Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Battles

The fan blows cool [ocean] breezes across our faces.

We choose our tactics and strategize our assault.

My fleet floats, poised for the attack.
Take aim, call out the coordinates.
"C-2, G-5."
"Miss, Hit," the enemy responds.
Damaged weapons are removed; the order, "Carry on."
"Take your best shot."
More shots fired, more misses, more hits.

Battleship sunk.  I lost.  Because you lose one battle doesn't mean you lose the war.
All summer, full steam ahead.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Mathematics of Weight Loss

For awhile I was using an on-line calorie and exercise counter. The best part was completing the day's entry and the program calculated how much you would weigh in five weeks if you continued the pattern of that day.  The affect of the goal being posted and completed (the weight lost) was very encouraging and motivating. However, each time I used the site for a few days, I had major computer issues causing shut down and sometimes loss. Perhaps coincidence, but I decided it wasn't worth the risk of losing my computer's capabilities and storage.

As an alternative, I tried to find a way to calculate the same information. In order to lose one pound of body fat, you must accumulate a 3,500 calorie deficit between the calories you burn and the calories you eat. That means, for the 45 pounds I have lost, I have decreased my calories, increased my exercise and earned a deficit of 157,500 calories.  Wow.

The goal is not really weight loss, but loss of body fat.  That is accomplished by building muscle, which increases the metabolism which burns more calories in everyday life.  As I increase my exercise level and build muscle, I burn more calories, and can figure a projected loss of body fat each week. Simplified (with lots of other factors, this is really over-simplified and unscientific), if I eat 1500 calories and burn 600 calories (400 kickboxing and 200 walking - both low estimates) I can be sure to continue losing fat.

The exercise allows (and requires) me to eat more, think more about nutrition and health when I eat, and feed the muscle for strength and fitness. The days we do the longer kickboxing sessions we notice an increase in our appetites, and have to compensate for the energy burned.  Emotional factors are tricky - not eating what I feel like or if I need some munchies, or worse, I deserve a treat because I [whatever].  They end up being just excuses.  For me, that is the value of a mathematical perspective.  Am I eating more than I should?  Exercising less than I should?  What are the facts, and choose accordingly.

 A helpful guideline is WIWM.  What I Want More. 
Do I want the fitness and health and strength, or do I want the candy or extra helping or Starbuck's Java Chip Frappuccino (sigh...). And, more often than I would like to admit, I do choose the goodies.
The formula, wisely applied, will result in weight loss and health and strength and confidence.

This information is from Turbo Fire, Turn Up the Burn, Chalene Johnson, Beachbody.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fruit Pizza

Do you have an abundance of fresh fruit?  A favorite way to use up lots of good fruit is fruit pizza.
4 cups flour
2/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
Mix all together until doughy, press on to greased or sprayed pizza pan or large cookie tray.

Spread sliced fruit over the dough.  We use peaches or apricots or plums.

Sprinkle with a generous amount of cinnamon.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup firm butter or margarine
Cut butter in with the brown sugar and flour.  Crumble topping over the fruit.
Bake 375 degrees until bubbly and beginning to brown, 15 - 20 minutes. Slice while still warm, good to eat warm or cold.
plum and peach pizza

Monday, June 27, 2011

Defeat and Victory

The theme of our weekend family gathering was golf. The purpose may have been to celebrate one son's graduation from the Sheriff Explorer Academy, but when this group of guys gets together, the theme is golf. For them, especially since one of them made his college golf team, it is a consuming sport: the backyard was dusted with golf balls, the talk was of golf, the plans were of golf. On Sunday, the guys went - guess where - golfing. A shopping trip to a beautiful outdoor mall was the gal's alternative: a relaxing, wander around, enjoy the sights afternoon. Surprising to me, a scene that stands out in my memory is about - guess what - golf.

In one of the store windows, a banner hung with this quote:
"Own your defeats and you will be defined by your victories."

