Saturday, July 31, 2010

Normal Saturday Routine

This flower is on a large bush in my in-laws back yard.  The blooms are huge - probably eight inches across.  It is a deep red and absolutely gorgeous.  Does anyone know what it is?  

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes.  It was a wonderful and very low key day which is just the way I wanted.  We spent some quality time with the in-laws which included my taking MIL out for some shopping while Mr. B stayed with his dad.  This is such a luxury for her as trying to take him with her for even a simple errand has become very difficult.  If you are a new reader and are interested, this post will provide a bit of insight into his situation. Mr. B and I spent the evening just chillin out and planning our 2 1/2 week summer vacation wrap-up.  Between the cards, emails, phone calls, Facebook messages and Blogland messages, I think I received more birthday good wishes than ever before.  I feel truly blessed to have such a wide network of friends.

This morning began with the usual Saturday ritual.  Rain was on its way and we can NOT complain because we need it so desperately, but it did cause us to vary from our normal walking to and from the Farmer's Market.   The market was bustling and full of good stuff.  We purchased peaches, blackberries (probably the last week for those), two new varieties of cherry tomatoes (one called "sugary" and the other called "sunny") plus Mr. B's usual peach handpie and our coffee stop.  There is so much right now - it's almost overwhelming.  

We ran back by the in-laws to drop off some of the peaches and ended up going to Sam's Club to purchase MIL a vacuum cleaner.  Why we didn't do this yesterday (on a MUCH less crowded Friday) is beyond me.  When she asked if I'd go help her pick it out, my immediate thought was, "oh my gosh, it's Saturday, the demon sample pushers will be out in full force."  And they were!  But here's the reason for this whole story.  I'm calling this a NSV with an added twist.  Right inside the door was demon sample pusher #1 with a table full of WHOLE cookies.  Now most everyone knows that Sam's cookies are first of all, delicious and second of all, about the size of a frisbee.  She was hawking all kinds...........and I walked right on by.  I don't think MIL, who is a "normal" eater, ever even SAW the cookies.  Here's the twist and what is, at least for today, a major victory.  As we were leaving the store with a nice, new Hoover, it suddenly occurred to me that once I passed the cookies, I never even THOUGHT about them again until I was on my way out of the store.   That, my friends, is a big step for me.  You see, in times past, I might have passed up the cookie, but the THOUGHTS of the cookie would never leave my mind.  While still in the store, every moment I'd be seeing and tasting the cookie until finally, I could stand it no longer and would go back most likely picking up two cookies while yelling down the aisle, "I'll bring you one" to some ghost as if I thought demon sample pusher would care that I was getting two cookies for me.  So passing up the cookies in the first place was a victory and not going back for a cookie was a victory. But the triumph was FORGETTING about the cookies the minute I walked past the table.  Oh, for that to become the norm.  I'm a long way from that, but maybe this is a start.

I was afraid I wasn't going to get off so easily with respect to non-food birthday celebrations.  MIL is insisting on cooking what she calls "all my favorites" for Sunday lunch tomorrow.  Put the word fried in front of it and you'll pretty much know the menu.  Then MY mother called and is insisting on taking us to IHOP Monday morning for breakfast.  Both of these are somewhat traditional celebrations.   I had hoped that since they all know how hard I'm trying to lose this weight maybe the traditions would be forgotten this year.  No dice!  I'll do my best and then move on.

One more question in the "how do you do this" series for this newbie blogger:  When someone leaves a comment on your blog and asks a question, what is the proper way to answer?  Is it best to answer the question through an additional comment on your own blog or go to the person's blog who asked the question leaving the answer there?  I just want to make sure the person knows I'm not ignoring their question.  Some blogs have a "reply" area, but I think that may not be an option for Blogger - am I correct?  Thanks!!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Happy Birthday To ME!!

Is it o.k. to post a favorite picture of YOURSELF on your 55th birthday?

This picture was taken at the Bandolier National Monument in New Mexico on June 4, 2007 which was our 30th wedding anniversary?   I've always loved it because I think it reflects the "real" me.  We were traveling, I had a backpack on my back which meant I was hiking and was with my favorite person on a very special day.  Does that smile on my face say "happy" and "content" or what???  I was 8 pounds away from the goal weight I would reach a few months later.  On that day, I weighed 8.5 pounds less than I weigh today.  If you could see my hips and upper thighs then and now, you'd know exactly from where that weight needs to disappear.

Well, the Oh My! Oh No! day that I wrote about earlier this month is HERE!  It's my 55th birthday and I am so excited.  This post is going to be all about FUN!  The earlier post tells how I feel about turning 55, so I'm not going into it again!  All I know is that woman in today's picture doesn't look or feel OLD!

Bright fun idea #1 was to post a list of all the places I could find for which I am now eligible for a discount.   I found a great website that allows you to put in your zip code and it brings up a list of all the places within a 100 mile radius that offer discounts.  The list for my zip code was so overwhelming I couldn't possibly post them all even for laughs.  I will note these two things.  One Assisted Living Facility was listed.  LOL!    Here's the scary one:  660 (that's not a typo) places were listed in the Restaurant listing.  Yes folks, childhood obesity is a problem in our society, but let's not overlook society's contribution to elder obesity either.  My contribution to this newfound source of frugality will be a grand entrance into the closest McDonald's for my $.33 cup of senior coffee!

I've also informed Mr. B that I am now eligible for a discount at Tennessee RV Sales and Service and I have my new 40 ft. Winnebago Diesel Pusher picked out.  If you hear that noise, it's the sound of him laughing.  I told him this was no laughing matter - how else was I going to be able to visit all my new friends out there in blogland?  Didn't get very far with that one either!

Seriously, I am getting a VERY nice birthday present compliments of Mr. B, his parents and my parents.  I've haven't upgraded any of my computer equipment since I retired from CorporateLand in 2002.  I am getting ALL new equipment and am sooooooooo excited.  It's already ordered and awaiting pickup at our local Best Buy.  

Here's my random list of things I've already accomplished in my 55th year, 2010:
1) have hiked more than 155 miles (173.5 to be exact)
2) have biked more than 255 miles
3) have visited more than 5 states
4) weigh less than 155 pounds

One more thing.  Mr. B received some WONDERFUL news yesterday and I am so glad (thanks to YOUR feedback) I chose NOT to open up this blog to any local friends or relatives.  This is top secret and I wouldn't be able to put it on the blog just yet if anyone I knew was reading.  But I'm too excited NOT to share.  The college where he teaches has asked him to consider teaching a three week Music Appreciation course next May in (drumroll, please!) Prague, Czech Republic.  Would that be cool or what?  His class would be 3 hours each morning and beyond that, would include no responsibility.  We could stay in Europe as long as we liked after the class ended and his expenses home would still be covered.  Gotta start finding me some blog friends in Prague................................

