Tuesday, December 31, 2013

P90G - Weeks 6 and 7A

Days 39-49: The book is blazing right ahead (though I didn't type even a single word for the week Jack was here - so much for finishing by New Year at the latest!), and the workouts have continued faithfully. Almost.

By the time vacation arrived, I was barely holding onto the tatters of health. Fine, I was sick. But not as sick as I could have been! There was a time I would have already had several major cases of bronchitis by this time of the year, and I've been doing MUCH better compared to that. Thanks to the magic of zinc, I nearly fought off the cold that would once have consumed me, and was only down a few days instead of a few weeks. 

During that time, I did, most ashamedly, miss 3 workouts, covering Friday, Sunday, and Monday. By December 25, though, I was back in such fighting form that I did plyometrics till I couldn't walk. I am woman, hear me roar! (I am woman. Hear me whimper as I slide limply to the ground and take a nap.)

Being the annoyingly perky sort of person that I am, I didn't let my utter FAILURE of those 3 days get me down - I simply re-did the numbers. No problemo! And decided to repeat Week 7, to make sure I milked the full benefit from it before moving on to the next workout stage. So last week was Week 7, and this week is also Week 7. ("Hi, I'm Larry, and this is my brother, Darryl. And this is my other brother, Darryl.") ((If you don't get that last joke, ask someone who lived through the 80's. Except for Tina, who tried to pretend she didn't really exist until 1990.))

But I digress.

While Jack was here, I had to shake up my routine a bit. For one thing, though I still often woke up at 0530, I couldn't bring myself to actually get up. Warm, snuggly husbands are very addictive. Some mornings I had to work out in the kitchen while monitoring breakfast, and sometimes I'd sneak out to the living room with the computer, and exercise out there. These changes completely renewed the cats' interest in what I was doing, and I accidentally kicked and whapped them a few times as they tried to creep very close and smell me.

"And one, and two, and MROOOOOAAAAAWWWWWWW, and two, and....."

Also worthy of mention is my first trip to the community exercise room, during Week 6. Not worth actually bragging about, but useful as an objective standard of improvement. I ran for 20 solid minutes without slowing or stopping (not too bad), going an uninspired 1.3 miles during that time (not great, but at least I know where I stand). It was my first time on a treadmill, and I did better once I stopped trying to fight it and make it go faster by pushing. Also helpful, halfway along, was Devon's instruction to clip the emergency shutoffer-thingy to my clothing, so that if the treadmill sprayed me off the back end, it would turn off automatically.

It's been a productive 2 weeks. I'm so pleased, that this year, I have only one New Year's Resolution.

1. Keep up the good work!

Make that two resolutions.

2. Finish a book. Any book.

Looking forward to another year of adventure,
Noni Beth

Sunday, December 15, 2013

P90G - Week 5

Day 32: Some mornings I really don’t want to get up, but as soon as I hear the music, I’m ready to get some blood circulating! Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps, a brand new workout. Since it was Sunday, I splurged and went a full 30 minutes this time! My arms were totally shaking by the time I finished. Oh well, it’s not like I had to play the piano or anything afterward. Oh wait. I did.

Day 33: Plyometrics again, ACK! Ironically, 10 minutes at my new fitness level (meaning not taking a break 30 seconds out of every 60), actually wears me out much more than 20 minutes did at first. I guess that’s progress.

Day 34: Back and Biceps. Honestly, my arms don’t know the difference between biceps and triceps. *I* know the difference, but that doesn’t do my arms any good. They think it’s time to work the legs for a while.

Day 35: Today was slated for yoga. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do yoga or other New Age type of exercises, meditations, etc. So I either substitute in another workout for it, or just go on to the next day. Guess what, arms – wish granted! It’s finally the legs’ turn after all.

Day 36: Every once in a while, my bus kids will have a little contest while they’re waiting for the other passengers to arrive. Putting a hand on the seat on each side of the aisle, they will hoist themselves into the air, feet dangling, and see who can last the longest. This time, I decided to join them. Even with my arms still weak and shaky from their brutal workouts, I managed to beat a 6th grader, a 4th grader, and a 3rd grader, CONSECUTIVELY all on the same dangle, without my feet ever touching the ground. I finally had to jump down and answer my radio.

Day 37: Stretching still makes me sorer than just about anything else, though that may change shortly. There are a few changes on the horizon…

Day 38: Another week gone already…unbelievable!

By way of general announcement, I’m going to be putting a pause on the daily exercise blog for a bit. No, I haven’t run out of material. In fact, it’s just about to get even more interesting, and slightly less Gentle. But I’m going to try and finish the book I’m writing by Christmas. Failing that, finished by New Year, so I don’t have to have another year with an unfulfilled resolution to “finish a book – any book”. After 5 or 6 years, that level of failure gets a bit old. I’m ready for a new resolution. A new book, too!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Westby Skunk Flash Mob

It was almost time to go. I waited, bundled in pajamas covered by sweat pants and jacket, ready to go and sing carols for some of our neighbors in town who aren't able to get out very often. 

