Whimsy and wonderings about everyday life

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

55 Digital Citizenship Links – great resources from Ask a Tech Teacher

Safety on the Internet - SanSense

Digital citizenship is something that our kids need to learn early and well. The links in this blog update have some great tips.

Sadly for me, I don’t have any children in grades K-six any more. But, for those who do, here are some handy links for teaching them to use the Web safely and responsibly. It has a link to be notified when the “digital citizenship” curriculum is updated.

The site, written by an experienced technology teacher, is a worthwhile follow for any parent whose children spend time online.

Weekend Website #114: 55 Digital Citizenship Links.

via AskaTechTeacher.


Last minute gift idea for your fitness fanatic or to help with your own New Year’s resolution – FitBit

I love FitBit. I’ve lost an undisclosable amount of weight with the device, which I have been using since April. Suffice it to say I’ve gone down three to four sizes. The women out there can figure out the math.

I went to the doctor in July, when my fitness regimen of walking with my  buddy was not doing the trick. I told him I thought my metabolism might be at issue. He asked me what I ate on any given day. I told him. He asked me how often I drank wine or beer or any other alcohol. I told him. He said, matter-of-factly, “Your problem is that you eat and drink too much.” And so it was.

I cut out bad carbs and followed something resembling the South Beach Diet through the end of September. I cut out wine entirely for the first rhree months. It was my alcoholic beverage of choice. I easily gave up beer, since I have it two or three times a year at most. Hard liquor only makes an appearance when egg nog rears its ugly-yet-sublimely-tasty head – right about now, as a matter of fact, in December.

By the end of November, I had reached my doctor’s target weight for me. I *might* want to lose some more weight, but we shall see if it continues to come off as easily as it has to date. This is about health ore than vanity (although vanity certainly plays a role.) Here are before and after pictures:

In 2008, before FitBit

In 2008, before FitBit

In 2012, after FitBit

In 2012, after FitBit

Why does FitBit work?

1. It asked me the right questions. How much weight did I want to lose? What was my activity level? By answering these simple questions honestly, I was able to see how many steps I needed to take each day and how many calories I could consume.

2. It set achievable goals. For me? 10,000 steps a day, which i easily achieve (I’m a mom. I have an Australian shepherd and a Jack Russell terrier. 10,000 steps is not difficult.) 10 sets of stairs, which, in hilly Colorado, is also easy. I did notice that, when I visited family in Alabama, those ten sets of stairs were more difficult to come by.

3. It encouraged me in whimsical and frequent ways. FitBit gives you badges for achievements as mundane as walking 5,000 steps. Now I’ve walked over two million. Booyah. I would not know that if not for FitBit. My BMI went from the obese range to 24.5, perfectly normal. I would not have known this if not for FitBit.

4. The upgrades made sense and added value. I bought the Aria scale. It kept me honest by automatically updating my weight wirelessly every time I weighed in. I upgraded to the Pro membership and logged my sleep and food. I get a nutritional report on demand, a personal trainer analysis, a sleep analysis, and an exercise analysis (sedentary, low effort, and high effort.) All of this was useful. I could print out the results and take them to the doctor for my monthly weigh-in, should I so choose. (I never needed to because, after the first month of rapid weight loss, I lost between two and three pounds a week.)

5. The community option was there if I needed it. I’ve been a member of Weight Watchers. It worked for me as a teen. It did not as an adult because, perhaps, I am less vulnerable to peer pressure. For whatever reason, I did not need community support. But I knew I had it if I did.

I highly recommend FitBit.    It is a great product. It has produced results for me. It is accurate, inobtrusive and handy. I  definitely consider myself a FitBit success story.

FitBit success story

FitBit is a helpful gadget for anyone who wants to lose weight and keep it off!

The doors of hope

  “Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.”           

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger                                     


Have you ever seen a child alight with pure hope so powerful, so trusting, you’ll do whatever it takes to make his or her dream come true?

 This is the season of hope for the child within each of us. Perhaps, just for today, you might choose to focus on the ideal of the rebirth each year of the long ago new idea, of perfect, unconditional love. Because if you reject the focus on the imperfect way we play this ideal out, just for today, you might find something of value for yourself  in the truth that remains.

Just think about the ideal of perfect, unconditional love, itself.

But, you say, Christianity was responsible for the deaths of thousands. Millions. Therefore, God must not exist, and perfect, unconditional love is a myth.

Radical Islamists brought down the twin towers in the name of religion. Therefore, God must not exist, and perfect, unconditional love is a myth.

