Category Archives: Challenges

Learning Curves

and Earning Curves.

Curves2 About a month ago, I decided that eating right and losing weight wasn’t enough to make me healthy, so I started doing something I haven’t done in at least twenty-five years.

I started working out regularly. Five days a week. Yes, you read that right. Robin, the queen of avoiding exercise, is paying to work out.Curves3

That’s one of my cute little coaches checking out my progress at the laptop. (Curves has machines that spy on you and report back to the coaches. Very 1984.) I want to look like her. Can they make me lose about forty years?

My workouts take between 45 and 50 minutes and consist of 30 seconds on each machine, 30 seconds of aerobic motion between machines, and stretches. I do the entire circle twice, and all the major muscle groups are involved. The final machine tells me my workout is over by flashing “END.” How’s that for propping up a weak short-term memory?

CurvesHere are my results from Thursday. Green dots are great, yellow dots are okay but not great, and red dots are BAD. (Sort of like the colors on traffic lights, but I digress.)

And now for the life lessons.

  1. I have to pay for workouts to be properly motivated to do them. It’s just like everything else. We don’t usually fully appreciate anything that has cost us nothing.
  2. Most of the time, lack of progress is my own fault. My first two weeks of working out, I made very little headway. I wasn’t sore afterwards, and I didn’t sweat. At first, I thought the machines were too easy, but then I realized maybe, just maybe, the problem was me. I started pushing harder for range of motion and more reps. Guess what? I had no trouble working up a sweat, and I was plenty sore. It wasn’t the machines. IT WAS ME. Just like in every other aspect of life, when I have a difficulty, I should examine myself first.
  3. The harder I work, the more I achieve. Though music is my strongest intelligence, I didn’t learn to play the piano really well until I began to practice regularly. (Props to Austen’s Lady Catherine on this one. She was right.) I don’t succeed at anything without putting effort into it.
  4. Sometimes, good intentions aren’t enough. I thought I was doing everything right at Curves, but all my muscle groups weren’t sore. My abdomen wasn’t sore at all. I started paying more attention to the muscles which were supposed to be worked at specific machines. I isolated them and focused on using them, adjusting my body until I felt them. Guess what? It worked. My sore abdomen can attest to it.
  5. Don’t jump to conclusions. A few days ago, I noticed a lump on my arm and nearly freaked out, thinking it was a tumor. Then I realized it was a muscle! I hadn’t seen a defined muscle anywhere on my body in years. I’m flexing now!

Here’s some encouragement for you, lovely readers. Set your goals and go for them.

You can do it!


My new normal …

The week after

My elder daughter, her husband, and the two granddarlings arrived last week and stayed until this past Tuesday.

Larry and our son-in-law put together this swing set for the girls, much to their delight. Since our SIL is stationed about seven hours away now, we hope to see them often, and we want them to be eager to visit us. Every day, we planned another fun adventure. We went to Carowinds, fed ducks and geese at a local lake, ate out a good bit, made homemade ice cream, watched “Peppa Pig” and “Paw Patrol” along with Cinderella and Aladdin, and went to church.
Family 2017

My younger daughter and her hubby arrived on Friday, but he received an important call and had to leave after a few hours.
Disappointing but understandable. I did get a family photo before he left. Obviously, we are a dog-loving family.

It’s quiet here now, but Larry and I are going to see Wonder Woman at the local cinema tonight. I’m looking forward to it. I also hope to visit my younger daughter often to keep her company while her husband is gone, and I plan to visit my elder daughter after her furniture arrives at the end of June. Gayle says that we must do another sister weekend at the beach this summer, and I’m certainly game.

I have now retired from teaching school, though I’ll continue to work at my church and teach private lessons.

Meanwhile, my plants are still fascinating to me.
It’s hard to believe this plant looked completely dead just a few weeks ago.

I nearly gave up on the second one last week, but look now! I kept watering and pruning it, and it has survived. Plants 7

Here’s a promise: I have two writing projects in the works which I will complete this year (I hope). I’m going to contribute to an Austen Christmas anthology, and I’m going to write the first volume of a YA fantasy series.

Stay tuned. There’s life in me yet.

Use Protection, Kids. And Lots of It!

Romance_Travel_CoverFor a while I have been working to arrange a move for my mother. There are lots of moving parts and I’m not all that good at multitasking these days. To keep my sanity, I have been working on a new story.  I finally got far enough in and was confident I would keep with it, so started posting the story on Beyond Austen.  Captain Wentworth’s Guide to Romance and Travel: Lyme Regis is Persuasion without Louisa Musgrove’s fall from the Cobb. This past week I was in the trenches of packing boxes, paper, tapes, and Sharpie markers. Wednesday is the day I had chosen to post and so a week ago I put the flash drive in my computer to retrieve the post, and, VOILA! The drive was emp-ty.

