Come See My Hometown – Barter Theater – Abingdon, VA

In 1939 a fellow named Robert Porterfield decided to re-frame the arts scene in the small town of Abingdon, VA, located half way between Roanoke, Virginia and Knoxville, TN forever. His idea was to establish a playhouse where local folks could take in some of the great playwrights of the world. When he started this the area around my hometown was still trying to recover from the great depression and on the cusp of World War II, so economic times were difficult. His brainchild was a place where potential theater-goers could barter for their admission, with vegetables, fruits and livestock

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Thunderhead and Stormy Skies – Skywatch Friday 10 June 2016

For Skywatch Friday. If you have never looked you should!

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Why I Don’t Write About Harambe, Cecil or Trump and Other SEO Lessons

My Facebook is littered with memes about the Gorilla that was recently killed at the Cincinnati, Ohio zoo because a young child managed to find his way into the animal enclosure. While this is indeed a scary example of why having wild animals in such close proximity to humans is risky, people are up in arms on both sides of the issue.

In my opinion there is fault on both sides. Number one why were the parents not in more control of their son? My wife and I have raised two children and taken groups of children to the zoo before and have never had a problem. Number two, how in the world did a four year old defeat the zoo “security” fences. If a four year old can master this feat  imagine what a field trip of Kindergartners might mean.

But I digress from the subject of my post. I am not breaking my own rule about choosing not to write about this type of event, I just had to get that five minute commentary out of my head so I can keep the other good stuff cooking. So why do I not join the masses in stuffing my pages with stories about Harambe, Cecil and Donald Trump? SEO, that is why.

What is SEO? Oh my word, if you are a blogger, even a semi-serious one you have to know about SEO. IT is short for Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Optimization means that when you title your post you find the sweet spot as far as the way you attract people searching for your topic. One of the biggest keys to getting your previously posted work relevant is to write about topics that do not have a limited shelf life.

Think of the phrase “fifteen minutes of fame”. Sure Harambe and the Cincinnati Zoo are all the rage today, but who remembers when Cecil the Lion was shot by the dentist? It was a huge deal for a wek or maybe two, but now? Eh, we are a fickle lot. It doesn’t;t take much to wrench our attention away to something else.

You think Donald Trump has staying power? Only if he manages to win the 2016 election. Otherwise he will join Mitt Romney as a jeopardy politics trivia question answer. The same goes for Hillary Clinton. One of them will become irrelevant on November 9. Sure, plenty of words will be written between now and then about them, but I plan to keep collecting eye balls for my writing for years to come.

Okay I see you nodding your head and crossing your heart that you don’t care about how many visitors see your blog posts. You are fooling no one by claiming such. Anyone who writes does so with the desire to have their work read, enjoyed and followed. It is why Blogger, WordPress and other sites spend so much time quantifying your numbers for you.

The key to success is writing about “evergreen” topics. What is an evergreen topic, you ask? It is something people will search for on Google and every other search platform across the internet. My flagship evergreen post is one called Growing Wave Petunias. I posted it on May 19,2013. Since then it has collected 1,271 views. How do I know that? WordPress gives you this number in the data with the post.

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Granted the interest in this post is heavily centered on the March to June timeframe, but I don’t know many people who will scoff at 12-20 visits for a post every day of the week. I also have two other posts that seem to have staying power, called The Best Annuals for Hanging Baskets, Part 1 and Part 2. While they aren’t gangbusters, it has taught me about how to title my posts.

Google, the authority of all things internet has SEO tools to help bloggers succeed in this never ending chase for viewers. One of my favorites is the Adwords site. If you want to see what people are searching for you can go to the site and type in your keywords and get the combinations most searched.

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In my example I searched for homemade Christmas ornaments. It is no surprise the most interest for this topic is in October, November and December. You will also notice that the phrase Christmas ornaments gets a high amount of traffic. If you title your post with Christmas ornaments somewhere in it you are likely to see traffic.

Using another tool by Google I can prove the validity of Trump’s short shelf life unless he can mange to capture the keys to the Oval office. This chart shows the amount of interest in Trump from 2004 through today, June 3, 2016.

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Here is the same analysis about The Force Awakens, the long awaited seventh chapter of George Lucas’ space odyssey.

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I want my writing to stay relevant for longer than either of these two subjects. Unless I was to feature it on a subject specific blog, such as a movie review or television show review where it would be part of a larger collection and thus become more of a repository the idea is to make it open-ended in its appeal.