P.S.  No big eats in the plan for cake as far as I know.  Best news:  I DON"T EVEN WANT ANY!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Introverts and Extroverts

Flame Azalea blooming along the Ace Gap Trail
Great Smoky Mountains National Park  - April, 2010

At the community college where my husband teaches, a program called The Common Book Experience, was introduced a few years ago.  The "common book" is chosen by a committee and then a copy is given to every new incoming student, every faculty member and any current students or employee who requests one.  Faculty are asked to read the book and if at all possible, incorporate it into their teaching in some fashion.  This year's book, The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner, is right up my alley and I can't wait for Mr. B to finish it so I can start!  Since I have not read the book yet, my perception is based on what Mr. B has told me, so don't quote me!!  It seems Mr. Weiner traveled all over the world searching for traits of those who are happiest.  One of his conclusions was that extroverts are happier than introverts.  I take exception to that!!  If you've read my blog from the beginning, you read this post written on our 33rd wedding anniversary.  You know that I am the world's best example of an introvert married to an unbelievable extrovert.  I also want to say right up front, that I believe none of us were placed on this earth to be "happy."  But I do believe that the emotion of happiness is a by-product of a life filled with loving and serving others.  My problem with Mr. Weiner's conclusion is that we introverts generally keep our emotions to ourselves rather than out there for all to see like most extroverts.  So in order to find out if an introvert is "happy," you are going to have to dig a lot deeper than simply asking the question and recording your answer in a survey.  But if you take the time to do that, I think you'd find the opposite to be true.  Once I get started on this book, I'll let you know if he changes my mind!  Here is one thing I know for sure.  When you put an introvert and an extrovert together for 33 years, you've got a bond as strong as the trunk of the tree in today's picture and two individual trees equally as strong, but better when they are together! Both of us would tell you we are "happy" and "content," but I bet both of us would explain it in two totally opposite ways using none of the same language.

I simply cannot wait until tomorrow to share this good news.  One of my Freedom Challenge Goals was to reach 155 pounds by my 55th birthday.  Well, the birthday is not until tomorrow, but I reached the goal this morning.  Could you see my happy dance about 6:30 a.m. EST?  I've been stuck on 156 1/2 and 157 for what seems like years (actually it's only been a couple of weeks) so I never expected a two pound loss, but there it was!!  

  Jack and Ruth
Tonight is the Celebration of Life service for my dear friend, Jack, who died so suddenly last Friday evening.  This picture was taken last September in my back yard.  We hosted a party called, "A Celebration of Marriage" in honor of a young couple in our church who had just become engaged.  I invited a couple to represent each decade of marriage and asked them to type out a list of several specific things that were happening at the time of their marriage (i.e. #1 song, popular TV shows, etc.)  I also asked each couple to bring a recipe they used during their first year of marriage, a Bible verse that was meaningful to them as a couple and one piece of advice for the engaged couple.  I put all that info along with the picture I took of each couple into a book which was later given to the engaged couple as a corporate gift from all the folks at the party.  Jack and Ruth, having been married 63 years at the time, represented the 1940's and were the couple who had been married the longest.  I will treasure all of the pictures, but especially this one, for the rest of my life.  The Wednesday night following that party, was when Jack gave me the first lighthouse he had painted as a thank-you for having the party.  Please think of me tonight at 6:30 EST - Ruth asked the choir to sing and it will be one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I believe we can honor Jack best by holding our emotions together and giving our all to singing the two songs we were asked to sing.  After all, he will be watching and hearing!

One more thing about our temperaments....I've mentioned before that I use Henri Nouwen's book, Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith as part of my morning devotion time.  How ironic that yesterday's tidbit was on the very subject of temperament.  He summed it up beautifully in one sentence that gives us guidance on how to live whether we call ourselves introverts, extroverts or something entirely different.  Here is what he says, "Let's live with our temperaments as with gifts that help us deepen our lives."

What about you?  Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?  What do you think about Mr. Weiner's generalization that extroverts are happier?  Has anyone else read this book?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A New Challenge

Asheville, North Carolina, a little over an hour east of us, has always been our quick getaway location.  This is the back deck of a cabin we rent frequently on those weekend trips.  You are looking at the French Broad River.  The picture was taken this past April.  

Mr. B's summer class ends Thursday afternoon.   Although he has some meetings and other on-campus activities, he does not officially have to report back to campus until August 18.  Several weeks ago, I asked if anyone had any suggestions for somewhere we could spend a week in August and be guaranteed cool weather.  A couple of you mentioned Bar Harbor, Maine and I don't think I ever said thanks.  Ironically, Bar Harbor is a place we were considering.  I love the Vacation Finder feature on Weatherbase. You plug in a temperature range for the month you are considering and it tells you what locations in the world match that range.  Bar Harbor was certainly in the narrow range I specified, but in the end, we choose a spot closer to home that we've visited, but never spent much time exploring.  I'll post more details later and then of course, you'll all go with me on that trip in August.  

With the Freedom Challenge ending this coming Monday and my realization that I really am motivated by being part of a challenge, I've decided to join the already in progress, Summer Diet Buddies.  It began on July 12 and ends on September 7.  

Check-in day is Monday, so I'm already a day late posting my goals for this week.  If I'm understanding the guidelines of this challenge correctly, our goals are weekly, not for the duration of the challenge.  My overriding goal is to push myself over this plateau I seem to have found, so my goals at least for the next couple of weeks will be pretty stringent.  I'm also hoping to make more new friends.  That will always be a reason for participating in a challenge!  I love being part of the community.   So here they are:

1)  As close to 1200 calories per day as I can get.  More than that is too many to jumpstart my body into loss mode again - less is not enough to keep metabolsim moving correctly. 

2)  No white sugar or white flour.  

3)  No food or drink after 6 p.m.

4)  Lose at least one pound per week during challenge.

5)  Send a card or note of encouragement to at least one friend or relative who I know is struggling to lose weight.

So far, so good this week with at least the first three.  However, I see that it is 5:52 p.m!  Better head to the kitchen right now or I'll not be able to report 100% compliance on #3! 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Freedom Challenge Results - Week 3

Sunrise from Clingman's Dome - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
April, 2009
One of my "bucket list" items.  We had to leave home at 4:30 a.m.  

Thanks so much for your feedback on the questions from yesterday's post about specific people to whom you've opened up your blogs and methods you use to read other blogs.  If you haven't done so, please go back and add your two cents worth!!  Based on what you guys said and my own gut level feelings, this blog, for the time being, is going to remain between me and you!  A couple of you reminded me (and all of us) that no matter how personal it seems, what we write is out there for all the world to see and we should always be respectful.  We write our blogs for ourselves, but I think we'd all concur that we also hope to motivate and encourage others as well.  Can't do that by being disrespectful.  If anything I ever write comes across that way, PLEASE bring it to my attention. 

Additional comments have been added to Thursday's, Do It While You're Still Young post.  If you are under age 40 and have NOT read this post, I'd strongly encourage you to do so.   Listen to the sage advice of us stubborn old mules, whoops, I mean gorgeous more mature voices of sanity, regarding losing weight during and after menopause. 

On to my results for week three of the Freedom Challenge:

1) Walking is my form of exercise. Since 2006, I have worn a pedometer, kept a log and averaged 10,000 steps per week. I'd like to increase that goal to 12,000 steps per week. DONE!!  I am happy to say that I walked no less than 10,000 steps every day last week and the average of the seven days was 12,263.

2) I want to begin planning menus in advance. I will plan menus five days this week and increase it by one day each week, so that by the end of the challenge, I'll be planning a week in advance. (this will free me from the "oh my gosh, what are we having for dinner" syndrome.
DONE!!  This goal has been so effortless, I will step it up and plan the whole week's menus. 

3) Along with goal #2, I will find and try at least one new recipe each week and post a picture of it on my blog. (this gives me freedom to be creative in the kitchen which is most definitely NOT something that comes naturally!!) FAILED!!  This is a goal I should not have set.  It is not me and I allowed "what I wish I was" to get in the way of "who I really am."  I'd love to cook and am so envious of those who post such creative pictures of yummy food, but there are just things I'd rather be doing.  The mood strikes every once in awhile, but not often enough to have set a goal of trying something new weekly.  What the goal has accomplished is an organized list of things I WANT to try. One of these days I will, but not under the pressure of doing it just to meet a goal. 

