Do You Need a Snow Day?

In an effort to shake up my normal workout routine and take one teeny, tiny step outside my (runner’s) comfort zone, I decided to attend a group fitness class at the Warrenton Aquatics and Recreation Facility (aka The WARF). I also thought it would be an interesting time to make observations and then blog about it, a ten-dollar investment for both body and writing. Turns out, the theory did not disappoint me. The first two things I observed was this:

1) I am not social.

2) Everyone else is.

But being the unsocial one out of twenty people—eighteen women and two men, all older than me except one—it did give me time to listen and smile and watch people and estimate that 16 out of 20 people are fairly uncoordinated. But I will give a big kudos to uncoordinated people for showing up for a fitness class and having fun with it, especially the gal who fell off the back of her step. Don’t worry; it was actually the youngest lady who managed this feat, and she got right back up again. (Hopefully her self-confidence did too. But for the record, had it been me, I probably would have left that diminutive detail out of my blog for a year or two.)

Continue reading


Mmmmm . . . Corn Syrup

I just read a book called Think and Eat Yourself Smart by Dr. Caroline Leaf. The author is not a nutritionist, per se, but she is a neuroscientist who studies how the human brain and body respond to situations or stimuli, including what we put in our bodies. I highly recommend the book to anyone who is ready for eye-opening research and insights. To note, she is also a Christian, and she used Scripture to substantiate her arguments.
A huge overhaul of our family’s typical diet will take a while, but we decided to start with a few tweaks. 1) Use organic whole milk (if you think that’s crazy, read the book). 2) Use grass-fed, humanely raised beef and check labels for other meat products. 3) Buy whole grain bread products. And (drum roll, please because this one is the ouchiest) 4) Get rid of all items with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Upon returning from our holiday travels, we are now checking the labels on things from our cupboards and “eating up” some things with high-fructose corn syrup. I mean, I hate to throw away food; let’s not be one of those people. It is quite humorous to watch my daughters as they pick up an item from the shelf and find the nutrition label. Their sweet, innocent eyes squint just a little, reading the tiny, tiny print with a paragraph of ingredients, searching for the one thing that will banish the food for eternity. And when they read the words they don’t want to read, their eyes widen. Their mouths open.
Thus far, the Chips Ahoy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies and breakfast syrup produced the most anguish—mostly from my oldest, she’s a bit dramatic. She is also grieving the loss of sipping on regular Coke while she sews. Other culprits were ketchup, chocolate animal crackers, and Nutri-Grain bars. I didn’t like finding HFCS in my favorite Smucker’s jelly, but perhaps I can find a more natural alternative.  And we might as well consider banishing the items with just “corn syrup” even if it is not “high-fructose” because I’m sure the Redi Whip and the marshmallows are just a tad outside the radius of natural and wholesome. Just a tad.
Now, back to the Nutri-Grain bars. I remember the commercial as it had a good, moral message that I actually thought about whenever I ripped open a bar: One good decision leads to another. Yes, Nutri-Grain people, I am trying to make a good decision that will hopefully lead to another. Sometimes irony is decidedly humorous.

How Predictable Are You?

A 2010 Northwestern University study suggests that 93% of all of our actions can be predicted ahead of time. This is due to the fact that we like and need stability in our lives, especially when we are children. Routines and stability are necessary for our well-being. That stability helps us feel safe, and as humans are programmed to avoid danger, we thrive on routine and traditions. And every culture has their traditions—from holidays to everyday living. Another study presented by Psychology Today (2015) suggests the more sensory elements in a traditional experience, the more memories and warm-fuzzies we glean and often try to repeat year after year.

I found a bit of comfort in these articles about stability and why we strive to hold onto it. I also get quite a bit of enjoyment out of repeating certain experiences. For the last three years, we have driven through the holiday lights display in Manassas with the kids, even though it’s the same each year. We have our Advent Calendars and favorite decorations—the holidays wouldn’t be the same without them! And, of course, we have our favorite Christmas cookies–although I tend to make everyone else’s favorite cookies each year and then I run out of time. I haven’t made my favorite cookies for two years. Maybe I should just make my favorite cookies on my birthday and call them my birthday cookies. Look! I’ve created a tradition!

I also like new and different experiences, though. I don’t like that my actions are 93% predictable. So, going into the New Year, I think I’ll set a resolution to be less predictable. I could set my alarm for 2 am; I could go play tennis instead of going running; I could actually tend my garden instead of wrinkling my nose at it; I could pick up a night shift at work (God knows they need someone to do it).

Oh, but all that would make me feel terribly unstable.

