Mid-life Without the Crisis

It really isn't the destination, but the journey. May be cliche, but it's true.

Monday, December 20, 2010

For Angie

My best friend Angie is a huge Point of Grace fan.  She got to meet them recently at a concert and she was so excited that she called me on her way home just so she could share.  I love that she gets as excited about meeting her favorite singers as I have about meeting mine, though my favorites are a different style.

Angie shared this video with me one day and I thought it was a beautiful song, so I thought I'd share it with you.  I like this view of Mary in labor.  She was so young and in such a difficult situation, but she obediently and gracefully fulfilled her calling to give birth to the Messiah.  What a woman!

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

An Interesting Duet

This video is for my daughter, who's coming home this weekend.  It features one of her favorite singers, David Bowie.  However, the video also features a singer of a different generation, Bing Crosby.

This song was recorded for Bing's 1977 Christmas special, which was taped only a month before he died.  It was, even then, considered to be an odd pairing, but something about the mixture of these two great, yet different, voices has really stuck with people and the song has become very popular.  (Read the full story here.)

So sit back and prepare to be wowed by the musical stylings of Bing and Bowie.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Blast From the Past

The past few weeks in my Geography class, I've been teaching about Africa.  One of the things we studied was just how massively large the continent is, but with that size comes massive problems from droughts, health problems, ecological disasters, wars and famine.  We looked in detail at the genocide in Darfur and the 1984-85 famine in Ethiopia.  Tears flowed in class, I can tell you that.

I've been reading several friends' and family members' comments on Facebook and blogs about trying to get in the Christmas spirit.  I don't know if I would call what I've been feeling this past week "Christmas spirit" but it has certainly been an attitude of gratitude.  We are so blessed in this country to have peace, shelter, food, clean water, and the comforts of home and family.  We don't have to worry about whether our children will survive the night because they've had no food.  We don't have to flee to a neighboring nation to escape rockets and roving bands of rebels intent on killing us.  We don't have to work in the field gathering cash crops that will only make us poorer while enriching our corrupt leaders.  We have so much to be thankful for - that should be enough to get us in the Christmas spirit.

So I challenge you to learn about what is going on in Darfur. (Learn more here.)  I challenge you to remind yourself of the famines that killed hundreds of thousands in Ethiopia. (Learn more here.)  I challenge you to learn about the health issues that still result in the deaths of 22,000 children under the age of 5 world-wide EVERY DAY. (Learn more here.)

Then I think you will feel a bit better about your own life and the Christmas spirit will come a little more easily, if also more humbly.  

Of course, you can also watch this video from the 80s, a fund-raising response to the famine in Ethiopia, to get a little cheer, too.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Wishes for You

This video is of Amy Grant singing "Grown Up Christmas List."  The song was written by David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner and was on Foster's 1990 Christmas album, featuring vocals by Natalie Cole.  But it was Amy's 1992 version that popularized the song.

You can find lots of versions of this song online, but I like this one, and I hope you do, too.  And I hope you get everything on your list for Christmas.  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different...

My mom and I went to visit relatives this weekend in St. Louis and surrounding areas.  We stopped off at The Factory in Farmington on the way home to see my Aunt Rita, who was doing a book-signing. As we chatted away, she mentioned how much she enjoyed seeing Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli on a Christmas special recently.  So I thought I'd post one of his videos for my aunt.

However, as I perused through his various Christmas songs, all lovely, I found one that just really stood out.  Not because of the song itself, but for the pairing and the fun of the video.  

So here's a clip from a PBS special featuring Andrea Bocelli and some very special friends. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Getting in the Spirit

I was digging out my Christmas CD's to put on my computer and I thought, "Hey, why not share some of my favorites on my blog all month?"  So that's what I'm going to do.  I'll try to share a video with you each day and tell you a little something about the artist and/or song.

Yesterday's video was from Harry Connick, Jr.  Harry is a New Orleans jazz musician and actor.  He has been recording since he was about 10 years old and does standards like "It Had to Be You" and his own, original songs.  He has appeared in movies like "Independence Day" and "Memphis Belle."  If you like Frank Sinatra or Michael Buble, you will enjoy Harry Connick, Jr.

Today's video is of Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss performing "The Wexford Carol."  I have an instrumental version of this carol and it instantly became a favorite.  It is an Irish song, from County Wexford, and is one of the oldest carols from Europe.  This version features the Grammy-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Grammy-winning bluegrass-country singer Alison Krauss.  I hope you enjoy.

P.S.  What do you think of my red and green font?  Christmas-y, ey?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas is Coming!

Can you believe it's December already?  I've been so busy with the classes I teach, that time has really flown.  Finals are almost upon us.

That means Christmas will be here before we know it.  Are you ready yet?  I'm not quite there.  Of course, we're waiting to put our tree until our daughter gets home, and then we'll also wrap presents and bake cookies.  I am looking forward to that!

I do have a few more home made gifts to finish up, but at least the shopping is done, which is good because trying to get into the stores this time of year can be a nightmare.  

I need to put all my Christmas music back on my computer (I had to do a system restore earlier this year) and start listening to some good stuff.  That Musak junk they play in the stores gets on my last nerve!!!

