were free!! Free entertainment. The more the merrier was my attitude!! I was in "pod cast hoarder heaven"!

And then my iPod broke.

Well not entirely broke - just sort of broke. I couldn't add more pod casts to my iPod. I had lots of unused memory but it wasn't accepting new pod casts. Since it was still under warranty, I could return it and get another one ... but what about all the pod casts that were on this unit? A new unit wouldn't have all my downloads. It would take me hours to re-download all these pod casts. I felt a little unsettled! Signs of withdrawal?? So I started listening and deleting pod casts off the iPod at an accelerated rate. Other pod casts started backing up on my computer just waiting to be put on an iPod. By the time I was ready to trade in my broken iPod ... I had reached a certain level of burn-out. Pod cast burn-out! I am sure that now in 2010 - this is a condition that has been studied in a medical journal somewhere. I am surprised that we haven't heard about it on the nightly news.

When I returned home with my replacement iPod, I took a deep breath! The Apple spell was interrupted. I started to think rationally.

Did I need all these pod casts? I mean, like really. Does anyone need hundreds of pod casts?

When I began down loading again, I severely narrowed my subscriptions.

Fast forward to the present. I am cured ... mostly. I don't download every day, I am subscribed to far fewer pod casts, and I think if my equipment failed, I would not hyperventilate. I would handle the situation with clarity and maturity. Of course, I haven't been tested, but ...

And besides, this past Christmas I got an iPod Touch and I discovered the wonderful world of Apps! The Apple advertisement that says "There's an App for that!" doesn't lie. You can get an App for everything. Lots of them are free. Most are reasonably priced. My iPod Touch has so much memory. I have tons of free memory still. And much of it is free entertainment!

And then in the spring Apple launched the iPad. So now I have one of those as well. And more memory and lots of space for Apps.

But I am much better, really!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rain Out! What a Crock!

No walk for me today. Between all the down pours that are passing through our area and the errands I needed to run, and the trips to get the dogs - all 3 dogs - the day just didn't have enough hours in it for a walk. It is a shame, because I would enjoy a rainy walk today.

Before I left on my errands this morning, I set up dinner in the crock pot. There would be no time for making dinner later in the day. I love my crock pots (all 3 of them), and I love having dinner pretty much made by dinner time. Crock pot cooking is something that I do all year long, but fall and winter are the best times for using the crock pot, because the meals are usually stick-to-your-ribs in character. Perfect for cold and rainy days. And you don't have to be a great cook to use a crock pot - even a mediocre cook like myself can place a great meal on the table with the help of a slow cooker. The book pictured is called Make It Fast, Cook It Slow by Stephanie O'Dea. I love this book for several reasons. First and foremost, she is a blogger. In 2008 she made a New Year's resolution to use her slow cooker every single day for a year and document her results daily on her personal web site called By the time I discovered her, she was just about ready to release this book. Like most cookbooks, she has recipes. No surprise (but wouldn't it be fun to issue a cookbook with no recipes!! Maybe just talk about recipes but no actual recipies??? Ok, that is a dud of an idea, even for me). But what is charming is that on many of the recipes, she has a section called "The Verdict". Here she documents her experience in making the recipe and how her family felt about it. This section sounds just like excerpts from her blog.

This recipe is not from the book. This morning I didn't have time to plan anything. I just marched to my pantry, openned the door and hoped that something in there would go with beef. After I ruled out Marshmellow Fluff and Cheerios, I settled on garlic, mushroom soup and Beef Broth. Later when it is closer to dinner I will taste it and decide what else I should add. I think I will add some thickening agent and then serve it over rice. That is what is so great about crock pot cooking. You almost can't go wrong (well, maybe if you added the Marshmellow Fluff ... that would be bad).

It doesn't look like much but the smell is really wonderful.

