Tag Archives: year of wellness

The contents of my purse and the benefits of a life coach

In my second blog entry after winning this contest, I confessed to being “fearful about the whole ‘life coach’ thing,”specifically the prize of “six life coach consultations via phone.” It turns out, the life coach was really a gift.

Here are some highlights from my five life coach consultations thus far:

Your life is like a purse. Lauree Ostrofsky, my life coach and founder of Simply Leap, began our series of sessions explaining what a life coach does. Imagine your life is like a purse, she said. A life coach is someone you can take your purse to and just dump it out – someone you can “let in” on all your crazy madness. For me that includes a jumble of business and appointment cards, balled up tissues, a finger splint I no longer need, an expired watch battery, coach’s whistle, pediatrician’s pamphlet on “Puberty in Boys,” and a battered “emergency tampon” that I would never actually allow anywhere near my body. 

Life coach Lauree Ostrofsky

What a good life coach does, Lauree explained, is help you make sense of all that madness – helping you decide what you don’t need, organizing what do you need, and figuring out what else ought to be in there. After dumping out “my purse,” we quickly agreed that she could be of greatest assistance in time management and household organization.

Start small. Lauree had me start small, managing one day at a time. We pondered the things I had to do each day (freelance writing work, household chores, feeding people), the things I failed to do each day (household chores, remembering my daughter’s weekly violin lesson, working late into the night on work I should have completed during the day) and the ways I wasted time each day (Facebook). Together we came up with two simple solutions: First, I would create a highly visible, daily to-do list. Second, I would reward myself with time-wasting activities only after completing mandatory activities.

My homemade daily to-do list

By the end of that day, I’d purchased a five-dollar 8” x 10” frame from Target. Behind the glass, I inserted a piece of paper that said “What I’m doing today.” A series of lines invited a daily list, written in dry-erase marker, of things I felt I could reasonably accomplish during the day. At intervals of completion, I rewarded myself with a little time-wasting indulgence. For me, an insanely social person who works in solitude from home, that meant the validation festival that is Facebook. And… it worked. I began churning out work and remembering to do stuff. I started going to bed earlier too.

Get bigger. In subsequent calls, we moved from days to weeks. Wouldn’t it be nice, I said, to assign specific days for my weekly tasks? So began the conversation that resulted in my weekly fridge calendar.

Lauree asked great questions:

  • What do you need to do each week?
  • Is there anything you do that you don’t need to? Can you drop something?
  • Is there anything else you should be doing?
  • Who can help you get these jobs done? (“Oh my gosh, that’s right! My kids can do some of this stuff! That would actually be good for them!”)
  • What would be a good day of the week to do that?
  • How can you get everyone on board with this program?
  • What tools do you need? How can you make these jobs easier?

 The result? A weekly calendar I created in Word. It has five rows (one for every member of the family) and seven columns (one for every day of the week). Each box in the 5 x 7 grid has a small checklist. For example:

  • my son’s Monday says “feed dog, make bed, empty dishwasher, homework,”
  • my daughter’s checklist includes “violin practice” nearly every day,
  • each Sunday, two of my kids split cleaning the upstairs “kid bathroom,” while the other one does the downstairs half bath (we even supplied little rubber gloves for everyone), and
  • my Thursday cleverly includes doing my “delicate laundry” since it makes sense for me to wash work clothes immediately after a regularly scheduled Wednesday client meeting.

 Weekly vacuuming is life changing. Without question, the two most life-changing days on my calendar are Monday (“vacuum upstairs”) and Friday (“vacuum downstairs”… in anticipation of Friday’s fun “have friends over”). Gosh. What a difference weekly vacuuming makes. You can’t really vacuum your house without pretty much cleaning up the whole house. Vacuuming weekly means nothing ever gets crazy messy.

Making a weekly calendar with Lauree’s help and prompts was actually fun. (“Hey! If I’m vacuuming the “downstairs” every Friday, that means every Thursday night, the kids should clear the whole first floor of their stuff! I’ll put that on their lists!”)

I printed out a pile of the weekly calendars and put a new one on the fridge every Sunday.

Bribes work. The incentive for my kids to complete their daily checklist is simple. They love watching “Fetch” on PBS. If their checklist from the previous day is complete, they get to watch it. If their list isn’t complete, you can be sure they are using their lost television time to earn “Fetch” on the following day.

