Saturday, June 29, 2013

Was Thumper Wrong?

The looping soundtrack that runs through my head, the phrase I hear when in the midst of conflict, is really not that helpful.

The one line that surfaces whenever there is an argument, or a disagreement, is "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all."  

You're familiar with the words if you've ever seen Bambi.  Unlike me, though, you probably didn't base all of your conversations on one little line from a Disney film.

There are people who question my silence, those who think I should "say what I mean, and mean what I say."

Why couldn't THAT have been my lifelong motto? No, my brain latched onto a silly little bunny's advice, and took it, and twisted it into a way of life.  

"If you can't say something nice...don't say nothin' at all," Thumper's father told him, and his mother reminded him. 

How can I un-learn that response that has been automatic for me since childhood?

My mother repeated it often enough as we were growing up. She hated the words, "Shut up," which I also took to heart. I never allowed my students to say that to each other in my thirty years of teaching. My own children knew better than to say that to each other. I realize now that Mom's quoting Thumper was effectively a kinder way to say, "Shut up."

There are so many ways to approach a dark time, a setback, or a period of trouble. Perhaps I could have found someone else to emulate, and I would have developed better interpersonal relationship skills at the same time.  

I could have tried Dirty Harry's response, "Go ahead.  Make my day." Well, perhaps that isn't the best line either, but I definitely wouldn't have been walking away from conflict.

While pondering other perspectives, I was scanning the internet, and found a little gem entitled, "25 Movie Quotes to Live By" on the Total Film website.  Who knew? I should have checked it out sooner. 

Dr. Venkman of Ghostbusters fame offered this little line:  "I don't have to take this abuse from you. I've got hundreds of people dying to abuse me." That's a nice little comeback with a sprinkle of self-deprecating humor, for good measure. 

Just so you know, I scanned all 25 suggestions, and not one of them was Thumper's quote.  So whether Thumper was right or not, it may be unwise to base most of my conversational input (or lack thereof) on the advice of a cartoon rabbit.

My interpretation of Thumper's advice has been "Suck it up. Don't whine. Don't complain. Don't gossip. Refuse to add to an argument. Suffer in silence. Go along to get along."

Seriously, it's time to try a new tactic. I need to take pity on the poor people who try to converse with me. They bring up something that makes me uncomfortable, and I whistle and look off into the distance, trying to avoid adding fuel to the fire.  Saying NOTHING is not always the best tactic. 

Perhaps I could try a southern version of Thumper's advice, "If you can't say something nice, say what you need to, and quickly add, 'Bless your heart.'"

I've been through several years of counseling, and one thing I've learned about myself is that I believe I have a right to my own's just hard to believe I have the right to express it. When I have dared to cross that make-believe line I've drawn for myself, I have watered down my thoughts so much to make them diplomatic, I hardly recognized them as my own.

Flight or fight response? I have always chosen flight. And that's just downright rude sometimes. I needed to practice hearing someone out, and offering an appropriate response, even if it's not agreeable to the other person.

I began to question my silence after being enlightened by BrenĂ© Brown’s talk about Comfort vs. Courage, and I began seeking to live my life with the value of courage. I realized that I can disagree without being disagreeable. 

It was hard, at first, to find my voice because it had been silent for so long. For me, what worked best was to be sure I was coming from a place of peace and love when hard conversations needed to be had. It was easier for me to be brave when I knew I could be kind when I speak my truth.

All of my life, I had confused being totally honest with being mean. It makes me sad that it took so long for me to see how wrong that thinking is, but at least I am learning it.

Perhaps Thumper's mama should have taught him, "If you can't say something nice, make sure that you speak with courage and respect." There. I like that much better. 

It is empowering to know that I have a voice, and it deserves to be heard. It is comforting to know that I can express myself freely if my value is courage, and my motivation is peace and understanding. No more staring off into the distance, keeping my thoughts to myself. I have a voice, and now that I have found it, I will use it for good. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

*No More Skiing?

"What are you going to do when you retire?"  I heard that question time after time as the end of May approached.  And I knew how to answer it, too. We're going to hike, bike, and ski. I've enjoyed an active lifestyle since about 2000, when I tried weight lifting, walking and running to get in better shape. When I was in my late forties, I decided I needed to learn to ski.

Still smiling on New Year's Day
Last Christmas, I gave my teenager a season pass to Eagle Point Ski Resort. I wanted us to take advantage of the weekends we had together by skiing and boarding. New Year's Day was a perfect day for skiing, clear skies and sunshine. 

It is also the day that I joined the ranks of the injured athlete. I'm no professional; I am a "nube," a novice, but I try to make up for any athletic prowess I lack with enthusiasm. That can get a girl in trouble, apparently. 

I finally agreed to take on the hill to which my ski instructor had challenged me the previous year. It was with great trepidation that I started my descent, and the next thing I knew, gravity took over, and I was a tangled mess of arms, legs, skis and ski poles, careening down the mountain like a tumbleweed.

My doctor told me that I had torn my MCL. (I'd only heard of ACLs; the MCL is the ligament of the inner knee.) His face lit up with a big smile.  

"You have something in common with Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz!  This is the same injury that ended his career."  