Towards the end of the morning I was traveling north on Route 95 with Milo sleeping peacefully beside me. The rain was so heavy at times that it collected on the roadway. There had to be 3-4 inches of standing water. It is unusual to see that much standing water on a major modern highway in our area. Roadways are graded to avoid just that scenario. At one point I glanced to my right - looking east - and was startled to see that there were no geographic features to be seen. A light steel gray color extended from the ground right up to the sky as far as you could see. Looking left to the west, geographical features could still be seen. I couldn't help glancing frequently to the east to make sure my eyes weren't playing games with me. And looking north, the sky was a dark steel gray in color. I was definitely driving into the worst of it. I was very glad to get home where the fragrance of tonight's dinner had filled the house. I usually like big weather events, but I like them best viewed from my front living room window with a cup of hot coffee in my hand. :-)

The rest of the day should be a very quiet and uneventful time. It is the sort of a day you can curl up on the couch with a good book or knitting, or maybe watch a movie ... and be grateful for the tranquility of your home. Of course, with 3 dogs in the house today through tomorrow evening, there is little chance that things will be quiet or tranquil.

Oh well, I dream on.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Halloween popping up all over

It is not Halloween yet, but I can feel the excitement building in the neighborhood. I love Halloween.

I love standing outside on October 31st with my bucket of candy and greeting all the kids. I love seeing the parents who also dress up while they follow their little ones around on their first Halloween. I love watching these parents prompt their offspring to say the magic words "Trick or Treat", they then prompt them again to say "Thank You". Silly parents! Once the candy hits their little bag, the costumed Super Man or Dracula, or Princess got what they came for ... and they are on to the next door. I love sitting outside on a cool to cold evening with a hot cup of cider, wrapped in a shawl, watching the excitement of the kids as they walk up my sidewalk. Yes, Halloween is special.

Some of my neighbors really get into it with decorating their homes. This year I can hardly wait to see what they do. Creepy "Thriller" music plays loudly from one house, another house has a graveyard in the front and the residents greet the "Trick or Treaters" in costume. One year someone had a fog generator that kept the whole front terraced area filled with rolling waves of fog. It was very atmospheric!

I walk my neighborhood daily now and Halloween decorations are beginning to pop up down every street. It makes the walk so interesting. I missed this in past years. Either I wasn't walking or I wasn't looking, but I know I never saw the decorations of the surrounding neighborhoods.

These two pictured decorations belong to my next door neighbor. The spider on the front door was so cute. I stood there looking at it for a bit. I don't decorate, but I pondered if I should get something for my door.

Decorating for the various holidays used to be a passion for me. Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving. In fact, decorating for Christmas alone, used to take me several days. I spent tons of time unpacking decorations, setting them out, packing away other stuff (yes, I was a bit of a clutter bug), and then when the holiday was over, I reversed the process and it took days to undo what I did just 3 weeks prior.

Over the years I dropped all the decorations - except for Christmas. I still decorate for Christmas, but I limit it to one day of decorating. I discovered that all the decorations seemed to take the fun out of the holidays for me. No one in my family enjoyed helping decorate. I never got the feeling that they enjoyed the display of decorations. It didn't seem to add to their enjoyment of the holidays.

I remember one year, I decided that I needed to have a real tree for our Christmas Tree. My husband and I shopped for the tree - he didn't care which tree I picked - he said they all looked fine. But he did the heavy lifting, carrying the tree into the house for me. When I was ready to decorate the tree my son was home. I asked for his help getting the tree into the tree stand. He did his best to help, but the tree base was crooked making it difficult to mount it straight in the tree stand. After about 45 minutes of adjusting and swearing and adjusting again, I remember him stopping, looking up at me from the floor where he was struggling with the stand, and saying with a very straight face, "Could I get you to convert to being Jewish?"

The next year I decided to simplify.

And I made a very pleasant discovery! I was happier. I enjoyed everyone else's decorations and I enjoyed all the holidays more. Less effort, less stress, more satisfaction. So simple.

But it was so interesting to see the temptation arise in me to buy maybe just one Halloween door decoration or maybe a pumpkin. But the reality was, no one else in my family cared about it, and it didn't add that much to my enjoyment of the holiday.

No, I will pass on decorating. But I am so very glad that there are people who do this and enjoy the process. Yes, I can appreciate what others do and enjoy my own holidays without the added hub-bub!

