Monday, February 2, 2015


So it turns out that one of my aching knees stopped aching after a couple of days and the other was a little out of its socket. The only reason I noticed it was out of its socket is that I started using it to work out on the Gazelle and it didn't stop hurting. My trusty chiropractor popped it back into the socket this morning and will check it again for me in a week.

I was pretty good over the weekend. Not perfect, but pretty good. Then came today. After my visit to the good chiropractor, I was driving home and I just could not keep from visiting my current favorite lunch hangout. I know I have to stop going out for lunch (a habit that has single-handedly added 9 pounds to my waistline since the end of summer) BUT... note that "but" is one of the most dangerous words in the world... I really like eating out for lunch because it is such a social outlet for me.

Now I could go into the full story of why I NEED to eat lunch out at my favorite lunch place, but I am not going to. Let's just admit that this is one of my personal vices and it needs to be overcome. I have recognized a few items that may be obstacles in my quest to lose inches so I have come up with some strategies to work through / get around them. That is the key: a workable strategy, something I am confident I can stick to, something that will help me change my habits without being too painful.

Obstacle Number One: Working out is boring. It is the one way I know to make time seem to slow down and drag on and on.

Solution: Whereas I left my rower in my office for my 50 strokes a day, I moved my Gazelle into my living room in front of my television. I can do that because I don't have anyone else in the house to be considerate of. It is one of the two benefits of being single. The other is an almost non-existent number of dishes to wash.

Obstacle Number Two: I don't wear a watch. I used to wear one but I also used to be highly stressed and my watch seemed to run my life. Not wearing a watch is something I decided to try to reduce my stress levels, and it did help to reduce them a little... I think. But not wearing a watch also makes it somewhat difficult to time my Gazelle exercise sessions -- which I noticed as an obstacle during my first "workout." I kind of need to time my exercise sessions to make sure I go long enough.

Solution: The first solution I tried was to use the timer on my microwave, but my Gazelle is not in my kitchen so that was not a good solution. No worries. There was an easy fix. I went to Wal-Mart yesterday and bought the cheapest stopwatch I could find. I used it for this morning's session and it worked perfectly for my purposes. It now rests on the end table next to my favorite chair so I can put it on before my 10-15 minute "mini-workouts."

Obstacle Number Three: Snacking. I am good in the morning. I drink my cup of flavored coffee and eat either a muffin or a granola bar for breakfast. Then I am fine till lunch. But after lunch I am BAD. I get hungry and just cannot stop snacking! What's worse is what I snack on: Chocolate candy is my favorite starter. It is not good.

Solution: I am going to allow myself to snack but change what I snack on. I now have a whole bag of carrots, 2 cucumbers and a red bell pepper. I will prepare them and keep them in water in my fridge so that I can easily pull out a healthy snack whenever I want one instead of candy or chips. To make my strategy more palatable, I mixed up a batch of beer-cheese dip for the vegetables. Not a good thing as too much dip would totally defeat the purpose of snacking on raw vegetables. So what I am going to do is LIMIT the amount of dip I eat per day. I will measure it into a dish at the beginning of my daily munchies and not take more until the next day. For dessert, which I count as an after-dinner snack, I bought some 100-calorie ice cream bars. I allow myself no more than one per day.

Obstacle Number Four: This is one of my two biggest problems with losing weight. I don't drink enough water. I got out of the habit of drinking water when I lived with my parents when they had some pretty nasty well-water. Even filter pitchers (except for the Zero Water filter they eventually purchased, but by then it was too late because my habit of not drinking enough was already well-established) did not resolve the issue of their water. Now they have a nice reverse osmosis water filter installed in their kitchen, like I had when I lived in Texas, but I don't live with them now and like I said I am in a bad habit of not drinking enough water. Not drinking enough water is a MAJOR OBSTACLE to losing weight.

Solution: This is going to be a matter of will-power. I have a water bottle with a straw in it and with ounce measures marked on its side to make it easier for me. Yesterday, I drank 5 cups of water. My goal is to work up to 10.

Obstacle Number Five: This is, of course, going out for lunch. As mentioned above, I am addicted to a cute local place near my chiropractor's office. It has a cheap weekday lunch deal, I have been there enough to have formed casual friendships with some of the staff and I show up on an almost daily basis (weekdays only) to chat. This is a bad habit I truly enjoy, which makes it a beast to eliminate.