If that was supposed to be comforting, it certainly was not. Lucky for me, I don't rely on my knees to make my money. I was able to return to my fifth grade classroom immediately; I just had a little "hitch in my get-along," as they say.

It seems that my passion for skiing would have to wait until the MCL healed, until about June. June is a pretty crummy time to hit the slopes, and my hopes were dashed. We only skied that one day last season, and the klutz in me saw to it that we we began and ended our fun times together on New Year's. NOT WHAT I'D ENVISIONED.

Summer came; I retired; I started hiking. I hiked with my boys in Saint George, checking out the ancient petroglyphs; I hiked with friends along the Bonneville Shoreline; I hiked alone in Bullion Canyon; I hiked with Bridger to Calf Creek Falls. I met a woman while I was hiking, and we exchanged phone numbers.  I had enlisted another hiking partner! The summer was off to a joyous start.

I just like this x-ray. My doctor assures me we can prevent
further damage in my finger joints by getting started now.
And then I met with my rheumatologist yesterday. I wasn't there about pain, necessarily, but about weakness. I knew there might be a problem when I started thinking perhaps we should buy our milk in quart-sized quantities because lifting half gallons hurt my wrists. Offers to massage family members dwindled because it hurt my hands to knead muscles for longer than a few minutes. Whenever I brush my finger across my nose, there is a sharp pain in my index finger. Once during a massage for myself, my wrists cracked and popped, much to the horror of the masseuse.  

"Wrists shouldn't do that.  You need to see a doctor soon," he advised.

So there I was, waiting for my lab and x-ray results. It seems my rheumatologist had two things to discuss...previous injuries that were causing a problem, and a diagnosis to explain my weakness and pain. Dr. Mathews snapped the x-ray of my back onto the lighted view box. I knew it wouldn't be a pretty sight. Falling out of a tree on my tailbone, and a couple of BAD landings in gymnastics when I was young had taken their toll on my spine. Lower back pain is just something I've dealt with since I was a teenager.

Basically, he told me that the GOOD news was that the damage in my spine occurred in the vertebra just below the end of the spinal cord, so if a future injury occurs in that fragile spot, it won't paralyze me. Well, that WAS some good news!  (Holy cow, this wasn't going the way I'd hoped.) He went on to tell me how unstable my back is.  

"You could do the same movement a hundred times without a problem, and then one day, your back might slip, and you will require the assistance of an ambulance to get you to a hospital, and surgery to relieve the pain in your back."

There was a crooked woman...
That tail bone should NOT be
that far to the right.

No walking on un-level surfaces. No sudden falls. No twisting ever. No lifting anything more than 25 pounds. No taking chances. No hiking. No skiing. No fun.
Then he went on to tell me I have Sjogren's Syndrome. Long story short, my body is a desert. I lack sufficient moisture (dry mouth, dry nose, dry eyes, etc.) that also affects the lubrication of my joints, which leads to arthritic conditions. Lovely. When I Googled Sjogren's, I learned that I have something in common with Venus Williams, the famous tennis player. This condition is what sidelined HER this year.

If I am going to have things in common with famous athletes, I would prefer it to be their salaries, their muscled physiques, or their mansions, if anyone in the heavens is listening. Just sayin'...

This is all still sinking in to my muddled brain. I am bummed. My feelings are hurt. And yes, I guess I'm a little depressed about the diagnosis, but I've always been a Pollyanna when it comes to setbacks. 

My mom taught me to see problems as challenges.  I've always banked on "when there's a will, there's a way." Once I realize that my life isn't ending, it's just going to be different, I'll be fine.

Was everything Dr. Mathews told me gloom and doom?  No.  I did hear a couple of "green lights." I can still walk on level surfaces, although NON-weight-bearing exercises are preferred. Biking and swimming are great, he reminded me. Biking is an activity I enjoy. We'll have to check out more of the bike trails in Utah. I love water, but I don't like swimming long, monotonous laps with my head underwater.  I like to "soak."  If I'm not going to be hiking and skiing, I better figure out new ways to burn calories because I sure don't plan to give up eating.

Speaking of eating, Venus Williams has adopted a raw, vegan diet since her diagnosis of Sjogren's. I've been trying to incorporate more veggies into my eating, and less red meat this summer anyway. I'm going to go slowly. Research. Experiment. Maybe this will turn into one of those blessings in disguise. Miss Venus is looking pretty trim these days. Miss Denise could use a little more lean flesh herself! There's the first glimmer of the silver lining.  

"It's all good," as they say in the south.  There's a saying which is not attributed to anyone famous, or anyone at all, really, that I like.

"It's not over until it's over."  And my ride definitely isn't over.  It's really just beginning, isn't it?

P.S. I cannot find the source of the above quote located on Pinterest, but I found a wonderful blog entry by Laura Jayne Martin that explores this whole "Everything will be okay" thing. She came to the same conclusion about the source of this quote. It's been attributed to many, including Paolo Coelho and John Lennon. I loved her writing.  Warning:  her language may offend some, but if that doesn't scare you, try reading "Everything Will be OK" here:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

*Goodbye, Virginia!

As I watched the sun come up in the east, I realized I would be leading the sun home as I traveled back to Utah on Southwest Airlines.  I watched out the plane window as the treetops became smaller and faded from view, and finally closed my shade so that I could rest.