Some fundamentalists spew hate at gays and lesbians and use the Bible to justify their beliefs. Therefore, God must not exist, and perfect, unconditional love is a myth.

Jews…Hindus…Buddhists…everyone has done bad things in the name of their religion. And, by the way, I eat pork, and the Bible says not to do that. Therefore God must not exist. Perfect, unconditional love is a myth.

Bad things happen. People hate other people. Therefore God must not exist. Perfect, unconditional love is a myth.

Isn’t that a bunch of rubbish when we write it out? Or, more pithily, as Scrooge said, “Bah. Humbug.”

Bad things happen. Perfect, unconditional love exists. It is abundant and available in the face of scarcity, of evil, of those bad things. It encourages the abundant, innate goodness in each of us in the face of evil.  It gives us the strength to comfort each other in the face of trouble. To help when bad things happen. To learn, to remember,  and to avert future disaster. To connect with each other. To be one. To heal. To hope.

Perfect, unconditional love encourages and forgives.  Always and everywhere. It is the  purest essence of God.  Perhaps, this year, spend a little time looking into what your concept of God is. Look at the god you don’t believe in. What *do* you believe in?  What have others discovered in the ongoing search, dating back to the beginning of recorded history, for a greater meaning beyond day-to-day, self absorbed survival?

Tap into the ideal this season. Suspend disbelief. Open up. See your life begin to transform, over time, into something fine, made of hope, love and generosity. A happy life, even with the inevitable sorrow and pain that comes with openness. A sacred life. A courageous life. A quite amazing and rewarding life. Not care-free, but cared-for, and surrounded by the certainty of unconditional love – which, is simply perfect.

In celebration of All Saints Day

“All of the places of our lives are sanctuaries; some of them just happen to have steeples. And all of the people in our lives are saints; it is just that some of them have day jobs, and most will never have feast days named for them.”
— Robert Benson in Between the Dreaming and the Coming True


Do you tend to look for the good in people or more typically try to find the bad in a ceaseless game of one-upsmanship? I think we’re biologically geared toward the latter. If we can find flaws in others, then we are, perhaps, not as woeful as we suspect.

But, like the choice to search for the Divine in life, looking for the good in others is a conscious choice and it takes commitment and perseverance. I find that I cannot see the good in others as clearly when I am driving. Or in Walmart. However, I can see it vividly in a nursing home. In a preschool. In a church service. Whenever I see two people who are tender with each other, for whatever reason. When someone is unexpectedly kind to me. When my son stirs on a lazy weekend morning and sleepily smiles at me –  before he awakened enough to raise the gates of his teenage defenses against the slings and arrows of the surly world.

There are saints around us everywhere, every day. Each of us is one. Each of us responds, when called, with our better nature.  You’ve done it before. I’ve done it before. Maybe next time, I won’t wait to be asked, but just step in and give. How about you?

Awash in vivid autumn colors: hiking in lovely Sedalia, Colorado

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!

Percy Bysshe Shelley

A walk in the woods of Sedalia, Colorado

A walk in the woods of Sedalia, Colorado

Enjoy this tribute to this beautiful autumn season in Colorado. This Rocky Mountain season is entirely too short, but while fall is here, it is glorious.  it’s a riot of colors, each more vivid than the last. The air is as crisp as the apples we use for the cider we sip at night. The days are made for hiking, and we tromp through the leaves, careless of the noise,unless we happen upon a mob of deer or a rafter of turkeys. As heedless as we are, until they see us, that is, they’re just trying to get their last good meals in before winter blankets the greenery and feeding becomes more scarce.

We sit by our evening fire, the flames a welcome novelty after the self-made heat of the recent summer. The winter snow is both a receding memory and something to anticipate anew. Snowshoeing will be fun this year.


Do you ever have a number you cannot remember, cannot Google, cannot find?

Handsome, but hot, Australian shepherd Niko prior to his grooming.

Handsome, but hot, Niko prior to his grooming.

For me, that number is for Tracey at Douglas County Animal Hospital in Castle Rock. She is the very talented woman who grooms our dog. We have an Australian shepherd, pictured above, pre-grooming. She recently did an amazing job clipping his coat so he can stay cooler during this hellishly hot Colorado summer. So I highly recommend Tracey, and her contact information, for your future reference and mine, is as follows:

531 Jerry St

Castle Rock CO 80104

Boarding and grooming: 303-663-1621

Hospital: 303.688.2480

Handsome ol' Niko, our Australian shepherd, after his grooming by Tracey.

