Monday, December 29, 2008

"A sleeping puppy is a good puppy"

I recently heard someone say that a sleeping puppy is a good puppy and I couldn't agree more! Sasha is exhausting, but I think we are both adjusting pretty well. We make sure to take a 20 - 30 minute walk in the morning before I go to work and again when I get home in the evening. That usually either tires her out or gets her even more worked up. I think this morning's walk just served to ramp her up because when I got home from work, she had shredded the bed sheet that I use to cover her kennel when she's in it. It's a good thing I used old sheets, towels and blankets!

She's growing like a weed. Her legs are getting longer, her body is stretching out and she's what the adoption woman would call an "agressive chewer". She's a big fan of chewing on my hands, which we are working stopping post-haste! She also has several toys that she takes her aggressions out on. Her favorite is "Dolly", which is a pink squeaky toy whose arms and legs are tugs. Poor Dolly. She's been sewn up twice already. A mere 4 days into having her, her belly was ripped open and stuffing was coming out. Fortunately, a little thread and a needle and she was as good as new. Tonight, I stitched up Dolly's neck and shoulder. Her head was slowly being ripped off. Anything that squeaks, rings or chimes usually gets her attention pretty fast, so she spends tens of minutes constantly biting down on Dolly's belly to make her squeak over and over. She's a very smart dog!

She adapts to most situations pretty well. Over the holiday, she went with me down to Troy's family farm in southern Indiana, where she had a great time playing with Wally, a chocolate lab that lives at the farm. We then took a long ride up to Fort Wayne to my parents' house. I don't think my mom's cat, Loo, was thrilled to have a new houseguest, but Sasha had a great time and adapted to a new front door where she would stand when she wanted to go outside. She's wasn't quite sure what to make of the snow though and insisted on finding some grass before she would do her business. Once the rain fell and the snow melted, she had a great time rolling around in the yard getting wet and icky. Fun! We then visited Troy at his house when we got back from our holiday excursion. She loves Troy and his house. He has a much better runway for her to race down and back and she loves her Troy! There is MUCH tail wagging and jumping for his attention when he comes to visit us.

She continues to do well at learning "sit" and "lay down". She knows that if she wants out of her kennel or if she wants to go outside, she has to sit. She's even getting steadily better at ringing a bell when she wants to go outside. I know I'm biased, but I'm certain she's brilliant.

Unfortunately, she's also stubborn. I swear all I ever say is "no", "what are you eating?" and "drop it!" It was easy enough to teach her how to sit and how to lay down, but I haven't quite figured out how to teach her to "drop it" or "leave it". Luckily, we start training classes early in January. I can hardly wait. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for teaching these skills, I'm all ears!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Peace on Earth. Good will to men (and puupies and kitties)


I guess the spirit of the season has gotten into the animals in my house. While I was making some cookies and hot chocolate (the perfect Christmas Eve snack), I went into the living room and what did I find? Phoebe and Sasha sharing the couch! Okay, I admit it. Sharing may be too strong a word. Sasha was fine with Phoebe being near her, but I can't say the feeling was mutual for Phoebe. Phoebe was keeping her eyes firmly affixed on the interloper and I could distinctly hear a low gutteral growl eminating from her. She is certainly not pleased with the newest member of our household.

Fortunately, Sasha is getting much better about not going after the cats every time that they move. The trainer suggested I use a spray bottle of water and a can filled with coins. Any time Sasha goes near one of the cats, I spray her and LOUDLY bang the can of coins. My hope is that eventually she will learn that when she goes after the cats, all hell breaks loose. After a few days of this, she is already giving the cats a wide berth most of the time. I'm hopeful that by the time she is MUCH bigger than them, she will just completely leave them alone rather than thinking of them as her own personal toys.

In the meantime, she is growing bigger every day. She is constantly learning (and chewing). She's gotten very good at "sit" and knows she has to do it before I will let her out of her kennel, before she is allowed to go outside to potty and before she gets her "Dolly". "Dolly" is a pink stuffed dog toy that has a squeaker inside of it. She loves it and it's been patched up once already after she ripped a hole in Dolly's belly. Currently, Sasha is working on tearing her head off. I'm certain she'll be successful at some point.
When I first got her (a mere 3 weeks ago), I found it hard to believe that she would eventually have the standard German Shepherd ears that stand up. But today when we were taking a ride in the car, she was looking up at me with those sweet brown eyes and I noticed that one of her ears now stands up and the other one is still floppy. It cracked me up! It's just hilarious. You really should see it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Make room, please

As a city, I think most Indianapolis drivers are fairly courteous. If you turn on your signal indiciating that you would like to change lanes, they generally will make room for you. As a motorcyclist, I very often take advantage of this courtesy when I'm at a light and I need to get over. I generally get the attention of the driver I would like to merge in front of and use hand signals to ask if I can get over. About 99.9% of the time, they nod in a way that says, "certainly". As I said before, this is most definitely not the case everywhere. In fact, in my hometown of Fort Wayne, it's a tough sell to get another motorist to let you into their lane. It stands to reason that this should not be the case. Fort Wayne is considerably smaller than Indianapolis (250,000 vs 1,500,000) and people in smaller towns are nicer, right? Apparently not. Perhaps it's that we big(ger) city dwellers know the feeling of trying to make our way through heavy traffic on a daily basis and wish others were nicer to us, so we hold out hope that they will be by being nicer to them.

Unfortunately, I've noticed a disturbing trend lately. When I signal to get over, rather than making room for me, LOTS of people have been speeding up so that I can't get over. What's going on? Is it the rush of the holidays? Is it the downturn in the economy that makes everyone want to take care of #1 at all costs? Is it simply the breakdown of polite society? Come on, people! Let's turn this around. We're the midwest. We're nice people. We Hoosiers are nothing if not hospitable! So, let's take this hospitality to the streets. If someone signals to get over, let them over. I promise it won't affect your drive time. In fact, perhaps if we all adopt this policy, we'll get to our destinations safely, cheerfully and on time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

So much time...(cont) AKA Stuff that's totally doable!

We've covered items that I know won't be done, but what's doable given my time/money constraints?

#12. Run the Indianapolis Mini Marathon - This one has been modified to "Complete the Indianapolis Mini Marathon" and I'm already registered for the 2009 running. Come out and support me and all the other runners on May 2, 2009. It's a great time!

#16. Workout at least 30 minutes 500 times - Thanks to the puppy, I'm back on track. I had been a couch slug for the last couple of weeks, but that's certainly not a lifestyle you can have if you have a puppy. We're out for 30 minute walks at least once a day and 15 - 20 minute walks another time. I'm certain that as she gets older and becomes an adolescent dog, she will need even more of these outings.

#18. Wear make-up every day for one month - My problem so far has been the weekends. Since I don't really get dressed up to go out on dates, weekend make-up has somehow become a thing of the past. I'm either gonna have to modify my expectations (it IS my list, right?) or buckle down for those 8 days out of the month. Still, not an insurmountable task.

#19 and #20. Be in bed by 10 PM and up by 6 AM every day for a week - My hope is that once Sasha's bladder gets a little bigger, we can make it through 8 hours without a bathroom break. (I actually don't have a problem - most of the time. LOL) The 6 AM isn't a problem since she's usually raring to go, but getting to bed by 10 PM seems a bit early for her right now. She's rather nap on the couch than actually go to bed, I think.

#30. Bowl a 500 series - Every week I keep trying and trying. Some weeks I get closer than others. I have 16 chances left to do it during my bowling league. I think I can...I think I can.

#85. Read 50 books - I'm sure I could squeeze this one in....I think. Suggestions of short, interesting, quick reads would be greatly appreciated.

#98. Try out one new recipe once a month for 6 months - Heck, I'm 5/6 of the way there. One more recipe certainly isn't going to be a stretch.

If you have any suggestions for completing these items or any other items not crossed off of my list, I would greatly appreciate your help. Know how to drive a manual transmisson and want to let me borrow your car to practice? Great! (hahaha) Have an extra hot air balloon or limo laying around that you need a passenger for? I'm your girl! Have a worthy charity I can make a donation to when I'm finished with the items I'm gonna finish? Who can I make the check out to?

