Saturday, December 31, 2011

What if.....?

Have you ever looked back and thought, "What if I only made a different choice, acted differently, did something to prevent what I knew might grow into something other than that which is desired?" Maybe it was this year, maybe it was last year.....or maybe further back. This question is what haunts me daily.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Amost The End

The end of 2011. So, we all look back and try to figure what was so great or so terrible during the last twelve months. Was it 365 days of putting up with shear terror? Or was it blissful joy? I am not really sure which it is. We want to think that it was a pretty good year.  After all there are still a few bucks in the checking account, the bills are paid....well mostly and debt (of stuff) has begun to be reduced.  Not by much, but some headway was made. Of course the list of "to-dos" around the house really didn't get accomplished this year because there wasn't any extra money for them. They will just get bumped to 2012.

Our health? Well I started running again...a little, got a treadmill for my birthday so that helped some.....it held a few dirty clothes too. That helped. Wife is a running fool. She has more perseverance than myself I guess.  More energy than I do as well. Blood Sugar started out this year way out of control.  Doctor sent me to the endocrinologist for supervision.  New insulin, new meds and a few months and my numbers are near perfect.  Weight hasn't reduced like they promised, but that figures. Emotions are still up and down. Topsy turvy. Ok, maybe they are still all over the place. We will see how they turn out in 2012.

House repairs? Well you saw up above so no money for major work.....you saw up above that I didn't have any energy either so small tasks were accomplished either. Yard work slipped a bit this year. Plants suffered. Wasn't all that important. Yeah, not many water leaks this year. Heat didn't work all that well in the winter, AC didn't work all that well in the summer....figures. Hot water tank started leaking a few weeks ago....we see about fixing it in 2012.

Vacations? None really of consequence to remember.  One to Texas to pick up Christian. One to a campground over long weekend.  Rained most all of it and we were stuck in the cabin....thank goodness we rented a cabin.....maybe we will take a trip in 2012.

Family? Well lots happened in that category. Another son got married. A third son went to Bolivia.....and lets just say things were a bit out of control with our daughter. Left by ourselves we were empty nestors....that was odd. We were pretty lonesome actually.  Are things better now? Well.....I guess we will see how things turn out in 2012.

Our dog? Well we never really planned on getting another pet after Orion died. But, as circumstances happen we ended up getting Mavrick. I should write a whole blog on that pup. Lets say he has made us laugh all the time......and made us mad all the time too......because he eats everything...sunglasses, reading glasses, tissues, paper towels, chap stick, cell phone cases, head phones, nick knacks and everything else you can imagine. Is he calming down now that he isn't a puppy anymore? We will see in 2012......probably not.

Life? In general, I don't know.  I guess like everything else somethings were good in 2011 and others were bad. So on an average everything was just so so.......So there you go. 2011 in a nutshell. This year was just there...nothing tragic and nothing excellent either.  Just neutral. Bible says that anything luke warm should be spewed out of your mouth. I had a professor in college, Sasha, who once gave a critique to another student.  He said (with a heavy Russian accent, while looking at the student's project), "This isn't bad. This isn't good either. This really isn't anything."

Sorry, nothing motivational here today. Feeling a bit blah at that moment. But that is Life right? Moments all strung together in highs and lows that eventually connect together to form an average of a bearable existence that we can endure. Too much high is bad, too much low is worse. The average is what we are......wonder what the average will be in 2012

See you on the other side my friends.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

BAD GUYS of Christmas

Have you ever noticed that in every movie or story there is always something about a bad guy, villain, evil dastardly individual etc that is trying to ruin Christmas?  Why is that? Why are all these guys trying to destroy our favorite holiday? You we have enough stuff in our lives that seem to drag us down and here we go with the criminal minds adding to it.  Why is it that some curmudgeonly, cold-hearted scoundrel always has a leading role in the best Christmas movies — even the ones crafted for children? Do we really require some naughty with our nice? This is just our nature....good versus bad.  We cannot help ourselves but to create conflict, overcome evil, save the day.  What makes a great super hero? A super villain! I have added a few to this list and lets see if you can remember them.....how many of these stories have you watched this Christmas?!!!!


Burgermeister Meisterburger
This grumpy Gus made his appearance in the animated classic "Santa Clause is Coming to Town". As part of Santa's supposed origins, the Burgermeister was the mayor of the small mountain village where Kris Kringle first passed out his toys.  When the Burgermeister tripped on an errant toy duck he banned ALL toys! By making Kris an outlaw he forced Santa to go down chimneys to deliver his toys under cover of darkness.....Now you know who that all started.  (Hey fellow cartoon lovers...doesn't the burgermeister's voice sound like Boris Badenov?)

Heat & Snow Miser Duo
The terrible two introduced in "The Year Without Santa" brings us the two nasty brothers by the name of Heat Miser and Snow Miser. The Misers were the epitome of sibling rivalry (we all know about those right?) and it was only through the intervention of their Mother Nature that Santa was able to get back to business.....(and you thought you had drama in your family) I love these cartoons!

The Martians
Really?! Martians.....how did they get involved in Santa.....Lets through all the fables into the blender and see what comes out. I just saw this a few weeks ago and my wife thought I was off my rocker.  "What are you watching?" A serious low budget...extra extra low budget and say I shall saw.....really bad! "Santa Clause Conquers the Martians". Again...Really?!


Old Man Potter
Of course....the best holiday movie tradition in our family is "It's A Wonderful Life".  I already wrote about it here. He was the meanest old man...and richest in Bedford Falls and made George Bailey's life miserable. Potter goes down as the quinessential Christmas villain because there was no redemption for him. Wanna stump your friends? What was Potter's first name? Henry....or how about Bert and Ernie? The cop and cab driver became the names in our favorite afternoon show Sesame Street!

Jack Frost
He is all over the place in different shows from movies to cartoons.  There are even horror movies with a Jack Frost in it. He is always causing trouble, more like mischief so I wont really put him in as a "villain". He was always freezing everyone.  I like the claymation one best....but "Santa Clause 3" is pretty funny as well. Who doesn't like claymation?


The Gremlins
What a warped little Christmas Story. Don't shine a Bright light on them, don't get them wet and whatever you do....DON'T FEED THEM AFTER MIDNIGHT. Those three simple rules to follow of course are broken in this wacky one of a kind Christmas present disaster. The Gremlins go huge and we all know who Gizmo is....right?






Hans Gruber
Who? What? How is this a Christmas story? " Die Hard". Remember, he counts as a Christmas villain because Hans and his crew picked an office party to raid. Unfortunately, for all of them, John McClane was on the guest list. Bruce Willis made the famous words, Merry Christmas...&%#*!@. Yeah, that one. For the scene when Hans was supposed to take a death tumble from the tower, Alan Rickman (the actor) was actually dropped 21 feet to an airbag. To get the right reaction, he was let go on the count of "2" instead of "3".  The look on his face is priceless!



