Tag Archives: goals

Learning French in Community: Le Cours d’Alphabetisation

I am French-illiterate. I think I’ve made that plain. (Although I do know the title should have an accent over the ‘e’ in alphabetisation, but I can’t get wordpress to change it). I arrived with as much French as a one-year-old, and eight months later, I might be a match for an 18-month-old, but probably not. Still, I am very grateful for the French class offered by my city’s mairie, or city hall. It has been wonderful, completely in French, with small groups and lots of talking. It is two hours twice a week, with the first hour usually all conversation, and the second hour including written exercises and some simple grammatical concepts. I don’t know where I would be without it. I do supplement with my invaluable Pimsleur, but my class is vibrant and alive and relevant to my current circumstances.

For instance, months ago, when my water heater grew a leak (and then just gushed all over), my French teacher was able to glean my problem and give me suitable vocabulary to use with the plumber our apartment manager sent. When Theo’s bike was stolen, one of the assistant mayors came to class and made sure I knew what and how to tell the police about the theft! This class is an extraordinary resource, and the staff are all wonderful people.

We recently had a field trip to the studio of a stained glass artisan, third generation. He was in the next town over, and we rode a bus together. Admittedly, I am possibly the least fluent person the city serves in this class, so almost the entire explanation and question-answer session was over my head, but the instructors checked with me to make sure I knew the gist of what was said, and explained the most important parts I missed in simpler French or even some English.

The master explaining how the glass is broken and chipped to just the way he wants it, with some art pieces behind.

The master explaining how the glass is broken and chipped to just the way he wants it, with some art pieces in the background.

Stained glass and class fun HERE



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Transformation and Aging

When I turned 40, I felt like life was clipping along at a rather high rate of speed. So much of my life was beyond my control, dictated by other forces. I had two teenagers, I was homeschooling two children, and the younger of the two was just beginning to be suspected of dyslexia with its added load of chaos. I had a presence at two schools, and I think that began the second year of really trying to get TeenMOPS rolling, which was a monster of an undertaking. I wanted to be available in my daily life to breathe grace into the lives of friends, neighbors and acquaintances, but I didn’t seem to have the ownership of my time to even stop and take cookies to a neighbor moving out, telling her I’d miss her. This was bad, and I didn’t want to continue in the fast lane the rest of my life. I needed something to change; maybe me to change.

Not a flattering photo, but of me in Texas, 40 years old, re-evaluating my life.

From this was born my 50 Before 50. I wanted to set in print, where it could take on form and potentially life, some of my true priorities. The expressions of those priorities made sense at the time, and I have achieved some in every category, albeit allowing for some flexibility of interpretation:

a closer relationship to God When I became a group leader for Bible Study Fellowship, I took that over a Kay Arthur Bible study (#31). With the required homiletics, I felt it was just as rigorous, and I know I learned just as much from my time in God’s Word.  As a Day Women’s Group leader, I also attended a BSF retreat with my group, and I counted that as a women’s retreat (#27). It certainly achieved the spiritual and relational goals intended. I haven’t memorized the verses, though (#32), which makes me kind of sad, because I invested time trying not to lose the ones I already have instead, and haven’t been completely successful at that.

a closer relationship to my family I am unsure how successful this one has been, but I ticked things off the list nonetheless. I did develop a habit of celebrating even the little victories of my children (#41), thus becoming a more positive, less critical parent. More could be done, though. And some of the items intended to build memories to savor in the future were done with family members, so also serving this goal. I attended my first opera (#24) with my older daughter, which became one of several we enjoyed our experience together so much. I made tiramasu (#8) with my husband, and it was fun together. But Stoney and I never did succeed in making time together for another dance class (#13), I never made time to take the girls to the Hill Country to stay in the Barn(#12), and Theo and I never made it to Mount Rushmore (#40) even after we moved to Kansas, when it would have been much closer to do so. I doubt I’ll squeeze that one in now.

improvements in my own character I’ve thrown out a lot of things I’m not using, and even simplified enough to trim things I was, but didn’t need to (#5). I got up enough courage to donate platelets (#35) and repeated several times more. I maintained a strength and weights program until my injury late this spring (#39), and I ran a 5K (#10), but I had lots of improvement goals that haven’t been met.

goals I need to help my kids achieve Well, I graduated the first three kids from high school, so that’s something (#s16, 36 &37). You might say it should have been on their goal lists, but getting kids through school requires a lot of coaching from parents! And I’m still on track to graduate a child from college (#17), this coming August in fact.

have fun and make memories That’s what most of the rest of the list was for. Some I achieved; many I didn’t. I think the most important ones have been checked off, though.

