Sunday, August 30, 2009

Double Good

We're almost into September and fall is one of the two traditional seasons for fundraisers that take shape in runs, walks, bike tours and other fun group events that happen outdoors. Late spring into early summer is the other season depending on where your live. Here in the southwest, March, April and May, October and November seems to be our favorite months. For people who plan these fundraisers, trying to find an open weekend with an open venue is always a challenge. Been there, done that.

But for us unencumbered participants, that means LOTS of choices. AND while we are out there running or peddling, we are burning calories, catching some vitamin D, moving our muscles and doing something for the benefit of others. Double good!
If you want to really get serious, there are even teams organized for a few health-related causes that help you get in shape to participate in The Day(s). Check with your local hospitals or cancer centers to see if they are sponsoring team training.

We have a few breast cancer events coming up where I live and I have been seeing women, many dressed in pink, all walking together early in the mornings. They're moving, pumping their arms, talking, some with dogs on their leashes out in front of them. How fun is that?

My son, Jesse, was my walk partner for March of Dimes WalkAmerica for many years. His first walk was when he was four years old, ensconced in a Radio Flyer wagon with a pillow, water, snacks, etc. 11 miles! What was I thinking? But we made it. And he and my dogs walked with me and various friends into his late teenage years. Much to his credit, he wasn't embarrassed to do that with me.

It's a great time to chat, bond, enjoy the out of doors. It's a win-win for all.

So this fall, I challenge you to find some event for a cause you believe in, raise some money and do it! Form a team, grab a friend, your dog, your kids and enjoy. Maybe even start a tradition.

I'm doing American Cancer Society's Making Strides for Breast Cancer this fall thanks to an invite from a friend. What about you?

If you can't get out and do a walk or run, how about supporting a fundraiser this fall that just involves your giving? Toys for Tots, your local food bank, women's shelters, ASPCA, you name it - there are hundreds.

Our church had a fundraiser for the youth group that involved flamingos! We had the opportunity to make a donation in advance, but if you didn't buy the "insurance policy," teens would come to your home in the middle of the night and place flamingos all over your yard. Then you had to make a donation to get them out of your yard, but you also got to tell the kids whose house they should target next. It was so fun. We wanted the flamingos, so we didn't pay up front and one morning, there they were. We never did find out who sent them! Lots of fun. So while this wasn't a charity event that helped us burn any calories, it was definitely good for the head!

Enjoy. Make it fun. It's good for everyone.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Playtime Reminisce

I was walking the Cockers a while back on a nice sunny morning. Hadn't gotten too hot yet. We strolled down a sidewalk that ran behind a row of fairly new homes that backed up to a wash and a children's park. A ball field and basketball court were nearby.

But no little voices came from any of the backyards - none of them. It was very quiet walking down that row and I purposely looked for children - I was intent. I checked my watch - it wasn't too early for kids to out. Where were they?

It made me think back to when I was 9, 10, 11 years old or so and how I hit the door after breakfast and only stopped playing outdoors to grab lunch and then back out again. Sometimes I'd be with friends and sometimes I'd be alone, but it was always fun. Playing in the woods, climbing trees, catching frogs and grasshoppers, and picking berries were just a few things that entertained us endlessly. When new homes were being built in our neighborhood, it was great fun to roam around inside (where we weren't supposed to be), trying to figure out which room was which or playing hide and seek. I also had a big collection of Matchbox cars that I would have routinely outside in the dirt. And when it rained, I'd sail clothespins with little sails on them down the street in the muddy streams of water the downpour had created.

I remember jelly mud and skunk cabbage in the woods and catching bullfrog tadpoles at the little swamp nearby. Oh, they were a challenge and I'd be very proud of myself if I caught one of those little guys. Of course, you had to let them go right away because they didn't seem to survive as long as the tiny ones. But it was a lot of fun.

One winter my mother bought me a plastic winter jacket that looked like cowhide (somewhat). Believe it or not, I picked it out! Well, we quickly discovered that it made a really fast sled if I just laid on my back and slid downhill in it. I don't think I ever used it like that in front of my mother though. But it was slick. Sledding and using our flying saucer at the reservoir was another revered activity, as my sister Barb can attest. Our dad always took us and I think he had fun, too.

I had fun outside all the way through high school whether it was ice skating, walking through the woods, riding bikes to a little carryout nearby, playing kickball or playing detective with my best friend, Judy. As I went off to college, I remember looking at a telephone pole and thinking that I hoped I would never get to a point in my life that I would see a telephone pole only as an object to deliver telephone signals. I hoped I would always see all the possibilities in it that I saw then - a fort, lookout, (that was when they had pegs and you could climb them) holder of secret messages.

Well, I still look at trees for their climbing potential and I poured over the issue of Sunset magazine that featured livable tree houses. I still love the outdoors and have tried to instill a love for it in my children. I know things are different now. There isn't as much wild space as there was and there are scary people out there, but my hope for all children is that they get to discover the wonders of nature and time to do nothing but watch ants crawl in the grass or minnows swim in the shallows of a lake or a spider weave a web. It is enriching and calming and oh, so necessary in my life.