Harry and Marv
I hate this movie. Dumb and Dumber meets Santa. I cannot image that a mom would forget her child at home...come on really? And the bungling villains are just plain ridiculous. The kid actor I have never really liked because he acted like a spoiled brat.....maybe he mom really wanted to leave him behind? All in all the simple story about a little boy accidentally left behind "Home Alone" for the holidays while two inept burglars attempt to rob the house....they fail.

The Grinch
What else is there to say? He a mean one...Mr Grinch...and yet the funniest cartoon combination for a villain of Christmas.  I love the old cartoon movie (really just a short clip) because of the narrator's voice, famed horror actor Boris Karloff. Dr. Suess first brought the Grinch to life in his 1957 book, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". At first Theodor Geisel objected to Boris because he thought his voice might scare the kids too much.  Thankfully, he was over ruled and a classic Christmas villain was brought to life.

Scrooge
This has to be the longest and oldest running Christmas story around....well certainly the scroogiest around. The oldest version is still the best....a bit freaky actually....Think about it...three ghosts visit you over one night......and I thought I had weird dreams! If there has to be a number one Christmas Bad guy well it has to be Ebenezer Scrooge. The "Christmas Carol" scrooge archtype essentially what every other Christmas villain strives to become......BAH HUMBUG!

So don't be a bad man this Christmas.....get rid of your scroogieness....don't be a Grinch. Have some holiday cheer and eat some cookies by the fireplace and wash it down with eggnog...or milk......Just don't eat it after MIDNIGHT! And remember, It's a Wonderful Life George Bailey! Have a Merry Christmas my friends......tell me, how do each of the bad guys get defeated!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Christmas Tree.....finale

OK, so how did it all end? Well you will have to read the first two parts of this adventure to understand how we got here.
http://etsthisibelieve.blogspot.com/2011/11/christmas-tree.html begins the story of picking and cutting down the tree. http://etsthisibelieve.blogspot.com/2011/12/christmas-treecontinued.html shares the adventure of us actually getting the MONSTER tree inside the house and setting it up. So now, the rest of the story.

The Christmas was a huge success and as always we had lots of fun watching the kids open their presents.  Over the years we have created numerous holiday traditions for our family that began in that little school house. It is amazing to look back and realize that was SO many years ago. Where did the time go? Where did our little babies go?  All grown up now....that is what happens.  We have pictures but it doesn't seem like there were many.  My kids have asked that I continue to post some of their photos, so in the future I will have to write about those adventures as well......there have always been adventures....there undoubtedly will always be.  That is a good thing.

One of the things we have always tried to do pretty quick after Christmas was to begin the clean up process.  You know! Putting all the decorations away and getting life back to the normalcy of ...well ...I guess the daily grind.  Why did we always do that? I am not sure.....wouldn't it be great for the Christmas spirit to last just a bit longer?  Apparently not! My wife has been the scrooge of Christmas all of these years....now don't take that wrong.  She loves Christmas, and loves watching the kids and loves everything about it. However, she is a bit of a slave driver from time to time. You see, when it is over.....its OVER....no lingering, no procrastinating, not dilly dally around...MOVE IT MOVE IT MOVE IT! (This could be one of my favorite traits about her...otherwise I might sit around and do nothing) Yes, she is the taskmaster! But that is okay.....Christmas is over so.....NEXT!

Next, was always getting the house back to normal before life started back.....meaning New Years Day....all over. THAT became our next family tradition. Packing it all away.  Back then we didn't have as many ornaments or decorations or stars or lights or much else for that matter.....but this year we had the TREE to end all trees! And what happens to most LIVE trees after they have been in your house for a while? That's right....THEY GET DEAD! and drop all their needles. We could have created a small mulch bed underneath this tree. By this time, you just look at the tree wrong and needles would fall off.  I was just imagining how much of a struggle it would be to get it back out of the door again and what a mess we were going to create.

And then it HIT ME.....I had a brilliant idea of how to get the tree out neat and clean. (okay so I thought it was a bright idea at the time) If you look in the corner of the house, we had a wood burning stove....yep you got it.  I was going to cut up the tree in small bits and burn up! This was going to be awesome.

A few pointers one should realize about this process: (that now is engraved in to my head)
  1. Wood burning stoves are small...means you have to cut everything up pretty small to get it in the door.
  2. PINE is not a great thing to burn in a stove....yes it burns quickly, but apparently the sap is a very bad mess and requires flue cleaning.....not just chimney cleaning in our case.
  3. Needles still fall on the floor as you are hacking at the tree.
  4. A 13 foot tall tree produces a lot of branches....therefore a lot of fire wood...therefore a lot of heat.
  5. It is best, that the day you pick to burn your Christmas tree doesn't happen to turn out to be the hottest day of the winter....yep, I think it was up to the low 70s in Pennsylvania that day....OUTSIDE.
So, branch after branch I cut (dismember: my kids thought it was sacriligious o be cutting the tree....it was like killing Santa or something and they thought I HAD to be doing something illegal) and place the branches (the body parts) in the stove.....and hotter and hotter it got in that house.  I kid you not, it had to be nearly 100 degrees inside that day. Blazing hot sauna type of heat!  We had always put a small black kettle on the top of the stove with water and potpourri in it.  It was great, created beautiful smells while the fire was burning.....however today.....that pot was boiling over......seriously BOILING OVER.  It was a rolling boil on the top of the wood burning stove.  We could have cooked a soup on top of the fireplace!

Little by little the tree disappeared.  Remember I had tied it to the top? Well, it is pretty funny looking to have a tree (near naked except for the top 6 feet that I couldn't reach except with a ladder) swinging....yes swinging from its tether at the ceiling. All done....the rest of the day we went outside to play ...... And cool off! Truthfully, I didnt finish cutting the tree up.  I was too tired and too sweaty to deal with it anymore.  After all I had made a huge HOT mess regardless.  I took the rest of the tree and threw it down in the woods (like a dead body being hidden and never discovered by the authorities) and called it a day.

Memories my friends...make them and never forget them. They are the special moments in our lives.
(The names and places in this story have been changed to protect the innocent....are you kidding? Nope it was me guilty as charged! Merry Christmas my friends.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey!"

It has been a holiday tradition around our household to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart every season.  I have always watched it since I was a kid, I had to introduce it to my wife only a few years ago. (She never watched any of the 'great' movies growing up!) The kids would never watch it because it fell into that category of B&W shows so therefore it must be old and therefore must be boring and therefore "we ain't watching it dad!" Finally I turned them to the light. I believe they think it is a favorite now too.