Maybe I’ll shoot for 90%.

So, readers, how predictable are you? Do you think you’re 93% predictable? Do you have favorite traditions that you look forward to each year?

Let Kids Be Kids! (before you end up on my blog)

Strictly Emily Martin’s Observation:

8 Adults in post office waiting room, approximately the size of a dorm (if you haven’t experienced that, then picture a bathroom).

1 mother in line with 2-year-old daughter (age approximated).

2-year-old is giggling, playing tug-of-war with her coat, finding things to look at.

Gentleman walks in the door and says, “Someone’s happy to be here!”

2-year-old sits on floor, giggling, scooting around.

Mother says, “That floor is dirty. How ‘bout we get up? Do you want Mommy’s phone?”

2 seconds later, kid is still sitting on floor, watching something on Mommy’s phone until Mommy is done moving up in line and paying for package.

Strictly Emily Martin’s Questions to the world:

What (the hell) triggered Mom to offer the phone to her toddler?

What is this 2-year-old learning?

Strictly Emily Martin’s reaction in Emily’s head because Emily does not want to be videotaped and put on the news:


And, in a tiny, squeaky voice because I should be spreading joy this time of year, “Merry Christmas! Hope your package arrives safely.”

A Theory Worth About 15 Minutes

With financial management, the theory of Parkinson’s Law is that expenses rise to meet income. In other words, as the money you make increases, your needs increases, therefore money is not saved unless you break this cycle. Does this apply to time management a well?  If given more time, do you somehow manage to require more time, therefore never actually saving time?

My youngest daughter has somehow conditioned herself to take an hour to get ready for school in the morning. While this may seem acceptable, it is noteworthy that she is still arriving at the bus stop frazzled from Mom’s constant nagging, with unkempt hair and often without finishing the menial task of brushing her teeth, which will, at the very least, bother the kid who has to sit next to her on the bus. And I am still arriving at the bus stop frazzled from nagging, time updates, egg timers, and pleading, all the while drilling her with the daily question—Where did you lose time today?

This cycle has to be broken before we both go crazy. Intuition would tell me if she needs more time, to give more time, as in wake up earlier. But, I am tempted to do the opposite. (With eyes squinted and fingers steepled, mouth curling into a crafty grin,) I will shorten the time by fifteen minutes to prove that she has the ability to move faster. After all, when she grows up and has kids someday, she will have to be prepared.

This morning’s analysis . . .

Emily Martin, age 40

Time: 0630-0730


Got dressed, made bed, stood outdoors waiting for older girls’ school bus while getting the dish on homework and weekend plans, went back inside, buttered youngest child’s toast and cut up her orange, ate own breakfast, unloaded dishwasher, washed sink full of dishes, wiped down kitchen, took out recycling, cleared off dining room table of clutter and wiped down, hung up two coats in closet, put child’s lunch in bag with cold pack, took child’s dishes to sink because she ran out of time, put on winter coat and stood at the door, waiting.

Youngest Child, age 8

Time: 0630-0730


Got dressed, ate breakfast.

To note: bed not made, hair not brushed until waiting for bus, didn’t have time to brush teeth

To the kid next to her on the bus: I’m sorry.

Readers, how long do you take to get ready in the morning? What are you able to accomplish in that time? If given more time, would it help you?

Exercise: One of the Things We Suck At

I like to move it, move it. She like to move it, move it. We like to move it, move it. We got to . . . move it! (Come on, sing along! Hah, now it’s stuck in your head.)*

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has published The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report. The guidelines are not much different from the previous version, which suggests the science is still strongly grounded in the notion: move more, sit less. These experts (who are presumably taking their own advice) recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes moderate-intensity activity each week (i.e. brisk walking), or 75 minutes to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (i.e. running), or a comparable combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. The guidelines emphasize balanced workouts and recommend an additional two or more sessions of strength training a week.

In case you don’t have a calculator brain, that’s 21-42 minutes/day for the moderate-intensity and 11-21 minutes/day for high-intensity. They didn’t specify the strength training time in the articles I read, but I’m sure it has to be a little more than one set of push-ups or moving a heavy box.

Now, how many people actually do this? The results from the CDC surveys, which vary as far as sample size, but are on average surveying 20,000-30,000 people each year, are not very impressive. In other words, we suck at this. And I don’t even want to guess how many of those surveyed are being 100% honest (on the survey and with themselves) and not just reporting about their first week in January when they are in hot pursuit of their New Year’s resolutions. And what’s up with the men beating the women every year?

