Happy Camper: Oh, the Memories!

Henry jumped into the boxcar, and Jessie gave him the pine needles. He made four beds in one end of the car.

“This side is the bedroom,” said Jessie

“What will the other side be?” asked Bennie

“The other side?” asked Jessie. “Let me think. I guess that will be the sitting-room, and maybe some of the time it will be the kitchen.” . . .

. . . [Jessie] took the string out of the laundry bag and tied one end of it to a tree. The other end of the string she tied to the boxcar. This made a good clothesline. When she had washed one towel and Violet had washed the other one, they hung both towels on the clothesline.

“It looks like home,” said Henry. “See the washing!” He laughed.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Bennie’s ingenuity, resourcefulness, and maturity fascinated me as a elementary school-age girl. They used what they had and what they could find to create a cozy home for themselves in an old, abandoned boxcar. At age 8, I saw myself as Jessie, the smart, responsible older sister tending to the basic needs of my family in a less than ideal situation. Like her, I would have found unique ways to provide the necessities of life while still having a lot of fun. My sisters and I spent many happy childhood summer days pretending we were the Boxcar Children.

I credit the those adventurous children for planting the seed that grew into my absolute LOVE for camping! After we had children of our own, my husband and I made camping our family’s # 1 wholesome, recreational activity every summer.

Recent articles have touted the rising popularity of camping, particularly among Millennials. Not long ago my husband asked our five children, ages 26 – 33–well within the “Millennials” age range–to name their favorite family vacation. Without fail, they chose a family camping trip. Granted, even when we visited Sea World in California or Disney World in Florida, we stayed at a campground. The seven of us could stay several nights at a campground for a lot less money than the cost of a hotel.

When I asked my children to share a happy camping memory for this article, this is what they said:

Crystal

“Tubing on the Schroon River (in northern New York). The funny things we said and the nature we saw.

“I remember when we all tried the ginger beer, because we all agreed it tasted horrible.

“I also remember when we camped out in the camper at Seneca Lake and we had to sleep under a lot of blankets because it was cold and we had no electricity.”

Jessica

“On our Nova Scotia trip. We stopped at Peggy’s Cove with the ocean, the lighthouse, and the amazing rock we were standing on. I remember hopping around on the rocks and standing on the edge with Liz, listening to the waves. Also, watching the sunset off the red cliffs of Prince Edward Island.”

Mark

“During the PEI trip, there was the belly flop Duke (Mark’s best friend) did into the freezing cold spring for a dollar. And that crazy fast tide that came in (Bay of Fundy-tidal bore). And the jiggly bog swamp hike we went on (in New Hampshire on the way home.) It was Duke’s first time out of the state and Country, and he bought an air-soft gun and shot himself in the knee with it in the back of the van.”

Liz “I remember the Grand Canyon, and looking for precious stones in the dirt, and looking at the petrified wood, and seeing the ravens near the edge of the canyon while it was really foggy. I guess it was just me and the parents, but setting up camp (at Roger’s Rock, Lake George, NY) and crocheting with Mom under a tarp in the pouring rain, and kayaking with Mom and Dad are great memories. I remember playing Ratuki while we were driving in the RV down the California coast and just having fun with everyone. Also, Marky sliding all the way to the front on the cooler (whenever Dad stepped on the brakes).”

Ashley “I remember playing Impossible Creatures with Liz and Jess and how much Malachi loved it. I exercised to my music outside the camper. I think we walked to church. That was the trip we took all the pictures with the Butterfield side for the reunion (in Idaho). And I told Mary how to pick out carrots from a bag without letting any make her gag. She was pregnant with Oliver.”

These camping memories are a few of many that our family members cherish. I love it that most of their memories include little things like ravens in the fog, walking to church, and playing games together.

Wherever we go, however long or short the trip, no matter what there is to see and do, we enjoy spending time together experiencing our surroundings and discovering the wonders of nature. Most of all, through our camping tradition, we’ve become closer as a family and strengthened important family bonds that can last for eternity.

Why My Spirit-Element is Water!

Foreward

My life-long dream has been to write a book and see it published. I can almost smell the new-book scent on its crisp pages, feel the solid binding and smooth cover, and revel in the sight of my name on the cover, my words printed on its pages. Beneath my calm exterior is this scene from “That Thing You Do,” a movie I love because it reminds me of what I’ll feel like doing when my dream of writing and publishing a book comes true!

Thank you all for your support of my dream and for encouraging me to keep working at it. When the time comes for me to jump up and down, scream at the top of my lungs and run through the streets waving my book over my head, I want you there with me! We’ll celebrate with a chicken barbeque, brownie hot fudge sundaes, and groovy 70s music!

Why Water is my Spirit Element

What does this picture make you think of?