One of the boys let Clancy out for a last potty break before leaving. Usually he stays outside and shivers silently if forgotten, but tonight he let out a small whuff at the front door. As I went to let him in, a strong odor of rotten garlic assailed me. It only grew stronger as I opened the door and the misbegotten mutt charged through.

Shaking his head, frothing, and drooling, he tried to rub on the carpet until I cruelly sent him out onto the linoleum. I might as well not have bothered. The malodor soaked into every pore of the house within nanoseconds, firmly sealing my status as a pariah forever.

Lucky Damon got to stay and wash him, while the rest of us went caroling. The music was sweeter than the smell, but none of the dear souls asked us to leave. Though none of them requested more than one song, either!

For our grand finale, we attempted to film the first-ever Westby Flash Mob. Technically, we succeeded. It was in Westby, and it was a flash mob. There ended all resemblance to those heart-warming or spectacular videos that circulate through Facebook and email.

The moment we stepped out in the silent and snowy street to begin filming, everyone in town decided to drive about. Even the sheriff - you'll see him in the background occasionally. We kept having to halt production and dash off to the side of the road to avoid going viral for all the wrong reasons. That was only the beginning of our trials. 

See for yourself.

Flash Mob

We Try Again

It's Just No Use

The next time we plan a flash mob, guess who is NOT invited!!! My only comfort is that the 3rd time through,we did actually make it to the end. More or less. For sure, we were finished. Next year we'll go for heartwarming. Next year we'll do this differently.

Next year, we'll go to the bathroom first. Next year we won't smell like skunk.

Or so we hope.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

P90G - Week 4

Day 25: Today marks the beginning of Phase II. I’ll be moving on to the next round of workouts, some the same and some different. Apparently a program is more effective if it incorporates “muscle confusion”, meaning you never work the same place long enough or in the same way for it to get used to it, and begin to slack off. Personally, I think my muscles were pretty confused by exercise at all.

Day 26: A brand new workout today – Core Synergistics. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even have a core, but it got worked anyway. And whatever it is, now it can’t move, either.

Day 27:  I was supposed to do this lovely martial arts workout throughout the entire process, but had lost the DVD. After searching everywhere for WEEKS, I finally sent for a replacement. Within 48 hours, the other disk was found. I wasn’t too surprised – that’s how it always works. Now I have 2 to lose.

Day 28:  This should have been easy. It’s all lovely stretching. Piece of cake – not! Whatever was left after the core workout is gone.

Day 29: And….back to the core. Really, peoples? This is just cruel.

Day 30: It was supposed to have been another round of Stretch, aka I-Always-Wanted-to-be-Rubbery-and-Green-Like-Gumby. Awaking with a sore throat, I opted to sleep in and try to fit a workout in later. It didn’t quite go according to plan.

The end of the day found me at the store, nearly sundown, no workout, and with way too many groceries to carry. Just then, Tina arrived to save the day! Or so I thought. She saved part of the day, giving the groceries a ride home with Devon and Tiggy. I told her to go on ahead, and I was going to walk home in the obscenely cold weather in lieu of a formal workout.

Have you ever heard of that wacky diet idea where you drink a gallon of ice water a day? The theory is that you burn X number of calories warming yourself back up, so you don’t have to exercise. Personally, I suspect most of the calorie burning comes from running to the bathroom every 2.9 seconds. I’m not down with all that, but one of the most effective ways to consume fat around here is to turn YOURSELF into an ice cube. Your body will have to work overtime warming back up from…oh…-47F, and voila! Burnt calories! (The only small flaw in this program is that your body then swears, “Never again!” And goes into overtime producing 72 more layers of fat for protection.)

Anyway, it was all I had left. As the cold began to sink in, my walk increased to a shuffle, and then a jog. Well, as joggy as I could be with full snow gear on. Picture a penguin running at warp speed.

Just then, Tina’s van rounded the block, stopping to wait as I crossed the street. Instead of driving my children and food home, she crept along, keeping pace with my frantic waddle. “This is even worse than exercising in front of Jack,” I thought to myself.

Then I saw that my little workout was being captured for posterity. Curse you, iphone inventor!  Even at his most ANNOYING, Jack only took still photos. Trust me, video is much, much worse. Tiggy is going to be lucky if she’s ungrounded by the time she’s 30.  

The closest to a "before" picture you're likely to get.

Well, I was pretty cold all right, even with enough fabric to wrap an entire walrus. It took a long while, and many calories, to restore me to some semblance of warmth. It felt so good that I hardly minded the extra 36 pounds I gained by morning.

Day 31: This is it! The end of one full month. I don’t look much thinner yet, but I feel different…better. I like it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

P90G - Week 3

Day 18:  Since it’s Sunday, I got to sleep in all the way to 6:15! I used to be able to make it till 8, if nobody else woke up and started racketing around. Working out is better than sleeping in. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Day 19: Instead of Oh-Dark-Thirty, I ended up working out after I got back from the bus. This led me to break my vow to only do the jump training thingy on holidays or weekends. Tina came over shortly afterwards, as I was trying to figure out how to walk. Awkward!

Day 20: I must be making progress. Even though I’m still only lasting about 20 minutes, I’m taking fewer breaks and getting most of the reps in. Of course, that also means I’m still generally In the Can’t-Walk-or-Move Category, but I have to work just a little harder to get there.