The benefits of exercise are so vast, it should be a crime not to participate (or at the very least health insurance should reward it–cha, ching!). Exercise has to be emphasized with everyone, including children and teens. It’s a lifestyle choice that is an investment, both short and long term. Unfortunately, those long term benefits are hard to convince people to consider every day, especially when the time and effort to do this daily has to compete with our busy lives or aches and pains and bad sleep and kids’ schedules and so on. But ultimately it will make a difference between how much time we spend at the doctor’s office or hospital or using a walker or oxygen or checking blood sugars or battling diseases. Not to mention how long we live. So excuses begone, this is a matter of life or death!

Here is the list of benefits of exercise for adults provided by JAMA. I guarantee when you are done reading this list, you will want to at least stand up and do a set of jumping jacks. (pause) I’m doing mine right now. (pause) My kids are looking at me like I’m nuts.

Adults and Older Adults

  • Lower risk of all-cause mortality
  • Lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality
  • Lower risk of cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke)
  • Lower risk of hypertension
  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Lower risk of adverse blood lipid profile
  • Lower risk of cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach
  • Improved cognition
  • Reduced risk of dementia (including Alzheimer disease)
  • Improved quality of life
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced risk of depression
  • Improved sleep
  • Slowed or reduced weight gain
  • Weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake
  • Prevention of weight regain after initial weight loss
  • Improved bone health
  • Improved physical function
  • Lower risk of falls (older adults)
  • Lower risk of fall-related injuries (older adults)

And Emily, RN’s last bullet point . . .

  • Less work for me.

Awesome article:

*lyrics to song, “I like to move it.”

Should I Laugh or Care?

I am pretty dumb about a lot of things. When it comes to vehicles or appliances, I need my husband. When it comes to computer technology beyond the basics, I need my fourteen-year-old daughter. When it comes to the chickens living in our backyard, I need my twelve-year-old to show me what to do with them. I don’t keep up with all the world news or celebrity news or business trends. But one thing I do know is this: dinosaurs and humans did not interact. I would have guessed, with 100% certainty, the average adult in the U.S. knew this to be true.

Excuse me, it’s hard to laugh and type at the same time.

Like many families who enjoy the outdoors, my husband and I took our children to a corn maze at Liberty Mills Farm in Somerset, VA. Each year they have a different theme depicted in their four different mazes, various levels of difficulty. This year’s theme was dinosaurs! We chose the second easiest maze, the one where you find fifteen questions posted along the course. You answer the questions with multiple choice answers as you fill out your postcard’s crossword puzzle. At the end, if your card is filled out correctly, you get a candy. The questions were all about dinosaurs, a few about the Jurassic Park, and most had ridiculous answers so it was easy to use the principle of deduction to figure out what was correct, if you didn’t know a whole lot about dinosaurs. Only one question made us have to Google the answer on my phone—we didn’t know “stego” (as in Stegosaurus) meant “roof.” But hey, we’re a little smarter now.

We arrived at Question #6 just behind a mother and her daughter (maybe 12-years old), so we had no choice but to listen as they contemplated the answer to a baffling question.

The current leading theory on why dinosaurs went extinct is:

  1. Civil War
  2. Humans
  3. Asteroid Impact
  4. Global Warming

All jokes aside (for a minute—if you can stand it; if you can’t, by all means let it out), this woman and her daughter were considering humans or global warming, the mother having immediately scoffed at the asteroid theory. She even provided sound justification to her decision when she said, “Well, humans are obnoxious.”

My eight-year-old was quite amused that my two oldest daughters and I had to sneak around a few turns of the corn maze, then crouch down amidst the corn stalks to laugh hysterically. My husband, perhaps more intrigued at this phenomenon and able to refrain from laughing, lingered just one row away from the poor woman to make sure she got the right answer (her daughter did—perhaps she remembered something from an obscure source of knowledge, like elementary school). To our good fortune, whenever we saw this woman throughout the corn maze, we quietly referred to her as “Human Lady,” and a fresh batch of giggles would ensue. She might have referred to us as the Giggly Family, which I would happily allow and encourage. Especially since the giggles haven’t stopped.

I’ve had more time to think about this interesting example of ignorance, and I find it rather sad. It forces me to acknowledge that there are people out in the world who don’t ask questions, don’t contemplate or process information, don’t pay attention, perhaps never went to a museum to think beyond “that looks cool,” and maybe, (and most likely), just don’t care. I suppose information that doesn’t affect your everyday life isn’t important to some people. They couldn’t be bothered with how humans fit into the grand scheme of earth’s history. They really couldn’t be bothered with those big, old lizards that once upon a time walked the earth and were cool enough to make some big budget movies out of. Those guys are extinct now anyway, not affecting the economy or politics or interrupting Wi-Fi connections and cell towers. And, hey, even if they were still around at the arrival of apelike beings who walked on two feet, surely humans could force them into extinction.