Speaking of good stuff, here's a video of one of my favorite Christmas songs being sung by one of my favorite artists, the wonderful Harry Connick, Jr.  Enjoy....and early Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Story for All Ages

Harry Potter is a big deal at our house.  Our daughter was 9 years old when the first book was released.  There was all kinds of buzz, both good and bad, about the book, so I read it after Carrie did to see what the hullabaloo was about.  I loved it!  We continued to enjoy the next few books as they were released.

One day, Carrie decided that since her dad was always building things and rarely picked up a book, she would read the books to him while he worked.  So she read book after book to him.  One night, she went to bed, having stopped reading at a pivotal moment, and Alan finished reading the book, having caught the bug, so to speak.

When the 6th book came out, we went to the midnight release because we simply couldn't wait.  I remember Carrie had her friend Lydia over that weekend, and the girls spent every waking moment reading it to each other.  I had to grab it when they went to sleep, and then Alan got it after I fell asleep.  We all finished it that weekend.

For the final book, we got 2 copies so there was less sharing and coordinating that had to go on.

We were also at the midnight showing of the first movie.  I think we stood in that line for hours, and there were only about 6 people in the line in front of us.

So now the first part of the 2-part finale opened this weekend.  Alan and I didn't do the midnight showing because he had his eyes dilated yesterday and wasn't up to going out, but I think we'll be at one of the late shows tonight or tomorrow.  (Stop by and say hi if you see us!)

I know the haters like to dump on the stories because they involve witchcraft (though the same people are fine with wizards in Lord of the Rings.  Go figure.), or the fact that Harry often breaks rules (and always pays the consequences).  And I know that J.K. Rowling has not written great literature here, and borrows heavily from other sources.  But what makes the stories so great, to me anyway, is the central idea about friendship.  How just because you're a blood relative of someone, that doesn't mean you are going to be like them, or even that you have TO like them.  And it's the friends you love who are your true family.  And home is where the heart is.

Those are important issues, ones that we should probably consider.

Plus it's just a lot of fun!!

In case you've somehow had your head in the sand and have missed it, here's the trailer for the newest release.  Makes you wanna go see it, doesn't it!!?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Save Some Money

Whether you're unemployed, underemployed, or just trying to save a bit for a special vacation or Christmas presents, saving money can be important.  And it turns out that there are lots of simple ways to trim your budget.  A little here, a little there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Here are some of the methods my family has used to save money.
  1. Skip movie theaters.  We only see movies in the theater that are big special effects films.  Aliens, superheroes and monsters we tend to spend the big bucks on.  Romantic comedies and other genres can wait until they hit DVD or Netflix.
  2. Netflix.  For $9 a month, we can get as many DVDs by mail as we want, and we can watch tons of movies and TV shows online.  It's usually a better deal than paying extra on your cable or satellite bill for movie channels.  (I've sent all my Facebook followers a link for a first month free.  If you are not a Facebook follower or didn't get the link and want it, be sure to contact me and let me know.)
  3. Cook at home.  Eating out is so convenient and easy, but the money adds up fast.  We eat out only a couple times a month instead of a couple times a week.  You can save a lot this way.  Taking your own meals for lunch at work is a big savings too.
  4. Take out.  When we do get restaurant food, we generally do it as take out instead of eating in the restaurant.  It saves us the tip.  I know this is super cheap, but sometimes you do what you gotta do.
  5. Coupons.  When you are doing all that grocery shopping, be sure to use coupons.  It used to be that the only way to get coupons was to get the paper or magazines.  You'd spend more on those things than you'd save.  But now coupons can be printed from online providers or even sent to your cell phone.  Check out Coupon Mom, Redplum, and Smartsource for printable coupons, and Cellfire for digital ones.  Coupons reset each month, and you can usually print up to 3 of the same coupon each month.
  6. Savings alerts.  Sign up with your favorite store or blogger for newsletters that let you know when something is on sale.  I have gotten some beautiful jewelry for free this way.  You never know who might be giving something away.  Check your favorite store's website, or try out Faithful Provisions.
  7. Make virtual money.  You can use Swagbucks to earn Swag points that you can then use to buy all sorts of things, from jewelry to game systems to gift cards.  Or take surveys at My View to earn points that can then be used on gift cards. 
These are just a few of my money-saving tips.  What tips do you have for us?

P.S.  As an added bonus to today's blog, here's a video of one of my favorite bands singing about this very topic. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Simple, Positive Changes

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.  ~Albert Einstein

Our modern world can be very complicated at times.  We have so many demands on our time and attention that we often get to the point that we believe solutions to problems also require complicated measures, but that's not necessarily true.  I was perusing through some old magazines (I love magazines, but am too cheap to subscribe, so I pick up old freebies at the library) and found some interesting and simple tips for dealing with issues we may all deal with.  Here's what I learned:

  1. A one-hour session of lying or sitting in a quiet room with soft lighting, eyes closed, listening to sounds of nature of soft instrumental music is just as effective at easing stress as a one-hour massage.  Plus it's cheaper!
  2. Breaking up a work-out of 30 minutes into 3 10-minute sessions throughout the day is just as effective at relieving pain and stiffness from arthritis or fibromyalgia as a longer session.  Plus it's easier to do and is less daunting.  
  3. Drivers who always drive the same route are more likely to zone out, drive on "autopilot," and have an accident than those who take a different course on occasion.  Plus studies suggest that doing new things prevents Alzheimer's.  
  4. Drinking plenty of water, washing your hands, spending time outdoors in the fall and winter, getting 8 hours of sleep, and avoiding or dealing effectively with stress are good ways to prevent colds and flu.  Plus it's cheaper than that nighttime medicine!
Life is difficult enough.  Find ways to simplify.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happiness Is...