The story is of Rory Mcilroy, 2011 US Open Champion, a story probably familiar to you already; a young man who accepted defeat, learned from it, and had the courage to move forward to victory. He was not defeated by disappointment, but strengthened by it and from it created a stepping stone to go where he wanted to go. Most of us are not facing defeats and victories that will bring us world-wide fame. Ours are on a smaller scale of relationships and daily grind.  Yet, aren't they the same?  The things that make or break us are determined by the choices we make.  Will we be defeated by the disappointments, or will they strengthen us?
This weekend I began reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, How I Learned to Live a Better Story, by Donald Miller. What story will our lives tell?  Who will our character (ourselves) become?  What lessons will our character learn as s/he  overcomes the challenges, conflicts and obstacles along the way? On a personal, specific level, what choices will I make to tell an interesting story with my life? What will your story be like?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Graduations and Life

Life is full of graduations, most of them not formal events, but personal achievements - stepping stones from one level or skill to the next.  One step at a time.
Each step may not seem like much, but it is progress, the forward motion, that counts.  Over time, we can look back along the path and realize how far we have come.
The speech quoted below is from our daughter's high school graduation speech last June (valedictorian, proud mom!).  I thought it would be fitting to include parts of it here, as a marker for her to think how far she has come in the last year, and as a reminder to all of us to think about our stepping stones and our dreams yet ahead.

     Many graduation speeches might begin with “We made it!” or “This is it!” But, in truth, this is just the beginning. As an artist, I like to look at this as a drawing. We’ve completed the outline, now it’s time to shade in the details of our lives. Our younger years have given us the footing we need to move ahead in life and be successful. High school graduation is not the end of the road, but merely a stepping stone in the long walk called life.
     We have our entire future to discover ourselves and build our lives. Whether we’re going to college, joining the military, or just joining the workforce we’re all stepping out on our own paths. Throughout high school and our younger years our lives have been pretty similar, growing, getting into school, moving up from grade level to grade level. But now it’s time for us to step off the path and forge our own way, leave our own foot prints, and decide where our path is going to take us.

...Now we can take the lessons we’ve learned, and show the world what we can do! It is time for us to start our own lives, learn our own lessons, make our own marks on the world, and discover who we are!
     I’d like to end this with an amazing quote I heard by Brad Paisley: “Visualize what you want out of life with all your might. Close your eyes and build it in your mind. If you want to be an architect, visualize the things you want to build. If you want to be a songwriter, visualize the effect your music will have on the audience. That’s what I do. If you don’t dream about what you want, it will never come true.” So let’s not only start dreaming, but make our dreams a reality! 
Good luck to everyone and God Bless You! 
Her blog is:
Her website:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing Tools: Then and Now

The writing tools of before...
the sounds of a pen scratching across the paper, the pen tapping against the ink bottle, the fan blades whir in the background, blots of ink splash as words are edited out, the jangle of the phone...

And the different tools of today...
fingers click across the keyboard, air conditioning hums, the rhythm of backspace tapped out as words are deleted, the favorite tune ringing on the i-phone, an e-mail appears on the computer...

My preference is the tools of before, like my native tongue.  As I become more fluent with using today's tools, switching back and forth becomes a way of generating new ideas.  If I get stuck at a certain point, picking up a piece of paper and a pen, or transposing the words on paper to the computer gets the words flowing again.  As some languages have better phrases and more expression than others, so I can find a variety of expression as I write using a variety of tools.

Which tools do you prefer?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Art Inspiration

My friend, Jane, came to visit this week, with paint gear and sketch book as always. She is a great example to me of paying attention to the ordinary everyday scenes of beauty around us. She was the first one, years ago, who pointed out to me that art is about ordinary events.  She said, "Look at this famous painting: a little girl, sitting in a chair, with a handkerchief in her lap.  How ordinary is that?"  Jane showed me that great art is often not about the profound or miraculous, but about the common, the usual, even in the people around us.

 Though my tools as a writer are different from hers as an artist, we both enjoy looking for the moments of the day to capture with words, camera, or on canvas.  She is developing her skills as a plein-air painter - an artist who paints outdoors, capturing light and shadows, and being able to work quickly to capture a scene. The word comes from the French Impressionists style.  That is also what I attempt to distill into words: the impression of a scene or an event or a character.  She talks about composition, meaning to arrange the parts of a scene to create a unified, harmonious whole.  Not that much different from the compositions I write to form a picture in the reader's mind with words.