Not a crumb remains.

A few years ago, I took Laura Hile’s loss of thousands of words in a computer crash as a warning and started keeping all my writing on flash drives. A couple of years after that I starting getting serious about organizing my writing, graphics, and private business. Yes, indeedy, I did.

So much for my trying to be grown-up.

I’m thankful for two things: that I was hip-deep in real life and not focused on my writing, and that it took several days to realize that the aforementioned story wasn’t the only thing on the drive.

I’ve now officially lost one whole novel, two partial–each hovering around 175 pages–several outlines of novel ideas, and countless graphics I had created for this and other blogs, and several book covers.

There were many family photos as well, but I have found them on other drives and online haunts of mine.

I am home now and have signed up for an automatic, online, cloud storage service.

Lessons learnt: exhaustion keeps you from going ballistic when the unthinkable happens, and back up your back ups. And then back it all up again.

Nothing is certain.

Except the Web Gods will exact a price.

I will be back next week with Wentworth Wednesday. Anne and Frederick finally talk in the relative quiet of the White Hart dining room with the Musgrove clan dickering over going to the theatre.


Playing Red Light / Green Light … again

Who knew that this childhood game would make a comeback for me? But it has, and this time there’s no getting out of it. See, I now have a nifty list of Green Light foods–those are the ones I can eat without concern–and Yellow and Red Light foods, too. The latter are what most of us eat all the time.

This is 10 milimeters. Yikes!

This is 10 mm, almost the size of one of my kidney stones. Yikes!

But the kidney stones are back. Bah, humbug, right? Meaning that my moderate approach to lowering my oxalate consumption hasn’t worked so well. So it’s time to hunker down and play the Green Light game. The stakes are high. And I get to be “it” all the time.

You know what, I felt deprived when I (voluntarily) quit eating wheat three years ago. But I have proven to myself that I can do without foods I love. When I see cake or scones or bagels or sourdough bread, they no longer register as edible. Well, most of the time. Now the list is longer.

I also have a powerful visual to help with motivation. See the cube I’m holding in the photo? It’s a math manipulative  left over from home school days, a cubic centimeter. It sits innocently on the window sill in the kitchen, like a talisman or something. A realistic reminder of the 8 mm stone in my right kidney. And the upcoming surgery to remove it.

Self-discipline has been a battle for most of my life.  Eating, writing, house cleaning, you name it, I struggle with doing it. Now I drink (very strong) lemon water and eat the right foods. It’s like God’s School of Hard Knocks, Dietary Edition. I can be taught!

So, gluten-free tortilla chips … or a kidney stone? Almonds or peanuts or slices of cheese or chocolate … or a kidney stone? One glance at my cubic centimeter, and the choice is made. It’s an easy choice. And hey, I’ve already lost, like, five pounds.

How about you? Have you had to learn to do without something? Have you had to enroll in God’s School of Hard Knocks?

My Green Light Oxalate list. Wah!

My “Green Light” low oxalate list. Wah! Not much on the Carbs menu. Olives, anyone?

Laura Hile (1)

Answered Prayer – Toby’s Dog Tale

Toby & LarryOn Thursday, October 8, I let our Yorkie Poo, Toby, out to do his business. Nothing unusual. Same routine for eleven years. However, after an hour, he hadn’t come back, so I called my husband. Larry came home and called him, but Toby still didn’t come. That afternoon, Larry biked over the whole neighborhood, combed the woods, called the Humane Society, and rode up and down roads looking for him. He put up a picture at our vet’s office, and I put it up on Facebook, both on my personal page and on the Lancaster Lost Pets page. Everyone knew Toby, because Larry had taken him to the Wee School at church, kayaking, and bike riding. Half the town was praying for Toby’s return.

Our daughter who lives in Japan e-mailed the local paper. It took her over a week, but she set up a lost pet ad. We had two calls from the ad, but both were wash outs. After nearly three weeks of looking out the door for him, praying for his return, and missing him, we were convinced he was either dead or taken. We thought we would never see sweet Toby again.

Around noon on Wednesday, October 28, nearly three weeks after he’d disappeared, I answered another phone call. The caller asked me the location of our home, and I replied that it was close to the Health Department. She replied that she had found a little Yorkie in the parking lot of the Health Department on Thursday a few weeks prior. The more we talked, the more convinced I became that she really did have Toby. I asked for her address and phone number, and she agreed to let me come get him.

I tried to call Larry, but his phone went to voicemail, so I headed for my car alone. I didn’t know the area, so I was a little hesitant to go by myself. He had ended up six miles from our house after the lady rescued him. As I was backing out of the garage, Larry called back, and I told him I was going to get Toby. He was, naturally, skeptical that it was actually Toby, but he agreed to let me meet him at the church. In a few minutes, we were on our way.

