Frenetic Fitness

fre·net·ic /frəˈnetɪk/ done very fast and with a lot of energy, often by someone who is in a hurry.

Archive for the category “Family”

College: It’s always something

Mac Fail

This morning I got a call from the small one, not terribly unusual, she texts or calls quite often. Today she was in a panic that she had fried her Mac desktop. I’m no good at tech support and I’m really no good at Mac tech support. The incident led to a discussion about the very good, very fast, very reliable and very heavy laptop her grandparents gave her for Christmas last  year. It’s so heavy that she’s having difficulty lugging it around campus and she’d like to have a smaller notebook. We aren’t even to her first winter break yet and I can tell we are headed into four years of issues that will require the shuffling of money and reorganization of our payment plan for college. Fortunately I recently attended a day long session about the Arkansas 529 college savings plan also known as The GIFT Plan. Less fortunate is the fact that I have not made the most of that savings option over the years I’ve had the account. I’ve heard stories of parents completely funding their children’s higher education and even having funds left over while taking advantage of being able to deduct their principal deposits to the account off their Arkansas state tax returns. I have not come close to saving that much, but this weekend I learned that I can still take advantage of many of the benefits while saving as she’s still in school.

Four year university study has been the choice of all our kids, the youngest is just beginning her journey. Adults with a bachelor’s degree earn 62% more than peers with a high school diploma. But, if any of them had shown interest in a trade or apprenticeship program, we would have encouraged that too. The beauty of the GIFT Plan is that it will help save for many education options including trade school, community college and traditional university study. There is easy online enrollment.

I’ve done some things right, I’ve used the option of saving through Upromise and shopping through the website when I make purchases online. I wish I would have set up more regular deposits into the account to build principal faster. I also wish I had asked friends and family to make contributions to their future with UGift on birthdays, holidays and special occasions.

UGift

For many of them it would have helped with their tax savings while doing something good for us. One of the many benefits of the GIFT Plan is the Arkansas state tax deduction and estate tax advantages.

“If you’re an Arkansas taxpayer, you can deduct up to $5,000 (up to $10,000 for married couples) of your GIFT Plan contributions from your Arkansas adjusted gross income.
You can contribute up to $14,000 (up to $28,000 for married couples) per designated beneficiary each year to your GIFT Plan account without incurring federal gift tax consequences. And you can contribute up to $70,000 per designated beneficiary in a single year (up to $140,000 for married couples) to take advantage of five years’ worth of federal tax-free gifts at one time. Withdrawals used to pay for qualified higher education expenses are free from federal income tax, so more of your savings can go toward paying for college instead of toward taxes.” from the GIFT Plan 

My plan for the next few years is to save as much as I can in my 529 account. I also plan to give every new mom I know an information packet and a check to start an account for their new little bundle of joy.  I’m going to shop through Upromise to get cash back on the purchase of the long-johns the kid needs because it’s colder where she is than it is here at home and then I’ll research laptops through the cash back options on RewardU through Upromise that includes vendors like the Apple Store, HP, and Best Buy.

 I participated in a free educational financial planning workshop sponsored by the Arkansas State Treasury and Arkansas529, but all opinions and recommendations in this post are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

Peace Beneath the Stars

Sixty-one days after we drove away from the Sunderlin Hall dorms and the campus of our youngest child’s college home, the child returned home and she and I were sitting in camp chairs beside a fire that took far too long to build and stoke. We roasted hotdogs and talked about all that has transpired in the sixty-one days since we last sat down to eat dinner together. There was no wait staff, no noise from the kitchen, I wasn’t busy running back and forth between the stove and the table. Serenaded by the crackle and pop of the fire, we marveled at the sizzle of the grease droplets as the hot dogs oozed down to the burning wood and anticipated the much looked forward to ceremony of The Blowing Out of the Fiery Marshmallows. We needed this because sometimes in our hustle and bustle world it’s necessary to stop and listen to nothing more than the crackle of the fire and to each other. We were hoping to find a piece of peace in our busy lives. What better place to find it than under the stars?

Want S'more?

Want S’more?

We were only an hour from home, surrounded by the rich Ouachita National Forest and the Flatside Wilderness Area. Being the first weekend of muzzleloader season we were concerned enough to find a place to camp that is far off the Ouachita Trail, hoping to avoid most of the hunters.

