Saturday, December 31, 2011

Savor Life

That's my only new year's resolution for 2012 -- Savor Life!

It was a good year 2011.  It was my year of metamorphosis, moving into the next phase of life.  As much as anything, it was a mental process but there were measurable milestones that helped me see progress.

My primary goal of better health yielded good results. In December a required health screening for  health insurance showed all tests well within normal. I've gained strength and stamina and lost weight with my exercise program.  I feel so grateful for good health.

My photography, gardening, painting, music, movies, and even cooking (yes, I'm returning to cooking), all call to me when I'm spending those hours working at a computer.  I am so ready to leave the working world behind in just one more year. 

Every day when I wake up, I think, "Oh, good, I got another one."  I've learned to lean into my hardships and deal with them, and to positively relish the joyful times.

And that brings me back to my resolution - Savor Life!  

Happy 2012 to all of us.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Christmas Card to You

I had hoped to make hand-painted cards for everyone on my list his year, but found it was much more difficult than I had anticipated.  But I managed to make a few following two different themes and experimenting as I went.  Here are a couple of them plus the one with message I posted on Facebook.  I know they aren't the best, but they are what I managed and I felt happy to get these done.  It was fun anyway.

Happy holidays to all!
 Blizzard Bear
 Another Blizzard Bear
 All is calm, all is bright

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Total Eclipse of the Moon - December 10, 2011

I am still using the auto settings on my camera or I might have gotten a better shot.  But isn't an eclipse a cool thing?  It gets you thinking about how centuries of people have observed these events, what it has meant, and what science has learned about the moon and its travels -- so far.  And certainly there is more to discover.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Sometimes a little perspective is good.  Yesterday, talking with my friend on the phone and discussing our respective Thanksgiving plans, she planted a reminder so stark by comparison that I felt startled and saw my present life with new eyes.

This year there will be 11 of us at my table--children, grandchildren, and a couple of their friends.  The food will be non-traditional with no big golden bird as a centerpiece.  Salmon will be the highlight but with sliced turkey and ham available too.  And many sides.  I've consulted everyone and asked them for their favorite dish and there will be something to please everyone.  It will be fun and different.  With such a crowd coming, I've had a brainstorm for fitting them all in -- I am moving my dining room furniture into the spacious living room and the couch and chairs are getting relegated to the dining room.  I'll serve appetizers and drinks on my server.  I'll use my new dishes and I'm so glad I bought 12 place settings.  I described all of this to my friend on the phone.

And then my friend asks me, did I remember five years ago, just after she had moved back here from California, and I had decided not to even have Thanksgiving that year.  I sent my kids off to celebrate elsewhere and I stayed home alone and did nothing.  What a dark place I was in at the time.  Separated from my husband and life in limbo.  Feeling terribly wounded body and soul.

How did I get to here from there?

I don't know if I have answers or any profound advice.  Only to say that not only do bad things happen in all our lives, but that this is evidence of the resilience of the human spirit when we allow it to be.  I know I have a basic spark in me that loves life and people and looks for good in the world.  I am an optimist in spirit.  And seeking joyful things brings joy in abundance.

It has been a good year as I look back.  A very good year.  And I am happy with all the people and experiences that have graced my life.  I've lost what religious leanings I ever had, and I don't think the cosmos or a rabbit's foot have any say in my life either.  So I'm never quite sure now what to do with feelings of gratitude.  But I do feel, nevertheless, that my life is good and not entirely of my own doing.

For me, at this point in my life, let it suffice to say that I know I have a good life and I sincerely and humbly appreciate that and will not take for granted the good things.  And will do my best to weather the bad when they come.  And accept all life has to offer with increasing understanding and grace.

Monday, November 14, 2011

October - Catching Up

This is what you call lazy blogging.  I took one of my favorite get-away trips in October -- Bryce Canyon for just one day, and then a drive up beautiful Highway 12 to Capitol Reef National Park and Torrey, Utah.  I've already posted pictures on Facebook, so to make it easy, I'll link to my albums here.
Bryce Canyon
Torrey, Utah and Capitol Reef and more rock art near Torrey

And just days after I returned home, a neighbor couple and I threw a big party at my house for all the neighborhood and other family and friends.  I failed to get pictures of everyone there, but got extas of my family members.  Sigh.  A good time was had by all.
Halloween Party

In addition, finished up nearly all the clearing out in basement and garage and I'm ready to talk to the contractor and get this project going.  It was a very good October.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What'll I Do?