So I guess what I am saying is take Harambe, Cecil, Trump and all the others that fill up the 24 hour news cycle while I dig deeper for my evergreens!

 

 

 

 

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Numbers – WPC – 3 June 2016

Seeing everyone’s choice of response for the Weekly Photo Challenge is an exciting part of ending each week. This week we trade letters for numbers. My approach will be unorthodox I am sure, but numbers are unorthodox for us writers anyway!

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In January I finally decided to change one of the longest running numbers in my life, namely the amount of years I had delayed beginning a hobby I had wanted to enjoy for almost three decades, model railroading. I took the leap in a big way, buying track, rolling stock and an engine. What I did not immediately appreciate was the number on my engine, which I call Mary Kate, for a reason you might guess.

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Of course you can see the 245 underneath the window of the cab. Each engine you see on your local rails will have a unique number so it can be identified by the railroad company. The interesting thing is that every replica engine and car manufactured for the hobby has a unique number too.

Here is some train cars I bought from eBay that are part of the Southern Railway delineation and each has a unique five digit identifying number. All five of mine are part of the 74000 series, which may not always happen if you buy the cars piece by piece. I am not a purist at this point in my brief journey so that is not as big a requirement as it might be to some others in the hobby.

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These seven cars were purchased at the first train show I attended over in Asheville, North Carolina in March of 2016. Tomorrow I will get to attend my second, in Johnson City, Tennessee at my alma mater and school my son will get a degree from in May and hopefully my daughter will in May of 2016, ETSU. Here is another number for you, the Mountain Empire Model Railroaders will boast 64,000 square feet of model railroad gear, layouts and a steam engine display.

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If you want to know more about my train adventures please visit my train oriented blog, Alpine & Clinchport Railroad.

I will be looking for your numbers now that I have mine ready for your perusal.

 

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Come See My Hometown – Plumb Alley Day – Abingdon, VA

IMG_20160429_171643855_HDRWithin the hills and mountains of Southwest Virginia, not West Virginia, now, but the west end of the Commonwealth of Virginia, there is a small town named Abingdon. Each Memorial Day weekend on Saturday about 20,000 people swell the town’s population to enjoy a one day festival called Plumb Alley Day. Plumb Alley is a narrow lane that stretches most of the way through Abingdon “Plumb from one end to the other.”

Along this stretch of paved path you will find all manner of folks enjoying the beginning of the summer season. From yard sales to bake sales, kettle corn, Revolutionary War re-enactors and more the citizens come out to share the day. It is one of the highlights of my year, especially in a way of kicking off summer. Over the years I have taken part in multiple ways, including setting up a vendor location to sell greenhouse plants.

For 2016 I will be leading an effort from our church to provide a large scale outreach to our community. Plumb Alley Day is a great vehicle for trying such an outreach due to the nature of the event. You have folks from all walks of life and reaches of our region that attend.

Our location will be mixed among many others with varying purposes, all there due to the perfect mix of people wanting to share what they have and those wanting to receive what is offered.

What follows is photos I have made of my 2016 Plumb Alley experience.

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Spare – Weekly Photo Challenge 27 May 2016

This week the Weekly Photo Challenge theme is Spare.

There is three definitions of spare to choose from for this challenge. I chose the first, an adjective form : Additional to what is required for ordinary use.

 

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In the past I have been known to plant a big garden. It is one of the thing I love the most about summer. Sometimes I plant too much and cannot enjoy it all. I usually plant watermelons, which I did, but I hardly ever plant another member of the melon family, the Cantaloupe. It is not that I do not enjoy the Cantaloupes, I certainly do, but they just don’t do well for me. As it happens I got a tray of plants from my daughter’s boyfriend and decided to plant only the largest plants. After doing this I am left with a few to spare and replant if the others falter.

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My other spare is an extra couple of Blackberry Lily plants that have found their way outside the bounds of one of our flower beds. So far I have been careful not to catch them with my trimmer when I am cutting the weeds, but I hope to transplant when they grow a little bigger.

What is your ideas for spare? I will be looking!

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Walking at Sunrise

I have been waking early lately and grabbing sunrise pictures to share for Skywatch Friday.

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Then this past Saturday, when we had a huge graduation party planned we were watching the sky very intently and had to sit through multiple rains showers.