We had gotten up at 3:30 to make it to the airport shortly after 4:30.  At the time, I was worried Bridger would think I was crazy for making these travel arrangements the way I did, but when we touched down at the Salt Lake City terminal before 11:00, I was grateful to be home and still have energy to tackle the laundry that would spew forth from our luggage.

The week had been eventful:  sightseeing in D.C. with my youngest,  family dinners, a day at the spa with the bridesmaids, my sister's wedding, and a potluck luncheon with my high school girlfriends.

Our family is divided up across three states:  Idaho, Utah, and Virginia.  I love all of these people so much  We're all a little silly, slightly sarcastic, and very loving.  It was a wonderful gathering everywhere we went,  with hugs, laughter, and camaraderie.  It was so good to be "home."

It seems we would just light somewhere, start to get settled in, and it was time to take off for our next destination and event.  There is a part of me that realizes it is good to leave while still wanting more. That's so much better than the opposite:  being somewhere you wish you were not.  I never experience THAT when I go home, but there are so many places I wish I were.

Now that I have slept in my own bed with my  Boston Terrier snuggled in by my side, I am glad to be where I am this morning.  I woke up to clear skies and dry air and cool temperatures.  This southern girl has called Utah home for over three decades now.  The desert is mine now, but I'm always grateful for a trip to the oasis that is Virginia, for the people and my memories of that beautiful state made me who I am today.

Goodbye, Virginia, until my next trip "home."

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Shall Wear Purple

Jenny Thomas' poem "Warning" begins, "When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me."  I read this poem a dozen years ago, and it touched me.  I think of it from time to time, when I notice the crow's feet, which I prefer to call laugh lines.  I think of it when I choose the comfortable clothes over the fashionable ones.  I think of it when I finally say exactly what I think, and I am not sorry for it.

My husband and I have decided that "old" is twenty years older than we are.  When we are 80, we will look at the centenarians with a knowing look and give each other a wink.  At least we're not THAT old, we will think.  But often I catch myself doing things and think, "Girl, you're getting OLD."  Perhaps I am, but I'd rather not "check out" just yet, so I will embrace aging over the alternative.

Yesterday it was my extreme delight to attend a gathering comprised of high school friends.  We were the Nelson County High School Class of '79.  On a whim, several weeks ago, I suggested that we all find red hats for a fun photo shoot.  There were detractors; "I can't wear hats; I can't breathe if I wear a hat; I don't WANT to wear a hat."  Everyone seemed to resign themselves with the fact that it looked like the majority had won; we would all be wearing hats.

Margaret took great care in selecting the hats, and we were impressed how each style seemed to match our personalities.  We laughed and teased as each of us put our hats on.  Someone told us we weren't old enough to be Red Hat ladies.  It's more of an ATTITUDE than an age.

The whole afternoon was filled with good-natured hilarity, tender hugs and whispers of encouragement, as  many of us are facing new challenges at this stage in our lives.  We ate, we drank, we talked, and listened.  If this is getting old, sign me up.  I hope to have many Red Hat Society gatherings in the future.

A friend of mine quipped, "When I get old I shall wear purple...until then, let's dress in purple."  Thank you, Kimberly Keisel. Agreed.  It's such a lovely color on anyone.  And at my age, I can take all of the image enhancers I can get!  I will be looking for more opportunities to don my red chapeau.  It is darling, and I couldn't have picked out a better hat for myself.

Here's to the purple and red!

P.S.  For any who have not read Jenny Thomas' poem, I have attached it below.


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other peoples' gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickles for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

by Jenny Joseph

Friday, June 21, 2013

*Meet the Beidlers!

Ice, ice, baby!  Aaaaaah...I have missed my ice packs, and this morning, I loaded up some Ziploc bags with ice from the machine at the hotel, and I'm getting REAL relief!  It's going to be a big day, getting Little Princess's wedding reception ready.  Does it sound like work?  Not with my family! The grandkids are such willing workers, and we all have so much fun together that my only concern is that these days are passing much too quickly.  Oh, dear. I feel tears stinging my eyes. I cannot get enough of these good people.

The weather gods have smiled upon us, relieving us of extreme heat and humidity this week. That always makes for happy summer days in the south.

Wedding plans are moving full speed ahead.  Natalie has so many last minute details to oversee, and Jackie has been managing "command central" for these last six months from her dining room table. I think they're nearly worn out, but are hanging in like the pros they are.  Sunday will be a day of collapse, and hopefully, relaxation for all of them.

We stopped at Rockfish Gap Country Store, my favorite little gift shop. Bridger and I continued our tradition of trying on hats. It's just something Beidler kids do with their folks. When I paid for my gifts, the clerk asked if I were from around here.  

"Well, ORIGINALLY, yes, but we're here from Utah this week."

"You look so familiar to me.  Something about the way you moved your face just now."

"I went to Nelson County High School."

"You're Denise Beidler!"

Ha ha ha. I had just reconnected with Kerry Swanson.  We had survived Algebra II together when I was a senior and she was a junior. What a small world.  (I have no idea what I had done with my face that triggered her memory.  I can only imagine.  From the candid pictures I EDIT of my myself, it could have been any number of embarrassing ways I contort my face. It was probably my "drunk look." That's the picture I delete the most!)