Day 21: Only time for the abs today, since Thanksgiving is coming up awfully fast. Whatever doesn’t get cooked today will have to compete with the (shudder) turkeys (shudder shudder) for my attention tonight and tomorrow.

Day 22: I’ll get my Thanksgiving workout in if possible. But with those TWO turkeys hanging over my head, I don’t have to worry about overeating. I hope I can eat at all. Besides, if I get sick to my stomach, that’s kind of an ab workout, isn’t it?

Day 23: Temporarily, it’s much easier to work out. I’ve been painting my bedroom floor, so my bed is out in the living room to make room to shuffle all the rest of the furniture around. With no bed, there’s a nice clear area in the middle of the floor. Even when the bed goes back in, I’m going to turn it the other direction and rearrange the dressers.

The new arrangement may have a bit more space, I’m hoping. It was sure hard to do the lunges around the corner of the bed. Lunge-pivot-lunge. Stop, turn. Lunge-pivot-lunge. Stop, turn. I had to turn sideways just to run in place, and suck in my stomach to do jumping jacks.

Yes, our bedroom is small, but that is only a challenge, not an impediment, to someone who is determined to get in shape. (Any shape besides round.) In case you’ve been over and are wondering why I’m no longer working out in the living room, we had too much trouble with unauthorized use of our living room TV, sometimes even in the middle of the night. So I moved it into the TV Protection Program, or TelSec for short. Thus the need for Corner Lunges and other adaptations – the only TV we still have is in our bedroom. Don’t even get me started on the Side Kicks. Crash! Kabang! Oops. Oh, and I almost forgot – the 45 Degree Side-Bend-Wrap-Around-the-Bed Pushup! That one is a real toughie!
Hey, nobody ever said fitness was easy.

Day 24: Another rest has rolled around already. Thanksgiving doesn’t count. Yes, I can make up my own rules as I go.

The End of Week 3. Can you believe it? Almost a month already. Eventually I may run out of new things to say, but it hasn't happened yet. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

P90G - Week 2

Day 11: Jack is home, and it’s harder than you might think to sneak in a workout when he’s not looking. I managed it, though, while he was in his Special Office with Running Water. You might wonder why the secrecy. Aren’t good marriages supposed to be transparent and open?

Well, yes. Mostly. I’m considering this to be under the “surprise gift” category, which is one of the few acceptable exceptions to the Transparency Rule. And he will be surprised, a year or two from now, when he notices that I’m looking much trimmer. (Unless he reads this blog post, but I’m taking my chances. I can’t wait that long to update the rest of you.)

The last attempt to participate in a strenuous exercise program involved Tina. Jack’s idea of participation mostly included sitting on the couch, laughing hysterically, and taking unflattering pictures of us. Granted, his abs got a killer workout, but the rest of us sent big frowny faces in his direction. (Muscles which do not need ANY extra workouts at all.) I can’t fool myself into thinking I look any more graceful now, so this regimen is going to stay a strictly solo act for some time to come. You won’t tell, will you?

Day 12: Special challenges attended this workout. I didn’t want Jack to wake and find me hopping about in the bedroom. I didn’t want his brother, sleeping on the couch, to wake and find me hopping about in the living room. The bathroom is far too small. Only one option remained: the laundry room, with no DVD help at all. That was ok, since the cats decided they would be my helpers instead.

Days 1 and 2 they were quite fascinated, even swatting playfully at my arms and legs as they waved wildly. After that, they lost interest, until I invaded their domain and leaped about by their food and litter box. Suddenly, all the old interest returned, and I had uncounted glowing yellow pairs of eyes following my every move. On shelves, the washer and dryer, behind the door, even from the litterbox itself, they all attended the splendid entertainment extravaganza I thoughtfully provided for their benefit.

Day 13:  See Day 12.

Day 14: This has been the only morning so far that I slept in past my workout, barely dragging my sorry derriere out of bed just in time for the bus. Jack had to leave out extremely early in the morning to fly back to Texas and begin working. When he woke up at 3, it took me a very long time to go back to sleep.  I just couldn’t quite make it up at Oh-Dark-Thirty, as Jack calls it.

In lieu of a formal workout, I went for an evening jog in the snow, with my phone called into use as a flashlight. At one point I started to slip on the ice, doing a clever little jig to maintain my footing. The flashlight began to turn off and on, baffling me for a moment until I realized that it was set to automatically flash SOS when shaken.

Day 15: Though challenging, twenty minutes no longer seems like quite enough. I barely made it through the warmup, and was just getting to the good stuff when it was time to quit. Tomorrow I’m going to try something new, just to shake things up.


Day 17: Oh, look! It’s already time to take a break again. How will I even manage until it’s time for the next wonderful workout? Yeah, right. I NEED A BREAK!!! I console myself that it’s not just being a wimp – that exercise on the rest of the days will actually be more effective for having a rest. Tomorrow’s a whole new day.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


I’ve been needing to resume a regular exercise program. With the many unplanned events of the summer, a whole bunch of important things fell by the wayside, and that was one of them. With some trepidation, I’ve decided to restart a certain intense fitness program, for the simple reason that I already have it in my possession.

