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After skiing last week, we got in a discussion on the way home about vacations.  Our discussions usually go like this: I ask a question, and Burt and the boys (being males) all shrug shoulders and give non-committal answers.  I then say, “if I held a gun to your head and you had to answer, what would you say.”  Then I might get some discussion, but often not.  This time I asked what kind of vacation person each was: a beach person, a ski person, or a cabin in the woods person.

To tell the truth, I’d say all three, but if someone held a gun to my head and told me that I had to choose only one for the rest of my life, I think I’d choose cabin in the woods.  Here’s why:

  1. Cabin in the woods is peaceful and beautiful.
  2. Cabin in the woods doesn’t require too much work.
  3. Cabin in the woods doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
  4. Cabin in the woods can be enjoyed during 4 season, though differently.

This theoretical Cabin in the Woods is also on a quiet lake, with a canoe and a dock, a hammock strung between two trees, not too fancy and not too primative. 

Now, I love, love the beach.  But a Cabin in the Woods doesn’t have jellyfish.  I love skiing, but it is so much WORK: the lines, getting everyone fitted with boots and skis, getting the lift tickets, huffing and puffing to get to a lift, since I’m not near good enough to just ski on level ground.  So, with a gun to my head, I’d have to go with the Cabin in the Woods.  

Luckily, no gun.  I’d love to hear your top dream vacations. 

Today is the 9th birthday of my younger son, Cool Guy.  He has been up a great deal of the night in anticipation, though for what I can’t imagine.  He got his birthday present on Saturday, a new bike, with gears, handbrakes, big mountain bike wheels, a bell, and a flag.  He likes to accessorize everything.

One of my favorite things to do on Cool Guy’s birthday is to tell him his Birthday Story, so I thought I’d share it with you.

On Feb. 14, 2001, Burt and I went to Enid OK, where Cool Guy was to be born.  It was bitterly cold and very, very windy, as only the high prairie can be.  Early on Feb. 15, we went to the hospital, and waited.  Soon, we were summonded to the maternity ward, where the doctor met us with Cool Guy in his arms.  My, he was tiny, with eyes clamped shut, great big feet sticking out, and long, long arms.  I got to give him his first bath, and he really liked it.  Then we wrapped him up in swaddling clothes (just like Jesus!) and we went to our room and held him all day long.  Burt and I took turns all day.  We held him, we fed him, and we held him.

The next day, Feb. 16, it was freezing, freezing cold – so cold that it took your breath away.  We left the hospital after Cool Guy got an A-OK from the doctor, and we drove to Ponca City OK

 to stay with Miss Cynthia for a few days.  Cool Guy was such a strong baby that he started lifting his head when he was only one day old!

Now, this is Cool Guy’s favorite part.  While staying at Miss Cynthia’s that night, I changed Cool Guy’s diaper during the night, and I FORGOT about baby boys and cold air, and I forgot to put a diaper over him while changing, and he peed all over me.  Cool Guy laughs and laughs at this part.

On Sunday, when Cool Guy was 3 days old, he was baptized.  Uncle Richard and Aunt Debbie, and Ed and Andrea were the godparents.  Yes, two sets of godparents, and then we drove to our hometown, to stay with Grandma and Grandpa, and where Encyclopedia was staying, until we had permission to leave the state and go back to West Virginia.  Grandma had no crib at her house, so Cool Guy slept in a dresser drawer.  He likes that part too, that his first bed was a drawer.  Grandma took the stuff out of the drawer, lined it with blankets, and voila, a baby bed.

So happy birthday to Cool Guy!  It’s been quite a ride, and we’re halfway to 18, my oh my!  To celebrate, we’ll have Cool Guy’s favorite birthday meal of pancakes and stick sausages tonight, and we’re having chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing, nine of which will have a candle, and Ben and Jerry’s Reese’s Cup ice cream.

One thing that I have been very good at this last year is keeping up with exercise.  If not, I would have been much worse off physically than I am.  My main exercise strategy is walking, though I use other means in a pinch.  I like walking because it’s not too hard on my joints and because it gets me outside in the fresh air and sunshine.  That is good for my soul.  And so, here are my exercise tools that keep me plugging away.

My first motivation is Scamp, my Australian Shepherd.  Don’t let the picture fool you – he is high energy and needs walks.  Guilt is a great motivator, especially when my lack of action affects others.  Scamp needs walks, so I walk.

To enhance my walk (as if being outside in God’s beautiful creation needed any enhancing), I like to use my itouch to listen to.  I created a playlist of walking songs – songs that have a good brisk beat.  My musician/OCD tendencies won’t let me walk to music out of step to the beat, so I just made sure that I walk to “Start Me Up” rather than “Angie.”  I have a few hundred songs selected and set the itouch to Shuffle, so I get lots of nice surprises.

