Happy. Healthy. Heathen.

Traveling, training, thinking, talking, typing


September 2010

Another thing on the list!

The Brit, the gimlet, and me

One of the things on my list of 50 at 50 was having a lime gimlet with an actual British person. I wikied the word to find out the history of the drink, and while I’ll list a couple of interesting things about the drink, it’s worth clicking on the link for the whole story, plus a couple of suggested recipes.

My bartender made it with Hendrick’s Gin (which, as he knew, would instantly become my favorite, albeit it pricey, gin) and Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice.  Some recipes suggest a simple syrup and actual lime juice, but I was pleased with the Rose’s.  I’ll try a low-carb version at some point, but I’ll use the Rose’s til it’s gone.  Sam mixed it about half-and-half, maybe a touch more gin, shaken over ice, served over ice.  It was as cool and refreshing as it sounds, and is now in my top 5 favorite drinks, maybe even displacing my go-to gin and tonic.

Beautiful Hendrick's bottle

This post is primarily to describe marking that event off my list, but I’ll also use it to catch up a bit.  Sam’s visit to the US has ended and he’s back off the England to begin his master’s degree at Bristol.  Glenda is missing him fiercely, but has plans to visit England again for Christmas for the 3rd year in a row.

They made it home for a visit last weekend to see Aden’s fall festival at John Pittard Elementary School.  There was face-painting, jumpy things, cake-walking, and all the crap to eat that you would expect at a fall festival.  Aden said it was a Great Friday, and we all agreed!

yes, that's a pilot costume
After she finished (it was a spider), he said he really wanted it on the other cheek

The next day our precious Emily Potts came over for breakfast; Glenda and I had been wanting her to meet Sam for two years!  She was totally NOT fangirly over our very own Harry Potter (you can’t quite see the scar drawn on her forehead and her Neville shirt).  Emily makes everything an instant party, and we kept her from going home to help hubby John clean the house all morning.

Q T Pies

The next weekend was son Sam’s birthday, so we had 3/4 of the kids home then.  (We missed you Ben.)

Sam with his gift from his sisters, brother, and Sam M

And now, because it’s my blog and I can, here are two of Glenda’s recent watercolors (I think brother Ben commissioned her for one of them):

Lastly, a few pics of the Freedom of Religion Rally in Murfreesboro.  Seriously, citizens, this is a no-brainer.  Freedom of Religion means every religion, not just the ones you like and understand.

Sweet Elliot

Training still continues

and continues

and continues.

Thanks for reading!


It has taken me a few days after finishing this book to take the moment to review it.  I usually do that; it gives me time to think about what I want to write, and, as in this case, it gives me time to emotionally recover from the impact the book has had on me.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

This is Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  She was born in Somalia, and grew up there and in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya.  The first half of her book, Infidel, introduces the reader to her brother, sister, mother, father, and the environment in which she spent her childhood/adolescence.  It is a tough read, and I found myself having to limit how much I could take in one sitting.  She underwent the worst of what you would imagine it would be like to grow up in a repressive, poor, religiously fundamental culture.   I won’t spend much time reviewing this part of the book, but understand the second half wouldn’t be what it is without the first.

As a young adult, she was married (she wasn’t present at her wedding) to a cousin of her father’s choosing, and on her way to Canada to live with him, she sought asylum in the Netherlands.  It was there she began to question the foundations of beliefs she had been indoctrinated with.  She was troubled with reconciling how clean and functional the country was in spite of the fact that it was secular, and memories of her own home countries.  She also observed women in a free society, and was moved by the parenting of a friend with small children who was patient and nurturing, instead of violent and condemning.

Her description of riding a bicycle for the first time made me cry.  She writes about taking off her robe, putting on “oversized men’s trousers” and feeling the wind in her face and the elation of freedom of movement. It was just a paragraph in this book with a long list of remarkable events, but it touched me beyond my ability to convey.