It is one of my sources of happiness never to desire a knowledge of other people's business.  ~Dolley Madison

I recently participated in some research on happiness.  Well, I didn't know it was research at the time, but looking back, I can see that I learned a lesson that is, in fact, backed up by research.
Part one of the study involved my sitting with some acquaintances as they chatted.  They talked about their friends, and their relatives, and their co-workers, and their exes, and their neighbors, and all the things those people are involved in.  At the end of the conversation, I had a headache, I was tired and wrung out, and I wanted to sprint from the group to get away (of course I couldn't - thanks, ankle). 

Part two of the study involved my sitting with some other acquaintances as they chatted.  They talked about their favorite TV shows, politics, movies they enjoy, music and concerts, how the kids are doing at school, church, their pets, and books they are reading.  When that conversation was over, I felt great.  I could have continued listening and talking to those people for hours.  My ankle hurt from a long day of being away from my comfy couch, but at least not from running away from uncomfortable conversations.

Then I read about a study done by the University of Arizona and Washington University.  The researchers found that people who spend less time in small talk and gossip are happier people.  "Meaningful connections with other people are an important part of happiness," said the co-author, Siminie Vazire, Ph.D.

So if you are looking for ways to be happier, more content, and to really thrive, stop talking ABOUT people and start talking WITH them about things that matter to you.  You'll be happy you did. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Roll With the Changes

My Poor Ankle!
Life can be ironic sometimes, can't it?  I recently wrote about how I was going to increase my efforts and try to double the number of days I exercise for the remainder of the year.  And when I did try to increase my mileage, I messed up my Achilles' Tendon!

So now I have to stay off my foot as much as possible while my tendon heals, which could take weeks or even months.

I suppose I could whine, cry, complain or just give up on exercise altogether.  But instead, I'm going to try working on my upper body strength and core since I won't be running for quite awhile.

That's the way life is, though.  We make plans and then life interferes with those plans.  We lose the dream job, the relationship doesn't work out, the best friend moves away.  Whatever.  What we need to do is not give up or act childishly.  Instead, we need to be the mature people we are and respond appropriately, find an alternate course, and go on.  We need to roll with the changes.

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Books!

As I've mentioned, I've been reading lots of post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels this year and I wanted to tell you about a few.

Mockingjay is the third in a series by Suzanne Collins.  While I think the first book of the series, The Hunger Games, is the best, this provided a nice conclusion to the story.  Some people might find it a little darker with its war and politics, but I didn't find it any darker than the first two, in which children have to kill or be killed in a twisted government scheme to keep the masses subdued.  Though the books are considered young adult books, they are a good read for adults as well.

The Passage by Justin Cronin is what I'm working on right now.  It is a story about the creation of "virals" and the consequences thereof.  Virals are what we would call vampires, but they are not sexy, sparkly, or in any way romantic.  They are terrifying killers.  The story of how they were created is just as fascinating as the story of how the survivors live in a bleak, barren world.  The book is 766 pages, but it is worth the time you'd have to invest to read that many.  I'm not even finished yet (page 692), but I can already say that I love this book.  I'm really excited to find out that this may be the first of a trilogy.  I can hardly wait to finish the book tonight to find out which characters are likely to appear in a sequel.

Speaking of interesting takes on classic monsters, another book I really enjoyed this year was World War Z:  An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.  What made this book so interesting is that the oral history style of the book made the whole thing seem so real.  In addition, I liked that the book wasn't just about zombies eating people, but was much more about the political and tactical maneuvers that would have to be implemented if such a situation really did arise, thus lending more reality, and more creep factor, to the story.

I guess now I just need to read a really great take on werewolves.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Be Goal Oriented

I don't care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don't harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you're never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.  ~ Zig Ziglar

I was flipping through an old Prevention magazine and read a story about some women who lost weight and felt younger after participating in a 12-week program.  I was berating myself for not having lost as much weight as these women have (have you noticed that I do that to myself a lot?), and wondering what I could do differently to speed up the weight loss.  I realized that part of the problem was that I didn't have a solid goal for the remainder of the year.

As I explained in a previous post, my exercise goal for the year was simply to exercise 80 days this year.  I achieved that goal in August.  I have some long-term exercise goals (next year's triathlon at the lake being the main one), but not short ones - the ones that kick you out of bed in the morning and yell at you to get moving.

I was thinking about this as I went to change the calendar in my bedroom when lo and behold!  I came to my own rescue.  In January, when I set my goal, I thought ahead and periodically wrote at the beginning of the month little notes like, "How many days now?", "Are you there yet?", and other encouragements.  On October, I'd written, "Have you reached your goal yet?  Can you double it?"  Wow!  I guess in January I knew just what kind of kick in the pants I'd need this month.

