Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Reality

White Oak Sinks - GSMNP
April 18, 2011

Easter Sunday has come and gone allowing our family to put another of those "firsts" behind us since the death of Mr. B's dad last fall.  Thanksgiving and Easter are the two holidays which have always been celebrated at their home with a large crowd.  You might recall that we moved Thanksgiving dinner to our home this past year, but when asked, MIL was adamant that Easter would remain the way it had always been.  Except that, of course, it wasn't!!  Something very important was missing and we all felt it keenly.  

Mr. B and I met while in college, but had both grown up in towns close by and so were able to introduce our parents to each other once we realized we might be "forever."  Our parents hit it off immediately and have remained friends to this day.  Having both sets of parents at a single holiday celebration makes life much easier for Mr. B and me!!  It was my very shy dad who had the most difficulty yesterday as Easter was the traditional baseball watching afternoon for he and FIL.  Once dinner was over, they'd migrate to the den for an afternoon of watching the Braves while the rest of us sat outside or in the living room.  My dad looked pitiful sitting in the den alone.  I couldn't even go in there and Mr. B tried several times.  He said daddy would just look up at him with pitiful eyes and say, "this doesn't feel right" or "I sure do miss him."  

Having said all that, our entire family believes that FIL is celebrating with our risen Lord in a way none of us can comprehend until we we there ourselves. I hope all of you have that same assurance.  That is what Easter Sunday is all about!

The other side of the story is this.  My FIL had some quirks that although charming and funny at first always became irritating and tiresome after several hours. We are slowly realizing how his behavior impacted our family gatherings in ways we didn't comprehend until now.  Yesterday's gathering was calm, relaxing, enjoyable and people stayed longer than I can ever remember.  Driving back to our home, we discussed how FIL had such a way of keeping things stirred up with his joking, picking, taunting and silliness that people were never able to fully relax and therefore, always seemed to go home earlier.   Yesterday stories could be told to completion without his interruption, laughter could go on without him running from the den and having to get into the middle of it and a few moments of quiet could ensue without his feeling the need to act silly or tell a joke.  

We wouldn't change the years we had for all the world, but this is our new reality and we like the way it looks!  

Since 2006, when I originally lost 60+ pounds, Easter has been a day I have dreaded because of the DINNER and those feelings have always been difficult for me to process because, for the Christian, Easter should be a day filled with anticipation, celebration and pure JOY!  And I've missed much of that by allowing the very thing which I began this new year vowing would be different, to define my day.  So on this Easter day, I refused to ALLOW FOOD TO CONTROL ME.  Instead, I WAS IN TOTAL CONTROL OF MY FOOD!  I ate just enough chicken and dumplings to satisfy MIL's eagle eye and just enough butterscotch/marshmellow cookie to satisfy my mother's eagle eye!  This morning brought a .4 pound gain and today will most likely involve some carb cravings, but I've got a full day planned with lots of activity to help me forget the cravings.  

In the quiet of my own home last night, I went back over the day and realized how much my life has changed since last Easter.  My losses (my sweet FIL), although painful, have brought new gains I couldn't possibly have known.   My gains (pounds I'm still struggling to lose), have brought losses for which I'm grateful!  Both the gains and the losses come in the form of deeper relationships with others and a calmer relationship with myself.  It is less about food and much more about an abundant life!  I am so thankful! 

This post could not end without thanking YOU, my Blog Friends.  It is you who have listened as things have come out through my fingers that would've never seen the light of day in conversations with others in my REAL world.  I'm approaching my first BlogAversary and when settling on the name of my blog, I had absolutely no CLUE how much I truly would gain or the losses I would shed that could never be measured by a number on a scale.