In 13 months I'll retire.  I'm literally counting the months now.  And everything I do is in preparation for this new phase of life.  Not that I'm treading water or anything right now.  I'm still working and playing and doing all the things I love.  But I am preparing.

"What will you do?"  That's the number one question people ask me when I mention retiring.

What'll I do?  Hah!  I will do all the things I do now only I won't have to fit in eight hours of work around them.  I'll be able to work in the yard when the temperatures are cool.  I'll be able to do more of the work myself and not hire helpers as much.  I'll be able to ride my bike on weekdays when the young fast riders are at work.  I'll paint when I'm awake and fresh and when the light is good.  I'll read during the day instead of at bedtime which puts me to sleep.  I'll help more with getting grand kids to and from school so their parents don't have to do such fancy juggling of their schedules.  I'll cook more and have people to dinner.  I'll play more piano and guitar.  And take some lessons--both music and painting.  I'll write more consistently and thoughtfully.  I'll walk every day but will find some new trails and vistas.  I'll take day trips to see birds and to photograph sights.  I will still do the concerts, movies, dining out with my friends.  Why would that change?

In short, I will do all the things I loving doing now but will have prime time for them instead of fitting them into the fringes of my day.  Maybe I'll add some new things, too.  I'm open to the possibilities.  But I don't see myself being idle or bored.

And I'm preparing.  For some months now I've put myself on a very strict budget, living on less than what my social security check will be, though in retirement I will also have a pension check.  My goal is to live frugally and put my pension check into savings.  If I need it, it's there.  I am putting a large portion of my paycheck now into a 401k (well, it's really a 407-something or other), my savings continue to grow.  I feel confident I will live comfortably on my income when I no longer work and will even be able to continue saving.

And I'm not suffering in my frugality.  I took a nice little vacation to Bryce Canyon, Highway 12, and Capitol Reef in October, and I bought a lovely set of dishes, managed birthday gifts and dinners and several outings with friends, some new clothing for me, all within budget without drawing on savings.  Oh, and threw a big Halloween party for the neighborhood.  How could I complain?

I will be getting that remodeling done in the basement soon and that will require drawing on some of my savings - it's part of the plan.  But then the major work in the house is all finished.  I will still paint a room occasionally or update things here and there.  But it will be my home for as long as I can manage it and I will enjoy all the updates now instead of doing them for new owners when the time comes I decide to sell. 

And that's what I'll do.  For starters . . .

P..S.  I will not be one of those Red Hat Ladies who have taken something that is all about uniqueness and individuality and made it all about sameness.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Watercolor: Dogs in Snow

No time to blog, I'm taking a little drive out of town for a few days and then throwing a neighborhood party next weekend.  That will about do it for October.  Much progress was made this month and I want to write about it, but that will wait until November.  I'm just heading out the door in a few moments.  So here's a little post to tide us over.  It's my latest watercolor.  It's my friend's dogs, Hap and Roxann, in snow.  A white dog in snow was a new challenge and I'm afraid I didn't get the proportions quite right, but I think I did capture the mid-bound of Roxann running toward the camera.  I did this on postcard stock thinking to mail it to my friend as a surprise, but I liked it so much when I finished, I enclosed it in a letter to save it from the dirty machinery of the U.S. Postal Service.  I'm eager to get back to painting, but it will wait until November.  In the meantime, enjoy Hap and Roxann, dogs in snow.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



From my open window
This mild October morning
A breeze
With musky, ripe scent
Swirls through my space and me.

The giant elm across the way
Soughs, bends, straightens
With age-stiffened limbs
Not unlike my own.

Silhouetted against a still-dark sky,
Its leafy fullness
Shows no hint of changes
Soon to come.

Neighbor houses closed up tight
In their man-made coolness
Do not share this pleasure
I enjoy—a treat
For all the senses.

I sit by open window
My house fragrant
With the new season.
I breathe of it deeply
And feel a kinship.
I, too, am autumn.

My day ahead is busy,
Duties tug,
Pulling me away

But the breeze persuades me
To stay a bit longer.
To feel this coolness
And taste a delicious ripeness
And receive the subtle messages
Of change.

Copyright 2011 Becky Stauffer

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I fail because I can

Are you ever just drifting along, not paying much attention, when unexpectely you hear something rather profound that then gets stuck in your head and makes you feel like you've had a mini revelation?  This happened to me.