The benefits of a life coach. Had I not “won” a life coach, I probably would have been the last person to hire one. I’ve got a pretty decent life (great family, friends, career) and, like a lot of women, I hate asking for or admitting I could use help, much less paying for it.

Yet working with Lauree has had clear benefits. It forced me to make time to think about my goals and things in my life that need improving. It gave me a framework to think about my problems – a framework that I’ve since used to help my own friends with their problems. It’s made me realize the value of having a thinking partner and someone to hold me accountable as I seek change. It’s also made me realize that I am the best-qualified person to solve my own dilemmas and that the solutions to my problems are often very simple, if I just take the time to examine and ponder them.

Today my house is cleaner, I’m getting more done, my kids are gaining responsibility, I’m working fewer nights, and I’m dropping fewer balls. I still have no idea how much a life coach costs. (I do know Lauree usually advises clients to purchase a minimum of nine calls.) But I will say that, despite my apprehensive early blog entries, I’m more than happy to pay prize-winner taxes on Lauree Ostrofsky. I’m grateful for her every afternoon when I open the dishwasher and smile when I see that my son has faithfully emptied it before leaving for school. And I’ll be sad when we conclude our final call.

 DAYS KAYAKED: 13 (no change; it’s winter)
GUEST KAYAKERS: 4

Secrets from the highest-grossing Cookies for Kids’ Cancer bake sale

On September 11, 2010, Richmond, Va., was host to the highest-grossing bake sale in the two-year history of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. I was proud to have had a hand in the event and recently was asked to write a recap of what made it so successful. Here’s what I sent the nonprofit:

The Japanese have a form of martial arts called “Aikido.” It focuses not on punching or kicking your opponents, but rather on using your opponents’ own energy to gain control of them or throw them away from you.

Our sale wasn't slick. We were all about hand-painted signs and banners.

Anyone who has ever faced pediatric cancer will tell you that – despite being an abhorrent coward – it’s a powerful opponent. Medical professionals use surgeries and toxic treatments to fight it. Friends and families use hope, love and prayer (among other things).

But imagine if we could redirect cancer’s own rage and power right back at it? This, I realized recently, is exactly what Cookies for Kids’ Cancer does.

On August 22, 2010, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Founder Gretchen Holt Witt posted this status update to her Facebook page:  “It wasn’t good news. It was awful news. We start high-dose chemo on Monday morning. My heart is literally shattering into a million pieces. But I’ll pick myself up and go at it again. Liam needs me. He needs all of us. Pray for him and hold a bake sale.

Those words were read 300 miles away in Richmond, Va. And just 20 days later – in direct response to cancer’s attack – a handful of bake sale coordinators, a dozen “team captains” and hundreds of moms, dads, caring souls, big-hearted businesses, kids, scouts and students raised more than $34,000 to fund pediatric cancer research. Every dollar earned was matched by a grant from “Glad to Give™.”

Our best bake sale tip: Tell a story
The single biggest takeaway from our successful Richmond bake sale is: Tell a story. Think of it as practicing Aikido. Speak and write powerful words about the sickening blows that pediatric cancer intends for the most vulnerable among us, and then just stand back and watch as the world rises up and redirects that force and fury right back at cancer.

Our children – with aprons around their necks and signs in their hands – earned more money than grown-ups ever could.

Here are some other things that contributed to our team’s success:

Act quickly. Gretchen’s heart-breaking plea gave us a sense of urgency, and our fresh emotions translated to dollars. If something compels you to raise money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer (a diagnosis, a surgery, a relapse), act swiftly and you will be rewarded for it. Set your bake sale date just weeks, not months, away. Don’t give volunteers or donors much time to ponder their participation. Just share the story, then say, “I really need your help in two weeks.”

Ask and you shall receive. There is something about pediatric cancer that is so, so wrong. Speak the words “kids’ cancer,” and people will do almost anything you ask.

We asked for an anchor location and the Carytown Merchants Association gave us a mile-long shopping district and merchants that donated a percentage of their sales. We pleaded for bakers and Gretchen’s former employer – CRT/tanaka – volunteered its staff for a 12-hour baking blitz. We asked for industrial ovens and got the Mixing Bowl Pastry Shop. We asked for cookies and got 6,000 frozen cookie pucks from Jacqueline’s Gourmet Cookies.

