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Life in the woods, in pictures  

Has it only been 5 months? 

   

           

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I miss photo albums. I miss those envelopes with the photos in front and the negatives in back. Sigh.

No, I don’t want to go back to where paper was the only option.  I like deleting with a single key stroke those pictures that make me look fat. I like holding a thousand memories on a single page I can scroll through. I’m talking about a nostalgic feeling for a time when “scroll” meant something about Egyptians.

Years ago I decided that photo albums were for suckers (so overpriced) and started putting pictures in shoebox-like “photo-boxes”, where they subsequently languished.  After my recent move, I vowed to go through my photo boxes and at least make them easier to peruse and enjoy. (That is code for: get them out of the damn envelopes, line them up in those boxes in such a way that they can be flipped through, and put the negatives into storage. Honestly, if I haven’t searched for a negative in 25 years, will I ever?) This process has unearthed some lovely gems, but also a few mysteries.

For example, behold a charming scene featuring myself and my adorable siblings. And on the left side of the photo (all on one piece of card stock)… wtf? Mrs. Rohrbach? Our terrifying school principal?  NOOO!  Why??

photo - family, and ?? mrs rohrbach

Let us move beyond this disturbing apparition to a picture that warms my heart. This is my mother (right) with her niece and best friend, circa 1931. My mother lived with her sister’s family for several years during the Depression. This resulted in her not starving to death.

photo - mom with rena 1931

Never fear. When a photograph begins to pull you down, there is sure to be another that lifts you up. No names. You know who you are:

 

photo - s, t

Ok. Next. Now, who are these people?  My photo boxes are filled with mystery guests like this. Note to the wise: label the backs of your photos; I know you think your children will remember these people but trust me, we don’t.

photo - who are they?

The other thing that fills my photo boxes are these childhood shots that are unbearably sweet.  Before the heartaches, bereavements, and wounds that balance out the exuberance of childhood into that thing we call Maturity, this is who we were and what we had. And that is point of taking photographs in the first place.

photo - cutest babies ever

 

 

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I’m sure I will have bad days ahead, where bears scare me, the septic pump fails, or a tree falls on the chicken coop. But the honeymoon in our new house is sweet indeed!

Running this morning on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail I came across…
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I do believe that is a beaver dam. I have never seen them in Washington, though I knew we had them.

Coming back up my hill I saw my neighbors Peter, Paul & Mary (as I have named them). Mary is hanging back. She’s still shy with me…

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And The Supremes…

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As I ascended up my hill out of the fog, I wondered at the beauty of the sun in the forest. Our forest. Do we really get to live here?
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The sign behind Sunny reads “Stewardship Forest.” The previous owners participated in a Federal program that no longer exists, which was to encourage native tree planting on private lands.  They planted over 2,000 trees on this property. Little seedlings that now stand at 4-7 feet among the “second growth” trees.

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WOODS!!! Lots and lots of woods.  Also moss.  Creek whispering, owls hooting, fireplace crackling…   Did I mention moss?


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Unlike certain other individuals who were visiting Grandma, we did not go over the river etc. for just a social call.  We have moved!

Our new home is lovely and peaceful, and every day I keep expecting a bill because it feels like a vacation home to be here. Feels like a vacation home, not a vacation! From about two weeks before the move (mid November) until now I have been so swamped with chores, problems and thousands of little tasks that my “real life” has disappeared. I am just now seeing it peep around the corner at me — it is possibly considering accompanying me here at the new house.  In celebration, I hereby blog!

Family and pets have settled in nicely.  Between the fireplace and the heated floor in the bathroom, Pilot has officially become the laziest cat in King County.

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As musicians, the Mr. and I are loving how this house will be a great place for playing, teaching, ensemble rehearsals, and (when the weather warms up) making music en plein air!  The house was even once owned by a famous musician. I cannot say who lest some creepy internet person might google it and start sending us fruitcakes or other intrusive communications.

May you enjoy your own version of going over rivers and through woods during this holiday season.

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“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” -Love Story (that was a movie, for you younger readers). Well, it’s a ridiculous quote if you ask me. A person you love should be the first in line to receive your mea culpa if one is merited.  Nevertheless, what is unworthy of true love may actually make sense to blogging. So here is my non-apology for radio silence. Good lord, has it really been over 7 months?

 

The joy of my life since January has been… my new dog.  Sunny is a nine year old Border Collie whose former owner passed away.  A dear friend, who owns Sunny’s sister, introduced us and worked diligently to arrange the adoption. Running buddy, house protector, cat wrangler, and affectionate companion… these roles scarcely begin to represent how much he does for me and how deeply I adore him.