So little time and so much to do! AKA List items that WON'T get done.

As of today, there are only 209 days left to complete my list. YIKES! I know I've said it before, but it's time to buckle down. So far, I've completed 39/101 items. Not too shabby, really. So, a review and then I need your help!

Let's start with items I KNOW are not going to be completed in time:

#15. Weigh less than 150 pounds
- I've been quite lax in my diet and workout routine lately. I could blame the dog or the holidays or a busy schedule. The truth of the matter is I just haven't done the work. Those Biggest Loser people can do it in a mere 6 months, but they've got Bob and Jillian (and no jobs to go to or animals to attend to). Perhaps a good bout with the stomach flu could get me pushed in the right direction....or not.

#26. Get married or be planning my wedding
- HA! Enough said. After all, who wants a family when a puppy is so much work!

#32. Buy a new car
- Short of the wheels falling off of the one I have (which could totally happen), I'm pretty sure this isn't in the budget. For more insight, see #34 and #36 below.

#34. Pay off my credit cards
- I'm definitely making progress, but this is more a mountain than a molehill. I think perhaps it was biting off a bit more than I could chew to think I could do it in just 1001 days. If I win the lottery, it's entirely possible, but short of that, I think we're gonna have to chuck this one. For now.

#36. Have $XXX,XXX in my 401(k) plan
- HAHAHAHAHAHA Ohh. stomach hurts from laughing so much. When I started this plan on October 18, 2006, I needed to earn about 9.50% (taking into account my future contributions) in order to get to my goal. By the end of 2006, that number had dropped to 8.75%. That's certainly not impossible considering that I'm young and quite aggressively invested. In April of 2007, my company added a Roth 401(k) option to our regular 401(k). I took advantage and lowered my required earnings to 8.00%. It was definitely headed in the right direction! By the end of 2007 (beginning of 2008), I had received two raises (which raised my contributions as well as my employer's matching contributions), increased my deferral percentage and had a pretty great year of earnings. These factors all combined to drop the interest rate I need to earn down to a paltry 5.00%! Woohoo. I was well on my way and my plan seemed to be working. Enter economic meltdown. Despite raising my contributions again (all those stocks are on sale right now, so I had to snag them up!) and getting yet another salary increase, the 38% loss I've taken this year really hurts. As of Monday, I need to earn 92% from now until next July in order to hit my goal. HAHAHAHA I think I've got better odds in Vegas!

#37. Have 9 months of earning in my savings
- I've done a pretty good job of saving consistently, but I think this one might still be a bit out of my reach. Again, a lottery win would definitely push me over into the success category.

#68. Take 3 photography classes
- Unless they are VERY brief classes (perhaps a one day seminar?), I don't think this is gonna get checked off of the list. And I really wanted to do it too. Darn.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Psst...Come close...I have a secret

After several days of feeling like a zombie from sleep deprivation, I did some internet mining and came up with a few possible ways to put my puppy to sleep and to get her to sleep through the night. Up until then, she was waking me up between every 45 minutes to an hour with a blood-curdling noise that sounded like someone was strangling her. I'm guessing that's because she hasn't really gotten her bark yet. A woman can only take sleep deprivation for so long before desperate times call for desperate measures.

So, here is the magical formula that I have hit upon for getting my 9-week-old puppy to sleep through the night:

1. I put a battery-operated clock that ticks into her kennel. Her kennel is a metal grate one that expands to fit her size as she grows. Right now it is set pretty small, so I just put the clock on the other side of the divider so that she can't get to it to chew it up. I remember we did this when I was a child and we had a new puppy. I guess it's supposed to simulate the beating of the mother's heart.

2. I placed one of my workout t-shirts into the kennel. It was dirty, of course, so it smelled like me. I chose a t-shirt that I didn't really care about just in case she decided to use it as a chew toy. For her, the smell of my sweaty pits is apparently comforting. Peee-ewww.

3. I covered the entire kennel with a bed sheet - kind of like one would do to a bird cage. That keeps it warm in there, out of the sight of kitties and keeps her from being distracted by me. If she can't see me, she doesn't insist on being with me.

4. Most importantly, I make sure she is good and exhausted. We play with a ball and she chases her tug as I swirl it around my legs, we take a long walk and occasionally go to have a little play date with the dogs that live on either side of me. She LOVES to play with the little terrier that lives next door.

The verdict
: Before these night time rituals were put into place, there was about 20 minutes of barking, howling, etc before she would settle down. She would wake up and start howling about 6 times throughout the night and if I got up to go to the bathroom, that really set her off. The first nightof this experiment, there was about 10 minutes of howling in the beginning, but she slept (or was at least quiet) for a glorious 6 hours! It felt like a lifetime to me. Night #2, there was about 5 minutes of ruckus at the beginning, but 7 hours of sleep. Finally, the last two mornings, I have had to wake her up. On Saturday morning, I actually got up and checked to make sure she was still alive at about 8 AM. She was and we both went back to sleep for a bit. YEAH!

Now I have a new problem: The litter box has become a veritable magnet for her. She loves to dig in there and grab out EW! I don't get it. When she gets bigger, I can put up a gate that the cats can get through, but she can't. For now, does anyone have any solutions for this dilemna? How can I teach her that despite its allure, the kitty box is off limits?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sasha update - end of Day 2

Sasha update:

1) She's getting quite good at the "sit" command. It helps that I give her treats every time she does it right. ...and that her butt is only 5 inches from the floor.

2) Once she got over the initial frustration of being trapped in a wire kennel a few feet away from me (read about 20 minutes of whimpering and barking), we all slept quite well the first night. The second night was not so great. It started out pretty well. She whimpering for about 1 minute and then laid down. However, she was back up and being vocal at 12:45, 1:15, 2:30, 3:15. Finally, at 5:45, we got up and went outside to potty.

3) Potty training is going quite well. I think she's learning that when we go outside, that is her chance to relieve herself. Now we just need to work on a routine, growing a bit bigger bladder and learning to tell me if she has to go out at other various times.

4) She is 8 weeks old and has 2 speeds - hyperspeed and dead to the world. She's VERY cute when she's exhausted and sleeping, but it takes a LONG time to get there. She has a TON of energy. I've promised her a long walk tonight when I get home. Wish me luck. Her preferred speed is running. This may be the best weight loss plan ever!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The newest family member

Since having to put Troy's dog, Sisko, put to sleep in August of 2007, I have been missing him a lot. While I have two cats, I've been especially missing the great doggy-lovin's that I got when he was a part of my life. I've also been feeling like I wanted to add some security to my house. As a single woman, I would rather not keep a gun in the house and I'm certain the cats wouldn't give me enough warning nor would they deter a would-be burglar. So, in the spirit our president-elect, I searched for a new puppy. Actually, I intended to get a little older dog so as to avoid all the puppiness that includes biting, chewing, potty training, etc, etc, however, after a brief search on the internet, I found a couple of 8 week old German Shepherd mixed puppies. They were going to be available for the first time today, so Troy and I went to check them out. I didn't intend to get one today, but you know how it is with babies, kitties and puppies - their cuteness makes it nearly impossible to say no to them.

After spending a couple of hours playing with the two puppies, I decided on one that was named Aubrey. (I have since changed her name to Sasha). I bought out the pet store, or so it seemed, getting all of the required puppy gear.

It's 7 hours later and she's sacked out on the couch next to me. The kitties are dealing and things have gone quite well with them. After a bit of hissing and a lot of sniffing, so far, so good. (Keep your fingers crossed.) I'm gonna take Sasha for some obedience classes, so I'm hoping she will continue to be well-behaved. If you have any tips/dos/don'ts, please feel free to share with me. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Road Rage - Part 2

As a kid, my family didn't have a lot of money, so we very rarely took vacations and when we did, they were nearly always long weekend road trips. We'd drive up to Michigan and go to the lake shore or to the Indiana Dunes. We drove to Minnesota to visit my dad's family and ventured to southern Indiana to see the sights. We'd pack a cooler with sodas and juice, sandwiches and brownies.

