Things have been pretty busy lately with all the Jewish holidays, and then trying to get into a routine with the kids and school. Leah is nearly 18 and pretty much does her own thing; I simply need to keep the house well stocked with healthy foods for her to prepare for herself. 12th grade is turning out to be far less stressful than 11th grade was. Meanwhile, Hannah is in 11th grade this year, is taking 2 AP classes and has a part-time job. Jack, my 10 year old, is having a hard time adjusting to the increased workload of middle school. Both of the younger two are having trouble with time management. I’m trying to keep everybody well fed and get them to bed on time, but I’m not always successful.
I also want to encourage everybody to exercise, but I’m having the most trouble with that one. If I let my son ride his bike before homework, will the homework be finished early enough to get him to bed on time? If he does his homework first, will it be too dark outside when he’s done? The middle school is only 1/3 mile from our house, and I wish he’d walk to and from school daily. He won’t walk there on purpose, but I don’t stress if he dawdles a bit in the morning and misses the bus.
Hannah seems to be finding ways to be more active. Her high school is a large building, and she probably walks a mile every day through those halls. Occasionally she’ll walk the 1.5 miles home. More often she’ll walk to or from a friend’s house after school. About once a week she’ll do some yard work- cutting down branches, weeding, and bagging up the cuttings. She always wants company outside, and it’s usually my job to hold open the bags while she fills them. In the past 2 months or so, she’s definitely firmed up and started to slim down. I’m not sure if the scale yet reflects these changes, but she’s dropped about one dress size since the summer- and without a formal exercise routine.
Getting myself to exercise is often my biggest struggle. The one time I went for a 20 minute walk during the school day, I felt great! I just have to find the time and energy to actually do it regularly. It’s just far too easy to find excuses not to: I just showered and I don’t want to go for a walk with wet hair. I have something cooking that might burn if I leave the house. It’s too hot/cold/rainy outside. I’m feeling too tired. Never mind that I own a few exercise videos and a treadmill, which can be used in my pajamas, in any weather, and I can hear the kitchen timer while using them. I need to actually clear away the clutter before using either one, and it just hasn't happened yet.
There is one thing I've managed to be consistent about for the past month or so. I was having HORRIBLE lower back pain in one specific area. Somebody suggested Active-Isolated-Stretching, and I took out a book from the library about it. After doing all the exercises a few times, I selected the 6 that seemed to target the muscles causing me the most trouble. Besides stretching the tight muscles causing the pain, these also provide a gentle workout for other muscles in my legs and torso. I’ve been doing the recommended 10 reps each morning, plus 5-10 reps each night. It only takes about 5 minutes each time.
My lower back pain has improved, but it’s not yet completely gone. I’ve been fairly consistent with the exercises; I’ve skipped it a handful of times, only to have the pain get worse. The pain is keeping me honest- without it, I’m sure I would have abandoned this exercise routine.
So, I’ve been doing this simple routine for about 10 minutes a day for the past month, even during the crazy busy holidays. The other day, I noticed that my thighs and buttocks are much firmer than they used to be. I think my abdominal muscles may have firmed up as well, but it’s hard to tell under the layer of fat. I forgot to wear bike shorts under my skirt when I took that 20 minute walk on Monday, and I did NOT have the expected problems with my thighs rubbing together and irritating the skin. All this firmness from 10 minutes a day? Wow!
This is incredibly encouraging. I can easily imagine the benefits I’d get from a regular walking routine.
Today we visited Historic Deerfield. Homes from the 1700s settlement have been restored inside and out. We learned about how the early settlers lived what they wore, and what they ate. It was fascinating to see hand woven baskets, hooked rugs, and needlework. Though they lived on the edge of the wilderness, they wanted their homes to be attractive. As archeologists have dug around the area they have found both pieces of locally made redware and fine china imported from England.
We signed up for an architectural tour. In a typical Connecticut Valley colonial home the chimney was built first. They were two story houses with two rooms downstairs on either side of the chimney and two upstairs. That is so practical for cold New England winters. As soon as the family prospered, they would add a 2nd chimney so they could have eight rooms with a hall down middle.