Originally, I decided to re-name it P90L, with L for Lazy. But this program is so intense that even 2 minutes a day is way above laziness. At the same time, there’s no way that my version could be called Xtreme, either. So I’ve settled on P90G, for Gentle.

Day 1: (November 7, 2013) 20+ minutes and I feel great! Why didn’t I start doing this a long time ago? I can hardly contain my rush of energy.

Day 2: Yesterday was arms, today legs. That’s good, since I can hardly lift a glass of water. All went well until I got a large splinter while leaping around in my bedroom. All efforts to retrieve it were in vain. 20+ minutes again, and feeling so alive, except for my throbbing foot.

Day 3: The splinter has become infected, and putting any weight whatsoever on it is proving extremely painful. Oh well, it’s not like I could walk anyway. Thankfully, it’s Sabbath, so I don’t need to worry about exercise. The actual program calls for a day of rest anyway, and it just happens that my day of rest coincided with day 3. Lucky me! Maybe by tomorrow I’ll be able to not only walk, but lift my arms high enough to eat.

Day 4: Hey, I can walk! It hurts a little, but how nice to have that shard o’misery out of my foot. Today was plyometrics, which is basically jump training. I think I’d better confine plyo to Sundays and holidays, so that when I can’t lift my head off the floor afterwards it doesn’t affect work. About 13 minutes in, the workout clock got stuck. I’m pretty sure it was only counting off about 3 seconds per minute.

Workout guy: You’re doing great! Go even higher!
Me: ***whump***
Workout guy: Ok now! Double time!!!
Me: I’m pretty sure that means half as many as before.

Staggering grimly, I gritted my teeth and kept going. I think it’s mean to make a one-legged man be part of the workout team on the video, so I can’t even feel sorry for myself. Will 20 minutes never end?

Suddenly, I glance at the clock. It has been 22+ minutes! I made it! And in case you wonder what all these +++ mean, it means + about 3 seconds. Not that anyone is counting.

I hope I don’t get any splinters in my nose down here. Prone is the new perky. Go team. I feel great. Really. Room fading. Blackness. Only 86 more days.

Day 5: For some reason my legs are beyond sore. Fortunately, today was mostly upper body. All the rest of the day, I keep finding myself frozen into weird stalagmite formations. I think tomorrow I’d better just work my abs. It’s the only part of my body that’s still functional.


Day 7: What can I do? The only thing that doesn’t hurt is my eyelashes, and I’ve never heard of a workout for eyelashes.

Day 8: Slightly better, I suppose. Maybe I’ve finally turned the corner, but I’m not going to stop and find out.

Day 9: Not too bad, actually. Did a combo of arms and abs today. My clothes all still fit the same, but I’m starting to feel better overall. Still have a nasty habit of waking up about 0430, but that’s not surprising. Time changes are stupid, and yes I am talking to you BENJAMIN FRANKLIN!

Day 10:  I thought this break would never come. Only 80 more days until I finish this round of torture, and start something even worse! (I’m considering upping the ante to P90M, for “Mediocre”.)

PS I have taken some “before” pictures, but there is no way they will ever see the light of day until there are some “after” pictures, too. So don’t even ask.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Prepping for Disaster...

...Without Becoming a Prepper

Pitiful descriptions have made their way into news articles about the 15-state EBT system crash. Women stood in the supermarket, weeping because they couldn't buy food for their children. Many large grocery stores reported near-riot conditions as people found out that they couldn't use their cards right then, right there. 

This time, it happened to be EBT cards, but I suspect the same thing would happen in many cases if any sort of disaster interrupted the normal flow of food to our stores. Or even just interrupted the store's continuous satellite access to the Visa/Mastercard systems. What would you do if you were suddenly unable to buy groceries for a few days, or even a few weeks? Hopefully after you read this post, the answer will no longer be, "Stand in the store and cry."

If you're a very organized person, you'll probably benefit more from this Red Cross emergency kit list. Personally, I'm a black hole of organization. It's never been my specialty. So anything I prepare for has as little preparation or maintenance as possible. I heard the saying, "If you want to know how to do something efficiently, ask a lazy person. They'll be able to figure out how to do the job with the least effort possible." The same thing applies for a disorganized person. Something this important can't be ignored, but I sure don't want to spend one more minute - or one more dollar - than I have to worrying about it.

One last note before we get down to business. Each part of the country has its own personal type of most likely disasters. My list may not exactly apply to your situation, but I know you have enough common sense to adapt it to whatever you may face.

1. Buckets of bulk food. We use what's readily available, which around here is stuff like wheat and lentils. Most years, we can get several gallons just given to us by kind local farmers. Sure, we have to carefully pick the grasshopper bits out ourselves, but it's free! Wal Mart has some other key items in bulk, such as flour and beans. 

I was fortunate. Dad bought me my set of buckets when we first moved up here. But even if you have to shell out some money for buckets right at the beginning, it's well worth it. They'll last for many years, and you won't have to worry about them again. They can stack neatly in your pantry or basement, available whenever you need them.