I hope your Easter was as precious as mine!! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Slipper

Yellow Ladies Slipper - White Oak Sinks - GSMNP
April 18, 2011

Half a mile down an unmarked trail in an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park known to locals as White Oak Sinks, is a faint path which many lovers of these mountains have tried to obscure by placing twigs and branches across it.  I will be eternally grateful to the person who first led me a few yards down that path, over a branch and then pointed out the absolutely exquisite Yellow Ladies Slipper which you see in today's picture.  It saddens me beyond words to tell you that the first time I was taken here, there were three of these each standing as royally as this one, yet a closer examination revealed distinct differences.  Over time, some very selfish idiots individuals have chosen to dig up two of the plants thinking the Slippers would look better in their yard where only they could enjoy them.  My guess is that the other two are now dead because these were growing where God intended them to grow and they do not take kindly to being uprooted.  But this one remains and as much as I miss the others, there is something about seeing this one stand tall and perfect in it's solidarity that simply takes my breath away.   Its needs are simple - water, some sunlight and a little shelter from the harsh mountain winter.  It is, to me, the epitome of freedom.  It fulfills the purpose for which it was created and that purpose is to provide beauty and delight to people such as myself who every year, when I return, simply stand there with mouth hanging open in amazement at its beauty. 

I stared at the Ladies Slipper and was reminded how unimportant food is and how much unnecessary emphasis (control) we allow it to have in our lives.  At that point in time, I can assure you that what I was going to eat next was the furthest thing from my mind even though I had a backpack full of food within easy reach.  My head was in the "right" place and "food" was in its right place.  The Ladies Slipper has no control over anything - it survives by total dependence on the elements.  Only a human with misplaced motives or a predator (of which there are few) can harm or destroy the Ladies Slipper. 

I have no control over tomorrow.  I have no control over today.  I actually have no control or whether or not I take my next breath, but I have total control over what I put in my mouth today, tomorrow and the rest of my life.  If I could choose, would I choose the beauty of Jennifer Lopez (the world's recent "most beautiful person") or the beauty of the Yelllow Ladies Slipper?  I think you know the answer to that.

My friend and I moved on from the secret place of the Ladies Slipper to the waterfall which has a story all its own that will have to wait for another post.  We moved from the simple beauty of a single flower to the majesty of a bottomless waterfall.

Unnamed Waterfall - White Oak Sinks - GSMNP
April 18, 2011

I was still so moved that hunger or lunch was not on the radar, yet I knew in order to hike out of the sink, I had to eat.  In my head, I prayed for strength to remember the lessons of the Ladies Slipper and the secrets found in White Oak Sinks.  I prayed for the vision when cravings kick in and the general, "I don't give a flip" rears its ugly head, to "see" the Yellow Ladies Slipper in the darkest dark of a mountain night standing tall and regal needing only the nourishment required to keep it healthy.  And I prayed for all of you.  That you will find something equally vivid as you move through your day. Something that will stick in your head and remind you that the only thing we REALLY need food for is nourishment.  Why give it a place of priority when there is so much beauty all around us and so many secrets to discover?  

I challenge you to find something of beauty today that reminds you of the proper place of food in your life.  Please come back and share with me what you discovered.

Monday's memories are sustaining me still.  It has been a calm, peaceful, no-drama relationship with food for the past several days.  I'm beginning to feel better and can tell the meds are helping with the sinus infection.  So far, I'm even fighting the prednisone battle with courage!  Time in the woods is certainly a healer for me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beautiful Biltmore!

