Archive for category: Outdoor Life and Interests

Halloween By Any Other Name

Halloween By Any Other Name

I was raised in a very religious household. The celebration of Halloween was forbidden. As a child, although I trusted my parents, I really could not see the harm in dressing up as some kind of fantasy character and traipsing door to door in my neighborhood asking for candy handouts. That seemed the perfect way for a precocious, imaginative child to spend an evening. But, that fun was not for me. Now that I am an adult with my own children, I feel the need to understand the history of the fall season celebrations so that I can set a good example for my own kids.

First of all, why the costumes? It seems about 2000 years ago, the Celts had a traditional celebration on November 1 that recognized the official end of summer. This was done by bringing in the harvest. The night before, October 31, they would build great bonfires and celebrate. They believed the season of the cold, dark winter that was beginning was associated with death because the days were shorter and nights longer. They feared the spirits of the dead tha would be running amok throughout the upcoming season would awaken that night so they dressed in costumes to scare them away.

And the traditional game of bobbing for apples? Why that? The Romans also had a festival held in late October in honor of Pomona who was the goddess of fruit trees. The apples was her traditional symbol. Eventually the Romans would conquer the land of the Celts. These two traditions blended together when they combined holiday customs. This, perhaps, is the how the popular Halloween party-game began.

The Noble Broom

The Noble Broom

Every morning while my coffee brews I sweep the birdseed from my patio. I have a bird feeder that sees a lot of action throughout the day and it is usually quite a mess. As I look at my metal handled, plastic bristled broom, I think of how utilitarian it appears. I am reminded of a beautiful handcrafted broom that is prominently displayed in my sister’s kitchen as a work of art. The polished wood handle has interesting twists at just the right places where hands would grip it. The straw bristles are a rich, deep maroon color, hand dyed. I love that broom and look disapprovingly at my own. What has this world come to? What exactly is the story of the broom? How has it fallen so low from a work of art to a household tool, forgotten and tucked away out of sight as an eyesore?

In ancient European homes the broom was an important tool. It was made of wood and straw and designed for the noble purpose of keeping the home and hearth clean. It was built to stand the test of time. Besom brooms were simple affairs. A bundle of twigs was tied together and then tied to a large tree branch. Because of these origins, the broom eventually became a symbol of the Tree of Life.

Early superstitions surrounding the broom resulted in the habit of hanging brooms bristle up. This was believed to create protection from evil spirits and negative energy, such as curses. I wonder if I hang my broom bristle up by the refrigerator it  will ward off my getting fatter and fatter? I consider getting fatter pretty negative and evil.

Creating A Family Disaster Kit

Creating A Family Disaster Kit

When I was a child, I grew up in an area that experienced seasonal tornadoes and flash floods. As an adult I have moved to a coastal region that experiences hurricanes and flash floods. Once, on vacation, I was right smack in the middle of an earthquake and didn’t have a clue as to what I should do.

All of this has taught me that disaster preparedness is very important. With climate change causing freak weather patterns all over the world, now, more than ever, every family should have a plan, be informed and be prepared. My feeling of fear and helplessness halfway across the country all by myself in an earthquake and clueless is something I don’t want to repeat or have my children go through.

When we hunkered down and survived one of the worst hurricanes in Texas history, we emerged from our home the next day to absolute devastation all around us. In the middle of a hot Texas summer there was no electricity and no gasoline to get the heck out of town to a place that had hotel vacancies and hot, running water.

My Son And The Great Debate

My son is taking a debate class this year in high school. I think he will probably ace the class because he is definitely an A-plus arguer at home. His dream is to become an attorney and participating on a debate team will help him develop strong skills for his future career in the courtroom.

However, learning to win arguments is not just what debate is about. This is just the sort of thing that helps children develop the skill of critical thinking. In order to bring forth an effective argument, one must use effective reasoning and logic to first come to a conclusion.