This adoption was a perfect example of that bumper sticker that reads “Who rescued who?” (Don’t you just want to get out a marker and add that “m”? Arg!) What a smart, sensitive, and helpful dog he is.  It was only after he had settled into my home and heart before my friend gave me his papers, and we discovered that Sunny is the grandson of a champion Border Collie named Stetson! We have no sheep in our HOA-controlled neighborhood, but Sunny’s smarts and intuition are daily proof of his heritage. It is as if he can read my mind sometimes.

Sunny watching over Pilot, Pilot stealing Sunny's bed.

Sunny watching over Pilot, Pilot stealing Sunny’s bed.

And now that I have a dog (drum roll please), I feel safe enough to run trails!  So much fun.  The peace and beauty of trails, and their strengthening effect on my legs have been such pleasure.  In spite of TWO bear encounters in the past month, I am as enthusiastic as ever.  It is therapy. It is the anti-treadmill.

 

My greatest accomplishment of my life, the raising and homeschooling of my daughter, is nearly finished.  This past school year (her junior year) has been busy and fulfilling.  If you do not know much about homeschooling, let me just mention that nowadays there are so many people doing it, so much curriculum to choose from, and so many opportunities for educational experiences, that only a part of the business gets done at home.  It really should be called “home-based instruction,” which is in fact what the state of Washington calls it. Yes, we do let our kids out of the house!  (I know that is the number one misconception of homeschooling, the S word.) Anyway, we have one more year to teach, facilitate, guide and support her at home. What a privilege.

 

And in the world of harp… oh my, yes – it is a harp blog. OK. For some reason, I always think this is the least interesting topic that I talk about.  I practice, I perform. I teach a bit.  Not much to say about it all.  I don’t talk about the zen mind required for plucking a perfect harmonic or the best way to make string ties because I can just see my non-harpist audience surfing away.  I don’t blog about my clients or the people I meet, in case it violates their privacy. But perhaps I should make more of an effort to include musical topics. We’ll see.

Nevertheless, since my last foray into Blog Land there has been one important development.  A new harp.

Pilgrim Clarsach

Pilgrim Clarsach

I long to avoid a lot of  blah-blah-blah about the how and the why of getting this new instrument, so I will just say that this is a replacement for my Thormahlen Swan, which is now for sale.  Details upon request. 😉  The new harp, a “Clarsach” made by Pilgrim Harps in England, has a lovely, very Celtic tone, perfect for the Scottish music I play.  This model was originally designed for Derek Bell of the Chieftains, though it has undergone a few minor revisions.

I will be playing this new harp at the Skagit Valley Highland Games on July 12 at 10:25 AM.

I still play at the Black Dog in Snoqualmie every Second Sunday (mostly on my pedal harp, but occasionally on the Celtic harp). That is a brunch performance, 10:30 to noon, and all proceeds still go to Pasado’s Safe Haven Animal Rescue and Sanctuary. I will continue to appear through October, then I plan to take a break from this gig until next spring.

Music I have been working on lately: Medley of tunes from the film Titanic, When You Wish Upon a Star, Glenlivet, Flowers of the Forest, and Beauty and the Beast (for a wedding client).

My great, mysterious challenge and goal for the remainder of 2014: make more YouTube videos of my music! Great, because it would be so helpful for my clients, and mysterious because I cannot figure out why I’m stuck and not doing it!

For now, cheers!

We love those trails!

We love those trails!

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We interrupt our regular Harpist’s Output of Sweetness & Light to bring you:

  • explicit language
  • unpleasant truths about what you probably ate for breakfast
  • an unpopular point of view on exercise
  • stuff I like about one guy who is saying what I already knew but with more blushing (me, not him)
  • lots of bullet point lists, exclamation points and italics! Sound fun? Let’s go!

The Background:  I’m not sure I have ever mentioned this, but I have strong opinions about what I eat.  I switched to the Paleo Diet in 2006 and added low-carb to it a couple of years after that.  The benefits I have experienced from this switch could take up an entire post. “Eat this way!” is at the top of the list of things I would tell my 18 year old self if I could go back in time.

I will admit that I have not been completely faithful, because you do not walk away from decades of consuming something more addictive than cocaine overnight.  I struggle. I fall and get up again. But I have no doubts.  Like Gary Taubes says, “Just because it took me 19 years to give up smoking doesn’t mean the body ‘needs’ cigarettes.”