I was watching a silly sitcom I like, Modern Family, last night, when one of the characters said something that struck me. The situation was, the father wanted to walk a tightrope and kept falling off a wire stretched just  inches above the ground. Then his young son said, "You fall because you can." The father had a sudden realization and then raised the wire to maybe six feet, and managed to walk across without falling.

As I watched I kept thinking about that phrase, "You fall because you can." I changed fall to fail. I fail in some of my goals because I have a safety net, I know I'm not going to suffer any great consequences if I fail. It's when something big and important is at stake that I can really step up to the challenge.

So if that's the case, do I need to insert risk into my challenge in order to be successful? And how to do that? Anything I do would be an artificial risk. I don't have an answer to that question--just thinking aloud, so to speak.

Anyway, this is something I'm thinking about today: I fail because I can. How do I change my personal goals and challenges so that failure is not an option?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Watercolor Class and How I Spent My Summer Vacation

To call the summer a whirlwind, understates it.  In June my son and his wife, after trying for a year and a half, sold their house in Layton and bought a home in my little town of North Salt Lake--and my life changed.  With them living nearby, I'm now able to help much more with the children and assist the parents who both work.  Through June, July and August, 8-year old Kevin spent his days with me since I worked from home and he was able to play and entertain himself just fine.  But 4-year old Brandon went to daycare as it was too much for me to manage both while working.  Now Kevin is back in school and I don't have my daily companion.  But Brandon has started going to the daycare provided by a neighbor who lives just behind me.  However, since they don't open until 7 a.m. and both parents start work at 7, he comes and stays with me for a half hour and then I walk him to his "school" before logging on for my own workday.  It works out well and saves that little family some extra costs.  The bonus for me and for them is this one-on-one time I've enjoyed with these little boys. 

The drawback has been that at the end of the day of working and caring for an 8-year old, I felt too tired to follow my established walking routine from the spring.  Plus keeping up with the yard work provided other calorie-burning opportunities.  Somehow I maintained my weight through the summer and stayed with my healthy eating habits.  This week I returned to my walking and it was such a pleasure--like meeting an old friend.  I'm now looking into either a recumbent exercise bike or an elliptical for bad weather days.  I didn't want to buy one until the basement remodel was completed, but that's now on the fall agenda.  So we'll see how the timing of all that goes.

So summer flew by and I took no vacation at all except for a day here and there just to use up vacation days rather than lose them.  The yard is beautiful with the occasional help from Alberto's crew.  I've had a contented and uneventful few months.  And yet, the metamorphosis that started last winter has continued with an unexpected new hobby.

In August, my friend Celia asked me to join her and her sister, Pat, in a private watercolor class with a teacher they had met at Red Butte Gardens.  It sounded like fun, but I was unprepared for how much I would love it and become addicted to it.  We've had five lessons now with one remaining.  I will be sad for the classes to end, but my new adventure in creativity has just begun.

Our class is at Diva's--a charming coffee shop famous for its cupcakes but where you can also get a delicious sandwich or soup and a glass of wine.  And we usually do since the shop charges nothing to use its space.  Located in a former green house, it has beautiful outdoor and indoor spaces.  We utilize the "library" space with its large table.  In class we work on specific projects, and we all practice at home on our own subjects.  So, in order of completion, here are my class projects and some of my practice efforts.  I offer no apologies for the flaws - I'm still learning:

Class Week 1:  Op Art coffee cup and cupcake

Practice: Himalayan poppies.
Practice, my cup of brushes.
Class Week 2-3; Bird on a wire (birds are hard!)
Practice:  Prothonotary Warbler - I loved this one!
Class week 2-3-4, Tuscan Landscape
Practice: Lavender fields and Abbey of Senanque, Provence
Practice: Hummingbird
Class weeks 4, 5, 6:  Leaves
 Final class week 6: Western Landscape (impressionist)

And at the top of this post, my favorite practice yet, my Thatched Cottage which I painted yesterday on my day off instead of cleaning the basement -- no regrets.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Halfway through August - where is the summer going?  The summer has been so much about children and grandchildren and just keeping up with things, time passes imperceptibly and suddenly a whole season has gone by.  In less than two weeks the kids are back in school.  I haven't blogged because, frankly, I feel caught up in the stream of life and am not inspired to write about anything.  But I feel slightly obliged to this page and want to check in now and then even if only to say that everything's going well, I'm content and enjoying life, and don't worry about me.  I did start a watercolor class this summer and am enjoying that immensely.  At some point I'll post a retrospective of our projects.  But this is all for now--no photos of the yard (trust me it's a wonderful place to be), no sunsets (trust me they are, every one, inspiring), no photos of deer (yes, two new fawns this year).  Suffice it to say "ditto" to so much I've posted in the past. 