Biltmore Estate Gardens - Asheville, NC
April 10, 2011

I cannot believe a week has gone by since I last posted.  It has been an extremely hectic week and to top it off, I've had to return to the doctor again for that blasted sinus infection that just won't quit!  We took a quick trip to Biltmore Estate last weekend to see the tulips and although I suspected the infection was returning, I knew I was in trouble when my ears plugged up completely before we ever got above 3,000 feet going over the mountain.  Given that I'll be spending five weeks in May/June at elevations between 6,000 feet and 14,000 feet, I realized it was time to take major action.   So without boring you with all the details, I'll just tell you I'm back on the dreaded prednisone for 20 days along with a heavy antibiotic.  We also added the step this time around of temporarily discontinuing a med I take for my Rheumatoid Arthritis because it lowers my ability to fight infection to start with and then works against the antibiotic.  It is very frustrating to say the least because it just seems as if everything is working against everything else.   If I can make it without the RA med for a week, I can start taking it again.  I'm very concerned about the Prednisone because I'm already somewhat down anyway because of the whole mess and fighting with the increased appetite brought on by Prednisone just isn't something I'm looking forward to or feel very strong about being able to handle.  Please keep me in your thoughts.  I'm so tired of not feeling well!

Mr B and I did have a picture perfect day at Biltmore Estate.  We have had season passes to Biltmore for many years and it tends to be our "go-to" place when we need some "us" time.  Tulips are one of my favorite flowers and their tulip gardens are the most beautiful I've ever seen outside of Holland.  They rotate the color scheme each year and this year wasn't my favorite, but it was still spectacular.  They had thrown in a small plot of the purple ones just for me!

I also managed to get in one day of hiking last week.  It is the height of wildflower season in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Porter's Creek Trail is considered one of the highlights.  We were a little late for some, but others were at their peak.  That trail also boasts a lovely waterfall.  Here are a couple of pics from that day.

Trillium along Porter's Creek Trail - GSMNP
 April 13, 2011

Fern Branch Falls - GSMNP
April 13, 2011

Summer Trip 2011 routing and lodging is now completely set.  We will leave on the 10th and meander our way across the midwest in order to be in Colorado Springs, CO on the 14th.  That will be the beginning of five glorious weeks exploring the state.  We'll be based in Colorado Springs for one week, Durango for two weeks and Estes Park for two weeks.  And I am so excited that on the trip through the midwest, I'm going to get to meet another BlogFriend.  Can't wait!!  Much more about that and the trip as it happens.   Our summer trips were interrupted last year due to the illness and death of Mr. B's dad, so we are already giddy with excitement to be on the road again exploring new places.  I just HAVE to get these ears opened up!!

I can't say that I've done very well this week with my eating.  Neither can I say I've gone off the deep end.  I am just struggling with it all because I simply don't feel good and lack the desire to plan plus nothing sounds good or tastes good.  I'd probably LOSE weight because of that (antibiotics have that effect on me) if it wasn't for the Prednisone making me want to eat everything in sight whether I can taste it or not.  

Seems like I've done a lot of whining in this post.  Thanks for listening! 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blog Friends and Big Creek

Big Creek Trail - GSMNP
April 7, 2011

The trail to and through BlogLand is very wide and I am so thankful to be learning that in very tangible ways.  Shortly after I began blogging, I discovered Kimberlynn who blogs at Minding My Weigh.  I enjoyed her insightful wisdom into the journey we were on and was delighted to learn that she and I lived pretty close together.  She mentioned one of her 2010 fitness goals as being a hike to Mouse Creek Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This is one of my favorite trails and one of my favorite waterfalls.  We began emailing and determined to hike to the falls together.  That FINALLY happened last Thursday.  She has posted about our delightful day and new friendship here complete with pictures.  I couldn't do a better job, so just hop on over there and read about it.  If you aren't following her blog, I bet you'll be hooked!!  I loved our self-portraits and she didn't post one, so I will!

Sharon and Kimberlynn - this, I hope, was the first of many hikes!

And isn't it funny how the whole point was to hike to Mouse Creek Falls, yet I think she and I would both agree that the falls became a background goal compared to the overall experience of the trail and the new friendship!  But thank goodness, there WAS the goal of Mouse Creek Falls because had she never mentioned it by name, I might not have thought to email her and suggest that I'd love to be with her when she met that goal!  So just for good measure, here is a picture of the falls.  This is where we ate lunch!  Nice office, huh????