Last night my wife, daughter and I went to a school musical based on the movie.  It was pretty fun and absolutely different perspective of the story.  We enjoyed it immensely. However, last night I started thinking about the story (probably more of the movie than the play) and how we all have a bit of George Bailey in us.  Well at least I certainly do.....maybe a bit too much. Don't we all sort of wonder what our life would be like if we made different decisions? Not so much if we were never born, but even that is intriguing to know if we really made a difference in anyone's life. It certainly makes you think that you need to do more.  Okay maybe not so much like, prevent the druggist from poisoning someone or saving your younger brother from drowning in a frozen pond.  But I do think we wonder what sort of an impact we DO make. 

We would all like to think that we have made an impact otherwise what is it all worth? Certainly if we got the opportunity to see how things 'could have been', without us, like George Bailey, things are pretty much POTTERSTOWN. "Each man's life touches so many others."
A line from the movie.....has our's touched others? And how so?
I can identify with George Bailey for the shear fact that he came from a small town.  Yes I did get away from that small town. And no it didn't have a mean ogre like Old Man Potter.  There wasn't a Mr. Gower at the pharmacy but we visited the Boulevard Pharmacy across the street from my father's office getting a soda or candy bar (Payday) from time to time. My dad did have a small business and no I didn't take over the family business like my father might have wanted.  Though if I did take it over I probably would have been just as equally dissatisfied with my career as George was at the Building and Loan. My father did pass away when I was just a young man and the doors did close. I often wonder what would have become of it had my choices in life been different. Would I still be there?  My father's business was about as far away from my dreams as was George's and his father's.  My father was an accountant and Peter Bailey was in the lending institute.

My dreams weren't too far off from George's.  He wanted to become an explorer and builder of many great things, bridges, towers, skyscrapers.  I always dreamed of being a great architect.  I wanted to create the great iconic buildings of the future. Nothing really held me back like George did, there wasn't a depression or war or anything that preventing me from going to school.  Yes, I did go to college to become that architect and was awarded one of the highest honors a graduating student could receive from Oklahoma State University, the William Caudill Traveling Scholarship. Several national and international awards for my designs were also received. That award allowed me to travel around the world, or at least throughout Europe, just like George Bailey always wanted to do.

From there, like many of us, we wonder what our lives would have or could have been like. Marriage, jobs, moving away to the east coast. Starting a family has a huge impact of my dreams. So what would it have been like if I didn't get married, I didn't take that first job in Pennsylvania and I didn't have any kids.  I am pretty sure that all those choices I made also made the person I am today.  Without those selections in life, life wouldn't be, nor possibly would I even be asking myself the question, "What if...?"

I guess I can even compare the small business of Ionic DeZign Studios to the Bailey Building and Loan. It isn't my father's business but rather my own creation.  Founded on the thoughts and principals I have gathered (from the decisions and choices I have made along the way).  It is a small business.  We don't get the opportunity to do high rises or community structures, just smaller buildings for clients that have always seemed very appreciative. We never have big budgets nor big profits.  It is always a struggle to 'make things meet'. A small staff slave away at the office with me creating the work that we produce.  A family that I have always loved dearly. George Bailey was always envious of Sam Wainwright and all that he had.  I too am envious of the BIG firms with the beautiful offices and custom designed decor that flaunts their talents. Sometimes embarrassed by the bare entity that we call our office.  Always the dream of a new exciting home, yet seemingly far from our grasps financially.

And yes, George moved into the old Granville House, that drafty old run down building he and Mary called home.  Yes, we moved into a foreclosed upon house that we pretty much feel is the same drafty shack that the Bailey's had.  But we do call it home and there are many memories here. I don't see that changing. Funny, Mary put up posters of all the places George wanted to visit......I have posters of all the places that I did get to visit.

So what is worse, never getting the chance to go do all the things one dreams of and never getting to see if those dreams can be fulfilled or getting the opportunity and failing at all those HUGE dreams.  Again, just like the movie, it goes back to you perspective of things.  It takes a Clarenence Oddbody to have you clearly understand and see that perspective. Yes, my business is small but it is mine and I enjoy the people we work with.  Is is hard and difficult at times? Very much so, but the rewards have been bountiful so far. I look forward to what the future will bring.  There was even a time recently when I wondered if my family would be better off without me.  A thought that many probably had during this recession. My insurance policy made me worth more dead than I was worth alive. (or so I thought at the time) Yes, we drive old clunkers right now, that will change I am sure.  Yes, we live in an old house.....and yes the repairs are never ending, but that is the place where our children grew up and and where we call home.  Many fond memories. I feel like the richest man in Bedford Falls by the shear fact that I have the most wonderful loving wife and some of the greatest children a father could ever have. Beyond that what else could a man really ask for?  At the end of the day, we take the two dollars that are remaining, and put them away and pray that they make like rabbits.

Life is a neverending challenge.  It changes all the time. We must all remember that Life is Living, it is an action not an observationLife isn't a destination, it is the journey to that destination.  My friends, always remember the wonderful life that you have and hug the person next to you.  Have a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Winter Holiday Trivia

Confection Affection

In 1847, a process was developed to allow confectioners to mold chocolate into shapes, paving the way for candy bars and chocolate Santas. In the 1920s, the first chocolate gelt was made, allowing Jewish families to use candy in lieu of actual coins for the custom of giving money to their children during Hanukkah. Today, the winter holidays rank third, behind Halloween and Easter, in terms of U.S. candy sales, and National Confectioners Association reports that approximately 150 million chocolate Santas will be made for the season.

Getting Hooked

While the candy cane is a seasonal staple in the U.S. today—1.8 billion canes in traditional peppermint, super sour, and tropical fruit flavors were made for the holidays this year—it has a storied past. The first canes were created in 1670 by a German choirmaster, who gave out all-white sugar sticks—bent like the shape of a shepherd's staff—to keep children in his congregation occupied between hymns. In the U.S., the treat began as a straight, white stick of sugar until the turn of the century. The jury's out on who exactly brought the stripes and shape to America.

Big Spenders

American consumers took advantage of Black Friday sales, spending a record-high $52 billion this year, with the average shopper shelling out around $400 over the course of the weekend. The National Retail Association predicts that the total holiday spending this year will reach approximately $465.6 billion and, to accommodate all the extra shoppers between Thanksgiving and Christmas, retailers expect to hire roughly 490,000 seasonal employees.

Tree Truths

Between January and September 2011, $79.7 million worth of artificial Christmas trees were imported from China to the United States. However, real trees still outsell artificial trees 3-to-1. To accommodate the demand, Christmas tree farms in North America planted an estimated 40 million new seedlings in the winter and spring of this year to replace harvested trees and meet future needs.

Spruced-Up Spruce

In 1931, construction workers raised a 20-foot tree on the muddy site that would become Rockefeller Center. They had no idea that, 70 years later, tens of thousands of people would crowd the sidewalks for the ceremonial lighting of this year's 74-foot Norway Spruce, which features 30,000 bulbs attached to 5 miles of wiring. The glitzy star atop this year's tree weighs a whopping 500 pounds and is adorned with 25,000 Swarovski crystals.