She eventually graduated from college, became a member of Dutch Parliament, and became an outspoken critic of Islam, and a supporter of women’s rights.  She made a short film with Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker, which is disturbingly beautiful:


Tragically, Van Gogh was killed by an Islamic fanatic, and pinned with a knife to his chest was a death threat for Hirsi Ali as well.  She has since moved to the United States, and of course, lives with constant security concerns.  After having read this book, I googled her name and watched every video interview with her.  She is articulate and gracious and beautiful and fiercely independent, perhaps a throwback to her clan of birth, a clan that was born to rule.  She is smart and warm and funny, and she is one of my personal champions.

I highly recommend this book.  While you read about horrific events that occurred in the life of this woman, the writing remains straightforward and concise.  She neither overplays nor underplays the trauma in her life, and I can’t imagine reading this without being moved by both the importance of this book, and the character of the author.

As always, if you do choose to read it, please let me know:  discussing books is a joy and a privilege for me, and I’ll also reciprocate with whatever book you recommend!  (and yes, I’m including my conservative friends and the Sarah Palin book – which will have to be a Reciprocal Read pact, cuz I’m not reading it otherwise!)

Thanks for reading!

I’m a 14er! Twice!

Here’s to spontaneity!

Not much to the lead-in for this blog:  climbing a 14er with Ben was on the list of 50.  Every time he and I chat we look at the week or 10 days ahead of us to see if anything works with our schedules, and on Saturday when we chatted, we came up with something that worked!  Surprised us both, but we found a little window when he was out of school, I could make it out, and the availability of flights cooperated.  So Tuesday afternoon I headed out to Denver, via Atl, and arrived around 6:00.  Ben’s girl, Kirsten, picked me up at the airport and we drove to meet Ben just east of the Eisenhower tunnel off of 70.

Anyone see anything wrong with this pic? I had this in Denver waiting for Kirsten. Ben texted me NOT to drink - after I'd had almost all of the glass.
Sweet Kirsten, architect graduate student extraordinaire

Kirsten headed back to Denver, and Ben and I headed up a gravel road to the start point (in his 4-wheel drive Tracker, which was necessary).  He set up the tent, and after I wrapped up in most of the clothes I brought, we slept for a few hours.

My sherpa

The alarm went off around 5, and we set about breaking camp, stuffing stuff sacks, filling camelbaks, and Ben even fixed us a mountaineer breakfast of coffee and oatmeal.  Ben’s a fellow foodie, and had half and half and organic sugar for the coffee, and cranberries, cinnamon, and sliced almonds for the oatmeal.

happy hikers

We headed out of the parking lot around 6, just as it was getting light.  It’s only fair at this point to tell you that our base camp was at 11,000 feet – but don’t be so quick to be unimpressed – it’s still a 3,000 foot climb to the first summit.  When you begin, you are in a little valley, and can only see the faces of the mountains closest to you.  As you ascend, more and more peaks peek their tips out into your field of vision.  It’s as if the panorama unfolds in a reward for all your climbing effort.

First rays of sunshine on the peaks - that's Gray's peak on the left, and you can barely see Torrey's peak on the right, in the sunshine

See the saddle shape on that ridge between the two peaks in the sunshine?  We first plan to ascend Gray’s peak on the left, then drop onto the ridge and hike it over and up to Torrey’s peak.

both peaks, closer, more sunshine, but still hours away

Ben entertained me as we hiked the elevation with tales about hiking up/skiing down these peaks in the winter.  On the outside I was the cool, hip mom urging him on, celebrating his adrenaline fix, and on the inside my insides were the baking-soda-vinegar-5th-grade-volcano-science-project.  It’s not easy being me.