Because I don't want to have to keep a big, formal list to try and rotate stuff, I put a bunch of beans, or whatever, in its bucket, then use that to fill a smaller canister, which is what I use on a daily basis to cook with. Don't spend a bunch of money on canisters if you don't already have them. It's almost Christmas time, and you can get cans of popcorn for about $5 each. Instead of throwing away the cans, put them to use storing food for easy access. 

Once the 5 gallon bucket gets low, I add that item to my regular shopping list, and replenish the bucket. No fuss, and no extra work, since I just add it to my regular shopping list.

2. Canned foods. If you're anything like me, you're on a limited budget. In fact, on the few years that we've earned enough money to reach the poverty line, we've felt quite wealthy. We feel wealthy even during the poorest years, because we all love each other sooooooooo much!!!! But since you can't actually eat love, it's important to have a well-stocked pantry, no matter what the state of your checking account is.

Most of you will not be able to plunk down the many thousands of dollars per person for a towering year's supply of MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) advertised by so many disaster preparedness companies. (If you are, then Emergency Essentials is a great place to start.) What you CAN afford to do, (get it - "can"?) is get a few extra cans of food each time you go shopping. Each time you go, get a few more, until your supply of non-perishables is comfortable.

Your definition of comfortable may be different than mine. Around here, just to survive an average winter, it's a good idea to keep AT LEAST one month's supply of the bare basics. Two months is better. Up here, winter qualifies as its own disaster, and arrives regularly every single year. 

If the power goes out for a month, as happened just before we moved up here, we can't count on outside supplies. We may get tired of beans, rice, and oatmeal, but we don't have to worry about starving.

3. Water. This is a bit easier for us. The water up here tastes so awful that we have to drink bottled water anyway. We get the big 5 gallon jugs, and refill them as needed. During the winter, especially, we keep our stock of water high, since we never know when a blizzard will strike and leave us stranded. If you don't already keep water at home, you can get 1 gallon jugs at Wal Mart for less than $1 each. Stick them in a cool, dark place and forget about them. If you're efficient, you can trade them out as recommended, and if you're more like me, still no worries. It may not taste the greatest, but it won't actually spoil if left to sit too long. If you're desperate enough to drink it, you'll just be thankful that it's wet.

4, Matches and batteries. Around this place, easier said than done. The menehunes come out at night and steal every single battery they can find. These pilfered sources of energy are then quietly inserted into children's toys and wasted. Far better to have one of those neato shakable flashlights, so you never have to worry about it. And matches are nearly as popular as batteries. Do your best to keep some on hand, anyway. That way you can light any candles that the menehunes don't filch. Or, if you want to be really fancy, you can get some of those cute little kerosine lamps for about $10/ea.

5. Emergency heater. For us, this is a must. It may not be quite as important for you. The coldest weather I personally have been in was Christmas Day of our first winter here, where it was -62 and Devon got frostbite on his ear. Our emergency heater runs on propane, and can be started with a match. (Which is another reason it's important to keep at least a few matches out of the reaches of menehunes.) A small heater has only a small risk of producing enough carbon monoxide to be harmful, but a detector is still a great idea. As we found out a few years back, even with a perfectly respectable propane furnace, a CO2 detector can still be a lifesaver.

During the month-long power outage that I mentioned, there were many elderly people out on farms, and who did not have a backup, non-electric source of heat. Good Samaritans in 4WD vehicles were going 24 hours a day at first, driving from farm to farm with a generator, running the heaters a bit for these folks, and then going on to the next place. They succeeded in keeping anyone from freezing to death, but some were extremely uncomfortable for quite a while.

6. A generator. This lovely piece of equipment is worth mentioning, but if you have the above categories taken care of, this is a strictly luxury item. We went through a number of years without one, and did just fine. A generator makes things more fun, but if you're depending fully on it, you have a host of new things to think about. Maintenance, fuel, fuel, more fuel... it's much easier and requires less thought if you have your basics in place, and save the generator to watch the news while all the other houses in town are dark. But then again, if you live in an area where a disaster might require speedy evacuation, you might NEED to have a couple cans of spare gas on hand. Along the same line, cash on hand might be useful in many cases, and vital in case of evacuation. Not our main problem, but it might be yours.

It's important, when there's a disaster, to make sure you're a part of the solution, and not the problem. If you aren't having to scramble around just to survive, you're then freed up to take care of the needs of others, and perhaps even save lives. 

Here is what has happened on numerous occasions, in the dead of winter, and often with no warning:

A raging wind howls around the house, driving the wind chill down to -40F. We're going about our evening, lights blazing, Jack watching Duck Dynasty in the bedroom. kids doing homework, with me washing dishes and starting to think thoughts of supper. Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, the lights flicker once, come back on, then go off for keeps. "Noooooo," comes a doleful voice from the bedroom. It was a new episode. "Hooray!!!!" comes from most other parts of the house as the homework is set aside.

I sigh. I was going to bake something for supper, and the oven will only work with electricity. "Oh, well." I reach in the drawer for the matches, and find the candles easily by touch in the top of my closet, which is conveniently located just off the kitchen. The light of one candle guides me to get out the kerosine lamps, which I place on the table and out in the living room. I light a burner on the gas stove, and begin to think what I can boil for supper. Macaroni sounds good.