There is a lot I want to write about water, but only a small puddle of it will fit into my book. That’s why I require your indulgence! Let me get all my words on this topic out of my soul and into this blog post. Then I will be free to continue writing my book. Thank you in advance. You are unblocking writer’s block, a nearly impossible task! Go you!

I LOVE WATER!

It has slowly dawned on me that I am naturally drawn to living water. By “living water” I mean fresh water that dances, sings, and teems with life. It speaks with the voice of a little girl laughing, playing, and free.

I love listening to water lap against a shore or gurgle and churn as it tumbles through a river bed. I enjoy wading in it, swimming in it, boating on it, running my fingers through it, and watching it live its life.

My love for water began at my grandparent’s summer home on Schroon Lake in New York’s Adirondack Park, a two-hour drive from the house in Troy, NY where I grew up. The first pictures of me at the lake were taken when I was two years old waddling across the beach in my diaper followed by my pet ducks. From that time until my grandparents’ lakefront property was sold in the mid-1990s, our family spent time there every summer.

Looking back on those idyllic summers, I remember it as a magical place where the sun shone all the time and I could play in the water all day. Nothing seemed to stand in the way of unending fun. I was aware of my mother and grandmother watching from the screened in porch. But I had a sense that I could do anything I wanted. There was no one to stop me. The camp and the lake were mine!

Grandpa Nitz and me, age 4, toasting marshmallows. He could start a fire with just one match!

My sister Lois and I loved taking our family’s Sunfish sailboat out. We would race against the wind toward the opposite shore, letting the edge of the boat tip up until the sail almost touched the water. Then we’d let the sail out just in time to keep the whole thing from flipping over. If the sun made us hot, we’d let the boat flip and send us splashing into the cool water. After a few minutes, we’d flip the boat upright and sail off again.

Sam and I (pictured here on Schroon Lake) own the Sunfish now.
We take it camping with us as often as we can.

A tenth of a mile down the shore from my grandparents’ place was a large rock shelf that jutted out into the water. My three sisters and I loved to climb in Grandpa’s rowboat and paddle down there with a bucket of old dishes and a few odd things we’d found. We spent many happy hours pretending we were stranded and had to do what we could to survive like the Boxcar Children we’d read about.

As a teenager, one of my first summer jobs was working as a short-order cook at a pizza restaurant a mile down the lake from Grandma and Grandpa’s camp. My older sister, Tami, and I lived at camp the entire summer. Neither of us were experienced enough to drive a car. Instead, Grandpa rigged the rowboat with a small outboard motor so we could get back and forth to work that way. It wasn’t much fun motoring down the lake in the dark after our shift was over. But, we thought it was pretty cool that we got to drive a boat to work.

Me, age 15, with a 23″ Salmon I caught while fishing with Grandpa

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading these precious memories that help illustrate why water is my super element. In addition to including a few of these memories in my current book, I plan to use them as inspiration for fictional children’s stories in the future. They’ll be written under the pen name Jeanie Butterfield, which was the name my family called me when I was a little girl.

Does My Diet Fit Me?

The Bodybuilder &The overweight Man

One afternoon, I picked my daughter up from work and took her to the gym for her group training workout. My regular workout sessions are in the morning, so I walked on the treadmill while she worked with our trainer, Scott. When I went to fill up my water bottle, I noticed a man working with Scott I hadn’t seen before. Mike looked to be in his thirties and weighed somewhere near 400 pounds.

Good for him! I thought.

I’d weighed over 330 pounds for 15 years prior to 2001. During that time, a friend introduced me to Scott, who offered me a free session. Although I felt too fat to be allowed in a gym, Scott was kind and made no judgments. When I left, I felt terrific! But I couldn’t go back. In my mind, gyms were for normal sized people.

I was proud of Mike for not letting his size stop him from taking steps to improve his health. A few days later, I went to the gym for my regular group training session. Scott’s eyes lit up when he saw me.

“I’ve got something I want to show you. You’ve got to see this,” he said and strode to the back of the gym. I followed.

Scott  brought out three sheets of white paper and told me that, Lara, a trainer at another gym, had given Mike a diet to help him lose weight. Scott shook his head in exasperation and showed me the list of “food” items that were unlimited. It included diet soda, seltzer water, salt, pepper, and mustard. Ketchup without high fructose corn syrup was also acceptable.

“Can you believe that?” Scott said.

“That’s all?” I asked. “That’s not even food. Vegetables aren’t unlimited?”

The daily diet on pages two and three included egg whites and lean protein plus veggies but almost no carbs.

“I know Lara,” Scott said. “She’s a bodybuilder. This is a bodybuilder’s diet.”