After all, we’re pretty obnoxious.

I Have to See Them, or I’ll Die!

Like many teenagers, my oldest daughter has a boy band fascination with a five-member group called Why Don’t We. Admittedly, their music is entertaining, their wardrobes are totally influenced by the 80s and 90s (to which I give a thumbs up), and they are cute and funny, at least when I watched them on the Late Late Show with James Cordon and their brief concert on the Today Show, surrounded by—who else?—screaming girls.

My daughter could tell you so much more about them than I could ever know or would even want to. One of them doesn’t like chocolate; one of them is from Virginia; three of them have girlfriends, etc, etc, etc. In fact, she has gone far beyond liking the band; what she has cannot be reasonably described without using the word obsession. She even started a fan club on her Instagram, currently with 700 followers. Yes, 700 people are following my daughter to see what she will post about Why Don’t We. (I’ve already approved her for employment when I get my book published to create a fan page to attract followers–$1 per ten followers. Yes, you may call me shrewd. I prefer that to devious.)

On Saturday, this boy band will be singing a few songs, signing their newly released books (because they have so much wisdom to share within its pages), and they will be enchanting what I anticipate to be hundreds of impressionable girls one hour away from where we live. At first glance, I thought: maybe. If the weather is crummy and we aren’t going to the corn maze as planned, maybe we could drive up to Tyson’s Corner Barnes & Nobles to get a book signed. Maybe I could browse the shelves and buy something worthwhile for me, and we can be home for lunch.

Ha, ha, ha, ha.

Let’s read the fine print. The doors open at 10 a.m. An undisclosed amount of wristbands will be given on a first-come-first-serve basis (cue tossed halos for devil horns). Those without a wristband will be shuffled behind a roped area for a spectacular view of the back of people’s heads and outstretched phone screens. Those with wristbands will be escorted to the area where they can hear/see the little concert and get their purchased books (gotta buy a book) signed by the band members. The event itself doesn’t start until 2 p.m. and ends at 5:30 p.m. At the bottom of the information page, for all those zealous fans, for all those loving parents who think this is a brilliant way to indulge their daughters, it says: do not begin a line earlier than 6 a.m.


My daughter would not flinch about getting up at 4:30 a.m. to leave our house at 5 a.m. to get to Tyson’s Corner mall by 6 a.m. and wait in line for four hours until the doors open for the CHANCE that a wristband might be obtained, then wait four more hours for the event to start, sacrificing an entire day for a scribble on a book and a smile from these boys. She would also promise hours of chores, sacrifice her Christmas gifts, offer her firstborn child—anything to be able to go.

I went online and read several articles about boy band obsessions (starting with the Beatles) and girls waiting in tents and stampeding a mall to see One Direction. My daughter is not alone; she is normal; and according to some sources, this is also a healthy expression of teenage behavior and self-identity (!?!?!).

Now, I almost understand. I think. I may have been willing to do that for Harrison Ford back when I was about thirteen. I had a short-lived obsession with him (although it was really with Indiana Jones), and the only way I could get over it was to promise myself I would meet him one day. I haven’t done that yet. I am sure my parents would not have sacrificed an entire day for me to do that. But, really he was old enough for my mom, so maybe I could have convinced her . . .

As a teen, the closest I came to waiting to see a celebrity was going to see Jason Priestly and Jenny Garth from Beverly Hills 90210 on stage at the Detroit Auto Show. I forgot how long we waited, but it wasn’t all day. And my sister and I got to wave at them from the audience with about twenty rows of fans between us and them. Hi, Jason! Hi, Jenny!

Thanks to my mom, my girls did get a chance to meet an actor they liked from the Teen Beach Disney movies a few years ago. Given that the actor, Garrett Clayton, was from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, he came “home” to put on a play at a high school near my parent’s house. We stayed after for about an hour and a half for a chance to meet him backstage. Yes, memorable and cool. No, not life-changing. Sorry, Garrett.

And sorry, Hannah.The boy band will have to come and go without signing your book. Mama has her limits—and it is well under the fifteen hour commitment for a five-second fantasy. For any of you parents who were suckered into that on Saturday—you have my sympathies, but really only for five-seconds, the rest of the day is yours–or not, depends on how you view it.

So, readers, any of you wait for hours to see a celebrity? Fight crowds for an autograph? Which celebrity would be worth it?