At the Hearth Cooking Demonstration we watched how the colonists prepared their vegetables. It was an art to prepare meals, something that is lost today with modern appliances. The docent showed us a brick oven on the side of the fireplace. The wife would build a fire in the oven and when the bricks were red hot, she would bake bread. When the bread was done, she put puddings and pies in the cooling oven. Last of all she would put in a pot of beans that would cook for the rest day.
Sometimes people complain that preparing food for a multiple Blood Type family is too complicated and time consuming. Food preparation in Colonial America was a full time job - every single day. The food looked delicious, but we weren't allowed to taste because they don't have the required federal permits.
We bought our lunch at a sandwich trailer - not exactly historically authentic - but modern visitors have to eat. Two things on the menu interested me - a hamburger and a chicken quesadilla in a gluten free tortilla. I stood in line doing pros and cons. My Type O body wanted beef, but if I got the hamburger I would throw the bun away. If I got the quesadilla, I would throw away the cheese. I smiled politely and asked if I could have a hamburger in the gluten free tortilla. The way the guys in the trailer looked at each other it was obvious that I was the first person to ask for that. But they did it, and I was happy with the results.
Yesterday was our only full day in Vermont. We wanted to make the time count, so I went on google and found an interactive map that shows the best fall colors. Not sure whether it is updated weekly or daily; not sure what we would have seen on other roads; but it took us to some incredibly beautiful sites.
The day again started out misty. HH says I am in incurable optimist, but it seemed to me that the fog on the mountains made the colors of the trees up close appear even more vivid.
As we went around a curve my eye caught a glimpse up a side road, and I asked HH to turn back. We came upon the loveliest site. It was a pond, surrounded by trees at the peak of their color. The reflection in the still water was stunning. As I walked around to take another picture, I saw a hand lettered sign. "Joye Kings pond; no trespassing". On one hand, I don't blame her for not wanting photographers traipsing across her property, but it sure didn't seem like a "joyful" thing to say.
We stopped for lunch in French restaurant in Brandon, called Cafe Provence. Not only do they serve beautiful food with fancy names, but they offer cooking classes. Somehow it surprised me to find an amazing international restaurant in a small town setting. I had steak and salad with crispy onions. It was perfect! HH ordered their signature turkey sandwich. He didn't care for the tomato based sauce; but then again he is a Subway sandwich man.
Because of the weather we had not even looked into trails in the Green Mountains. But a sign by the road said: "Robert Frost interpretive trail." I did not realize that Robert Frost spent much of his adult life in New Hampshire and Vermont. I put on my parka to protect my camera equipment from the mist; HH grabbed an umbrella; and we started off down the trail.
The mist stopped. The fog lifted just a little. As we walked through "the yellow wood" there were plaques with selections from Frost's poems. The trail was not long - with all of our stops to read and take pictures, it took about an hour. In one word, that hour was refreshing: the poetry, the beauty of the trees, and a turn in the weather at just the right moment. We got back in our car, and as we pulled back on the road, HH turned on the windshield wipers.
My life is centered on my faith in God. I did not pray for good weather on this trip. Local farmers need rain, just like we need rain in Texas. It did not seem right to presume upon God and ask for a change in weather for the convenience of my vacation. We were enjoying the day just as it was described in the poem "God's Garden." And God surprised us with an undeserved blessing.
In the afternoon, we turned the car toward Massachusetts. My sister is living there for one year, and before the day was over I got to give her a hug!
Henry Ford, it is said, commissioned a survey of the car scrap yards of America to find out if there were parts of the Model T Ford which never failed. His inspectors came back with reports of almost every kind of breakdown: axles, brakes, pistons -- all were liable to go wrong. But they drew attention to one notable exception, the kingpins of the scrapped cars invariably had years of life left in them. With ruthless logic Ford concluded that the kingpins on the Model T were too good for their job and ordered that in future they should be made to an inferior specification.
For the automotively challenged, the kingpin is the main pivot in the steering mechanism of a car or other vehicle. Originally this was literally a steel pin on which the moveable, steerable wheel was mounted to the suspension. It is usually made out of metal.