I just recently turned 47. Now, with time running out, I look over my list and wonder not only if these things are achievable now (any whales in this part of the Atlantic?), but are they even desirable now? My list doesn’t really show it, but these last seven years have been transforming; I am not the woman I was that short time ago. I thought God had already brought me through so much, changed me so much, but I could not have guessed how much more he had in store. My priorities haven’t changed, but are these remaining goals how I still want to achieve them? I’m definitely getting older, and my perspective of what is important is changing. Probably my physical abilities, too!  Do these goals still make sense?

In France at 47.

I’m thinking…no. Especially not in the light of my current circumstances! Most years of my remaining fourth decade are going to be spent right here in Europe. I need an addendum to my list! I’ll be prayerfully considering what I don’t want to leave France without doing, keeping in mind my priorities, and adding a priority: serve others more than myself. And I am willing to hear suggestions as well. When I get my addendum, I’ll add it to the 50 page and link it.


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Midway Through the Decade…

When I turned 40, I put together a list of 50 things I’d like to do in the coming decade. It was for fun, but it was also purposeful, intended to insure that I didn’t just live life haphazardly, watching 10 years go by mired in the mundane and meaningless. I wanted to be able, at 50, to say I had accomplished some things of value, and lived out a dream or two.

Well, today I am 46, halfway through the allotted time. Am I halfway through my list? Well, close, actually. I’ve highlighted 22 items on the list, although a few have been modified as my circumstances changed. Some I can definitely see possibly achieving in the next four years: the cross stitch, maybe a scrapbook, some form of a women’s retreat. But there are a few I really don’t aspire to anymore, for whatever reason. My kids don’t have Dance Dance Revolution anymore. I gave up on the email diary, and the paper monster is more tame than he used to be, but I don’t really believe he’ll ever be fully domesticated. Some are on there for my own good, but I doubt they are achievable; should they stay, then? Or should I replace them with something that could actually happen?

I am encouraged when I look back at all that has been achieved on this list so far, though. And interestingly enough, these aren’t even the coolest things that have happened! God always has dreamed so much bigger than I. I would NEVER have thought to include “initiate and help re-found and organize a seriously major (and successful) charity event in the community to which I moved, recently.” Or “teach art (ART?!) in a Christian classroom setting to K-6 or 7.” Or even “graduate a child from high school EARLY.” My life is considerably more interesting than I could plan for myself! I have no idea what the next four years will hold, but I know my God, and I know it will be exciting!

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You Can’t Beat Original Artwork, But Can You Afford It?

Last Friday my adorable husband and I went to the Final Friday gallery crawl. It was a really nice date, with a good laugh over the rubber chicken coin purse I badly want, a shared tiramisu gelatto, and a stroll around some rather original artists.

I actually stood in awe at one showing. Jami Tatiana Moore is a watercolor artist like none I have ever seen before. The little tags on all her work listed the medium, and I had to keep going back to check if I had read it correctly. These whimsical little canvasses just don’t look like watercolor. I kept telling myself, “Surely they are at least gouaches.” That translucent quality was not the defining characteristic of these paintings! What first grabs you (and they do grab you) is the vibrant, electric color. Next is the texture. Yes, watercolor with ACTUAL, not just visual, texture. These fantasy paintings are layer after layer after layer of intense pigment, using very little water. Jami must use up tube after tube of watercolor on these little canvasses, applying it as if it were acrylic. Each painting has an underlayer of pastel washes, evident in complex swirls and patterns, with increasing layers of design. I was mesmerized by a relief of swirls of paint in concentric circles in the shoulders and haunches of a couple of cats in one painting. They are thick and glossy and almost have a 3D effect receding into the canvas.

You can click on her painting to visit her gallery. The thing is, none of these images is as compelling as the original paintings I viewed at the CityArts gallery. I would love to have an original Jami to gaze at daily. They make me smile! But the prices! I have no doubt any one of them is worth hundreds of dollars of pigment, time, skill, and imagination. I know these are paintings that I don’t have in me, to say the least. Unfortunately, I don’t have hundreds of dollars for a small canvas. (or a large one, for that matter) And so, does one settle for a print, a reproduction? Even if she had giclees made (and I don’t see that she does), there is no way for a glorified photo to give me the same chills as seeing the amazing things she has done with watercolor in person. It’s too flat. I know it can capture the color, but how sad to separate it from its texture.

I feel the same way at museums studying a Monet or a Van Gogh. The paintings are astonishing quite apart from the energy of the paint actually on the canvas, but a poster or print can never really grab me in my inner parts the way the piece the artist actually touched can.

I have decided to start saving my change for an original artwork. I don’t know how long it may take me to amass three or four or six hundred dollars for one, but there is no substitute for a paper or canvas that still exudes the artist’s touch.

I wonder, do any of you support local artists? Or collect original artwork? How do you budget for it?