We asked for anything and everything – public service announcements, cardboard boxes, big photos of affected families, gift bags, donation jars, rolls of kraft paper and mistint paint for banners. When it was apparent that our sale was going to be big, Amber van der Meer (mother of Richmond warrior Ber van der Meer) simply told her “Caring Bridge” subscribers that we needed another corporate sponsor. The next day, Qdoba Mexican Grill donated a thousand entrée coupons (a $6 value; we sold them for $3 a pop). If you have any need, simply tell your story, flash the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer logo, and ask

Use what you’ve got. We had a talented media relations professional, so news of our city-wide bake sale was on all three network news shows, local newspapers, blogs and a popular radio station. (See links below to listen/watch.)

WINN Transportation donated the first-ever Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Mobile Bake Sale Trolley

A family connection to WINN Transportation earned us the first-ever Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Mobile Bake Sale Trolley that conducted business-day visits to some of Richmond’s most generous companies as well as a popular, outdoor lunchtime plaza. A vacant restaurant turned into the first-ever Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Drive Thru. Girl Scout volunteers helped us score two grocery store locations that otherwise wouldn’t have allowed solicitors! And our children – with aprons around their necks and signs in their hands – earned more money than grown-ups ever could.

Call on every kind-hearted, hard-working person you know!

Recruit what you need. Look holistically at all the skill sets you need. A major event needs: sales people (able to secure locations and make big asks), team captains (to recruit volunteers and staff a single bake sale location), a publicity person and/or spokesperson, people with corporate connections, a professional baker, a financial person (to tally dollars), and a local family or two willing to be the courageous face of pediatric cancer in photos at every sale location.

Use social media and technology. We used Facebook and e-mail to plead for team captains, volunteers and bakers. An online “First Giving” account made it easy for friends to contribute to our specific from afar. A Facebook post simply wishing for a single donation in the memory of a former classmate, Scott Newhouse (who died of cancer at age 12 back in the 1980s), generated hundreds of dollars in long-distance pledges from Scott’s former classmates, warming the hearts of his mother and brother. Facebook posts on the walls of contributors thanked them for being a “good cookie” and included a link to the First Giving page.

Got trolley?

A coordinator’s blog told the story behind the event and everybody involved found a way to link to it and to the blogs and journals of families fighting cancer. A Facebook event page was created and featured excitement-generating updates (new locations, new donations) and hundreds were invited to “attend.” A week before the event, a Flip camera was used to create a music video of several families painting dozens of banners and handheld signs in preparation for the big day. The closing message said simply, “September 11th for Gretchen and Liam the Brave.” The video captured the spirit of our sale and the event preview was watched by hundreds on Facebook and YouTube. Our media genius used Twitter to tweet about our latest news or needs.
 
Keep it simple. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer can be a lemonade stand, a bike-a-thon or a pub crawl. It can be whatever you have the passion to make it. The magic of our Richmond bake sale was its simplicity. We might have had a media machine behind us and a trolley with professional banners, but we were anything but slick. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer allows for local creativity and local customization. Our volunteers felt that. Our sale was about cardboard signs and hand-painted banners. It was about teams of moms running up to cars at stoplights with baskets of cookies, and about kids in smudged aprons spontaneously setting up new, little sales locations on their own and glowing at the results. After just a few hours, our bake sale tables had the look of a favorite stuffed animal.
 
A million amazing moments
The Richmond sale was unbelievably inspirational for everyone involved. (Watch the video of sales held in Carytown.) Several mothers approached our team captains asking, “How can my family get involved in something like this?” One woman bought a pile of cookies. After listening to our sales pitch on the need for better treatments she said, with tears in her eyes, “I know… I’m a nurse in a pediatric cancer ward.”

Two young harp players randomly set up across the street from this sale to busk for cash. Later a rainbow appeared despite a lack of rain. At the end of the heavenly day, we learned we'd surpassed our goal & sobbed with gratitude at the generosity we'd seen.

