Women behind the warriors

Happy Memorial Day!

As we pause to remember and appreciate the sacrifice of the men and women who serve, have served and those who have died protecting our freedoms, let’s also remember the sacrifices their families make.

I have great admiration for those spouses who remain at home and keep everything running. I watched my dear friend Rachel as she raised her baby alone during her husband’s second deployment to Iraq as a Navy Seabee. Yes, she had a lot of family and friends surrounding her with love and support, and although she appreciated it greatly, we could not fill the void left by her husband.

I remember when we heard her husband had been wounded. There were no words we could share that would ease the uncertainty she felt. I remember when she returned to their home base for his expected return only to have his arrival date pushed back several times.

Rachel, thank you for being so brave throughout Chedric’s deployments. You are a true woman of *finesse!

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Rider with Finesse

Last week I featured a lady biker named Bonnie, so to continue the theme this week I’m featuring another rider – sort of.

My friend Carol (a first grade school teacher in Phoenix, AZ) doesn’t operate a motorcycle, but she does ride one. When her husband bought his Harley, she seriously considered buying one, as well. One little problem – she’s rather short. A custom bike to fit her would be pretty spendy, so she opted to enjoy motorcycle riding as a passenger. She and her husband have logged thousands of miles and in true *finesse-style, she loves it! In fact, she’s so comfortable on the back of the bike, she’s been known to fall asleep! Hang on, Carol!!!

Q: What’s the best thing about riding?

A: The best thing is the feeling of being an active participant in your surroundings rather than just passively looking at things; the sights, the smells, etc.

Q: What’s the downside of riding?

A: Crazed drivers in cars who don’t respect a motorcycle’s space on the road

Q: What are your top three tips for riding?

1) Always be aware of your surroundings and what is on or near your path (think a bison herd in Jackson Hole!)
2) Make sure you have a map and LOTS of water
3) Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

My riding finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner (lots of rides during my dad’s biker days)    Competent        Proficient        Expert     

What’s your riding finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Finessing the freebies

You can’t watch, listen or read the news without being aware of the many scams out there just waiting to help you part with your hard earned cash. Phrases like, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is; there’s no such thing as a free lunch; and you get what you pay for ring in our ears when we get a “too good to pass up” offer in the mail or email.

I received two postcards last week offering what appeared to be freebies. One proclaimed that “VACATION CHOICES is offering you a fly away ESCAPE!” and offering “2 Round Trip Airfares to Hawaii or anywhere that US Airways or Allegiant flies in the continental US.” The first red flag was my eye-roll response. Without giving this postcard more than a glance, my internal warning system had already triggered a negative response. The second red flag is the word “FREE” seems implied, but is not included anywhere. The third red flag is the small print which reads, “Taxes and reservation fees are the responsibility of the recipient.” I understand the taxes portion, but what are the reservation fees? I’d already decided to recycle the postcard, but decided to do a little internet search just for fun. Surprisingly, a search doesn’t reveal anything negative about Vacation Choices on the first page of the search engine. Digging a little deeper, however, there’s plenty of negativity. Lesson? Trust your gut!

The second postcard offered a “FREE DINNER. “ In fact, the word “FREE” is used two additional times on the front of the postcard. The back of the postcard reveals that Fire Safety Etc. is sponsoring the dinner and that “NO PURCHASES OF ANY KIND ARE PERMITTED AT DINNER.” Additionally it states “The entire program is informational only. Leave your Checkbooks at home.” It’s pretty clear that the dinner includes a program explaining fire safety tips and fire prevention. Since the free dinner was at Olive Garden, we decided this offer was worth our time.

We weren’t disappointed! Our host was fun, entertaining and just as concerned about making sure everyone enjoyed their dinner as he was about presenting the program. He was extremely courteous to the waitress who was serving the crowd of 30, and tried to make her job easier. The meal began in typical Olive Garden-style with breadsticks and salad and we were offered an entrée choice of eggplant parmesan, fettuccini Alfredo, lasagna or spaghetti. The entrée portions were substantial (too much for me). Start to finish was two hours, and in our opinion, well worth it.