On the really rugged part of the climb

Because these peaks are so close to Denver, and because there are two so close together, and because it’s nearing the end of the hiking season, this trail was rather busy.  There were probably 20-25 other hikers on this trail, everyone smiling and good-humored, if panting and straining.  There are 54-58 14ers in Colorado (any guesses why there is a disparity in the number?  No fair google-cheating – you can figure this one out), and it is a common goal to summit them all, whether you are a Colorado resident or not.  Ben has 11 or so.  Guess how many 13,000 foot peaks there are?  Over 700.  He’s a little more interested in hiking the Centennial 100, or the 100 highest 13ers, because they are a lot less crowded, and a lot less developed (translation:  more of a challenge).

I'm a 14er!!!

So we hike and switchback and turn and hike and switchback and rest and hike and then….the peak!!  We made it!

Signing the official registry

It was awfully gusty while we were at the peak, and we came close to choosing to turn around and go back down.  Then we looked at one another and said, “Oh, HELL no!”, at about the same time, so off we went, wind gusts and all.

View from the top
View of Gray's from Torrey's - you can see the switchbacks if you look closely!

The trip down was much quicker, of course, and we were back at the car by 3.  We had a post-hike beer that was delicious, and then hit the tostitoes for the drive back to Denver.  We got to have a dinner with Kirsten at a very cool Italian place in her area of town.  After that, it was a quick trip to the airport and 36 hours after the trip began, I’m home!

Ben and remarked several times while we were hiking how very fortunate we are to have this trip come together like it did.  We both had to have the window of time, the flights had to work, the weather had to cooperate…and for this trip, we got them all!

Now here’s the part of the blog where I go off about my kid, so if you’ve read too many of these from this web address, you may be excused.

I’m in love with this boy/man.  I love to make him smile, I love to hear him laugh.  I absolutely love how his mind works and how he thinks.  I love to hear him rant about religion, and I love to hear him describe skiing among those hills.  I love his funny stories about his crazy-ass skiing friends, and customers he’s had in the restaurant.  Watching him love on a pup that someone brought on the climb nearly brought me to tears.  I want to give him everything – all the toys he wants, all the gear he needs, all the trips he wants to take.  I love how he’s going back to college, and the enthusiasm he has found for that.  I love seeing my little boy in the face of this grown man.

Ben, thank you for this trip.  Thanks for helping your mom achieve one of the things on her 50 list.  I’ll never forget it – our predawn breakfast, our conversations, the moment on the drive down when we were both laughing so hard you had to pull the car over til we stopped.

Peak pic

Do I need to even describe how sore I am?  Thighs, calves, quads, glutes, back – so exquisitely sore I really can’t move without groaning.  Back to working out tomorrow, so technically I only missed today.

One more thing on the list – on to the next one.

Thanks for reading!

Perhaps I overestimated my timetable.

If I had any graphic design ability, this post would have been soooo much easier to read.  I, however, do not, so you will have to do the best you can.  I’ve centered and italisized the original post; maybe that will help some.

So here’s the 50 Things Post, dated May 18, 2010.  In my enthusiasm for the spirit of the idea, I may have been a bit overzealous and ambitious.  It is a failing I admit with pride.  Life threw our family a curve of epic proportions in June, and we have been recovering from that ever since.  I had not the inclination or interest in the list for a period of time over the summer.  I’m ready to revisit it now, I think, and I’m still enamored of the project.  Here’s the update:

May 18, 2010.  Exactly 6 months before my 50th birthday.

May 18, 2011.  Exactly 6 months after my 50th birthday.

In order to celebrate managing to stay alive, happy, and healthy to my 50th, I am going to try 50 new things this year.  Some are huge (hike the Great Wall of China).  Some are tiny (drink a lime gimlet).  All are things I have never before done.  And in that same spirit of celebration, my friends and family will be participating with me.

I’ve had a few more suggestions since my last blog, and those will be reflected in the list.  I’ve decided to be a little less OCD, and a little more organic in the list.  I’m not going to preemptively remove anything from the list; there will be more than 50 things.  In my daily life, as I always do, I will seek out new and exciting experiences, and may very well add something to the list spontaneously, maybe even after I’ve done it.  I will attempt to do all, but my primary goal will be to accomplish 50 New Things.