We had a nice lunch with Dad and Jackie at the Briar Patch Restaurant. I kept repeating, "I'm so HAPPY."

Dad said, "No wonder.  You haven't been planning a wedding.  I'd be happy, too."

Dad loves to tease us, reminding us his psychiatrist says he does NOT have to discuss wedding plans with ANYONE. He doesn't have a psychiatrist, but I do believe the voices in his head keep him going!

I keep hugging everyone (tears again) and trying to store up some of this positive energy for when I feel lonely for them when we go back to Utah. (Dang, I don't want to ruin my makeup!) It has been two years since we've all been together, and I have missed the camaraderie of my family.

My parents have such wonderful friends.  Jackie's Ya-Yas, her girlfriends since childhood, have stepped up to the plate, and gone the extra mile by preparing food for the reception, and arranging flowers, and too many other things to list!

Denise, Miss Marsha Honey, Natalie
My favorite teacher, Miss Marsha Ponton, became a friend of the family when she took on being a 4H advisor to my group in high school.  Miss Ponton and a couple from church prepared a wonderful Italian dinner for all of the Beidlers to enjoy last night at Ascension Episcopal Church. What a blessing that was for us all.  We simply showed up, ate a delicious meal, and enjoyed one another's company for the entire evening.  It was so sweet to watch the grandkids surround Granddaddy and laugh and visit.  Whoever made the seating arrangements and place cards knew what they were doing.  (Thank you, Miss Marsha Honey.)

Granddaddy, Bridger, Tatiana, and Rowan
Marsha began our evening by reminding us of our shared history...I was the first of the Beidlers in her 8th grade English class.  She reminded each of us where we sat in her classroom, remembering Eric was in the back by the windows, and definitely had attention issues. Eric agreed that he had ADHD before that was a common diagnosis! Miss Ponton remembered that December Monday when I came to class to announce that I had a new baby sister named Natalie. Jackie had Natalie the night of the 8th Grade Christmas Dance. I will never forget that!

I am absolutely rambling, and I am doing this for me, not you poor souls who peek in to see what I am writing. There are so many details I want to remember.

I can't wait to hear how Bridger and his cousins slept last night.  The kids swear they're staying in a haunted house. There is a graveyard on the property, and that has them very concerned. We've taken pictures of the enormous cicada skins left behind on the trees at the family home. A lightning bug landed on my hand last night in the car.  I felt like I had received a blessing from heaven. Catching bugs on warm summer nights, and keeping them in Mason jars for a night light, are some of my favorite childhood memories. How I miss lightning bugs turning the backyard into a magical fairy kingdom at dusk.

I need to go down for breakfast. I happily noticed that peanut butter is offered on the breakfast buffet, and also that grits are available! I love my peanut butter. Miss Natalie will be here soon to whisk me away to the reception hall. We're going to transform it into a lovely backdrop for a celebration of her wedding day. This week just gets better and better, and unfortunately, faster and faster.  "Backward, turn backward, o, time in your flight.  Make me a child again, just for tonight."  (Thank you, Elizabeth Akers Allen.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

*Happy Fourth of July, 'Murica!

Remembering a fun day in Washington, D.C. with my boy last summer. Happy Fourth of July, 'Murica!

Bridger waiting his turn for a simulated ride at the Smithsonian
There are accents, and then there are outright mispronunciations. Yesterday, we were entertained for a couple of hours atop a double decker tour bus, careening down the streets of Washington, D.C. Our tour guide was a young woman named Ty, short for Tyreshia. She knew shared tidbits of trivia with us about the landmarks, and shared her personal suggestions for the best eating establishments in the area.
So many "memoriums" in 'Murica's capitol city.

"If you want to AXE me anything while we're on the tour, feel free," Ty assured us. "Axe" is a common pronunciation in the south for ASK, but it shocked my ears to hear it again. Outside of the south, most people recognize the K comes after the S in ASK, but here in the greater metropolitan area of the District, and throughout much of the southeast, it is reversed. 

"Just axe me," she repeated.  "Axe me anything."

My fifteen-year-old whispered, "Do you think she cares what kind of axe we use?"

"Oh, no, I'm sure you could use a hatchet, a tomahawk, or any sort of chopping tool you have on hand," I grinned.

At one point, my son turned around and said, "WHAT did she just say?" I do have a hearing disability, but I'm pretty good at using context clues to fill in what I missed. Of course, the mispronounced word happened to be another of her favorites, so we had more opportunities to decipher what she was saying.  

"There are a VIE-AR-I-TY of cuisines in Washington, D.C.  You can find any kind of food you like here."

There it was again. VIE-AR-I-TY.  

"Does she mean to say VARIETY?" Bridger asked. We smiled, and then grinned. We both delight in language, good and bad, serious and funny. Detecting errors in spelling, word usage, and yes, pronunciation, is a hobby I have shared with my children throughout their lives, and now we enjoy it together. 

"I was born and raised in Washington, so I know a lot about the area," Ty continued. "I am a true Washingtonian."

We noticed that any word with an /er/ in it, came out as an UR. America and very came out 'MURICA and VURRY. We wondered if she wishes everyone a MURRY Christmas during the holiday season. Another shared smile between us. 