Life is good.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


I'm so remiss these days in posting, and here it is July.  Not yet 5 a.m. but my typical awakening time.  June was all filled up with things I needed to do for others while at the same time taking care of things in my own world.  On June 29th I had my landscaper bring in his crew to finish the weeding I just couldn't catch up on and also take out the old dead tree at last and plant a beautiful new flowering pear.  The yard is in bloom all around.  A woman, whom I don't know, driving by yesterday, stopped and rolled down her window to tell me how beautiful it is.  It happens a lot. People walking or driving by.  I spend as much time as I can outdoors now.  Perhaps I'll have a picture or two for this post if I get time.

But the heat is on.  After a cool wet early summer, the temps are now in the 90's and we are predicted to hit 100 this weekend.  Grateful for the AC.

I'm back to working from home most days, going to the office only on meeting days once every two weeks.  The new writer at work is becoming better at working independently.  We are in constant connection throughout the day by instant message and also by phone when the required communication exceeds our ability to type in terse statements.  It seems to be working out okay and the work is getting done.  There were big shakeups and austerity measures announced at work last month.  Things are changing.  I'm sorry to say I'm in my I'll-be-retiring-soon-anyway mode full-fledged now and don't invest a lot of emotion either way into the goings on at work.

My extra-curricular activities in June knocked me off my fitness schedule.  But the habits I'd established in the previous months apparently carried me through.  I didn't log calories faithfully, but I had a consciousness of my eating that served me well.  I didn't walk 300 minutes a week, but working in the yard, helping my kids move, tending grandchildren (especially that!), and lots of other running around did serve to burn calories.  I lost a little weight and was delighted not to have gained.  Strength and energy are increasing all the time.  I feel younger, stronger, more energetic than I have in years.

But I'm back on track doing a five-week sprint.  I love walking and had really missed that particular activity.  I walk after 8 p.m. in downtown Bountiful, if you can call it downtown (nine short blocks of tiny local shops, banks, restaurants, surrounded by well-maintained old neighborhoods).  The sun is low enough and there are enough trees and buildings that it makes for a shady though pleasantly warm walk.  It truly is small town U.S.A. there.  People strolling, walking dogs, bicycling, old people sitting on their porches, kids playing frisbee on the big lawn in the center of town.  Some days there are events going on like the sidewalk chalk festival or the classic car parade.  There's an ambiance reminiscent of my childhood in the 50's.  I think I get a mental boost as well as a physical one from my walks there.  No wonder I've missed it. 

But here we are well into the summer again.  How time flies.  It's a three-day holiday weekend, and people will be in and around the house for food and music and fun.  Neighborhood fireworks are all around every evening now as the state has legalized the sale of more aerial types.  Crossing fingers no fires are started.  I feel in harmony with my world just now and am enjoying it all.

And maybe that's why I'm not blogging as much.  I'm busy living life right now.  But life is simple and there is little drama and little worthy of writing about.  My family needs me and I'm happy to be there for them.  I'm gearing up for one last major remodeling project in the house -- the basement and garage.  Just in the imagining stage at the moment.

I'm afraid a contented life makes for boring blogging.  But there it is, a few words for July.  Hopefully, a few photos when it gets light.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thoughts on Weeding

Why is it, I wonder,

do the deer,
who have stripped the sumac
of its leaves

Or the gophers,
undermining flowers and lawn,
making hills
where there were none.

Or the snails
leaving sticky trails
As they eat my lovely flowers
to death,

Or the new bug
that is
my hostas,

Never seem to harm
the weeds.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Catching Up

I'm lucky.  I've had no flooding at my house.  I wouldn't have believed it, but homes on the hillside here are getting water in basements.  The water table is so high, it's just seeping in.  With the wettest and coolest spring on record in our state, and snowpack over 300 percent of normal in some areas, flooding is inevitable as temperatures rise.  Many who live near rivers and particularly where rivers drain into lakes are already suffering damage which so far is in the millions of dollars.

The rainy weather has kept me indoors a lot of the spring and the weeds have been taking advantage of my absence.  I've bought plants and then kept them covered on the patio lest the cold weather destroy them.  Suddenly, today we are 80 degrees.  My patio pots, for the most part, did okay.  I lost a few vinca plants -- easily replaced.  Today I'm finally getting plants in the ground that have waited a couple of weeks.