Created for SkyWatch Friday Meme.

 

 

 

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Jubilant – Weekly Photo Challenge -20 May 2016

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My daughter and her lifelong best friend were so jubilant about finally celebrating the end of their high school careers.

 

The Weekly Photo Challenge gives me the excuse to share the photos I collect incessantly about every experience in my life. Yes, that is a confession, I take a lot of photos!

 

This week the theme in my world has been centered on graduation. My youngest child, a daughter, completed her high school odyssey and celebrated jubilantly with 96 other classmates at a rain free ceremony on Thursday night.

On Friday night the fourth of our church’s graduating quartet was no so lucky weather-wise as her ceremony was rain-shortened. But, she was no less jubilant about collecting her proof of completion. Little did we know the rainforest theme would carry over into the 4 kid graduation party on Saturday.

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Graduation Day 2016

In each of our lives there are days we point to for a long period of time, events we refer to as milestones, or time checks where we mentally and physically transition from one setting or perceived state to another. Today marks such a milestone in the lives of ninety-seven seniors at Patrick Henry High School in Emory, Virginia. Approximately thirty-three years ago I accepted my diploma from this school and began my own transition from being considered a kid to adulthood. Tonight my daughter will get her chance to savor the spotlight as she goes through her own high school graduation ceremony.

Three years ago I put together a similar post to this to commemorate My son’s graduation day. I enjoyed that retrospective so much I decided when this day came I would also post something for my daughter. Taking a few moments to reflect on their high school career gives you another opportunity to see how their lives were enriched by all they experienced. High school can be a trying time for a teen, but my daughter, Meredith, seemed to thrive. Perhaps it was due to not only her personality, but her willingness to plunge into every activity she could.

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Throughout all four years of her time at PH Meredith was part of the Rebel Regiment, the high school band. In fact, she got to be a part of the unit early as part of the select few eighth graders to join a year early, just as her brother had. She got the chance to get out of the stands, where she had been for three years watching her brother to out on the field with him for his last two years of high school.

 

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This is the last football game of 2012, Meredith’s Freshman year and Isaac’s Senior year. She is the trumpet player in the middle.

During Meredith’s high school career with the Rebel Regiment she got to travel all over Southwest Virginia playing at football games on Friday nights in the fall and performing in band competitions most Saturdays each October. Beyong that, though, she also got the chance to travel to the Bahamas and Chicago, IL on band trips.

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Meredith pulled double duty her last two years, putting in time as a cheerleader for football and basketball. This meant trading the hot band uniform in September for a much cooler cheer outfit. I think she wished when it all ended she had tried football cheering sooner in her career. Meredith also enjoyed singing with the high school and middle school choirs, which allowed her the opportunity to take part in the first high school musical at her school in thirty years.

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Cheering in front of the band, Meredith is in the center of the front line.

In November of 2014 Meredith decided she wanted to take part in the Miss Patrick henry pageant. If there is anything I know without a doubt about my daughter, it is that she does not crave the spotlight. If earned she enjoys it, but she does not go looking for opportunities to stick out. In my mind her reasoning for being in this beauty pageant was more practical. She wanted to give her prom dress one more night out of storage. When her name was called as the winner she was genuinely thrilled.

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During her high school career, and really for most of her life Meredith has had the joy of sharing every experience with her best friend, Alyssa. The girls have been inseparable since Alyssa’s family began to attend the same church as ours. Since then we have shared so many life experiences together we are much like an extended family. The funny thing is that Meredith actually got to hand off her Miss Patrick Henry crown to Alyssa this year.

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As a matter of fact, the girls have decided to attend the same college, East Tennessee State University so they can room together and continue to share their experiences. So many times the friendships you counted so rich in high school tend to fade as you part ways following the graduation ceremony, but this one seems destined to defy that axiom. Girls tend to develop stronger relationships so I think these two can count on enjoying each other’s achievements for a long time.

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Many of our friends have children younger than Meredith and they ask at particular events as we approach the close of Meredith’s high school career and thus the end of our eight year relationship with Patrick henry if we will miss it all. When our son graduated I did feel a sort of sadness. We have always tried to attend every event the kids are involved in. Somehow I knew that when Isaac left PH things would never be the same. But with Meredith I feel we have completed our arc at the high school level. She has taken part in so many activities and given us great memories to add to the ones her brother created.