Of course, logic can be learned as students study science and mathematics. But, they do not learn to apply these skills in arguments of reason. That is a different skill altogether. To fully understand and master a particular subject, debate takes it to a whole other level. Whereas science and mathematics only require the problem to be solved, debate requires the problem to be explained to another person in order to persuade that person that your position is correct. This creates great clarity of mind.

As a person prepares to present their argument on a topic, they usually write down their thoughts, opinions and facts regarding the matter. As the argument begins to form, they often discover flaws in their logic or gaps of information that require explanation. This is how critical thinking begins to be developed as they construct sound arguments.

A Healthy, Happy, Giving Fall

A Healthy, Happy, Giving Fall

After the oppressive heat of the last month of summer, I am so happy when that first chill of fall is felt in the air early in the morning. It is so refreshing. I begin to think of colorful leaves, apples and pumpkins. By this time I have usually been slacking a bit where my workouts are concerned because of the intense summer heat where I live. I rarely poke my head outside. As I fantasize about caramel apples and sweet potato pie, my nostalgia gets a rude awakening when I spy the scale in the corner of the bathroom. Time for a reality check.

This is also the time of year when it seems to be one holiday celebration right after another. It’s not just the season for colorful leaves. It’s also the season for over indulgence. Charlie Brown may have his Great Pumpkin, but, come December, if I’m not careful, I could very well be dubbed the Great Plumpkin.

Is there a way to indulge in traditional holiday eating and do it in a healthy way?  Well, pumpkins are full of vitamins A and C. The seeds are packed with phytosterols which help lower cholesterol levels. Roasted pumpkin seeds can then be an official healthy holiday snack. They can also be used to garnish dishes like soups and salads.

How To Travel Successfully With Kids

How To Travel Successfully With Kids

Have you ever traveled with kids? I have. But the real question is, “Have you ever successfully traveled with kids?” I can honestly say I do successfully travel with kids.

Traveling internationally to see extended family, my biggest fear is always of getting separated from one of my children in an airport. My second biggest fear is that one of my children will start screaming mid-flight and refuse to be comforted.  I never want to be “that” parent. Here are some of my best travel tips:

Nap Time:  When I travel with my toddlers, I try to manage itinerary schedules so that whenever it’s nap time, we are settled in whatever vehicle we are traveling in, whether plane, train, bus, ship or automobile.

Pack For Distraction: Good diversions to pack: books, dolls with only a few accessories (NO tiny accessories), ear buds to use for technology, suckers to alleviate flight take-off ear pressure, coloring books with crayons (NO markers or colored pencils).

Security: I opt for the old fashioned metal detector putting everything through the X-ray machine conveyor belt if I have a stroller. The full body scanner never seems to work out well with the stroller issue. If I’m traveling with the older kids, we love the full body scanner. It’s a great way for the kids to poke fun at my soft, round body. It’s also a time and task saver.

Chanel No. 5

Chanel No. 5

For years it has been tradition in our household for the family to give me Chanel No. 5 perfume as a gift on my birthday. I look forward to that day every year. I love that fabulous scent that makes me feel so glamourous when I wear it. My birthday is coming up soon and I have been thinking not of that pretty little bottle I will soon be receiving, but, rather, the woman of inspiration behind the bottle. She was quite a firebrand for her time. When I consider how she lost her mother at such a young age and was then abandoned by her father, yet pushed forward and created not only a life but an incredible legacy, I am amazed and humbled. Not only will I feel glamorous the next time I wear a few precious drops of scent, I will feel empowered, inspired and invincible.

Coco Chanel was born in 1883, another century! She blazed a path as a woman in an industry that was dominated by men. She was famous for wearing suits in a time when women only wore dresses. When she did wear a dress, it was almost always a sophisticated little black dress. That may seem to be no big deal today, but, during her time, it was very controversial.

