Thursday, August 30, 2012

Meet Me at the Movies - x 4

I haven't done a very good job of keeping up with my own meme.  I started "Meet Me At the Movies" to take advantage of a wider variety of the 600+ channels we get on TV and I've watched quite a few - but haven't added them here.  So let's rectify that.  Here's a quick rundown of what I've been watching:

Christmas in July: (1940) An office clerk loves entering contests in the hopes of someday winning a fortune and marrying the girl he loves. His latest attempt is the Maxford House Coffee Slogan Contest. As a joke, some of his co-workers put together a fake telegram which says that he won the $25,000 grand prize. As a result, he gets a promotion, buys presents for all of his family and friends, and proposes to his girl. When the truth comes out, he's not prepared for the consequences.

Stars Dick Powell and Ellen Drew, staples in movies from the 1930's through the 1950's and on TV during the 1960's.  Cute "comedy of errors"-type story.

On The Town:  (1949)  Three sailors on a day of shore leave in New York City look for fun and romance before their twenty-four hours are up. 

Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Ann Miller with music by Leonard Bernstein - It just doesn't get much better than that.  Features the classic song "New York, New York".  As in many films of this style/era, the plot is a little thin, but the music and comedy make it so much fun that I didn't care.

Also starred Betty Garrett.  Took me a while to place her, but you might remember her better as Irene Lorenzo on All in the Family or Edna Babbish on Laverne and Shirley.

Going My Way: (1944)  
Father O'Malley's (Bing Crosby) worldly knowledge helps him connect with a gang of kids looking for direction and handle the business details of the church-building fund and winning over his aging, conventional superior, Father Fitzgibbon. 

This was easily my favorite of my recent movie watches. The story of Father O'Malley's work with the "gang" (pretty mild-mannered gang by today's standards) is touching, but the music is still the highlight.  Bing Crosby singing Silent Night and Swingin' On a Star is a treat.

Mary Mary: (1963)  Nine months after they split up, Bob and Mary meet at his New York apartment to sort out some tax matters. He's getting married to healthy-eating Tiffany as soon as the divorce becomes final, and she is attracted by fellow tenant Dirk Winston, a Hollywood star.  Working through the tax records brings back memories and rekindles old feelings.

Debbie Reynolds is always a joy to watch. Her comedic timing is perfect.  Unfortunately, we don't get to hear her sing in this film, but the story and the writing are good.  Barry Nelson was another of those faces that I knew I should know but couldn't place, so I had to look him up.  He's another actor who guest-starred on nearly every TV show during the 60's - 80's, but I realized I recognized him most from the movie Airport.  

Grit and Glitter

I'm not a big magazine reader.  I prefer to devote reading time to books, but a couple days ago, I told you about my one exception to that rule: Grit Magazine.  Recently I received an offer for a free copy of another farm-life-oriented magazine:  Mary Jane's Farm.  I just received my first issue and I'm loving it already.  This is the "glittery, girly" side of rural living - focus is more on cooking, sewing, quilting, etc.  If I can judge a magazine by one issue, looks like I'm going to have to make a second exception to my "no magazines" rule.  Just thought you might be interested.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Happy Trails . . .

Dave and I recently visited Indian Cave State Park.  Located less than 20 miles from our house, we drove by the sign for a year-and-a-half and repeatedly said "We should go there."   After looking it up on-line and seeing the beautiful hiking trails, we finally took the plunge a couple weeks ago.  Since this is as close as we're getting to a vacation this summer, here is the obligatory slide show.  I've kept the pics relatively small to keep this as short as possible, but click to enlarge anything you would like to see more clearly. (Preferrably NOT the pic of me dripping sweat.)
Start of the trail.  After a mile or so of this view I began to have Hunger Games visions.  I swear I heard a Mockingjay.
Ran across this about a half-mile in.  Sad that it ever existed.
Sadder still - this is the only headstone we could find.  Wonder how many graves were never marked.
Our first glimpse of the Missouri River.  
The talking tree from Disney's Pocahontas?
The Missouri River Valley from the top of the trail.

Here we are at the log cabin at the end of the trail - sweaty and red-faced, but proud we made it all the way.  And yes, we're aware it looks like there's a ghost standing behind me.  "Mysterious and spooky...all together ooky."

Tip for future hikes:  Some husbands find it annoying if you sing old Girl Scout songs as you go . . . "Val-da-ri, Val-da-ra.  My knapsack on my back."  Or maybe it was just my singing that he found annoying.