The longer the tour went on, the more it became obvious that she was totally unaware of the word AN. Instead of AN apple, for instance, she would say A apple, with the A having the long A sound. If the word following the A began with a consonant, she would use the schwa sound, so for instance, it would be UH bus, UH tourist, UH landmark, which is accepted usage. Instead of saying AN apple or AN orange, she would just use the long A, A apple or A orange.  

"Have A awesome day," she cheerily told each group who departed the tour at the stops along the way.

We drove past the Vietnam War Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial.  There are many famous events and people from American history memorialized here.  Bridger swears she repeatedly said MEMORIUM for the word memorial. The Lincoln Memorium. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorium. She may have; I honestly couldn't detect that one.  He seemed to enjoy it without me, smiling throughout the entire tour.  

The District police had blockaded one street due to an accident, and there were inevitable lulls in the snarl of downtown traffic. Our bus was idling in front of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving for quite awhile. We were having a difficult time determining exactly what she was saying as she chattered about this landmark.  It wasn't her volume; the microphone took care of that. There was just one troublesome word. Bridger and I looked at each other quizzically, and then it dawned on us. She wasn't saying BUREAU, she kept calling it the Ba-ROO of Printing and Engraving.  We assumed she would call the FBI the Federal Ba-ROO of Investigation. Admittedly, bureau IS a French word, and so it could be difficult to pronounce, but perhaps if one is a tour guide in Washington, D.C., one should be able to pronounce BUREAU, since there are quite a few of those here.

All in all, it was a delightful tour; Tyreshia was knowledgeable about the history, and pointed out little-known facts that kept us informed. The weather was unseasonably cool, and was without the heavy humidity I've come to expect during my stays in the east. The open air bus kept us comfortable, as it rumbled down the busy streets of our nation's capitol. And Ty unwittingly entertained us the entire time with her Washingtonian expressions, and her own way of speaking.  

Today we are off to central Virginia to visit our loved ones. We'll say goodbye to the capitol city of 'Murica, and hello to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We are going to have A awesome day.  Y'all do the same!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Changing Time Zones

Is it just me, or does anyone else play the time zone game?  We spent yesterday traveling across two time zones.  When we finally reached our hotel after midnight, I cheerily told myself, "Well, it's like ten o'clock to me!  Not bad at all."

After settling in and getting ready to retire, I tried to get comfortable in the strange bed.  It was like sleeping on a brick in a refrigerator.  I think we always try to compensate for the humidity by cranking up the air-conditioning.  Then, not only am I damp, I'm colder because I'm damp.

I kept checking my phone for the time.  1:00 in the morning.  "Oh, boy. See?  That's only...ELEVEN o'clock MY time!  Holy cow!  ELEVEN???  I haven't stayed up this late in FOREVER."

The time zone game is great when things are going well, and I have energy, and it's not in the middle of the night.  It gets a little taxing when you fall asleep at 1:00 in the morning and you're awake by 6:00, no matter WHICH time zone is involved.  When I start thinking, "Oh, well, that's like 11:00 to 4:00."  So what???  It's still only five hours of sleep.

I'm done with the game for today.  Daylight released me from the prison that was that bed, and I'm happily awake in the free breakfast dining area in our hotel, typing away, and now visiting with my son.  Excuse me, being with my boy is a sweet treat in any time zone, and I need to enjoy this fleeting time with a quickly growing man-child!  We're off to the Smithsonian today, for a family adventure in D.C.  More later...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Leavin' on a Jet Plane...

"All my bags are packed.  I'm ready to go..."  It's true.  My one solitary BAG is packed.  I packed it yesterday; not wanting to leave anything to chance.  Today is the day that we will fly to Virginia, the land of home and high school friends, and this week, the place where my little sister will be wed.  Our Little Princess has found her Prince Charming.

Little Princess is a packer extraordinaire.  My dad teases that when they go to the beach, he needs a trailer just to haul her stuff.  That girl is prepared, though!  She packs clothes for swimming, shopping, dining, beach combing, and just in case, something a little more formal, should the occasion arise.  When I go to the beach, I figure I've got everything covered if I have my swimsuit, a toothbrush, sunscreen, and a little something to use as a cover-up.  Yes, we have very different packing styles.

I've never had to pack for an extended stay vacation, but for a week long trip, I can put everything I need in a carry-on sized suitcase.  If it can't fit under the seat in front of me on the plane, it really doesn't need to go.  Now it's true, I don't have near as many options each morning as I get ready for the day.  I can't play the spoiled card by saying, "But I don't FEEL like wearing THAT today."  Or, "That's too wrinkly.  What else is there?"  I have to use tough love on myself, and "buck up," and wear what's there.

Backpacking and Harleying have taught me how to be a minimalist when it comes to traveling.  One of the strangest tips I ever heard from one of my husband's motorcycle friends was to pack only the OLD underwear and just throw it out after wearing it, to lighten the load as you go.  Now I don't know about you, but my underwear just doesn't take up that much room.  And when I'm going on vacation, I like to take the NICER pieces, you know, to spice things up, so to speak.  I don't want to have panty lines or fight with undergarments that are ill-fitting while I'm on my VACAY!!!  Those old granny panties will just have to stay home.