"Here, Damon, light the emergency heater." I hand him the matches and calmly go on with supper. All this has taken 2-3 minutes, and then our evening goes on without a hitch. If the power stays off, the kids bring down their blankets and sleep in the living room, where it's warm. Life changes a little, but the only actual weeping comes from the interruption of Duck Dynasty, just as Willy was about to find out who put honey in his hunting boots. 

Before the evening is over, we fill the tub with water to flush the toilet with, just in case the power is off long enough for the town water tower to run out of water. If the power company doesn't know how many weeks it will be till the power is back on, we look through our stash of bulk non-perishables, and get out our "500 Ways to Cook Beans Cookbook". (Just kidding about that last part.) 

Then there was the time the tornado siren went off without warning, right in the middle of summertime. Just as we were hastily grabbing whatever animals we could find and heading to the basement, there was a knock on the door. A grandmother and her grandbaby were there, seeking shelter. They didn't have a basement. We all headed down together, where we played with the baby on blankets and a little toy until we found out all was clear. It was a relief to be safe - even though it's not nearly as bad as Tornado Alley, several people have been killed in recent years by tornados and microbursts, very close to us. Blizzards aren't the only things we have to be ready for.

If I had been one of the EBT people waiting in line last week, I like to think my story would have gone more like this:

Clerk: I'm sorry, but you won't be able to use that card to buy groceries. The system is down. Do you have an alternate method of payment?
Me: Nope, this is it.
Clerk: I'm sorry, but no one has been able to use the EBT system at all. You'll have to purchase your groceries when it's working again.
Me: No problem, I'll come back whenever it gets fixed. 

And then I go home and make spaghetti, or stir fry, or bread-from-scratch, or any of a host of things I have the ingredients for already in stock. I certainly do NOT stand around weeping that now my children will have to go hungry. Not because I'm rich - I'm not. Far from it! Most anyone but Tina would laugh at my food budget. But by doing a little at a time, ANYONE can be prepared, no matter how poor. 

Anyone, including YOU!

Note: In the Bible, Daniel 12 speaks of a terrible time of trouble. The best preparation to make for that is to become really wonderful friends with Jesus. No amount of earthly prepping is enough to live through the worst time ever! But in the meantime, bad things happen on an alarmingly regular basis - bad things for which we can, and should, make a sensible preparation. Happy non-prepping prepping!!!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Moment Apart

Last year, for the first time ever, Mom, Tiggy, and I attended a women's retreat. Held at the Rock Creek Resort just outside Red Lodge, MT, it was so near to perfection that the only improvement we could think of was to have Tina along. (And Jack and the boys, too, but after all, it was a women's retreat. Despite Devon's promises to wear a wig, he didn't get to come, either.) Now that she's no longer caring for Grandpa, Tina got to come this time.

Last year we all signed a card for a 92-year-old woman who had fallen and broken her hip just before the retreat. This year, we were delighted to get to meet her, and to find out what lay behind her injury. Probably she is one of the older people to collect Workman's Comp, when she fell while working at the nursing home taking care of the old people. Now she's 93, and going strong again. 

I led out in the music for both years, which was oodles of fun, joy, and blessings, and enjoyed the speaker tremendously. Tina already put quite a bit of info on her blog, so I won't repeat her. Though let me clarify that I was short-BLANKETED, not short-sheeted. And short-blanketing just doesn't work so well. A beautiful hotel in the mountains, with maid service and someone else doing all the cooking for me, was amazing, but the privilege of music didn't leave much time for photography. 

Still, early Sunday morning I managed to slip away for a short while in the fog. I came back soaked to the knee, damp head to toe, and purely delighted with my walk. Hope you enjoy it, too!

Rock Creek Resort

Rock Creek - after more
than 24 hours
of hard rain.

Dewdrop Landscape

Last but not least.....

And all too quickly, the moment of respite was gone.

Until next year, at the Yogo Inn in Lewistown, MT, September 12-14. Hope to see you there!

The Fair

Ok, so in retrospect I probably should have done this a little closer to the actual event, but if I accidentally forget what I won for some of the pictures and end up showing more first place ribbons than Tina, who's actually counting? (Besides Tina.) The Sheridan County Fair is held every year during the last weekend in July.

What is far more important to me than how placed is how much money I won. Hey, I'm just being honest here. Most years I break about even, and it's lovely to have a hobby that pays for itself.

What is second most important to me is how I came to have the photos in the first place. Some were snapped on impulse, and others, like the one below, came at a high cost to my tender flesh. All are a part of my life, and the experience has shaped me into who I am. Because of the fair, I actually get paid for this shaping experience - sounds like a win-win to me!

The first batch of images below were all entered in the enlargement category.