So, yes, my new goal for the rest of the year is to double last year's exercise days of 79 for the year.  Which means that to reach 158 days for the year, I have only 67 to go.  I can do that.

Hooray for thinking ahead and double hooray for short-term goal setting.  

What are your short-term goals?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beware of Scams

I guess I'm pretty old-school.  I don't have caller ID on my home phone, so when it rings, I answer it.  It could be my mom, or my daughter, or my best friend, or someone equally important.

When the phone rang last night during a favorite show, I was tempted to let it ring, but it could have been someone important, so I answered.  "This is Card Services."  The lovely recorded voice then went on to assure me that there is nothing wrong with my credit card, but they would like to offer me the chance to lower the rates on my cards.  I was asked to press "1" if I wanted to speak to a representative.  Of course, I pressed "1" - who wouldn't want to lower their interest rates?  Then I told the nice lady that I couldn't find my credit card and would she please hold while I located it.  

Then I watched the rest of my show and only hung up the phone when I heard the signal telling me that the other party had hung up.  It took her 15 minutes to give up.

This is a huge scam, people!  Don't fall for it.  First of all, I don't even have any credit cards and the balance on my husband's is under $600.  Secondly, I've dealt with these people before and I know what they're up to.

They call themselves Card Services (or sometimes a variation of that), but they won't give you a company name.  They also will not give you a phone number.  (Legitimate businesses will.)  If you actually do give them your credit card number, they will charge your card about $995 as a front-end fee that you will "save in the long run after we show you how to lower your rates."  What you will instead get is a charge on your card and information in the mail with commonly-known "tips" on how to lower your rates, like paying more than the minimum payment, transferring balances to lower-rate cards, etc.  (No, I didn't fall for it - but I've read up on them since they keep calling me.)

Since they robo-call, being on a Do Not Call List is not really any help and since they will not give you a legitimate company name and number, you can't exactly report them to your Attorney General's office (well, you can, but they won't be able to do anything about it).

I've even asked them to place me on their internal Do Not Call List, but since there are many of these operations, having one not call is no guarantee you won't be called by another.

So the best thing to do is either ignore them completely or mess with them.  I liked my searching-for-my-card idea as it kept her holding.  Her dime, not mine.  And during those 15 minutes, she wasn't bothering anyone else.  Whatever you do, just don't fall for their line.

For more stories about this scam, you can peruse the site linked hereTo add your number to the national Do Not Call Registry, click on this linkAnd if you want to add your number to Missouri's Do Not Call, go here

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Aging Well

A man's age is something impressive, it sums up his life:  maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves.  A man's age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories.  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

There's a song we used to sing in church when I was growing up.  "Count your blessings, name them one by one..."  I thought I'd count some of the ways that it's actually really neat to be middle-aged.

  1. My self-esteem is no longer based on what the other kids think of me.
  2. After many, many years together, I no longer am concerned that my husband will stop loving me.
  3. I actually like having an "empty nest" because the room formerly known as my daughter's bedroom is now my super cool office.
  4. I can try all sorts of new things, give them up, and move on to other things without being thought of as a flighty young woman, but instead as an adventurous older woman.
  5. I like me more now than I ever did when I was a young woman.
  6. I get to live vicariously through the adventures of my adult daughter, and also share my own adventures with my mother.
  7. I really get how much my parents did for us kids.
  8. I'm not afraid to reach out to other people and make friends.
  9. I'm not afraid to speak up for myself.
  10. Men seem to just keep getting better looking with age - my husband included.  ;)
  11. I can re-read a book or re-watch a movie and probably enjoy it as if I've never seen it before because I probably won't remember half of it.
  12. I realize that life is too short for bad literature, obnoxious people, stupid guidelines, or saying no to dessert.
  13. Okay, I cry at sad movies...and TV shows....and sometimes commercials.  So what?
  14. It's really fun to start working on checking off bucket list items.
  15. I like being the middle aged woman who just started running because it makes me feel like one of those inspirational women you'd read about in a magazine.
 I have to agree with David Coverdale of Whitesnake.  These truly are "the best years of my life."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No Complaints Here

Recently, I've been struggling with getting anywhere with my running.  I seem to have gotten over my lower leg issues, but I'm having to do an awful lot of walking mixed in with my running.  I was feeling a little sorry for myself about this while I ran/walked this morning.  Then I got home and found this video in my in-box from Runner's World.

I think I'll shut up about not gaining much ground now.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ready for Christmas Yet?

Yeah, I know it's way too early to think about Christmas...well, unless you like to shop early.  Or you want to make gifts for your friends and family.  Or you are already excited because your daughter will be home from Sweden for 2 weeks during Christmas.  But I digress.

Actually, October is the traditional month at my house to start making wish lists, so this post is a little early, but I wanted to share something really neat with you.  I was Stumbling yesterday and came across this video about Furoshiki, the Japanese wrapping cloth.  Watch the video first and then we'll talk.....