This story, well-known on the internet, was originally told by Nicholas Humphrey in 1976, and often referred to by other biologists including Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins, the latter recounting the story in what is, by far, the most pessimistic chapter ("God's Utility Function") in his book River Out of Eden.
John Hawks, who has an interesting anthropology weblog takes a look at the Henry Ford story, and why evolutionary biologists seem to love it so:
Of course, the truth is natural selection doesn't cut back the quality of functional parts easily, either. Selection also has to overcome fixed costs in order to change populations: costs stemming from pleiotropy, epistasis, and coevolution with other kinds of organisms (e.g. predator-prey relationships, mutualisms, and mimicry). How much selective advantage can come from reducing femur diameter a smidgeon? It can't be very much, and it might easily be outweighed by the manifold costs of changing osteoblast function to accomplish it. In other words, adaptation is constrained by the same sorts of problems that constrain industry. Ruthless efficiency can rarely be maintained in biology or in manufacturing.
But then again, was the story even true?
Barbara Mikkelson over at the Urban Legends website thinks not, but offers an additional insight:
Though the legend is almost always positioned as a "let's screw the consumers" tale, on rare occasion it has been presented as an example of intelligent design."*
It all reminds me of the Edward de Bono books I read as a kid.
* She includes a similar type of anecdote about another engineering triumph, from WWII:
"A proposal was made to armour bombers in the places where the returning planes showed most damage from anti-aircraft fire. One young analyst suggested that instead, the planes should be armoured where the returning bombers showed no damage. He inferred that the planes that did not return were being damaged in the places that the returning planes were not. His suggestion was implemented and an X% reduction in lost planes resulted."
Yesterday was our last day with SS, so we were on the trail early, making every minute count.
Our first walk was a trail around Echo Lake. There was a high concentration of maple trees around the lake, so I took lots of pictures dominated with many shades of red.
Then we drove to a trail called Falling Waters which led to four waterfalls. The first two were beautiful. Then the trail led to a slippery log across a rushing stream. SS crossed the stream and brought back pictures of the other two falls on his IPhone. HH and I found a comfortable rock where we could enjoy the view and the sound of the water.
We had Lunch at Gordi's in Lincoln. HH and I had baked haddock with rice and Cole slaw. SS chose a chicken sandwich that was voted "best in town." He said it was delicious.
We said our goodbyes, then SS headed for Boston and we headed for Vermont. The drive was incredibly beautiful. We stopped several times for pictures, but mostly we ooohed and ahhhed as we saw a new view around every turn.
We stopped at a grocery store in Vermont and were horrified at the prices. Many items were double what we pay in Texas. We picnicked in our room and watched the debate. It was especially personal, having just experienced at the grocery store what high tax policies ultimately lead to. I do not see how people survive on an ordinary income in New England, and I do not understand why they continue to vote in officials who raise their taxes even more.
We spent an incredible day in the White Mountain National Forest. Our guide for the day was a brochure that listed waterfalls and covered bridges. The leaves were...indescribable. Someone like me who makes their living as a writer and photographer is not supposed to be at a loss for words, but language fails me. I took hundreds of pictures. The recent rains have the water racing over falls that are framed with yellows and oranges. Streams are rushing under century old covered bridges; the faded reds of the old paint a contrast to the brilliant reds of the leaves.
I had packed a veggie bowl with chicken and spinach for my lunch. HH and SS stopped at Patch's Deli in Glen, New Hampshire for sandwiches.
After lunch we took a half mile walk to Diana's Baths - two waterfalls at right angles to each other.
Next we chose a longer trail that led to four points of interest. The trail to the Basin was paved. After that it became very steep and slippery. HH got to the Cascade, then decided to turn back. His knee has not given him trouble in several years, but he did not want to risk twisting it. The trail became more rugged as SS and I pressed on to Kinsman Falls. This was the prettiest of the four sites. The water had a golden tint. We couldn't decide whether it was from silt brought down by the rains or color from the leaves that were falling into the water. Either way, it was lovely. The last part of the trail to Rocky Glen was nearly impassable. Both SS and I were holding onto tree trunks to pull ourselves up the mountainside.