4) July 30th is my birthday. I will eat nothing with white sugar in it until that day (and maybe not then).
DONE!!  I did not eat anything this week with white sugar in it.

5) This is a "just for fun" goal since you said you'd prefer they not be weight/scale oriented. I'd like to weigh 155 or less by my birthday. This is my 55th birthday and I think it would be cool to be down around that number. Fortunately, I'm already very close, so this should be a easy no-brainer.
  As it turns out, this "no-brainer" may not happen.  I have plateaued and as of this morning still weighed 156 1/2 where I've been stuck for over a week.  Interesting note about that is I plateaued at 157 when I lost this weight in 2006 and was stuck there for over a month.  It must be a weight my body would like to stay at.  However, I know my body also likes 138, so that is where it's going to go!!!!

I will be sad when the Freedom Challenge ends.  It has been a great challenge for me to participate in as my very first one.  I've found that I like being part of a challenge and the accountability it requires, so will always try to be participating in one.  This challenge has also brought new blog friends to me and that has been the part I've most enjoyed.

I'm ending today's post with another picture from the Clingman's Dome sunrise trip.
This picture was taken within seconds of the first one.  I simply turned around and this was the scene behind me.  I love the way the dawning sun illuminated just the tips of those mountain peaks.  Two totally different views, both amazing in their beauty.  All I had to do was look in a different direction.  Maybe there is some wisdom there to help with my plateau.  Maybe by looking in a different direction I'll see the light of some small thing I can change that will make a difference.  No big deal - just turn around.

Tell me something on your "bucket list" that has nothing to do with weight loss or eating plans!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sizzling Summer Sunday and Questions

St. Augustine Lighthouse - St. Augustine, FL
January, 2010
Today's picture is in honor of my dear friend, Jack, who died this past Friday afternoon of a massive heart attack.  Thank you so much for your kind comments in response to Friday's post.  They meant a lot to me and came in quickly at a time I was reeling from the news.  Jack and I shared a common passion for lighthouses.  Following his retirement, he began painting pictures of lighthouses and had given me two of his paintings.  I took this picture of the St. Augustine lighthouse last January. He recently mentioned to me that he had begun painting it for me.  

I loved reading your comments following Thursday's post.   If you haven't weighed in on the subject of losing weight while still young, I'd love for you to go back and add your two cent's worth.  It was extremely encouraging to me that there were some who have not found weight loss to become more difficult as they enjoy birthdays (wasn't that subtle???).  I'm more determined than ever and am tweaking my plan which I hope might jumpstart my body back into loss mode.  

I haven't done such a stellar job with my goals during the Freedom Challenge, but have learned two things:  1) I enjoy being part of a challenge, so will try to always be participating in one, and 2) I'm going to do a better job of setting goals that are practical for me rather than goals that sound good at the time.  If Mr. B laughs raucously when I tell him a goal I've set, it might be wise for me to rethink that goal!!!  I'm sad that the Freedom Challenge has only one week remaining, but I plan to join the Summer Diet Focus which runs through early September.  

We had a great time last evening at the 60-acre farm of some new friends.  It was just exactly what we both needed after such a stressful couple of days.  Yesterday morning, we made our farmer's market run and drove straight to Mr. B's parent's house to help out with some things there.  Then we went to spend a couple of hours with Jack's widow, Ruth.  Yes, a quiet evening watching the moon rise over the mountains from the porch swing of a log cabin with no sound other than the frogs and the birds was EXACTLY what we needed.  A reminder to be thankful for the gift of friendship and the gift of life.  This couple are healthy eaters through and through - I knew eating at their home would present NO problems sticking to my eating plan.  We had a delicious dinner, but the quiet fellowship in the tranquil setting was perfect.  

I have three questions I'd like to throw out for feedback   I am now over two months into this blogging thing, so am probably about to pass the point of being able to call myself a "newbie."  Decided I better get these questions asked and answered.  Hope you all don't mind telling me how you do things.  I'd really appreciate it.

1)  This is a very specific blogger question.  I've asked it on the blogger help page, the forum and via "googling" but can't get any response.   There is a discrepancy in the number of followers on my dashboard versus the number showing on the main page of my blog.  It isn't many, but I was just curious if anyone else shows different numbers and if they have any idea why? 

2)  I have asked this question before, but it was very early on, so I'd appreciate opinions from those who've started reading since the first time I asked.   What are your personal philosophies regarding opening up your blog to people (friends, relatives, co-workers, etc.) that you know?  When I posed this question the first time,  I got responses ranging from "absolutely no one knows about it" to "everyone knows."   I still have told no one other than Mr. B, about this blog.  The problem is, there are some people, with whom I share this never-ending weight loss drama, that might find it encouraging or simply enjoy reading along.  But in doing so, do I jeopardize my freedom to write with complete openness and honesty?  Please share with me the way in which you've handled this particular issue with your own blog.  (Those of you that answered this question earlier, don't worry about answering again unless something has changed.  I remember who you are and really appreciated your responses at that time.)

3)  Lastly, a question about how you read blog updates.  I already have a lot of blogs to read and am getting ready to set a personal goal for myself that will involve even more (how's that for a teaser???).  Not only do I thoroughly enjoy reading every last one of them, but they are a huge encouragement, I enjoy adding comments and I get lots of great ideas about food, recipes, products, etc.  Sounds familiar to all of you, doesn't it?  Do most of you subscribe to a feed, so the blogs you want to keep up with come directly to you?  Do you read them in Google reader?   Do you depend on your sidebar to show you what's been updated?   Are there other creative ways you've discovered that I haven't??  Sometimes, I end up feeling very disorganized and like everyone but me probably has a great "system" for keeping up to date with their blog reading. 

I'm wondering if I should have asked these questions one at a time on separate days, but no, I've got things I'd rather write about than housekeeping type stuff!!  So, if you don't mind, give me some feedback about how you do things.

Yes, it's a sizzling summer Sunday in East Tennessee and in a moment of senility, I agreed to go pick okra at 6:30 this evening.   Perhaps that adventure should be tomorrow's picture!   NOT!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Don't Forget To Say I Love You!

From the top of the fire tower at the end of Flat Top Trail looking towards Boone, NC.
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park off the Blue Ridge Parkway
May, 2010

I sat down about an hour and a half ago to write today's post.  This is not it.  The phone rang.  Mr. B answered it and I knew immediately something was terribly wrong.  

Remember the dinner party he and I attended last Saturday evening?  You can read about it here and here.  The phone call was telling us that the precious man who hosted that dinner party with his wife, had died just a few moments earlier of a massive heart attack.   Less than 48 hours earlier, I had laughed and joked with him after choir rehearsal.  We talked about the party and how much fun we'd all had.  

His name was Jack and he knew that I loved him.  Please make sure that not only your family members, but also your friends, know that you love them.   You absolutely never know.................

You don't know this couple, but I know you would have loved them.   They loved each other and modeled that love for all to see.  Ruth's 80th birthday is Sunday.  She and I have always enjoyed having our birthdays so close together.  Please pray for her and their children.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Do It While You're Young!