Solution: I am going to try (really hard) to reduce my visits to just Mondays (after my chiropractic visit) and Thursdays (the only day one of my friends works lunch). If I can successfully do that then, after a while, I will work to reduce to just one of those days. Then I may even cut down to every other week or once a month. We will have to see what I can handle.

Alright, so that is my strategy for slowly reducing my vices and replacing them with better habits so that I can effectively begin to lose inches through the vehicle of my newly increased mini- work-outs.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Aching Knees

My knees hurt.

Wait. That sounds bad. Rest assured. I have not done anything "dirty" since my personal hero metamorphosed into Dippy Doo-Ha (sinister fanfare plays). [Reference Frigid (part 2)]. Well, that is unless you include the idea of sweat as dirty. Just the idea, mind you. Actual sweat would take effort.

So nothing dirty was done, but my knees ache. They have been hurting for the last couple of days, actually. Why, you ask? Well, it is simple. I did something stupid... and it starts with a short story.

Do you remember last Spring when my pipes froze and I went down to stay with my parents for a short while? [Searching for entry... Hmm... Maybe I didn't write about it? I thought I did. Oh, well.]

Well, I had been doing 50 strokes a day on my rowing machine before I went. (Only 50 strokes you ask? What is the point? More on this in a minute.) I figured I would keep exercising by using my sister-in-law's treadmill while I was there but it was broken so I stopped exercising altogether. When I came back home, my rower was here but my habit was broken and I didn't get back into it... until sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That is when I decided that it is ridiculous for me to NOT do 50 strokes a day on my rower before I get into the shower each morning.

This is the brilliance of 50 strokes a day. It is JUST 50 strokes. Doing them takes about 2.5 to 3 minutes and I can get them done on my way to the shower. Minimal effort is better than no effort and any daily effort at all can work itself into a habit of doing something rather than nothing. (Brilliant!) Plus, those small efforts do work my muscles enough to start them toning and tightening. So, a few months down the road like we now are, I actually have some nice musculature under the flab I would like to lose. On top of all that, it is pretty ridiculous to NOT exert the minimal effort to do just 50 strokes a day. So, it is much easier to kick myself in the behind to get them done than it would be to carve out half an hour or more for a more traditional exercise routine. Now back to the story of why my knees hurt...

My knees do not hurt because I have been using my rowing machine. No. They hurt because my baby brother (who does not even like me) is coming home from Thailand for a few weeks around Easter and my mother is going berserk about wanting a "whole family" photo while he is here. Keep in mind that we already have "whole family" photos (my sister's wedding photos, for example), some that even include Dippy Doo-Ha's [sinister fanfare plays] former superhero persona. But those are not good enough. No. Now there is another child in the family and, more importantly, my baby brother's permanent residence is now in Thailand. So, yes, that's right. It is Thailand's fault that my knees hurt.

As it turns out, 50 strokes a day on my rower is minimal effort that works to tone and tighten my muscles (which is good because muscle burns more calories than fat does) and build a habit of exercising BUT it is not enough to lose any inches off my waist. My appearance in my sister's wedding photo was bad enough. I do not want another professional family portrait of me with a fat belly. Now, I am already 10 pounds lighter than I was during my sister's wedding. But I am also 10 pounds heavier than I was at the end of summer. With two months left until Easter, I decided to take action. I pulled out my old Gazelle that was all folded up and comfortable behind the sofa in my office. That was kind of a stupid thing to do because the Gazelle works parts of me that the rower does not.

I  have decided to do short "cardio" sessions twice a day. (By short, I mean about 10 - 15 minutes -- and there is still no sweat involved ...yet.) Yesterday, I did only one session of 13 minutes. Guess what? The Gazelle works my knees and now... my knees hurt.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Frigid (part 4)

- continued from Frigid (part 3)

Again, I found myself missing my personal super-villain. If he had not been seduced by the temptations of evil, there would be no waking up to 45 degree (7.22 C) indoor temperatures or searching through closed suppliers for un-findable parts. Dippy Doo-Ha [sinister fanfare plays] would not tolerate that kind of nonsense. He would buckle down and use his circuitboard-repairing super-powers to save the day.

That not being an option, I verified that Al's company accepts credit cards and let him know that he should order my new circuit board as soon as possible. Neither one of us had any idea how long it would take to get the part or find time to install it, so I gave him my cell phone number and told him that Anne and I would be at my parents' house until mine was warm again --he could get my key from my neighbor to get into the house and make the repair when the circuitboard came in.