1. This alkali lake is just a mile or two north of our house, barely out of town. I expected to have to fight the mosquitoes, which are usually bad by the lakes. Instead, I was mightily beset by biting flies,each trying to get their pound of flesh in the first bite. For many, their first bite was also their last. I was rather thankful that no one went by, gawking as I tried to snap photos between convulsions. 1st Place

2. Technically not a sparrow, but looking very much like one, this little bird flew out of the nest before it was strong enough to fly back. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Devon held it for a moment for me before I hoisted him on my shoulders to put it back. You'll see its green-headed parent below. 1st Place

3. This boot picture was taken in honor of the young brother and sister who drowned together at nearby Medicine Lake. They both loved to wear cowboy boots on every possible occasion. Each time I see this picture, it reminds me to say a prayer for their grieving family. 2nd Place

4. This wild shot was of Clancy yawning while wearing the Cone of Shame due to an ear infection called Pillow Ear. He had to wear this for WEEKS, and was so thrilled when it finally came off that he could barely walk straight. 2nd Place

5. While at the farm, Damon and Devon both spent time in the pen with the bottle-fed calves. It was an entirely new experience to have their elbows, and any other bit of salty skin, slurped and slobbered on. 1st Place

6. This gorgeous flag is located at one of the ranger stations in Yellowstone National Park. Tiggy gets credit for finding the shot first, but since she accidentally mixed her entries up and couldn't enter her flag picture, I got to enter mine. 1st Place

7. This adorable little green-headed bird worked very hard to feed its babies, in a nest located just above the doorway of the farmhouse Mom, Dad, Tina, and assorted children occupied while in Wisconsin. 1st Place

8. As the only one with a tripod, I kinda have the time exposure slot all to myself. This sunset at the farm was made extra exciting by the field of fireflies in the foreground. Upon our return, I saw fireflies out here for the first time, along Tina's driveway. 2nd Place

9. Nearly all my fair pictures with a person involved contained Devon. Well, he moves really fast and is always in the middle of everything. Our spring trip to Makoshika State Park was no exception. 1st Place]

10. These lovely orchids belong to Eldine and Margie, our cousins who housed us in Wisconsin. 2nd Place

11. This was the moment before Damon and Devon almost blew away with this retired smokejumper, in West Yellowstone, MT. Thanks for Entering

12. These miniature snow drifts from last winter still give me a chill looking at them. It must have been about 20 below, not bad but a lot colder than it is now! 1st Place

13. Another wintertime photo, this portrait of Tiggy evokes shivers despite its warm tones. I adjusted the color myself so it wouldn't look so completely frigit. 2nd Place

14. Yo usaw this tractor from the rear at the beginning of the previous blog post, being driven by my cousin, Pat. When he was done, he conveniently parked it in front of a sunset. Thanks, Pat! 1st Place

15. Upon our arrival at the Wisconsin Dells, Tina was still trying to find a cooler place to park the dogs for our boat ride, since it was uncomfortably hot even in the shade. Just as she found one tiny little shady spot, we found out that if we rode the Duck Tours, we could actually bring them with us! The Duck Tours use some old amphibious vehicles recommissioned after WWII, and the dogs were just a tad bit nervous as our "cars" drove off the edge and into the water. 1st Place

16. This picture...about my favorite of anything I've ever taken...almost didn't happen. A certain husband, we'll call him "Mack" to avoid embarrassing him, hogged the window seat. I practically fell in his lap trying to lean through and capture this image at the right moment. It was close, but I made it! 1st Place and Special Award

17. While camping at West Yellowstone, we visited the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. As I mentioned before, it's well worth the price of admission, especially since each ticket is good for two days. This incredible wolf posed for me in broad daylight, but a smidge of magic created the illusion of moonlight in the forest. 2nd Place

18. This photo gives no evidence of what happened just a split second later. By the time these two hit the ground, Devon had somehow managed to flip around and land on top of his opponent, neatly pinning him. 1st Place

The following photos were entered in the 4x6 category. Tina does not permit these ribbons to be counted with the others. But since the ribbons still came with cash prizes, I'm content to let the ribbon count fall where it may.

 1. Another fun moment at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center - one of the few places you can get close-ups of grizzly nose hairs in complete and total safety. 1st Place

2. During camp meeting, some of the little girls discovered this colorful swallowtail outside our building. It must have just emerged recently, since it didn't fly away when they held their hands out to be walked on. Everyone who wanted to took their turn gently holding it, before putting it on this bush to finish hardening its wings and preparing to fly. 1st Place

3. Firework time exposures - my favorite part of the 4th of July, except for the veggie burgers. 1st Place

4. From the raptor section of the Grizzly and Wolf DC, comes this cute Great Horned Owl pedestrian. Found near a highway, having blown out of his nest during a storm, he imprinted on humans and has a few odd quirks to him. Thanks for Entering

5. These pink bits of wonderness grew in the flowerbed next to Eldine and Margie's house in Wisconsin. 1st Place

6. By now, you'll probably be surprised to hear that these wolves also come from the G&W DC in West Yellowstone. We were just about to leave, in the late afternoon, when a fender-bender just down the street brought a fleet of vehicles with sirens. Immediately, every wolf in the place began to howl, and I left the grizzly pen at a run. This particular photo was taken through a chain link fence, but one advantage of a zoom lens is the narrow depth of field. Translation: the fence was so out-of-focus it didn't even show. 1st Place

7. Without the trip to Wisconsin and the G&W DC I wouldn't have had much of a showing.This wasn't the only bald eagle image I captured, but the fair only has so many animal categories. 1st Place

There was one more piece of artwork, which I don't have a photo of. It was a mixed media art piece, taken originally as a photo of a hummingbird in Eldine and Margie's flowering plant. The hummingbird turned out blurry, along with some of the important leaves and flowers, so I printed up the photo and oil painted over any parts that needed it. I was less than thrilled with the results, but decided to enter it anyway, since even if it only got a 3rd place there would still be a small sum of money involved. If you haven't already picked up on this, I'm not exactly one of those art purists who believe that art should only be for the sake of art, with no considerations of filthy lucre. Though filthy lucre shouldn't be the center of our lives, or the recipient of our love, or even our main priority, without it there would be no important things like CAT FOOD AND TOILET PAPER, okay???