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Art is one of Meredith’s interests and she has spent some time thinking about the decorations she wanted to have on her graduation cap. Reflecting the Christian faith that has developed by leaps and bounds during her high school career she chose you use Proverbs 31:25 to declare her faith to those that attend her graduation.

 

Perhaps the highlight of Meredith’s senior year was the mission trip she and I made to Belize. I had made two previous trips and she expressed interest in accompanying me on the next one. While this is not directly connected to her high school career, it does directly connect to the idea I expressed at the beginning about transitioning in your life from one state to another. I saw my daughter transition from a young girl to a young adult as she witnessed to mothers about the love of Jesus Christ. It takes more than just another day on the calendar to become an adult, but I feel Meredith is well on her way.

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Meredith and Chloe, a girl she met in Belize,  at Xunantanich, a Mayan ruin within sight of the border with Guatemala.

 

 

Posted in band, Basketball, Blogging, children, chorus, Faith, Family, Mission Trip, Music, Religion, Travel, USA, Virginia, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

South – Daily Post – 17 May 2016

I don’t always answer the Daily Post prompts, many times because their just isn’t enough hours in the day. But when I saw this one I could not turn away. The one word prompt is South, and I have something I want to write about.

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I was in elementary school when I purchased two books at the school book fair, one was a book about the Revolutionary War and the other about the War Between the States, America’s Civil War. I know, boys and their obsession with war, but I was young and this kind of thing fascinated me. I also had an interest in World War II for a time, but the conflict of the early 1860s was something that held my attention for quite some time and even today still draws my interest on occasion.

To be sure, this period of bloodshed and struggle was something that the United States will never forget. My home state of Virginia saw more than its share of major battles during the four years of war. The state is well below the Mason Dixon Line, which is commonly considered the break point between North and South, at least in the 1860s, so we consider ourselves Southerners.

I will not engage in any talk of how the North was wrong for this or that, there was enough blame to go around. Civilized people resolve their issues without blood running across the ground, but there was so much disagreement about everything including slavery, states rights and more that an inevitable show of barbarism was going to happen.

Today the vestiges of the Civil War remain in some Southern locales, although the political correctness movement is trying so hard to snuff them out. What will we do slowly try to erase every wrong? Does that make it untrue? We are what we are because of the good and the bad history. The South lost the war due to their inability to match up with the North in almost every area of importance, such as industrial capacity, troop numbers and military organization. But the united States of America came out stronger and more respected and in some cases feared.

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The South will always be different than other regions of the country as it should be. If you have never made a trip to the bottom half of my country you are missing a real treat. So far I have enjoyed visiting many southern states and find all to be charming in their own way. The ones I have not visited so far are: Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and more than just a truck stop in Alabama on my way to a mission trip in Florida.

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Survival – Daily Post – 5-12-16

The one word Daily Post prompt is Survival. Immediately when I read this I thought it would tie in so nicely with an idea I have been promoting as we approach the graduation of my daughter along with millions of others from high schools and colleges all over the united State and also the world. For some it is a joyous time full of fun and unbridled excitement. For still others however, it is just a matter of making it through.

Take the young woman who wasn’t quite as careful as she could have been and is now juggling a baby as she tried to nail down her diploma. Or the boy or girl that lost a parent and had to take on a job to help manage expenses at home. While the diploma is still a goal the ground to travel on the way just got a whole lot more rugged.

Still another example is the student who just doesn’t make it through every class with ease. We are all different and some strengths serve us well in particular classes, while in others we may feel totally inept. I remember feeling many times like I was the only one who didn’t get some of the concepts.

Surviving high school or college is a monumental achievement we should celebrate it as such! My son graduated three years ago and I celebrated with a blog highlighting his achievements called While a Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Boy Graduates in Virgina. In seven days my daughter will put the finishing touches on her high school experience, so I will have to get busy on a similar tribute to her experience. She is the more social, so I expect her photos in the tribute to be filled with many of her friends.

What did you highlight in your survival post?

 

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Chaos – Daily Post – 9 May 2016

The Daily Post topic of the day for 9 May is Chaos.

When I saw this one word prompt I could immediately think of only one thing that easily fit into the definition: The 2016 Presidential Primary Season and the impending General Election Campaign. What else can you conceivably think this could be beyond uncontrolled chaos. I know, controlled chaos is an oxymoron, but this whole election cycle promises to be the biggest disaster in modern political history.