The other girl of the house, our dog Hobo, was with us too. Luckily Hobo is not much of a barker. Most of her intrusions on the peace were due to us calling her back when she wandered a bit too far for comfort. We talked about school, studying, bonfires, creek swimming, classes, fear, roommates, jealousy, rats, bus schedules, the future, and cafeteria food. Just the normal conversations one has with a new college student.

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Hammocks were hung, dog beds were made, fire was roaring, and it was just us girls with a few bugs, crawly critters, probably a few hunters not far away, and one scary something that half barked half screamed in the wee hours of the morning resulting in a barking dog with her fur up. She tried to crawl into the hammock with each of us in turn, but eventually the scaredy-dog went back to sleep in between her protectors.

We woke to a crisp fall morning. I made hot cocoa in no time with our trusty Jet-Boil. Then I got the bright idea to heat up our now stale donut holes in it. It worked. Hot stale donut holes were much better than cold stale donut holes.

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We took our time packing up, planning to attempt a hike on the OT with an orange vest at the ready for the dog and orange flags for our backpacks. Alas, as we traveled down closer to the trailheads near Lake Sylvia we could tell by the number of vehicles and full campsites that the woods were full. We chose instead to follow the Flatside Wilderness Scenic Drive, much of which is familiar to me from the Full Moon 25/50K Trail Run and from our mountain bike forays in the area. The roads are rough, the hills are steep, and driving can be a challenge. I let the small one take the driver’s seat and we drove on, stopping at the overlooks to check out the views. We talked about “going off the grid” and living a less hectic lifestyle. I doubt that will ever be in the cards for me, but for my kids, I hope they find a way to escape if not as a full-time lifestyle, at least on occasion. How else will they find peace?

 

 

 

 

Grounded

I’m sitting in the lobby of an Asheville hotel in the middle of the afternoon sipping red wine that’s been chilled a little too long out of a coffee mug so as not to alarm the hotel staff. The small one is upstairs in our room taking a nap. She was up late last night, spending a good part of it watching the birth of a litter of 11 piglets. How did it come to this?

A couple of years back our family chose Asheville, North Carolina as a vacation destination hoping to take advantage of the hiking and mountain biking opportunities. At the time, the young one was just beginning high school and we took a couple of hours to check out the local college campus to continue giving her ideas about what options she should be looking for in a college home. She didn’t fall in love or even in like with the  UNC-Asheville branch, but she did fall in love with Asheville. A year ago we happened to invite a friend of mine along for a trip to a music festival. The subject of college came up and my friend asked if we had heard of Warren Wilson College near Asheville. I didn’t give it much more thought but the small one started researching and soon, we had a request from her to make a visit back to Asheville in the autumn so she could see the campus in person. Long story short, we’re back in Asheville for our 3rd visit because in 143 days, we will be returning with the small one and her luggage to help her start the next phase of her life, making a home and getting an education in one of the most beautiful settings in the south.

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We’re back for a second visit to the school now that they have committed to each other. While she was hanging out, making a few new friends and learning a little more about her future home, I took to the trails. With 25 miles of trail around the 900 acre campus, I had plenty to choose from. I thought I’d go for a run. I felt like I should run. I needed to run. But as my shoes hit the dirt I realized that my head and/or my heart was not in it. My thoughts were racing and I suppose my heart was much heavier than my feet. I found myself watching the flow of the Swannanoa River beside me, trying to find the peace that should be there.

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Isn’t that why I love being outside? Normally, that’s where I find my peace. I watched my feet on the dirt and I had to wonder if she would be here in my steps a few months from now, searching for that peace. When classes are overwhelming, when there are roommate issues, when there is boy trouble,  when her heart feels like mine does right now, will she ground herself in this beautiful creation and find what I have often found there? Will she quench her thirst at the spring of mother nature?

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I hope she does. I dream she does. And that hope lightens my load. So I start running…

You Fail, Toys R Us

Last night we were sitting still long enough to watch a 30 minute sitcom. Normally we try to skip right through the commercial breaks but for some reason we were watching when an ad came on showing a school bus with Meet the Trees Foundation on the side. A guy in a uniform I suppose was meant to resemble a generic park employee ensemble is at the front of the bus showing flash cards of leaves to a group of kids who look like they’d rather be cleaning their rooms than be on that bus going to visit the trees. Then fake Park Ranger man shouts that it’s just a ruse, the bus is going to Toys “R” Us.  And the bus erupts with cheers.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5SXybm6bss
My husband and I sat there in stunned silence for a moment. I think our mouths were hanging open in anticipation of the tirade about to spill out from the anger this ad sparked in our bellies. How dare a toy store that sells a load of plastic crap made in China imply that nature is boring and should be avoided in favor of video games and fluorescent lighting! Your message, dear corporate conglomerate of pavement, parking lots and plastic crap, is just one example of why our kids are overweight and undereducated about the world around them. You are feeding a generation of young ones a plate full of empty ideals, encouraging the apathy that leads to the pollution of, destruction of and lack of connection with nature. In short Toys R Us, you suck. The goal of a good advertising campaign is to set trends, to tell people what is cool and hip. You’re telling kids that Mother Nature is the outcast kid, the one that no one talks to or sits with or picks for teams. She’s the kid that the school bully trips in the cafeteria. She’s so uncool, that you rejoice when you’re told you don’t “have” to play with her or invite her to your birthday party. Shame on you.