Back then, the destinations didn't really matter to me all that much. I enjoyed riding in the car. I'd take along my pillow and blanket, books, dolls, cards and other games to play with my brother in the backseat. If it was a really great (or long) trip, we'd fold down the backseat in our family station wagon and really get to stretch out. We'd each call dibs on one of the two cubby holes that were built into the side of our car where we'd stow all of our prized traveling possessions. We'd make games out of seeing who could spot the most unique license plates from different states or play the "I'm going on a trip..." game. (You know the one...1st person: I'm going on a trip and I'm going to take an apple. 2nd person: I'm going on a trip and I'm going to take a banana and an apple. etc, etc ad nauseum). We'd ask Mom if we could stay awake and, although she always said yes, we'd fall asleep before we'd crossed the state line.

As I made the trek this weekend from my parents' house in Fort Wayne to my own in Indianapolis, I passed a lot of family minivans (the updated station wagon, really). What I noticed saddened me. Nearly every one of them had a pop down TV playing a movie from DVD or maybe even a television show brought to them via satellite. First of all, don't even get me started on how distracting a TV can be for a driver even if he/she can't actually see it. Second, it makes me wonder if families ever interact while they are traveling anymore. Have we, as a generation, forgotten how to spend quality time with one another? Are we teaching our children that some electronic device must always be entertaining them? They are inundated with Ipods and the handheld Nintendo DS. They can pop in their favorite Dora the Explorer DVD while riding down the interstate in the middle of Kansas. Is it really "seeing" the country if all you're looking at is the box in front of you?

So, since more families are deciding to travel by motor vehicle instead of flying this year, I have a challenge for you this holiday season. Pack the Ipods and DVDs away. By all means, take them because everyone needs a break from "together" time now and then, but trying talking to each other. Find a radio station playing all Christmas music and sing along as a family. Point out all of the amazing holiday decorations along the way to Grandma's house. Pack a travel Scrabble game and see who can make the best word using Z.

My wish for everyone this season is not for more toys or games or sweaters you'll never wear. Instead, I hope that you are able to find the joy in one another and find a way to make memories with your family and friends that will last longer than that package of fruitcake that Aunt Gladys insist on giving every year.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Road Rage - Part 1

I recently returned from a trip to Dallas, Texas with a couple of my girlfriends. Most of my vacations entail me riding my motorcycle, but we flew instead, so I didn't have a car and I wasn't responsible for driving us around. All I can say is, "THANK GOD!" I've driven in a LOT of cities and towns across this country while traveling by motorcycle. I can honestly and wholeheartedly say that Dallas drivers are insane. First, there are so many of them and second, they are not generous. They don't leave enough following space and they nearly refuse to let you onto the freeway.

Unfortunately, I am afraid that this is the direction the drivers of our nation are headed. It seems to me that getting a driver's license isn't all that difficult and, call me old, but I think it should be. It should be taken seriously. A car is a 2 ton lethal weapon in the wrong hands. Over 55,000 people die needlessly on our highways every year. What is it going to take for us to change this statistic?

A recent proposal made by Indiana lawmakers would change the age and other requirements for getting a license in the state of Indiana. ( The proposed law would increase the minimum driving age by 6 months. This would mean that for a person who takes a drivers education class, the minimum driving age would be 16 and 6 months. For a person who has not taken classes, the age would be 17. Many might say that this is age discrimination. Yes, I agree. But there's a reason for that. While 16 and 17-year-old account for the smallest percentage of drivers, they account for the highest accident rate. It's not that they are bad drivers necessarily, it's simply that they are inexperienced. The proposed law would also require at least 50 hours of supervised driving with an instructor or other adult. 10 of those hours would have to be at night. I think that's a brilliant idea. The best way to get that experience that teenagers are lacking is by actually driving in an environment where someone else can fill in the gaps of their knowledge when they need it.

One of the final requirements is that probationary drivers may not use a cell phone (handheld OR handsfree) while in the car until they are 18. My thought? Why even let them do it when they are 18? I don't think anyone should. Generally speaking, there are no conversations that are so dire and pressing that they need to made WHILE driving a car/truck/SUV. By all means, have a phone with you for safety reasons, but keep your eyes (and mind) on the road. Apparently not everyone agrees with me. One of the comments left on the WTHR website was a woman saying that students should be taught how to drive with a cell phone as part of their education because they are going to do it anyway. If that is the rationale, then shouldn't we be teaching how to apply mascara or lipstick while careening down the road at 50 mph? These are behaviors we should be discouraging, not teaching.

Although this legislation is aimed at teenagers, I think all drivers should take a skills or a refresher driver's training course once every 6 years or so. We all tend to slip into bad habits and need to be reminded about the proper way to operate a motor vehicle.

Short of that, my hope is that more drivers will remember (and put into practice) 2 simple behaviors. #1) The 2-second rule. I remember being taught this when I took Driver's Ed MANY moons ago, but apparently it's fallen by the wayside. The rule states that the distance that should be maintained between you and the car in front of you should be no less than 2 seconds worth of space. That means that when you're traveling at 70 mph, there should be MUCH more distance between you and the car in front of you than when you're traveling 35 mph. The best way to test this in practice? Pick a spot on the road or maybe a sign on the side of the road. When the car in front passes that spot, you start counting 1-1000, 2-1000. If you reach that same spot before you've finished counting, you're too close. When the weather is bad or it's night, those 2 seconds should become 3 or 4. #2) Pay attention! I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that if people would stop fiddling with the radio or cell phone or chowing down on their Big Mac and order of fries, at least 90% of accidents could be avoided. What a shame that that one is put into practice so infrequently.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's no wonder I have weight issues!

So, I was hanging out at my house this weekend watching some TV while doing some home renovation. I watched the last half of "The Prince and Me" (2004 movie with Julia Stiles), which was cute. I've always been a fan of Julia Stiles and the guy who played the prince was very cute, so that was enough reason to watch. After it ended, "The Prince and Me II: The Royal Wedding" started. Okay, I'll ignore the fact that it was a stinker. Julia didn't come back for it and the actress who played Paige was overly dramatic and it just seemed poorly written. But, that is not what my rant is about.

The premise of the movie was that some archaic Danish law said that the Prince (who is now the King) can't marry a commoner if there is an eligible royal to marry. There is and she is on her way to the castle for a visit. A conversation between the Prince and Paige (his non-royal betrothed) takes place regarding this princess who threatens Paige's future as a queen. Paige asks the Prince if he knows this woman. He says he does and that they were good friends when they were younger. Paige further questions him and it eventually gets down to "what does she look like?" His response is: "From what I remember, she was rather ROTUND. Do you feel better now?"

.....ARE YOU KIDDING ME? If his response had been, "she has horrible hair" or "her left eye is a little wonky" or "her nose is awfully big", somehow that wouldn't have carried the same weight. (Mind the pun.) Why is it that weight is always the great determinant of whether or not someone is worthy or attractive, a good candidate as a life mate or a perceived "threat" to a relationship?

It's no wonder I have such low self-esteem! My weight has always been an issue for me. As a child I was "stout." (No little girl should ever be told such a thing.) Whether it is a snail-like metabolism, a childhood where I don't ever remember doing anything sport-like as a family or simply bad choices about food and exercise, I feel destined to be trapped in this "fat suit". That feels like a death sentence when it comes to marriage and family. I've worked very hard on who I am. I strive to be empathetic, forthright, honest, loyal, witty, intelligent, and generally a "good person". I do the "heavy lifting" of talking to a therapist every week to work on the areas that are still a challenge to me. I really do try to eat right and exercise. But this all seems to be of little or no consequence. Anyone who sees me assumes that I must not do those things because I am fat...obese....disgusting.

Why is this still an acceptable way of discriminating against people? Why are fat jokes told? Why are obese people physically touched less (and thereby feel loved less)? Obesity isn't catching. It's not like a cold. Why are fat people assumed to be lazy or less intelligent? How do I not believe these things about myself when those are the messages that seems to be constantly thrust under my nose via television and magazines and conversations walking down the street? If I am healthy and my body is strong and capable of performing the tasks I want to perform, shouldn't these messages simply pass by me and not cling to me?

Why couldn't I have been born in the days when Rubenesque women were thought of as beautiful and desireable? I will never be a waif. I will never be told that I need to put a little meat on my bones. Every day will be a battle with the scale and the stupid, albeit very real, connection between the numbers that show up and the value I (and others) place on me. The very thought of that makes me sad and tired.