We are all behind this year because of this weather.  Gardeners have waited to put out tender tomatoes and peppers.  Some farmers have been unable to get spring crops in.  Some fields now underwater will not produce anything this year.

Those who live near rivers can sometimes expect high water.  Those of us who live on hillsides are more surprised when it happens here.  I am thankful for my luck so far, but will wait and see how the rest of this spring unfolds.  This is a story being repeated all over our country.

And the question so many are asking:  Is this year of extreme weather everywhere just a fluke?  Or is this the outcome of climate change we've been warned of?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Planting flowers, and birds, birds, birds

We've had so few good warm and not-rainy days this spring, I feel I'm behind on everything.  I had scheduled Alberto to mow the lawn every week in May, but due to weather, it turned out to be just twice.  Wednesday was sunny and warm, and I took the day off work to go nursery hopping with best friend Celia.  We found some lovely things!  Today I spent a good part of the day planting in both pots and in the ground and doing weeding which I've been working on for a couple of weeks.

The yard is green and lush and everything is growing like crazy (including the weeds).  Most wonderful of all, the yard has become something of a bird sanctuary of late with an incredible variety of birds.  Some of the photos below are from earlier years, but all are birds visiting recently.  The most thrilling would have to be the lazuli bunting.  The most charming and heart-winning are the chickadees who are nesting for the second year in a row in my decorative blue birdhouse.

Buntings:  Just a few at first, and now a whole flock of them.  They are small but feisty.  Females are a yellowish-brown.

Black-Headed Grosbeak: Adult male in the first pic.  The second is either female or young male, but I think young male by the strong markings.

Scrub Jay (a couple years ago)
 Goldfinches (April)
 House Finch and Goldfinch (April)
Flicker (Feb)
 Chickadee defending his territory.

There are also the doves and quail which I've failed to photograph.  And of course, robins, And the occasional hawk.  Whom have I missed?

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Awoke at 3 a.m. to a loud humming sound and wondered why the furnace was so loud and wouldn't shut off.  Opened my eyes and saw bright flashing red and blue lights through the bedroom window. And then smelled smoke.  I looked out to see the hum was the idling engines of about five fire engines and numerous other emergency vehicles in the street behind my house.  In my grogginess I thought it might be my own house but as I quickly dressed, realized it had to be a next door neighbor.  It was.  I stood outside long enough to see that they had brought out all the people, though I didn't see the pets.  Smoke was pouring from the roof but no visible flames from here.

Very alarming.

I could see no way to be of help without getting in the way, so I went inside.  No more sleep.  I would just sit and watch and wait.  Now about two hours later, a few of the vehicles are starting to put equipment away and leave. 

It was Frost's house -- Gene and Donna's.  Well, that was until Gene died and Donna moved away.  Years ago.  Friends of ours -- of Doug before he died, and mine. And after several subsequent owners, the present ones who are a young couple.  The young guy of the loud stereo, loud parties, loud motorcycle, and on one occasion, brandishing guns in the front yard, all which disturbs my peace.  The young woman who just moved in with him a few months ago.  I saw they both were safely out of the house.  But I don't see their dogs.  A house fire is something you wouldn't wish on even someone like this who has been most unneighborly to the rest of us on the street.  It's a terrible, frightening thing.

I looked at the house now with dark windows, some standing open.  A tall ladder to one.  A really pretty house.  Gene and Donna had made it so lovely.  It triggers so many memories of when the kids were small and growing up.  And now to see it suffer this tragedy. 

You think of the fragility of life.  Of the passage of time.  Where we have come to.  How quickly things can change.  The lessons of life.  I wonder how to start my day, doing my cleaning, buying the flowers for my patio pots, tending the grandchildren, when such an event has shattered lives so nearby. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Calories Do Count

Having finished a six-week challenge with an online friend, I'm embarking on a 10-week personal challenge much like the one just finished.  I have proven I can be successful in adhering to a program over a shorter period of time, and now want to see if I can have the same discipline for an extended period.

A couple of items reinforced my approach this week.  I caught a bit of Oprah one day as she presented 50 or so women who had been on a trainer's program in which they did 300 minutes of exercise per week and limited calories to 1700 per day.  They also had a skin care routine and sleep advice in their simple program, much like my own except that my calorie intake has been even more limited than that.  Individuals lost between 6 and 27 pounds over a period of 60 days.  Much depended on their adherence to the program.

