I’ll be honest; it’s time to write the column, and I’m tired from a week’s worth of working, chasing kids, household chores and the ever present, never ending task of home remodeling and…well, the muse just isn’t tapping me on the shoulder with the gift of inspiration.

But I do have a little something that I downloaded off of the Internet after I heard it being read on the radio by my favorite morning team of Tracy Cassidy and Brett Harris of B98-FM. I wake up to their show every weekday morning and their mix of music, talk and trivia helps me get off to a good start on the day.

The piece is titled “How To Stay Young And Content.” The unknown author lists 10 ways-why is it always 10 ways to do this or that and not eight or 12?-to have a happier, healthier life. Are you ready? OK, here goes.

1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height.

This weekend we had our final Christmas celebration of the season, this time with my side of the family. We decided to meet at Picadilly Market in Wichita for Sunday brunch. Let me tell you, I’ve never seen a group of people more concerned with throwing out what the author would consider a “nonessential number.”

“These kids are both 12. They still pay the children’s price, right?”

“I’m over 55. Don’t forget that I get the senior discount.”

“Well, I’m not 55 yet, but I just got my A.A.R.P. card. Does that qualify me for anything?”

The lesson here? When eating out, age is not necessarily a nonessential number that should be ignored. I wonder if there is some kind of number trade-off one could work, like, I’ll acknowledge my age but will promise not to think about the number of fat grams I’m about to partake.

No, I didn’t think so.

2. Keep only cheerful friends.

I like sociable people. I like joyful people. But if cheerful means hanging out with Little Mary Sunshine who can’t have a serious moment or a serious thought…yuck.

3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Just never let the brain idle.

Going to work at the elementary school has been such a good thing for me. Every day there is something new to learn about how the human brain processes information and the different techniques it takes for one student or the other to be able to master any given subject. Why should we stop this wonderful process just because our school days are over?

4. Enjoy the simple things. When the children are young, that is all that you can afford. When they are in college, that is all that you can afford. When they are grown, and you are on retirement, that is all that you can afford.

Enough said.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath. Laugh so much that you can be tracked in the store by your distinctive laughter.

Oh, that last line reminds me of Connie Fast. If you know her, you will know exactly what I mean.

6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person who is with us our entire life is ourselves.

7. Surround yourself with what you love. Whether it’s family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies…whatever. Your home is your refuge.

Well, for me, I hope that someday that last statement will be true. Actually, our main floor is just about finished with the flooring scheduled to be put in this week.

This time, Keith and I really put in a lot of thought as to what would make us happy and not necessarily what was in style or how other people’s homes were decorated. We chose to follow an Arts and Crafts style of design using Mission furnishings and deep, rich colors.

In addition to the Kangaroo Tan and the Gentle Dill Green, I found Brown Plum and Hagen Blue paints at Hillsboro Hardware to round out our color scheme.

Hey, were both almost 50. We’re going to do what we like, after all, it’s just a couple of cans of paint.

8. Don’t take guilt trips. Go to the mall, the next county, a foreign country…but not guilt.

Admit your failings, receive forgiveness and get on with it, but speaking of trips….

My brother’s son has just accepted a three-year post as the residential environmental biologist at the University of Hobart on-get this-the island of Tasmania. He’s going to be studying fish and birds for some joint Australian-Antarctic project so he, his wife and baby son will be leaving in April for life “down under.”

We’ve always wanted to see Australia. Now we have the perfect excuse. Right, Keith?

9. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.

I would so much enjoy the opportunity to tell my nephew just how much I love him-let’s say, sometime in the next three years.

And it would be so impersonal to say something so meaningful over the phone or via e-mail when it could be done face to face…say on a beach overlooking the Great Barrier Reef.

10. Remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

I understand that Tasmania is beautiful, breathtakingly so. Huh, Keith?

“Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda….”

* * *

Here’s a recipe from Brett and Tracy’s morning show.

Chocolate Apple Bread

2 tbs. sugar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tbs. buttermilk

1 cup chopped apples

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup chocolate chips

Combine first three ingredients for the topping. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla extract and beat until fluffy. Gradually beat in dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in apples, walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour into greased 9×5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

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