Monday, November 10, 2008

4 Wheels Move the Body. 2 Wheels Move the Soul.

As winter and cold weather approach, my thoughts turn to preparing my motorcycle for winter and the sadness that that causes. I've only been riding for a little over 4 years, but in that time, this adventurous hobby has taken up a special place of residence in my heart. As an homage to motorcycling and all that it means to me, I present the top 10 reasons that motorcycling is nourishment for my soul.

10. Frugality - Perhaps it is my practical German heritage, but riding a motorcycle speaks to my wallet as well as my soul. What other way can you travel the country for 2 weeks and spend so little? We usually camp, which keeps things cheap. Even when gas is $4.00/gallon and the tank is empty, a fill-up runs me no more than $10 - $12! Finally, it cuts down on the tourism paraphernalia for sure. When you have just two small saddlebags and a suitcase strapped to the bike, you're not dragging home a bunch of stuff. For me, postcards and photos fit the bill perfectly.

9. Freedom of the road - While I think convertibles are great fun, there's nothing better than feeling the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. (Ok, admittedly I wear a helmet, but you can still feel it all.) There's a saying that motorcyclists are the only ones who understand why a dog hangs its head out the window. For better or worse, smells are not muted, the details of the road stretched out before you are clear and with a twist of the throttle you can go anywhere you want.

8. Community - I have met some of the nicest people on a motorcycle. Often it breaks the ice for me to speak to someone I might otherwise not approach. Often it compels others to talk to me. Ok, I could maybe do without the gas stops where a man wearing a wife-beater asks me if I can really ride my bike or if I really rode it all the way there by myself. The sarcastic response I usually want to make is along the lines of, "no, I pushed it here." However, all in all, the motorcycle people I have met are among the nicest in the world, I believe. If I ever need anything, I'm certain they will be the first people I turn to.

7. Time alone with my thoughts - The pleasure I derive from getting to be alone with only the thoughts in my head and my "music to menstruate by" floating into my ears cannot be measured. There's no compromising with someone else about what to listen to on the radio. There's no desire or compulsion (or ability) to answer my cell phone. I can sing along as loud as I want because, after all, no one can hear me over the roar of my engine. In the safety, security and comfort of my helmet, my mind wanders to all of the things I want to see, The world is my oyster and I'm not gonna share the pearl.

6. Adventure - Some of my best memories and vacations have occurred astride my trusty motorcycle. I've visited old friends and found new ones at motorcycle rallies from Burlington, Vermont to Asheville, North Carolina to Duluth, Minnesota. I've learned that travel is more about the journey than the destination and the stories I could tell would fill a book (or at least a scrapbook.) An encounter with some deer on a dark rural road in eastern Ohio, 200 miles of a torrential downpour while traveling 80 MPH in eastern New York State, stumbling upon the glorious "Grand Canyon of the East" just outside of Port Kent, New York. I could go on and on.

5. Bolsters confidence and self-esteem - The mere thought of riding from Indiana to the east coast scared the living daylights out of me. Anxiety churned in my stomach and I lost the desire to eat days before we departed. I had only been riding about 1 1/2 years and I was about 6 months post broken arm from a motorcycle accident that was completely my fault. I was certain that I was out of my league and would be overwhelmed by all of the possible obstacles that lay out ahead of me. It was certainly difficult at times, but by the time I returned 12 days later, I felt like a different rider. I was more in control and confident in my skills. I had encountered rain, crazy traffic and a sizeable gravel hill and come out unscathed. Now whenever I safely navigate through some maze of highways at rush hour or successfully take a curve a little faster than the last time I rode it, I feel good!

4. Simplicity - When you travel by motorcycle, you master the art of simplicity. When you're going to be gone for 2 weeks and have limited storage space, you figure out how to make one possession fulfill two or three uses. You figure out how to look your best without a hairdryer and curling iron. Suddenly a pair of Crocs become a wardrobe staple because they take you from the shower to the campground to a long walk and don't take up that much room. Although I was uncomfortable traveling this light to begin, sometimes now I think all I need is a credit card, driver's license, cell phone and a AAA card. After all, this is the USA and you're hardly ever that far from a major chain store.

3. The Clothes! - Now, I am certainly no clothes horse, but among my motorcycle peeps, I am the height of fashion. At rallies, (at least those where BMW riders and others who wear appropriate safety gear attend) the buzz is about the latest and greatest wicking materials or zip-off pants and exciting new technologies that allow you to stay warm/cool. I pity the women who were riding 20 years ago. It's certainly a male dominated sport and so all of the clothes were geared for their demographic. Unfortunately, women are NOT just small men. We have different proprotions and tastes in what we want to ride in. Thanks to forward thinking manufacturers who are trying to tap into the female motorcycle riding market, I am now able to buy clothing and safety apparel that actually fits. In fact, it's gotten so great that, if I so desire (which I do), I can deck myself out in pink from head to toe. Essentially my goal is to the Pink Power Ranger and I am well on my way!

2. I can be extraordinary and unexpected - When I share my love of the road and bikes with most people, I sometimes am greeted with surprise and disbelief. I guess, for most of the non-riding public, I am not what they imagine a "biker chick" to look like. There's something in that that really appeals to me. I don't want people to be able to simply look at me and know all there is to know about me. I venture to guess I am the only motorcycle-riding female actuary anywhere. Yeah! I like not dressing like all other riders. I like the looks I get from other bikers and cars. They do a double take and I think that's really great! No more will they think all bikers wear leather, have mustaches and sport at least one tatoo and not all women who ride are "dykes on bikes." Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-)

1. The opportunity to pass the hobby on to other women and girls - The best part of being a female, country-crossing, pink-clad motorcycle rider is the amazing opportunity I have to share the sport with other women. Troy once paid me a very high compliment by telling me I am a wonderful ambassador for riding. I can't tell you how many times I've had women in their 30's or 40's or 50's come up and tell me that they've thought about riding, but that they have fallen into the belief they can't do it. They think they aren't tall enough or strong enough or that riding alone would be scary. I admit to them that for the first year I rode, every time I left the garage, I thought to myself, "I'm going to die", that I crashed and broke my arm and that I was the first one in my riding class to dump their bike. So, I certainly don't sugar-coat it. But I also tell them what an amazing time I have while riding - how all of the 9 prior things on this list keep me going back for more. There's simply no feeling like it and, as long as you taken the danger part of it seriously and dress for the slide, not for the ride, anyone can do it.

I'm also encouraged by being a role model for young girls. Often I see young girls riding in cars get the attention of their parents to point to me. My hope is that they are saying, "Wow! It's a girl, Mommy. Some day I want to ride like her." Who knows, maybe if I had had female riding role models, I might have started riding before I was 30. Imagine all the adventures I could have had!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yes, we did, Indiana!

Yeah, Indiana! We did it! We voted Democrat in 2008! We helped to elect the first black United States President! As Tom Brokaw commented on the Today Show yesterday morning, we chose "hope over fear". We've come a long way since Indiana was a hotbed for the KKK. And thank God for that!

I know that many of my friends, relative and neighbors don't agree with me and my choice. I know that the news commentators are saying how difficult the road ahead is for President-elect Obama (as well as for ourselves). But for the first time in a LONG time, I feel hopeful about the future of our country.

I think for too long we've been patronized and assumed to be idiots who are unable to make decisions. While I agree with that in some instances (the privatization of Social Security), I think we deserve more credit. I think we need to be challenged more. It's hard to show what we, as a people, are made of when we're led around by the hand (or nose ... or wallet). I think that it's time we were given some responsibility and accountability to make better decisions about our environment, economy and personal savings so that when REAL, dire challenges come our way we're prepared with knowledge of how to cope as well as a belief in ourselves and our abilities. Those times and challenges are upon us and we are woefully unprepared!

Obama spoke about sacrifices that are going to have to be made and I'm not sure that we heard him. Being told to make sacrifices does not make us happy. After all, telling people to turn down their heat and put on a sweater was part of the downfall of President Carter. My hope is that we will grow up and face these challenges head on. We can and should use our resourcefulness and knowledge to make changes locally that will have an impact locally. I pray for us and our leaders every day.