Last year, I took his advice to heart, though, and packed with the intent to dispose along the way.  I had lost some weight in the spring and some of my jeans were loose.  I honestly took some of my larger jeans, counting on their feeling extra comfy on the motorcycle, and being able to dispose of them on our trip without guilt to make room for souvenirs and  new t-shirts from our west coast trip. When the zipper kept coming off the track of one of the pair of jeans, I didn't even bat an eye about leaving that problem behind in our Crescent City motel room.

Have you ever watched Mr. Bean?  Our family loves Rowan Atkinson of BBC fame.  One of my favorite scenes of his involves packing things into a much too small suitcase.  He solves dilemmas by cutting items in half, or only taking half of what he needs.

I was guilty of some of those extreme measures when backpacking.  Who needs a WHOLE wash cloth?  And you don't need a towel, if you only wet half of the half of washcloth, the other side can be used for drying!  When shopping for outdoor wear, I always bought the LIGHTEST weight shirts and pants; no jeans ever!  They were too bulky and took too long to dry.  Lightweight was the way to go.

So packing for our Virginia trip was a breeze.  I hung up five hangers in my suitcases's handy dandy
compartment, utilizing that little organizational feature.  Most hangers have two items hanging on them.  I rolled up all of my capris, tank tops, PJs, and collarless shirts.  I've packed two pairs of shoes, a few gifts, toiletries, and hair appliances.  There's even jewelry and my telephoto camera lens in there!  I plan on wearing some of the capris more than once, but that will just be our little secret.

It has been a couple of years since I've been home, so I am more than a little excited to travel today.  There's still a couple of nooks and crannies vacant in my suitcase.  I'll go see what else I can tuck into the spaces; a girl likes to have her options!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Ever Elusive Sandman

Three in the morning.  Tossing.  Turning.  Blankets on.  Blankets off.  Am I awake for the day? Or can I settle back down and rest? 

Now that it's summer, I shouldn't worry at all about being alert or on my toes.  When you're facing a classroom full of 35 fifth graders, it's a totally different story.  Now that it's summer, and my retirement has begun, I just have to be awake enough to make casual conversation with my husband and not burn breakfast. 

So it's not school or work related; it's the best kind of stress:  EUSTRESS.  Have you heard of it?  It is stress that is deemed healthful or giving one the feeling of fulfillment.  This is the week of my little sister's wedding.  This is the week that we will travel cross-country and reconnect with family and familiar faces.  I have looked forward to this since Christmas when my little sister sent me a text message and a picture of her engagement ring, sharing her big news.

My mind is racing with packing lists and gift ideas, travel itineraries and hotel reservations, doggy daycare for Marley and car rental agreements.  Travel is so exciting, and at times, a little overwhelming. 

There are so many people I know and love in Virginia.  It is not the place of my birth, but it is the place I called home from infancy until high school graduation.  There are so many directions to which my heart is pulled.  I want to see everyone and I can never stay long enough because it seems there's always another visit to make and another place to go . My husband will meet my Virginia relatives for the first time.  My girlfriends from high school are gathering next weekend for a potluck lunch, and a rare chance to visit outside of Facebook. 

It's now five in the morning.  I've taken a warm bath and sipped a cup of Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea.  I gathered the items I was afraid I would forget to pack.  Sleep is so elusive at times, but perhaps I should give it another go.  Perhaps the sandman will come for a second time before the sun comes up.  Here's hoping...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cookie Dough Hummus (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip)...Dipping a Toe in the Vegan Water

Inspired by our recent TV viewing featuring a vegan lifestyle, we wanted to try to incorporate more healthy alternatives in our snacking repertoire.  This is my first attempt at making a sweet hummus.  I browsed online, looking for something we might like.  Other recipes I found had added sugars or whole-fat peanut butter.  I wanted my first exposure to limit the sugars and extra fat, so I subbed in stevia and peanut powder (PB2, specifically). Honestly?  I think a little brown sugar would have made this PERFECT, but this recipe is pretty darn good for a snack with so much nutrition!  Try it; see what YOU think!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Hummus (by SHRINKMOM)

Submitted by: SHRINKMOM 

View the original recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Hummus


Cookie dough without the guilt and loads of nutrition. Use as a dip for apples, graham crackers...or even better, just use a spoon!
Number of Servings: 12


    1 can garbanzo beans
    4 T. PB2 (powdered peanuts)
    1/8 c. water
    1 t. vanilla
    1 T. pure maple syrup
    4 t. stevia (more or less, to taste)
    1 dash salt
    1/4 c. mini chocolate chips


Creates about 12 two tablespoon servings.


Drain and rinse beans. Add everything except the chocolate chips to the food processor. Blend until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips. Let cool in fridge for at least an hour.

Serving Size: Makes 1 2/3 c. of "cookie dough"

Nutritional Info
  • Servings Per Recipe: 12
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 77.7
  • Total Fat: 1.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 148.9 mg
  • Total Carbs: 13.3 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
  • Protein: 3.0 g

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Le Beau Citron (Fresh Limeade)...Trying to Give Up Soda AGAIN

Yesterday's goal was to drink healthier. I conscientiously avoided soda in the morning, and by the time the hectic-ness of my afternoon was over, I didn't really want it. Our secret survival weapon? Iced water and fresh-squeezed limeade. "So refreshing!" exclaims the husband. We sweeten it with stevia and flavor it with a sprig of mint. 