I had Al help me disconnect my washer from its water supply so that I could drain the water from my pipes, then I sent him on his way. But before he drove off, he brought in two, temperature controlled, electric heaters to keep my house warm enough that my pipes would not freeze. I felt a little silly for having had him disconnect my washer for me. But I figured it would do no harm to drain the pipes. I would turn off my water main and open all my faucets before I left. It's better to be safe than sorry, after all.

After Al was gone, Anne and I proceeded to get busy getting the house as ready as we could, as fast as we could, for us to be gone for a long while. Mostly, that involved emptying out the fridge and taking my succulent houseplants over to my neighbor, but I also needed to pack my suitcase and take care of some other miscellaneous items (eg. putting out the garbage). We were ready to go by lunchtime, so we left the dog at home for a few minutes while we ran out for a very quick bite to eat then came back to collect him and were on our way.

Somewhere between 3 and 4 hours later, we rolled into Mom and Dad's driveway. They had already left for my brother's annual New Year's Eve bowling party, but the garage was open for us and we happily entered the house through it. Oh, sweet relief! Temperature-controlled furnished living areas! Anne and I removed our coats and turned on the television while we basked in the non-coldness.

Ice fishers on the lake behind my brother's house
That night, after missing the bowling party we made our way over to my brother's lake home to ring in the New Year. Appetizers, tacos, mixed drinks and birthday cake were our late-night fare, accompanied by a large gathering of family who all shared champagne after counting backwards to midnight.

Two days later, on Friday, we found ourselves again at my brother's house. I wanted a picture of the ice fishers on the lake behind his house to share with my friends from Texas. Besides, my nephew had volunteered to change my car's oil and I wasn't about to refuse a free oil change. (Oh, but he did not change my oil for me. My brother did that. Yay for brothers!) I was just pouring myself a Coke when my cell phone rang. It was my next-door neighbor.

I thought, "Uh oh. What's wrong now?"

It had only been one business day since Al had diagnosed my furnace and, the last time I talked to him, he was having trouble locating the part he needed to fix it. So I was reasonably sure the neighbor was not calling about with happy news. Our conversation went something like this:


"Hi. It's your neighbor."

"Hi. What's up?"

"I'm just calling to let you know that the repairman is putting in your circuitboard right now. You can come home whenever you want. Your house will be nice and warm when you get here."

"Really? So soon? Thank you so much for calling to let me know!"

And that is the story of how my furnace broke when it was 1 degree outside. It is also the story of how my furnace was repaired during the holiday season and within 48 hours of my distress call, when just about everyplace was closed.

The End... for now.

Have you subscribed to the "A Writer's Blot?" feed? Blogger has a free feed service so that you can keep up on new posts. Use the subscription links in the right side panel to add Author Beth Durkee's personal blog to your feed.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Frigid (part 3)

-- Continued from Frigid (part 2) --
7:00 a.m. (roughly speaking) -- I awoke under the fluffy, warm, down comforter of my daughter's bed. Anne was still asleep beside me, the dog curled at her feet in his doggie coat. Poor puppy. If his dew claw was not torn, he would almost certainly be snuggled under the blanket with us. As it was, he slept atop the covers at Anne's feet to protect his paw from potential further injury. Still, the warmth of the down beneath him must have felt good.

We had turned off the space heater for the night and I could feel a sharp contrast between the warmth under the comforter and the cold skin of my face. I looked over at the space heater. I wanted it on, but dreaded getting out of bed.

I closed my eyes for a moment to steel myself against the cold that I was about to enter. It needed to be done. The temperature in the house (and in the bedroom) was dropping with each passing moment and I needed to get up, feed Snickers and call an HVAC repairman.

I decided that the best thing was to just do it quickly. Gritting my teeth, I quickly pulled off the corner of the blanket and slipped out of bed, putting it back with hurried motions to keep the cold from seeping into its warm folds then taking three steps over to the space heater and turning it on full-blast. Oh, brr... It was cold.

At the bottom of the stairs, I checked the thermostat before letting the dog out. The inside temperature was 45 degrees (7.22 C). I took care of the dog, then made a bee-line for my phone book. I chose a random ad and dialed. A woman answered right away. I explained my situation and asked how long it would be before someone could come over to rescue me. I could hear her muffled voice as she turned to someone and asked, "Do you want to take this one before heading over to that one?"
Then she came back to me and said, "He'll be over in about 15 minutes."