You all have been so enthusiastic and free-spirited about all this; thanks for the suggestions and the WILLINGNESS to do them with me!

1.  Streak through Publix    –   Dora (You are SOOO on the hook for this)

2.  Do a Bob Ross painting   –   Glenda

3.  Drink a lime gimlet   –   Sam M (Next weekend?)

4.  Fire-hoop   –   Glenda

5.   Color my hair pink/blue/something for a race   –   Glenda/Amy

6.  Go to the Superbowl

7.  Scuba-dive Cayman or Honduras or Bahamas   –   Fran

8.  Write a song   –   Beth

9.  Hike a 14-er in Colorado   –   Ben (May get to do this next week)

10.  Write a children’s book   –   Kristen

11.  Be in a live audience for a TV show   –   Kristen

12.  Eat crumb cake at Carlos’ Bakery in NYC   –   Kristen

13.  Horseback riding on the beach   –   Kristen

14.  Go parasailing   –   Kristen

15.  Go bungy-jumping

16.  Big-ass rubber band thingy   –   Mandi

17.  Run 50 miles   –   Vic

18.  Attend Loy Krathong, the sky lantern festival in Thailand   –   Vic

19.  Hike the Great Wall of China   –   Vic

20.  Swim in the largest swimming pool in the world, in Chile   –   Vic

21.  See sea turtles hatch and head for the ocean   –   Vic

22.  Go sky diving   –   Phil

23.  Learn to play pinochle, mah jongg, canasta or gin

24.  Eat gefilte fish with horseradish

25.  Dress like a man and go with a man to a straight bar and a gay bar (They don’t know it yet, but I’m going to do this with Chris and Bryson when they turn 21)

26.  Have a colonoscopy   –   mom

27.  Get a tattoo   –   Amy (Done!)

28.  Go to South Beach, Miami

29.  Attend lighting of candles in Jerusalem

30.  Take ballroom dance lessons  –  Tonya

31.  Meet the President

32.  Do nothing for one day:  no work, no workouts, no computer, no phone, no TV

33.  Go on a photo safari

34.  Visit all the continents

35.  Panhandle on a corner

36.  Ride the TransCanadian Railway

37.  Drink Paddle of Destiny at Mellow Mushroom   –   Susan (what a no-brainer – we can do this on Friday!)

38.  Renew marriage vows   –   Mike

39.  Finish an Ironman  –  me

40.  Climb a redwood tree   –   Amy

41.  Hike the Adirondacks   –   Becky

42.  Learn to swordfight   –   Ted (Tuesday night if I’m not in Colorado)

43.  Drive a race car   –   Ted

44.  Hike the AT   –   Ted

45.  Take a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class   –   Shannon

46.  Kayak the Gauley   –   Sam

47.  Do a road trip   –   Brianna

48.  Swim with dolphins   –   Brianna

49.  Full moon party in Koh phangan, Thailand   –   Lila

50.  Visit Iguazu Falls in Argentina   –   Lila

51.  Go dog sledding in Alaska   –   Lila

52.  Become a licensed minister and marry someone   –   Lila (OK, girlie, I’ve done the become-a-licensed-minister part – just gotta find someone who is disrespectful enough of the institution to allow me to do it!!)

53.  Swim with sharks   –   Lila

54.  Jump off of a waterfall   –   Lila

55.  Watch Dr. Zhivago (how did I miss that?)

56.  Memorize Pi to 50 places

57.  Go see the Formula 1 race in Monaco  –  Brother Eric

58.  Sit through an entire episode of:  O’Reilly/Beck/Colter/Limbaugh  –  Brother Eric

59.  Make Bananas Foster

60.  See the Tour de France in person, not just on Versus at 2:00 in the morning!

61.  Place a $1000 bet on one hand of blackjack  –  Brother Eric

I’d like to add here

#62.  Ride my bike around Cade’s Cove in the moonlight.  Done.