Mouse Creek Falls - GSMNP

Now about that wide trail in BlogLand!  As you might expect, Kimberlynn and I had a lengthy discussion about blogging, followers, priorities, time management, blogging goals, etc.  I love the parallels I have discovered between my friends in BlogLand and my friends in RealWorld!  I love the different styles of writing, the different philosophies of the journey we are own, the ways in which we each deal with adversity and the give and take with which we treat each other even when we might disagree.  I love how you come after me when I don't post for awhile and I hope I've established the atmosphere on my blog that it's o.k. to present alternate ideas and to always comment from the heart.  

The trail to my blog is VERY, VERY wide and there is room for everyone.  Meeting, biking and hiking with Tish of Incremental Improvements last fall was one of the highlights of my year and getting to know Kimberlynn only served to reinforce the fact that I want to live in BlogLand in a healthy way, use the things I learn in BlogLand to make me a better and healthier person/friend/wife/daughter/sister/etc. in RealWorld.  With my intense spirit of wanderlust and the joy I've discovered in blogging, I've got a list of BlogFriends I want to meet that's growing longer by the moment and now includes all of you!  How exciting that my time with Tish was so different from my time with Kimberlynn, yet both were perfect in every way.  I'm only 55!  Do you think I have time to meet all of you and let you show me how beautiful you really are and introduce me to your state?  I think I need to have had lunch and taken a walk with at least one BlogFriend in every state, every Canadian province and on every continent!    Oh and BTW, don't any of you ever DARE come to Tennessee without allowing me the privilege of showing you MY mountains and MY city!

Yes, the trail to and through BlogLand is very wide and I thank God every day for each of you and what you mean to me.  Let's continue to expand the trail together!

During our hike, I was telling Kimberlynn that one of my favorite posts I'd written was composed after a hike along the very same trail we were doing.  I promised I'd link to that post so here it is!  It is still a very meaningful post to me - hope it speaks to you!

Mr. B and I had an enjoyable adventure yesterday which I'll tell you about later, but right now, I've got a house that needs to cleaned and steps outdoors that need to be taken so it's time to move out of BlogLand into RealWorld!

What's on your agenda for today?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Unexpected Surprises!

Virginia Bluebells - GSMNP
April 3, 2010

I stumbled upon this small patch of Virginia Bluebells during my wildflower ramble last Saturday morning.  They were growing directly behind the Sugarlands Visitor Center and had I not parked in a little known parking area to avoid the crowds, I would never have seen these.  I'd always been told there is only one place in the park where Virginia Bluebells can be found and this is NOT it.  Don't know if someone carried a seed on the bottom of their shoe or what, but when I saw them and squealed with glee, thank goodness the masses of humanity waiting in line at the restroom were too far away to hear.  I've always loved the bluebells partially because the patch I knew about is so hard to find and now, they always remind me of my BlogFriend Tish who lives in Virginia and with whom I spent a delightful few days last fall.  

And speaking of unexpected surprises, it appears that I am finally going to spend some time with another BlogFriend tomorrow.  We began our blogs within a few months of each other and quickly realized we lived fairly close to each other.  A desire to hike together was born and although we had a hike scheduled once, I cancelled because it was near the beginning of my prolonged illness a few months ago.  We are expecting perfect weather tomorrow so, on a whim and very short notice, I emailed and to my surprise, she was able to work it out for us to hike tomorrow.  I'm sure there will be much more on BOTH our blogs along with pictures of the happy trek!
Another totally unexpected surprise has been how quickly my enthusiasm for the Hard Core Left Turn went south.  Now don't read anything into that or jump ahead assuming I've already blown it.  That's not the case at all.  In fact, if anything, I should be pleased that I've hung tough because I'm telling you, the mental part of it is killing me.  Monday was great, but yesterday was one of the toughest days I can remember in a long time.  I was literally having visions of all the things I wanted to eat.  I'd banish one and something else would cross my mind.  I tried every avoidance tactic I've ever known and finally just gave myself a break and faced the fact that it was a form of mental fighting and withdrawal from the things I plan to eliminate from my eating during the month of April.  We all know it takes a few days to banish the cravings and adjust.  Since I was so pumped up, I'd hoped it wouldn't be quite so painful.   Wrong!!

