Words, Words, more words…

I have been reading a book that explains how to become a better writer. The book, Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Hardy, details what it takes to…well, the title explains it all. Yes, I am probably one of the few remaining nerds that still find satisfaction in rummaging through the library bookshelves to find the perfect book. I had to hurry out the door when the librarian told me I could check out 30 books at one time! Admittedly, I have checked out this book once before. Hence, as you will notice in the coming sentences, I never finished it. I think I even had to pay a late fee.

In any case, this particular book says I should write at least 30 minutes a day. It does not matter what the subject is, how the words are formed, or even if it just makes sense (or non-sense in my case). The idea is to write. Get the words out of your head and onto paper. It also says, “Our writing can make us look smart or it can make us look stupid. It can make us seem fun, or warm, or competent, or trustworthy. But it can also make us seem humdrum or discombobulated or flat-out boring.” The reason I have had such a hard time writing this year is exactly this reason! I felt words had abandoned me. It was no longer fun or witty; it felt like a job – a boring, everyday mundane job. I am sure most of you can relate because you probably have, well, a boring and mundane job! After all, not everyone can live their dream or even work their dream! I was dealing with this whole writing issue on top of the fiasco with the bathroom remodeling I told you about last month. If you forgot about that whole mess of a life, you should reach back to this story here, Some Challenges Are Not Planned. If there is any story that made me look and feel stupid, it was this one. Talk about putting your trust in people and having it trampled on – along with stealing your money! I do not think anything can make a human feel more stupid that that! 

Anyways, I have been practicing that concept of writing 30 minutes a day but what I wrote is not what I wanted to post. It goes back the above statement where your writing makes you seem humdrum and boring. I felt it was dry, brittle; kind of like the limbs on my lime tree right now. That is not my vision for this blog. I need a little more spice in my life and my reading.

Now, here it is, two days before the end of the month and I still have nothing to post. I reached out to some friends…ok, so it was only two friends, but who’s counting…about what I should write. No offense, Karen and Christine, but you are my wing-ladies and really my only sources of creativity at this point in life. Christine thought I should write about “Balancing Life”. Perfect idea since I have a huge disability with this! A.N.D. since I have not completed any Bucket List items this year, my sources are rather limited. Even though, I still have a gift certificate Christine got me for Christmas to drive a racecar on the Richmond racetrack. Umm, I need to mark that on the non-existent calendar I have for all things fun and adventurous.

Well, that was two days ago and still nothing to post! Yesterday, I spent the majority of my time in bed, with a horrible cough that made my insides feel like they were going to explode and a headache that made my head feel like it was on fire. After all, I have been battling bronchitis since Memorial Day! Should I mention that I was also up all night with these symptoms and a dog that was having pretty much the same kind of night?! It did not take much convincing to call my boss and tell him I would not be at work. 

Anyways, Christine’s ideas sounded like a good one; until I sat down to write. I will put that topic on hold for another day when words do not want to reveal themselves. Today, it is all about Words, words, and more WORDS! Today is really the last day of the month though!

What do you consider makes a good story? How do you write a good story? Where do your ideas come from? Do you really look at the present and past tense of a sentence, the preparatory and non-preparatory statements, or the conjunctions of a word? I learned all those things in Middle School but do not dare ask me to recall what all those things are today. I was good at recognizing them but age has taken hold and my memory does not serve me well. I think my brain freed up space for the less important things in life: cooking, cleaning, and managing a full time job and other people’s schedules. You know the drill ~ at least any adult should. I was excited when I read Chapter 3’s title, Shed High School Rules! Then I realized it was really talking about the paragraph structure and not necessarily the sentence structure. Guess there is going to be a lot of Googling in my future!