My advice is to grab those opportunities that are truly free and worth your time, but just toss those that aren’t.

It’s just a nightmare!

I’m at that wonderful transition point in life when getting a good night’s rest is a challenge. Between bouts with insomnia and bursts of warmth, I feel fortunate to get a good six hours of sleep. So, I’m not a real happy camper when the husband has a nightmare that startles me from a deep sleep.

He doesn’t have nightmares often, but when he does he kicks, punches and makes scary noises. We have a king size bed, but that’s not enough space to spare me from the occasional forceful contact. So, as I’m scurrying to my edge of the bed I’m somewhat loudly calling his name and saying in a very reassuring voice, “It’s okay!” But is that the right thing to do from a medical point of view?

According to an article on Self Magazine’s website by Harry Lodge, M.D., the answer is no, and yes.

“You may think you’re rescuing your bedmate from misery, but rousing someone simply means he’ll need several frustrating minutes (or longer) to calm down and get back to sleep. The truth is nightmares are normal. They’re the brain’s way of processing what you experienced or thought about (whether consciously or not) during the day. Now, if the person lashes out, bangs his head against the wall or does anything else physically dangerous to himself or you, it’s probably a good idea to gently wake him.”

Gently? Not sure that would work!

Dr. Lodge also dismisses the premise that awakening someone from a nightmare can cause a heart attack. He didn’t comment on whether your nightmares could cause your spouse to have a heart attack, however. I know this spouse’s ticker is thumping at a pretty good rate!

Since neither of us has suffered any lasting harm, I think I’ll continue to wake him in my usual manner and from a distance – for the husband’s well-being and mine.

Travel planning with Finesse

It’s that time of year when we think about vacations. Because we own timeshares (which work very well for us, by the way!), we tend to plan at least a year in advance. However, there are always those fine details to be worked out as the vacation gets closer.

We spend a great deal of time in Central Oregon at Eagle Crest Resort and have seen and done a lot of the different touristy things, so we’re going to dig a little deeper and maybe get a little more adventurous this summer. I don’t see us climbing Smith Rock, but we are planning to head south one day and explore Crater Lake National Park. I’m a native Oregonian and the husband has lived here since he was two-weeks old, but neither of us has ever been to Crater Lake.

A quick glance at the website seems to indicate that all photography requires a permit – even if it’s just a pose of the family in front of the lake. This might require a little more research, but that’s all part of travel planning. The website also mentions boat tours, which sounds like fun, but there wasn’t a link with information on the cost, times, or length of the excursions. Also missing is the amount of time it takes to drive around the lake.

I’m not easily deterred, so I “googled” again and found the Crater Lake Lodges Xanterra Parks and Resorts site offered much more information.  Only a certain number of reservations are accepted for the nearly 2 hour tours, saving the remaining spots for first come, first served purchases on the day of the tour. These sell out quickly, so if we aren’t able to snag a reservation, we should plan on arriving early. It’s also not just a short little hop to the boat ramp. We’ll need to hike a little more than a mile on a trail that drops approximately 700-feet. It’s not the drop that concerns me as much as the ascent on the hike out, which is equivalent to climbing more than 70-flights of stairs! The same website also lists the menus of the cafes around the lake. Given their offerings, I think we’ll pack a picnic.

I’ve learned to keep digging. E-mail or make a phone call if necessary to get accurate information. Keep surprises at a minimum. Avoid disappointment with a little planning *finesse and maximize the fun!