 

Even though Senator Bernie Sanders remains in the democratic primary fight, I think no one considers any other likelihood than a Clinton-Trump prizefight to be the forty-fifth president of the country I call home. Let me be perfectly clear, I support a democratic method of selecting our chief executive, but the 2016 version of the process is becoming more and more embarrassing.

When I was in the midst of completing my undergraduate degree I had a college level government class and learned about the way the Prime Minister is chosen in Great Britain. I found that process to be much less desirable than ours and was happy to know we had what I considered to be a better process. Over time I have come to detest the Electoral College and its process, but the primary process is usually not so dramatic or divisive.

I have a friend at work that is not originally from the United States and he mentioned the race to me the other day when we were in the exercise room. I shook my head and told him I was embarrassed for my country that we were acting in such a manner. In all truth the president does not have as much power as we want to believe. He works in concert with Congress on many initiatives, but our American economy is so large that any action they approve takes months or even years to fully see fruit.

All the political candidates, From Clinton to Trump to Sanders and Cruz, worked overtime to try to convince you that on day one of their presidency all would be different. Well, it won’t!  In the first 100 days the energy will be there and some flash, but the real work just takes time. So do not expect the chaos to end after November 8th!

 

 

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Earth – Weekly Photo Challenge – 5-6-16

The Weekly Photo Challenge for the week ending 5-6-16 is Earth.

I love photo challenges! Basically it gives me a chance to plunge into my vast library of photos and relive moments I felt were worthy of remembering. Our instructions, as always are simple and open to our own personal interpretation. Here is what we have as a starting point: Share your vision of our magnificent Earth through your lens.

First of all I want to share three photos taken in Western North Carolina in the fall of 2015. The first shows my wife and I on a part of Grandfather Mountain, which is a local attraction near Boone, North Carolina. Grandfather Mountain is right at 5,280 feet above sea level and boasts a swinging bridge a mile high! The other two phtos were made during an anniversary trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. The bottom left photo is from Little Switzerland, a small resort-type location we stayed in for a night. On the right is Crabtree Falls, one of the many waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Parkway. An interesting tidbit is that the majesty of Crabtree was aided by the torrential rains that soaked North and South Carolina when Hurricane  Joaquin set up camp off the Southeastern United States for days, pumping record-breaking rainfall into the Carolinas.

The next set of three photos are from tropical locations. The Bahamas first of all, from my children’s 2013 high school band trip, a pier at Hopkins Beach, Belize from a 2013 Mission Trip and The Caribbean Ocean, also from the 2013 Bahamas band trip. There is so much beauty on earth and we are cheating ourselves if we don’t try to enjoy as much as possible!

The final three photos are of my personal favorite place on earth, where I live. I have enjoyed tilling the earth and planting and harvesting for nearly half my life. Gardening is not a chore to me, but a release and therapy from a job where I sit all day. The final picture is of a sunrise on one of the paths I use for morning walks. Nature’s beauty can make you breathless and is different every day.

A little more than three months ago I got a Fitbit and since then I make a special effort to get up, get out and enjoy the Earth as much as possible. You can read more about my Fitbit experience if interested here: Why Buy a Fitbit? It Can Change Your Life! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you will let me know which photos you like!

 

 

 

Posted in Belize, Blue ridge Mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway, exercise, Mountains, North Carolina, Photo Challenge, Photography, Weekly Photo Challenge, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Admiration – WPC – 4-29-16

The Weekly Photo Challenge for this week (4/29/2016) is centered on the theme of Admiration.

In my lifetime I have been blessed with so many role models. My father, both grandfathers, and next door neighbor who became like a second mother in the beginning to me and a very close and trusted friend and advisor as I matured are the people I will detail here.

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My grandfather Joe Hoss, father, me and my son Isaac in 1995

First of all, let me tell you about my dad. He was a good man, a Navy veteran and a great teacher of how to be a citizen, friend and a man. My dad was a moral man, but not necessarily a devoted Christian. He did not attend church, but did not want us to miss the chance to gain from the benefits of being part of a church congregation. I will explain how all that worked in the last section of this post.

My dad was a good husband, too. Sure he and my mom had disagreements about particular problems in their relationship or in the way the family or household operated, but he dealt with it by discussing, not using his physical strength. He was also a good son who respected his parents in all ways. He definitely deserved the admiration I had for him.