I Don’t Beat My Wife

The other day we’re sitting at a table in the middle of the Little Rock Climbing Center talking to a couple of friends from Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters about how in the world the man and I got caught up in this whole idea of Arkansas Outside. The concept seemed practical a couple of years ago. We were participating in a lot of events ourselves and writing race reports or blogging about them anyway, how hard could it be? We had know idea. It’s brutal. This month I will be spending exactly one weekend sleeping in my own bed. I don’t mean that I spend a single night of a weekend away from home, I mean for 3 weekends in a row, I will sleep Friday and Saturday nights in a lodge room with a roommate, in a tent with my family or in a hammock under the stars.

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Somewhere in between going to, writing about, taking pictures of, participating in and trying to continue to train for races, we try to have a life not immersed in bike grease, dirty chamois or discussions of missing toenails. We often fail.

So while trying to explain the hectic schedule of day-jobs, family life and Arkansas Outside, and to explain how I ended up in this boat that is always in the midst of a maelstrom with my spouse instead of it being HIS project as was initially planned, the man decided the best explanation was one that gives insight into how our marriage works.

“I don’t beat my wife, I just sign her up for 50K’s.”

45K and still smiling

45K and still smiling

The Dreaming

I love quotes that wake me up, that force me to be sentient of what is happening in my life. This morning I saw this quote re-posted on the Facebook wall of a woman I admire and it struck me in a way it never has before.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. ~Henry David Thoreau

Which then made me think of

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~Edgar Allan Poe

I find myself at the ripe old age of 4mumblemumble5ishmumblesigh still wondering, still fearing, still doubting. I look into that darkness every day and catch myself wondering if the life I lead is the fulfillment of my dreams or is there more? Those thoughts aren’t necessarily bad, we all want things in life, we all want more no matter what we have in the here and now. No, what disturbs me more than anything is that while I wallow in this place of wonder, fear and doubt, I am responsible for leading another soul through this life. My deepest wish for her is that she is able to Go Confidently in the Direction of Her Dreams. How do I teach her to reach for the stars when my feet are so firmly planted on earth?

I hope your dreams are as big as your heart

I hope your dreams are as big as your heart

Wordless Wednesday

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Pieces of You

This week we made a visit to my sweet Baboo’s parents. When deciding what we needed to pack, the first things mentioned were bikes and the stand up paddleboard. The folks live on a small lake and have great mountain bike trails within a few miles of the house too so it makes sense. The man loves to play outside and every visit we have with his family involves playing outside together and stories about playing outside when the man was but a boy.
As we sat on the dock watching the sun skip across the smooth green water, sipping cold beer in the heat of an Alabama afternoon, stories were shared of long ago sailboat races on the lake. Reminiscences of the Sunflower sailboat that still sits on the dock, waiting patiently for a stiff wind and a brave soul to guide her across the lake, inspired us to leave the easy laziness of dockside chatter to lend ourselves to the freedom of waterborne vessels. My father-in-law, AKA Grampie, joined me for an easy stroll from one end of the lake to the other, chatting about the beautiful house on the opposite side of the lake that he admires from his boat and chasing herons together.

Paddlin' with Grampie

Paddlin’ with Grampie

Each time we visit I get to hear stories that give me insight into why my man loves to be outside so much. There are stories of driving through the Canadian Rockies in the camper on the back of an old truck. There are stories about the move up from the camper to the Winnebago that seemed to be constantly in need of repair which just sounded like a good excuse for father and son to go sit out in the driveway to me.  There are stories of camping with family, camping with friends, seeing the country from inside and outside the windows of those campers, watching the countryside roll by.