Toy Story

Run by U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Toys for Tots began in 1947, when 5,000 toys were collected outside Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles and given to local children. Since the nonprofit's launch, more than 500 million holiday gifts have been donated and distributed to underprivileged kids throughout the country. Last year's campaign collected a record 16.7 million toys for almost 7.2 million children. Let's try to beat it this year!

Gingerbread Giants

The largest gingerbread house in the U.S. was fittingly constructed inside the largest mall in the U.S. when a 67-foot-tall gingerbread abode was built inside Minnesota's Mall of America in 2006. The house, which took nine days to construct, could have fit the country's largest gingerbread man, also made in 2006, who stood over 20 feet high and weighed over 1,308 pounds. In 2009, a potentially record-breaking gingerbread man was created in Madison, Wis., but Guinness World Records has yet to officially recognize the achievement.

Trash Talkin'

The U.S. produces an estimated 1 million tons of additional waste per week between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. This includes 38,000 miles of decorative ribbon, enough to tie a bow around the entire globe. If each family in the U.S. sent just one less holiday card, then the nation would save 150,000 cubic feet of paper, enough to fill 25,000 wheelbarrows.

Yuletide Tunes

According to American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, between 2000 and 2010, the most-performed holiday song was "Winter Wonderland," which was written in 1934. While recordings by The Andrews Sisters and Perry Cuomo popularized the song in the '40s, versions by Eurythmics, Jewel and Air Supply are frequently heard on radio today.

Having A Ball

When fireworks were banned in 1907—just three years after the first New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square—officials lowered a ball from a flagpole to signal the end of one year and the start of another. The new tradition wasn't out of the blue, though: For decades, residents of various U.S. cities synchronized their watches using a giant globe that would descend from a pole in a public space. In 1907, the New Year's orb was composed of iron and wood and weighed 700 pounds. Today's ball contains 32,256 LED lights and 2,668 crystals, tipping the scale at 11,875 pounds.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Managing Stress When You Have Diabetes

Reposted from an article I found.

Getting used to life with a chronic condition can be hard. You might find yourself feeling angry, sad, or even afraid. Rest assured, these feelings are normal. But excess stress or sadness can actually affect your blood sugar. Learn to watch for signs of these feelings. And know that you can get help.

Talking with Your Healthcare Team

Learning to control blood sugar can sometimes be frustrating. You may have questions or fears about how diabetes may change your life. Your healthcare team is there to help you and answer questions. They can show you how to follow your meal plan, be more active, and check your blood sugar. Don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare team for help.

Asking Others for Help

You don’t have to deal with diabetes alone. Support from family, friends, or a diabetes support group can help you take better care of yourself. Ask others to:
  • Listen to your feelings. This will help you work through fear or anger.
  • Eat the same meals you eat. Your meal plan will be healthy for family and friends, too.
  • Exercise with you. Exercise is good for everyone. It strengthens the heart and helps relieve stress.
  • Go with you to visit your healthcare team. This will help your loved ones learn what you need to do.

Taking Time to Relax

Learning to relax and doing things you enjoy may reduce stress. Staying active also helps.

Ways to Relax

To relax your muscles and calm your mind:
  • Sit or lie back in a chair. Take a slow, deep breath. Hold it for 5 counts. Then breathe out slowly through the mouth. Keep doing this until you feel relaxed.
  • As you breathe deeply, tense and then relax the muscles in your body. Start with your feet and work up your body to your neck and face.
  • Picture yourself in a peaceful place, such as the beach. Feel the warm sand. Hear the waves. Smell the ocean. Doing this will help you feel more relaxed.

Activities That Can Help

Focus your mind on things you like. This may include:
  • Enjoying a hobby
  • Meditating or praying
  • Taking a walk with a friend
  • Exercising
  • Taking care of pets
  • Keeping a journal
  • Joining a social club or group
  • Learning yoga or tai chi
  • Spending time with people you care about

Recognize Depression

Many people feel sad or down when they first hear that they have diabetes. But frequent feelings of helplessness or hopelessness are symptoms of depression. Although depression is a serious problem, it can be treated. If you are having trouble sleeping or eating, or if you feel overwhelmed, contact your healthcare provider. Don’t wait! Get the support you need to feel good about managing diabetes.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Christmas Tree.....continued

Okay, so if you haven't read it yet, you need to go back and read the first part of this little adventure. http://etsthisibelieve.blogspot.com/2011/11/christmas-tree.html That will give you the background of how in the world we got to this point.....actually I am still not sure even to this day! So we survived the journey of cutting down the tree, loading it onto the car.....correction into the car, and the kids didn't fall out of the back of the wagon while we were driving home.  So far a successful adventure...Let me stress the word ADVENTURE.

Once we got home we basically dumped it on the front lawn. I realized I wasn't going to get it in the door that night for several reasons.
  • 1st: It was a bit longer than expected (duh).
  • 2nd: It had begin to get really cold and was misting outside.
  • 3rd: It was also pitch dark.
  • 4th: I was exhausted from the adventure so far.
  • 5th: I had to figure out how in the world I was going to actually set this monster up!
  • The 6th and probably the most challenging effort was going to be the actual method of getting the tree in the house.
Our house wasn't like any other ordinary house. (Of course not! Have I ever done anything that was ever ORDINARY? No....Wait maybe the word ordinary should be substituted with easy or sane or maybe realistic or even humanly acceptable.  Yes, I seemed to also do the....let's be nice to me today and say IMAGINATIVE.) Our house was a beautiful 150 year old one room brick school house. Now, you might say one room means ONLY one room.  No, originally the school house had an entry hall in front where you can enter into from the front door. Once you walk in the front door the hall was only five feet deep where you had to turn either left or right.  When the school was functioning, I am told that the boys went left and the girls went right.  At the end of the hall, just after the doors leading into the classroom, on both sides were closets that were only about six feet tall (remember the ceilings were 13') so we used the top of the closets for additional storage.  The closets were accessed from inside the classroom, not the hall. Once you got inside the house, the owner had added a few walls to create a small bedroom, bathroom and divided kitchen. The walls were only about 8' tall and the bathroom had a "lid" on it while the kitchen and bedroom were open above to the main part of the house. Yes, it was also an adventure living there.  My wife and I slept in the "bunk" above the bathroom that was accessed from a ladder in the bedroom while the kids shared the bedroom.

Ok, back to the story at hand now that you understand what predicament I was in.  I got a friend from church to help measure and cut off about 5 foot on the tree.  (And yes, I did cut off the BOTTOM despite what some of you might think of me as being a bit "challenged" at times.) Now to get it in the house. We had to get the 13' tall tree into the front hall, turn quickly (again because the hall was only 5' wide) and then stand it upright in the hall (again because the hall wasn't long enough due to the closets at the end of each hall), and then close the front door, back up, lower the tree and make the next turn.  Yes a lot of needles feel off and yes we had to really tug and pull and slightly bend the giant tree to make each turn.  Did it!



