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First sign of spring! White snowdrops

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Update 1/5/2021: Well, here we are, another year gone and 10 months into the Covid-19 pandemic. So far so good for my immediate family and myself, but there are still many months to go before we can all feel safe and protected.

With the social distancing rules in place here in the state of Vermont, I find I'm becoming a little more grounded... more time to focus on what really matters. Trying to carve out time each day for exercise, meal planning, music practice, mental agility (daily word & number puzzles) as well as management of our local food pantry (mostly remote). Looking forward to beginning the new winter 2021 5% challenge here on Spark!

Update 1/5/2020: At age 73 I consider myself very lucky to be in relatively good health, with a loving, supportive family. I'm the mandolin player in a local bluegrass band... took up this wonderful instrument after retiring about 7 years ago. Also decided it was time to "give back" to the world: now working 25+ hours a week as the volunteer director for my parish food pantry. It's hard work but extremely rewarding.

Update 12/31/2018: After enjoying retirement for 8 years or so, I've taken a new volunteer assignment as the director of a local non-profit food pantry. It's lots of work and more physical than anything I've ever done before (I worked in info technology for 40 years), but overall very rewarding both mentally and spiritually.

At the same time, my weight has been slowly creeping back up, so it's time to give more attention to healthy eating habits. I know Spark and all my friends here can help me, as long as I stay focused. So it's back to the winter 5% challenge as part of the awesome Spirited Underdawgs!

Update 10/27/2018: I guess fall is the time that I start to get serious about losing weight... the cooler weather calls me outdoors to walk in the woods, put the garden to bed, and just enjoy the changing leaves. So here I am back with the 5% Challenge community, trying to lose the 8 pounds that I gained over the past half year. One small step at a time!

Update 10/2/17: After a summer off of weight tracking and exercise monitoring, I'm back with new energy for the Fall 5% Challenge. If you're not already participating in the challenge, there are still a few days left to sign up. It starts 10/07/17 and runs for 8 weeks. Check out the team: 2017 Fall 5% Challenge Community!

Update 3/25/17: I've been laid up with an injured foot for the past 3 months, so by necessity I've had to lay low on my exercise program. Now the cast is off, wheelchair put away, and I'm ready to start gentle exercise as a member of the Spring 5% Challenge Community. Here are my exercise plans:

2017 SPRING 5% Challenge Exercise Commitment:

- PT exercises for foot, knees & back: 6 days/week

- Slow walk with poles: 5 days/week; start with 5-10 mins & work my way up

- Strength training at home: 3 days/week

- Aerobic exercise on recumbent bike: 3+ days/week; start with 10 mins & increase as able

Other LTGL (Living the Good Life) inspirations to continue each week:

-  Spend 30 minutes decluttering at least 3 times per week.  This can be a drawer, closet, or simply the "surfaces" of furniture in each room.

-  Continue with the NEE (no eating in the evening) concept:  after my dinner meal, plan one healthy snack to have later in the evening and nothing else. So far, a cup of herbal tea and a small biscotti has fit the bill!

Hopefully, I'll be able to continue as part of the Spirited Underdawgs team. Here is our oath:


I do solemnly pledge:
that I will do my best to eat healthy and within my calorie range,
that I will exercise to the best of my ability,
that I will watch my portions and avoid mindless eating,
that I will avoid or limit unhealthy foods,
that I will try to get enough sleep,
that I will stretch myself out of my comfort zone,
that I will always try to make healthy choices even when stressed,
that if I slip, I will get back on track with the very next opportunity,
that I will keep a CAN DO attitude, or ask for Help,
and that I will support my fellow pack mates

Because I am an UnderDawg
And every UnderDawg has the heart of a hero.

So Help me Spark People.

Hi all, I'm an avid gardener, musician, amateur photographer, nature lover, empty nester, and a retired IT project manager. My two passions are music and the outdoors. I'm hoping to apply this love in improving my health and losing weight. My favorite outside activities are walking, hiking, skiing (both downhill and XC) and gardening.

1/3/17 update: Unfortunately I broke 5+ bones in my foot and will be in a wheekchair for the next couple of months, so those lovely outside winter activities will need to be put on hold for a while.

I'm now getting ready for the Winter 5% challenge as a member of the Spirited Underdawgs team. Here are my exercise goals:
Winter 5% Challenge Exercise Commitment

- Stretching exercises: 6 out of 7 days/week

- Weight bearing exercises: 3 times/week

- Cardio workouts 4x/week if I can figure out a way to do them from my wheelchair...

