Words to live by

October 21st, 2007

THE OPTIMIST CREED
By Christian D. Larsen

Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

Talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.

Make all your friends feel there is something in them.

Look at the sunny side of everything.

Be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

Give everyone a smile. 🙂

Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others.

Be too big for worry and too noble for anger.

Art Appreciation – Ron Mueck

October 19th, 2007

Boy by Mueck As an art major in school, I loved learning about artists and their works. I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to art (i.e. baroque is my favorite). I am a big fan of Michaelangelo, O’Keefe, Toulouse Lautrec, Monet, Boticelli, etc. I am not familiar with most sculptors. However, I do have a favorite: Ron Mueck.

If you have never seen Ron’s work, he is AMAZING. His work is so close to realistic, that it becomes almost scary. His work brings out such strong feelings when you view them. Ron seems to capture such intimate emotions in his pieces. You almost feel like you shouldn’t be looking at something so private. Sharing thoughts and feelings that aren’t meant for you to see.

My favorite pieces of Ron’s are: “Boy ” (picture #1), “Angel ” (picture #2), and “In Bed ” (picture #3). The amazing size of these pieces is overwhelming. The detail can’t be compared to any other artist I have seen recently. All I can say is: “Wow!”Angel by Mueck

In Bed by Mueck

Fall in Texas (and 90 degrees)

October 17th, 2007

I know my calendar says it is fall, but I just can’t feel it. Our weatherman said that it was supposed to be 90 degrees today. Umm…hello? Isn’t it approaching the end of October? Shouldn’t we have crisp days and falling leaves? I can’t get into the holiday spirit if it doesn’t cool off. I “need” cooler weather!

Porch Scarecrow 2007

As I wrote for summer, I wanted to note the pros and cons of the seasons in Texas.

Cons: The only one I can think of right now is that it isn’t cool enough. Fall in Texas is crisp and in the low 70’s during the day. It is very difficult to go running at 5pm when it is still 90 degrees outside.

Pros:

  • Tons of crafts everywhere you look. When we moved to Texas, one of the things I noticed was that people were really into crafts. There are decorated yards, tons of quilt and craft fairs, and craft stores galore. The picture shows our current scarecrow. He greets folks on our front porch.
  • Grackles: This bird is a smaller cousin of the crow. There are so many of these black birds at this time of year. As dusk approaches, thousands of these birds find trees to rest in for the night. These loud birds “talk and talk” for hours until darkness encourages them to sleep. It seems like they usually find business parking lots to rest in. I am sure the manager of our local Half Priced Books loves to have the cars in the parking lot used as bird-dropping target practice.
  • Leaves: Our family visited New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts several years ago. The changing colors of leaves there was breathtaking. Our leaves don’t really change like that in Texas. Sure, our trees might get a bit golden, but usually they just turn brown and drop all of their leaves. There is nothing like the reward of jumping into a huge pile of leaves after “raking duty”. As an added bonus, fallen acorns make excellent projectiles. Our family has gotten into several acorn fights over the years. Those little guys can hurt if hurled just right.
  • Pecans: This is the Texas state tree. These trees drop all of their fruit just in time to wash and bag them to sell on the corner. Our son has made an average of $50 each fall from selling bags of pecans. I guess you could say that money DOES GROW on trees!
  • Pre-Holiday cleaning: When the weather changes, folks seem to visit the home improvement stores more. With the idea of family coming into town for the holidays, everyone is running around painting and fixing up their homes. Our family does the exact same thing.
  • Pumpkins, scarecrows, and over-the-top Halloween decorations: Our family has been known as the ones that go “all-out” for Halloween. We have a zombie that flies across the yard scaring kids. We make creepy figures that stand in our yard. We even dress up as yard decorations (scarecrows, etc.) and chase after teens that try to get candy (Come on kids! You are 17 yrs. old without a costume! No! I don’t think I should just give you a handful of candy so you can put it into your pockets. Get a costume!). I really look forward to decorating our home for Halloween. It is one of our favorite holidays.

I just love Fall. I just wish it were a bit cooler this year.

Flying gravel & 20 yrs. of Happiness

October 16th, 2007

My husband reminded me this evening that tomorrow (10/17) will be the 20th anniversary of the day we met. I was so surprised and thrilled that he remembered this. First of all, I didn’t. Second, it was just so romantic. My husband isn’t the “flowers and candy” sort of guy. We don’t even celebrate Valentine’s Day (as it is so commercial..why say “I Love You” only one day of the year anyways?). The fact that he remembered the day really meant more to me than a bouquet of flowers ever could.