An orphan who grew up in France, she was taught to sew by the nuns in the orphanage. It’s no wonder she was strong, independent and knew everything about fashion. When she was a young woman in her twenties, she opened her first clothing store in 1910. At first, she only sold hats. She was so successful; she opened two more stores and began designing and making clothes. Her famous quote “luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury” sums up her fashion design ideology.

The Speech

The Speech

I have been a very active mom in different school organizations. Next month is an important fundraiser for band. We are going to have a “casino” night and auction. I have been asked to give a short speech. Now, I am definitely not a public speaker. Just thinking about it causes my stomach to do somersaults and I break out into a sweat. To build up my confidence I have been reading information by motivational speakers and their tips on speaking publicly to a crowd.

First, I have to consider what my most important topics will be. Then, by using the master formula of the professionals, I should average about two or three topics for every five minutes I have to talk. Once the topics have been defined, it’s time to decide what to say about them.

Speaking into a recorder, I should say everything I want to say about these matters regardless of time. When recording is finished, I will transcribe it. Then it’s simply a matter of reading it aloud and editing to fit within the allowed time. I may have several rewrites. That’s not uncommon.

The structure of a well written speech contains what are called “milestones”. These are markers that help guide the speech for the orator as well as the audience. For example, a five minute speech would have an introduction of about one minute. The next three minutes would be devoted to the three topics, each receiving about one minute each of attention. The final minute is when the speech draws to its conclusion. This may be an actual verbal closing or an opportunity to field a question or two from the audience, depending on the format of the event.

A Day At The Races

A Day At The Races

Every fall my family and I put on our best flannel shirts, jeans and beanie caps and head out for what has become a traditional family outing. We go to the dog races. I’m sure the reader has images conjured up in their mind of sleek greyhounds flying around an oval earthen track like gazelles. Umm, that’s not the dog races I was talking about. We go the Weenie Dog races.

These long bodies, short legged little hounds run their little hearts out around a 25-50 meter track, well, at least some of them do. They do it for the glory. They do it for the praise. They do it for the love and affection of their families. They really do it for the cookie that awaits them at the end.

These little pups are not genetically designed to be racers. It’s simply not in the DNA. When the starting gate raises, some of them may happen to have a keen enough sense of smell to detect the general direction of the cookie reward and trot off in that direction. Others, getting a sense of what they are doing, may dash to beat them to the cookie and then the race is really on! Others may simply wander around sniffing at a bit here or at a bit there. Then there are those who look around at the crowd going wild and wonder what the fuss is all about. Yes, it’s a riot and a jolly good time.

The only downside I can possibly see to going to such an event is that when it’s all over and you head back home with the family, the kids are going to bug you for days, maybe even weeks, to buy a Dachshund for the family.  Perhaps you did fall in love yourself and decide to make their dreams come true. If you do decide to get your own weiner dog, it is helpful to know a bit about the breed.

The Success-Positivity Connection

The Success-Positivity Connection

People that don’t know me see my level of success and my positive happy demeanor and draw the conclusion that I am happy because I am successful. My close friends and family know the truth. They know that I am successful because I am happy.

My loved ones have witnessed the failures, the struggles, disappointments and suffering I have endured. They have been amazed that through it all I kept smiling, laughing, persevering and continuing on. When the doctors told me, “No. You’ll never be able to get a driver’s license,” I simply did not listen. I petitioned a panel of seven doctors, submitted to all of their exams and research of my medical history and appealed to my state legislature in their denial of my license. At the age of seventeen I challenged a medically biased law and got my driver’s license.

When doctors later told me, “No, you cannot scuba dive,” I laughed and said, “We’ll see.” I searched until I found a professional scuba instructor willing to train my traveling companion and I not just in scuba certification, but also in search and rescue should anything go wrong when the two of us went diving on our vacation. I wasn’t asking to become a lifetime professional scuba diver. I just wanted to experience a Caribbean vacation excursion when I went on vacation. My loved ones held their collective breaths for an entire week. No one was surprised when I arrived home healthy, whole, and with fabulous pictures and stories of an underwater adventure.

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