A young college student expressed her delight at our cause, explaining that she was a pediatric cancer survivor. A Hispanic man on a bicycle gazed at an image of Ber van der Meer in the hospital and handed over a crumpled bill. When a volunteer encouraged him to take a bag of cookies, he shook his head and said, in broken English, “I just want to help.” As he rode away, she unfolded the bill and discovered it was a twenty. Her Facebook status at the end of that day said what we all felt: “What I know for sure: more people are generous than not.”

 Relevant links: 

DAYS KAYAKED: 13
GUEST KAYAKERS: 4

Georgetown via the C&O Canal

Any parent knows that a “Year of Wellness” ought to include a night away from the kids. Todd and I got that last week, and we made the most of it with our new touring kayaks.     

Lockhouse 6
Todd found the perfect place to stay: Lockhouse 6 on the historic C&O Canal. Less than two hours from Richmond, Va., the lockhouse is precisely what we’d sought. After discovering it online, Todd burst into my home office in such a way that I was sure some Lady Diana car crash thing had happened. (“Is your computer on?!”) It took me at least 20 seconds to realize that no catastrophic world event had occurred. (“It’s on the canal! On the canal!”)    

Lockhouse 6 on the C&O Canal

Built in 1829, the restored lockhouse has witnessed the travels of millions. That fact is made abundantly clear by the fabulous photographs, gallery, scrapbooks and library inside. I’ll tell you what: some volunteer out there loves Lockhouse 6. And their passion for its historical significance is infectious.     

The canal was mucky with algae at Lock 6, so we put in at Lock 5, just down the way.     

Off we went, in the direction of Georgetown. We’d hoped to paddle to Georgetown for dinner, but were advised by former Olympic kayaker (who helps to oversee Lockhouse 6) that it was probably too long a paddle. On his recommendation, we headed for Fletcher’s Boathouse.     

The canal is lovely, but initially there seemed a lot of noise pollution from the adjacent Clara Barton Parkway and screaming jets above, tracing the Potomac into D.C. The din was less noticable, however, after encountering four noble blue herons with speckled breast feathers that, up close, resembled a chieftain’s regalia.     

We reached Fletcher’s after about 45 minutes of easy paddling. From the maps we’d seen, we knew that the boathouse was about halfway to Georgetown.     

So… should we grab a snack at Fletcher’s, paddle back and then drive to Georgetown for dinner? Or should we exceed the expectations of an Olympian and go for bust – paddling to dinner in Georgetown?     

 Georgetown it was.     

Locking up in the heart of Georgetown

Paddling to dinner
We spied steeples as we approached the city and wondered how many people on the historic canal had identified Georgetown’s skyline that very way.     

After being photographed by half a dozen surprised pedestrians, we reached Lock 4, in the heart of Georgetown. Todd locked up the kayaks, as you would a bicycle.    

Minutes later, we emerged onto M Street – Todd in cut-offs, I in my workout clothes clutching a half-eaten quart of blueberries and a life vest. Not exactly what you wear to split the vegetarian sampler at Zed’s Ethiopian Cuisine. Damn…    

So we went someplace else that I can’t mention because my new dietitian knows about this blog.  (We had lunch at Zed’s the next day.) 

Over dinner we concurred that paddling into Georgetown for dinner is exponentially better than driving in.    

After perusing an art gallery, we raced the sunset “home,” paddling those 4½ miles like mad and stopping only to stare down an urban doe.   

Setting out from Lock 5

As always, if you enjoy this, please subscribe (top right).
DAYS KAYAKED: 8

GUEST KAYAKERS: 3

My Shelvic Exam – Part I

Last week, just one day after receiving notification that I was the official winner of the Year of Wellness, I heard from Dave Grotto –the guy who will be providing me with “eight registered dietitian sessions via phone.”       

Dave Grotto: "Here to help!"

Already I’m confident that I will not mind paying taxes for Dave Grotto. Forget the cave name; he’s actually quite enlightened. After reading his website, I felt sort of flattered that he’s bothering with me.     

Reading Dave’s introductory e-mail, it occurred to me that this prize isn’t just about getting cash for kayaks. I’d lost sight of that recently… because the credit card bill with the kayaks is nearly due.     

Hearing from Dave made me optimistic about “My Year of Wellness” and my family’s future diet. Dave said he was “here to help,” encouraged me to get Todd on the phone for our first two-hour session, and said I was free to blog about him (even after reading my blog!).   