Wait! I just discovered Microsoft has this thing called Smart Lookup. If you’ve been reading my blog then you already know I’m computer illiterate. Honestly, I don’t know how my boss puts up with me…I the ability to crash Microsoft Excel better than any test dummy in a fake car. Sometimes, I crash it on every click of the mouse button! Anyways, if you turn on Smart Lookup and right-click on a word (literally), it will find things on the internet related to your “word”! This is how I discovered that Wikipedia defines morphology as “the study of word formation and structure.” You would think I was dissecting something as if I were actually in a science lab! Wow! There’s even a movie called “The Words” with actors and actresses I’ve never heard. Ok, before I continue down this rabbit hole, let’s just get to the point…not sure that I really had one but…

The point is…WORDS! Everybody has them! They may not sound the same from person to person. You know this first hand if you’ve ever said something that someone totally misconstrued what you said. They may not look the same when written on paper. Honestly, how many languages are there? I can barely speak proper English let alone trying to speak another. They may not have the same affect (or is it effect?) for each and every one of us.

Words provide different feelings for different people; whether spoken, unspoken, or written. Think about it! The word love when spoken may leave you feeling happy. When it’s displayed through an action, for instance a hug, may leave you feeling warm and cozy inside. Then when it’s in writing, may put you in tears; much like that fancy Romance novel you’ve been reading. At times, words may leave us speechless. Other times, we say more than we should. Remember that last argument with your spouse or significant other? Yeah, we’ve all been there, I’m sure! The point is, we all have words. It’s the way we use them that truly makes an impact on our audience. Ann also tells us “you’ve got to choose words well – and write with economy and style and honest empathy…”. Afterall, everybody has feelings…ok, maybe not, but Everybody Writes!

The Wave Crashers Return

Emily and I had our second surfing lesson with VA Surf Sessions. Wes couldn’t join us on this adventure so my friend, Christine, joined us as a new “Wave Crasher”.

Last Sunday, I did not apply any sunscreen to protect against the rays. The backs of my legs were really burnt by the end of the day. To avoid a repeat of that day, I had Christine spray the backs of my legs with 50 spf sunscreen. We were provided a rash guard shirt for the lesson. After filling out the required paperwork, we chose our boards and sat in the sand to listen to the brief.

This weeks lesson consisted of seven participants. I was a little concerned that there were so many people as I was under the impression that there were four surfers to a lesson. Our instructor for this lesson is Charles. He has 13 years surfing experience. He took us through this rather entertaining introduction and repeats surfing terminology similar to last weeks lesson. He was a rather funny guy and very entertaining. He had an assistant, Josh. Josh is 18 years old and only has one year experience. I explained to Charles that my niece was very nervous about surfing. Therefore, I was a little apprehensive when he sent her off with Josh for a little one-on-one experience.


Unlike last weeks lesson, we all sat on the beach while one group went out to surf. We rotated throughout the two-hour lesson. I felt this method did not provide adequate time for getting comfortable with the water or to help Emily get over her fears.

On our second ride out, I passed Emily to Charles so that she could use his expertise to get comfortable and hopefully have an enjoyable ride. As they make their way out, Christine is already on her way with Josh. I, on the other hand, struggled to get past the break. I kept crashing into the shore line. The waves on this particular day was tumultuous or so it seemed. It must have been a comedic sight because the dads along the beach were laughing at my every attempt to get past the break. Finally, I am past the break! That took forever. I decide that this is going to be the wave. Okay, maybe not this one! Well, not that one either. But the next one. Yep, that was it! I finally rode my first wave! It was awesome! Exhilarating! Exciting!

There were two young boys that were part of our group. Tyler, from St. Louis, Missouri and Maxwell from Norfolk, Virginia. The boys were amazing. They took to the waves like experts. I talked extensive with Tyler and he began to tell me all about his four year old niece that surfs really good. Four years Old! I can’t even stand up on the surfboard. I can only imagine that she was his inspiration for learning how to surf. Unfortunately, he tells me there are no waves to surf where he is from. I hope he continues this adventure. It would be an awesome experience to be able to share this sport with his niece as they grow through the years. I wish I would have had a video or more pictures of the two young boys to share with you. It was great to see them try surfing for their first time.

Also apart of our group was Kim and Leslie. One of them came all the way from California to visit the other. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which one. I really enjoyed talking with the two of them. Like myself, they seemed to struggle with the waves. It was obvious they were having fun with their experience. I even surprised them by take a few videos for them to share their experience.