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Confessions of a Tracker Cheater

This past Thursday was my 14th week in Weight Watchers. Looking over my weigh-ins, I have come to an uncomfortable conclusion that pushes past my natural state of denial: I don’t want to get past a 10 pound weight loss. Really, I have had a fairly steady, healthy loss for the first 10 weeks, at which I hit a 5% loss goal. But since then, I have been wildly up and down, to arrive at essentially the same weight a month later.

I have had so many excuses over the last month:

*I am so stressed! (It has been a stinker of a month, actually.) I just can’t get a grip on the stress eating.

*I’ve been too busy to get all my exercise points.

*I was wearing my blue jeans for that weigh-in, AND I had just eaten dinner!

But you know what my real problem is? I am not exercising my self-control. And I am lying. On my tracker. To ME. How lame is that?! Like I don’t already know that I had three cookies and only gave points for two? Or (true story) I ate four or five cookies for breakfast so I just abandoned tracking the day altogether. And you know those BLTs (bites, licks and tatstes)? I confess I have NEVER tracked those! Sampling as the chef? Points free, of course. Finishing the last couple of bites from a kid’s plate? Surely those points are gone now. And what about that little palmful of Cajun trail mix? How much could that be?

Just call me Bessie, as in the cow, because I GRAZE. And I really have a lot of trouble managing that eating. It’s got nothing to do with being hungry, and it DOES get worse with stress, but that’s no excuse. It’s like I need the *activity* more than that I need the food. The craving to nibble just grows. I am discouraged by my inability to manage it.

However, I can be capable of managing the environment: I can keep plenty of sugar snap peas and baby carrots and celery sticks and strawberries and even plain popcorn easily accessible, and keep the kids’ snacks harder to get to. I can sip my low cal hot Russian tea, but I need a good hot-weather alternative with no caffeine and no artificial sweetener. I can also chew gum, which is actually very effective, but it gets tiring (literally).  All of these strategies help, but I need to TRACK them. They are low-cal grazing alternatives, but they still pack a point!

This week I am renewing my effort to not make excuses for myself and to be honest with myself. I mean really, what good does it do to lie to ME? Apparently, all it accomplishes is feeding some apparent psychological roadblock to pushing beyond my 10 pound weight loss. Wish me luck!

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I can see for miles, and miles…of milestones!

FIRST: note that my 50 before 50 has another first highlighted! Yes, I enjoyed my first professional massage as a non-food reward for dropping below 180 and staying there. I felt like butter softening. And it had turned out to be a rather stressful day, too, as my oldest had the transmission go out on his car, two states away, and we were trying to work the whole issue. Ahhhh! Relief!

NEXT: I got not only my 5% award at Weight Watchers tonight, I also made my second 5 pound award! Lots of milestones. Current weight 175.8.

Now for the numbers…I only alotted myself 24 points a day, instead of 25. I feel safer that way. I ate 220 points, which included my 168 points, pretty much all my 35 weekly points, plus lots of my 34 Activity Points. I think I’m still being pretty conservative with those APs, but I actually hope to exercise a little more this next week as I further prepare for my Someday 5K. I made some poor decisions early on in the week that I feared would cost me my goal (like the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, where at least I didn’t eat all I *could*), but the last few days have been filled with better choices, so it all worked out in the end! Truly, this journey is a marathon, not a sprint, which is a good thing, as I’ve never been a good sprinter.

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Back on Track

High five to me! Last weigh in was down 1.2 pounds. My total loss on Weight Watchers is now 8.7 pounds, but my actual total loss is 12.7 pounds. I am less than a pound away from losing 5% of my body weight! I am going to do SUCH a good job with my tracker this week, because I don’t want to jeopardize that milestone at all. That said, last week was a lousy tracker week. I had a lot of trouble keeping up, and didn’t get Sunday tracked at all. So I can’t really say what my points totals were. Sorry.

Today, Coach adjusted my 5k training program, and I am really looking forward to the new challenge! She also added in some ankle workouts. That should be interesting. I think I am already feeling the workout in my ankle. 🙂 I still have three weeks until my orthotics are in, so I am counting on these exercises to help me as I move up in intensity on the rest of the program. I start Saturday morning, and I can hardly wait!

I’ve been slacking off some on the Bible study/devotional time. L3  That is me kicking myself in the rear to get back on track in THAT aspect of my life. Still really loving God and in a green space spiritually, though. I am so grateful for this Sabbatical year. I don’t even have words to adequately describe how desperately I needed this time to get my heart and body right. I started last May feeling like a wounded soldier abandoned on the battlefield. I haven’t even completed my year, but already my heart is full. I don’t just KNOW I am loved by God; I FEEL loved by God. I am getting connected to people in spite of myself, especially with BSF and Relay for Life. I’ve got my second wind!

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The foot saga continues…

When you know your business, it really shows, eh?