The big problem was that when I went to pick up the photo/painting on my way to the fairgrounds to turn it in, the paint still wasn't dry. Oh well, I had some wood sealer spray handy, and sealer is sealer, right? It didn't say NOT FOR USE ON PHOTOGRAPHS, so I dashed outside and sprayed away. And stared in horror, mouth agape, as the picture began to melt. 

Oh good, at least it was a quick-dry sealer, so the melting stopped fairly quickly. The peppery result somewhat resembled the salt technique used in watercolors. I convinced myself that it might even look better now than it had before. Surely my little mishap hadn't completely X'd me out of any chance of a 3rd place...

I was happy enough with the results of my photos that I almost didn't care how the poor, abused hummingbird had wound up...until I found out that it had not only place 1st, but won a Special Award besides!!! And if I haven't mentioned it before, Special Awards = Cash. THANK YOU LOCAL BUSINESSES!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tina was pretty happy with her Special Award, and gloating in a most unbecoming manner, up until she found out that Tiggy and I each had two, and Mom had THREE for her sewing projects. The only person who tied with Tina for Special Awards was Devon, who also had one. Suddenly, she no longer felt quite as Special. Or as Awarded.

So she consoled herself with the most number of 1st place ribbons. And I consoled myself with the most prize money. And we were both very happy!

We were already planning next year's entries before this year's had grown cold. She has some amazing portraits and landscapes already, and I have a stunning Least Weasel closeup. Cue the dueling banjos, boys, and get ready for Fair 2014, coming soon to a sibling rivalry near you!

On the Farm

Cousin Pat
June 23, 2013

One day and two nights, that was all the time we could allot for our visit. Far from ending our day, the conclusion of the services in the cemetery signaled the start of another round of visiting. It took only moments to change out of our duds so we could go to The Farm. As in dairy, not CIA.

Jack and Patrick
From my earliest years, The Farm was a place of mystery and wonder. My own first visit took place at the age of seven, with Grandpa and Grandma as my tour guides. At that time, my cousins seemed vastly old and mature compared to me, practically geezers, though the youngest was only twelve.

My kids were 5, 2, and 6 months on their first trip, and our cousins hadn't seen Devon since then, until he turned up for the funeral at the age of 12, and almost as tall as I am. Jack and I were able to stop by overnight a few years back, unfortunately with no children.

Jack went straight to the barn. Having lived his early years on a dairy farm himself, he feels right at home there. You’d never know the cousins were his only by marriage, since they all bonded immediately the very first time they laid eyes on each other. The rest of us paid a visit to the old homestead first, even Mom on her broken foot.

By this time, she had crutches, not that it was much of an asset while picking her way through near-jungle conditions to the abandoned site of Grandma’s birth. The original house, the one Grandma kept trying to walk to in her later years, had burned down long ago. Another house had been built on the same foundation, just large enough to accommodate her brother, Philip. After his death, it was no longer used. The old barn, which burned at the same time as the first house, still lies in a delightful ruin, full of exciting artifacts.

The Old Farmstead

Burned-out Old Barn

Our cousins' barn, which did not burn down, remains the hub of The Farm, and the family. It looks the same as when I first saw it 34 years ago. 

The Barn
Probably it looks the same as when Mom saw it never-mind-how-many years ago. More than 34. The descendants of Tina the Cow still roam the pastures, and come in twice each day for milking. A local cheese company buys all the milk from The Farm, and many others nearby. Our cousins grow their own hay and other crops, even producing their own maple syrup. It’s all wonderful, but the best part of The Farm is our family.
L-R: Me, Patsy, Pat, Cora,
Devon and Jack, Mom,
Caleb, Damon, Tina,
Peter, Tiggy, Harold, Dad,
and Dorothy. This was
only a small part of the family
that we saw.

We were up late that night, trying to crowd just a few more hours of visiting in. There just wasn’t enough time to say everything we wanted. I can’t wait to go back! Plus, I didn't get nearly enough pictures of my cousins.

The Trip Home

…was much less eventful than the trip out. No thunderstorms, no flat tires, no caskets in the trailer. We took a boat ride at the Wisconsin Dells on our way out, which was also my idea. Besides liking the Dells, I thought it would be a good chance to decompress a bit after the emotional week we’d all had, and visiting a neat place we’d been with Grandpa and Grandma seemed like it would be perfect. And it was.

I’d been working on photos to enter in the fair for the entire year, but on the trip to Wisconsin I greatly expanded my stock. Watch for the fair blog post to see the results. I’ll tell you right now that Tina got more ribbons than I did, and I’m fine with that.