 Nutrition Housecall
In Dave’s first e-mail, he was all business, asking me to provide:     

  1. Pictures of the inside of my kitchen cabinets and refrigerator/freezer. He usually meets with patients for the first time  in their home environment to perform what he calls a “shelvic exam.”
  2. A completed “Nutritional Housecall” questionnaire. This requests my family’s chief dietary/health concerns; my medical history; information related to vices, exercise, sleep, daily activity and stress factors; and a lengthy part about my eating habits. This will help him tailor a complete dietary program for me.
  3. A picture of me wearing a form-fitting, single layer of clothing plus measurements of my neck, stomach and butt. (He actually wrote “butt,” so I knew we would get on fine.) He calls this “a tool to measure progress.” I call it “embarrassing.”

So, today I began work on Item Number 1.      

My Shelvic Exam
Who would have guessed that embarking on My Year of Wellness would result in me nearly losing an eye and almost throwing up three times?     

I decided that making a quick Flip video of the fridge would be better than a photo and the next best thing to actually having Dave here.     

Before filming, I decided it was time for an epic fridge cleaning. Todd agreed to participate. (Remember, a Scout is “helpful… obedient… and clean.” Since the fridge hadn’t been cleaned like this in some time, it was convenient that a Scout is also “brave.”)     

 Highlights of the Fridge Cleaning     

Does anything really get "crisper" in that bin?

The “Rotter” lived up to its name. A few years ago, after getting a label maker, I changed the name of the “Crisper” bin to the “Rotter.” Does anything actually get “crisper” in that bin? No. Here’s what happens in that bin: You put in fresh vegetables and salad and the next time you look in there, you find scary, soupy madness in a bag. Today’s scary, soupy madness featured a half a cucumber that I can’t even think about without gagging.     

I found condiments nearly as old as my youngest child. (She turns seven next month. Enough said.)    

Bag 1 of 3: Nothing here was older than our children.

I put myself before the planet. I was unable to recycle some food containers because if I’d had to dump out some of that stuff I would have become physically ill. 

 I nearly put out an eye, touching a wet sponge to the fridge light bulb. (Pop.)
 
My dog’s life was momentarily in danger. Actual conversation: Me: “Should I give this to the dog?”  Todd:Yeah… if he won’t die from eating it.” Me: (Pause… toss in the garbage.)   
 
So, Part I of my shelvic exam is complete. The video has been sent. Next up: Part II – The Pantry.
 
As always, if you enjoy this, please subscribe (top right).
 
DAYS KAYAKED: 6 (including a sunset/moonrise, after-dinner kayak trip with Todd last Saturday)
 
GUEST KAYAKERS: 1 

It’s Official!

 It was confirmed yesterday that there are ants in my minivan.

 Also, I received notification that I’m the official winner of the “Life… supplemented $10,000 Year of Wellness Video Contest.”

 Oh. Thank. God.

 …since I already spent the money, told everyone I knew and started this blog about winning.

Will the kayak/prize money arrive before the credit card bill?

 Take the “Confirmation Reaction Quiz.”  To celebrate, I invite you, dear 24 subscribers (and the 16 of you who were mysteriously referred to this blog yesterday by the “Obama Scandal Exposed” website), to live vicariously through me by taking the “Confirmation Reaction Quiz.”

This quiz is based entirely on information in my confirmation letter and/or gleaned from Google searches using the names of my future dietician and life coach. Imagine the choices you might make given the information in my confirmation letter, then contrast your choices with mine. (Since this blog lacks a quiz “widget,” allow me to clarify that, in all cases, my correct answer was the last.)

 Question #1: When will the $5,000 check arrive?
(a)    In 4-6 weeks
(b)    Before the credit card bill (with the new three kayaks on it) is due
(c)    After the credit card bill (with the three new kayaks on it) is due
(d)    If the answer isn’t (b), who really cares because my family budget is screwed

 Question #2: How much of the $5,000 check does my accountant say I can actually spend?
(a)    Half of it.
(b)    All of it. (Survivor Richard Hatch didn’t pay taxes, so I won’t either.)
(c)    None of it.
(d)    $1,675 of it.

