Is it summer yet?

20 Mar

I need this chair.  Seriously. Today has been spectacular! It’s a balmy 77* outside, lots of sunshine (although right now it’s beginning to cloud up) and all in all, I’m ready for summer and the beach!

We’re putting plans together for our back yard deck. Ultimately, it will be about 16’x16′ and be home to the grill, the aforementioned Ostrich 3N1 Beach Chair (in hot tiki pink!), several Tiki Torches and a couple of solar Tiki god thingys. I saw those at Big Lots! last week, but didn’t buy them at that time. I showed this photo to HNG; he was speechless. Yeah, well… but this Tiki glows at night!!! Can you imagine all the possibilities of that?

It boggles the mind!

And really, that’s the joy of the first really warm, sunny day after an arduous winter season. Our December and January snows were wonderful and I enjoyed my first ever ‘white Christmas’, so I’m really not complaining at all. In fact, I found it all absolutely enchanting, even though we got woefully behind in our instructional calendar at school. Oh well. But the intensity of the winter, with the 8 inches of snow in January make the arrival of spring and warm weather all the more welcomed. It means recovery and renewal, refreshment of the soul – a new season and second chances. Growth. Resurrection and restoration.

Tiki exuberance aside, I wish you a spectacular spring and the best summer ever!


“Give me a beach”

20 Mar

My friend and fellow blogger/writer ‘Tee’ posted that plea on my previous post. She’s had a rough couple of weeks – a lot of real ‘high’ moments with a couple of very ‘low’ moments thrown in.

Most people don’t understand what teachers do – good ones or “bad” ones. I have some thoughts on that.

First of all, I yield to no one in my desire for fiscal responsibility and Constitutional fidelity. I think our government has grown far beyond what is healthy for any of us. We’re looking at the ‘government’ as if ‘it’ were alive! and was actually an authentic producer of wealth and safety. It isn’t. Counties and cities depend on tax payers. While all public servants, from garbage collectors to the mayor and governor, pay taxes (property, income, sales, licensing fees, etc), we don’t produce wealth. We provide services for those who do produce wealth. We collect their garbage, teach their children, archive and process information on their behalf, and care for them when they’re sick, injured, or threatened. But public servants have to be a minority of the citizenry – not a majority. Consider this quote from Alexis de Tocqueville, from his classic work Democracy in America (circa 1835):

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

We are far beyond that point; this nation is bankrupt. We cannot produce enough to pay off the national debt and fund the entitlements. Period. There is not enough money. Period.

NEA members can call me a ‘tea bagger’ til they’re blue in the face. There is no more money. This is NOT a ‘democracy’. The US is a constitutional republic. If you don’t know the difference, read both The Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers. Read them very carefully. Pay attention to Jefferson and George Mason.

But at the same time, people need to stop making teachers – even bad ones – scapegoats. Elementary teachers have about 25 to 30 kids they spend some six hours with and try to instruct them in half a dozen subjects. Middle and high school teachers have up to 125+ kids they see for about 45 minutes a day. Teachers do not have staff. They copy, collate and staple their own papers. I know some schools do have a dedicated person to run copies, but many more do not. Teachers have about 20 minutes for lunch and more often than not work through part of that short time. They do have about 45 minutes for a ‘planning period’ during which time they look up parent contact information, try to make a few phone calls, run off some more class sets of work and wish they weren’t constantly teaching to whatever tests the legislators have mandated. I have a very good friend who is a very good teacher. Recently she told me she didn’t feel as if she’d taught English in three years – she felt more like she was running a year long test prep course, like Kaplan’s LSAT or MCAT preps. Because we have this myth of measurability, teachers are essentially just teaching to a test. That is not real learning, but since only teachers are held accountable for success or failure, they’re going to do what they have to.

Unlike private business, teachers can’t reject kids whose work ethic is non- existent. We are obligated to take whatever walks in the room and try to make him/her believe in the joys of our subject. We compete with MP3 players, XBox, WiFi, Wii, Facebook, cell phones and text messages, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.

Look here’s the deal, folks: teachers in general, and public schools in particular, have to deal with not only kids in various stages of growth (including hormonal), but with parents who put their sex/social life ahead of their children, with 15 year olds who cannot read, with what the late Pope John Paul II called “the culture of death”. Come spend a day in school with us. Look at what the kids wear. Count the facial piercings, the tattoos. Look at the t-shirt graphics. Then take a look at some of the parents.