On the same day I saw a news item about a man (a college professor perhaps, I'm not positive) who wanted to prove that you could lose weight regardless of what you ate as long as you paid attention to the total calories consumed.  To prove his point he lost weight while eating Twinkies and other junk food.

Well yes, I completely agree a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, and to lose weight you just need to burn more calories than you consume.  During my program I had at various times spaghetti and meatballs, mac n cheese, creme brulee.  But not every day.  And always compensated for with other calories during the day.  But I have found that I'm much better off to get my calories from foods that provide the most possible nutrition and also satisfy my hunger over longer periods of time.  For this reason I include breads and pastas in my daily calories and lots of veggies.  I've eliminated butter and nearly all added fats and have greatly reduced the sodium I consume simply because I eat so little pre-prepared food.  I do take a vitamin/mineral supplement too as I'm not confident I'm getting everything my body needs.  The bottom line is that I've found you can consume a pretty low number of calories and not feel hungry depending on what you choose to eat.

Yesterday at work a co-worker brought in a big plate of homemade cupcakes for our meeting.  I estimated in my head the calories and decided I could have a cupcake or lunch but not both.  I opted for lunch.

These are decisions I make every day.  I don't have chips, cookies, ice cream in the house unless grandchildren are coming.  If I want a sweet snack like chocolate, I buy a single portion, to allow no leftovers to tempt me later.

And I don't cheat.  If I cheat, the person I sabotage is myself.

I have such a sense of my life changing right now with so many transitions taking place, and I feel this is so right to get myself as physically healthy and fit as possible for last decades of my life.  That has been motivation enough to keep me on track and committed.

I appreciate the many words of encouragement from those who check in here from time to time.  If you are facing similar issues in your life, I urge you to try a simple program like this.  It is so rewarding when you see the results.  If you do, would you let me know?  I'd be very interested.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Peeling off more layers

Today's celebration is for significant weight loss.  I've been on a very strict regimen and it's paying off.   Yes, I've lost weight, a good amount.  But I've also seen real progress in how my clothes fit.  I have two sizes of clothes in my closet and sadly I'm wearing the larger of the two.  But until I started this program, that size was becoming extremely tight and I was in danger of needing yet another size up. I couldn't let that happen.  But after just four weeks of effort, pants that used to pinch at the waist with serious muffin top now sit comfortably and loose at the waist, and thighs no longer look like sausages in them. I tried on the next size down and zipped it up, but still too snug--but we'll get there.  It's nice to see progress not only on the scales but how clothing fits and how I feel.  A big plus is having less pain walking up and down stairs.

The program I follow is self-prescribed and simple:
  • I walk 3+ miles per day, 5 days a week (about an hour).  
  • I limit calories to under 1500 (more like 1200, in fact)
  • I do something nice for myself every day (this is harder than you might think)
  • I log (yes or no) if I engage in any emotional eating

I log everything on a shared spreadsheet where my friend and I exchange comments and encouragement for each other.

Only a few times has the walking been difficult because of weather. But I walk on a flat area that has helped me to build up my stamina and improve my pace.  I use and GPS on my phone to track my walks and prompt me at each half mile I achieve.  Today I walked 4.4 miles.  When I walk in the morning, my energy is up and I can last longer.  At the end of this program I plan to start walking more on the hills, improving my pace, and varying my exercise with bike riding as weather permits.  Minimum an hour a day, whatever the activity.

Limiting calories would be hard except that I am very careful about what I choose to eat right now.  You can eat a lot of vegetables with a very low calorie count.  I add no butter and I limit even olive oil which has 120 calories per tablespoon.  No food is "illegal" but if I want to eat out, I compensate at other meals.  Usually I'll eat half and take the rest home for another meal.  At home sandwiches are one slice of bread instead of two.   I use light soy milk on dry cereal instead of regular milk.  Many dinners are nothing but veggies.  I bought a little notebook that is just for tracking food and calories--each day starts on a new page.  I've had only a couple of days where I exceeded my goal, only as a result of social eating.  But I have no guilt for that as I also need to be with friends and sometimes that involves food.  But one thing is for sure: if I'm going to consume more calories, they'd darn well better be extra delicious!  The key to success is planning ahead what I will eat and having low calorie snacks on hand for when I really feel the need.