Was that not cool!?  I love this idea on so many levels.  Unlike wrapping paper, the cloth could be washed if needed.  It's eco-friendly since it's reusable.  You could make your own (read more).  And just think, if you could get all your friends and family to try it out, you'd have interesting new patterns to keep and re-use yourself.  

So maybe it's not too early to think about Christmas after all!

Friday, September 3, 2010

How to Thrive...at Any Age

The truth is, I do indulge myself a little the more in pleasure, knowing that this is the proper age of my life to do it - Samuel Pepys

My best friend is learning how to play guitar.  She never wanted to be a rock star, as far as I know, and best I can recall, her singing is not going to make her famous.  But she's always wanted to play an instrument and when she tried guitar, she fell in love with it.

I myself am learning to speak Swedish and am trying to get in shape for a triathlon.

Odd behaviors for women over 40?  Perhaps, but Ang and I don't care.  We love learning and we love our new-found hobbies.

Sometimes I think that's one problem people have - just doing something they enjoy.  We've always got this huge To Do list in our heads and we feel guilty if we put that aside for a while and do something for no other reason than we want to.  But guess what.  I can do those dishes now and I'll just have more to do tomorrow, or I can put them off and sit and play a game with my family now.  I can worry about the bills that need to be paid though my funds are low, or I can just forget about it while I watch Doctor Who with my hubby.

One thing is for sure.  "Life moves pretty fast.  You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

One way I'm going to indulge in pleasure this weekend is by going to a concert with my sister-in-law.  She won tickets and we are so excited to be seeing the classic rock group Heart.  Now there are 2 ladies who are really thriving after 40.  They still sound amazing and I can't wait to see them live.  If you aren't familiar with their music, just watch this little reminder and I bet you'll either say, "Oh, yeah.  I know them," or, "Holy cow!  I have to get some Heart!"  Or both.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Books, Books, Books!

My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter.  ~Thomas Helm

I think Helm sums it up nicely.  One could say that the test of a poor novel is dreading to open it up again once started.

I'm afraid that's my opinion of my selection for August's book of the month.  I just couldn't enjoy picking it up and opening it.  My sister-in-law said she got to page 29.  I didn't even do that well.

If you're really interested in it, it's The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein.  If you'd prefer the movie version, one was made in 1994.  Of course, hubby says it wasn't that great, either.

So next up for me is Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.  It's the final part of a trilogy of post-apocalyptic/dystopian (P-A/D) young adult novels.  I have found that young adult novels very often are good at the P-A/D works.  They tend to be shorter and quicker paced than many others, and often just as enjoyable while being quick reads.

If you are interested in reading Mockingjay, be sure to start at the beginning with Hunger Games, then read Catching Fire.

To those who have a hold on the book at the local library, just hang on - I'm getting there. : )

If you like mysteries, I just found a writer I like.  Her name is Alex Kava.  Her newest book, Damaged, got a positive blurb from writer Lee Child so I had to try her out.  Really good stuff.

Speaking of Lee Child, he's a favorite author of mine.  His character, Jack Reacher, is a former MP turned drifter who frequently helps out underdogs he meets in his travels.  I'm not sure about the end of his latest book, 61 Hours, but I guess time will tell...

Happy reading in September, everyone!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

100 Followers Giveaway!

I know, lots of bloggers do giveaways, it's been done before, blah, blah, blah.  But isn't winning stuff fun?!  I think it is.  So in that spirit, I'm announcing my first giveaway!

The giveaway will actually happen when I reach 100 followers and/or members.  37 current Facebook group members +7 current blog followers + 56 newbies = Giveaway Time!

How do you enter, you ask?  You have several options.
  1. One entry for being a Facebook group member.
  2. One entry for being a ThrivingAfter40 blog follower. 
  3. Two additional entries for blogging about my giveaway (you need to provide me with the link).
  4. One additional entry for posting this story's link to your Facebook status (let me know).
  5. One additional entry for each comment you post on my blog (other than as "Anonymous").
Even more importantly, what will you win?  I don't exactly know yet, but I'm thinking of the following items:
  • ThrivingAfter40 book bag
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan
  • Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Other Poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Amazon gift card
  • Other stuff I can stick in the bag
So join the Facebook group, follow this blog, tell other people about the giveaway, and in no time at all, you could win a bag full of goodies!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pet Peeve

This ain't NASCAR, baby!
You know how tailgating is so annoying when you're driving?  Believe me, it's just as bad when you're shopping.

My hubby, for reasons I don't need to go into, cannot walk quickly, so we go pretty slowly through the stores.  If you find yourself behind someone in a similar situation, might I make a few suggestions?

  1. Enjoy this short time of moving slowly through what is otherwise most likely a very busy day.
  2. Be thankful you don't have any mobility issues that cause you to need to move slower than the average person.
Good grief, people.  If you're so busy you don't really have time to slow down for 2 minutes in a store, then why the heck don't you go do your mui importante crap and leave the store for those who have time to shop?  Someone's eventually going to catch me on a bad day and get an ear full.  For now, I feel better having done my rant here.

Thanks to Pat (Two Photos and A Rant) and Lydia (Just Standin' On My Soapbox) for reminding me of the freedom to say whatever I want.  It is my blog, after all.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Busy Week

I started teaching 3 classes for the local community college this week.  I am so out of the habit of working!!  It was all I could do to get ready for these classes, when in the past I could throw together a lesson plan in nothing flat.  Oh well, I'll get back in the swing of things and be able to accomplish other stuff, too.

If you're having a busy week, too, don't forget to do something nice for yourself.  Get your hair done, take a walk with your partner, dog, or cat (if you have crazy cats like mine), watch your favorite show and don't think at all about all the cleaning and laundry that needs to be done, call your mom to let her know you love her, email your best friend and tell her how much you miss hanging out with her like you did in high school, drink lots of water, eat your favorite meal and don't even think about the calories for once, turn up the music and clean and/or dance around the house...whatever you do, just enjoy it.  You've had a busy week - you deserve it!

Have a great weekend!
P.S.  I like to crank up either Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin/Robert Plant/Jimmy Page when cleaning the house.  Here are 2 versions of a great Floyd song for you to enjoy.  Let me know which version you like the most.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Change is Good

My New Shoes!
They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.  ~Confucius

It's hard to get back into a running program when you've been out for a long time.  Back in November of 2009, I was helping my mom put together a new computer desk.  I knelt down to get at some hard-to-reach spot, and my knee popped.  It kinda hurt, but not much, so I didn't think much of it.  By the time I got home, my knee was swollen and I could barely walk.  This weird knee "injury" kept me side-lined for months.  It was only in the spring of this year that I was able to run without a brace or pain.

This summer has been hot.  I mean HOT, as you probably well know.  I've never run in heat like this because I've only been running since October of 2008.  

So you could say I've had a really hard time getting back in the swing of things.  I'm still super slow and I'm still having lots of lung and leg issues.  So I decided to analyze my lack of progress and make some changes.  Here's what I found:

1.  I was running on empty.  In order to beat the heat, I'm getting up early to run.  I wasn't hungry, so I just threw on my gear and headed out.  But I just didn't seem to have any energy.  Now I get up earlier so I can have a little something to eat.  I have found that a bit of cereal does the trick for me.  Now I don't feel like an engine that has run out of steam during my first mile.

2.  My body was out of shape.  I gained back 10 pounds from when I ran my half-marathon last year.  So I've started doing the P90X exercise program to try to lose those 10 pounds, and another 10 as well.  Honestly, I really struggle to get in all the workouts.  Runners sometimes don't like other kinds of exercise - I know I don't!  But I keep trying and I keep tweaking my diet in an effort to get my body in better shape.

3.  My shoes had too many miles on them.  Most experts and runners will tell you that one pair of running shoes should last 300-500 miles.  That sounds like a lot, but is actually only a few months, depending on your mileage.  I had been running in the same shoes for a year!!  So I got some new shoes!  There they are at the top.  Aren't they pretty?  They feel great, too, which is the most important part.

So have these changes helped?  Yes!  Granted, I'm not running 20 miles at a time yet.  I'm not even doing 5 at a time yet.  But I can feel the difference.  My times are slowly creeping downward and my recovery time is getting shorter. 

Are you struggling with your weight/exercise issues?  Do a little self-analysis, be brutally honest with yourself, and make the changes where you can.  You might be surprised with how much you can change.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Little Def Leppard

No particular reason on today's post.  I just felt like sharing a little Def Leppard with you.  This is one of my favorite running songs as it is upbeat and melodic.  Hope you enjoy and have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

For Carrie

Twenty one years ago today, my life changed forever.  I headed down a path I could never have imagined.  

Sure, some of the things on the path were not fun for any of us, like sickness, trips to the emergency room, silly arguments over things I don't even remember anymore, the pain of losing a pet, disappointment over not going on that road trip, and the stress of middle school.  

But there were so many more things on the path that were great, and fun, and funny, and lovely.  Things that were fun for you, but we enjoyed because we never would have had them in our lives in exactly the same way if not for you.

Laughter when playing in the rain, softball games on a summer evening, Kitty and Serendipity and Tommy, Michelangelo, a captured duck, sleepovers with friends, sleepovers with "the girls", camping in the back yard with Amanda, church camp, Six Flags with "the boys", frilly little dresses, prom dresses, green beans as a present, Barbies, more Barbies, Barbie houses and clothes and cars and toys, Legos by the bucketful, painting a room teal, re-painting a room pink, being way too young to watch Nightmare on Elm Street, being stronger than the average girl, Tae Kwon Do, sticking up for friends, theater productions, choir concerts, track meets, track meets all the way across the state after staying up so late playing games that "some" adults might have been a little miffed, taking 2nd in that track meet anyway  ; ), Girl Scouts, Girl Scout cookies and yard sales and chili suppers and pork butt sales, Memphis Zoo, St. Louis Zoo, NAMM show in Nashville, Dave Mustaine, Aerosmith in Carbondale, Geoff Tate and Mike Stone, Queensryche and Alice Cooper and Heaven & Hell in St. Louis, Styx and Def Leppard in St. Louis, the Art Museum in St. Louis, portfolio review and the Arch and getting lost in St. Louis, walking in the snow, sledding with Jess, getting stuck in the pool with Jess, Pimp My Ride with Jess and Lydia, Misconduct in the Corps of Discovery with Sarah and Jared, scary movie Dad-Daughter Date nights, haunted houses, costumes made from old bridesmaid dresses, flying kites in the park, playing on every single piece of equipment in the park, photography contest, pictures of Dad downtown, senior pictures downtown, graduation, Sweden.