Our first meeting wasn’t a romantic event by any means. My younger brother and my husband were friends. My brother came by my work to borrow something (I think it was money, but I am not sure). My husband drove him to my work. I asked if I could meet my brother’s friend and my brother ran to get into my husband’s truck. All I remember was seeing a truck peel out of the parking lot with gravel flying right at me. Ahhh…romance.

Now, we are looking at being married 18 yrs. soon and I couldn’t be happier. My husband is the perfect balance for me. He is spontaneous (where I am planned). He is smart (where I am…challenged). He is abstract and analytical (where I am squishy & in touch with my feelings). He has a temper that takes a long time to boil and RARELY ever shows (where I am quick to get angry).

When I was growing up, I dreamed of marrying someone special that would be the perfect match. On this day, I want to thank my brother for introducing me to my husband. I thank the Lord every day for bringing such a great man into my life. I feel truly blessed to be married to such a wonderful man. Thanks brother – my husband was the best gift you ever gave me. – Shan

Teaching Cleanliness to Children

October 16th, 2007

I am not a clean freak, but I do like “tidy”. Nothing bothers me more than going on a vacation or a longMessy room weekend, and coming home to a messy house. The only thing I don’t like to clean is the refrigerator or putting away clean laundry. Other than that, I enjoy cleaning. It relaxes me. For some reason, children don’t like “tidy”. I think they consider it a waste of time. Their hours are filled with school, catching bugs, their favorite television show, bubble baths, and bedtime stories. Cleaning up after themselves is a waste.

I look at taking care of our home as a school subject. Right up there with mathematics, reading, and handwriting…washing dishes, taking out the trash, and cleaning the bathroom. All of these are important and need to be mastered before adulthood. They are all tough subjects to master, but very necessary (at least in my book).

This afternoon, we started on an “all afternoon project” of cleaning the bedroom. I don’t insist on a clean room all the time. Just about every few months I need it cleaned (when I can’t open their door due to the clutter blocking the way…it is time to clean). There was lots of whining and “I don’t want to get rid of that”, but we did make progress. It amazes me how fast children grow. Those shorts that you bought them before summer are now too small. Those shoes that looked huge in the store now have scrunched toes jammed into them. We filled a huge box with clothing that no longer fits. Then, we went on to the toys.

I believe that children are born pack rats. They collect shiny objects like crows. My dryer has been the victim of pockets full of: rocks, marbles, nuts/bolts, coins, gum wrappers, rusty nails, etc. Somehow, these “treasures” wind up under the bed, on the dresser, or in any available space that a child might have in their bedroom. Some items are simply “interesting yesterday, but trash today”. Others are keepers such as a lovely rock, a wheat penny, a pretty marble, a found piece of Lego. All had to be sorted and filed into their final destination.

After an afternoon of cleaning, donating, and trashing…we finally found that there was a floor installed in the bedroom. How on Earth did that get there? I thought there was just a small path leading to the bed and bathroom. Huh! Who would’ve guessed that the room actually had a carpet without toys and clothing strewn everywhere.

I know…the room will be clean for about 12 hours and then go back to the way it was. Maybe I should take a photo of it for future reference? Until then, my children have learned what cleanliness can do to a room. Another lesson that they might not remember, but needed to be taught.

Fat America-Amusement Park Foods

October 15th, 2007

This weekend our family went to the Texas State Fair. We hadn’t been to the fair in a few years and it was something I was really looking forward to. Call me silly, but I enjoy the: quilts, 4H kids and their cows/pigs/sheep/goats, dog shows, jugglers, games, butter sculptures, and booths filled with items to sell. I was also looking forward to trying a turkey leg. I have seen people eat them lots of times at parks and wanted to try one. As I have been watching my calories closely, I had planned ahead for this edible extravagance. That was until I got to the park.

You hear all the time that Americans are getting fatter and fatter. When I lived in California, everyone exercised and tried to be thin. You would spend big bucks on a meal and have it arrive to your table in micro-portions. It was all about presentation. However, after seeing some of the patrons at the fair, I see why the media warns of our rapid physical decline.

We are getting FAT. I saw people so large that they needed a motorized scooter to get around. Their knees simply could not hold up their massive weight. I saw several of these people eating fried, greasy foods without a second thought as to what put them on that cart in the first place. Honestly, it wasFattening of America incredibly sad.