Cub Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park

I have struggled with weight issues most of my adult life and can remember being told countless times by wise mentors, to get the weight off and keep it off while I was young because as I grew older, it would become increasingly difficult to both lose weight and maintain it.  Like many other things I was told I'd understand as I got older, I didn't pay much attention.  Intellectually,  I reasoned that it was always going to be calories in vs. calories burned, so what difference did it make if you were 32 or 62?  I now know that it makes a huge difference and that difference just catches up with you all of a sudden.  So today's post is written primarily to warn and encourage those readers in their 20's, 30's and 40's.  I suspect (and hope) that many others my age and older will weigh in with their wisdom and personal experience. 

Let me emphatically state that the closer I get to that 55th birthday, the more unreal it seems.  Not in a bad sense of the word - I truly don't dread the birthday.  It's just so hard for me to believe that I am 55 and I pray I'm having these same thoughts as I approach 60, 65, etc.  My mother, who celebrated her 82nd birthday in June, still plays golf twice a week and does a water aerobics class the other three.  I can only hope I'm as healthy as she is when I'm 82.  

No, this really doesn't have anything to do with numerical age.  For me, it was all about "the CHANGE."  When I lost 60+ pounds in the period between October, 2006 and January, 2008, I had not yet experienced any signs or symptoms of menopause.  Losing weight is NEVER effortless, but for me, once I make up my mind  and carve out a healthy eating plan, I've never had trouble losing weight.  If I stick with the plan, the weight comes off quickly.  This pattern held true in 2006.  I had just turned 51 and using a 1,200 calorie eating plan, the weight came off consistently at a rate of 5-7 pounds per month.   I plateaued a couple of times, but neither lasted more than a few weeks.  

Fast forward to May, 2010.  Although I'm still experiencing some menopausal "symptoms" (I had to pause a long time here, because there were several words I wanted to insert instead of "symptoms" and some were not nice!!), for the most part, it is over for me.  Only when I began working on this 30 pounds I've gained, did I realize one of the tolls it has taken on my body.   

I am following the exact same eating plan to the letter and have increased my exercise, but the scale will hardly budge.  I'm being very lucky to lose 3 pounds a month.  The only difference between this time around and last is the menopause thing plus I am now taking a very low dose of thyroid medication daily.  A discussion with my gynecologist confirms what I suspected AND what I refused to believe prior to actually experiencing it. The hormonal changes brought on by menopause truly do make a difference in the way your body responds to losing weight.  

So to all my young friends out there, I haven't said a thing you've not already heard dozens of times, but if I said it any way that might have grabbed your attention, please understand that your body DOES change and it DOES become harder.  For those of us who know exactly what I'm saying, let's keep on encouraging each other to get these pounds off FOR THE LAST TIME no matter how long it takes.  

On to another subject.  Today, I made a mistake that was costly.  You can tell that my slow rate of weight loss has really been bothering me.  I've hung in there in spite of the discouragement, but my gosh, I can't get the scale to BUDGE.  I don't believe it would be healthy to eat any less than what I am eating, so all I know to do is keep on.  Thankfully, there hasn't been a week with a gain, but the losses are just plain piddly.  

I needed to have my tires rotated at Sam's.  This is long overdue and I'd been gently reminded by Mr. B that I needed to take care of it ASAP.  Our Sam's is not located near anything else, so unless you can bribe a friend to come get you, you are stuck in Sam's while they work on your car.  I carefully calculated what I thought would be the time of day when no food samples were available.  I arrived at 10:30 this morning and knew I was in trouble almost immediately.  I could SMELL trouble!!  Thank goodness, the tire department wasn't busy and I was told it would be about 45 minutes.   No need for details - you've all been either to Sam's or Costco.  You've done the same thing.   Let's just say there was no need for lunch.   It could've been a whole lot worse, so I'm not really angry with myself.  Just disappointed that at a time I'm struggling anyway, I certainly didn't do anything to help myself!  And I tried so hard to avoid being tempted.  Just one of those days when nothing worked out the way I planned.  

Dinner is almost ready and Mr. B has created a masterpiece in the form of yummy pork steaks along with fresh squash and zucchini all cooked on the grill.   Much better than anything Sam offered this morning!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Seven Things You Don't Know About Me!

Virginia Creeper Trail - Damascus, VA 
Once a year, we bike the 38 mile Virginia Creeper Trail either on Mr. B's Fall Break or his Spring Break.  This was taken last October about half way between Whitetop and Damascus.

As promised in yesterday's post and to fulfill the rules of the blog award I received, here are seven things you do not know about me:

1)  I absolutely LOVE to read.  My mother was/is a librarian, so I come by it honestly.  I was the child who got in trouble for having a book and a flashlight under the covers after lights out.  I also got in trouble plenty of times for bringing a book to the dinner table and being rather disrespectful when asked to put it away.  Right now, I am reading "Take Four" by Karen Kingsbury, and "The Me I Want To Be" by John Ortberg (this is for an upcoming fall study at my church).  I just finished "Winter Garden" by Kristin Hannah and have five or six others waiting.  I also love mysteries and anything travel related.  Add my daily Bible readings and all of your blogs to that and reading is a full-time job.  Wish I got paid for it!!  LOL!

2) Mr. B and I were both music majors in college.  My degree is in Music Education with emphasis in piano and a minor in Psychology.  What makes that interesting is that other than playing for my church many years ago and a short stint teaching privately, I have never used that degree in the field of music.  I took the education part of that and enjoyed a lengthy career in Human Resources, Career Development and Adult Education.

3)  I have two phobias - Thunderstorms and snakes  (Probably why summer is NOT my favorite season!)

4) I am extremely claustrophobic.  In 1985, I went to the UT vs. FL football game in Gainesville and got caught up in a crowd driven panic situation on a very tight exit ramp.  It was so tight I couldn't breathe and I almost passed out.  Since that time, I've been terrified in any enclosed space.  If I was claustrophobic prior to that incident, I don't remember it.

5) Travel has always been my passion and as a young teen, I decided that someday I would circle the perimeter of the US in an RV.  And someday, I will.  Agreement to do this was included in my marriage vows.  (Just kidding!)  Other travel goals include spending a night in every state capital, visiting all the National Parks and every continent.  (Hope you're still reading my blog 15 years from now and you'll know how I'm  progressing on all these goals.)

6) I love flowers.  My two favorites are Gerbera Daisies and Tulips.  

7) My favorite Bible Verse is Psalm 121:1-2 
I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?
   No, my strength comes from God,
      who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. (The Message translation)
   And my Life Verse is Proverbs 30:7-9
And then he prayed, "God, I'm asking for two things
   before I die; don't refuse me—
Banish lies from my lips
   and liars from my presence.
Give me enough food to live on,
   neither too much nor too little.
If I'm too full, I might get independent,
   saying, 'God? Who needs him?'
If I'm poor, I might steal
   and dishonor the name of my God."
(The Message Translation)
I chose this as my Life Verse at a youth retreat when I was 14 or 15 and long before I began struggling with my weight.  Little did I know how fitting it would be in later years.

With the big birthday looming in a few days, today's agenda included a trip to the DMV for a new Driver's License.  I've become quite spoiled being able to renew online and was not happy to be required to make a personal appearance in order to have a new picture made.  I am happy to report that my current weight is considerably less than the weight they had on file from ten years ago (and I bet I had lied about that)!!  I did fudge today by a few pounds since you all can verify that I WILL be 18 pounds lighter in a few months!  The day continued to improve when my new photo is one of the best pictures I've had made in a long time.  Yep, I can live with it for ten years and there is no way I look like I'm 55.  

Treated myself to a small lite Petro, a local favorite founded during the 1982 World's Fair. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Freedom Challenge - Week 2 Results and Awards!