I am so looking forward to Halloween!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ahhh! Fresh air, ducks and Tai Chi

What do you have when the morning air is cool, the sky is blue, the ducks are singing and the trees are beginning to show their fall colors?

What you have is a perfect day for Tai Chi in the park - made more perfect because it was Columbus Day and a holiday for our Tai Chi instructor - who came to our practice!!! I tell you, this Tai Chi outside could become habit forming!!

Here is our instructor leading the group through a difficult movement.

So this move looks easy, but I can tell you, it isn't! Balance, balance, balance. That is what it is all about along with lots of concentration. Our instructor makes it look easy. Guess if you have been doing this sort of thing since you were a child - it should look easy.

We are looking really good here! At least I think so.

But this move is just prior to another one legged balancing move. When I am doing this, it is right about here where I am thinking ... "ok, now concentrate, don't embarrass yourself, don't pinwheel your arms, don't think about anything but balance, balance, balance."

Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. That is why I am taking the pictures! ;-)

Our instructor has such grace.

This move isn't that hardest one, but getting the weight on the correct foot is critical for me. I am forever trying to put my weight on the front foot, and then trying to slide on the front foot. Take it from me. Back foot for the weight, front foot for the slide.

Anything else ... failure!

You would think that the knowing and the doing would go hand and hand.


The beauty of this lake can't be overstated.
It is the perfect back drop to the peaceful practice of Tai Chi.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

When you hear the words - Appalachian Trail - most people on the east coast of America know what you are talking about. Bill Bryson, another of my favorite authors, wrote about this trail in his book A Walk in the Woods, Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. If I had to pick only one book as my favorite, it would be this one. This is the story of Bill Bryson, novice walker, and his very out-of-shape friend Stephen Katz as they prepare for and hike the Appalachian Trail (AT).

For those not familiar with this hike, the AT is 2,100 mile long trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine in the USA. As Bill Bryson notes, it is the "granddaddy" of long hikes. The trail meanders through numerous states, following forests and mountains. The trail is the home of bears, bobcats, snakes, wolves, wild bore, coyotes ... the kinds of things you would expect to see in a wildness area. The temperature ranges from below freezing to the sweltering heat of summer depending on when and where you begin your hike. Periodically the trail has open wooden shelters that hikers can use, but typically the shelter provided is the one you carry on your back - a tent. In fact, in true hiking style, you must carry everything you need on your back and plan carefully where you will depart from the trail to replenish your supplies and get a shower! All this and more was discovered, learned and shared by the author in this book.

This book is more than just a hiking book. Interwoven in the story of the hike is the concerns for our fragile ecosystems and a plea for conservation of America's last great wilderness area. Respecting nature is the thread that runs through this book in a very moving way. In addition he shares some of the stories about the risks of hiking this remote trail, from reported bear attacks to brutal murders. It is a fascinating look at what it takes to walk the trail from start to finish.

One of the appealing aspects of this book is Bill Bryson's very humorous style of writing. He is very comfortable poking fun at his and Steven's naive beliefs and ignorance. In fact, chapter one was laugh-out-loud funny. Not being a hiker previously, Bill Bryson goes on a shopping trip to a local outfitters, the Dartmouth Co-op, to purchase equipment. That chapter launches to rest of the book into a very enjoyable read.

To close I would like to leave you with a quote from the book in where he talks about the woods. This quote is from Chapter 4. It is very early on in his experience with walking the trail so his observations are probably pretty typical of an average person who lives in our built up country. Some one like you or me.

"Woods are not like other spaces. To begin with, they are cubic.
Their trees surround you, loom over you, press in from all sides.
Woods choke of views and leave you muddled and without bearings.
They make you feel small and confused and vulnerable,
like a small child lost in a crowd of strange legs.
Stand in a desert or prairie and you know you are in a big space.
Stand in a woods, and you only sense it. They are a vast, featureless nowhere.
And they are alive."

Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods.