I've tried cutting out soda before,but never really noticed a dropping a quick 30 pounds, so why bother? We've been watching all of the propaganda movies (my term) on Netflix, and I really feel like some of my habits are out of control and that perhaps there are more important things than losing weight to be gained from eating a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and unprocessed foods. (The movies? Hungry for Change, Food Matters, Forks over Knives, Frankensteer... with several more in our queue.) So, I'm trying to become more moderate. Yes, I must subject myself to extreme viewpoints to try to find a point of balance. It's like shock therapy for this junk food junkie at heart.

We were introduced to the freshly squeezed limeade at the Ogden Arts Festival Saturday.  A lone young man was running his stand, trying to keep up with the demand for his yummy drink.  I watched carefully, so I could go home and make my own version of his Le Beau Citron.  And here it is, the recipe to make a quart of this summery nectar.

Le Beau Citron

1.  Squeeze the juice from two limes into a Mason jar (to be authentic!)
2.  Add a sprig of mint, twisting the leaves to release the oil (trust me, you'll want the mint, and I'm not mint's biggest fan)
3.  Sweeten to taste (we like three packets of stevia in ours)
4.  Fill the jar with water and ice.  
5.  Seal the jar and shake the contents rhythmically, adding hip movement, if desired.

Drink directly from jar, unless you have more drinks to make! 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

*Confessions of a Word Geek

Way back when, when I lived in Virginia and was a student in junior high, I had the privilege of competing in the school spelling bees.  Oh, what a fun event that was for someone like myself! Until.  UNTIL that moment when the competition was down to the final two:  my brother Kevin and me.  (This would be a good time to tell you that I was in 8th grade; he was in 7th.)  The word I was given was PLASTIC.  I had this!  The trophy would be mine, mine, mine!  We had a box of cutlery, PLASTIK brand cutlery, in our pantry that I had seen on a daily basis for the last couple of years. 

Oh!  This was too perfect.  How could I get such an EASY word after all of the challenging words we had spelled to get to this point?  Needless to say, when that irritating DING of the bell reached my ears, I was in utter disbelief.  Kevin not only spelled PLASTIC, but he went on to spell his word correctly and won the spelling bee.  And I learned a little humility.

One evening when I was a freshman at BYU, the girls in my apartment were sitting around the table.  I must have been looking at my geography book, or perhaps a map, when I blundered into the conversation with confidence, asking where the Red Buttes were. Here, let me assist you.  I didn't ask about the (byoots), I asked about the (butts).  Everyone howled with laughter.  In my defense, I was from Virginia.  We don't have buttes and "cricks."  We have hollers and crEEks.  Yes, thank you, I will have a little slice of that humble pie.

It wasn't until later in college that I made the mortifying discovery when writing out a check that I had been misspelling FORTY all of my life.  "Fourty" made perfect sense, and I had never questioned it.  Glad I caught it BEFORE I became a teacher.

Marley on the CHAISE LONGUE
A couple of years ago, I was enjoying my summer vacation reading magazines.  By the way, I'm not one of those teachers who zealously attacks student work with a red pen, circling with devilish glee spelling errors, but I LOVE finding spelling errors in print, so it was with great satisfaction I detected "chaise longue" in the Oprah magazine, of all places. Then, with some reflection, I wondered if there were a chance that I could be wrong. I Googled the spelling on my phone and discovered, much to my dismay, that indeed, CHAISE LONGUE is correct, but as Americans, we have misspelled the word as CHAISE LOUNGE so much, there is actually a dictionary entry for it, incorrect as it may be!  If I had only used my French minor degree, I would have understood the connection:  a long chair is a CHAISE LONGUE.  I just thought it was a chair for lounging, and a "chase lounge," as I said it, sounded correct to me!

Just recently, I embarrassed myself with a pronunciation faux pas in the presence of friends, one of whom worked for a newspaper and is a bit of a word geek himself.  I used this particular word without hesitation, having seen it in print sporadically throughout my life, but when said newsman heard it, he did an obvious double-take and repeated the word with a big fat question mark at the end. The word in question was BROOCH.  Now I know how to say POOCH and MOOCH, so I assumed I knew how to say BROOCH.  Ha ha ha!  Oh, dear.  I stood corrected. 

These are the stories I share with my students, who have these little A-HA moments on a regular basis.  I let them know we are all still learning, even old gals like me.  I will forever be honing my word skills, it seems.  How can someone who knows so MANY words well,  perform so miserably with a certain few?  I'm human.  And luckily, I have a sense of humor about my weaknesses.

At rare times, I proceed with caution with words about which I am unsure.  In the privacy of my home, with access to my trusty dictionary and the internet, I reassure myself and double-check meanings and pronunciations and spellings.  But when I'm in PUBLIC, and I am speaking, I just do the best I can.  Do I still make mistakes?  Oh, certainly.  It gives me something to think about, and as long as I'm still learning, I can keep my pride in check. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hiking My Way Back to the Girl I Used to Be

There is a children's song I know with these lyrics, "When we're helping, we're happy, and we sing as we go..."  I find this tune running through my head when I'm hiking in the great outdoors, and of course, I change the words to suit me, and it comes out like this, "When I'm HIKING, I'm happy, and I sing as I go..."