Although the disclaimer stated that the diet was for entertainment purposes only, Lara charged Mike $175 for the privilege of her “Nutritionist” knowledge.

I was so mad. I felt like a crime had been committed! To maintain his current weight, Mike likely had been eating over 5,000 calories a day. If he started eating the highly restrictive diet of a bodybuilder, he wouldn’t be able to keep it up for long. Worst case, he’d end up in the hospital. Whether she realized it or not, Lara had given a desperate man three sheets of hope for $175. She’d robbed him of his money and of his dignity. In all likelihood, when Mike failed to follow the diet, he’d blame himself, not the trainer. He’d kick himself for failing to have enough willpower or discipline to succeed at yet another diet.

I took comfort knowing Scott would talk to Mike about it and help him understand how dangerous it was for him to follow a diet that didn’t include a gradual reduction in calories over time. While a bodybuilder diet may work for Lara, Mike needs help and advice tailored to his specific needs.

Which begs the question: Does my diet fit me?

Between 2001 and 2006, I did the Weight Watchers point system and lost 142 pounds. At that time in my life, the WW diet fit me well. I needed to get my eating under control and lose weight gradually. I also needed the support system provided by weekly WW meetings. I  balked at being weighed every week and convinced them to let me weigh in once a month, but the diet was just what I needed at that time in my life.

I’ve thought of doing Weight Watchers again, but it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t fit me anymore.

Although WW helped me achieve a healthier weight, I still wrestle with compulsive eating, especially when I’m stressed, tired, bored, busy, etc. Sure, I lost a bunch of weight, but I’m still not happy in my food life. Me and food have a love-hate relationship, and the conflict is bringing me down!

ENTER MY NEW FAVORITE PROGRAM!

I’ve hesitated to share this, because it may not be a good fit for you right now. If you ask yourself, “Does this program fit me?” and the answer is no, please allow for the possibility that it may fit you one day in the future.

A woman I’ve never met responded to a statement I posted on a Facebook page focused on supporting members with their weight loss challenges. Here’s the exchange:

Pam: Hi, I’m new to this group. My goal is to make significant gains in taking control of compulsive, mindless eating by May. It is my most persistent health challenge. 

Adrienne: Hi Pam! I can relate to your goal since I’ve struggled with binge eating for years. If you’re interested, the book Intuitive Eating, has really helped me to get a lot of it under control. I still have my moments, but they are progressively getting better every month.

If I have the chance to meet her someday, I’ll give her a BIG HUG and tell her how much Intuitive Eating has changed my life. It isn’t just a good fit, it’s a PERFECT fit!

Here’s a couple lines from the book that have helped me:

“The most obvious way to heal cup-is-half-empty thinking is to consciously catch each or your negative statements and replace the words with more positive ones.”  —Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Here’s more, but I put it in my own words:

Don’t use food to take care of you. Instead, become acutely sensitive to the nurturing, positive voices inside you that tell you are noble, great, courageous, determined, faithful, and fearless. Discard the layers of negative voices that have buried your goodness so deeply.

I’ve embedded a link to the book on Amazon. You can use the Look inside↓ feature to read enough of the book to know if it’s a good fit for you.

I’ve done the diet routine, and it helped. I’ve had to restrict gluten due to an autoimmune disease and still mourn for giant soft pretzels. I’ve turned to food for consolation only to feel like a guilty failure afterward. This is the first time in 40+ years that I’ve felt at peace with food and with myself. My journey has been anything but linear. And I have learned A LOT.

I KNOW you can find peace in your journey as well. As we focus on discovering the answer to “Does this diet or program or idea fit me?” your journey and mine will be tailor made just for us. The most difficult part may be letting the journey take the time it needs to take in order for us to make the discoveries that will lead to long-term peace and happiness.

If you’d like to, come on over and follow my Facebook author page – Pamela J. Brayton – Author. Also, you’ll get a email when I post something new when you click the Follow Us! button here at tumblings.blog.

4 Things Black-eyed Susans Say About Me

Orange Jeep Liberty
My Jeep didn’t start out orange.


  1. Orange is my favorite color — Which came first, black-eyed Susans or orange? I don’t remember. I’ll guess black-eyed Susans because they’ve been an important part of my life since I was a child.
  2. I’m an Ambivert — My family and friends may debate this point, but it’s true. Not sure what ambivert means? How about ambidextrous? Just as a person who can use their right and left hands equally well, an ambivert is someone who is a balance of extrovert and introvert personalities. They’re equal parts “I’m up for a party” and “I need some time alone.” Black-eyed Susans have similar qualities. They’re comfortable in flower gardens but may equally prefer a spacious roadside where they can be alone.