His dad, and my namesake Joe “Hoss” Owens, was much like my dad, no doubt why my dad was who he was. Granddaddy was well-liked throughout his small town of Glade Spring, VA and even to this day is recalled by people who know I am his descendant with smiles and hilarious stories. My admiration for him remains to this day almost a decade and a half after his death.

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Joy was the order of the day everyday I spent with my Granddaddy Russell.

My maternal grandfather, Ray Russell, was an exceptional man in his own regard. He was among the first generation that worked at the Eastman Chemical Corporation in Kingsport, Tennessee. Continuing an interesting theme, my Grandfather Russell was another very moral man but necessarily the church-going type. I found out that he had been at one time, but I was not bold enough before his death in 1982, when I was just 17, to inquire about this further. Granddaddy Russell had the role of Grandfather down pat. He knew exactly how to thrill his four grandchildren with everything he did. He was also the mayor of his hometown of Clinchport, Virginia in 1977 when a great flood basically washed the town away. Watching him deal with the aftermath in his soft-spoken, yet direct way only seemed to add to my admiration.

The last person I will talk about in this admiration post is the person that set me on a path to my strong Christian faith. While it is difficult to admire one person more than the others that are integral in your life, Minnie Bryan deserves one measure more due to the lasting effect and continuing reach of her influence. My mother had a professional career as a very sharp and capable nurse, so there was a need for day care from early in my life. I had another lady provide this for a small time, but it would be Minnie that would forever shape my life. She brought one qualification extra that the three men I have just highlighted did not, her unshakeable and unquestioning faith in God and example of service for Him..

From a very early age Minnie transported me to and from church. I got involved in a lot of activities with adults forty, fifty and sixty years older than me and quickly began to understand how to live God’s instructions. I feel like I earned some admiration from them as I conducted myself on a plane older than my age. But it was due to Minnie’s steady hand that I developed like this. One vital component of her teaching was something called the J.O.Y. Principle. This stands for Jesus first, Others second and yourself last. You can get a more in-depth understanding through this link  The J.O.Y. Principle which will take you over to my faith-based blog, Faith By Acts.

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A part of Minnie’s Others focus that remains and grows stronger each day is the desire she had to find me a good Christian girl to marry. Minnie was not one to beat around the bush and she got to know Libby Thomas very thoroughly, in effect vetting her as Congress would a new political appointee. When all the questions had been answered and probing was complete Minnie arranged for a blind date. The rest is history, twenty-three and a half years worth, with two kids as a bonus.

Minnie lived this principle every day in every way that I saw. As I begin each day I choose to refocus my heart, mind and actions using this guideline. So far it has not failed me. I am now counting eighteen years since Minnie’s presence slipped the bounds of the human existence, but her influence remains very strong. In her absence I am able to maintain the connection to her strong influence by enjoying my special almost sibling-like relationship with her daughter Martha. You can read more about this in a birthday tribute post I wrote in 2013, My Definition of a Sister, Happy Birthday Martha.

These are my admiration subjects and I will leave you with a final picture of me and my dad on the day my brother came home from the hospital. I was not a happy camper about a new baby. It is my favorite picture of me with my dad.

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My dad and I the day my brother was born. I am wearing my “happy” face.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why buy a FitBit? It can change your life!

Have you been considering the purchase of one of the Fitbit devices that charts your activity levels? If so, can I ask what has held you back? Perhaps it is the price. I mean these little gems carry a not insignificant price tag. The Fitbit HR that I use is selling right now for anywhere from $99-$136 on Amazon.

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This can seem like a lot to pay for yet another device, but there are some substantial benefits to consider and that is what I will try to highlight in this post. In short, I want to share my Fitbit experience. How in ninety days this little device has radically changed my exercise and activity experience.

You already know this, but the human body was not designed to remain in a sedentary state. We who have a love affair with technology in the form of television, video games or cat videos can develop a very bad habit of settling in after work or after our supper meal to let the rest of the day melt away. Worse still is those of us who are “blessed” with a sedentary job, i.e. sitting at a desk pecking away at a computer.

Eight and a half years ago I transitioned from owning my own business, a greenhouse, which required me to be upright and moving at lest 12-14 hours a day to a job where I am sitting with the aforementioned computer before me. At the time I left the greenhouse business I was about 175 pounds, mostly lean and with a low BMI. You can see an example in the next photo, taken while giving a demonstration to my daughter’s  first grade class at my greenhouse.