We parked near here so decided to explore a little before leaving.
There are only two buildings left in St. Deroin - this one, now used for candle-making demonstrations . . .
. . . and the schoolhouse.
"Lassie, run tell Mom I've fallen down the well."
One-lane road that leads to/from hiking trails we visited.
Now that's what I call determination!
The Indian Cave for which the park is named - awesome!
One of the hieroglyphs discovered at the cave - related to Lewis and Clark's boat that traveled this area and traded with local Native Americans in 1804?
Dave, wondering about the height of the hieroglyph carver . . . ?
One of Dave's biggest pet-peeves:  littering.   This spot is too beautiful to be marred by  thoughtless people and their food-wrappers, so he climbed over the fence to fill his pockets with scattered trash . . .
. . . and deposited it in it's rightful place.
The Missouri River from ground level.
 A year ago,  this area was under 20 ft. of flood waters
While I have spent many of my adult years in Nebraska, my heart still belongs to Kansas, so I had to catch a shot of the sunflowers along the banks of the Missouri.

Our plan is to hike all eleven trails within Indian Cave State Park - ranging in length from 1/2 mile to 6 miles. Two down, nine to go.  There's even talk of hiking in and camping overnight - but no one believes I'll actually do it.  Ahh... a challenge!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Read in July/August

Here's a quick run-down of what I've read in July and August. A couple more, that warrent a longer review, coming soon.

The Skinny Rules by Bob Harper: Sound, usable rules for healthier eating.  Can't say I'm following every one of them, but I learned some good basics for healthy eating.  Highly recommended for anyone who wants realistic, easy to follow guidelines for losing weight.

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner: Explores the new trends of surrogacy and egg donors, and the effects they have on everyone involved.  Interesting premise but just didn't grab me - 3 out of 5 stars.

Watership Down by Richard Adams: "It is a powerful saga of courage, leadership and survival; an epic tale of a hardy band of adventurers forced to flee the destruction of their fragile community...and their trials and triumphs in the face of extraordinary adversity as they pursue a glorious dream called "home." Classic - 'nuff said.

True Colors by Kristin Hannah: While the story is centered on racial prejudice and a man wrongfully imprisoned, the real story is in the relationship between his wife and her two sisters. Extra interesting to me because I am the middle child of three sisters.  Moved a little slow - but still gets 4 stars.

Jeeves Takes Charge by P.G.Wodeshouse:  A classic in audio version performed perfectly. The variety of voices performed by one man was amazing.

A Turn in the Road by Debbie Macomber:  If you follow me on Twitter (@mrschupa), you might remember that I mentioned wanting to load up the car and just drive till we see an ocean. This is the book that helped spark that wanderlust.  Three generations of women drive from Washington to Florida - working out their life problems along the way. Good but not great.

Demon Rumm by Sandra Brown:  Don't bother

11th Hour by James Patterson:  Latest in the Women's Murder Club series. It's typical Patterson - standard thriller, nothing out of the ordinary, but keeps you turning pages.

Monday, August 27, 2012

True Grit

Do you remember Grit?  I don't recall that my family ever subscribed, but I remember seeing it around.  I assumed it was just one more of the things of my youth that have gone by the wayside.  But not so.

If you read my review of Hens and Chickens, you may recall that I became cyber-friends with the author, Jennifer Wixson, through a circuitous route on Twitter.  Part of that route involved Hank Will, the editor of Grit Magazine.  Well, color me surprised!  Grit is still in circulation and now a magazine? Jennifer even mentions Grit in the book. Considering my new-found love of the farm life, I was instantly infatuated.

For those of you who don't remember Grit, here's a bit of history (brazenly plagerized from Grit's own website):  Grit was founded in 1882.  In 1891, the owner hit upon a grand idea - newsboys to sell Grit directly to the public - and the newspaper began to expand to small towns across the country.  In 1983, it was purchased by the same company that published Capper's Weekly and moved it to Topeka in 1993.  Both magazines have since sold to Ogden Publications.

Today's Grit "celebrates country lifestyles of all kinds, while emphasizing the importance of community and stewardship.  We still have the same values:  Community, Family, Positive Outlook and Sharing." 

The most recent issue contains stories on canning and preserving, incubating eggs and using manure in your garden.  I know, not glamorous, but it's part of that simpler life I'm always searching for - a return to the ways of my grandparents or great-grandparents.  Each issue inspires me - right up to the point where I realize how much work all these ideas are going to be - but I still love the values represented.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words. . .

. . . not that that will stop me from adding words.  Since we moved to Green Acres, I've kinda gotten into this whole "outdoors" thing.  I used to think outdoors was where you went to get to the car, but who wanted to spend a lot of time out there looking at the neighbor's fence and listening to three AC units and a lawn mower?

Second life change - exercise.  Never cared much for that, either, but have found it necessary.  Now that the weather is cooling down a bit, I've started combining the two and I'm actually walking through the countryside and enjoying the solitude . . . and the view.

Can't wait to see this stretch when the leaves change.

Little small to be considered a waterfall.  Is this what they call a "babbling brook"?

Occasionally, I have company on my treks.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hens and Chickens by Jennifer Wixson - Part II

Jennifer Wixson -
image from book jacket
Yesterday I posted my thoughts on Hens and Chickens by Jennifer Wixson.  Those thoughts led to some questions - as frequently happens when I'm reading - but this time I had direct access to the author and Jennifer was gracious enough to answer my questions and allow me to share her answers with you.  So here's a little further insight into the story and the person behind it - in Jennifer's own words:

1.  So many of the places you describe in the book - Millet Rock and the Staircase Tree come to mind - are so vivid that it makes me wonder if they are real places.  Are the locations in the book totally of your imagination or are they based on actual sites?

Now you're going to find out what most folks probably suspect after reading "Hens and Chickens" ~ I'm not a creator or inventor or magical or even specially gifted; I'm a storyteller who steals from real life.

The Staircase Tree is real. I've seen it. I know where it is. The photo on the cover of the book is actually a picture I took of this tree. The Cranberry Man (my husband) and I drove by this tree on a back road in central Maine one day many, many months ago and I spotted the Staircase Tree and said, "Pull over, quick!" (My husband thought I had to pee, I'm sure.) I hopped out of the truck and took a picture of this unique old maple tree. I don't know who had the creativity to cut steps into this downed tree limb or why (although I do provide an answer to those questions for Sovereign's Staircase Tree in Book II, "Peas, Beans and Corn"). I loved the woodcarver's sense of humor I spied in the tree, the tenacity, the ability to make good from something bad. You see these traits in Maine people a lot. Sometimes they comes out in unique ways, like the Staircase Tree.

The Millett Rock is also real. The rock is situated deep DEEP in a woodlot that abuts my own 50-acre woodlot in Troy. Years ago on one of my rambles through the woods, I stumbled on this giant rock, which rose up like a mysterious gray castle between several towering pines. The rock had an old hemp rope ladder dangling down the side like a strand of Rapunzel's hair. Well, I couldn't resist. What a view! What a lovely spot for a picnic! However, when I asked around town, I was surprised to discover that nobody knew anything about this big rock ~ except for one Old Timer (now in his 80s). The Old Timer told me that 75 years ago none of the trees in the woodlot were there -- the land was all open fields thus the BIG rock was exposed and well-known to all the locals. Folks used to climb and play on the Millett Rock and take picnics down to it. The Old Timer as a little boy used to hunt porcupines that were denned up in the Millett Rock (he was paid 25 cents for each critter, which were so numerous they were a menace to the farmers' crops). I forgot to ask him why it was called the Millett Rock, though. It's on my to-do list so I can explain it in Book II. However, I better hurry up and visit the Old Timer again soon or he may take this mystery to his grave!

In short, all the places in "Hens and Chickens" are real -- including the houses. However, especially in the case of the houses, they are a compilation or an amalgam of actual old Maine farmhouses I've known and loved -- particularly old family homes. It's almost like I took my experience with actual houses and land and put everything into a blender and came out with something new. I think that's why houses and places seems so real in the book. When I was writing, I was seeing these things in my mind. For example, I know exactly where the tin of pepper is stored in the cooking cupboard in the kitchen of the old Russell homestead so it was easy for me to picture Rebecca standing on tip-toe to try and knock the tin down, and the 6-foot Wendell Russell leaning over her to easily secure it.

2.  Obviously, the narrator of the story - being a Quaker pastor - is based on you, but after reading your bio on Amazon, I wonder if there are parts of Lila which are also autobiographical.  Did you draw on your own experience with alcoholism when writing about Lila overcoming her adversity?  

Short answer: absolutely!

I learned so much from my battle with and recovery from alcoholism, and much of that informs all my writing, whether it's my pastoral messages or my fiction. I learned through that amazing journey that there is nothing we can't do if we really REALLY want to do it, that we have the power (thanks to the grace of God) to heal ourselves.  One of the most revealing statements about myself that I make in the book is in Chapter 18, "The Parade Will Go On," when I first reveal Lila's childhood trauma.  I write: "The Goddess in her goodness and mercy gives us a second chance at life, if only we have the courage to reach out and accept the gift that the divine is dying for us to accept!" 

I am a better person because of my addiction and recovery. I'm stronger. More understanding. More forgiving (both of others and of myself). More humble (sometimes).

I wanted to create a strong heroine who had faced adversity and yet showed the courage to rise above it and create a new and wonderful life for herself. Lila is the heroine of "Hens and Chickens," however, I was the heroine of my own personal story, which I document in my earlier book, "Learning to SOAR!"

3.  I'm also interested to know - and assume my readers would be also - if you have remained in Maine your whole life.  I seem to recall reading something about your choice to start your farm and a change of lifestyle - but I can't remember where I read it.  Like Lila and Rebecca, did you leave the "city life" and make a deliberate choice for a simpler life or has this been your path all along?

My Dad sold the family farm when I was six or seven and I was devastated. We moved from Winslow, Maine to New Jersey, to Michigan and eventually ended up in New Hampshire. When I was 20 I relocated (by myself) to California (hey, it was the '70s and everyone was doing it). While on a mountaintop in California I had a vision about "going home," and I returned to Maine, where I've lived ever since.

When I was battling alcoholism, I lived in my great-grandparent's home, Sunshine Cottage, on the banks of the Sebasticook River in Winslow, the town where I was born. (Sunshine Cottage was the loveliest spot, and someday I'm going to write a novel using this setting.) Being home gave me the strength to confront my demons, and that's where I wrote "Learning to SOAR!"  I moved to Troy in the late '90s, and have been here in this small town about 15 years now. 

During much of my adulthood I lived far from the madding crowd, the life that I describe in "Hens and Chickens." I gardened and raised chickens and wrote novels and plays. I supported myself with a variety of odd jobs, and by writing for newspapers and magazines. However, I did have a brush or two with corporate America, including a job selling life insurance. This job gave me some valuable insight into the sad situation of the financial services industry (not that any of us need to go this route to discover how horrible our economy is and how disingenuous and sometimes dishonest the banks and insurance companies are)!  I was downsized from the insurance company, so naturally I thought it would be fitting to duplicate them for Lila and Rebecca's employer a.k.a. the mean and nasty Perkins and Gleeful. 

I've pretty well always lived an alternative life style, which doesn't come cheap (folks around here have to work  three part-time jobs to make ends meet, and one of those jobs is usually picking bottles up from the roadside for the 5 cents returnable deposit). However, I don't regret living with less stuff that we can't afford because I feel that I'm living with so much MORE every time I listen to the sleigh bell sounds of the peepers, or watch the sunset over the cows grazing in the field, or pick string beans and blackberries for supper. It's a pretty good gig, and I think I'll keep it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hens and Chickens by Jennifer Wixson - Part I

I met Jennifer Wixson through the haphazard world that is Twitter.  I asked a general gardening question that was answered by a lady who owns an heirloom seed business.  Her tweets led me to another gardner, and that one to the publisher of Grit magazine (some of my favorite reading and which is mentioned in the book - see future post) and eventually to Jennifer - "Maine farmer, chicken lover, beekeeper, author and itinerant Quaker minister."  That profile was too intriguing and eclectic to pass up, so I followed @ChickenJen.  We had occasional conversations and I came to think of her as a friend.  

When she asked me if I would be interested in reading and reviewing her latest book, of course I jumped at the chance. When I began to write the review, I wanted to include several passages from the book and I also had a few questions that Jennifer was kind enough to answer.  However, it made for a very long post, so I'm dividing it into two sections.  Part I includes my thoughts on the book and the passages that explain them.  Part II - which will be posted tomorrow - will be Jennifer's answers to my questions.  

I've always been fascinated by anything related to Maine - spending a summer there is on my bucket list.  Jennifer's vivid descriptions of the people and the countryside have me even more anxious to book my plane tickets to Maine.
Most folks from Away think that summer is the best time of year to visit Maine, but they’d be wrong. Mainers know that the best season in the Pine Tree State occurs between Mud Season and Memorial Day—the few weeks of the year during which the state becomes a veritable Garden of Eden; when the flowers, trees, hills, uplands and woodlands awaken and burst into infinite shades of green and when the explosion of yellow forsythia is so bright that it hurts the eye to look at it, but before the serpent opens the door to the Garden and allows in the black flies, mosquitoes and the tourists.  
During this peculiar time, while the showy lilacs and fruit trees hold tight to their buds for later May blooms, the untrained eye examining the landscape might conclude that it lacks the postcard perfection summer folks have come to expect from Maine. But those who live here year-round know that when the soft scent of April fills the air it signals not only that one has survived another winter but also that paradise is born anew. The locals know then that the suckers are running upstreamin the chilly brooks, and that pockets of crystalized snow rest like fairy beds deep in the woods, and that the precious fiddlehead fern delicately swaddled in its brown paper wrapping is poking its head up from the black moss-bottomed stream beds only waiting to be picked. (p. 126-127)
Hens and Chickens is a lovely story of two women who leave the city and their corporate jobs to start a business together in rural Maine. There's both romance and mystery, but what I loved most were the people. The story is cleverly told through a narrator, who's identity we don't discover until late in the book. The ability of the narrator to speak directly to the reader - an "aside", as they call it on stage - made the story unique. 

I appreciated Jennifer's romantic couple, who valued honor and respect above sex.

Lila snuggled closer, with infinite satisfaction. Her euphoria settled down into a steady beatitude. She felt completely safe with him; respected and honored as a woman. (p. 131)
I also enjoyed her depiction of the lifestyle and craftsmanship of earlier generations, and a return to that simpler way. The story is a perfect blend of old and new - sewing, raising chickens in a farmyard, baking, mixed with cell phones and computers.  

Old timers knew how to live, and took care of their comforts. They knew just where to place windows to catch the sun in winter so that they could sit in their rockers and read the Bible. They knew where NOT to place windows, so that the cold northwest blast wouldn’t find a way in around the sashes in the wooden frames. They knew where to build the fireplaces and the chimneys, so that they and their large families would be warm and snug and could cook and yet the smoke wouldn’t bother anyone. They calculated in advance where their tired old hands would come to rest on the upper level of the staircase so that when they hitched themselves up that top stair at night there’d be a solid wooden grip at just the right spot. They knew that what they were building was not just for themselves, but for those who came after them – and the ones who came after them. The old timers who built the Russell place might not have expected Rebecca Johnson and Lila Woodsum to come along to occupy the place, but they knew that the place would still be standing if someone came along. (p. 150)
An "itinerant Quaker pastor" herself, it's not surprising that Jennifer weaves the biblical story of Mary and Martha into her story, or that she includes her thoughts on the power of prayer.

And so before long the whole town of Sovereign knew that one of The Egg Ladies was poorly, and a mutual sympathy began to be expressed. More than a few silent, as well as vocal, prayers were uttered. The supportive sentiment rose from the small community like the ethereal mist that rises up from Black Brook, dispersing up the hill toward the hen pen. Lila, as she went about her day, gathering and cleaning eggs, felt a slight, inexplicable up-lifting of her spirits. 

Who knows the mysterious ways in which love works? Or of the power of prayer? Especially the efficacy of prayers from TWO Maine communities!  Let us never think for a moment that our prayers are wasted, even if they are unwanted. We have nothing to lose by freely sending our silent blessings to the Heavens, and our friends, loved ones and acquaintances might have much to gain.
The story of The Egg Ladies, Lila and Mike's romance, the secrets in Lila's past - all weave together to make a great read but, for me, it was all about the characters and location. I'm in love with the charming village of Sovereign, Maine, and it's inhabitants and can't wait to go back. Good thing there are at least two more books planned in this series.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Everything Old is New Again. . .

I'm a big fan of things "retro" or "vintage".  I especially like things with a story.  As I've mentioned, Dave's mother (Dee) has moved into a nursing home, so this past weekend we helped his dad move into an apartment with less upkeep.  During the sorting and packing, there was a lot of "remember when..." stories about items we dug from the back of closets and cabinets. 

In a kitchen drawer, we found a paper sack containing four linen kitchen towels, obviously never used.  Without weighing you down with a bunch of family details and connections that really don't matter to you, we pieced together that they were a gift from Aunt Hope to her mother (Dave's grandmother), probably Christmas of 1973.  Why they ended up, still in the sack, in Dee's kitchen nearly 40 years later is unclear, but they are now in my kitchen and will soon be returned to one of Aunt Hope's sons.

We also brought home three pieces of furniture that have memories attached.  When Dave's grandparents moved from their farm in the Texas panhandle in 1971, their dining table was cut down and converted to use as a coffee table.  It has been in Dee's house since I started hanging out there in 1976 and I've always admired it.  This is where Dave ate many meals as a child, then where I colored pictures and played games while babysitting his little sister, where the nativity was displayed at Christmas. We can still see the small scratches that our dog put in it in the late 80's. (We buffed them out as much as possible and sat something on top of them. We still haven't admitted it to Dee, so keep that to yourself.) The grandchildren's little fingers grabbed the edges as they learned to walk.  I love the history of this table and the idea of our grandchildren and even great-grandchildren playing games on it.

The other two items we inherited from the move are a set of chairs with a circular history.  My maternal grandparents had a pair of aqua side chairs that I remember well.

This picture, taken at Christmas in 1964, is the only one I could find where the chairs are visible.  That adorable munchkin in the foreground is me - age 3 - and in the background you can see one of my sisters and a cousin sitting in one of the aqua chairs.   In the mid-70's, my grandparents owned a travel trailer and spent the majority of the year in Arizona or on the road, so they decided to sell their home and furnishings.  At the auction, Dave's parents bought the aqua chairs.  This was before I had even looked twice at my future husband.  So for thirty-seven years, give or take, my grandparents' chairs have been in my in-law's house.  They have been re-covered, but they are still in great condition.  One is now in our living room (next to the coffee table) and the other is in a corner of the guest room/library/sewing room (small house - the rooms have to multi-task).

I plan to eventually have them restored (would that be re-re-covered?) to a 50's-style fabric, but for now I'm just enjoying curling up in my "new" chairs with a book and some memories.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympic Mish-Mash

It's time to play everybody's favorite game: "What's Bouncing Around in Tami's Head?"  There seems to be a sports theme these days.

We've been watching the Olympics nearly every night.  Love the gymnastics and track/field events, but I'll watch diving, equestrian, whatever's on - except volleyball.  I draw the line at volleyball.  In the words of a dear lady who suffered through watching many, many matches with me, "Hell is an eternal volleyball tournament."

And speaking of track and field, which we kinda were, the men's high-jump finals will be held this afternoon.  Three of the finalists - Jamie Nieto, Jessie Williams and K-State student Erik Kynard 
 are from the U.S. and all three are coached by the same man, Kansas State University Head Track Coach Cliff Rovelto.  Go Cats!  Now if we could just get NBC to devote as much coverage to high jump as they do to Misty May-Treanor's beach wardrobe.

And in the spirit of the games, I and eight friends and family members are participating in the Sister Olympics.  (You can get all the details here.  There's still time to join us.)  Here's my progress so far:

  • Dash:  Walk at 4 mph (or your top speed) for 5 minutes 
  • Marathon:  Walk 5 miles at any speed you want.
  • Javelin: Play catch with baseball/softball for minimum of 15 minutes.
  • High Jump:  Jump rope for 5 minutes 
  • Basketball:  Make (not just shoot, MAKE) 20 free throws.  
  • Rowing:  10 minutes on rowing machine or actual row boat.
  • Cycling:  Ride 10 miles (real bike or stationary) 
  • Swimming:  Swim 30 minutes (laps, treading water or aerobics - just keep moving.  Floating on a raft with a cold drink doesn't count.)
  • Weightlifting:  Bench press 50 lbs. 5 times.
  • Golf:  Play at least 5 holes
  • Gymnastics:  Do a 30-minute dance-type workout video or class  

And speaking of the challenge brings us around to Nutrisystem and my mission to get thinner and healthier.  I've lost 48 pounds in seven months.  Twelve more to make my goal of pre-baby weight, then I will re-evaluate and see if I want to try and lose more.  And in case you're new here, my "babies" are now 20 and 21.  It's not like I just had a baby and need to lose that last ten pounds.  I'm a marathon weight-gainer.

Part II of the strange and eclectic things cluttering up my brain will be posted in the next couple days.  Come back and learn about the games I've been playing with the IRS over college financial aid.