I’m not a tiny little lady. I have struggled with weight issues since I was 8 yrs. old. That was the summer that I spent with my Grandparents. They were sweet Yugoslavian people that showed love with good food – lots of good food. That was the summer that I went from a slim 8-yr. old to a 30+ lbs. overweight “piggy”. Since reaching adulthood, I have been up to 200 lbs. and down to 123 lbs. Food is my drug. When I am depressed or bored, I think of food. I have learned to eat healthier and exercise regularly now. I am not a tiny lady, but I am trying to get healthier. That is a step in the right direction.

Let’s get back to the fair and food. I realize that part of the whole amusement park experience is rides and entertainment. For many, it is about the food. I only saw a few “healthy” foods at the fair (turkey legs and corn on the cob). I did see one mexican booth that served fresh fruit in a cup. Those were the only “healthy” foods I saw. What else did the patrons eat at the fair? If you like fried, there were: fried Snickers, fried Lattes and fried Coke, fried okra and pickles, fried potato skins, funnel cakes, burgers, chili-cheese fries, corn dogs, fried cheese, and fried oysters & fish. There were hot dogs, Freetos pie, huge pickles, snowcones, ice cream, candy, fudge, cookies, etc. The list goes on and on.

Obese Children I couldn’t help but notice how many obese parents had obese children. Children as young as 5 yrs. old walking around with a tummy flopped over their waistbands. A whole family of unhealthy, overweight people. Were they eating the turkey legs or corn on the cob? No, they were shoveling in candy and funnel cakes as fast as they could. Many of these children didn’t run around (as children should). They waddled around the park looking tired and drained. Could it be their unhealthy lifestyle that brought them to that point? How many of these people weren’t able to fit onto rides due to their massive size?

Did I ever get my turkey leg at the fair? No. I honestly lost my appetite after seeing what America is doing to itself. So many of us are eating ourselves to death. Literally. We don’t watch our portions. We eat highly processed, salty, greasy foods. We don’t get off the couch unless it is to go to the bathroom or get more food. Our activities don’t center around the event, but focus more on what foods will be served there.

I had packed some grapes for snack. After nine hours at the fair, I ate them and didn’t complain. I came away from the fair wanting to take better care of myself. I don’t want to be the mother that needs a motorized scooter. I want to be the mom that runs and looks good in a pair of jeans. Sure, having unhealthy foods is okay – as a treat. Many of the folks I saw seemed to live on unhealthy. Life is too precious to treat our bodies that way. Bring on the fruit cups.

Formal Gowns & Asking for a Deal!

October 8th, 2007

BridesmaidsMy sister-in-law is getting married in January. She went to David’s Bridal and found a dress that she loved. The sales lady said the dress was on sale for $99. When she got to the register, it rang up at $400. The manager said that the clerk had the wrong dress in mind for $99 but they would honor it. Although I have read some angry reviews about David’s Bridal, I have to say that they were wonderful with us. We got great customer service there.

Yesterday, my mom & sis-in-law dragged me (seriously, I hate trying on formals, bathing suits, or jeans) into the shop to buy a floor-length gown as I am the matron-of-honor. We were looking for a apple red gown. We found one gown on the clearance rack for $39.99. It was simple and elegant. I tried it on and it fit everywhere except my chest (36D..*sigh*). We found another dress in the same style (different color) on the regular racks for $200. It wasn’t on sale. We went up to the manager and asked if we could get the more expensive dress for $39.99. She found that the dress had been discontinued. Although they didn’t have the right size or color, they would order it for me at NO CHARGE and give us the $39.99 price. An apple red dress in 2 sizes larger is on the way. My mom-in-law is a whiz with the sewing machine so fixing the seams will be a snap for her.

So, my sis-in-law saved $300 on her dress and I saved $160 on mine. Gotta love frugal shopping and speaking up!

Half-Way done with Christmas shopping!

October 5th, 2007

Well, I am on my way to getting Christmas done early. Yesterday, we picked up some blocks at the home improvement store (like you use to make a wall). The kids and I will be painting the last names of tutors/teachers on the blocks. For instance, we will paint something like: The Smith Family, etc. Depending on what the family likes, i.e. music/camping, etc., you also draw a small picture and have that on there too. These are VERY INEXPENSIVE gifts. The blocks cost $1.88 each. If you have acrylic paint and an outdoor spray sealer, you are set. Within about 30 minutes, you have a great gift.

I have also been frugally looking for beads & jewelry on Ebay. I won two auctions last night from an art glass gallery. I won two handmade, lampwork, artist signed glass bracelets for .99 each! After shipping, I got two gorgeous bracelets for $9. That is two beautiful gifts that the recipients will think I spent a lot for.