I could never have guessed what was on the path I started down 21 years ago today, but it has been wonderful and though a lot of what I see on the path is now seen from a distance, I still love every second of it.  I wouldn't have traded this journey for the world.  Happy birthday, baby.  I love you.

Monday, August 2, 2010

August's Book of the Month

The August Book of the Month is The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein.  Heinlein was a popular and sometimes controversial science fiction writer.  This particular novel was written in 1951 and was Heinlein's only novel with an alien invasion plot.

Alien invasion, you say?  I thought you were reading post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels, Davis!  Ah, but this novel is also post-apocalyptic.  Since it was written in the 1950's, the fear of Communism and the Cold War were upon the American public.  This novel takes place sometime after the Cold War turned hot, and the world the aliens invade is much different from what we know now.  This should be an interesting foray into how fear plays into the plot of such novels.

Though Heinlein was popular, this book may be difficult to find.  (There was only one copy at my library.)  Here is a link where you can download the audio book for $7.49, if you want to go that route.  I hope you enjoy this sci-fi adventure and I'll see you in a month to discuss it.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Time Machine

Let me begin by saying, "Wow!"  I don't think that any book of only 76 pages has ever made me think so much about science and sociology, or caused me to do so much research before.  I could probably write a ton about my thoughts on the book, but instead, I'll try to hold myself back.  (I've included lots of links to related topics, definitions and so on.)

1.  The Science.  Wells manages to be both more broad-minded and less specific on this subject at the same time.  His broad-mindedness played out in his concepts of the 4th dimension.  I loved his explanation of how time is the 4th dimension.  "Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real existence?"  He also explained to his friends that while it was easy to move in the 1st and 2nd dimensions, machinery seemed to be needed to move in the 3rd, so the logical assumption is that one can move in the 4th with the proper machinery, as well.  How neat!  Also, Wells looked so much further ahead than many writers.  One of the best-known novels that looks to a dystopian future is Orwells' 1984, which was written in 1949.  That's only 35 years in his imagined future.  Wells' Traveller, however, goes to the year 802,701.  And then even further to see the Earth dying, roughly 30 million years hence.  That's looking ahead!

Strangely enough, though, Wells is not very specific about the title object.  He tells us that it is made of nickel, ivory and quartz, and possesses levers and screws and a seat.  We know that the 2 levers that move the machine through time can be removed for safety and we can assume what the thing may have looked like, helped in large part by any of the film versions we've seen of it.  However, we don't know how it works.  Wells doesn't try to explain the physics of the thing at all.  I found that to be not at all bothersome, though, as the story is really much more about other things.

2.  Sociology and Fear.  As I stated when I first decided to read this book, I wanted to know what the fears of the author's time would impart to the work.  Wells lived in the midst of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, and the division of classes, and the fear that the division was unhealthy, is clearly seen in the evolution of the two human-race descendants of the future, the Eloi and the Morlocks.  While one may not agree with Wells' socialistic views, nor his ideas of how humanity might evolve, it is still interesting to see how his views fueled his imagination.  A lesser fear, played up in the 2002 film, is the loss of knowledge.  The relatively simple lives of the Eloi and Morlocks seems to have caused them to lose intelligence, which the Traveller notes early on.  Upon finding crumbling books in the museum, he remarks, "the thing that struck me...was the enormous waste of labour." 

3.  Literature and Language.  I truly enjoyed this book on the literary level.  This is the first novel by Wells, and also the first of a sub-genre.  I found words I'd never heard (cicerone, etiolate, halitus, and deliquesce) and had to go look up.  I enjoyed seeing a writer in 1895 use the word "Kodak" to so obviously mean a camera, when I didn't realize the word has such universal usage that early.  Normally, I could finish a book of this length in one sitting, but it took me days to finish because I kept commenting on it to my husband, making notes about my thoughts, and looking up the definitions of words.  A truly enjoyable read.

So what did you think of it?  You can post your comments below, or you can head over to the Facebook page, go to Discussions, and add any thoughts, comments, questions, or links to the thread there.  I look forward to seeing what you think.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reward Yourself!


Not this!!
Did you work out this week and last?  How many times?  Did you do better than you usually do?  Then maybe you should reward yourself for a job well done.

One of the things I learned about in my child development courses was the concept of positive reinforcement.  Sure, the idea is taught for teachers to "use" on children, but we can use it on ourselves as well.  Rewarding yourself for making positive changes is a good way to keep doing those things.  

Just don't sabotage your efforts by rewarding with junk food.  Instead, get some great gear.  You can head over to your local sports store and find some excellent choices, or you can check out these links and buy some fun, energizing items online.  Whichever you choose, I hope you'll be kind to your body and give it something to make your workouts even more enjoyable.

Mymottoz.com is a fun site that sells workout gear and jewelry for men and women.  I like their list of fun clothing mottoes.  I think my fave is "pain is temporary, quitting is forever."  