Now the tree was in the house and we needed to stand it up.......hum?  How do we do that? We tried a giant homemade 2x4 base as a tree stand.....didn't work.  My wife was afraid the kids would bump into the tree and then TIMBER! it would fall down and crush all that remained in it's path of trajectory.  Good point.  Okay, so the ceiling plaster was removed during the renovation and the large wood ceiling joists were exposed and perfect for attaching a nail and then securing the top of the tree with rope.  Perfect! The tree was straight and no worries.....humm. There was a few times that the tree actually did SWING from the rope when the kids bumped into it but it didn't fall.

Decorations were another adventure.....we didn't have nearly enough for this behemoth.  I honestly cannot remember what we did to help fill it up.  I know we didn't enough money to go BUY any additional ones.  Well we needed to make a star.  We had just begun this tradition of making a new star each year.  We most certainly needed one here and one that was equal in size to the tree.....of course....proportions mattered...they always mattered.  Another little detail that we (or I) overlooked before beginning this so called ADVENTURE.

We made the star out of newspaper and glue and then painted it bright yellow.  When it was done it sort of looked like a Dr. Seuss starfish sort of thing.  But it was awesome!

So that was the story.....the last bit of this adventure will be continued when I share how we got the tree down and out of the house! Yes.....yet another memorable moment!  Enjoy your tree this year my friends and never forget the adventures you have on your journey of life.

(I will keep looking for better photos of this adventure)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wisdom?

An architect is said to be a person who knows a very little about a great deal and keeps knowing less and less about more and more until he knows practically nothing about everything, whereas on the other hand, an engineer is a person who knows a great deal about very little and who goes along knowing more and more about less and less until finally they know practically everything about nothing.

A contractor starts out knowing practically everything about everything, but ends up knowing nothing about anything, due to their association with the before mentioned architects and engineers.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Christmas Tree

 "We're kicking off our fun old fashion family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols." Clark Griswold.

It is so ridiculously crazy that it has to be just a folk lore, a figment of our imagination, a dream no make that a nightmare......did I really do that? Life imitates art.....er....at least a movie. The Christmas Vacation specifically.

OK, so here is the story that relives all the "dad is out of his rocker" for Christmas moments in our family.  There were no pictures to capture the evidence, but trust me it was true.  You will just have to visualize the moments described.

This took place back in Pennsylvania when the kids were young.  My oldest two boys were about 5 and 3 years old. We had...ok I had...decided to begin a new tradition by going and cutting our Christmas tree down.  All my life I had grown up with an artificial tree and each year I had to "set up" the tree by going down to the basement, digging out the tree from a box and assembling it.  I just wanted something a bit more special and memorable for the kids.

At the time, we lived out in the country in a one room school house that was built over 150 years ago.  It was a pretty cool place as it was positioned next to a huge animal reserve surrounded by hills and a small creek running nearby. The old house was made of all brick and yes there still was a working bell on top.  The ceilings were over 13' high with three very large windows on each side of the house.  Most of the heat was generated from a wood burning stove that could quickly heat up the entire house. I remember telling the kids that they needed to bring in firewood each day before I got home from work because if they didn't......we would all freeze that night! The kids would bring in one log at a time (that was all they could carry...it was too heavy) and fill up the fire box ready for the night.

We had never done the "cutting down the tree thing" before but had seen a sign up near the house where there was a large property (private residence) where they had a huge yard with trees to cut down. I didn't know they were only open on weekends, but I was so busy with work and time was limited.  So I decided to run up to the place with my two boys and cut down a tree.....after all, how tough could that be....right? When we started this adventure, it was still daylight outside....but nightfall was coming quickly....time was limited.

At the time, we drove an old green station wagon fondly referred to as the MOBILE COMMAND UNIT.  It was terrible....army green, no air conditioning, back windows didn't even roll down, not even a radio.  It was simply our troop transport for the Thompson family.  Anyway, with the two boys loaded up in the ugly green sleigh and a hand saw ready for cutting down our first tree....off we go. We get to the location, parked down at the bottom of the hill near the entrance.....there was nobody in sight....hum....should have been the first clue. No matter, I was bound to make this event happen.  The boys and I marched up the hill and knocked on the door.  The nice lady at the door said they were closed except for the weekends.  I begged to allow us to cut down our tree.....with two little boys standing next to me all bundled up how could she deny us.  She allowed us to cut our tree...just not one that had been tagged already and there was a netting machine down at the bottom of the hill.  Unfortunately nobody other than herself was at home so she couldn't help us. We were on our own.

No worries....we can do this! So we went back down the hill near the car and began looking for the perfect tree. The night was coming on .... and oh great....it started misting.  So not only was it cold, but the rain was making it worse outside. We knew we wanted a big tree because of the ceiling height.....it just had to be the RIGHT tree. We started looking nearby the car, but they weren't very big.  We moved through the forest of trees looking for the right one....each one we came to the boys would chime out together, "How about this one, Daddy?", nope....not big enough..."yeah, your right Daddy, we need a bigger one." Onward we marched through the maze of trees until finally we were pretty far up the hill.  We found the perfect tree, it was a perfect shape, filled out everywhere and most certainly it looked like it was big enough. I couldn't tell very well how big it was because I didn't have a measuring guide and now it was dark and the rain began to turn to freezing rain as the temperature had dropped once the sun went down.

Rusty Griswold: Dad, this tree won't fit in our back yard. Clark: It's not going in the yard, Russ. It's going in the living room.
So the sawing began...our first REAL tree....the ground was wet now and it was cold.....not easy cutting this tree down...it had a huge trunk. But finally it fell...and now to get it down the hill to the car.  The kids weren't much helping carrying the tree.....5 and 3 years old....what did you expect!  Man, were we that far away from the bottom of the hill....it seemed like forever dragging the tree through this forested labyrinth. man is it cold. but, with much struggle and much grunting.

Ok, lets see if we can run it through the netter....by the way I have never used one of these before. First to try and pick this massive thing up and put it on an 18" wide table that is 1/3 rd the size of the tree.....oh yeah, now beginning to be covered in frozen rain drops. We line it up after much struggle and much much grunting.....we get maybe 4 foot of the base in the netter when we realize it ain't goin in any further. I am standing on the table top tugging at the base of the tree, slipping all the time on the slick table top......defeated...."Lets pull it out and just put it in the car," I say to the kids. Easier said than done.....you know those netters were design ed to go one way....not the other.

Finally we got it out of the netter and begin to put it on the car.....yes, I was going to tie it on top.....wait....with who's help?  My oldest was probably only 2 1/2 feet tall.....how was he going to reach the top of the car.......yes, again with much struggle and much much much grunting I finally gave up on the task of tying it to the roof of our faithful MOBILE COMMAND UNIT.