Try Something New or Live in Fear?

Have you ever thrown caution to the wind and did something that scared the crap out of you? Did you regret it? Or did you find it to be an amazing, eye-opening experience? Better yet, how often would you be willing to do that?

I read an article today about the benefits of trying new things and facing fears.The article references a study that showed people are more afraid of trying something new with unknown outcomes than they are of doing something with known bad outcomes. What? That’s like saying we’d rather go to the same old restaurant that notoriously serves bad food than to try a brand new restaurant that no one has tried yet. I suppose with an active imagination, our fear of the unknown begins to escalate. I mean, geez, what if the new restaurant starts the next e.coli epidemic? Or is secretly funding a terrorist organization? Or (gasp) becomes our new favorite restaurant only to go out of business in six months? Best stick to soggy patty melts and Maxwell House coffee than take that kind of risk.

If you’re interested, you can find the article here.

In this article, the author, Alex Lickerman, has a list of things to remember before he starts something new. Unsurprisingly, the first thing is to remember that trying something new often requires courage because our biggest barrier tends to be fear. In my experience, generating courage requires me to deliberately override the natural instincts to play it safe, back off if nerves start firing, retreat when negative thoughts arise (and they will). But trying new things is a part of having an extraordinary, fulfilling life, a life that is not a string of identical days, or blocks of unmemorable weeks, or months or years stuck on repeat, doomed for repetition, an echo that just keeps on echoing.

I refuse to let that happen.

Now, I wouldn’t have joined the Air Force or flown to L.A. for a talent show (don’t get excited, I wasn’t born to be a singer), or rode The Intimidator at King’s Dominion, and I wouldn’t be reading my books out loud at the writer’s group or sending out queries for my manuscript or taking adult ballet classes (in a leotard and tights, no less) if I didn’t have a shred of courage. Trust me; it took quite a few drops of courage to do those things, to push past the fear of rejection, to push past the nerves that shook my fingers and gripped my throat, to jump on the train bound for adventure into the unknown, holding onto the back with eyes closed and sweaty palms and thinking about how easy and comfortable it would be to just let go. Sorry, I got a little dramatic there; with that kind of analogy, you’d think I was doing something more courageous than squeezing into tights for ballet class every week. But that’s also my point. I want more. I still see similar days and safe plans and the same shade of lipstick for fifteen years and repeat races on my running calendar and extremely comparable work days (repetitive chaos for 13 hours with no lunch most of the time), and I haven’t truly tested my limits and grasped for extraordinary, mind-blowing, unfathomable ideas in my writing. I still have too much fear.

In conclusion, every day I need to do something new, preferably something that scares the piss out of me, and it has to be more than using a cuss word in a blog.

But, shit, that’s a start.

What about you, readers? What is your experience with trying new things, or building up courage to step out of your comfort zone?

Inspired by the word of the day: Repress


This week, my youngest daughter (who just turned eight) told me that her music teacher got all the students at her school to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with the first graders. This made her cry. She cried because of happiness, because she remembered me singing that song with her, and because kids all singing together moves her to tears. I almost cried as she described the moment. She is truly a product of me and my emotional heart, the one that makes me cry at silly things like animal rescues on TV or the theme song to Jurassic Park (not kidding—the scene where Alan sees the dinosaurs for the first time? Get me a tissue).

Today, I thought I’d take an inventory of what I have shed tears over within the last couple of days.

–On the news, an elementary school surprised their school janitor on National Custodial Worker’s Day, luring him into a gym where he was expecting to clean up “an accident,” and instead walked into a crowd of kids offering heartfelt applause and thank you cards.


–On You Tube, I watched a children’s choir sing “When You Believe.” I’m sorry, but any children’s choir singing anything will make me cry.


–While having a discussion about the Titanic, my oldest got on her iPod and played only three notes of “My Heart Goes On” and I was done.


–My middle daughter and I started watching Stand By Me, one of my favorite pre-teen movies. As soon as the music played at the beginning, the knot formed in my throat.


–On Facebook, I learned that a lady is collecting Tonka trucks for her brother who has cerebral palsy. I teared up, but the only reason I didn’t actually cry is because I didn’t turn on the music. If I would have heard music, I would have cried.


I see the trend of music moving me to tears. While I am not a musician, I guess I respond to music emotionally. This is why I sometimes choose songs to listen to when writing a scene or establishing a mood. And I also decided that if any of my books are ever made into a movie, I want the last song to make people cry. Gee, I should probably just end my books with a children’s choir. That’ll work for me.

Readers, what moves you to tears? Do you cry easily?