So there it is.  My achievement ratio is disappointingly low.  BUT – remember the disclaimer.  If I don’t get it accomplished this year, it rolls right onto the Life Bucket List.  And the ratio doesn’t take into account things I have done, since May, for the first time that DIDN’T make the list.  Like bat wrangling in England.  And trying to catch a longhorn.  And manually expressing my dogs’ anal glands.  Oh yeah.  Just couldn’t bring myself to blog about that one.

keepin it real

And just to humble myself, this is my getup for cycling in overcast weather.  This is actually what people see when they pass me in their cars.  Scary.

Fave iPod random today:

(and in praise of the Pod – this is my 4-year-old iPod I got when Sam ordered his MAC for college – it was the premium with the purchase – engraved on the back with “World’s Greatest Mom” – love that kid – and it held up the entire 1 hour and 45 minutes of the bike ride!)

the HUGE opening number from Pirates of the Caribbean – great to cycle to!

Trailer for upcoming blogs:  Cleaning out the Closet (I’ll try to find a way to add porn to that post to make it readable), and book review of Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (if I can find a way to slice my wrists and bleed on the keyboard).

Thanks for reading!

Labor Day weekend

In keeping with the commitment, here’s a little entry about my Labor Day Weekend…

First, if you keep up with FB, you know that recently Jesse commented on his status about the pond holding water after 15 years of his work.  So, of course, I had to at least make the attempt to swim in it.  After a rain, when the spring is running, the pond fills to the brim, then overflows with spring water until it is as clear as a stream – you can see the bottom and the whole thing is just beautiful.  After the rain stops, however, in a few days it’s just a farm pond – the cattle, horses and donkeys use it as both a water trough and bathroom, there’s no fresh spring feeding it, and it develops a lovely muck on top, and squishy, let’s call it mud, on the bottom.  That’s the day I chose to try to swim in it.

overlook the ubersexiness of cap and goggles - focus on the pond color
Boo verifying my in-pond photographer's location
Uggums on the other shore

That was truly disgusting.  I MAY try it again after a rain; I was just so excited about swimming in my own pond, I guess I chose my day poorly.

Next Exciting Thing:  I have seen on National Geographic TV and magazines my whole life that a female preying mantis will consume the head of her mate immediately after their tryst.  While I believed it, and saw video of it, I had never seen it real and in person…until this week.  O.  M.  G.

THAT, Lady Gaga, is rough sex

There were right there on my bicycle seat, still, um, together when I went out to get ready for a ride.  I missed the actual head-eating part, but this was enough for now.

Then, on Sunday, I participated in a little triathlon in Callaway Gardens, GA (little in the sense that it was a sprint distance – no triathlon is “little”).

yep, they write your age right there for all to see - hells yeah
This moment right here? This is the addiction.
Callaway Gardens wanted to be sure EVERY parking space they had was used - so this balloon festival was going on at the same time as the race

I struggled in the water on the last 100 yards – still working on that breathing pattern, but it wasn’t too bad, and the ride and the run were beautiful – lovely little rollers and the day was the first real day of non-summer heat – not quite fall, but high of only about 85F.

Sam and Jesse got to do a quick trip to Hawaii where Sam surfed and tried to teach Jesse to surf, and Sam had an encounter with jellyfish – but I don’t want to steal Sam’s thunder, so I’ll let him tell you all about it on his adventure blog.  Also, Sam Miller arrived from England to spend a month with Glenda in Knoxville before he starts graduate school, so if you see her floating around UT’s campus, you’ll know why.

Thanks for reading!

Revival kicks in

In my blog yesterday, I made the promise to write more consistently.  Yeah, here we go…

I know I owe a “50 things update” — that’s next, but today is about one of the specific things on the list.  The tattoo thing.