Note: The book is categorized as Travel and was originally published in 1998. Since that time the author has written several other books. I haven't read all his works, but those I had read have all been worth the time. He is a gifted story teller.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

#10 Appreciate the Small

My life is filled with so many wonderful smaller things ... stuff I overlook all the time. Like the trees as they change to brilliant colors in the fall. Who looks at the single leaf?

If left unchecked, I would focus on only the big stuff of life - big fun, big loses, big achievements, big hurts, big happiness ... missing all the little stuff ... the little stuff that actually fills my life.

I once owned a book called Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It has one of those glitzy titles ... one meant to catch the casual shopper. And it caught me, but it does have a great message. I can't find the book now, but I remember the first time I read it. I thought, "Wow, great idea, slowing down the pace of your life, paying attention to the everyday activities, enjoying the moment, focusing on the now." And then, of course, in one of my fits of cleaning I pitched the book. I wish I hadn't. Now I have to get another copy.

I know can find happiness, satisfaction, contentment in the everyday activities of living if I focus on the everyday things that give me happiness and satisfaction and contentment. I did alittle of that focusing during "beach week" ... the week when my family went to the Outer Banks and I remained home. In previous years I ruminated for a whole week on what I was missing - the whole darn week!! This time I focused on my walks, on my visit with friends, on my knitting group, on Tai Chi, on my cats who were thrilled with my undivided attentions. Yes, I still missed my family, and the grand dogs, and the missed the fun of the sand and the ocean, but I was able to live with what I had rather than what I didn't. I focused on the smaller contentments rather than the big missed vacation. It was a happier week.

The challenge is how to apply that focus to the whole of my life - not just one week.

Writing this blog has helped me see the daily events in my life differently. Walking, pets, hobbies, writing! I had a huge response to my posting on feeding the wild birds and the squirrels. Birds and squirrels are such a small part of my life, but when I think back on it - focus on it, I realize they are so much more. They have provided endless hours of entertainment for my 2 cats and my mom. I can't tell you how many times my mom says "oh, look at the red bird" - like it is the first time she has seen it instead of the tenth time. And the cats think of my deck slider as "TV for Cats". They love staring down the squirrels (and everyone is pretty brave with solid glass between them). And I have learned so much about the kinds of birds that reside in my neighborhood. I have identified almost 20 so far. And writing about my experiences was great fun and seemed to provide entertainment to others. A small thing that was bigger than I thought.

And then there are the things in life that are minimized and overlooked, but are huge when they are at risk of being taken away ... like vision and reading. In a previous posting about reading more, I commented on my husband's reduced vision. Certainly neither one of us ever thought for a moment that one of us would loose the ability to read. Reading is like breathing, after all. You just do it. You were lucky enough to be given the gift of reading as a child, you've done it all your life, you assume because you can do it now you will always be able to do it. It becomes minimized over time compared with the other things in your life. And so you forget to appreciate it, to view it as important, to see it as an immensely vital part of your daily living.

It is small.

Until you don't have it.

Small stuff ... appreciate it!

The last 10

The first 10 goals of my 20 are public. These were the easy ones. These are the ones I can achieve based on my current limitations.

The last 10 goals are beyond my reach right now. They have mostly to do with travel, with further education, maybe part time employment, volunteer opportunties, changes of life style or location ... all of which are impossible because they involve more time away from the home or changes that won't accomodate my family members needs.

So I'll hold off listing anything further for now. These 10 are enough to keep me occupied. Those last 10 can wait until I am more free - or God grants my request for a 36 hour day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Walking the Lake

Today I got the rare opportunity to walk Centennial Lake. I left Milo at the vet's this morning (he wasn't all that happy), and I hurried to a Tai Chi practice. I was late, but able to practice for maybe 30 minutes. The picture was taken from a distance and under the tent it shows a few of the Tai Chi members practicing the movements. It is a beautiful and peaceful place for Tai Chi.

When practice ended I took off for a walk around the lake by myself. The sun was brilliant, the lake follage was beginning to show its colors. I was thrilled to have 45 minutes alone to enjoy a beautiful walk. Crisp, cool, clear.

How wonderful it would be to walk this lake every day.