3. I’m a Rebel! — I seek out things that aren’t overwhelmingly popular (see # 1 above). In the product marketing world, daisies and sunflowers are indisputable favorites. When’s the last time you saw a black-eyed Susan on the cover of a book or all over a pair of shorts? (Do a Google Images search, and you’ll see what I mean.)

Bottom line: If everyone likes it, I’m going to like something else.

4. I’m sentimental — I LOVED going to camp in the summer.

Me w ducks
Me, 18 mo. old, feeding the ducks

Grandpa Me marshmallows
Me, 4 yrs old, roasting marshmallows with Grandpa

For my sisters and me, Grandma and Grandpa Nitz’s place on Schroon Lake was where our most treasured childhood memories were made. It’s a place to which we long to return.

And in the summer, the roads that lead to camp

are lined with black-eyed Susans.

Progress, not Perfection

Progress-stickies

Daughter Liz is an artist who loathes the prospect of losing her creative skill. She’s a newlywed and both she and her husband work full time.

“I’m worried my art skills are getting rusty,” she said during a recent video chat. “But I have an idea!”

Her idea? To create a children’s book together with her as the illustrator and me as the writer.

“I think the project would help motivate me to work on my art during my free time instead of mindlessly checking Facebook or watching YouTube,” she said.

What’s a mother not to love about that?

To keep us motivated and excited about the project, we decided to make the book a gift for my granddaughter Charlotte, whose birthday was six months away. That became our long-range goal. Mermaids — a favorite of Charlotte’s — became the main characters. A dancing and singing mermaid named Charlotte became the protagonist with a sea turtle as her wise sea creature friend.

Then, in order to stay accountable and keep the project moving, we agreed to meet via video chat every other week. I was thrilled to have an excuse to chat twice a month with my daughter who lives 2200 miles away!

Finally, we each stated what portion of the project we would complete by our next chat. She would make rough pencil sketches of the mermaids, and I would write character sketches.

We have followed that pattern for the past 12 months! Look at us! Writing a children’s book in six months! :-/ Our new goal is to have it finished by Christmas 2018.

What happened?!

Life happened, of course. In addition to the normal distractions of life, we extended our deadline twice. Charlotte decided she hated sea turtles and LOVED dolphins. Watercolor pictures became too time consuming, so Liz switched to computer-generated scenes. Family health concerns became my priority for a few months. And her work got super busy.

Not a perfect happily-ever-after ending, but we have made significant progress.

We made progress!

Progress Not Perfection
I love the imperfection of this bumper sticker!

Focusing on progress rather than perfection teaches you things, like

  1. Be real! Six months to write, illustrate, and publish (even just on the family printer) a children’s book is unrealistic.
  2. Be willing to bend. Things change. Focusing on progress leaves space for flexibility.
  3. Have an accountability buddy. The progress we have made is largely due to our bi-monthly video chats.
    • Chats served as a natural deadline
    • We felt responsible to have accomplished something for the sake of our co-creator.
    • Collaborating with a friend is FUN!
  4. You don’t have to give up because things didn’t work the way you thought.
  5. It’s helpful to occasionally evaluate where you are, what you’ve learned, and decide on what the project looks like moving forward.

Liz and I will complete our book creating project. But, whether or not we finish it by Christmas, we’ll continue to enjoy the journey together.

Imagine My Surprise!

Surprised Face-Blonde little girl

It feels like FOREVER since I wrote anything for my blog! Just now I looked at past posts and saw to my great surprise that my last one was LESS THAN 8 MONTHS AGO! Not as terrible as I thought. The post, titled Messy Creating, was my way of introducing then-recent changes to this blog. I had all kinds of plans to write a blog post every other week, maybe every week!

Grrrr!

My life hit a few rough stretches after that, and all my awesome plans were put on hold. But now I’m back, sitting in my comfy writing chair, writing things as they tumble out of my brain.

Guess what!

I’ve started writing the book I’ve wanted to write for my entire life!

Well, not exactly.

In elementary school, I discovered I loved to write, and ever since then I’ve had a strong desire to write and publish a book. Just recently, I realized that my book idea is ready to be written!

I created this blog as an author blog with the name “Lean on Me: Healthy Living.” Most posts are related to my firm belief that working together to become who we want to be, physically and spiritually is the best way to succeed. The book I’m writing will honor that belief.

I hope you’ll indulge my desire to also share insights and ideas related to being an empty nester, a writer, and a lover of outdoor activities.

It’s Begin-Again Tuesday, and that’s a good thing. There’s no shame in it. Starts and re-starts are a part of life. We’re friends. We need each other, especially through the ups and downs, starts and re-starts of life.

Come back often. I’ll have more Tumblings, more about writing my book, and more fun pictures!!!

Please peruse previous posts. :-) Compose comments by scrolling to the bottom of this window.

 

 

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