So, in the back of the wagon.  I lower the back seat. I lower the tail gate.  I tug the tree in the back. easier said than done.....I have to lift it up on the tailgate, climb inside from the front and then pull, pull and pull some more until it is all the way in..........okay.....in a far as it would go.....up the the back of the front seat.  With nothing inside the car to tie the tree to, I go around to survey how much is remaining outside of the command unit.........ahhhhhh......you got it......I managed to get all 6 feet of the tree  in the wagon....with only a mere 12 more feet hanging out......yes....you can add..... 18' of tree......13' tall ceilings....in a 6 foot MOBILE COMMAND UNIT with only two little boys hanging on to the tree preventing it from falling out as we eased down the road homeward bound.  The boys had been given strict instructions that if they let go and let the tree fall out of the car that there would be disastrous consequences. so, with much struggle and much much much much grunting....they held onto the tree.

We made it home.....all of us.....in one piece.  You will have to stayed tuned for Part II of the Christmas tree story of how we got it in the house the next evening......coming soon!

Enjoy my friends.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Feathered Beast ..... Feast

The day has finally arrived....you know the day....the day where we turn the corner for the beginning of the new year.....37 DAYS AHEAD of schedule......you know the day where you are supposed to begin shopping for everyone else......and get in debt.....you know the day where you begin the onslaught of family members visits.....and pull your hair out......you know the day when the sacred family traditions kick in.....so much work.....you know the day when football starts to get really exciting......college bowl games, NFL playoffs......you know the day when the refrigerator is so packed full that you cannot get one thing out of it without ten other things falling out at the same time......yeah, that day THANKSGIVING!

The day that you go through the routine of telling of what you are so thankful for.....instead of being thankful all year long. Yep, we did that at church last night....it is always good to hear.  Actually there is way too much to be thankful for....God has been good.......(okay that was the serious part of the blog....now on to ridiculousness).

My wife and I have been working on running lately...okay so I have been working on running....she has actually been running. This year we made an agreement that we would run the Turkey Trot 5K in the morning....thinking that it was going to be like at 8AM.....it was scheduled for 9:45AM...WHAT? That is way to late.....okay, we can still do it.....oh it was in the 40s this morning.....THAT IS TOO FREAKIN COLD.....nix that idea.....I will jump on the treadmill later.

One of the things we always do is have this massive meal.....and I mean massive. Food everywhere piled up on counters and tables and wherever it will fit until we can possible start the feeding frenzy.  A task that always takes place before the feast is going to the grocery store and buying all the things necessary to prepare for the festivities.  The first being the Aw aspiring featured beast.....the Turkey! It is the only food (for our family), no ham, no roast, just this BIG FAT BIRD! We have always had to get the biggest bird possible to feed everyone and still provide enough leftovers....Leftovers are always a must! Shopping is required early enough so that we can have a good selection. Cooking the bird isn't that bad now that we have a system....listen to me talk....now that my wife has the system! Several years back, my mother bought us a roaster.  We have used it ever since, turkey cooked perfect, moist, delicious and in 1/3 rd the time.....No waking up at 4 or 5AM to start the meal......there is plenty of time to go for a run.......by the way, my wife is currently running outside right now while I type away sitting in bed.......what a slacker I am!

The other part of our tradition is the Thompson Cranberry Salad.  A massive under taking each year to first buy the best of the red grapes no you cannot use green and seedless grapes really are not seedless....you still need to cut in half by hand and if you can get real cranberries,whipping cream no you cannot use cool whip....not always easy depending on location and how the growing season has been. No substitutions in the formula either....yes I said formula....it is scientific marvel that is scrumptious for your mouth!  My mother-in-law once thought that it must be good for you since my family was diabetic...HA HA HA.....We are diabetic BECAUSE of the cranberry salad! But honestly, why live if you cannot have Thompson Cranberry Salad. It is just too good. You have to grind the cranberries the night before so you can drain them.  We have had to be creative over the years in figuring out how to GRIND the cranberries...after all, my mom has the only grinder left in the world!   Okay maybe not the only one.... My Uncle Gene wrote me on Facebook saying they had just grind the cranberries and set them to drain too.  That is awesome....oh yeah and by the way...if you want our famous recipe....cannot have it! The only way is if you marry into the family.  My daughters-in-law got the recipe once they were married! hopefully there hasnt been too many secrets given out here!

So funny, My son called me from Colorado last night 11:00 saying that they may have made a mistake....there was A LOT of cranberries...yep! We always make A LOT! They were taking it for a family event with my daughter-in-laws family.  Very cool.

Then we have the rest of the meal which is pretty much always the same.  No deviations.....this meal is not for the imaginative....just do it! Dressing, corn, mash potatoes (real potatoes) and everything else.....only time by the way that we make gravy.....just because we are supposed to! And then finally sitting down with family at the (crammed in at all corners to get a piece of) table, the blessing and then the passing of the food....around and around the turkey and dressing and potatoes and corn and green beans and and and and......it takes 15 -20 minutes (maybe a slight exaggeration) to pass all the food an get some on your plate...by the way....setting the table with enough plates, hot pads.....and whatever takes some major coordination in itself!

Such a good meal....don't clean it up...leave it there for a while because I will be back to snack on the turkey....some potatoes and of course some Cranberry salad.......yes there are pies too.....eat and eat and eat......THEN.....Turn on some football!  The kids, when they were younger, always wanted me to go out and play ball in the yard.....are you kidding...I cannot even move.....I am stuffed more than that turkey was 30 minutes ago!  No, sorry kids....now we finish off the inaugural celebration of tradition by dad doing what he does best....succumb to the curse of the THANKSGIVING TURKEY.....falling asleep on the sofa watching football........!

That my friends.....is an awesome Thanksgiving! Be thankful, be safe, enjoy family and have some merry times.  Beware.....around the corner lurks....BLACK FRIDAY!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Back on board!....with the treadmill that is.

me on the treadmill.....terrible picture,
looks like I don't have any teeth
Okay, so I guess it was the barefoot running that was killing my skins.  Today I jumped on the treadmill and did just over two miles! Not great by any means but far better than what I have been doing.  I feel the next step is loose a few pounds, which the continuous running should eventually help this out, and maybe a new pair of running shoes.  They say that you need to replace them regularly and I cannot quite honestly say how long I have had these....maybe since I finished the last half marathon????? Anyway, my skins didn't hurt and I really wasn't too tired.  A little winded, but I didn't want to overdo it like i always do.....and then not walk for a week.....baby steps.

Anyway, I am excited.....the first mile I averaged about 12:00 and the second was roughly 15:00. I also had a warm up walk before and after which added to the time, distance and calories.  The count said 312 calories burned.....Yeah! I am hoping to do the turkey trot 5K on Thursday. We have always seemed to miss this one. Join us in the race.....would love to see you! http://www.active.com/running/virginia-beach-va/5th-annual-onelife-fitness-turkey-derby-10k-5k-and-williams-mile-2011?int=29-12

Keep running my friends....If I can do it you certainly can! Tell me about your struggles and your triumphs, no matter how great or small.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Epiphany!