My travel planning finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert    

What’s your travel planning finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Sisters with finesse

Hannah (5) and Marissa (3)

The husband and I were invited to celebrate the birthdays of two of my sister’s granddaughters. Hannah turned five on May 12 and Marissa turns three today. This wasn’t a kid-type party, but the ones you have with grandparents and other assorted relatives, and possibly not as much fun for the birthday girls. So after the BBQ lunch, cake and the opening of presents, I headed down to the play area my sister and brother-in-law have set up for the grandkids and helped push the kids on the swings.

An interesting conversation began when Hannah asked me what my room was like when I was a little girl. I explained that I shared a room with her grandma and the wheels in her little head were in full motion as she realized that I knew what her grandma was like as a little girl.

“How many stuffed animals did Grandma have? What was Grandma’s favorite color? What did Grandma like to play?”

Me and my sister

Oh, the opportunity these questions presented! You see, my sister is four years older and consequently, we were not all that close as children. She found me rather annoying and really didn’t like to play with me, and more than anything else in the world wanted NOT to share a room with me. Yep, I could tell these little girls a lot of things about their grandma, but the fact is we are no longer children.

My sister has more than redeemed herself in so many ways, and she has forgiven me for pretending to be her when her boyfriends would call (our voices are very similar!) and for borrowing her clothes without permission. We’re still not as close as some sisters, but we have a deep appreciation for one another. She cries when she knows I’m hurting. She encourages me to try new things (especially with our landscaping). She shares her grandchildren stories, which make me smile.

So with *finesse, I answered the girls’ questions making them giggle to think that in many ways, their grandma was just like them.

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Biker with finesse

Living with *finesse is not about following a stereotypical female existence. It’s about living with skill, flair, grace elegance, poise and assurance. And that’s exactly how Bonnie rides her motorcycle. The 43 year old Nevada native has been riding dirt bikes since the age of 14, but moved to mostly street riding after taking a motorcycle safety course about 4 years ago. Her occupation is utility design on CAD, but on her time off she can be found riding her motorcycle and participating in the Iron Butt Association’s 1500 mile ride, which she completed in less than 36 hours.

Q: What’s the best thing about riding a motorcycle?

A: The best thing about riding a motorcycle is the sense of freedom it offers. It feels like it is you and nature. Nothing blocks your view or your sense of smell. No one is yapping in your ear about problems or your driving. It is a total escape from everyday issues – just you, your bike and the open road. And when you come across another biker there is sort of a kindred spirit there. One of a biker’s favorite quotes, (unfortunately I don’t know who said it) goes like this, “Only a biker knows why a dog sticks its head out the window.”

Q: What’s the biggest misconception about “bikers?”

A: I think the biggest misconception about bikers is that they are all outlaws, and that just isn’t the case. Unfortunately it is the stereotype, just like someone saying all lawyers are crooks. Yes, there are outlaw bikers, but there are just as many Christian rider groups – probably more. Now days most of the bikers on the road are really what we call weekend riders. During the week they are teachers, doctors, etc. and when the weekend comes they like to escape just like everyone else.

Q: What are your top three tips for woman interested in riding?

A: I so encourage women who even think they might like to ride to try it.

1) Sign up for a motorcycle training course, it is usually a two and a half day course offered by your local college or motorcycle dealer. It is fairly inexpensive and well worth the money. Proper training can save your life.

2) Don’t try to “impress” the guys. Get a bike that fits you, not your boyfriend or husband. Get the bike that you are comfortable on. You can always upgrade later, but starting out, get something reliable and that you can handle.

3) Find a friend to ride with. There are lots of motorcycle groups that are all about the fun and companionship. There is safety in numbers – even just two is safer than one. You automatically have something in common; the love to ride!! I have made some wonderful lifelong friends.

My riding finesse level:                  
Novice (rode a Honda 50 at age 12)    Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert               

What’s your riding finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Low effort coupon savings

I’m not a type A personality, so it’s safe to say I would not compete on Extreme Couponing. However, I was quite excited about saving $25.09 using coupons and store loyalty coupons this week. My total was $94.11 and my take home included family packs of rib-eye steaks and pork chops, and three fryers. Not bad! I want to stress that the savings was not the result of hours spent cutting and organizing coupons or even having a strategy on the scale of the D-Day Invasion.