Before I knew it the session was over. I was feeling a little disappointed because I did not get the experience or time on the surf that I was really hoping for. On the other hand, Charles provided some insight that helped me to ride my first wave. It was a nice experience but I really wanted more time.

The next day, I woke up with this horrible rash on the back of my legs. I could only guess it was from the sunscreen. After a few days, I decided to go to medical to have it evaluated. The doctor was stumped and had no clue to what it could be. She prescribed some steroids with hopes it would take care of the issue. Luckily, it did and I did not have to see a dermatologist but it is odd that it was caused by a sunscreen that is suppose to protect you from the elements. I am so thankful to be past that misery!

I feel so fortunate to be able to share this experience with my husband and friends. I feel especial important that my niece wants to join me on this journey. I am so grateful for the time we spend together. After all, she is a teenage and most want to spend their time with friends and doing things that friends want to do. God has truly blessed me!

“There are so many different elements to surfing. Small waves, big waves, long boards, short boards. This makes it a sport you can share with people. It’s not just a solitary thing – it’s become a family thing, too. It’s about exercising and passing something on from father to son, and from mother to daughter.”
~Kelly Slater

Wave Crashers and Surf Rider

July’s adventure was all about water sports. Surfing, to be specific! I think I may have found my new addiction. The best part is, I get to share this adventure with my niece, Emily. I feel like the luckiest aunt in the world.

I have been trying to find ways in which I can connect with my nieces and nephew. They have lived apart from my husband and I almost their whole lives. Yet, I still look for things that we can share together.

For Emily, it is our desire to be adventurous. We both want to learn to surf. We both want to learn to scuba dive. We both want to go tubing and climb mountains and hiking! She is only 13 and is willing to experience all these things with her Aunt Dee.

We took our first surf lesson together with VA Surf Sessions in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I was really calm leading up to the day of our lesson. As the time approached for the lesson to begin, I was getting butterflies in my stomach. I soon realized that Emily, too, had those same butterflies. She was really nervous but excited. I was really excited that she had joined Wes and I on this adventure.

I have always admired the ocean, the waves crashing to shore, the smell of the salt water. I grew up on the Gulf Coast and grew to love the feel of the ocean breeze. Standing there on the Virginia Beach shoreline, known as Croatan, memories flooded my brain. I envisioned myself riding those waves like the surfers do in the movies. I quickly learned, it does not happen like it is portrayed in the movies.

Our instructor was Bryson. He was extremely knowledgeable. He had been surfing since he was 8 years old. He has an opportunity to go to Africa and teach surfing once the season turns cold here. That’s an awesome experience for such a young man. Anyways, he went through all the steps of describing the waves, the rip currents and what to do if you get caught in one, and practicing how to land on the board.

It’s time to hit the waves! We get out pass the breaks and take turns riding the waves. Getting past the breaks was our first challenge. I soon realized that I needed to add more shoulder and arm workouts to my routine. I was amazed at how fast I fatigued just paddling out for the first wave event.

First up is John, an addition to our group. There are typically four people to a group. John does really well but I can’t remember if he rode his first wave. Wes is up to take his turn on the wave. He, too, does really well. After a few attempts he is up and riding like a professional. He is our “Surf Rider”! As much as I admire Wes, he annoys me with his ability to accomplish things so effortlessly. I wonder if his skateboard days has anything to do with his ability to surf so easily.

Emily’s turn! She attempts to stand up but soon falls off the board. She tries again. She is able to get on the board in a squat style attempt but not really able to stand up. I can see fear in her face as she tumbles, like a tumbleweed, to shore with waves crashing down on her. I saw her go under a wave and felt a panic inside me. She surfaces and I see she is okay. I worried that it would scare her away from trying again. We talked a little about how important it is to keep trying; to get over the fear so it doesn’t entrap your being. Even with her fear, she decided to go out and try it again. I was so proud of her for not letting fear take over!