 Question #3: What is the coolest thing I found out about the dietitian who will provide me with eight phone consultations?
(a)    He was the national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association for six years.
(b)    He invented Flintstones vitamins and can arrange for me to get a year’s supply of just Bettys. (OK, that’s not true.)
(c)    He published a book on nutrition and knows Montel Williams. (I swear I did not make that up.)
(d)    He attended The Second City in Chicago.

 Question #5: What did I find most interesting about the life coach who will provide me with six phone consultations?
(a)    She and I used to have the same career.
(b)    She’s Martha Beck, and she can’t wait to tell me, exclusively, why she wears a candy necklace. (Again, not true. But a girl can dream, can’t she?)
(c)    She’s in her thirties, single and without kids – therefore highly qualified to counsel me on how I might have had more fun in my thirties.
(d)    She’s had repeated surgeries for a benign brain tumor. (Here’s the weird thing: my mom died 20 years ago from a benign brain tumor. So maybe there’s some cosmic reason why my life coach is a brain tumor survivor.)

 Question #6: Who should I hire as my personal trainer?
(a)    A trainer at my current gym.
(b)    A pro who can give me affordable lessons in something I’ve always wanted to learn, like tennis.
(c)    Prince Daniel of Sweden. (Wikipedia’s “personal trainer” page lists him as one of seven “notable personal trainers,” and I’ve decided that I must have him.)
(d)    There is no correct answer. I have no idea who to hire. What would you do?  The only criteria are that this that person has to cost approximately as much as a gym trainer, and I get to see him/her weekly for six months. And, obviously, he/she has to be an exercise specialist of some kind. And he/she can’t be located in Sweden. But he/she can be Swedish. And he/she may wear a crown. If he/she chooses to.

 Please provide your personal trainer recommendations in the comments section. And, as always, subscribe (top right) if you enjoy this blog (and understand that it has nothing to do with exposing an Obama scandal).

 DAYS KAYAKED: 4 (including one romantic sunset trip with just my husband)

Christmas in July, Under the Evergreens

“Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” Some people know that as the Scout Law. I know it as my husband. Todd is an Eagle Scout who started working for the Boy Scouts of America two days after he graduated college, more than 20 years ago.  

 There’s really not a word in the Scout Law that doesn’t apply to him. Seriously. (And, for what it’s worth, I’m grateful on a daily basis for my insanely good fortune.) But for the sake of this blog post, allow me to focus on the word “thrifty.”  

 The afternoon after I picked up the kayaks, “the boys” (Todd and our 13-year-old son) arrived at the location of our riverside rendezvous. They burst from Todd’s car to examine the kayaks – still bound to the minivan roof and looking radiant.  

 Having just returned from a week at Scout camp, Todd wasn’t so “clean.” But the guy is always thrifty. That’s why I really can’t describe the joy of watching him step back to behold his new, quality, touring kayak – a Perception Carolina 12, one he never would have purchased for himself – and the Yakima roof rack system that will make transporting all this gear a cinch. This guy lives for this stuff. But he would never justify buying it. Not when his 19-year-old canoe is still serviceable. Not when he can borrow a good roof rack when he needs one. Not when there are college funds to grow.  

 It was so appropriate that Todd unstrapped those kayaks under some towering pine trees, because it might as well have been Christmas for him. That memory, for me, will remain a highlight of winning this contest.  

Christmas under the evergreens

 Within an hour, our entire family was suited up for a two-mile kayak journey on a tidal, flat water creek that feeds Virginia’s James River.  

 Both girls delighted in having boats that, for the first time, allowed them to reach the footpegs and propel their kayaks with greater power. Even our 55-pound hound mix, an avid boater, came along for the inaugural family kayak trip. He was between my legs, in one of our older kayaks that has a gaping cockpit.  

 Todd was the last to launch and as he came gliding up behind us I heard him declare, “Love it! I love it!” I thought he was talking about our whole family being out there in kayaks. To my surprise, he was celebrating having a new, fast, smooth boat that held its line effortlessly.  

 Save your kids from nature-deficit disorder. Care to follow our example and, as Richard Louv says, “save our children from nature-deficit disorder?”  