Cades Cove Loop Road - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
We were on BICYCLES when we came upon this cute bear family lumbering across the road!
Scary, but exhilarating!

Not long after I began writing this blog, I started seeing Blog Awards pop up on blogs I was reading and I remember thinking, "how cool, wonder if it will ever happen to me?"  Well, yesterday it did!  Not once, but FOUR times
I am certainly honored, but slightly overwhelmed.  Thank goodness, it is the same award.  Here are the rules:

1) Thank the person(s) who gave you this award.  A huge thanks to GeorgiaBe, Deb, Lori and Karen.  I hope you gave me this award because you saw something in my ramblings worth continuing to read!! I hope it's not my last award, but you four will always be remembered as my FIRST! 

2)  Share seven things about yourself.  I will do this in tomorrow's post.  If I did that today plus my required reporting of Freedom Challenge results, it would be way more information on me in one day than you'd ever want to know!  LOL!

3) Nominate 15 newly discovered blogs.  This one I promise to do, but may have to do it in increments.  I'm such a newbie myself, finding 15 will be a challenge especially since the four who just nominated me would probably be on that list.  I'm going to make it a personal challenge to discover 15 that haven't received an award lately. 

4) Let those 15 know they've been given an award.  Will do!!

On to FREEDOM CHALLENGE - Week 2................................
I have to report right up front that I did absolutely HORRID on my stated goals.  But I scored some NSV's that seemed so effortless, I feel as if the week as a whole, was a resounding success and totally FREEING!  However, in the interest of full disclosure, here are my week's results:

1) Walking is my form of exercise. Since 2006, I have worn a pedometer, kept a log and averaged 10,000 steps per week. I'd like to increase that goal to 12,000 steps per week.  For the second week in a row, I did not meet this goal.  This is so bizarre, it is laughable.  Until last week, there had only been four weeks in 2010 that I did NOT average at least 12,000 steps.  Now I've gone two weeks in a row.  There were reasons (an extra day of recovery from procedure on toe and a 11 mile hike that got canceled), but bottom line is I didn't meet the goal.
2) I want to begin planning menus in advance. I will plan menus three days this week and increase it by one day each week, so that by the end of the challenge, I'll be planning a week in advance. This goal I did meet and am enjoying the menu planning process.  I am doing this on Monday mornings.

3) Along with goal #2, I will find and try at least one new recipe each week and post a picture of it on my blog.
I did not meet this goal.  Just let other activities get in the way.  I actually did FIND the recipe I was going to make, so I'll use it this week.

4) July 30th is my birthday. I will eat nothing with white sugar in it until that day (and maybe not then).   At a dinner party Saturday evening, dessert was served directly to each guest and it would have been awkward to have declined.  I did not eat it all.

5) This is a "just for fun" goal since you asked that our goals be unrelated to weight loss.  I'd like to weigh 155 or less by my birthday. This is my 55th birthday (EEK!!) and I think it would be cool to be at or below 155 on my 55th birthday. I'm already very close, so this should be a easy no-brainer. I believe I will meet this goal.

I am really enjoying being a part of this challenge.  I think my favorite part is checking in on the blogs of the other participants. Haven't gotten to all of them yet, but I'm getting there.  My hope is that we'll continue to support each other long after this challenge is over.  Bet that's kind of what you had in mind, isn't it Deb??

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Farmer's Market Bounty

Market Square Farmer's Market Bounty - July 17, 2010

The promised and much needed rain never materialized yesterday, so I pouted a bit that we had canceled our hiking plans.   But a "safety first"  hiker is a smart hiker and I noticed that some small, but pretty significant thunderstorms did pass through the area where we would have been hiking.  It was the right decision, just difficult.  

Mr. B and I left home around 9 for our walk to the Farmer's Market.  If you want to take that walk with us, read this post from a couple of weeks ago.  I had not been to the market in several weeks and the difference was obvious.  Lots of new vendors and an amazing array of summer produce, crafts, flowers and local art.  I just love our market!  Today's picture shows the peaches, okra, blackberries and variety of  little tomatoes that I bought.  BTW, I don't know what the proper name is for those tomatoes because there are several varieties in that clamshell, but in the south, we call them Tommy-toes!  That particular vendor has a huge shallow box loaded with different varieties/colors of the little tomatoes and you pack your clamshell with as many as you can for one price.  Trust me, they are like candy.  I also bought the Zinnia to take to our dinner party hostess as a token of our appreciation.  For some reason, it doesn't look so great in the picture, but it was beautiful. Not shown in the above picture, is the Peach Handpie from VG's Bakery.  Handpies are VG's version of the traditional fried pie and I am sorry to say that it, along with the cup of coffee from Coffee and Chocolate did not make it home for the picture.  Let me be quick to add that I had taken one of my Soy Protein Bars and not one morsel of the Peach Handpie went in my mouth.  This is HUGE!

The dinner party last evening was a wonderful time of fun and fellowship with both new and old friends. As I expected, the dinner forced me to go off plan, but was not as difficult as I had anticipated based on former dinner parties at this lovely couple's home.  The dinner items were served buffet style, so I was able to take smaller portions of those things not on my plan.  Dessert was served directly by the hostesses, so an opportunity to decline did not really present itself and quite frankly, being appreciative of their efforts was more important to me than saving a few calories.  A mental victory occurred about half way through dessert when it truly hit me that I'd had enough and I stopped.  As this past week's NSV's indicate, something has clicked in my mind recently.  I'm too afraid yet to make a huge deal out of it and I'm sure there will be plenty of times when I gobble the dessert, fried chicken or turkey wrap like a starving woman, but the conscious change of mindset this week has been so freeing.  Once again, I believe I can attribute a lot of it to you, my new blogging friends who are so quick so say, "congratulations, that IS huge - keep up the good work."  You understand.

I wore a two-piece dress to church this morning that I have not been able to wear for over two years.  Here's a picture:

Sorry about the shadows.  We were running a little late and didn't take time to notice the position of the sun, but you get the idea.  I was pretty proud and strutin' my stuff.  Sure hated to put on that choir robe!  LOL!  Even at goal weight, my body shape is problematic, so to wear a two-piece outfit and be able to button the jacket is a big deal.  With 18 1/2 pounds left to goal, I really need every ounce of it to come off my hips and upper thighs because if I turned around and had Mr B snap a  rear view, this is what you would see:
And I'm talking about the horses' patoot, not the rider!  I can thank my sweet mother for the way I'm built.  And if it's true that pear shapes are less susceptible to heart problems, my heart should be good for a lifetime cause I am the epitome of the perfect pear.  So let's just sum it up by saying, "yeah, the front view is looking pretty good, but (no pun intended) I still need those 18 1/2 pounds to go away (and they will)!

I already know of a couple of challenges this week and others will present themselves as the week progresses.  Keeps life interesting, doesn't it?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sharon vs. The Fried Chicken

It has been so miserably hot and humid here that I've been looking back through the pictures I took last winter trying to remember what it felt like to be cold!  This was taken on the Rich Mountain Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in February.  Temperatures were mild that day and this was a dry snow making for perfect hiking conditions.