Friday, October 31, 2008

I take it back! I take it back!

Recently, I talked about how excited I was that Indiana is actually a swing state in this year's Presidential election. Since 1964, when Indiana chose LBJ, we have consistently voted Republican in the National elections. For a Democrat, such as myself, it's often difficult to go to the polls knowing that, in the long run, my vote doesn't count. So, to know that this year it may actually make a difference made me feel good.

That was then. That was before nearly every commercial on TV was for a political purpose. I recently made the annual "Girl Trip" with a couple of my girlfriends. This year we chose to go to Texas to visit a couple of other friends. Since Texas is not a battleground state, it was so refreshing to not be constantly bombarded with Obama and McCain ads. The news covered OTHER issues even!

I think the real problem is the electoral college. It skews the way the candidates campaign. Since most states are an all or nothing proposition, most of the time the presidential candidates barely visit most states. I'm certain the coverage in those states isn't nearly as comprehensive, and consequently, those voters may not be as educated. After all, we, as a nation, are a lazy lot. Most of the time unless the platforms are shoved right in our faces, we don't do the research necessary to make an educated decision.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but there has to be a better way to make the electorate more educated while at the same time making sure each and every vote really does count.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Insights from therapy

For the past 3 years or so, I have seen a psychologist on a weekly basis. I know that there are those people out there who either poo-poo the idea of seeing a mental professional or think that this is a matter that shouldn't be aired publicly because others might think less of you. Personally, I think everyone should be in therapy. We are all emotionally damaged in our own special way and act based on that damage whether we are aware of it or not. There's always the manifest portion of an act as well as the latent portion of that act. Choosing to ignore the latent portion (the REAL reason behind why we do what we do) only leads to a perpetually acting in that same way.

In my therapy sessions, we figure out the WHY of what I do so that, if the action is detrimental to myself or someone else, I can act differently in the future. Over the course of the last few years, I discovered lots of things about myself and how I feel that haven't been so pleasant, but have allowed me to view the world differently and to, therefore, act or react to situations differently. In the past two weeks we have come up with some pretty amazing insights.

1) Hi, My name is Heather (Hi Heather) and I am an emotional eater. (GASP!)

I've actually known this about myself for quite a while, but I was in denial for a LOOOONG time. The problem is that, up until last week, I couldn't figure out WHY I was an emotional eater. I was (thank God) never physically abused as a child or an adult. I, long ago, started trying to express my feelings rather than "eat" them. (Literally and figuratively). But I still didn't get why I felt the urge to eat a piece of cake or cookie or pint of ice cream in certain situations. (The theory is that, for emotional eaters, if you need love, you gravitate towards "soft" foods (ie, cake, ice cream, mashed potatoes). If you feel like you can't express anger or frustration, you lean towards foods that crunch (ie, potato chips, etc). I need love and so, my foods of choice are always "soft".)

The hypothesis that Dr. F and I have been working with recently is that my relationships are not emotionally nourishing. In my interactions with people on a daily basis, I expect to be fed on a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables and Filet Mignon. Instead, I come away from most interactions feeling as though all I've been offered is a rice cake. Now, don't get me wrong, if you are a fan of Styrofoam, a rice cake is quite a treat. For me, it's definitely NOT the first thing I'm going to grab out of the pantry. Despite being offered these relationship rice cakes on a continual basis, I keep going back thinking that THIS time it will be different. The problem with that theory is that some people are only capable of serving rice cakes. It doesn't matter what I say or do, that's not going to change. Thinking it will is an exercise in futility and only leads me to constantly seek solace in foods that bring me comfort.

2) Compliments and admiration are like crack cocaine for my soul.

When I was growing up, I was a pretty smart kid. I didn't really try very hard and yet I did well in school and it seemed like I could do anything I wanted on the first try (I think this is what they call selective memory). People complimented and praised me continually. This sort of emotional propping up is what I became accustomed to.

When I went to college and didn't do quite as well, when I was no longer a big fish in a little pond, when I had to actually work at things and didn't hear that kind of constant acknowledgement from the people that I relied upon for that sort of thing, I began to behave like an addict. Of course, it's only in hindsight that I realize that. I would do anything I could to get the attention and admiration that had once been doled out so generously, yet it wasn't as readily available to me.

Now that I have been weaned off of that sort of constant praise and introduced to what the real world is like, I find that when someone does compliment me, I feel nearly euphoric and ravenous for even more of that sort of stroking. It's like what I would imagine a drug addict experiences when they get a little taste of their vice. I've really noticed it take hold in the last week or so. Three times, I've had people say things to me or act in such a way that it makes me frightened of the effect it has on me. It makes me wonder how I can get more. Since I've been trying to build the emotional fortitude to stand on my own two feet and to not rely on others for my emotional well-being, this desire to please others and garner their attention seems a dangerous path to go down.

It's a good thing I get to talk to someone once a week so that I can work on these very things.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Arby's Ban! (click here to see my other Arby's rant)

So, this morning, after a week absence or so, I was able to drag my butt out of bed and get it into the gym. The rest of me went along with it, but it wasn't willingly! I spent 30 minutes on the treadmill followed by 30 minutes on the stationary bike, grabbed my purse and keys from the locker room and headed for my car, which was parked about a block away.

On the way to my car, I passed an Arby's restaurant (the one that I had to mystery shop a few weeks ago) and, on the window, I see an advertisement for their new "Mac & Cheesers". My jaw nearly hit the ground. According to their own website:

"Your favorite childhood snack is back and better than ever. Creamy cheddar cheese and classic macaroni are battered and friend into golden triangles of flavor. Great for snacking when you're on the run or
camped out watching cartoons on the family TV."

Also, according to their website, these "golden triangles of flavor" contain 78 calories EACH and come in a pack of 5 for a whopping 390 calories and 805 grams of sodium!!! We as Americans (myself included) are already constantly bombarded by food choices that are severely nutritionally deficient and we are encouraged to eat what we want because "you deserve a break today".

For the first time in our nation's history, our children have shorter life expectancies than we do. Why? Because they are fed on a steady diet of Mac & Cheesers and Happy Meals. In a recent study, parents are even being encouraged to give their children Vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is readily available to our bodies from sunlight and milk, but our children aren't drinking enough milk or playing outside enough to get adequate supplies.

I, for one, am going to try to make a change. I understand being on the run and living a hectic lifestyle, but if food sources like Arby's are going to constantly show that their concern is the bottom line rather than our expanding waistlines and rising heath concerns, I'm not going to be a party to it. I'm sure it won't make a difference to them if I no longer patronize their establishments, but hopefully it will make a difference to my own waistline. Maybe if enough of us take this same stance, it will force these restaurants to make a change as well.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oktoberfest Balloon Race

Last weekend, Troy and I had the pleasure of spending some time in south central Indiana with his family at their farm. It's the time of year for all of the festivals to start and since Indiana has such a strong German heritage, Oktoberfest festivities were on our agenda.

Saturday morning we enjoyed the Seymour Oktoberfest parade. Along with Troy and myself, his mom, dad, sister and nieces and nephew grabbed a seat in the grass along the parade route. Sitting in the grass seemed like a good idea until I realized that I had sat in what was essentially a briar patch. These tiny, painful balls of hell were sticking me in the butt. When I tried to gingerly push myself up using my hands, more of them punctured my palm. It was NOT a good time! Luckily Troy was nice enough to help me up and help to pick them off of me.

Despite Seymour being a relatively small town, they had a pretty long parade. There were three bands, LOTS of older model tractors, dancers, cheerleaders and princesses of all sorts and sizes. Perhaps the most disturbing float to me was the one advertising the local funeral home. It was all shimmery and piping lively music into the crowd. I would have perhaps thought of something a bit more somber. Odd.

Later that evening, Troy and I headed to the local high school where a hot air balloon race was set to start. We attended the event several years ago and were just fascinated by it all. It's an actual contest. There is a lead balloon that fills up and heads off. As soon as it leaves the ground, the other balloons are allowed to start being filled. At some point, the lead balloon drops a marker and the other balloons try to drop their markers as close to that spot as they can. Fun!