Okay actually had to use the speak into the iPhone thing for the word epiphany because I don't think I would ever spell it right. I got up and did my run this morning on the treadmill. It was pretty much the same thing as has been the last few days, my shins started to really hurt after about half a mile. Actually, I could barely make it to the half mile point. I have been thinking that it's probably because I'm overweight that my shins start to hurt. Which is probably the case. Or at least an added factor. However, it may be something else that I just discovered.

I've been running barefoot lately on the treadmill. Well, you know they say that the natural running thing is the biggest hit right now. I don't know who says it but I guess I just did. I've seen those barefoot shoes, and I've seen even other people run in half marathons barefoot. Hey, natural has to be the best thing right? Okay, well maybe not for me. Today, after running a half mile and cramping up, I put my shoes on to see what would happen. I was already sore, so that really wasn't a fair test. But it actually did help, the cushion in my shoes was able to give me a little but more support. I guess right now I need not only the cushion in the treadmill, but also the support of my shoes.

I know, I know, who I think I am. Some native in Africa running across the jungle to catch his latest pray? Or, a Native American running across the wheat covered fields to catch a buffalo? Nope, just an overweight, balding business man retired from high school football tiring to hang on to his youth just a little bit longer! Hey! Why not?

Anyway, the results were that I did get sore again fairly quick. But after all I had already tightened up previously. However I was able to run another three quarters of a mile. (Martians are LeBatard right now it still felt good to get over a mile.) - somehow that did not turn out right. Let's try that again. So for right now it did feel good to get a run in over a mile. So today's run totaled 1.3 miles. My immediate goal is to be able to run the turkey trot on Thanksgiving day. That is a 5K. 3.2 miles. That is one week from today, seven days, 24 hours times seven days whatever that adds up to. Whole bunch of minutes (24 hours times seven days times 60 minutes).

My friends, I'll keep you posted as to my progress. Have a great day!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Exhausted

This blog will be the first of many different things. First I'm doing it from my iPhone. And secondly I'm speaking into my iPhone. I'm sure that it won't have all the same things that I do when I am on my PC but we'll try. Bear with me if there's too many errors or too many misspellings or too many whatever's. I'm not sure that I can even add pictures from the mobile app but we'll see.

Okay, about today's topic exhausted. Lately I've been feeling ridiculously tired all the time. I'm not sure it's my medicine, my diet, or lack of exercise. Maybe it's a bit of all of them together combined. I really don't know which, but I can tell you one thing, I am tired of being tired.

I feel maybe one of the things is causing my tiredness is my lack of Cohesive schedule. I do whatever whenever however whenever it needs is just the way my life is today. I am fortunate enough to be it was going to work pretty much whenever I want to and to leave whenever I need it. That is a blessing in itself. I can say that within my schedule there's one thing that is pretty consistent. And that thing is my morning routine. I wake up reregulate somewhere around 545 to 615. Once I wake up, I go out half cup coffee or two. This is typically the only moments I had to spend with my wife. Okay, maybe not only, but it's one of a few. I oftentimes get on the computer and do a little bit of social networking, such as this. Facebook time is often enjoyed, even LinkedIn for the business side and a little bit of finding out what's going on in the world. The news on the Internet is awesome you can go where we want to read whatever article you want to and you don't have to worry about the messy newspapers. After that morning ritual is over, it is time to get ready for work shower shave grab breakfast as I'm running out the door and on the way to work we go.

Okay the missing part for all that above is, exercise. I haven't been very good lately at keeping up with the exercise routine part of my schedule. Now that my blood sugar is down to a more reasonable level, I really need to focus on trying to get back in shape, and that's the tough part. It sucks when I used to be in such good shape to be able to do all these things, play football, run, do all the things with the kids, but now it's An uphill battle. Most certainly a battle for me right now, but I am going to win. Right now what I can do is little tiny victories and that is kind of frustrating. Because I always like to win big! Little by little I've been trying to add some exercise back into my routine, I have lately been running on the treadmill to get back in shape. Man all I can say is I am out of shape. Right now seems at all I can do is little runs at a time about a half mile or three quarters of a mile and then I need to set an rest. Not really because of fatigue, but more because my shins hurt. Again, little victories, at least it's a half a mile, right? Saturday I was able to run three 3/4 mile increments which wasn't too bad. The pause in between was really because I was tired, is because my shins were really aching ! This morning, my marathon wife, went running and said she would be gone for an hour and a half or more on her long run. That is great, she is doing really well, I just need to try catch up with her! She has always been good at doing little victories, little steps, little things along the way to get to her goal and she's there. And she's very consistent! I praise her, and envy her for that. So this morning I got up and my cup of coffee and started running but only got in about half a mile before my skins started to really hurt. (Let me tell you that this speaking into the iPhone is something really Siri - silly.)

The second thing I need to incorporate into my routine better, is my diet. Now it isn't so much my food, but more about when I eat. Like I said before, my breakfast is usually very consistent! But when it comes to lunchtime,? It is all over the place. I will eat lunch anywhere between noon and 3 o'clock and afternoon and sometimes I even skipped. I just get too busy at work, and I don't really pay attention. I know I know I need to pay attention it's important. So, that's my new goal to eat lunch at lunchtime! Dr. Sam says so!

Hopefully these two things will allow my schedule to be a little bit better. And help me from being so tired. I usually go to bed pretty early, for an old guy! About nine or 930 o'clock. Sometimes even earlier, on my birthday I actually fell asleep at 7:30 in the evening..... and yes, I slept all night! That's not necessarily unique, on Monday night I fell asleep about 830 on the couch. And then I got up went to bed at nine. Monday night football wasn't going to be that good anyway, it was the Packers and Vikings two touchdowns already scored.

Okay that's all I have to report for today. Right now I'm speaking this blog as I rest my shins trying to get ready to run another half mile. I'm not sure I'm Gonna be able to do it. But we'll see what it has a store for me. Again little steps I know.

Take care my friends, and try not to be too exhausted. Have a great week and enjoy all those that are around you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Food for Thought

More gold has been mined from the thoughts of men than has been taken from the earth. So dust off the cobwebs and use all those great ideas you have!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

5 Early Warning Signs


Incredibly, one in four Americans over age 20 has prediabetes -- and most don't even know it. Being prediabetic means that your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but short of being classified as diabetic levels. Studies show that most people with prediabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years, unless they lose weight and make dietary and exercise changes.

Because prediabetes develops gradually over years, it's often said that there are no obvious symptoms. But it's possible to notice certain warning signs of growing insulin resistance, the inability to process the energy in food properly that's a key aspect of prediabetes. Paying close attention to those signs gives you plenty of time to make changes to avoid diabetes, says Beth Reardon, director of nutrition for Duke Integrative Medicine at Duke University.