This morning I had my second non-scale victory of the week.  What makes these exceptionally meaningful to me is the fact that neither of these situations were something I MADE myself do.  It was what I wanted to do.  Mr. B and I love the fried chicken prepared in the deli at our Kroger grocery store.  For years, it has been one of our quick go-to dinners and for a while our Sunday lunch alternated between Kroger fried chicken and Captain D's, both of which we pass on our way home from church.  Fortunately, that was a long time ago.  I can't tell you the last time we had Captain D's (except on very rare occasions, I stopped eating fast food several years ago), but the fried chicken still jumps in my grocery cart occasionally.  Tuesday morning, I was in Kroger very early and the fried chicken that had been prepared the day before was marked down to a ridiculously low price.   To make matters worse, it was the 16-piece, not the 8-piece which we normally buy.  My thought process went like this:  Mr. B really likes this and it will be something different for his lunch.  I'll freeze the rest for later lunches.  I am happy to say that even while standing in the store, I was not planning to eat any of it.  And that's exactly how it went.  The fried chicken that remained was carefully divided into ziploc bags this morning and taken out to the freezer in the garage.  I never even licked my fingers.  What's even better is that I didn't want to.  For the second time this week, I'm telling you that I'm really proud of myself.  

Unfortunately, my hiking plans for tomorrow have been scuttled.  Rain and thunderstorms are a pretty sure thing with even higher chances in the mountains.  I have good rain gear and don't mind hiking in the rain, but thunderstorms are a whole different story.  I am really disappointed because this is a hike I'd been wanting to do for a long time, but the trail will still be there on a day when it is safe to hike.  My not hiking means that Mr. B and I will get to take our early morning walk to the farmer's market.  We haven't been in several weeks and it's something we thoroughly enjoy doing together. It'll be fun!  Hope the rain holds off.  

I'll be faced with a challenge tomorrow evening in the form of a dinner party given by a precious older couple from our church choir.  She is hosting a get acquainted dinner for a new couple who has recently joined the choir.  She is the epitome of a southern cook, so I have no clue what will be served, but I sincerely doubt it will be anything on my eating plan. She also is never content until SHE thinks you've had enough to eat.   Although I offered more than once, she would not allow me to bring anything.   Guess this is one of those times when you go with the flow and do the best you can.  

Till tomorrow...................

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A New Dawning....Not The Post I Meant to Write

Sunrise in Flagler Beach, Florida - January, 2010

Very early this morning, I clicked to comment on Diane's post, Kid's Truth when it dawned on me that my response to her post needed to be a humbling confession of my own.  You see, I am embarrassed to admit that I saw shreds of my own attitudes within her post and I am mortified to realize that and compelled to admit it.  By nature, I am NOT a judgmental person.  I believe God created us equally in his own image and I am to follow that model by "doing unto others as I would have them do unto me" and "loving others in the same way I love myself."  For some reason, Diane's post, which was about the honesty of children in verbalizing what they "see," prompted the inner thought that judgementalism comes in many forms.  Two of which can be pride and arrogance.  

Twice, in my adult life, my weight has surpassed 200 pounds.  Both times, thank goodness, something about that number hit home and I took action.  I am very proud of the 60+ pounds I have lost, saddened by the 30 I regained and pleased that I am now less than 20 from being back at goal where I plan to remain the rest of my life.  The struggle is hard.   The struggle seems never-ending whether you are losing 15, 30, 50, 100, 150 or 200+ pounds.  Every one of us does it bite by bite and calorie by calorie.   We also do it with tons of support from each other.  I have an amazing amount of respect for all of you, but particularly those who are members of the 100+ pounds lost elite group!

My home is in Tennessee.  I love my state and am proud to live here.  I am not proud, however, of our new infamous notoriety as the 2nd fattest (tied with Alabama and just above Mississippi) state in the US.  I didn't have to read a survey to suspect this.  All I have to do is go out in public and observe.  

Where's the pride and arrogance?  It comes in the puffed-up attitude that looks defiantly at that very large person I encounter and THINKS to myself, "I managed to lose my weight. You need to JUST DO IT AND DO IT NOW! IF I CAN DO IT, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO IT TOO." Yep, you can couch it in prettier words, but it is a judgmental spirit nonetheless.  If it were all that easy, why am I having to lose 30 pounds I regained?  Why can't I "JUST KEEP IT OFF?" 

I am sorry, so very sorry.  You all have taught me that even though I never SAID anything verbally to anyone, they could see it in my eyes.  They've seen those looks plenty of times - they know arrogance when they see it.  I don't know their stories, but I now know many of yours.  And that's enough to tell me that behind their size is a person of deep feelings who knows they are large, who knows there is work to be done, who has a story to tell and is NOT motivated by any "looks" they get from me.  How I cringe and pray that my arrogant "looks" never made any one go home and cry like in the stories Diane told in her post or others I've read just like it.

Please, please make me the kind of person whose eyes always reflect, "I care, I understand, you are not your weight," when I look at a person who so desparately needs to lose weight.  And may I go away from that person not with my nose up in the air, but praying that somehow, some way they will find the courage and a community of support that will help them.  That is the person I want to be.

That is life through Sharon's eyes today.  Thank you for showing me life through yours and teaching me things I needed to learn.  Enough said.............................

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mr. B To The Rescue

Today's picture was taken in June at the Red River Gorge National Forest in eastern Kentucky.  This was a one mile loop trail to one of the many natural arches found in the gorge.  There are more of these natural arches found in Red River Gorge than in any other area of the world outside of Arches National Park.  

When Mr. B got home from his meeting last night, he almost immediately realized I was not in the best frame of mind.  After sharing with him my frustrations with not wanting to walk, he said, "what can I do to help?" In past years, he has been in a walking routine with me while out of school and during his July class, we have walked in the mall at 7 a.m.  The mall is on the way to his community college and after we walk, he just heads on to school while I return home.   Neither of us particularly enjoy that, and we had not established that routine this year, but he asked if I thought it would help for us to do that together.  I jumped at the offer, so at 7 a.m. this morning, we were walking the mall.  He is so supportive of my weight loss efforts and is always willing to do anything that will help.  I am very lucky to have him.  Thanks also for all the feedback from yesterday's post.  It helps a lot to know I'm not the only one in the midst of summer doldrums.  My hiking plans for Saturday are shaping up nicely and weather forecasters are even suggesting that high temps where we are planning to hike will only be in the upper 70s.  That, my friends, is music to my ears!

I met a friend for lunch today at Pimento's Cafe, a Panera type place with a few locations in Tennessee.  I know their menu well and planned in advance what I would order.  For once, I stuck with the plan, but here's the part of which I'm most proud.  After eating the first half of my Turkey Wrap, I realized I was full.  Normally, being full would've made no difference.  I'd have eaten the other half anyway.  But for some reason, today was different.  I looked down at the other half of that sandwich and thought, "I'm going to wrap that up and take it home for lunch tomorrow."  And that's exactly what I did.  This is a huge step for me and I am so proud of myself.  I remember thinking that if I actually made it all the way home with the other half of that sandwich, I couldn't wait to tell all of you about it.  While most people would think, "what's the big deal," I knew you all would understand! 

I shared some of the ongoing issues we are having with Mr. B's dad in this post a few weeks ago.  After that post, some things improved, but are suddenly headed downhill again.  I spent several hours this afternoon researching options because we all know some decisions are going to have to be made soon.  This is hard and it's all new material for us.  We just want to make the right decisions at the right time.  

When I chose today's picture, I knew I would have to add another at the end of this post to make it complete. Here is what you see when the sign indicates you have "arrived" at the arch in the first picture:
You could see nothing.  We kept trying to look off the edges to find the arch, but it remained hidden.  I had no idea I was actually standing on top of the arch.  All you could do was keep walking.  Following the path that opened up before you step by step.  Eventually, it curved back around and suddenly you look up and see the complete arch towering above you.  Only then do you realize you have already walked all the way across the top of the arch.  