I have also found coral, turquoise, and agate beads on Ebay for a steal. We are planning on making jewelry for all the ladies on our list. I also searched on Google under essential oils (as I wanted to make sugar scrub for gifts) and ran across a company that had sliced glycerin soaps for .11 each! Yup, I bought 80 of them. I think we will make gift baskets for all the ladies. A piece of jewelry, a few bars of soap, and a scrubby cloth. After going to the $1 store for containers, the whole thing will cost under $5 a basket. Not bad.

My problem is gifts for the men in our lives. Men are tougher to buy/make for then women. I still have time to think about it. I just wish I could come up with something great. Hmmm…

Half Marathon Training – Here We Go!

October 3rd, 2007

Well, I am back to running again. As I pulled my hip joint really bad this last February before the AT&TVirtual Shan #2 Marathon (when I was running a 16 miler), I decided to train for 2 half marathons. I am using the Hal Higdon program. This program has worked for me for many years and I like the challenge. Many people have recommended the Jeff Galloway program. I haven’t tried it, but I hear that it works for many folks. I say: “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I ran a new route yesterday. It was just a 3 miler, but MAN am I pooped today. Austin, Texas is known as the “hill country”. As I used to live in San Fransisco, I doubted “the hill country” title for many years. That was until yesterday. I ran a route that would make Dr. Seuss proud. Up and down, up and down, really up, put on the brakes down… I did tell my husband that my back end will look amazing in a few months. Working all of those hills has got to tone a person. I hope.

Bring on the miles, I’m ready.

Caring for Elderly Family Members

October 3rd, 2007

Grandparents When my husband and I decided that we were going to homeschool (this was before we even had children), I never thought I would be so busy. Many homeschooling families fill their days with studies, library visits, and activities such as music lessons or karate classes. I didn’t realize that my days would also be filled with caring for elderly relatives.

Many societies of the world have an unwritten rule: Take care of the elderly. Older family members move in with younger generations when they are unable to care for themselves. It is a “full circle” for life. Parents care for their children and see to their needs. When the parents need help, the children step in. My husband and I respect this way of thinking. Caring for the elderly is a sign of respect and love for them.

There are times when caring for an elderly person is beyond your limits. For example, my divorced neighbor across the street moved in with her father a few years back. He is approaching 70 yrs. old and has a “light case” of Alzheimer’s. He has forgotten where he lives on several occassions. Accused her of being out “all night” when she had a Gall stone and had to go to the Emergency Room by herself. He even ran her over with his car when he had a few glasses of wine and wanted to go visit a friend. She is close to a breaking point. He is starting to become dangerous to himself and those that love him.

Both of my Grandparents died two years ago. After my Grandfather died from a stroke, my Grandmother had one shortly afterwards. She was paralized on one side and could no longer feed, cloth, or clean herself. My father had to put her in an assisted living environment. I believe that when a relative becomes a danger to themselves, or needs round-the-clock medical care, the family can’t give them what they need. Other than that, I think it is our responsibility (and honor) to care for elderly relatives.

My brother and I have discussed the care of our Dad. He is mid-60’s and is really fit. However, his mind wonders at times. My brother will care for our Dad and my husband and I will care for my in-laws. That brings me to now. Caring for family.Grandparents 2

As homeschoolers, we have a more flexible schedule then most. In the past, I have flown across the US with my children in order to stay a month to take care of my sister-in-law. Our family has cared for aging Great-Grandparents. We take care of my father-in-law. It has been a tough road for my father-in-law. Once a man who was a “selling dynamo” that made almost $200K a year, he was hit with Grand Mal seizures a few years back. He lost his job and ability to drive. He went through major depression and weight gain.

When all of this happened, we pulled together and started taking care of my father-in-law. I stepped in to take him to his numerous monthly doctor appointments. To keep him feeling needed, we asked if he could teach mathematics to our children. We take him to the movies and try to keep him active. Recently, he has lost 45lbs. and is starting to feel better. He won’t be able to drive again or have the job he used to have, but he is doing better. He realizes that family will care for him, and that we will always be there for him.

Homeschooling has taught me many things. Besides learning right next to my children, I have learned that caring for family is important too. Our days are filled with studies, music & martial arts lessons, Boy Scouts, selling on Ebay, cleaning house, paying bills, and taking care of Grandpa. Other than needing more hours in the day, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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