More bells and whistles: I use the Nike + on my itouch.  It’s fun and useful.  I have a sensor and a holder for it that I lace on my shoes since I don’t have the special Nike shoes with the slot in the sole.  I can select various workouts, such as time, or distance that I want to walk.  My choice is calories, and I set it at 400.  A four hundred calorie walk at my weight and my speed will take me just under 4 miles and just under an hour.  During the walk, Lance Armstrong speaks to me every 50 calories, to tell me where I am.  At 200 calories, he tells me I’m halfway there, and then he starts counting down.  At the end of my walk, Lance tells me how far I went, how fast, and how many calories I burned.  When I reach milestones, such as 250 miles walked so far, he tells me.  When I walk the furthest or the fastest I’ve ever walked, he tells me.  It is a great motivator for my competitive soul.  I can also plug the itouch into the computer and go to Nike + to keep track of my walks online.  The site makes a graph of my walks and allows me to set challenges for myself or even challenge others.  I keep track online, but that’s about it.

Sometimes, time or weather just don’t allow me to walk.  On those days, I choose between the exercise bike (listening to podcasts on my itouch) or doing an exercise video.  My exercise bike is a very basic Schwinn, and it does a good job.  I choose podcasts to listen to instead of music because riding a stationary bike in a basement is pretty darn boring, and the podcasts keep me going.

The exercise video I like is Jeanette Jenkins.  I tried out several videos through Netflix and settled on this one.  Some were too hard on my joints, and others were just annoying.  I like Jeanette for several reasons: her workouts are simple, they  work for my body and its challenges (bad knees, bad back), and they are effective.  Jeanette is not annoying, but she is upbeat.  Sometimes she sounds like a drill sergeant, barking out commands, but she keeps me going.

It seems like a lot of unnecessary expense, my exercise tools, but using these, I have kept to the same exercise routine for about 2 years, the last year very faithfully.  What price can you put on that?  Also, compared to a health club, I’m coming off fairly well.  If I were to offer advice, it would be to find something that you like, that is convenient enough to eliminate excuses, and then make it as enjoyable as possible.

“Fidelity to small things will lead you to Christ.  Infidelity to small things will lead you to sin.” – Blessed Mother Teresa

There are so many small things I could do better daily.  Like smile more.  Like help Cool Guy look for his glasses for the 10th time in a day and refrain from saying anything about being responsible and glasses not growing on trees.  Like remember to thank God for all the many, many blessings I have.  Like really, truly listen when Encyclopedia is on a 15 minute explanation of a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.  Like remember to ask Burt how his day was before telling him about the trials and tribulations of mine.  Or maybe just keeping that stuff to myself.

As Scarlett O’Hara always said, “Tomorrow is another day.”  God love her, she’s my kind of gal.

I mentioned last week, that I’m making a serious effort to lose weight. I need to lose about 15 pounds to be at a reasonable weight for my height and age. I also promised that I would not bore you with the details of my dieting, but I did want to mention some things that I am using to help me along the way.

First, I use the Weight Watchers program.  I do not attend meetings.  I just have the book of Point Values and I know how many points I can use per day.  I write down everything on a scrap of paper or on my calendar during the day and make sure that I stay fairly close to where I should be.

Second, I have purchased the WW points calculator.  It’s a handy, compact tool to calculate points when I know what the calories, fat, and fiber contents are in something.  Sometimes, I’m surprised by what I find out.  For example, I’ll probably never eat another helping of Kraft Mac and Cheese, ever.  I don’t like it well enough to blow an entire day’s point total.

Going along with this, I just added a useful App to my itouch, called Restaurant Calorie Counter.  It has the nutritional breakdown of all menu items of most of the chain and fast food restaurants in this country.  So, for example, last night, we ordered Domino’s Pizza, and looking up medium sausage pizza, I found the calories, fat grams, and fiber grams, plugged it into my calculator and found out that one slice is only 1 point!  I also found out that the delicious cheese sticks are 3 points, so I passed on those and had two slices of pizza.  Yum.

Another new tool that I bought is the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Book.  What I like about this book is that it gives fantastic recipes of whole grain versions of bread, breakfast food, and desserts that really taste very good.  And each recipe has nutritional analysis.  One slice of the whole grain bread I made last night is 1 point, and a very yummy point, while the whole grain peanut butter cookies I made are 3 points.  And though the cookies were the best peanut butter cookies we have ever had, I think I’ll let the boys eat the rest.

I found out that we should be eating 48 grams of whole grains daily, and I’m not anywhere near there, but this book should help with getting better food on our table.  This is just good overall eating, not diet eating.

Before I leave the eating portion of my tools, let me add that I don’t like diet food.  I don’t drink diet pop, and I don’t fix diet-y things like scrambled egg whites.  I like my food the regular way, and I know that I won’t stick to anything that I don’t like, so I just have to find ways to have what I like.  This usually means having less or doing without more often.  I have found that a half sandwich fills me up just fine, and that I like most of my sandwiches with mustard instead of mayonnaise anyway.

In a later post, I’ll cover the tools I like for exercise.  That is the fun part.

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"People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway." - Blessed Mother Teresa