In my opinion, coupons are a tool. The husband has a LOT of tools, but I don’t use them. They don’t fit my needs (and to be honest, he’s a little fussy about his tools). I have a set of tools that are perfect for my size hands and for just about any job I might tackle (basically, I keep the drawer pulls and cabinet knobs tightened, but I do it with *finesse!). I view coupons in the same manner. I only clip those that are perfect for me and that I’ll use. Even if I use a particular product, I won’t cut a coupon if the expiration date is too early and I already have plenty of that product in the pantry. There will be another coupon for that product in a month or two. Because I don’t clip a lot of coupons, there’s really no need to organize them. I stash them in a pocket of my purse and go through them as I plan my grocery list.

I was resistant to store loyalty cards in the beginning. I didn’t like the idea of a store tracking my purchases. However, I succumbed due to the fuel incentives offered, which are very generous at Safeway! While we take advantage of the fuel discounts at Fred Meyer, I am more impressed with their quarterly rebates and extra savings coupons. Those coupons and rebate were responsible for nearly $15 of my weekly savings.

The remaining $10.09 saved through the use of manufacturers coupons was accomplished in about 20 minutes. if you count the weekly clipping and reviewing. Is my time worth $30.27 an hour? Yes, I believe it is!

 My coupon finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your coupon finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Rotating workouts

I’m not a huge fan of exercise, but I do like the way I feel when I get into an exercise routine. My neurologist told me there’s evidence to suggest that regular exercise may not only reduce the intensity of migraines, but decrease their occurrence, as well. So far, my experience has not suggested such, but I do feel better overall. However, I want more from exercise than to feel better. I want to look better, too! Is that asking too much?

I don’t overeat, and generally try to eat healthy well-balanced meals. I do enjoy a dessert now and again, but not on a daily basis. So if I’m exercising and not overeating, why is the scale not budging? And, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve actually gained five pounds this year without changing my eating or exercise habits.

I’ve been walking on our treadmill at 18.1 minutes per mile with an incline of three percent for 30 minutes. I decided to see what would happen if I jogged at the same rate. Not wanting to impact my joints, I jogged for two minutes then walked one minute throughout the 30 minutes. I did see a small dip in my weight for about a week, but then nothing.

My hypothesis is that my body has adapted to the exercise, rendering it powerless to kick those extra pounds. I’ve not found any research to back up my hypothesis, but I did find one article on Livestrong.com addressing this topic. “Performing the same workout regimen repetitively for long periods of time can decrease effectiveness, increase mental boredom and cause plateaus in progress.”

My new plan is to do the treadmill on Monday and Friday, Zumba on Tuesday and Thursday and Yoga on Wednesday. I don’t do Zumba or Yoga with a great deal of *finesse, so I’m grateful for the Wii versions I can do in the privacy of my home! While doing Zumba, I don’t worry too much if I miss steps – I just keep moving. Yoga reveals my core strength to be similar to that of a wet noodle, but that just leaves a lot of room for improvement! 

My workout finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your workout finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Looking for yard/garage sale tips

 I’ve made quite a bit of progress decluttering my home (and trying to help my mother do the same). Some items have already been donated to thrift stores, but since we have some furniture and other large scale items, I thought I’d try unloading them via a yard sale. (It has to be a yard sale, ‘cause the husband won’t let strangers near his garage!)

I’ve held one or two yard sales and helped with a few others, but I lack *finesse in this department. Knowing that I don’t want to put in a lot of effort for little return, I began searching the web for tips. I came across the following article, which covers a lot of ground and provides useful information.

OrganizedHome.Com: Clean House, Cut Clutter and Get Organized at Home!

Please feel free to share your yard/garage sale finesse!

My yard/garage sale finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your yard/garage sale finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)