I've wanted to track the emotional eating issue to see if my state of mind affects how I eat.  I think I've been so successful at keeping a positive viewpoint, that I have rarely had episodes I would call emotional eating.  And even then, I'll just have a fruit or graham cracker and stay within allowed calories.  But as they say, nothing succeeds like success.  The more I lose, the more motivated I am to stick with it.

Our challenge ends in two more weeks, but I am going to continue my program for longer and continue tracking.  Even though I've lost quite a bit, I still have a long ways to go to reach my ideal weight.  Incidentally, weight goals are not in my program.  I do weigh, but I don't have a target for each week.  I know if I follow the plan, the pounds will come off, and they do.

Continuing to emerge.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Cruel February

Oh, cruel February!
You, with your thaws
And your rains,
And small green shoots under the Jupiter's Beard.

You, teasing me with your songbirds
And flocks of swans winging northward
And your blue skies,

And your false hope.

I see you outside my window now
Fierce, unrelenting, and white.
My coffee cup is empty
And soon I must get out my snow shovel

Becky Stauffer
February 20, 2011

UPDATE: As if right on cue, an entire flock of robins arrives today.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dammit! Slipped Again!

Exactly three years ago this month I fell and injured my ankle.  It was supposed to take two to six weeks to heal, but for months afterward there was lingering pain in that leg.  After that I resolved to always watch my step, especially on stairs where women do most of their falling.  But it only takes one lapse.  Yesterday I was on my lunch break and eager to get a few things done around the house.  I had finally finished the huge shredding project of all the ex's old papers and was carrying two big bags of shredded paper and a cardboard box out to the recycling bin. Two small flights of stairs, I just tossed the box and then followed it down carrying the bags, unable to see the stairs and thinking about other things when *crash* my foot slipped off the last step and down I went.  I felt the ankle pain immediately and just hoped it wasn't broken.

I appears I've re-injured it in the same place.  I still had the ankle brace from the last episode, so iced the injury, immobilized it, and kept it elevated as much as possible.  The swelling is not as bad as the previous injury--probably because I got the ice and compression on it sooner this time.

Well, I'm hobbling.  It's not broken.  But it hurts and I'm mad at myself for forgetting my own advice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Toast to a Day of Love

There are so many takes on this day. Some people are celebrating the fact they are a couple. Some expecting gifts and tokens. Some expecting a wild night of passion. Some cynical over past disappointments. Some scoffing that it’s all nothing but silly romance.

But not me—my take is different. For me this is a day to stop and appreciate love in all its forms that has graced my life. To acknowledge the relationships, even the transitory ones, that I truly believed at the time to be deep and meaningful, and that had a lasting effect on my life.

When we get old, we’re supposed to get wise. And since I’ve reached an age where people are sometimes referred to in news stories as “elderly” , I think I will use that excuse to offer a few tidbits that I’ve learned in my lifetime.

When in a relationship, don’t wait for gifts. Why set yourself up for disappointment? I buy fresh flowers for myself because I enjoy them. If your loved one doesn’t think of flowers, it’s not because they love you less—it’s more likely because they don’t read minds.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll see plenty of signals that confirm that special bond: a wordless shared look that you both clearly understand; an unsolicited compliment like “Dinner was great, babe;” a lingering moment as he passes and notices some nice fragrance about you; a thoughtful act like warming up the car for you on a cold morning; or getting himself a drink in the evening and bringing you one, too.

Pay attention. It’s the little things that add meaning to a relationship—that confirm the love. It’s noticing those things that makes you value the relationship more.

Relationships are all temporary. They end for all kinds of reasons. If our happiness is based solely on being in a good relationship, at some point in life we will be very unhappy. It’s good to remember the good things that brought you together to begin with. It’s good to remember good things between you when you were together. It’s good to forgive and forget the things that brought the relationship to an end. If the end was the death of a loved one, it’s good to find a point where you can stop crying and be happy about the good things you shared.

All things will end. But life is wasted only if we fail to appreciate the moment we are in now and also the things we have had in the past.

Strive to be at peace with all the loves that have come and gone in your life and when you reach old age, whether you are with a partner or you are alone, you can say, “I regret nothing.”  Won't you join me in a toast to that sentiment today?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I regret nothing

There are places I remember
All my life,
Though some have changed.
Some forever, not for better,
Some have gone
And some remain.
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living,
In my life I loved them all.