I put Snickers back into Anne's room to cuddle with her and fifteen minutes later, "Al," the HVAC company's co-owner was knocking on my door. (The dog then went nuts and made sure Anne was up. LOL) As we walked down the stairs into the basement, Al said something like, "Let's take a look and get this heater running." It suddenly occurred to me, "Maybe I won't have to go to Mom and Dad's, after all! If he can fix this, we can just stay home for another week like we planned."

Well, it was a nice thought.  As it turns out, Al tried his fix according to the code that was flashing on my unit and what he did didn't work. My furnace's circuit board needed to be replaced. That meant ordering the part. The furnace was new but Guardian is an off brand and Al did not know who sold it, so he called one of his suppliers to ask.

The supplier's office was closed for the holidays. So Al called the people who had installed the furnace for me. They should know where they got it. Right? No dice. They also were closed. Third time is the charm according to the saying and the third supplier answered their phone. But they had no idea who sold Guardian parts. As far as they knew, Guardian furnaces were not being sold anywhere in the area. So Al pulled out his trusty smart-phone and looked up Guardian. He called the number. They were closed for the holidays. Big surprise.

-- To Be Continued --

Have you subscribed to the "A Writer's Blot" feed? Blogger has a free feed service so that you can keep up on new posts. Use the subscription links in the right side panel to add Author Beth Durkee's personal blog to your feed.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Frigid (part 2)

-- continued from Frigid (part 1) --

My dad has never even looked at my year and a half old furnace. I don't know what Mom expected him to tell me to do to fix it. But she handed over the phone and he came up with something. He told me to call my neighbor over to look at it. Dad also encouraged me to stay at home until I could get a repairman out to my house for a diagnosis of the problem. After all, the thing needed to be fixed. That meant someone needed to look at it and I could not very well pop back to open my door from 4 hours away.

My neighbor definitely deserves some kind of baked goods in appreciation for trying to rescue two ladies in distress from quickly dropping interior temperatures. He came over within about two minutes of my phone call. Guess what? He figured out right away (and without looking at the manual) how to open up the furnace and find its "pilot light." (Yay neighbor!)  

Note to self: Newer furnaces do not have pilot lights. They have on-demand ignition. My furnace's on-demand ignition was lighting just fine. The fire stayed on for about 3 seconds, then it turned off. Half a minute or so later, the pilot went on again. Then it went off again and the process repeated.

The neighbor groaned, "Ohhh... I don't know if I can do anything with this." He opened another door to reveal a circuit board. "Yep," he confirmed, "It has a circuit board. I can't do anything. You'll have to call a repairman."

THAT is when I thought of my personal super-villain (who used to be my personal super-hero before he turned toward the forces of evil). If Dippy Doo-Ha were here and still serving the forces of good, he would peel out that circuit board, activate his superhero tools to figure out its problem and fix it. (He would also have a more flattering super-hero name.) Oh for the good old days! Alas, those days are long gone.

(Side note for disbelievers: Anne thinks that her dad would not have been able to repair the furnace's broken circuit board. She says repairing a circuit board is just way too hard. I disagree. That kind of repair might be too difficult for many, but I have seen her dad's super-powers at work and he could do it. He built and repaired circuit boards for a living when I met him, after all.)

I thanked my neighbor for his help, asked if I could bring some of my plants to his house in the morning, and let him go home. My next step was to call a local pet-friendly hotel. The last-minute price for a night's stay was very much more than I was willing to pay so I informed Anne that we were going to rough it for the night.

Before I called my mom to see if it was okay to come to her house, which was before she told me to ask for my dad's opinion and before the neighbor was called over to rescue me, I had told Anne to start getting her things ready to go back to school. I did not intend to return home after going to Mom and Dad's before driving Anne to meet her friend for their carpool back to the university.

Ice formed on the inside of the window.

By the time I was finished with the neighbor and the furnace, Anne had her things all ready to go. That left her free to help me batten down the hatches for the cold night ahead. I sent her to set up my small space-heater in her bedroom (my room has no door), start it going and close her door while I pulled out the plastic sheeting that I had not yet put up on my windows and called my mom to let her know what the neighbor had said.

When Anne came back downstairs, we covered all but three of my windows with plastic (One was so cold that ICE had formed inside of its glass!), let the dog outside one last time, changed into our PJ's and took the dog with us to bed in Anne's somewhat warmer (from running the space heater) bedroom.