Teachers – our producers of wealth can’t endure the financial burden any longer, so stop demanding benefits we can’t afford. You non-teachers – teachers aren’t your enemy nor are they the source of your problems. Stop right now and define what you mean by “good” and “bad” teachers. Define your terms! And let’s see some better role modeling from all the adult sectors.

You want higher test scores? Don’t fire the teachers. Reject this culture of death. Until you do, nothing – not one bloody thing – will change.

Go do your own research on this and get back to me. Until then, Tee and I will be at the beach, soaking up sun and sipping on margaritas. It’s five o’clock somewhere.

Progress, Albeit Slow

20 Feb

Since I started this venture, I’ve shed about 10 lbs – a couple of them several times.  It’s been slow going.

The good thing, though, is that we are changing our eating habits.  Starches, most sugars and other ‘bad’ carbs are largely out of our menus.  Last night, we cheated by having burgers at ‘Five Guy’s’ in M’boro.  We had to go up to the Boro to get our MicroCell tower from AT&T, so the cell phones will work in the house.  (It works!!!).  We decided to make it a “date night”, so we shared a chocolate shake from Krystal’s (bad hamburgers, great shakes).

And we cheated Thursday night when a meeting ran 2 hours over and the restaurant we’d planned on was closed.  We ended up at Papa John’s eating pizza and sharing a coke.

What I’m learning is that we have to move to stage two: on the whole, we’re doing well on our Primal Diet but that’s only part one of the Primal Blueprint Mark Sisson advocates.  The other part is exercise and that’s where we’re both coming up short.

We’re doing the interval training (HNG is more consistent with it than I am), but Mark believes you have to integrate movement into your everyday life just as you move to eliminate certain foods from your diet.  We need to move more.  Mark’s third component along with diet and movement is (ta da!) playtime!

It isn’t enough to do a really hard (though effective) workout (this ‘peak 8’ interval is 20 minutes 3x a week).  We all need to play – walks with the dogs incorporating frisbee time, or a walk interspersed with an all out sprint.

Kick boxing, if there were a place close to me, would be great fun.  My weight loss buddy does it and it makes her feel great.  She’s losing pounds even though she indulged in Valentine’s day chocolates (I did too – Valentine’s chocolates are magically non-fattening.  So there.)  And, she has a great time even if she’s sore after!

I’m still thrilled I’ve dropped the pounds even though I’m behind where I wanted to be by now.   So this week, I’ll work on getting serious about my interval and Jillian workouts, and if the weather cooperates, I’ll try to get outside after work and get in the garden or walk the dog.

So here comes Stage Two!


Clutter is Toxic

15 Jan

It’s about 37* outside right now, the snow is melting at last and I’m happy that my house is clean and organized!  I’m making a concerted effort to banish clutter from my house and my life.  Sometimes I think I’m going to drown in all the paper I have to deal with and it really does create a lot of angst.

I subscribe to several sites, including Kim Lyons, one of the the “Biggest Loser” coaches.  An email from her site last week caught my eye: her kitchen tour.  I mentioned in a previous post that I’d been convinced to give up my ZipLoc/Glad/Rubbermaid plastic storage containers (for left overs) in favor of glass containers.  That video was the impetus for my change.  My reasoning was that glass is easier to clean up and I can get it really clean in the dishwasher and the tops are BPA free.  All good.

But something else struck me in her video: her fridge was not chock full of stuff.  Now her fridge is maybe twice the size of mine,  but the ultimate lesson was there for all.  You can freeze things for long term and put canned goods up for a long term, but the fridge portion of your food supply, that is, the fresh fruits, veggies, thawed meats, cheese, etc will not hold out for an indeterminate amount of time.  I tend to stock up on food, accumulate left-overs and forget what I have.  Too many time, HNG forgets there are goodies for his lunch from the night before and he makes something else.  Things get pushed farther back. Amazing how a smaller fridge can provide refuge to food that will resemble a science project gone horribly wrong within days.  Wasting food is not an option, morally or economically! The Kim Lyons Kitchen Tour had me doubling my resolve to keep the fridge as uncluttered and organized as possible and use up leftovers within 2 days of the original meal.  This requires some planning, so planning is what I’m trying to master.

And while we’re on clutter, I’ve come to believe that clutter is a major bane of existence made carcinogenic when you love things like books and music and collect the dang things.   I will have to set a time to purge some books that I most likely will never revisit – and there are some videos and DVDs that will need new homes as well.

I suppose there’s a pride thing that goes on with keeping some stuff.  Books and music are pretty good indicators of who you are or where you are in your life (or where you’ve been or wanted to go)  and they might impress folks who stop by or attend your social gatherings.  They also serve to hit you upside the head with a reality check – to wit:

Under what circumstances would you ever consciously seek out and read this book again?