Handsome ol’ Niko after his grooming by Tracey.

His hair may be short, but he is still a beautiful dog.

His hair may be short, but he is still a beautiful dog.

Relocation and renewal

Almost a year ago, we moved from Castle Rock, Colorado to Sedalia. We have a little bit of acreage now, and it backs to national forest. The setting is peaceful and spectacular.

Our front yard in Sedalia, Colorado
Our front yard in Sedalia, Colorado

Like all beautiful and meaningful things, it takes some work. For example, over the winter, I learned to operate a plow truck. For a girl from the Gulf Coast, that accomplishment is quite something. In the spring, we bought some little chicks.

Chicks in the stairwell

Our chickens, as babies, in the stairwell. They have been spoiled since birth.

They sheltered in a box in our stairwell for ten long weeks while their coop was being built. I found the design for the coop on the Internet, and then our genius master carpenter friend made it even better – the penthouse of chicken coops. We have eight happy, cheerful hens – four Ameracaunas and four Buff Brahmas – and they should start laying some eggs in the next month or so.

The chicken coop at night, with the inside heaters going strong.

The chicken coop at night, with the inside heaters going strong.

What I did not do this past year is write. Life intervened. I spent my days doing, going, organizing, packing, unpacking…without much time for contemplation. I did not have much silence in my life. Without time to think, I did not find time to write anything I thought worth reading.

Oddly, though I was always busy, it was not with work. Or with friends. The bland, uninspiring, plain-white-underwear-of-a-word for last year is logistics. For example, the Internet connection in the country is a changeable thing. Ours has been down as much as it has been up. The CenturyLink reps and I are on first name bases, and I now know what a doubler is. And a brownout. And how much replacing computers after a series of brownouts costs.

My son attended a middle school that is 45 minutes away from our new home. Though we bought our house in July, we did not move until January. So, we thought it unfair to move him mid-year, and we made the long commute every day.

Everything was further away from the veterinarian to the grocery store to the hairdresser.  Train tracks run through Sedalia,  north- and south-bound, and their schedules seem unpredictable. I have been delayed by two trains, one going in each direction. I have waited while a train stopped dead on the tracks, and, I guess, detached a car or two from its line-up.

Trains and schedules don't always mixAs a type-A person, I was used – even addicted – to brinksmanship with my calendar  – scheduling as many activities as possible as close together as remotely feasible. I was always on my way somewhere else as soon as an activity wrapped up.  My goal was to experience as much as  I could each day.

So, at first, I chafed with impatience at the unpredictability of my daily schedule.  I had to learn to allow more time, to do less, to accomplish fewer things each day. Slowly,  I learned how to manage my time better..and the days flowed past.

In May, my son finished middle school. Next year, he starts high school, which will mean long days for him, with football practice after school every day throughout the fall. The rural bus picks up all the kids, kindergarten through high school, on its route each day. He can take the bus and meet the “neighbors” along a ten or fifteen mile stretch. My husband will take him to school some mornings, because they both enjoy that time together, talking about whatever fathers and sons discuss when not impeded by female company.

I, on the other hand, will not have long days or competing responsibilities to juggle for the first time in a very long time. The question before me is this: what have I learned, if anything, from this year where I departed from my normal harried approach to life? Will I keep this slower, more serene existence and resist the temptation to fall back into an over-scheduled rut? Or, will I jump back into all the activities I’ve let fall away during the move – my small business, my lunch meetings, or my beloved but time consuming riding lessons?

Charge ahead, or enjoy the journey?

This has been a squiggly year, and I’ve come to realize I needed a break from the critical path approach to life in order to savor it as it should be savored.

I am not yet sure. But I do want to write about this changing journey, here. I want to describe what it’s like to see, and smell, and hear, 25 elk in the yard.

I wonder what my former HOA would think about this off-leash gathering? All i can say is, we’re going to need a lot more poop bags!

I want to bring you with me on my current adventure as I seek to deter the two bears who have moved into the neighborhood and like to come visit the chickens, raid the garage, and peer in the windows of our house. Perhaps most of all, I want to enjoy the silence – the unscheduled, unhurried, companionable silence that’s interrupted only by the gentle snuffles of my dogs as they doze at my feet and on the couch.

Let sleeping dogs lie

Deceptively calm at the moment, aren’t they?

That welcoming, undemanding, gentle solitude is the necessary precursor for me to write anything, to connect to anyone in a meaningful way, and to be at peace with the world.