The friend I had lunch with today is struggling with some past issues and current relationships.  We, as a family, are struggling with difficult decisions.  Even when it feels like you are blindly walking across the surface and making no progress, you just keep following the path until everything that was hidden opens up, reveals itself and you have a complete picture.   Isn't that what trust is?  Isn't that what those of us struggling with weight loss issues face every day of our lives?   I started this day by walking.  I'll keep walking along the path.  All the beauty that seems hidden right now, will soon be revealed.  And the Master Designer who designed the intricacies of that arch in the Red River Gorge, most surely knows what he's doing with me, my family, my friends and YOU!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's All YOUR Fault!

These are Virginia Bluebells.  This picture was taken on April 23, 2010 in the White Oak Sinks area of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Native to Virginia, this is supposedly the only area of the park where these can be found.  There aren't very many and I consider myself lucky to have been shown where they are.  Come on over next April and I'll take you to them!!

I posted today's picture in honor of Tish because it is her fault that I am posting so late.  You see, here was the plan.  I may have mentioned before that I am an unbelievable morning person.  I've never needed to set an alarm in my life and no matter what time I go to bed, I am awake and ready to get up no later than 6 a.m.  When I started this blogging thing in mid-May, the plan was to complete my morning devotions (that is always first), write my blog post and then go about my day.  What I didn't factor in was the extra time I would need to read everyone ELSE'S blog.  I can hear you all laughing from all corners of the US, Canada and France (yes, Sarah that would be you!) because you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.  Tish was a new reader who left a comment on yesterday's post, so of course, I had to look her up.  I loved reading her story (yes, all of it!) and voila! (Sarah, that's the only french word I know) Tish has a new follower, I hope she will click on that "follow" button and I'll have a new friend with whom I have lots in common.  Of course, yesterday it was Deb, the day before that it was Tami, before that it was Lindsay, etc., etc., etc.  Thanks to all of you for reading my blog, taking time to comment and choosing to "follow."  When my picture appears in your "follower" category, rest asuured that I've spent at least a little while learning some of your story.  An added pleasure that I never dreamed of is finding new friends from all over the country.  Where you are is one of the first things I look for (see Tish is in Virginia, thus the picture of the Virginia Bluebells in her honor) because I enjoy learning more about your neck of the woods from you.  That's what a "vagabond in training"does!!  So bring it on - I'm looking for a new friend from every state!!  

Now where did all that come from?  I've noticed several of you writing posts over the past several days that deal with our food issues and the mind.  Specifically, do we ever get to the point where thoughts of food and/or eating stop dominating our minds?  You've come at it from different points of view using different terminology, but the underlying premise is the same.  Will this ever get any easier??  I don't have an answer for that, but I do know this.  My best reaction to those thoughts is to get out of the house and away from the food.  Being out in nature is the ONLY thing that has always made me be able to forget about food.  Until now!  I have found that reading these chronicles of your struggles and identifying with them myself is another thing that has caused me to go for HOURS without ever giving food a thought.  And think about it - that's while I'm looking at your gorgeous pictures of food you've eaten, recipes you've tried, produce you've bought at the market, new things you've found at the grocery store and accountability posts of exactly what you've eaten that day.  But it just makes me respect your struggle and how hard you are striving to "work your plan."  I sit in my den laughing with you, crying with you, wishing I could say something to encourage you, clapping for you and I hate to admit it, but I've actually caught myself talking to you!  LOL!!   And all the while, sitting less than 25 feet from my kitchen, the refrigerator and the pantry never giving one thought to eating anything.  Wow, the power of a support group even if it is only virtual.  

Here is my current struggle and it is a new one for me.  I love to walk.  For the past four years, getting in my daily walk (10,000+ steps) has been a joy, never a struggle.  But for some reason, this summer it has become just that.  It is hot - we all know that.  Right now, even at 7 a.m., the humidity is so thick you can cut it with a knife.  But that's never stopped me before.  With kind of a "just do it" mentally, I've made it through the summer months with a bit of creativity and been so thankful when September arrives with cooler mornings and even some cooler afternoons.  I have a treadmill, we have two shopping malls, a trip up and down every aisle of Lowe's nets me 8,000 steps.  I have no excuses - just some unexpected laziness.  I've been wondering if anyone else is experiencing the summer exercise doldrums?  

I have just realized that it is 6:15 p.m..  My normal dinner time is 5:00.  I have not eaten or THOUGHT about eating since early afternoon.  See what I mean??   Thanks goodness, Mr. B had an evening meeting.  But all of a sudden, I am having some major stomach growling going on and there is no doubt that this is genuine hunger.  

Till tomorrow...maybe morning, maybe afternoon, maybe night.  Who knows - depends on whatever new friend I can blame and say, "it's all YOUR fault." 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Freedom Challenge - Week 1 Results

Today's picture was taken in an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park known as White Oak Sinks.  Yes, those really are flowers carpeting the floor of the area.  During a brief span of around two weeks in April, this area is a wildflower mecca that is beyond description.  You have to see it to believe it.

My first week participating in the Freedom Challenge was interesting.  The goals which I thought would be easy were not and I had fun with the two I thought would be most difficult.  Here is my recap:

 1) Walking is my form of exercise. Since 2006, I have worn a pedometer, kept a log and averaged 10,000 steps per week. I'd like to increase that goal to 12,000 steps per week.  Did NOT meet.  This goal, I thought, would be my easy one, but I ran in to a situation I could not control.  On Thursday, I had my annual visit with my podiatrist.  My feet (bless their hearts!) are an ongoing issue which someday will call for a separate post, but for today, just know that they require a close relationship with a podiatrist.  Last Thursday, he took one look at my left foot and said, "how steep was the downhill on your hike last weekend.?"  I had noticed some discoloration under a toenail and just thought it was a bruise.  Hiker's call stuff like that "hiker's pride" or "hiker's plague" and don't usually get in a wad over it.  He didn't like it, though and proceeded to "fix" it.  I will spare you the details of exactly how he did that, but you may have heard the scream!!  Anyway, bottom line, no walking for 36 hours.  So, this goal did NOT get met.  I was on track until Thursday.  Had even gotten in my 12,000 steps before my appointment which was late in the afternoon.

2) I want to begin planning menus in advance. I will plan menus three days this week and increase it by one day each week, so that by the end of the challenge, I'll be planning a week in advance.
I did meet this goal.  This week, I will plan four days and will do that today.

3) Along with goal #2, I will find and try at least one new recipe each week and post a picture of it on my blog.
  My recipe for Oat Pancakes turned out well and I posted the picture on Saturday.

4) July 30th is my birthday. I will eat nothing with white sugar in it until that day (and maybe not then). 
I did not eat anything which contained white sugar.  

5) This is a "just for fun" goal since you asked that our goals be unrelated to weight loss.  I'd like to weigh 155 or less by my birthday. This is my 55th birthday (EEK!!) and I think it would be cool to be at or below 155 on my 55th birthday. I'm already very close, so this should be a easy no-brainer. 
My weight this morning was 157.  I should be well on my way to meeting this goal.

As we all know, a week can change in an instant, but as of right now, I know of no significant food challenges I will face this week.  There are no events, lunches, parties, etc. on the agenda.  I have tentative plans for another aggressive hike next Saturday and am looking forward to that.   I am looking forward to a quiet week.  NOTE: Before I could even get this posted, I received a call inviting us to a dinner party Saturday evening.  Oh well....................