One of these days, I hope to hear little voices in those backyards, kids swinging on the swings in that park and dirty dump trucks in the wash. I know I will.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Strain the Brain

As some of you know who read this blog, paying attention is an area I like to write about. I think it is more important than we may think it is and deeper than hearing what someone is saying when they're talking to you.

Our attention can be put on autopilot when we are in familiar places such as in our homes, near our homes or work, in the grocery store, etc. We could all probably think of many places in which we have drawn and fine tuned mental maps. When we are in those places, our minds can get lazy and sharpness dulls. Think of it as slurring our minds.

If you think about how you act when you are driving 2 minutes from home as opposed to being in a strange city - what are the differences? Near home you may allow yourself to be thinking about something that happened that day, your schedule for tomorrow or some other issue because you don't need to find your way. You know your way. In a strange place, you are alert, looking around, maybe even turning off the radio so you can concentrate better. Right? We've all been in both those places.

Did you know that most accidents happen within five miles of home? I don't know about you but I have a real good mental map of several routes to work which is about 22 miles away. Am I on autopilot the whole way? Or am I present the whole way? It depends on how focused I decide to be.

It's hard to be that focused 100% of the time, but if we focus more than we do and strain our brains a little more often - lots of positive things will happen.

  • First of all, you are exercising your brain and many researchers believe that exercising the brain contributes to brain health.

  • Second, you will avoid more accidents and near misses whether you are driving, walking, running, riding your bike or engaging in any other mode of physically moving forward.

  • Third, you will be able to draw a more complete mental picture of whatever you are involved in whether you're looking at something or listening. The art of multi-tasking is often worn as a badge of honor these days, but frankly, when you are multi-tasking you are getting incomplete information about ALL tasks. How many times have you been on a phone call looking at email at the same time and missed something someone said? I know I've been guilty of that.

  • Your creativity will ramp up because you have more input to work with

So what are some strategies we can use to sharpen our minds so we can pay better attention? Here are a few and I'm sure you can add to them:

  • Make it a goal to notice something new every day on one of your well-traveled routes. Look for it.

  • Change up the way you go to work or any other place that you go to routinely. Do that on a regular basis as long as it's safe. Find three or four different ways to go.

  • When you go to the grocery store, start at the opposite end of the store you usually do.

  • Put your shoes on beginning with the "other" foot. You'll be surprised at how you automatically start with the same foot. Change it up.

  • If you wear makeup, shave or blow dry your hair, start with the opposite side you usually start with.

  • Make mental notes about what you see as you go about your day like someone was going to quiz you about it later. As I've done that, I've discovered whole neighborhoods I didn't know were there and I drive by them EVERY DAY. Crazy.

  • Find a way to remind yourself to do this regularly.

Paying attention by straining our brains a little bit can help us stay out of trouble, and can enrich our lives and the lives of those around us. Who knows how far that can go!

You're worth it!

Me, trying to walk too many dogs at once. "One walk and we're all done!"

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Quality Time with My No. 1 Daughter

First, I want to say that I"M SO SORRY I haven't posted forever. My computer died (first it was my monitor, and then my computer itself) and my husband's also died so we were computerless for awhile. Withdrawls! But in the middle of it my sister Barbara started her blog! Yea! and I didn't get to make any comment about it on a post like I wanted to until now. Sarah and I have been egging her on to start one because we've enjoyed it so much and she's a better writer than both of us put together. So she finally did it and I am so proud of her. It's funny the three of us started our blogs about seven months apart each. I don't think that means a darn thing, but it was funny. So congratulations to you, Barb. I loved your post about adopting your cats.

My first-born daughter, Tamara, 33 and I checked into a resort last weekend to spend our sixth annual summer weekend getaway together. In the past Tamara, Jesse, my son, sometimes one of his friends, Jesse's girlfriend who I love - Rachael, or one of my friends have joined us. We always take advantage of the super-low summer rates in Arizona (they almost pay you to come and stay there!!!) where it's 110 degrees by the pool and you just go back and forth between the lounge (under the shade) and the water.

Well, this year, it was just Tamara and I and we made it a Mother-Daughter weekend. We talked and talked, sipped drinks and had a lunch out by the pool, read our books, watched an old western show and just had a good time together. They had a water shuttle that took us to the casino on the property where Tamara won just enough at the two-penny slots to pay for a couple of sodas on our way out. For some reason though, they never offered us any free hotel rooms for the next time!

One thing we enjoyed doing was getting out real early in the morning when the light was just right and snapping pictures. Some of them are here. Now that I have a brand new computer and could download them, I can show them to you!
If you've ever seen Boat-tailed grackles, you know that they can be real pests and pretty vocal. As we ate outside on the patio one morning we were laughing at these crazy birds that were stealing sugar packets out of the sugar bowls on unoccupied tables. They were so persistent about it, you couldn't leave your food without a guard standing over it until you got back or it would be gone in a flash. They had even learned how to take the lids off the sugar bowls, so the wait staff had to flip the lids over after each party left. I can't imagine how much sugar they went through every season there. Too funny.

I love spending time with my kids - my two and my husband's daughters - Gina and Jamie. I wish we had more time to do these kinds of let-your-hair-down activities, but we do the best we can.
I can't believe it is already well into August. Where did summer go? I did get a lot of summer reading done. How about you? Did you do something special this summer that really stood out? I'd love to hear about it.