 Here’s the kayaking gear we have and where we got it:  

  •  Two Old Town Voyagers (11’1” sturdy recreational boats with a large cockpit for easy in and out; these were our first two kayaks, thoughtfully purchased two years ago; they remain terrific boats, if a little heavy)
  • One Perception Carolina 12 (Todd’s new touring boat, 12’ long; being “thrifty,” we snapped up a demo model (gently used at 10 demo shows) and saved more than a hundred bucks)
  • One Perception Tribute 12 (I think of this new boat as “mine”; a touring boat designed for smaller paddlers, light enough for me to carry and the cockpit is lower at the hips for an effortless stroke; our nine year old can reach the footpegs in this one, however, so it’s hers until she grows)
  • One Perception Acadia Scout (designed for kids, this 10’ basic boat has a capacity of 150 pounds; it weighs only 25 lbs. and our girls were launching it and carrying it with ease; a lovely little boat the kids can grow with)
  • Assorted paddles (three Carlisle Day Trippers, one Bending Branches Sunrise and one Bending Branches Splash, a kid’s paddle, for our youngest)
  • Yakima roof system (featuring the Big Stack as well as lock cores so sketchy people don’t take the system off our car in the middle of the night; we live in a city)

 Every bit of this – old and new – was purchased at Appomattox River Company, the largest canoe and kayak specialty store in the country. These folks even sold Todd the 19-year-old canoe I mentioned in our winning wellness video. They have expert staff, great prices (cheaper than the retail prices on the hyperlinks) and they’ll cut you deals if you buy used or demo boats and/or multiple boats.  

 As always, if you enjoy this, please subscribe (top right).  

 DAYS KAYAKED: 2

Inspiring others… to enter contests

Already I’m an inspiration. In the “Year of Wellness Video Contest” finalist interview, I apparently demonstrated my “enthusiasm for engaging other individuals in a Year of Wellness.” Sadly, all I’ve inspired so far is a fervor among my friends and family to enter contests. One good friend says she can’t see a rooftop kayak without thinking about my win. So she was driving, heard a radio call-in contest for Counting Crows tickets and was inspired to try her luck. She won. And she and her teenage daughter are going to the show this Wednesday.

 Then there’s my 70-something dad who was inspired to enter some huge contest that Shell Oil is sponsoring. I think it’s called the “Guess How Glad We Aren’t BP?” contest.  Well, it turns out the offer is “void in Puerto Rico, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia and where prohibited.” Like me, Dad lives in Virginia. And he was so ticked off, he wrote to his state senator demanding to know why he wasn’t entitled to a shot at five years of free gas plus an Audi Q7 or S5. He told me last night that he hasn’t heard back yet. I told him he ought to write Shell instead. It’s their contest, after all. Then, in the spirit of wellness, I encouraged him to bike the four-mile loop around his neighborhood. (Seriously, I did. And, seriously, he won’t.)

 Waiting. In the movie treatment of “My Year of Wellness,” there will be a montage at this point. A series of shots will show my empty e-mail Inbox (a cursor patiently blinking), the silent phone on my kitchen wall and the mail slot in my front door, perfectly still. The background music will be the Jeopardy theme song.

 The 30-second montage will end with me, sleeping in bed. The camera slowly tightens on my face and at the very moment that the theme sounds its “boom… boom” conclusion, my eyes pop open in panic. 

Yes, dear 21 subscribers, I still haven’t heard back from Steve, the sweepstakes guy. It’s been 11 days (six business days) since I heard first heard that I was the “potential grand prize winner” and faxed back my “winner” affidavit. This is a wee bit concerning because….

 We now own three new kayaks. On Friday, I picked up three new kayaks and all the accessories. The “boys” (my husband and son) were at Boy Scout camp so I took the girls to pick up the boats. Sixteen-year old James and another capable young guy in a Bob Dylan tie-dye ably installed the new roof rack and loaded them up.

 Driving home, we cruised through a McDonald’s drive-thru. (I know, I know… but I haven’t been gifted the nutritionist yet, so cut me some slack.)

 “Look how cool our car looks!” exclaimed my six year old, admiring our minivan’s reflection in the storefront glass.

 “It looks so happy!” agreed her big sister.

 Indeed, it did look happy. And, I have to tell you, I pretty much felt like we’d won the contest that that point. It all started to feel very real. So I called the friend whose Facebook post alerted me to this contest and just gushed my thanks. I seriously can’t believe we have these boats because we never would have bought them if it weren’t for all this.

 Tune in tomorrow (if my workload allows) to read about the boys’ reactions and our first family excursion.