Because I’m a mommy first and always, let me preface this blog by saying that there is a tremendous difference between getting a tattoo when one is 50 and getting one when one is 20.  I cannot think of a tattoo that would have profound meaning to me now that I might have chosen at 20.  You may be more mature, more stable, more impulsive, more daring, more of any number of personality traits, but for me, it would not have been the right thing to do.  You have all heard me stand on my soapbox and preach about growing and changing and developing and learning and the absolute value of all of that; what I don’t share with you because I’d sound like Grandma in her rocker is that we also go through seasons of life.  Getting a tattoo (at any age) reflects a commitment to the symbolism, so to speak, although my tattoo artist pooh-poohs that idea with talk about conversions and cover-ups.  Anyway, you are not the person at 20 or 25 or 30 or even 35 that you are going to be for the most of the remainder of your life.  What a thrilling, exhilarating prospect.

So here’s the bad boy:

right forearm

As always, crappy camera and crappy operator, but you get the idea.  And because I’m the wordiest person you know, it will take this entire entry to explain the choice.

Shortest version:  It’s a symbol of my affinity for science and of living a life based on science and reason.

Longer version:  It’s a reminder to me that no matter where my future takes me, I intend to live a life based on rationality and reason.  I am not a Vulcan, and I know the value of passion and intuition and emotion and creativity and impulsiveness, but those are internal, personal characteristics and shouldn’t be applied to the figuring out of how our external world functions.

Longest version:  There have been several major events in my life in which I abdicated the responsibility of thinking for myself.  It wasn’t because of carelessness or laziness or lack of intellectual ability – each one can be explained to my own satisfaction, but an explanation is not an excuse, nor is it license to continue the habit.  In each instance I have been astounded at my own complicity, profoundly surprised at myself, astonished at the discovery, and determined Not To Do That Again.  I use this moment to laugh at myself and wonder:  what’s next?  To what area of life will I apply rational, scientific thought instead of dogma, conventional wisdom, societal pressure, and indoctrination?

When I was a young adult and just beginning my married life, the accepted lifestyle was one of credit.  My own father lectured me numerous times on the topic You’ll Always Have a Car Payment.  All of our peers were living this way – buying food, clothes, recreation on credit.  Even our financial adviser taught us how to “manage” our credit cards.  We lived the Credit Lifestyle for a few years, paying for meals long after they were in the sewage system, finishing one car payment and immediately incurring the next.  We were both working, until we had the kids, and we were living beyond our means.  When we finally put on the brakes and really looked at what we were doing, the solution was so very simplistic, and relatively painless.  We did a lot of extra work reinventing the wheel, with constructing a budget, exploring savings options, learning how to buy, but when we discovered more information about this, it just served as confirmation that we were doing it right.  It seems slightly less radical now, in this era of consumer awareness and credit fallout, but at the time it was doing almost exactly the opposite of what our peers in mainstream society were doing.

When I reached my 40th birthday, unhealthy and overweight, I made a decision to regain my health.  I chose to do it by educating myself about exercise and nutrition, with a specific interest in metabolic processes.  What I learned, once again, was contrary to accepted wisdom; in fact, it was almost the USDA Food Pyramid upside down.  6 to 11 servings of grains per day?  2-3 ounces of protein?  Don’t get me started.  I applied what I learned, and had great success, and continue to have success both personally and with clients with the science I have learned.  (For a great layout of this, read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes)

Lastly, I have examined the faith in which I was raised with a skeptical eye.  Were I have been a child born to Muslim parents in Qatar, or to Buddhist parents in Sri Lanka, or to Mormon parents in Utah, I would likely have been as indoctrinated in those faiths as I was my own.  I have approached my faith with the scrutiny of science, and with the same thorough examining I have to the other endeavors in my life.  What I have learned has been, in an understatement, life-changing.

My tattoo reminds me every day of the joy and responsibility of skepticism.  It reminds me to celebrate my beautiful brain and yours.  It reminds me that there is always something to learn, some way to grow, something new to discover.  And that’s why, every time I see it, it makes me smile.

Thanks for reading!

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