We talked and shared thoughts and inspiration and goals and motivation and where we are each headed with our skills, what we plan and hope to accomplish through our work. We spent a pleasant afternoon inspiring each other.
another one of Jane's paintings 
Her website and blog is, if you want to peek at some more of her work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Denim Quilt

I made a similar denim quilt before we were married, thirty six years ago.  Over the years, it became worn and torn.  My idea was to take it apart and use the pieces to re-make it into a new quilt, but when I took it apart, it disintegrated into shreds.  A few of the denim pieces were redeemable, but most of this quilt is newly cut from old jeans and scraps from my fabric collection.  The old quilt was heavy and warm.  Not sure why, but this one is lightweight, a good summer quilt.  I switched it out today with the heavier winter quilt, ready for the warmer nights of the season.
 This quilt was made with old, unwearable jeans and random pieces of fabric.  The old and frayed and the random, with a little bit of work, becomes useful again. Hopefully that will be true for those of us (all of us) who are getting a little older and a little more frayed each day. Notice I did not  say more random each day...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

Balboa Park in San Diego is a multi-cultural source of sensory overload on a weekend afternoon.  We did not hear much English spoken; it was interesting to listen to the variety of foreign sounds.  I have no idea how many different languages we heard. Many.
On a Saturday stroll through the park:

  • man playing jazzy tunes on his Saxophone
  • group of teens showing off their yo-yo stunts
  • chimes booming from the tiled tower, wondering how many years they had been ringing
  • water lily pond, koi swimming around
  • rose garden, colors, smells
  • young man strumming his banjo
  • Botanical building with palms, shade plants, ferns
  • photographers everywhere
  • bridal parties being photographed
  • old buildings, amazing architecture, artistry, creativity, style from a hundred years ago
  • quinceanera parties (please assure me they were too young to be brides)
  • little ballerina in her tutu and make-up, hair tight in a bun, like she had been performing her dance
  • picnics spread around, people playing cards, reading books, relaxing in the sun, sharing a casual meal
  • stretched back on his elbows in the sun, man foot-tapping to his i-pod plugged into his ears
  • magicians,  and a balloon man shaping animals

These are a small sampling of all that was going on around us, a tiny slice of the humanity happening at the park on a busy early summer afternoon.

On Sunday we went to the Oceanside Harbor Village.

 A fun spot of cute shops to wander through, with quaint little eating spots. Clam chowder in bread bowls, eaten on the harbor edge, being stared at by seagulls. The signs said, "Don't Feed the Birds," so we couldn't share with them.

We walked out on the rock jetty and sat awhile, watching the waves and the surfers. Pleasant and peaceful, enjoying the sun and water splashes.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Time Together

We played games together this morning, two of our  favorites, Phase 10 and Parcheesi. This is our top plan for this summer - time together: playing games, reading books aloud, time goofing around at the park, enjoying games in the backyard.
As the years go by and the kids grow up, some leaving home, I see more and more that the best thing we can do is spend time together. 
 Time spent just playing, goofing around, talking, doing nothing in particular except for being together.  Too soon, they have flown away.
I want their memories of home to be of happy, together times. I want that memory, too.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rat Traps

A rat has taken up residence in my compost bin - a warm, comfy, secure, protected place where manna is tossed daily onto his head.  In the mornings he is gone with no evidence of tunneling in or out.  In the evenings his rotund, plump body sits there, waiting with greedy beady eyes for me to toss in dinner's debris.

Bought a rat trap - do not want his children's cousins moving in.

in case you're wondering, he is not in this photo 

I love to walk through IKEA.  If we need one or two specific things, we stay downstairs and go straight to the Marketplace.  Otherwise, it will take a couple of hours to stroll through the room displays.  What makes this room work?  What do I love about this area?  How could I duplicate this at home?
On one excursion, we were wandering through the kitchens, looking particularly at their storage ideas.  One of the pleasant things about IKEA is its hands-on attitude.  Touch it, sit on it, open it, inspect it.  One kitchen had a pot on the stove top, its lid slightly tipped. Curiosity can be dangerous.  I lifted the lid.  Inside, an eight inch stuffed rat was curled up (they sell them as stuffed animals in the children's department).  Its tail popped out of the pan as the lid came off.
Yes, I screamed.  Two employees nearby snickered and giggled, laughing at my reaction.  Apparently, I was the one caught in that rat trap.