And then there are the stories of the water. The stories of watching his dad ski in Montana, wearing a wetsuit because he just needed to be out there skiing regardless of the cold temperatures. Part of our visit included some time picking up items that had either been in storage or needed to find a new home due the parent’s recent move and downsizing from two homes to one.  One of the items the man really wanted were the skis he used when he was a boy. You see, Dad instilled a love of being in and on the water in him that lasts to this day and those skis remind him of happy times on the lakes of his childhood.

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They look like skis but they’re really planks of memories.

His mom is a memory keeper too. On a pocket door in the house there is a measuring stick for the Grandkids. She keeps her memories in sketches and photos, boxes of homemade and store-bought cards, small paintings and crafts that she’s collected over the years. She also kept the first planter she bought for the man’s bedroom some 51+ years ago and now, it finds a home with us, ready to hold a plant. Or maybe something else.

The Measuring Door

The Measuring Door

At some point toward the end of our visit, the man turns to me and says “Don’t you get tired of hearing these stories over and over again?” “No”, was my reply. You see each and every story, good and bad, funny and sad, gives me a piece of you I didn’t have before.

My Family is Walking Dead

And eating well.
We watch too much TV. I am quite sure that we don’t watch as much as some, but for me it’s still too much. We often miss out on “popular” shows when they first come out. Unless it’s a BBC show on PBS Masterpiece like Sherlock  Holmes or Downton. I admit I am just about over the latter, it jumped the shark when they killed off Sybil and Matthew in the same season.Spoiler!

The big guy & I watched season 1 of Walking Dead when it came out but then I went on one of my “TOO MUCH TV” rants and cancelled our Dish service. We missed season 2 completely so we lost interest in season 3. Recently the small one asked to watch it on Netflix and I can’t believe it but a Zombie series has become our family TV time. Never mind, yes I can totally believe it, because that’s the way this family rolls.

I go to bed early to get up for my morning workouts so I’ve had to figure out how to squeeze in that hour to sit down to watch an episode. Part of me wants to go all out like I do at Halloween and make meals centered around Zombie-Ish stuff. Spaghetti becomes guts, tortilla strips make great bandages for hot dog fingers, and for the grown ups I’d make a southern comfort based punch called the “Daryl”.

So to save a little time for more zombie action,  we’ve been making our favorite Relish recipes again.

Asian Salmon with Jasmine Rice and Peas

Asian Salmon with Jasmine Rice and Peas

Flank Steak with Honeyed Carrots and Snow Peas

Flank Steak with Honeyed Carrots and Snow Peas

No BRAINS! for us. No sinewy muscle parts or gnawing on fleshy friends, just good old fashioned, pre-apocalyptic food. If you want more time to spend watching zombies or something actually educational on TV, if you want time to play a board game that makes your brain bigger for when the zombies come to eat you, if you want to fuel your body so you can outrun the zombies, use the Relish Meal Plan Button in my sidebar and get 15% your service. Do it now, before it’s too late.

My Kitchen Laboratory

I’ve been kvetching about my need to streamline meal planning at my house. What I’d really love is for a reality show called “Pimp My Kitchen” to choose me for a kitchen makeover that included either a live in chef or one of those Star Trek/ The Jetsons deals where food miraculously appears behind a little cubby door.

Pretty sure that’s not going to happen so I’m dealing with finding ways to make life in my kitchen more like Nigella Bites and less like Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.
I’ve been using the Relish meal planning for a few weeks. So far so good! Every meal from the plan has made it onto the family’s “I’d eat that again” list. One of the first dishes we tried, salmon with a fruit salsa and boxed couscous with a little extra homemade touch added was one of our favorites.

Salmon with Kiwi/Mango Salsa and Parmesan CousCous

Salmon with Kiwi/Mango Salsa and Parmesan CousCous

I made this beautiful Chicken with Snow Pea stir fry a little less caloric by reducing the amount of cashews and increasing the snow peas, which we love.

Chicken with Cashew and Snow Peas

Chicken with Cashew and Snow Peas

We’ve definitely had less waste of fresh produce, and I’ve cut my trips to the grocery store down significantly. I think we’re saving money but that might take a bit more time to prove. I know we’ve been less tempted to eat meals out. And since I try to pay attention to what I’m shoveling in my piehole, I like that all the recipes have complete nutrition info and many of them have weight watchers points listed. Each week’s choices include some lower calorie options if that’s important to your family.
Here’s the deal, if you’d like to try it for yourself, Relish is offering FreneticFitness readers 15% off their already reasonable pricing. Click the button and use the code Frenetic15 to get your discount then get to cooking!
Relish!

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