My insurance won’t let the chiropractor/sports dude fix my foot. It has to go through my PCP.  She sent me to a Rehab/Phys Therapy place for orthotics, and the lady THERE rocked my socks! She heard all about my foot: where, when, how much. She asked lots of clarifying questions. She looked at my bare feet standing and watched me walk. That was apparently interesting, and led her to ask if those tennies were the ones I run in (which they were). So she had me put them back on and jog on the treadmill, while sharing her wisdom with the college student she’s training or some such. The conclusion?

My GOOD foot has a pronation, not too bad, but definitely there. My BAD foot, which has no such thing, is compensating with a funky step. Unfortunately, while the bad foot is actually good, it has a lousy ANKLE. LOL! All this time we’ve been looking for what is wrong with the foot, when actually it’s under a weak and unstable ankle. That is why the faster I go, the worse it gets, because it becomes more and more unstable. It also explains why going counterclockwise on the track is many times more painful more quickly than going clockwise: that ankle takes the support of my whole body on the curves, and it’s not up to it.

You can probably tell I found all this utterly fascinating. She made plaster casts of my feet, and some place in New York is going to make me some custom inserts for my running shoes. Then I’ll take them to the one shoe store in the area that personally fits your running shoes based on your gait, and buy the best ones for my pronation. And in the meantime, I’m supposed to ask Coach for exercises to strengthen and stabilize my ankle.

I just might get to run in a 5k yet! Ever the optimist…

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Checking in and jumping up and down

Oh Joy!

Oh Joy!

Too bad I can’t count that as Activity Points.

Woot! I have a 5 pound star! I actually lost 1.2 pounds, for a total of 6.1 pounds lost in five weeks. This is a phenomenal rate of weight loss for me: about twice my Texas Weight Watchers loss rate, and easily 4-5 times what I lose without Weight Watchers. See my joyous Snoopy dance? However, I did learn that my jeans weigh TWO WHOLE POUNDS. I weighed at home with and without, and believe you me, I will never weigh in my jeans again. I ditched them for the lightest weight pants I could find.

Points consumed for the week, which included Valentine’s Day: 208 points out of a possible weekly 210 + 33 activity points.

Also, beyond the five pound star, I also crossed my 180 pound threshold, at 179.8 pounds. This is glorious news!! And WHY is it glorious news? Because if I maintain a weight below 180 pounds next weigh-in, I get to treat myself to a FULL BODY MASSAGE!! Woo-hoo! Hallelujah! Because that will mean I have genuinely lost 10 pounds since May. I really hope Coach does a body fat test again in March, because I would love to know how many actual fat pounds are gone now.

OK, enough with the physical. I am a spiritual creature, too, and how is that going? Well, just as I suspected, taking on leadership in BSF has definitely kicked everything up a notch. I’m having a great time, and God is helping me order my time so that it is not too burdensome (at times it’s positively joyful) praying for another 15 women in my life. And I am getting SO MUCH out of the leaders’ meeting. Who knew the Books of the Law would have so much applicable learning?

Now if Spring would just spring my joy would just bubble over! This interminable winter looks to be wrapping up a bit. I have crocus blooming in my garden. 🙂


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Figuring Activity Points for a varied workout program

This week I logged 33 activity points. That sounds like a lot, but I think I’m actually calculating conservatively. I’m training toward that 5K goal, and a typical workout for me lasts between 50 and 70 minutes. It includes 45 minutes to an hour of cardio, usually alternating brisk walking and jogging in 1/10 of a mile increments. By July 4th I expect to jog a whole 2 miles! It also incorporates the elliptical, treadmill, and expresso bike. Then four days a week I have ab work, and one day a week I do weight training, but much less jogging.

Since these aren’t Weight Watchers workouts, but they are a big mix of activities, how do I figure my points? I use the formula in this Weight Watchers article. It tells me what heart rate for me qualifies as moderate activity and what crosses into intense. The whole sweat test doesn’t cut it for me, because it is way too dependent on the coolness of the gym, the fans blowing, how dry the air outside is, or what if I’m doing River Running? Heart rate tells how hard my body is working, and I like that. I then figure what my AVERAGE heart rate is for any portion of my workout. This allows me to incorporate the two or three minutes of warmup as part of my workout, instead of as 2 minutes of brisk walking, which is no points at all. If I spend 15 minutes warming up, then jogging 1 lap and recovering for 2, I am working out at a moderate average heart rate. If I then add 15 minutes of jogging 1 lap alternating with recovering for 1 lap, that kicks it into an intense average heartrate for me. And 10-15 minutes on the elliptical is pretty much ALL intense.

So there you go! And with 33 Activity Points this week, I just have to wonder WHY I’m not assured of losing that .1 pound that kept me away from the reward star. I work very hard to be looking at a scale that has hardly moved. *sigh*

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