-- To Be Continued -- 

Have you subscribed to the "A Writer's Blot?" feed? Blogger has a free feed service so that you can keep up on new posts. Use the subscription links in the right side panel to add Author Beth Durkee's personal blog to your feed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Frigid (part 1)

It was the day before New Year's eve and I was buzzing around, doing my thing. Anne, my daughter, was home from her university for the holidays and had decided to use the desk in my office to play online games with her friends. She wrapped herself up in a blanket and snuggled into my desk chair. Being winter in northern Wisconsin with the outside temperatures quickly dropping, neither one of us thought much about the chill.

Around 5:30 pm, Anne emerged from my office, still wrapped in her blanket to sit on the love seat in the living room and talk about dinner preparations. She was hungry.

Snickers, our dog, walked over to nuzzle her. He had been acting like he wanted to jump up into my lap all afternoon but would not sit with me. He had torn his dew claw earlier in the day and it was very sensitive. Now that Anne was in the common room, he went to her. I'm sure he was hoping that maybe Anne would figure out what I had not.

He was right. She did. No sooner did she touch him than she said, "Oooh! He's shivering!" Then she picked him up onto the loveseat, careful of his injured paw, and covered him with her blanket. He settled down instantly, resting his head on her leg and closing his eyes.

I went over to touch his head and sure enough, his fur was cold. Anne's discovery that the dog was cold led to a brief discussion between Anne and me where we both agreed that we were also cold. She asked me what the temperature inside the house was. I walked over to my thermostat and looked... all the while stating with confidence that it was 71 degrees (21.67 C) inside.

Well, the thermostat was indeed set to 71 degrees and it was turned on. My furnace is only one and a half years old, so it should have been 71 degrees inside the house. But it was not. The inside temperature was 59 (15 C). No wonder we were cold!

At Anne's brilliant suggestion, I went into the basement to see if the pilot light was on. (She had a pilot light issue in her campus housing earlier this year.) Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to open up my new furnace to see the pilot light. So I felt the outside of the furnace. It was cold. I took the furnace's information booklet into my hand and went back upstairs with it. Before opening the booklet, I turned off the thermostat and then turned it on again. I hoped maybe that would restart the pilot light. It did not.

Trying to read the booklet to figure out how to open the furnace and just check for the pilot light was an exercise in confusion, frustration and futility. So I did what any normal adult woman would do under the circumstance: I called my parents to tell them I was coming over. Mom tried to tell me what I needed to check on my furnace -- all of which I had already done. She then agreed that we could make the 3+ hour drive down to their house but first she wanted me to talk to my dad.

- To Be Continued -

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Nearly Impossible Accomplishment

Kenosha, Wisconsin
Just a short note today. My daughter is home for the holidays from her university studies. She hitched a ride from school to Chicago with her "BFF," Jenna. So I drove down from where I now live to pick up Anne in southern Wisconsin (courtesy of Jenna's mom, who drove up to meet me in Kenosha). That is a few hours' drive for me, so I packed the dog into my car and drove to my parents' house for a night.

*Bonus* My brother changed my reverse light for me while I was nearby -- in the heated garage of his new house. And with a dedicated waterline in his garage for a hose, he also gave my car a quick hand wash to get the road salt off of it! Sweet deal. Yay for brothers with kickin' garages!

Back to my story. What I described above is the normal routine for getting Anne for the holidays. I also drive her to and from school in the Fall and Spring, respectively. A once home-based travel agent, this is all the traveling I can afford to do, these days -- except for Thanksgiving, of course. I go to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, too. They feed me turkey (or ham) and I don't have to deal with the leftovers. It is a good thing for everyone.

Oh! Last year, I also drove down to my folks' place when my water pipes froze. Nothing was keeping me in my house (no children at school, husband at work or job of my own) and I didn't want to wait three days for a plumber to come out to unfreeze my water supply. So I decided to camp at Mom and Dad's until the weather warmed up a bit. I had to come back home much earlier than expected because of the fiasco with the handiman (another story entirely), but I did go away from my house for a week or so -- so I guess that counts as "travel."

Why am I going on about this? My neighbor (to whom I hand my house key when I leave town) asked me yesterday how I "have the money to do so much traveling." Money? Me? Travel? What?? I was momentarily dumbstruck. Ask anyone. Rendering me speechless, even for a moment, is quite an accomplishment. Yet the neighbor achieved it without even trying.

Congratulations to the neighbor for momentarily accomplishing the nearly impossible.