On my list is "Ride in a hot air balloon", so I went out on a limb and asked the operator of the lead balloon if I might be able to catch a ride with him. While he was very nice, he explained that that spot was already taken by the sponsor of the event. Oh well. It's worth it to ask.

We found a good spot along what we thought was the sidelines and settled in for the excitement to begin. Within a few minutes, the Remax balloon (the lead balloon) was nearly full and began swaying back and forth as the shreiking voice of the young children in it's path rang through the crowd. Not to worry, no one was in danger, but it was quite funny to hear the cadence of their yells as the balloon leaned down towards them and then swayed back the other way. Eventually, they got it under control and it was on it's way.

The other balloons, which up until now, had been neatly unfurled and lying flat across the football field, immediately started to fill with air generated by huge fans. It was quite a show. When they are way up in the air, they don't appear to be all that big, but right next to them on the ground, you realize they are HUGE. Yet, with those fans going, less than 10 minutes later, nearly all of the 17 chase balloons were filled and on their way towards the lead balloon. In some cases, it was all the balloon handlers could do to keep them from heading up prematurely. Hot air rising is an amazingly strong force, apparently.

In total, the whole show probably took less than 25 minutes, but if you ever get a chance to see one, I would highly recommend it. The beauty of the balloons close up as the sun is setting is simply amazing.

Google Analytics

I recently installed Google Analytics on my blog after hearing about it from a friend. It's the coolest thing ever! It hides in the background of your blog and keeps track of some great information like who visits your site (no worries. it doesn't actually tell me WHO you are.) and what city, country, etc they log in from. It also keeps track of things like how long visitors stay on the site, how many pages they view, how they get to the site (direct vs. search engine, etc), whether they are a new visitor or a returning visitor. It's just amazing to me! I don't understand the inner workings of how these things get programmed, but I thank the programmers!

Interested in a few stats? Here you go:

In 13 days, I have had 89 visits from 60 DIFFERENT visitors. That's 2.87 visits per day. They hail from countries like Kazakhstan, Australia, Ireland, Canada and the US and cities like Indianapolis (duh), Chicago (hi Jill!), the Bronx and apparently I'm very big in Hamilton, OH. (If you're a Hamiltonian, drop me a line! I'd love to hear why you're reading and what keeps you coming back!). The average visitor spends 38 seconds and checks out 1.28 pages. You all must be VERY fast readers! Most visitors have been here less than 1 day ago.

The thing I find most interesting about this is that when Google Analytics wasn't installed, I wondered if anyone ever visited, but it was just a fleeting thought. The content was based on what I wanted to talk about, what happened in my life, what I was thinking about and what's important to me. Now I somehow feel competitive about getting more visitors and getting them to stick around longer. Why is that? Is it the American sensibilities in me that tell me I need to constantly do better? Is it a desire to be heard and listened to? Food for thought for me and my therapist, I suppose.

In the meantime, since you're listening and reading, what can I do better? What do you want to hear/talk about? Do you miss hearing about more of my motorcycle adventures? Do I include too many/not enough pictures? Is there some better purpose this forum could be used for other than bragging/complaining/reporting my life and thoughts?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Indiana as a swing state? Waahooo!

As an Indiana democrat, I am often in the minority. Every election (including primaries), I go to the polls and cast my vote. Often, I feel frustrated that I'm not heard and that my vote seemingly doesn't count because my candidate didn't get elected. Why do I keep doing it? 1) Many women sacrified life and limb so that I would have the right to do so. 2) I think it's important to stay abreast of political issues and voting is like taking a test after you've studied the candidates' positions on those issues. 3) So that I can complain when the other guy makes bad decisions that negatively affect me.

I do catch a bit of a break since I live in Indianapolis, which is overwhelmingly the most liberal part of the state. But, unfortunately, all of our votes here in the capital city don't negate the "red" counties in the rest of the state. Even Fort Wayne, with a population of around 250,000, is a backward thinking small town that overwhelmingly votes Republican.

But could this year be different? Could our little retangular-ish piece of the US map come up blue? Oh that a girl could dream! This just in from CNN's Political Ticker:

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Polls in five key battleground states in the race for the White House released Tuesday suggest that Sen. Barack Obama is making major gains.

The CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation polls of likely voters in Indiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin reflect a significant nationwide shift toward the Democratic presidential nominee.

SWEET! My only fear is that the right-wing nut jobs that populate our state and vote based on one issue alone will read about this and "get out the vote".

If you would like to read more on this CNN item, please go to:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Read on an Arby's cup....

"Happiness is just a curly fry away." Really? Seriously?

We live in a society that regularly medicates itself with food. Are you angry? Take it out on those potato chips! They won't talk back. Feeling unloved? How about melting into the arms of that delicious bowl of rocky road? As america's waistlines continue to expand ( and our self-reported happiness takes a nose-dive, perhaps it's time we got down to the real causes of our obesity and depression and stopped thinking ding-dongs are the true path to happiness.

I try not to eat at fast food restaurants, but when my busy schedule (and lack of planning) leave me hungry and with little time at my disposal, grabbing a quick bite from a drive-thru sometimes seems the best available option. I probably grab fast food meals 2 times a month and I don't exercise nearly enough. Unfortunately, I think I may actually be ahead of the curve. Many busy families eat a steady diet of burgers and fries and it's been shown that kids are leading ever more sedentary lives. If these poor habits are compounded by negative messages they are constantly fed subtlely (and not so subtlely), what a bleak future stands before our nation.

So, what do we do to fix this? We've all heard "eat right and exercise". It's not sexy, but it's true. Maybe it takes baby steps? How about eating 1 less time at those fast food restaurants per month? Per week? Adding a salad as a meal once a month? A week? Spending 15 minutes after dinner (when the kids still have so much energy) and walking around the neighborhood as a family? Or maybe just taking the time to think about WHY we want to eat the entire row of Girl Scout cookie Thin Mints before simply ripping open the package.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Newest amusement park thrill ride

I'm a HUGE roller coaster fan. In fact, I even spent a (semi-torturous) summer working at Cedar Point ("America's Roller Coast"). I love that feeling of thinking of your stomach is going to spew out of your nostrils and your butt jumping out of the seat at any moment. It's fun and exciting because, for the most part, it's fake danger. Most rides at permanent amusement parks are inspected daily by teams of highly skilled mechanics and engineers. The adrenalin rush you get leaves you terrified for a moment, but then invigorated and elated.

I can't say my level of enthusiasm for the recent stock market swings reaches the same heights. In the past few days, while Congress discusses what should be done about the financial sector of our economy, my 401(k) has nearly given me whiplash. After Monday's debacle, I was down 6.6% in that one day loss. After yesterday's up, I've regained 3.4%. (Amazing how it doesn't seem to go up nearly as fast as it goes down.) And for the year, I've "lost" nearly 21%. Ouch! I say "lost" because I haven't actually sold anything or moved anything. Since I have over 30 years until retirement, I'm very aggressively invested. That seemed like a great idea last year when my return was nearing the double digits.

For a brief moment last week I started to get scared. Really scared. These ups and downs aren't like those stomach butterflies manufactured for us at amusement parks. These ups and downs have real consequences. Will I have a roof over my head? Will I be able to feed myself (and my family, if I had one)? Will I have a job this time next year? Will I be supporting my parents, who are nearing retirement age, when they can no longer afford to support themselves?

All of these fears nearly froze me in my tracks. So, rather than let them consume me, I stood up, dusted myself off and pulled out the biggest stick I had to beat them off. I RAISED my 401(k) contributions. It was a scary thing to do, but the stock market is having a fire sale and what better time to stock up? I've got TONS of time to ride out these ups and downs.

So, if you're in a similar boat, buckle up, keep your hands and arms inside the ride at all times and prepare for what could be the most profitable thrill ride you've ever been on.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Our amazing bodies

Tuesday marked 4 months since I had my surgery. I had an appointment with the PS on Monday and he basically cleared me. Since the surgery I have had regular follow-up visits with him. At first they were every week. Then it was every few weeks or so. Now I don't have to go back for 4 months! That's amazing.