CoolclothingUSA.com is a site that features clothing made in the US and made of moisture wicking material.

Shoes are a whole other issue.  Since our feet are very different from other people's, what one person likes might be awful to another.  I personally like something light and airy and I don't like an arch support that is too far back in the shoe.  So I tend to like Reebok and Puma, though Adidas has some I like.  Lots of people swear by Asics, but I find them uncomfortable.  Anyway, here's a page with reviews and links to some great shoes.  I wouldn't buy shoes online unless I was sure of the brand's fit on my foot, but if you feel comfy doing so, order away!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Be On the Lookout!

I'm new to this blogging thing.  So I'm actually still learning a lot and making changes to this whole thing.  Some changes you can expect to see in the upcoming weeks include new pages with favorites, like books and movies, and perhaps a new layout.  I am also looking into changes that will allow you to share blog posts you enjoy with your friends on Facebook, and related content.

But I might make a change and then decide I don't like it, or it's too hard to work with, so if you see something new one day and it's gone the next, don't decide you've gone crazy, just remember that I'm working on the site.  Also, if you have something you'd like me to add, change, delete, or tweak, I welcome your suggestions.  For now, you can go to the Facebook page and post your ideas to the wall.  But I will be working on setting up a Contact page with other options.

In the meantime, I'll keep posting several times a week about whatever topic I've been pondering.  I hope you will stick with me through the changes.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The "Richter Scale" of Weight...and Other Impediments to Weight Loss

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it. ~ Plato

It's not easy to lose weight.  I don't care what any celebrity says about any diet plan, exercise regimen, or diet supplement, unless you only have 5 pounds to lose, it will not be easy.  There are so many things that make it difficult, some of them not even cropping up until after you've made significant, positive changes.  Today I'm going to talk about some of the ones I've encountered, and what can be done about each.

The first is what I like to call the Richter Scale of weight loss.  Sure, the Richter Scale is used to measure earthquakes, but did you know that each individual number is 10 times more than the previous one?  That means that a 5 on the scale is 10 times more powerful than a 4.  In the world of weight loss, it seems to me that needing to lose 10 pounds is not 5 more pounds than losing 5 pounds, but is actually 5x10, or 50 times harder.  Okay, not exactly, but it feels that way, doesn't it?  What can you do about it?
  • Step it up a notch.  Maybe to lose weight in the past all you did was change a few eating habits, but if you've got more to lose now, you'll have to add in some exercise.  Maybe a lot.  Maybe as much as 7 hours or more per week.  That's an hour an day.  Every day!  (But you can always break it up.)
  • Be realistic.  You will probably not lose 10 pounds as quickly as you did 5, unless you go for maximum effort.  But we can't all go to exercise boot camp, and many of us have no desire to do so.  So be kind to yourself and do the best you can.
Another thing that gets in the way of weight loss is not being cued in to what you're really consuming and expending.  We often think that the occasional splurge on a burger or ice cream is not that big a deal, and it may not be if you make good choices, but if you look here and here, you'll see that there are some common, popular fast food items that contain more calories and fat than you need in an entire day, leaving nothing on the menu for the rest of the day but celery sticks, which is not going to happen, right?  So what can you do?

  • Keep track.  Write down everything you eat and all the exercise you do so you'll have a good sense of what you're taking in and burning.  You may only need to do this for awhile until you are aware enough of your habits that you can make changes without logging it.  I still write down all my exercise, though.
  • Pay attention to the little things.  Take the stairs, park further from the store, walk to the corner for milk, switch to low-calorie creamer for your coffee, give up sodas altogether.  There are lots of things that you can do that when added together equal big change.
The final thing I wanted to mention is a strange and seemingly oxymoronic response to increasing your exercise that could get in the way of progress if you're not careful, and that is you get really hungry.  After I've worked out for an hour, I am ravenous!  How am I supposed to lose weight if exercising only makes me want more food?
  • Listen to your body.  Realize first of all that this is a sign that your metabolism is working.  Yay!  That's what we want.  So do what your body says and eat something.  Eating within 1/2 an hour of exercising will catch your body at its metabolic peak and you'll get the full benefit of the nutrients without fat gain.
  • Make sure you are eating the right food.  I can't emphasize enough that food is fuel.  But just as if I tried to put diesel into my unleaded-only car, putting junk food into my body is going to yield a very bad result.  I need to be eating whole grains, complex carbs, lean protein, fruits and vegetables, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and drinking water.  Anything that does not fall into one of those categories is suspect and should either be avoided altogether or indulged in only rarely (and by rarely I mean no more than once a month.  The idea that you can splurge every weekend is a fallacy!).
Trying to get in shape is not easy, and frankly, it's not always fun.  But you know what is fun?  Buying a pair of jeans a size smaller than last time you shopped.  Being able to walk up a set of stairs without huffing and puffing at the top.  Running around the back yard with a child and not feeling like you're going to have a coronary.  The looks on the faces of your friends when they see how great you look.  Avoiding a hospital stay due to a heart attack.  Living long enough to see your children grow up and perhaps have children of their own.  It is worth it.  No matter how hard getting in shape is for you now, or is going to be when you read this and then start a new exercise regimen, it is going to be worth it in the end.