What is it about hiking that speaks to our spirit?  It wasn't until I was in college in Utah that I actually began hiking.  We did midnight hikes in Hobble Creek Canyon, day hikes to Mount Timpanogos, and overnight hikes in the beautiful Uintahs.  I had hiked alone, with my Lab Gordon, on dates, and with small groups of friends.  There never seemed to be a bad way to go.  

"A bad day hiking is still better than a good day at school," seemed to be our motto.  Hiking in those days was a great stress reliever, and a welcome break from classes.  Having this first-hand experience with nature seems to settle my soul.

After college and early on in my teaching career, I was married and had children.  It never seemed feasible for me to take my little ones. People do it, and I wish I had persevered, but through no one's fault but my own, I just didn't do it.

I tried to enjoy the mountains in my own way, bouncing along in our old truck to scout for deer, or elk, or bear.  We checked traps and did little short walks from the truck to the traps and back again. I would walk while my family fished.  I never was much for hunting and fishing, and somehow I allowed those activities to detract from my connecting with nature.

Colorado Rocky Mountain High 2012

After my 22 year marriage ended, I knew that I would have to make my way back to the Granola Girl I left behind those many years ago.  Hiking was the natural solution, and it has helped me reconnect with my children, and myself.

It has been my extreme pleasure to hike with my grown children.  I feel like I have had to make up for missed opportunities when they were younger. We hike the deserts and mountains near Saint George with Dylan, Colorado with Sierra, and central and southern Utah with Bridger.  

We have all grown closer through these outdoor experiences. Having adventures is what adds more depth and dimension to our lives.  Hiking gives us opportunities for private reflection,  quiet conversation, and finding humor in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

We keep adding hikes to our bucket list. The longer my list grows, the happier I am. This year I hope we make it to Angels' Landing in Zion National Park. I want to explore the trails above Monrovian Park on Monroe Mountain. A visit to the Grand Canyon is long overdue; I've never seen it, and I have lived in the Rockies since 1979! I know that when I'm hiking, I'm happy. And there's a lot to be said for being happy!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Man's Best Friend? Or a Beast of Burden? Hiking Calf Creek Falls with Our Boston

Go early, we thought. It will be cooler, we thought.  Perhaps we should have considered the role the sun plays when it is hanging in the sky, once any trace amounts of dew have evaporated and the desert rocks start to absorb the sun's rays.

Lower Calf Creek Falls
Boulder, Utah
Bridger and I left early, we thought, to beat the heat, we thought.  Apparently, six A.M. is not early enough if one is hiking in southern Utah.  Lower Calf Creek Falls is more than two hours away from our sleepy little town.  We should have left in the middle of the night.  Or even the day before.  We could have stayed in a nearby campground or air-conditioned motel.  As it turns out, we were on the trail by 10:10. And it was already turning into a cooker.

Our Boston Terrier seems to enjoy hiking days, so he was along for the walk, too.  In retrospect, that was NOT a good idea.  Not today.  Not here.  We were taking bets as to when he would flop in the shade and refuse to go any further.  He didn't even make it all the way to the falls before he was showing signs of resistance.  Marley pants like any normal dog, under the circumstances.  It's what he does when he has had enough that baffles the dog whisperer in me. He simply refuses to move.  We tug on his leash, and he is dragged in the sand. We whistle, we beg, we offer words of encouragment.  His passive-agressive nature is what surfaces when
temperatures soar and moods plummet. 

What's a hiker to do?  We took every opportunity to dunk him in the creek to cool him off.  We offered water.  We kept his coat damp.  We rested in the shady spots that are sporadically available along the trail.  Every once in awhile, we hoisted him up and carried him along the way.  It worked, for awhile.

When we reached the water falls, we all relished the breezes and the misty droplets in the air. We took off our shoes and relieved our feet in the cold moutain water.  Marley seemed to be somewhat rejuvenated.  After playing in the water and taking in the scenery for a respectable amount of time, we decided it was time to brave the elements once more, and head back to the scorching heat of the trail.

To Marley's credit, he tried to give it a go.  He made an effort to get back to the car.  It was just SOOO hot.  He languished in any small patch of shade he could find.  We continued to cool him off internally and externally.  I knew he had finally had it when he sat on his haunches and held his front paws off the heated sand while his haunches rested in the tiniest patch of shade.  We decided we would have to carry our poor litte Boston Baked Bean.  My son picked him up and carried him to the creek.  He rinsed off most of the red sand and then Bridger placed Marley across my shoulders much like ancient shepherds carried their lambs long ago.  (My knowledge of ancient shepherds comes from stained glass windows at the church of my childhood.)

Then we took turns carrying that little 15 pound pup.  Honestly, the evaporating water from his body cooled our necks.  I had visions of Aesop's Fable about the Miller, His Son, and the Donkey.  I'm sure some of the passing hikers thought we'd lost it and some found us to be compassionate.  I really couldn't worry about what anyone else thought at that time.  We couldn't stand to see him suffer any more. 

Marley had no lasting effects and this morning, he is sleeping soundly in his recliner he graciously shares with me.  Would we hike Calf Creek again?  You bet!  But unless it's the dead of winter, I think we'll let Marley off the hook for any future forays into the desert.