I continue to be astounded by what our bodies are capable of. In the last few years I've experienced some major traumas and invasive procedures, yet my body continually renews and rebuilds itself. When I crashed the motorcycle and broke my arm (3 years ago already!), I thought the doctors and physical therapists who told me that in a few short months I would again lift, carry and write normally were crazy. But they were right! I crashed in October, got the pins out in November, finished physical therapy in December and by the beginning of February, I was about 90% recovered. Wow.

Before my breast reduction, I read the most people had returned to full regular activities within 6 months. They were running, swimming, carrying, etc. I thought that was crazy. But, here I am, 4 months post-op and have been riding my motorcycle since 6 weeks after the surgery, doing step-aerobics classes again and even been running. The scars continue to fade and my new chest has started to feel so normal to me that I forget what it was like before. I have to actually look at pictures pre- and post-op pictures to get a real feel for the difference. Perhaps this is why women who endure hours of painful childbirth go on to have even more children!

The major downside I've found to this amazing body is that it stubbornly resists my attempts to make it drop weight. Perhaps this is part of the traits that have been passed down from generation after generation of people who had to survive in hostile climates before me. Unfortunately (or fortunately actually), I don't have that problem. Food and, consequently, calories, are in abundance all around me. I don't have to wait on the winter living off of my stored fats. Perhaps I was just born in the wrong millenium. Cavemen would have been drooling over pin-ups of my genetic material!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

#91. Pick apples and make a cobbler (and recipe 5 of 6)

I've always loved fresh baked goods. My mom was always great at making them (sometimes to the detrement of our waistlines). So, what's a better way to welcome autumn than to get out and enjoy all that nature has to offer by picking some ripe, juicy apples? That's just what Troy and I decided to do on Saturday morning.

We hitched up the steeds (our motorcycles), checked the maps (actually my GPS), and heading for greener pastures (orchards) just southwest of Indianapolis in Mooresville, IN. The weather was simply perfect and we made sure to pack some bags to haul the fruit of our labors home. After all, not everyone sets out to pick apples on motorcycles. Actually, the orchard was quite busy and we were the ONLY ones to arrive on motorcycles. You should have seen the looks we received! :-)

After consulting with one of the men working there on what varieties of apples would make the best cobbler, we headed toward the Jonathons and Cortlands. I've never actually heard of Cortlands, but they are a VERY good apple which tended to be larger than the Jonathons.

We scanned the rows which were nicely labeled for ease, found what we were looking for and headed towards the trees further from the road as we assumed they would be less picked over. We were right and before we knew it had picked a peck (actually a 1/2 a bushel). It came in quite handy to have Troy around as he's much taller than me and some of the best apples were higher up on the trees.

When we had finished picking the apples and had packed them on the bikes, we decided to check out the little store that they had there. There were lots of already-picked apples for those less adventurous souls who weren't in the mood to check out the trees for themselves as well as pumpkins and baked goods. We decided that our hard work (not really) had earned us a bit of a treat. Troy opted for a water while I tried their apple cider slushy. We split a very cake-like elephant ear. YUM!

Armed with my apple booty, I set to make the apple cobbler. It was amazingly easy. Having never made one, I wasn't sure how difficult it would be, but I had no problems. The most time-consuming part was actually peeling and coring the apples. Luckily I have a great peeler and apple corer/cutter. With the right tools, it's a breeze. In less than an hour, I had a lovely apple cobbler. Since Troy doesn't like fruit (apples apparently taste like grass. Who knew?) and I don't need to eat a whole cobbler, I took it into work and shared. It got rave reviews and even enticed someone who never eats the "kitchen treats" to try a bit. She said it was amazing.

The only problem I have now is that I still have quite a few apples left. So far, I've made 2 cobblers (took the other one down to Troy's family), an apple crisp (to be enjoyed at my church meeting tonight) and given away 8 apples. I still have about 30 apples left, I think. Anyone have any good recipes or ideas?

If you'd like to try to make one of your own, here's the recipe. It's from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook or you can find it online here ( I would double the topping next time. Enjoy!

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
6 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened pitted tart red cherries
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
Vanilla ice cream (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. For topping, in a medium bowl stir together flour, the 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder, salt, and, if desired, cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.

2. For filling, in a large saucepan combine the cherries, the 1 cup sugar, and the cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until cherries juice out, stirring occasionally. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Keep filling hot.

3. In a small bowl stir together egg and milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just to moisten. Transfer hot filling to a 2-quart square baking dish. Using a spoon, immediately drop topping into six mounds on top of filling.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until topping is golden brown. If desired, serve warm with ice cream.

5. Makes 6 servings

6. Apple or Pear Cobbler: Prepare as above, except, for filling, cook and stir 6 cups sliced, cored, and peeled cooking apples or pears, 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice until boiling, stirring occasionally once fruit begins to juice out; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes or until fruit is almost tender, stirring occasionally. Combine 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon cornstarch; add to filling. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.

#24. Drink no soda for 6 months

I successfully made it 6 months without drinking soda. It actually wasn't bad. I don't drink a lot anyway (maybe 1 at lunch 2 times a week and then 1 on the weekend with a meal), so it wasn't a struggle. What was difficult was ordering at restaurants (basically fast food). There aren't a whole lot of drink choices if you don't want something chocked full of sugar. I tried to stick to iced tea if they had it.

The worst part about the challenge was at my birthday party. There was a ton of soda to drink and I couldn't have any of it. That's what they made wine for though, right?

Music is medicine for my soul

On Saturday evening I had the pleasure of attending a concert at the Vogue with two of my favorite men who are in my life - Troy and Patrick. Obviously my readers know who Troy is. Patrick is a great friend that lives down the street from me. We used to hang out all the time and have deep philosophical discussions while drinking beers. He's introduced me to a lot of great music and has really influenced my musical tastes.

The headliner for the concert was Dar Williams, whose music I was introduced to by Patrick. (Of course when I told him that and reminded him that he had one of her CDs, he said, "I do?" Later in the concert she played "Mercy of the Fallen" ( and he said, "I need to get that song." I said, "You have it." Once again, "I do?"). I've always enjoyed her music, but somehow by seeing her live in concert (and sitting mere feet from her), I have even more of an appreciation for her as a songwriter, artist and woman. She's funny, seemingly natural on stage and can spin a great yarn.

As I sat there between my two favorite guys, I just marveled at how lucky I was. They are amazing friends and have both helped me to grow in ways I never imagined. It also occurred to me that for me, music is medicine. I try to keep my MP3 player (filled with music played by chicks with guitars, mostly) with me all the time. I can't imagine a motorcycle ride without those girls along. No matter what my mood or state of mind, I can find something to suit it and the music washes over me and helps to sooth my aching soul. There is a hole in my being that can only be adequately filled by thoughtful lyrics and a lilting melody.

So, thank you, Troy and Patrick, for joining me for an evening of healing. And thank you, Dar, for providing the cure.

Friday, September 19, 2008 many things to blog. So little time.

I've recently been MIA from my blogging duties, but I haven't let the time pass me by without marking some things off of my list. In order to whet your appetite, here's a list of items that I will hopefully be blogging about and posting pictures of in the next few days: (In no particular order)

2008 Indiana State Fair

The Aerostich Very Boring Rally II

Spa day with my mom

My birthday and casino night birthday party

Completion of 6 months without soda

The Inaugural running of the Indianapolis MotoGP

In addition, this weekend Troy and I are gonna take a motorcycle ride to an orchard where we will pick apples and then I will go home and make an apple cobbler. Yet another item to cross off!

So, stay tuned and I hope to not disappoint.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Good News / Bad News

Good News: I went in and asked my boss for a raise. And I got it! After doing a bit of research, I realized that compared to other actuaries of my skill/experience, I was underpaid. That, combined with my mortgage going up $160 a month due to taxes, was motivation enough to go in and ask for what I deserve. After my boss did a bit of research around the company, he agreed. So, yeah for more money!

Bad News: That, of course, increases the amount that I need in order to fulfill the 9 months worth of savings item on my list.

That's ok. I can save a bit more now that the paycheck is a bit fatter. :-)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Someone asked me that question this morning and I couldn't come up with a response. I couldn't think of ANYTHING...Seriously! That seems bad, right?

Maybe I just need some good ideas. You when adults ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. Those adults are just looking for ideas, I'm sure.