I certainly return again and again to some of my books: gardening, several of my theology and history tomes, and my homesteading & “how-to” books come to mind.   But my novels?  Not so much.  I read them once and enjoy them, but I don’t reread many of them, except for Tolkein maybe.  I enjoy the fantasy genre and have come across several novels and series that were great fun, but I’m don’t think I’ll be re-reading them anytime soon.  Who am I impressing by keeping them (besides dust bunnies)?

Music is becoming less of a problem because of MP3s and MP4s and whatever  iTunes comes up with next.  As wonderful as Lps were (cover art, lyric sheets and such – and actually better audio quality in many cases), CDs and the MP3s/4s are much easier to handle and store.  DVDs trump VHS but even better is Netflix!  Netflix means never having to find another 1/2″  space on the shelf; watch a movie, mail it back. Yea!

Work out #1 Is In The Books

14 Jan

I did it.  I completed my first work out using Jillian Michael’s “30 Day Shred”.  I did Level One – the “entry level”.  I’d watched the video through a few times and was familiar with the different exercise components.

Oof.  I did get through it but it was tough, which only underscores how terribly out of shape I am. Without going into “TMI” territory (Too Much Information), I had to take a 2 minute break to use the ladies’ room.  Total workout time on the tape is 20 minutes and you’re going pretty close to full tilt boogie the whole time.  At the end of it, I was wiped out.  Totally, completely wiped out to the point where my HNG looked over in alarm to ask “are you alright?” and was moving toward the phone to dial 911.  (HNG is looking over my shoulder and claims I am being overly dramatic.)

I did recover, get cleaned up and after 5 days of being snowed in, we managed to get out to the post office, trash dump, and grocery store, where I picked up several small cartons of organic heavy cream.

I’ve mentioned Mark Sisson and his Primal Blueprint.  I really like his approach to overall health – lots of meat! Check him out at Mark’s Daily Apple.

HNG is a big fan of the Eads doctors (a husband & wife team) who advocate pretty close to a primal diet as well.  They have a protein shake that can sub for a meal (or meals) and (so they say) helps you ‘de-tox’.   The shake is made up of whey powder (we love chocolate), a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream – organic if you can find it and the reason for my purchase – and half teaspoons each of Ribose and L-Leucine, along with flavorings if you wish.  The base is water and ice, put through the blender to make a pretty good shake.  If you’re interested in the Eads and their approach to weight loss and overall health, check them out:  Michael and Mary Dan Eads.

But I have to admit I was close to morose after the workout even though I did make it all the way through.  It really isn’t that hard and I was fixin’ to die at the half way point.  How did I get so terribly out of shape?  Actually that’s a gratuitous question; I know very well how I got here:  I don’t play.  Not as in “I don’t play enough”, but as in “I don’t play at all” and that’s why I really respond to Mark Sisson’s approach.  He advocates getting out to play.  Structure your workouts around playing.  The DVD workouts are a fabulous place to start, but a really great workout can also center around an adventure hike in the woods, at the beach, in the park with your dog and a frisbee.

He’s got a workout schedule that includes one day of all out effort (he calls it “Run Like Grok!”), a couple of days of “Lift Heavy Things” and 4 days of ‘Move Slowly/Play/Rest’ – your choice.   When you check out his website, look for his free e-book “Primal Blueprint Fitness”  which has the details and some charts.

Disclaimer: following the links does not result in my making any money.  Just so you know.

Lethargy and Apathy and Ennui – Oh My!

13 Jan

Several lifetimes ago, former Monkee Mike Nesmith wrote a song titled “(Running from) the Grand Ennui”.  That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing.  I have some great exercise videos, extra time due to ‘snow days’  and here I sit doing… nothing.

Well, not exactly, but close.  I have given my house a pretty deep and thorough cleaning, gotten the kitchen and fridge re-organized and cleaned out, have been convinced to pitch my plastic containers (the ones I save leftovers in) in favor of glass containers from Pyrex (their site debunks internet rumors of bizarre microwave explosions, BTW) and am trying to plan more “paleo/primal (Grok!)” menus.

I’ve stayed up late watching “24” via NetFlix streaming videos feature – very cool! – and slept in.  Haven’t been able to go anywhere because my drive way is snowed in and neither I nor HNG are willing to shovel 8″  of snow for some 200 ft just to go to the post office or the grocery store (we do have enough food for the duration).