Now, it’s my turn! Bryson pushes me off with the wave and I miss my opportunity. I try again, and again, and again. Each attempt was much the same as the last. I felt frustration creep up inside me but was determined not to let that take over the fun I was having. It is a new experience and I was determined to enjoy it to its fullest! I never really did stand up to ride a wave. The waves seemed moderate but they were difficult to ride. Like Emily, I did more tumbling and crashing into the shore line than actual surfing.

Well, the fact that Emily and I were never able to stand up and catch a wave did not detract from the extremely fun day we had. It was a blast! We laughed off the day with naming ourselves, “Wave Crashers” and headed for lunch at Waffle House and indulged ourselves with my first taste of Sweet Frog ice cream before heading home.

We ended our day of adventures with an agreement that we would get out to try another surfing lesson together!

“Surfing big waves is not an extreme sport to me. I fall off, tumble down, and come up. My heart’s racing because I’m thinking I almost drowned, and I thank God I can breathe again, but I always think, ‘What am I hitting?’ Water.”
Paul Walker

What adventure will it be?

Why does everything always have to be an obsession with me? Everything I do turns into this over-the-top, meet the extreme obstacles event. I did it with my college education, with running, and now this Bucket List Challenge. As my obsession grows, so does the cost of the adventures that I want to take part in. I really should have kept my job at the YMCA to help pay for some of these adventures.

After our whitewater rafting trip last month, I decided to make July the Water Adventure Month! We are two weeks into July and I have endlessly researched water events. Yet, I have not solidified which adventure I will take part in.

First, I checked into scuba diving lessons with Chesapeake Bay Diving Centers. I am a certified scuba diver (of sorts!). I achieved my qualification through IDEA while stationed in Puerto Rico. However, I have not been on a dive the whole time I have lived in Virginia (since 1996). I feel I should probably recertify. In my telephone interview, I discovered that Chesapeake Bay Diving Centers offers certifications through Scuba Schools Internationals. Since I am, technically, qualified, I can get a thorough refresher by auditing one of their classes, pool session, and open water session for $200. My next option was to attend a beginners course. This is probably my best option since I struggle with any activity water related…umm, still training for that triathlon. It consisted of three-3 hour sessions for $300. However, there is a mandatory Lake Phoenix checkout dive bringing the total cost of the course to $500. These cost do not include the cost of any equipment you may need for the course. The upside to this is you receive a $25 credit if you purchase these items through them.

My next challenge was sailing lessons. I discovered that the naval base offers sailing lessons. Again, it’s not a cheap thrill. It is $25 per hour for a minimum of 8 hours for private lessons. That’s a total of $200 for private lessons. The other alternative is a two-hour lesson for $50 per person.

Then I checked into parasailing and surfing lessons. Parasailing with Adventure Parasail was a tiered flight pricing. A 600-ft flight was $80 per person, 800-ft was $85, and 1000-ft was $90. They do have discounts you can take advantage of but I recommend calling them. The flight length is 10 – 12 minutes with the total boat tour lasting approximately one hour. I was excited to hear that the Captain would video the excursion if requested. They would also take pictures. It consisted of an SD-card at $33 for up to three people or $35 for four or more. Additionally, they take polaroid pictures for $11.

I was really excited to see that VB Surf Sessions offered a reasonable rate for their lessons. A private lesson is $99 for 0ne-2 hour session and a group rate of $79 for one-2 hour session. After that, I could rent a board to continue to practice for anywhere from $20 – $30 depending on how long I wanted to rent the board. I am in luck because they have a session on Sunday. My niece, Emily, really wants to learn how to surf so I already have a companion to go with me! That is the true bonus right there!

So what adventure will  I choose? If I were to choose right now, with availability and funding probably surfing. No, I think parasailing because it would really test my fear of heights. Then again, scuba lessons would allow me to swim with the dolphins…maybe?! I know it will definitely not be sailing because all the classes were full. BUMMER!

Tune to find out which adventure won the raffle. I think I will just pin each of them up on a dart board, throw a dart, and see which one wins!