"These symptoms usually occur in tandem with one another; together they create a bigger picture that says insulin resistance is going on," Reardon says. "Some signs can be measured, some we feel, some we can just see."

Prediabetes warning sign #1: Feeling tired and sluggish after eating
Ready to nap right after a big meal? This is a normal response to an influx of carbs (think of that post-Thanksgiving dinner feeling). But if it happens often, your body may be sending a message that your diet is too diabetes-friendly.

After eating, all carbohydrates -- whether in a doughnut or a carrot -- are broken down into the bloodstream as glucose (blood sugar), the body's main energy source. When the blood containing the glucose hits the pancreas, this organ gets the message to release insulin, a hormone it produces to help the cells throughout the body use glucose. Cells have insulin receptors that allow glucose to enter and either be stored as future energy or used right away.

It's a great system. But a diet that's high in simple carbs like sugar, white flour, and sweet beverages -- especially when consumed in large quantities at one sitting -- overwhelms it. The cells' insulin receptors eventually stop receiving the insulin, which means they can't take in the glucose. The glucose builds up in the blood while the needy cells don't get any. The pancreas, meanwhile, notes the glucose level is still high in the blood that flows through it, and it pumps out still more insulin in response. Net result: You feel sleepy and may find it hard to think, because your brain and body are depleted until the system rights itself.

Over time, this cycle can cause someone to become chronically insulin resistant. The body simply can't keep up with the demands that all those simple sugars and fats are placing on it.

What helps: Slow your carb load. Choose more complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains (barley, oats, quinoa, spelt, brown rice), vegetables, and whole fruits (not juices) that the body has to work harder to digest. This means blood sugar stays stable longer. Move around right after eating -- take a 15-minute walk; even washing the dishes helps -- rather than plopping in front of the TV. The activity will help your body begin to process the big glucose intake faster and more efficiently.

Prediabetes warning sign #2: Craving carbs
Among the most craved foods: chocolate, chips, and French fries. They're loaded with sugar, salt, and fat -- three substances that taste so good, they light up the reward system of the brain, which begs for more, more, more.

But what happens next in the body can be dangerous, says Reardon. Simple carbs such as sugars and white flour break down very quickly, providing a fast hit of energy. Soon, however -- because the insulin-resistant cells essentially ignore this entry of glucose into the blood -- the pancreas overcompensates, releasing more and more insulin to handle the glucose. What follows is a dramatic drop in blood sugar as the extra insulin quickly shuttles the glucose to the cells -- and energy levels plummet. The body is caught in a wave of fatigue. So, naturally, it craves another quick hit of energy to bring blood sugar back up. The brain becomes obsessed with this mission. And before you know it, you're reaching for a pick-me-up guzzle of soda, another handful of pretzels, a second cookie (or three).

People get sucked into a vicious cycle before they realize it, getting hooked on problematic foods they think they're craving -- while gaining weight.

What helps: Kick your food cravings. It's challenging, but one starting place is to avoid triggers that you associate with these foods. Just seeing a fast-food sign or the cookie package in your cupboard can be enough to set off the pleasure system in the brain that fixates on having the craved food.

Instead of quick-hit snacks like candy bars or chips, substitute slower-to-digest choices, like a handful of nuts, a banana, or raw carrots dipped into a tablespoon of peanut butter, which will keep you feeling sated longer. Be persistent: It can take as many as a dozen "successes" in resisting an old craving before your new habit is established.

Prediabetes warning sign #3: Being overweight -- and unable to lose extra pounds
Most prediabetics carry excess weight, says Duke University's Beth Reardon. That fact alone is a major risk factor for diabetes. But especially worrisome is when you try to cut back on calories and still can't see the scale budge. It may be time to consider whether insulin resistance is the culprit.

Stubborn weight loss despite best efforts can be the result of mixed messages that our cells are receiving, Reardon says. "The cells are starving because the fuel they need (in the form of glucose) is not being absorbed at the insulin receptor site on the cell. In the face of a perceived fuel shortage, the body will hold tightly onto existing stores of energy -- fat," she says. What little is absorbed also goes straight into storage -- as more fat.

What helps: Incremental change. Don't think, "OMG, I have to lose 50 pounds; I can never do that." Instead, think small. Losing just 5 to 7 percent of body weight prevents or delays diabetes by 60 percent, according to the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a major multicenter research study, and people over age 60 see even greater benefits, according to the DPP. Five percent of body weight translates to just 10 pounds for a 200-pound person.
Prediabetes warning sign #4: Looking more like an apple than a pear
Weight gain is weight gain, and all of it risks moving you down the path toward diabetes. But added pounds in one particular area -- the midsection -- are especially associated with insulin resistance and prediabetes.
Weight gain around the waist and abdomen (visceral fat) is considered more dangerous than extra padding in the thighs and rear. So-called "belly fat" is linked to a higher rate of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and dangerous cholesterol levels -- all risk factors for diabetes. Having an apple-shaped middle has also been linked to Alzheimer's disease.
For men, the danger point is considered to be a waist circumference of 40 inches or more; for women, the dangerous measurement is a waist of 35 inches or more.

What helps: Diet, weight loss -- and exercise. The third leg of a diabetes-thwarting approach is moving. It's not true that sit-ups and other abdominal exercises will target belly fat. (Though they do build muscles.) Exercise plays a critical role because when you build muscle, you increase the number of enzymes that are able to metabolize glucose as a fuel source for those cells, Reardon says. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise (like a brisk walk) most days of the week.
Prediabetes warning sign #5: High blood pressure
High blood pressure is linked to many different conditions. But insulin resistance is a common cause when it appears in tandem with excess weight gain (especially around the middle), fatigue, and other negative numbers on a medical workup (abnormal cholesterol levels and high triglycerides). Many people with high blood pressure worry about their heart without recognizing that the presence of hypertension -- along with these other signs -- is a neon red sign for prediabetes.

The numbers to beware: blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85, an HDL "good" cholesterol level below 40 mg/Dl for men and below 50 mg/Dl for women, and triglycerides of 150 mg/Dl.

Blood pressure elevates in part because of inflammation, a damaging cascade of events in the body that high insulin levels contribute to. "Blood becomes stickier and more viscous, and blood clotting factors increase, making it more difficult for the body to move the blood around," Reardon says. "Insulin also has an effect on the pliability of blood vessels, making them less elastic and therefore less able to respond to changes in pressure. This, in combination with blood that doesn't flow as easily, results in elevated blood pressure."

What helps: Losing weight slowly through dietary changes and increased exercise.
If you're experiencing the above signs, you should ask your doctor about a glucose tolerance test to measure glucose levels as well as insulin levels, because elevations in insulin levels will precede abnormal rises in fasting blood glucose. All this information together helps you identify insulin resistance long before an actual diabetes diagnosis. At the very least, you can consider yourself warned to reexamine your diet and move around more -- down the path away from diabetes.