And why should that have been a surprise?  Sometimes I think in all our attempts to be honest about our struggles, we don't admit to each other often enough that this whole thing is just HARD!  And yes, there will be periods where it seems easier than others or we feel we've learned enough to let down our guard, but there will never be a time when there isn't a struggle of some sort going on within our minds and bodies.  I am so grateful for the brutal honesty of my long time maintaining BlogFriends!  

And my last unexpected surprise today is that at long last, I have changed my profile picture.  It's small and even enlarging it doesn't show a whole lot, but Mr. B took this picture on one of our hikes in the Cataloochee Valley area of the park.  And it is so ME!  Perched on a rock with my hiking boots on thumbing through a book grasping a thermos full of hot coffee.  Now I'm telling you, it doesn't get any better than that.  Just for good measure, here's a larger copy of the picture.

She's in the woods - She's HAPPY!

Have you had any unexpected surprises today?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Aggressive April

Cove Hardwood Nature Trail - GSMNP
April 2, 2011

I was inspired by Dawne's Hard Core 10 challenge and although I knew I had too many obstacles to participate with her, a idea of my own was born.  A few things in our life have changed dramatically and it's time to tell you about them.  Those changes have gotten me excited about the upcoming months and motivated to go "hard-core" as Dawne suggested.  I wasn't going to give my personal challenge a name until I came around a trail turn during my solo wildflower ramble yesterday and was faced with the above picture.   My "challenge" became clear.  I'm calling it the "Hard Left Turn!"  Don't get me wrong.  I've truly enjoyed the past several months of calm and contentment and believe that is a foretaste of what maintenance will be like for me.  I've lost slowly, but steadily (6 pounds during 1st quarter) and not been at all stressed about it.  

But here's the deal!!  You might remember that Mr. B and I were offered a chance to spend six weeks in Europe this summer.  He would be teaching a course for three weeks in May and then we could travel at our own expense for as long as we wished with his return trip still paid for.  For several personal reasons, we decided in January that I would not go and he would only stay for the three weeks he taught.  Unfortunately, he learned a week or so ago that the program which included the class he was to teach, had been cancelled.   Needless to say, I am thrilled and I honestly believe he is relieved.   Once we determined that it was best for me not to go, I think much of his enthusiasm waned as well.  

That gave us the green light to resume our Summer Trip 2011 plans.  A bit of background is in order since this blog is less than a year old and because of Mr. B's dad's illness and death, 2010 was not at all a normal year for us.  We began making plans at age 30 to retire no later than age 50 in order to divide our time between volunteer mission work and personal travel.  At age 45, Mr. B changed careers and found the "calling" he should have followed from the beginning.  I retired from a very stressful corporate career at age 48, but he is only getting started and truly LOVES his work.  We have the best of both worlds because we are still able to travel extensively during May/June/August and some of December/January when he is out of school.  Last summer, there were only a few short trips because we knew his dad was facing death and we of course, did not want to be away from his mom.  So, with the Prague assignment out of the way and all parents reasonably healthy, we are so excited about Summer Trip 2011!!

It is just about planned, but here's a teaser.   We'll be spending five weeks in Colorado plus around 10 days on the front and back end exploring new places between Tennessee and Colorado.  You'll be hearing much more about the trip as it unfolds.