So, where do you see YOURSELF in 10 years?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sorry for the absence.....for now, a quicky ;-)

Sorry that I've been MIA for a while. I've much to post about and seemingly no time to do it.

For now, I share a quote I found on a motorcycle sight:

"Every time I start a ride, I feel glad to be alive.Every time I end a ride, I feel glad to be alive."

Oh how true.


Monday, August 4, 2008

#28. Memorize the US Presidents

I did it! I can totally say all of the US Presidents (last names only - let's not get crazy) in order from (1) Washington to (43) Bush. I had been working on them for a while and pretty much had them all up until the McKinley at the beginning of the 20th centry. Then I could also do the end from Kennedy up until the current Bush. For some reason I had a mental block on those middle guys. They all kind of look the same to me. There's nothing that really distinguishes each of them from one another for me. I'm sure that for those presidential historians out there, that's probably blasphemous, but I'm no presidential historian (thank goodness!)

The last time I memorized the presidents, I was in middle school and there were only 40 presidents. I'm getting old!

So, here they are (I'm not looking at anything, I swear! In fact, the next time you see me, challenge me and I'll spew them all out from memory right in front of you. I dare you!):

1. Washington
2. Adams
3. Jefferson
4. Madison
5. Monroe
6. John Quincy Adams
7. Jackson
8. Van Buren
9. Harrison
10. Tyler
11. Polk
12. Taylor
13. Fillmore
14. Pierce
15. Buchanan
16. Lincoln
17. Johnson
18. Grant
19. Hayes
20. Garfield
21. Arthur
22. Cleveland
23. Harrison
24. Cleveland
25. McKinley
26. Roosevelt
27. Taft
28. Wilson
29. Harding
30. Coolidge
31. Hoover
32. Roosevelt
33. Truman
34. Eisenhower
35. Kennedy
36. Johnson
37. Nixon
38. Ford
39. Carter
40. Reagan
41. Bush
42. Clinton
43. Bush

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Everything old is...."New Kids on the Block"....again?

So, this morning, while I was at the gym riding the stationary bike, listening to some chick music on my MP3 Player, I look up at one of the TV screens tuned to VH1 and who do I see? New Kids on the Block! All grown up. At first I recognized Jordan Knight and thought maybe it was just him doing some solo stuff, but when Joe McIntyre and Donnie Walberg, I knew it could be no one other than NKOTB!

As a teen in the late 80s and early 90s, I was a HUGE fan. I know they're cheesy, but in my defense, they were a boy band and I was in full blown puberty! I swooned for Joey McIntyre. My friend and I would argue about who loved them more. It was that bad.

So, with them as a piece of my long-gone adolescent angst, I'm not sure how I feel about them reappearing on the scene...literally. I haven't had a chance to listen to any of the music, but from the video I saw on VH1 full of scantily-clad women all pawing them and their nearing-middle-aged physiques, I'm not sure things bode well. My hope is that age might have brought more growth and maturity to them and their music. I'll give it a listen, but at this point, I'm skeptical.

On the other hand, if it gives all of us 30-something girls a chance to come out of the NKOTB closet, then I'm all for it!

Check them out for yourself if you want:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Book #10 Completed

Book # 10 was "Cane River" by Lalita Tademy. I actually read this book about 10 years ago, but any time I'm asked for a book suggestion for a book club, this one seems to come up. I remember finishing it very quickly and feeling like I couldn't put it down. When the book club at church decided to take it up as our reading selection, I was afraid that my memory would have failed me and that it wouldn't be as good as I remember. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I loved it just as much this time as I did 10 years ago. I could barely put it down again. I NEEDED to find out what happened to these people! I cheered for their triumphs and cried at their misfortunes.

It's a little over 400 pages, and COMPLETELY worth the time if you have a chance to read it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A 101 quandary

I am in a 101 quandary. I'm at a loss. I need your help.

What's the point of my 101 list? Is it simply something to keep me busy? Is it a way to stretch myself beyond my current boundaries? Is it a way to feel like I've accomplished something in a society that tells me that without fulfilling the roles of wife and mother I don't really count? Is it a way to suck the marrow out of life? It's probably a mixture of all of these at some level.

But here's where my quandary comes in. I have just 355 days left of my original 1001 and, without the intervention of a miracle from God or a rich uncle to wipe away my credit card debts, fill my 401(k) and buy me a new car, there are just certain things on my list that I am NOT going to be able to finish by July 15, 2009. Then there's the problem that I've created by creating my NEXT 101 list, which is to start July 16, 2009 (no rest for the wicked, you know). There are things on that list that I would like to do now. For instance, I would like to (#79 on the new list) buy an odometer for my bicycle so that I could know how far I bike in a week, etc. Troy suggested that I swap something from my current list to the new list, but that sort of feels like cheating. On the other hand, if these lists are sort of a way to live life to the fullest and to do those things that will challenge me, make me happy, give me a sense of fulfillment, should I really put it off simply because it's not the official starting date?

So, this is where you come in. I've added a poll to the blog and I would love to know what you think. Perhaps I'll even let majority rule! Let me know what you think, folks!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Book # 9 Complete

I've finished book # 9 of 50: "Eat, Pray, Love". Amazing. I completely love this book and could relate to it in so many ways. I don't often reread a book, but this is one I think I may need to revisit about once a year.

I HIGHLY recommend it!

The voice of God is but a whisper

Recently I received an email letter (chain letter sort of thing) from a friend of mine. It talked about found pennies. You know those ones that you sometimes find lying on the ground as you stroll down the sidewalk. This email said that perhaps they are actually pennies from Heaven - sort of messages from God or the angels that watch over us. I thought this was a very cute sentiment.

As a recovering Lutheran (13 years of parochial school can have an affect on you - good and bad), I very often struggle with thinking of God on a personal level. To me, He is most often someone who must be appeased and from whom I beg forgiveness when I have done something wrong. It's hard to think of Him as a friend - someone who is on my side. I often find Him hard to hear on a daily basis in my life.

Perhaps I'm listening more or perhaps He's realized I'm not that bright and need some more help hearing, but lately I have thought about the penny thing and have found a LOT of pennies just laying around on the street, sidewalk, etc. I don't usually see that much change on the streets, so it's been interesting to see so much lately and to think that God is trying to say, "Howdy. Just thinking about you. Just letting you know I care."

Another whisper from God came this morning as I was leaving to come to work. I've been thinking about the old man that lives across the street. I sometimes refer to him as the grumpiest old man in the world because, despite having lived in my house for 7 years, he has never once said hi to me. And I've said it to him quite a few times. He just seems to sit on his porch and simply watch the neighborhood go about its business. He's definitely an "early to bed, early to rise" kind of guy. (I've seen him out getting his paper when I leave for the gym at 4:45 AM). He also rarely has any lights on in his house in the evening. So, the other night (around 10:30), I noticed that his lights were on in his front room. This struck me as quite odd since it was so out of the ordinary. I also hadn't seen him sitting on his porch the past few days when I got home. I was pretty sure he didn't have much family and never saw anyone visit him, so, despite him never speaking to me, I was concerned about his well-being. Yesterday when I got home I nearly went over and knocked on his door to make sure he was all right. Unfortunately, I couldn't get up the nerve to do it.

With it still bothering me as I left this morning, I considered calling someone to have them check on him. I didn't want him to think I was just a nosey neighbor, you know. On my way to my garage, I saw my next-door neighbor, Jake, outside. We talked for a brief moment about how much I owed him for mowing my lawn, ended the conversation and I headed towards my garage. For no apparent reason, Jake stopped me and said, "Hey, you know that old man that lives across the street from you?" I was sure he was gonna tell me that he had died. That's just the way my mind works. Instead, he told me that his niece and nephew had come and moved him into a nursing home since his hips were failing him and he was forgetting things recently. I was relieved to hear that someone was looking after him.

Now, many of you may wonder what this has to do with God speaking to me. On the face of it, it just looks like two neighbors gossiping about the neighborhood. For me it was much more than that. The subject of the old man across the street is something that Jake and I have never talked about. There was no reason for him to share that information with me. For me, it was a whisper from God. He knew it was something that had been bothering me and he wanted to comfort my spirit.

Howdy. Just thinking about you. Just letting you know I care.


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