Mr. B and I had a restful day yesterday.  After church, we cooked up a simple lunch of ground beef patties, cherry tomatoes for me, a baked potato for him and a pan of fried okra.  The tomatoes are from my garden and are delicious.  The okra was from a friend's garden and was to die for.  Okra is one veggie that I have found no likeable way to eat, other than fried.  So, I planned for it and enjoyed every morsel.  Mr. B is a wonderful "traditional" cook well-taught by his mom.   Believe me, he can do fried okra!!

In the afternoon, he napped, I read blogs and did some research on our next trip. We have 2 1/2 weeks in August after he completes his summer school class before he reports back for the fall term at the college where he teaches.  Our only criteria for the August trip is it has to be somewhere COOL!  This year, finding that place isn't as easy as it sounds!!   Any suggestions????????

After our weekly dose of "The Next Food Network Star," we called it a night.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Admit It.....I'm Intimidated!

Since most of us are enduring incredible heat and humidity, thought a picture with snow in it might be nice.  This was taken on our 2009 Summer Trip at the end of the Loch Vale Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Yep, that's me showing the traditional hiker cross-pole picture which signifies that I've reached the summit.  Now, given what you can see behind me, I'm not exactly sure what summit I thought I had reached, but it does look impressive, doesn't it????  Also easy to see that the 20 pounds I had regained at that point were every one below my waist and above my knees. Unfortunately, I gained 10 more before taking control.

What in the world was I thinking when I decided to include trying a new recipe and (heaven forbid!) POSTING A PICTURE of it on my blog as one of my goals for Deb's Freedom Challenge?  My cooking skills, or lack thereof, are a huge joke among all my friends and believe me, if I wanted to instantly add about 25 followers, all I'd need to do would be announce to them that I was cooking and posting pictures of it.  I read YOUR blogs, I become a follower of them, I drool over your food pictures, I commit the sin of envy, but whatever possessed me to think I could do the same?  So yes, I admit it, I'm really intimidated.   But I said I'd do it, so here goes.  

I found this recipe for Oat Cakes - A Pancake Alternative on a non-weightloss related blog that I have followed for a long time.  Mr. B and I both love pancakes, but I long ago began trying to eliminate white flour from my diet and "trick" him in to doing the same.  These are actually very good and the added bonus I found is that they are equally as good by themselves as a snack or covered with a thin layer of fruit spread, apple butter or anything else that strikes your fancy.  Here's my picture followed by the recipe.
Oat Cakes
4 cups traditional (not quick) oatmeal — ground to a flour-like consistency in food processor
4 cups almond/soy/rice milk  (I used almond milk)
4 T melted organic butter
4 large farm fresh eggs
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp baking powder
-Soak oats for 12-24 hours in the milk (store in fridge overnight).
-Mix everything else into that.  
I used my griddle, made HALF the recipe and found that the batter made about 16 three-inch pancakes. Be aware that they are pretty dense and take longer to cook thoroughly and brown than normal pancakes do.  Delicious with a tiny bit of warmed Mrs. Butterworth's Sugar-Free syrup.
         FYI - Mr. B LOVED them!!  This is HUGE!

O.K. that wasn't so bad.  Please don't kick me off your blogroll for posting unimaginative food pictures.  I promise I'll get better.  For now, it's time for a snack.  Think I'll have another pancake.......................

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sunshine, Water and Rocks

Today's picture was taken early one May morning a couple of miles up the Big Creek Trail in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

I know I am not alone in this, but for whatever reason, it has turned out to be a really tough week.  An unexpected and therefore, unplanned social situation derailed my good intentions again yesterday.  I simply do not deal well with restaurant situations and find that I almost harbor a hidden resentment towards the person who I blame for putting me in a position that I truly don't want to be in.  So it becomes easy to just say, "who gives a flip" and order what I usually order when with this particular person.  The consequences of doing something "different" or trying to offer explanations is just not worth upsetting the apple cart.  Then I'm frustrated for the remainder of the day because I felt I didn't have control and truthfully, really didn't have a choice.  Now I know, you ALWAYS have a choice, but sometimes you also make the decision to just roll with the punches and deal with your own feelings later.  This has almost become less about food and more about changing the relationship with this person.  

Today's picture is a place I return to again and again because I have found such peace sitting on the rock that gives me this view.  I'd like to share with you the things I "see."  In this scene are four primary things of beauty.  1) Sunshine, 2) water, 3) rocks, and 4) brilliant green foilage.  It is a picture of my life.

The SUNSHINE represents God's presence in my life.  Always there, brighter in some places than others, sometimes hidden by clouds, always seeking to be found.  

The WATER represents my life.  It began somewhere up around that bend, so long ago I can hardly remember, but it continues to flow right in front of me now and will continue to rush on by out of sight in to my future which I can't see, but I know is coming. 

The ROCKS represent the trials, difficulties and stumbling blocks of living life on this earth.  Notice that some are huge boulders, some are just large rocks, some are smooth stones, others are tiny pebbles.  Some are fully visible to everyone, some partially hidden and some completely hidden.  In fact, some hidden so completely, even I haven't found them yet.  We are all dealing with the boulder of weight/food issues and it's a big one!  So heavy, it will probably never be completely removed from the water in this lifetime.  You don't need to know all about my rocks - you have enough of your own.  But do take time to notice that, in the picture, you see more rocks than anything else and those are just the ones ABOVE THE SURFACE!! 

The GREEN FOLIAGE represents change.  I have now sat in this exact spot in all four seasons.  Every one looks completely different.   On this day was the beauty of spring.  New growth after a long desolate winter.  Summer will bring an even denser undercover and there will be times it will be hard to see the sunlight even on a clear day.  Fall brings the breathtaking colors for which these mountains are so famous.  It is indescribable, yet depends on the right combination of sunshine, cooler temps and summer rains to put on its best show.  Then comes winter. Bare trees, no green, but sunshine so brilliant one cannot possibly sit here without sunglasses. 

The sun is always shining.  Your understanding of God may be different than mine and that's o.k.  For me, God's presence is always right there shining down on the water of my life, clearly illuminating the rocks, through every season.  Sometimes, I have to change my position in order to get the full benefit of the sunlight, sometimes the rushing water of my life tosses the boulders aside or allows me the comfort of keeping them hidden until I am ready to deal with them. At other times, the water of my life picks up the boulders and carries them along with me.  Perhaps I need to grow more before letting them go or as is often the case with me, I'm too dense to realize all I have to do is DROP them and they'll sink all the way to the bottom.  It's also important to understand that there are always going to be rocks.  The water of my life rushes through the seasons and sometimes, I want to beg it to slow down.  But, oh how I have learned, that the pain and emptiness of winter bursts forth into the new growth and hope of spring.   The dense beauty of summer gives way to the brilliant colors of autumn and then the miraculous circle of life returns to winter.

How does all of this meandering relate to weight loss?  Maybe to you, not at all.  But to me, in the picture, I see a huge boulder almost completely covered by sunlight.  Right now, that's the progress I feel I am making towards my goal, but only in the sunlight of God's help.  Within a couple of hours, that same boulder was probably completely shadowed.  That's kind of how I've felt the last couple of days.  Does that mean the sunlight and progress is gone?  Of course not, it just means that for today, I have to work a little bit harder.  All the while knowing that tomorrow morning, the sunlight will return to my boulder.  The responsibility is always mine to keep the water of my life flowing freely while basking in the sunlight, resting in the shadows, dealing appropriately with my rocks and boulders as I walk through the changing of the seasons.

Thanks so much to all who continue to offer support, take time to comment and have become followers.  I never dreamed I would enjoy this so much.