So why do I feel guilty and restless?  Well, we aren’t getting serious with either diet or exercise; I watched the exercise videos when I first got them, but that’s been it.  Meant to get started over Christmas (had an extra 3 days then due to snow) and when I didn’t, I promised I’d start this week (where the whole week was snowed in, so no work).   I should revel in a clean house, laundry all done (including dog beds!).  The sun is out in full force (“Here Comes the Sun” – another great song – thanks George) but I feel fat and frumpy and decidedly grumpy.

I loaded all of my “Beach Boys” and “Jan & Dean” CDs to my iTunes and created a playlist of their music for my little iPod ‘shuffle’.  Usually, listening to them makes me happy and energetic, but not today.

I should bundle up and play in the snow with the dogs.  I should put on my workout duds and work my way through one of my Jillian Michael DVDs – just a piddly little workout here.  I should do both of these things, but I probably won’t and I really can’t say why.

*** Here’s a link to Michael’s song (with his band “First National Band” or FNB).  You will have to click through to ‘YouTube’ to see it, but there are other Michael Nesmith songs there, including my favorites “Propinquity” & “Some of Shelley’s Blues”, both of which were covered by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band circa 1971.  Michael’s biggest hit was “Different Drum”, recorded by The Stone Ponys featuring Linda Ronstadt (1968).

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere (but not here)

27 Nov

Oh what a week.  My attention has been divided between a sick hubby and an elderly mom who found new digs (gratefully very close to her old ones) and moved today.  Well, sort of.  Her stuff is in the new place but the workmen are finishing up and her lease doesn’t start til Wednesday.  However, the good guys who helped us move a couple of years ago could only work today – so there you are.  Hubby’s issues stem from his meds and the doctor has switched the offenders.

I narrowly avoided buying “Margaritaville Mango Margarita Mix” at the store the other day.  My oh my – it did sound wonderful and this week certainly merited large quantities of adult beverages.  I had the bottle in my hand, put it in my cart and (sigh) put it back.  I decided that a drink that festive needed to be enjoyed at an equally festive event.   So I went home to devise a plan that would fulfill several goals.

I need to lose 30 lbs. I need to get fit.  I need to play and that includes partying once in awhile.  So I took inventory of what I have to work with as far as exercises go: I have a 10 lb kettlebell and a DVD workout for it; I have a Schwinn Air-Dyne stationary bike that is a marvelous dust collector and office objet d’art/obstacle.  I have an obese but lovable mountain cur dog that desperately needs walking.  I have a Doberman puppy that also needs exercise and training.  I have a wonderful mixed breed mostly golden retriever who would love a romp in the woods any time. I have lots of excuses about why none of this has gotten done over the past year, but even I’m tired of hearing them, never mind getting up the energy to trot them out yet again.

So – the plan is being formulated as we speak. I’ve ordered “The Kettlebell Goddess Workout” from Dragon Door Publications and their head kettlebell goddess/guru, Andrea DuCane.  I committed $29.95 to that endeavor.  Next, I ordered Jillian Michaels’ “The 30 Day Shred” which promises to help you lose “up to” 20 lbs in a month. I know that can be done because I’ve done it but it was due to a very traumatic event and I drank water because I had to, but I didn’t much want to eat anything.  I lost 30 lbs in about 3 weeks. Yeah, pretty extreme. I also ordered Jillian’s “6 Week 6 Pack” and “Yoga Meltdown”.  And I signed up for a 13 week stint with her on-line coaching program.

My other ‘guru’ is Mark Sisson of “The Primal Blueprint” fame. I’ve got his books (Blueprint and the recipe book) and like his approach.  I have to modify some of Jillian’s recipes to fit the primal blueprint.  She’s pretty close, but still into low-fat stuff.  I don’t think modifying her plan will be hard.  What I have to do is create a 7 day menu which included all meals  and a shopping list.  One reason I’m put off by various diet plans is that it’s hard for me to fix the breakfasts or lunches they propose.  I don’t have time or stomach for a lot of the breakfast items and I have 20 minutes for lunch if I’m lucky (another factor in childhood obesity – insanely short lunch periods.  Why can’t kids and teachers have an hour for lunch?).

The DVDs I ordered won’t be here until the middle of next week at the earliest.  I have 3 weeks til Christmas break and this next week promises to be almost as hectic as this last one.

I have to work in menus and workouts with playtime.  I will work on the “Tiki Jane Fitness Plan!” tomorrow and next week.  When I have December worked out, I shall celebrate with that mango margarita. That will be my launch party: next Friday, December 3rd, 2o1o.  It’ll be 5:00 here!