The Discovery: So there I was, Low-Carb Paleo True Believer, running down the street while listening to podcasts, and I hear this guy, Vinnie Tortorich being interviewed.  To be honest, my first reaction was not positive. His macho-Italian voice made me think unkind thoughts.  But everything he said was brilliant and I soon shed the prejudice.

Another day, another run, another interview on a different podcast I like – there he is again!  This time I’m listening well right from the start… more good advice and sound reasoning.  Now, I spend a lot of hours running (yes, without sugar), and I am always interested in new books or podcasts to occupy my mind.  That afternoon I subscribed to Vinnie’s podcast and downloaded a number of the older episodes as well.

Before I continue, if you are sensitive to bad language, crude and vulgar jokes or you’re just easily offended in general, this is not a show you will enjoy. Or a blog post for that matter.  Don’t apologize; I respect your sensibilities and often feel that way myself.  Stick with Jimmy Moore or Robb Wolf  and you will get a lot of the same information without the hot sauce.

I often want to swear and tell people off myself.  But I was raised to be a lady.  By the way, it is said that one of the foulest mouths belonged to one of the world’s finest harpists ever, Alice Chalifoux.  I sat across from her during lunch at a conference once and heard her refer to a group of people as “those bastards.” Mild, for her I’m told. She was in her 80s at the time.

Getting mad: Vinnie (may I call you Vinnie, Mr. Tortorich?) is  “American’s Angriest Trainer.”  He calls himself that because “your good intentions have been stolen from you.” So true.  Ask me about an entire year spent being hungry every day on Weight Watchers, long ago.  Or the fat I gained trying to eat like Ornish.  Or the “cheat foods” I tried to work off by running.  I had good intentions too.

Vinnie rants a lot.  Honestly, I love the rants…  Biggest Loser starvation nonsense, clueless “trainers” at gyms, the tip jars at Starbucks, and whatever pisses him off — I love it.  The INTJ in me craves truth and justice, and I sometimes wish I could say “go fuck yourself!” like Vinnie does, but for the aforementioned lady-like upbringing.   Vicarious venting, that’s what it is.

Anna: Anna Vocino, Vinnie’s cohost,  gets me laughing so hard with her vocal impressions (she does a great Paula Deen).  She contributes in so many ways, keeps Vinnie on track (or tries to), and looks up information on the fly during their discussions.  And how cool is it that her name is “Vocino?” Doesn’t that mean “shout” in Italian? Go, Anna!

Content: Vinnie knows his stuff — except for the moments when Anna has to look it up.  Just kidding – he is a well-educated man and has decades of experience coaching people.  But unlike 99.9% of the coaches you meet, he questioned the low-fat, low-calorie paradigm, that monster born of the McGovern commission’s decision to put wheat profits above human health in the early 70s.  Vinnie was taught that dogma, but he eventually questioned it, and he embraced an unpopular truth – with bared teeth.  There is a great value in the polite, scientific voices you will see in my bibliography, but Vinnie is the first bulldog, in-your-face, you-wanna-piece-of-me? warrior for the cause.  Bravo.

By the way, if you are scratching your head over that reference to McGovern, take a moment to watch this:

Here are some of the things you will learn about on Vinnie’s show.  If you just want read about these things without the vitriol, see the bibliography at the end of this post.

  • Successful weight loss will come from 95% diet, 5% exercise.
  • Avoid sugar and avoid grains. (Personally I also avoid potatoes, legumes and other high-carb foods, but most people will experience a dramatic change in their health if they only do these 2 things.)
  • “Put life into living.”  Occasion treats will not harm you if they are really occasional.  Total deprivation doesn’t work well for most people.
  • You cannot undo the damage of whack-load of sugar with an hour or two at the gym. Hormones (insulin, leptin, ghrelin) rule.
  • Cutting carbs is important, but what people really have a hard time accepting is increasing the fat in their diets.  Not seed oils.  Olive oil and saturated fat (especially from pastured animals) are good for you.  The cholesterol theory of heart disease is founded on politics and economics, not science.
  • There are no fitness shortcuts.  No gadgets, no 20-min-a-week programs, no pills that will make a lasting difference to your fitness.
  • Sometimes people aren’t right about fitness. They just seem right because they are young, or “naturally thin.” Ask yourself whom they have helped and how long the help lasted.
  • There are right and wrong reasons to exercise.  Which reason you choose is going to determine your success.
  • Juice is worse than soda. Don’t make it, don’t buy it, don’t drink it.
  • Skinny does not equal healthy.
  • Getting older is no excuse for poor fitness.
  • A “cheat day” is a bad idea, if you haven’t already figured that out.
  • Olive oil, yes. Energy gels, no.
  • A very small percentage of the population can sustain an extremely-low-calorie diet for life. Very small.