We were both concerned about the hike down. Normally I am not too proud to sit down and scoot on a steep trail, but I really wanted to avoid scooting or slipping in the mud. We took it slow, used roots and trees to stabilize ourselves, and got down safely.
The trail had made us hungry. We had a delicious dinner at Italian Oasis in Littleton. Again I saw gluten free items on the menu. I asked if I could have a chicken and broccoli entrée but substitute sweet potato fries for the linguini. They agreed, and my meal was perfect. HH chose sausage and pasta - not the best BTD choice for a Type A, but I decided not to nag on vacation. SS had an eggplant chicken parmigiana duo that he said was outstanding.
We all slept well after a challenging trail and a satisfying dinner.
As we traveled yesterday, we could literally see how longitude, altitude and distance from the coast impact fall colors. If you plan a vacation to see the changing of the seasons, be flexible. During late September and early October, there will be color somewhere, you just have to drive until you find it.
On the coast, just a few isolated trees had changed. As we drove inland, the color got better and better. When the road went down into a valley, the trees would be mostly green. When it would climb over a pass, the trees were changing. In a few weeks people driving our same route, will find bare trees on the passes, and color in the valleys. In his research before the trip, HH had read that New Hampshire, Vermont, and part of Japan have the best fall colors in the world. I can't explain why that is true, but the closer we got to the New Hampshire border the more brilliant the color.
We got off the main road and took State Highway 16. The colors were breathtaking. There was a beautiful view around every bend in the road. We saw 11 wild turkeys scratching for food in fallen leaves.
Our Strong Son had planned to take a mission trip to Guatemala the same week we had planned to be in New England, but his trip was cancelled. Since he had already arranged for someone to cover his patients, he decided to take a vacation instead. In route to see friends from Physical Therapy school, he was going to meet us for three days. We picnicked for lunch, anticipating dinner with him in Littleton, New Hampshire.
We ate at the Littleton Diner. A note on the menu mentioned a gluten free item. Over the years, I have found it virtually impossible to explain the BTD to servers in restaurants. I've had a little better success if I say that I have a wheat allergy. But the term "gluten free" seems to have taken hold. Several television personalities have talked lately about going gluten free. I think there is a "one size fits all" book out that says everyone should be gluten free. I wasn't interested in their gluten free selection, but when I told the server that I wanted the roast beef dinner, but I wanted it gluten free, she was very cooperative about making substitutions. I thoroughly enjoyed my roast beef (no gravy), carrots, and baked beans.
It was raining when we woke up - a dreary day with low clouds. There didn't seem much point to getting out on slick roads when we couldn't see the scenery. I had work to do for clients, so I went to the hotel's sitting room with my computer, while HH watched TV.
We had lunch at the Log Cabin Restaurant just outside of Bar Harbor. As we approached the door there was a carving of a black bear in yellow rain gear. I thought it was funny, and took a picture, but I'm afraid the rain has dampened HH's sense of humor. HH had lobster roll and clam chowder for lunch - very New England. I ordered a Western burger. It was Black Angus beef with grilled mushrooms bell peppers and mushrooms. The irony of eating Western burger on the East Coast didn't hit me until later. With my burger I had a side of Cole slaw.
The hotel manager was trying to be positive about things we could do in the rain. One of the famous features in Acadia National Park is called Thunder Hole. The terrain is just right, so that when a wave hits the rocks it sounds like a clap of thunder. The manager said that the bad weather had made the water in the bay choppy, and that Thunder Hole might be exceptionally loud.
HH and I decided that we would like to hear it, even in the rain. So we loaded up our parkas and drove into the National Park. Incredible - the rain stopped. We parked near a beautiful overlook to photograph the rocky Maine coast. There was a trail that led from the overlook to Thunder Hole, so we started walking. Thunder Hole was indeed amazing. We kept walking almost to Otter Cliff, then backtracked to Sand Beach. We walked for a couple of hours photographing on delightful view after another. We got back in our car and the rain returned.
We were blessed, and we knew it. Thank you, Lord, for a break in the rain.