Looking long range, here are the main reasons I want to lose weight:

- I'll feel better about myself, more self confident
- Losing weight will lessen my chances for diabetes and heart problems, both which run in my family
- I'll be in better shape to walk with Bailey, ski, hike, play music & garden
- I'll have fewer backaches, knee and foot problems
- I'll feel better about what I look like in other people's snapshots
- I'll be able to wear fitted, stylish clothes and look ok
- I'll live a longer, better quality life
- It'll be easier to bend over to do simple things like putting on socks and tying my shoes
- I'll have more flexibility and strength for gardening
- I'll be happier when I look in the mirror

My goals & program are written over on the right of this page as well as in my blog entries. Please stop by & leave a comment!

01/17/12: Here I am back at SparkPeople after a break of about 3 years. Earlier I was thrilled and surprised that I was able to lose 30 pounds and actually reach my goal weight. Well, since then I got busy with "life", met a new wonderful guy, and sort of stopped my daily exercise routines. Now I'm back up 15 pounds and want to put a stop to it before I lose all the progress that I originally made. So full speed ahead!

3/27/15: Here I am starting back up again on my weight loss mission. Now I've gained back all but 10 of the initial pounds that I lost. Time to put this trend back in reverse! Osteoarthritis is settling in my knees & other joints, so I have even more reason to keep active & lose weight.

9/13/15: As of now my weight is going in the right direction, DOWN, thanks to the encouragement and support of the 5% Challenge team and of course the wonderful Spirited Under Dawgs. Just need to stick with it, come join me!

Member Since: 1/1/2007

Fitness Minutes: 26,294

My Goals:
1. Get down to a healthy weight and BMI... my target is a little over a 10% weight loss. 2. Lose inches off my waist thru healthy eating and exercise.
3. Increase my muscle mass and bone density via strength training.

My Program:
Participate in the 5% Challenge Community races.

- Begin tracking my daily food consumption & planning better choices
- Start drinking more water (well 8 glasses/day is more than I can handle at this point, but work my way up to this goal)

Winter 5% Challenge Exercise Commitment

- Stretching exercises: 4 out of 7 days/week (preceded by 5 min warmups)

- Weight bearing exercises: 3 times/week, either at home or Anytime Fitness

- 20+ min cardio walks or elliptical bike: 5 out of 7 days/week

- XC and downhill skiing when my body and conditions allow

Personal Information:
Retired from an IT profession after 41 years on the job. Obtained my master gardener certification. Now am picking up music in a big way: started playing mandolin & guitar about 4 years ago and am now in a local bluegrass band. We don't make much money but we have a lot of fun!

Other Information:
Have a passion for gardening, animals, nature and music of many genres (jazz, bluegrass, cajun, zydeco, blues, folk, rock & country). Attend as many music festivals each year as I can. Play piano, hand drums, accordion, guitar, mandolin & a little banjo ukelele.

Read More About GARDENERGAL - Profile Information moved here. (Updated January 5)

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    Hello my special friend.

    Thank you so much for my spark goodie. You are always so kind! It was a huge achievement for me to run 13 miles. I haven't run that far in 20 years! Gulp!

    How was your day?

    love and hugs Helen xxx
    4825 days ago
    Gilad is awesome!! The dvd's I have are: Elite Forces, Quick Fit System(QFS), Express Workouts, and Getting Fit In Jerusalem.
    The only one I DON'T recommend is the Jerusalem dvd. It's an older one and I just don't care for it. The QFS is a little pricey so you may want to try one of the others before you invest. It does come with 4 dvd's, 3 cardio and 1 strength. The others are just as good and none of them require equipment other than some light dumbbells. He is the only instructor that has kept my attention. His website is
    I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have more questions.
    4826 days ago
    Hi Joni!

    Thanks for your advice. I truly value it. I was thinking about investing in a sledge so I could come down the hills a little quicker. But I guess that would be cheating, eh?

    Hugs and love Helen xxx

    Must remember little steps! :-)

    4826 days ago
    Thank you so much for my lovely spark goodie. You are so sweet. It's important to feel happy in life. Something my hubby once said to me, 'If you don't ask, you don't get.'

    Although you didn't ask you did mention it and it was important to me to do something about it. I hope you enjoy the months challenge. Good luck and have an awesome weekened. Keep CRUNCHING!

    hugs and love Helen xxx
    4827 days ago
    Hi Sweetie!

    I've waved my magic wand and have put you in a team with your friends. You are now in Terffically Toned instead.

    I hope this good news will put a smile on your face. Hee hee.

    hugs and love Helen xxx
    4828 days ago
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