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Geraniums on the left and Spikes on the right

While the change was gradual, the weight began to add up and the dimensions of the clothes I had to buy kept increasing. When this photo was made, last September, I had reached the point of critical mass, at least in my mind. This was taken at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, on Labor Day. But feeling a need to change  and making a change are two very different ideas.

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I needed something to hold me accountable. My wife and I tried an exercise and food plan called the 21 Day Beach Body last summer and I was turned off from the outset. First of all it was promoted by a girl that was a size Minus 2 that was way too perky. I mean when you are climbing onto the floor and back up and down and back up in rapid succession the last thing you want is for a never “fluffy” but always cheery someone declaring “I know it’s hard” (NO SHE DID NOT, SHE WASN’T TRYING TO USE MY OLD BODY PARTS) “But you will love me at the end of 21 days”. (I DIDN”T!)

Over the fifty or so days we kept at this I managed to shed about eight pounds and did not feel the exercise getting any easier. My motivation was not increasing and a payoff for the struggle seemed elusive. So fast forward the couple of months to the pivot point in September and I was wondering what could be the answer.

As always seems the case, the holidays came rolling through, definitely not the time to try to lose weight. I had a foreign mission trip that captivated my attention and took it off my situation for a time within the holidays, so the search for the elusive answer continued. Next was our entry into full-on winter and the worst time of year weather wise, offering yet another impediment.

But, on January 30th I made one of the best choices of my life as far as the potential impact on my health. I chose to attend a work party with my wife and was the lucky recipient of a door prize, namely my now favorite device, the Fitbit HR. I strapped it on that night about 7:30 PM or so and began what is now a transformative adventure.

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Coupled with the addition of a new puppy in mid-October that needs regular trips outside to stretch her legs and attend to nature’s call, I quickly began to meet the suggested and Fitbit standard 10,000 steps per day. Then an unexpected benefit materialized. I felt more energetic and motivated to see what I could do to make the little counter reflect more steps. Through 29 days of February I averaged 8,054 steps, while nothing to sneeze at, a number that would soon pale in comparison. I can remember occasional days where I managed 10,000 steps, a total of six in this month. The sense of accomplishment was immense.

fitbit5But as the snow began to clear and the calendar progressed to March, better weather and growing energy and motivation added to my excitement. The resulting boost in the number of goal days, those meeting the mark climbed to 26! On the days I fell short it was a personal disappointment. My diligence revealed the commitment to accumulating steps as my daily average increased 41% to 11,340. When I reflected on this number I thought WOW, could I be reaching my upper limit? Don’t we always quickly place limits on our potential without having all the information about what could affect our decisions. Little did I know there was something coming that would supercharge my effort all the more.

One day I was looking at the Fitbit app on my phone when I got an invitation from a high school friend inviting me to join a Challenge Group through Fitbit. I wound up adding a friend from church I knew with a Fitbit and we began to take part in this challenge, which is called the Workweek Hustle. The idea is that you try to walk as many steps between Sunday at midnight and Friday at midnight. You have until noon on Saturday to sync your device to the challenge ranks so that you are not disturbing the owls at 1 AM on Saturday.

AprilWithin a few days I was totally hooked and felt a competitive beast long dormant struggle to break free. As I told my friend that invited me I was not sure whther to hug her neck in thanks or curse her for awakening such a creature. But even more energy and motivation, not to mention pounds melting away convinced me the former was the right choice.

I was so excited when I won my first challenge that I took a screenshot of my record on my phone. It took almost  92,000 steps over 5 days to win. Well in truth I could have stopped at 88,700, but you don’t know what the others are doing, so you give it your best and see where the chips fall.

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Finally I am so happy to report an amazing side benefit from all this activity. Besides the already mentioned increase in energy and motivation I can now claim at least fifteen pounds of weight gone. My middle aged spread is reducing with every step and with it the potential for heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. As of today I have used the Fitbit for 90 days, or roughly one quarter of a year. While projecting these values to a year’s time frame is better left to economists and other number crunchers, I could live with a year of gain & loss such as this.

90 days

This is my pace at the end of 90 days. The number not reflected here is the amount of weight I have shed, which is fifteen pounds.

 

If you have a Fitbit please let me know about your experience. Perhaps we can join a challenge group and get some exercise!

 

 

 

Posted in Bicentennial, exercise, Personal Health, weight-loss, Writing | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments