Saturday, April 21, 2012

Letterboxing: Active, Inexpensive & Creative Fun for Your Family

I'm always on the lookout for FUN, FAMILY-Oriented activities that are FREE and focus on FITNESS in some capacity.  Several years ago I learned about Letterboxing through an article in Family Fun Magazine and instantly fell in love with it!  Letterboxing fits all four of my criteria - it's a lot of FUN, the entire FAMILY can participate, it's basically FREE and you can't do it sitting on your couch (there's the FITNESS focus!). 

Letterboxing (similar to geocaching minus the use of a GPS or compass) is a treasure hunt.  You follow clues that lead you to a hidden box.  There are thousands of boxes hidden all over the world in places such as the woods, coffee shops, cemeteries, ballparks, and even highway rest stops.  Some are easy to find while others involve a several mile hike or bike ride.  Clues can be found at or on the "Letterboxing North America" Facebook page. 

My family on a Letterboxing adventure in
Mosquito Lake State Park in Cortland, Ohio

Before starting out on your first hunt, you'll need to gather or purchase a few items:
1) a journal - This can be a simple spiral notebook or a fancy journal.  Choose whatever works best for you and your family's budget! 
2) a rubber stamp - On the Letterboxing website there are instructions about making your own rubber stamp or you can buy one at a craft store.  You can also find them at the dollar store!  The website encourages you to make or buy one that symbolizes your family.  The stamp that we use is a country-style patchwork heart with four different patterns in the heart. 
3) an ink pad - This can be purchased at the craft store, any office supply store or also found at the dollar store.
4) a pen (You can Letterbox without the other three items, but I'd at least make sure you have a pen with you!)

Once you've selected a box to look for, print out the directions or bookmark it on your phone (Keep in mind, that in some wooded locations you may not have access to the internet!) and head out to begin the fun!  When you locate the box you are searching for, you'll find a journal and a rubber stamp.  You'll stamp your stamp in the box's journal and the box's stamp in your journal along with writing a brief note.  It's neat to look through the journal to see how many other people have found that box and where they are from.

JJ found the Letterbox we were searching for
inside the trunk of a fallen tree.

Writing in the Letterbox's journal

Besides the fitness aspect of Letterboxing, there is also the educational aspect - problem solving, math and history to name a few!  Plus, your family can also create and hide your own Letterbox.  That's something I'd like my family to do someday.

We've been Letterboxing since JJ and Ellie were little.  While they grumble a bit when I mention Letterboxing today, as you can see from the pictures, once we get started they still get into the excitement of the hunt!

I encourage you to give it a try.  I know your family will enjoy it as much as we do.  Happy Hunting!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's OK to Throw Yourself a P.I.T.Y. Party!

My dad has a favorite saying: "Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan."  It's a motto that the entire Hamer Crew lives by.  But what happens when you plan your work, begin to work your plan, but then life throws you a curve ball and your plan doesn't work??  You do the obvious!  Dramatically throw yourself across your bed while loudly sobbing.  Get the ice cream out of the freezer and eat it directly out of the carton with a serving spoon.  Drive to the mall and buy yourself a new pair of shoes.  Crawl into bed, throw the covers over your head and don't move for at least 12 hours. 

I'm sure that at this point you expect me to say that those are not healthy reactions to planned work gone wrong, but instead I'm going to tell you that that is EXACTLY what you SHOULD do!  I think that P.I.T.Y. Parties are very healthy!


I found that too often when things went wrong in my life I would "stuff" my emotions and put on my happy face.  THAT'S not a healthy choice to make.  Emotions need to be expressed - good and bad.  When we stuff our bad emotions they don't go away.  They simply eat away at us and show up in ways such as a headache, high blood pressure or a bad mood.  Sometimes we may not even realize that our stuffed emotions are causing us harm until, over time, something drastic happens. 

That's why bad emotions need to be expressed, but they should be expressed in HEALTHY ways.  Throwing yourself a P.I.T.Y. party is a very healthy way to express those emotions.  The key to having a healthy P.I.T.Y. party is doing it PURPOSEFULLY.  Doing something on purpose indicates that you have control of the situation.  So if you are going to throw yourself across your bed and sob - go ahead and release all of those yucky emotions, but get up after ten minutes.  If you are going to get the ice cream out of the freezer go ahead and cover those yucky emotions with sugary sweetness, but put a scoop or two in a bowl, don't eat the entire quart.  If you are going to go out and push away those yucky emotions by treating yourself to a new pair of shoes, be wise and don't splurge on a $300 pair (that will only lead to further yuckiness when you see your bank statement!).  If you are going to hide from those yucky emotions for a little bit, go to bed early, but make sure you get up for work the next morning.

Once you indulge those yucky emotions by acknowledging them and releasing them in a purposeful way, you'll be ready to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on with a new plan!

A goal that I was working toward this year was to run one 5K a month.  Right off the bat I had to miss the January 5K I had signed up for due to my husband's health.  "No problem," I told myself.  "You'll start in February and run eleven 5K's this year."  I ran the Runnin' Outta My Mine 5K in February and was working my plan as I prepared for March's 5K.  Then my blood pressure spun out of control (I'm a stuffer!  Not releasing those yucky emotions caught up with me and showed up through a dangerously high blood pressure!) and I learned I would be sidelined for my March 5K.   I was absolutely devastated.  So I threw myself one heck of a P.I.T.Y party!  I cried.  I talked my mom, sister and best friend's ears off about how horrible this situation was for me.  That night I ate four pieces of pizza instead of my normal two and indulged in a Dairy Queen Blizzard.  Over the weekend I took a nap on Saturday AND Sunday afternoons.  I definitely INDULGED THE YUCKINESS, but I maintained control of myself and PURPOSEFULLY told myself the party would end on Monday morning.

With the help of medication and making some lifestyle changes to start to reduce my stress, my blood pressure is back down and I've put my running shoes back on.  I'm re-focused and am now planning to run ten 5K's this year.  At least that's my plan . . . and believe me, I'm workin' it!