When she came to the door holding Toby, we could hardly believe it. Toby stared at us like he couldn’t believe it either. It was a joyous reunion.

Several things occurred to me. The lady told us that Toby was nearly hit by a car in that parking lot. Since he wasn’t wearing a collar, she took him home and cared for him. 1) We were fortunate that he was found by a caring person. 2) The lady didn’t have the internet, so she didn’t see anything I put on Facebook. 3) She wasn’t in our neighborhood, so when Larry talked to all of our neighbors, she had no way of knowing. 4) She lived six miles away in an area in which our church ministers during The Way every summer. 5) She normally didn’t buy newspapers, but she bought one that day to see if there was a lost pet ad about Toby. It was the last day the ad would run. Thank you, Mandy. We wouldn’t have thought to place the ad. 6) When the lady saw us, she recognized us. Her grandchildren attend the church’s AWANA program. I have two of them in my music large group time, and Larry has one in his Puggles group music.

There are too many coincidences for it to be coincidental.

For the record, Toby now wears a collar bearing his name and our phone number. Larry also put up a run for him. When he needs to go outside, I clip him to the run. We won’t lose him again.Toby kissToby snuggle

I Had to Laugh … Fishing and Cutting Bait

DSC_3951_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFile - CopyIt’s official. I am now old and my church doesn’t care what I think. Not that my opinion has been keeping the old girl afloat all these years, but it’s now official.

We have new décor at our church and I don’t like it. I’m not going to describe it because to do so would bring out my long knives. Just let me quote Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner character from “The Avengers,” “Well, this is pretty … terrible.

I’m not going to be one of those people who huffs out the doors over the color of the new carpet or choir robes. By-the-bye, for over 30 years I’ve heard about those sorts of epic struggles in the Body of Christ and have yet to see one. Pettiness has been a feature of every church I’ve attended but most splits  have been ignited by differing doctrine, and once theology was the detonator.

Anyway, for a long time I’ve disliked the music at our church. Church music has been shifting for a while and I haven’t shifted with it. My problem is that I am not musical. I have little in the way of rhythm, and cannot carry a tune. I forget the words unless they are printed out and I’m just too busy actually thinking about the words and their meaning to try and keep time. Let’s just say that praise and worship for me is difficult. We have never been a hymnal kind of church—those I do well with, figures—and so have always used projections systems. Over a year ago  we started using backgrounds with motion. These were a problem for me as my eyes are lousy, which means the movement plays tricks with the lettering. I was/am also distracted trying to find the point at which the movement starts to loop. This coupled with the Jesus-is-my-boyfriend nature of current worship music, and you see I’m really in trouble.

LightsBack to the décor. With the lights–yes, there are lights–and new textured surfaces, there is even more to see. The lights on the new features stay on during the sermon so I have even more to distract me.

Here’s the crazy, upside-down part of this: our pastor’s sermons are excellent.

Most people have complaints about dry, irrelevant preaching. Not so here. I have nothing negative to say in that regard.

My problem is the the falderal that surrounds the sermons. For me, it’s like being a fan of chocolate and only being able to get liver-wrapped truffles. Ugh.

We have no plans to leave because every church has it’s problems and I am comfortable with this set and have no interest in getting used to those of others.

My daughter just pointed out some wisdom that very much applies to my situation: “Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert (distract)  me I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.” – Jane Austen.

I am famous for saying you learn the most from reading badly written books. When reading a bad book you learn what not to do with characters and plot, you learn what you really dislike in storytelling, and when there is a good turn-of-phrase it stands out brilliantly. I suppose I should be prepared to learn what really matters to me in a church setting. I think I’m going to be learning and laughing  a lot.

Take care.

Writerish Pack-ratting

My laughably fat self-made textbooks.

My laughably fat textbooks. Yes, that’s Wile E. Coyote’s calling card: “Have Brain, Will Travel.” Just what students need to hear.

I’m blogging today at Laura Hile about my ginormous self-made textbooks. As the school year progresses, these become almost like weapons! The photo shows how huge a simple composition book can become.

But don’t picture me as the noble teacher, scouring the Internet for information to share with students.

In truth, I’m a pack rat, and these textbooks are more for me than for my students. I’ve simply found an honorable use for all the quotations and articles and cartoons I hoard. And I keep collecting more-more-more.

My most pressing struggle during the 400 Bags for Lent challenge has to do with papers. (Well, and the garage.) But I’m wondering. Does my handicap in discarding papers have a connection with being a writer?

What about you? What do you struggle to get rid of?