Vitamix: Natural Facial Mask

I have this extreme love for my Vitamix Professional series 750. I know that seems strange to some. I do love it more than any other appliance in my house. In fact, it is the most used (and some days the only used) appliance in my house. The recipes that can be created with the Vitamix are endless. You can make smoothies, frozen desserts, confection sugar. It can make HOT soup. Yes, that is right! HOT soup! Anyone that knows my affinity for soup will understand my excitement that comes with this feature. It can also clean itself! How many appliances do you have that can clean itself? I will get more into how that happens later on.

Before I get into the review of this recipe, you should probably have a little back story! It starts with how I have battled rosacea for many years now. This is partly my fault. I never really take good care of my skin; face or otherwise. I am always the one to go out in the sun without sunscreen. I never drink enough water…EVER! In fact, I get up just in time to throw some water on my face, brush my teeth, and run out the door for work with a cup of coffee in hand…by this time I am usually at the point where there is no way I am going to make it on time. The other half of this story is that I also battle hypothyroidism. That alone can leave your skin dry, often cracked, and flaky. I refer to this as “dandruff of the face”! Disgusting, isn’t it?

I was searching for some new recipes to try and found this recipe by Vitamix.  The website states, “with banana, plain yogurt and avocado, this all-natural facial mask will tighten pores and firm skin”. It consisted of three ingredients: 1 banana, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, and 1 avocado. I broke the banana in half and put it in first. I added the plain yogurt. Finally, I cut the avocado in half. Set the seed to the side and took the avocado out of the peeling. I put this in the blender. The recipe indicates to blend for 30 seconds or until desired consistency is met. I found that I had to do this several times to get the smoothness that I wanted. I must give a warning that this recipe makes about one pint of product.

Now that all the blending is done; it is time to lather it on my face. I put a good lather on and let it set until it was completely dry. Thank goodness my husband and sons were not home. Can you imagine the comments that I would have received walking around with green goop on my face? Being comic book junkies, I would probably have been deemed the female version on the “Hulk”. Because I lathered it on thicker in some areas, it took a little while try. I recommend staring with a thin layer if you are short on time. Luckily for me the weather was not conducive to being outside so I was stuck cleaning my bedroom. Otherwise, I would not have taken this much time to let it dry. I’m just being honest! I hate being indoors. It is a waste of a perfect day to enjoy what God created for us.

Anyways, the facial has dried and it is time to removed. I must add that I could really feel the mask pull and tighten on my face. It was an odd but pleasant feeling. In the removal process, I decided to use an loofah type washcloth. I used this because my skin was extremely dry and needed to release some of the dead skin. It had an exfoliating effect. I only dampened the cloth, used the rough side to remove the mask. I felt a difference right away. My skin felt really soft. I then took the cloth side and finished removing the leftover product. I was amazed at how my skin felt on just one application. Later on, at bedtime, I felt some of the dryness return.

Now, I do not take one application as an indicator of its powers. I like to try products several times before throwing in the towel. I have used this product three times and each time my face feels better. I still have the blotchy redness created by the rosacea so I am looking for something that will help in that area. I can not put the fault of that on this product as it is designed to tighten and firm the skin. I tried this for the dryness because I felt the avocado would provide the moisturizing affect I was looking for.

A few things I think the recipe card should have provided:

1. It should indicate approximately how much the recipes makes. The amount I made out of this recipe would last me months. Unfortunately, it will not last in the refrigerator that long.

2. Speaking of refrigeration time. How long does it last in the refrigerator? I put it in a pint mason jar and used my FoodSaver to vacuum as much of the air out possible. I hope this helps it to last a little longer.

3. List other uses for the product. This is essentially food that can be used as a facial cleaner. Can I use the left overs in food products? For example, in oatmeal, adding some granola, etc. By the way, I made sure to set aside the portion I was using for my face so as not to contaminate the rest of the product with skin cells of sorts.

Let me know if you decide to try this recipe and what results you achieved from it. Share some of your favorite recipes and I will give them a try as well.

Happy blending,

D.