Connections:  Vinnie, on the off chance you ever read this, I want to explain the real reason I love your show (besides the ranting) and eventually came to feel like you were a close personal friend: connections.  (Yes, more bullet points!)

  • Los Angeles – I love hearing you mention places in LA, around where I grew up. Not that I ever want to live there again!
  • You are an endurance athlete. I’m not sure if you know this, but among the Paleo-diet crowd there is sometimes a bit of an anti-cardio attitude.  They call it “chronic cardio” and blame various health issues on running, while completely ignoring the fact that the running culture is a sugar culture.  Although you are not advocating the Paleo diet, what you say is pretty close, and I am always so happy to see those two worlds “collide.”
  • You are over 50! I am over 50!  [Insert secret handshake here.]   How many role models can I look to for inspiration, when it comes to staying fit and feeling younger than my years? Damn few.
  • Ok, this one is just jaw dropping to me.  You talked about Dr. Sarno’s book on your show.  Nobody talks about Dr. Sarno!  I even stopped mentioning him to people because I got tired of being unjustly pitied as some kind of quack-follower.  Someday I’m going to write a blog post about my experience with TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome), but for now let me just say that this information saved my running and changed my life.  It is real and true.  I am living proof.
  • You are friends with Genie Francis!   No, I am not also friends with Genie Francis.  But long ago, for a short time in my life, I was her double.  I lived in West Hollywood, and I could not go anywhere without someone asking me for an autograph.  In spite of repeated correction, the two elderly Russian women next door ambushed me almost every time I came out of my apartment. They would take my hands and pat them and gaze at me, smiling, muttering to each other in Russian.  “I’m not Genie Francis.”  “Yah, yah…”

Here are some pictures. You be the judge. And tell Genie “Hi” from me.

A younger me, looking like Genie Francis

A younger me, looking like Genie Francis

Young Genie Francis, looking like me

Young Genie Francis, looking like me

You can find Vinnie’s podcast on iTunes under “Vinnie Tortorich”, or at his website: www.vinnietortorich.com

Almost forgot the promised bibliography!  I have decided to borrow one, which you will find here, because 1) it has a lot of the books I would have listed, and 2) he has a really cool site you ought to see.     Update, December 2016… I see my link no longer works. I have written a new bibliography in this 2016 blog post which you will find at the very bottom of the post.

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You have probably heard it before… Which weighs more, a ton of bricks or a ton of feathers?  This trick question (a ton is a ton, so they weigh equally) takes on a grim angle when it is a metaphor for life.  All those light, fluffy, snow-white obligations can pile up fast, and before you know it you are wishing you had just picked one plain old brick to carry on your shoulders.

It is wedding season, and we are feeling it!  Brides, I know some of you are contemplating elopement (and possibly subsequent life as a hermit) about now, but hang in there!  Take some time to relax every day and try to laugh as much as possible.  Maybe this will help:

 

My ton of feathers this month includes 1) a completely new set of strings (new brand, for me) on my Celtic harp that are not working out as expected – and of course my contact at the company who is helping me figure it out has gone to Scotland for a two weeks. And  2) we are replacing the carpet in my harp studio with a wood-laminate floor. All the furniture and harps have to be moved out and physical chaos reigns. Thank goodness it’s temporary.

 

In running news

I continue to build mileage for my fall marathon.  Most programs take a runner up to 20 miles, but I learned long ago that I need more than that.  In fact, I prefer to keep my 20 milers going year-round, and increase to 22, 23, and 24 in the last 6 weeks of training.  Last week, as the weather was heating up I headed out for my 20 miler.  I knew it would be tough; I don’t “do heat.”  I’m lucky if I can avoid getting nauseous while running when the mercury goes over 70F.

So I was darn proud to be chugging along just fine — albeit slowly — in 75F and bright sunshine, 10 miles from home.  Only it wasn’t 10 miles.  Thank you, Hot Weather, for turning the part of my brain that does math into mush.  I mis-calculated my route and ended up with 21.3 miles total, and an excuse to spend the rest of the day on my…

www.someecards.com

 

 

Good luck with all your summer plans, bridal or other, and watch out for those feathers!

White peacock

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