Our Summer Trips involve non-stop activity as we fully embrace the places we visit.   We hike, bike, learn the history and make every attempt to become a "local" during the time we are in a specific community.  I know that I want to feel and look my best.   Thus the reason for April's HARD LEFT TURN CHALLENGE!  I am excited, I am motivated and with a very specific goal in mind, I am ready to move forward.  The goal does not involves numbers - it simply involves one month of hard work so that I can be energized during our trip.  I have some clothes that will fit better with the loss of a few pounds and that gives me even greater incentive.  With two days of this already behind me, I can safely say it's the kick in the pants I needed.  We will leave around May 9, the hard left turn has already been made, the path I am following looks like this:

Sugarland Valley Nature Trail - GSMNP
April 2, 2010


I am so excited about everything!  Those liars I wrote about have been banished for now!   I'm ready to rid myself of these pounds because I KNOW I can do maintenance and I've never been this confident of that before. Thanks Dawne, for your inspiration and a blog that has inspired me from the day I first found it.  And believe me, I'll more than welcome anyone else who'd like to join me in my HARD CORE LEFT TURN!  Yours can even be a right turn if you'd like!   LOL!!

Rocky Mountain National Park - May, 2009

Anybody else interested in making a hard core turn in April?

Friday, April 1, 2011

No Foolin'

Little Cataloochee Baptist Church - GSMNP
Little Cataloochee Trail - March 20, 2011

This morning's Bible reading brought me to Psalm 120 and the following words in verses 1 and 2:

I'm in trouble. 
I cry to God, desperate for an answer:
   "Deliver me from the liars, God!
      They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth." 
The Message Translation

What powerful words to those of us who struggle mightily with food.  "Deliver me from the liars.  They smile so sweetly, but lie through their teeth."   It was almost as if I was dreaming because I could see that sweet potato pancake with a broad smile made out of pecans saying, "yummy, I'm so good, I'll taste delicious and you'll feel great about everything."   I could see bags of potato chips and boxes of Triscuits smiling sweetly, but knowing they all tell lies.  And as a Christian, I know God is powerful enough to deliver me from the liars, but I also know that same God enables me to slay my own dragons teaching me valuable lessons in the meantime.  The scripture was powerful and it was a time of very meaningful devotion as the words jumped off the page and into my life.  We all have "liars" that smile sweetly and from which we beg for deliverance.  Take a moment to consider yours and to whom or what you turn for help.  Your God may be different from mine, but we all have to have somewhere to turn when the "liars" become too much to bear.

Growing older has given me an ever-increasing appreciation for the sacrifices made by others in order for me to have the things I enjoy today.  A battle is being waged in my soul as I plunge deeper into the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a place where I find so much pleasure.  In order for me to enjoy the park as I do today, many people were forced from the only homes they'd ever known.  Yes, they were paid for their land and homes, but once they left them, it's doubtful they ever saw them again. In fact, most of the structures were burned in order to keep the folks from returning.  Doesn't that just break your heart?  The Little Cataloochee Baptist Church (pictured above) is one of the historic structures that remain although one has to hike no less than 5 miles (round-trip) in order to see it.   Ironically, Mr. B and I were alone here at 11:00 on a Sunday morning two weeks ago.  There were no children running around, no bells ringing and no covered dishes being carried in for dinner on the ground following the service.  I could close my eyes and in the silence, almost hear all of those things happening. 

And I was filled with gratitude.  Gratitude for the people who gave their livelihood so that I could "worship" in their church on that Sunday morning.  Gratitude for my own church where, at that very moment, all of those things WERE happening.  Gratitude for renewed health that allowed me to walk far enough to see this church, the Hannah cabin, the Messer cabin, the old apple orchards and the remains of an old apple barn.  

But in a setting like that amidst the gratitude, I could not help but be sad for all they had lost.  And my prayer was this:  Please let me never take my time, my joys, my freedoms, my relationships, my health and any other blessing I've received for granted.  Please let me never be so consumed with OTHER things that I fail to see how fortunate I am.  Please let me make every attempt to GIVE more than I RECEIVE and always be willing to LOSE in order to GAIN.

On this April Fool's Day, please take a moment to look around and consider what someone might have lost in order for you to be living the life and enjoying the pleasure you are today.  It really puts food and our obsession with it in proper perspective.