Happy day of Love. <3

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Worth Waiting For

When the air clears and warms up a little, February can be quite beautiful.  This sunset lasted a long time tonight and I just sat and watched and finally decided I needed to take its picture.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Inversion again

Yet again, the inversion has settled in making for dismal daytime weather and bad air for those who like to breathe.  Before the sun came up this morning, I could not even see across the street.  Now visibility is slightly better, but there is no view of mountains or valley.  We are promised a snowstorm tonight, significant enough to blow away the stagnation.  I abandoned my plans to look for bald eagles this weekend.

Winter is not yet over.  The snow has been melting and temps have been in the high 30's and even 40's of late, which feels good after long stretches below freezing.  But the cold temps are also predicted to return by mid-week.  It's a reminder that winter extends into March here, and even after that continues to make appearances. 

Still, as January draws to a close, I resist the temptation to simply appreciate surviving it.  There has been good progress indoors on my projects.  Good things are happening at work.  And I can even see beauty in the fog through my windows (as long as I don't try to breathe it).  Life is too short to simply write off a month out of every year.  It behooves us to make the time we have worthwhile.  As for me, I'm sticking to the plan.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


The air outside is unbreathable.  We are urged to drive less.  Burning in fireplaces and wood stoves is forbidden.  Those with respiratory conditions are advised to stay indoors / not exercise.  It's a "red air day" - common for January in northern Utah.  Often the worst air in the U.S. at the time.

The mountains in northern Utah form something of a bowl around the Wasatch Front communities.  Wintertime air stagnation causes fog from the lake and pollutants from vehicles, planes, and industry to become trapped at low elevations where most of us live, while the air higher in the mountains is clear and beautiful.  We look forward to storms that blow through and clear out the gunk from our valleys.  In between times, weather forecasters tell us whether it's a green, yellow, or red air quality day, and we adapt accordingly.

I've decided that since I feel somewhat confined in my home due to the bad air, I'm going to make the most of it.  This is a good opportunity to focus internally -- on both myself and my home.  I am lucky to work from home most of the time, so even that plays into my plan.  I am wrapping myself up, so to speak, inside my home, giving me a chance for some personal introspection, renewal, and preparation before setting off on new paths and pursuits in the coming months and year.

I will live inside a chrysalis of my own making and begin to do the work that later will bring about subtle or possibly even startling changes.  For several decades I defined myself as part of a couple.  Now I am finding out who the individual is that I am.  Wrapped up and somewhat secluded from the outside, I hope to grow further into a person who is all me -- carrying all of the influences of the past not as baggage, but as formative experience and wisdom -- and transforming myself to step into the next phase of my development.

In a few weeks, we'll probably have our typical return to winter after this bit of thaw we are enjoying.  There will yet be snow and freezing, though the temperatures will begin to rise gradually.  If you're a gardener, you know the rule of thumb in Utah is not to plant until after Mother's Day when we can usually count on no more temperatures below the freezing mark.  Winter lasts a long time here. 

Oh, but I won't wait for Mother's Day to emerge from my cocoon.  I'll begin unwrapping the layers gradually as spring approaches.  As I feel ready.  I will emerge from this period of transition, conscious of everything around me and my juxtaposition to those things.  I have an unexpected and profound feeling of freedom and renewal this year.  I'm eager to plunge into a warmer, sunnier world.

I don't know entirely what to expect when the new me emerges from my secluded period.  For now I'm focusing on the internal -- discovering, growing, preparing.  When I do emerge, I'll breathe deeply of the good clear air, I'll stretch out my limbs in celebration of my freedom, and I'll venture into the beautiful and welcoming spring.

And then, we shall see . . .

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Not going to sweat the small stuff

My daughter and I were talking the other day about how easy it is to get carried away with worrying about things big and small and what a waste it often is when you look back at the problem.  Almost all the time, the issue gets resolved and you move on and the worrying did nothing but take off precious minutes of your life.

As trite as it sounds, I think my one real resolution this year is to not sweat the small stuff.  And as my daughter points out (more triteness coming), it really is almost all small stuff.

I had a great boss once (then a lawyer, now a judge), who really embodied this practice.  When something would go wrong, he'd let off with a string of epithets that would wither a sensitive soul.  And then he was done with agonizing and was on to the practical problem-solving.

I have tried to adopt some of this approach in my own life - to get past any worry, frustration, anger, and other negative emotions that tend more to debilitate than to help any situation.  I've been relatively successful with getting on with the problem-solving phase quickly, and I am good at letting go of anger to the point that I honestly rarely even feel anger anymore.  But it has been hard to let go of the worrying.

This is something I really want to focus on this year.  And as a born worrier, this will be a real challenge.