I grew up in a suburban house with a big yard and tons of privacy. My parents have 3.5 acres of mature trees on a cul-de-sac. Big, flat front and side yards were perfect for playing volleyball, croquet or frisbee. My siblings, cousins, friends and I could fly through a clearing in the back on a rope swing. A nice long driveway was the scene of basketball games, obstacle courses and chalk drawings. In the winter, we’d bundle up and take the sleds through the trees and down the hills while our beloved collie, Shadow, followed along.

TV was frowned upon in my family. My dad would come home from work and put his hand on the living room set. If it was hot, like we just turned it off and quickly opened books in our laps, he gave us that disapproving look. My parents would remind us they didn’t buy a beautiful yard for us to grow up in just to have us sit inside watching Disney Afternoon or reruns of “Saved by the Bell.”

I haven’t lived in my parents house in 12 years, but I still feel guilty when I find myself planted on the couch, clicker in hand. A few years back, I made a rule: No TV before 7 p.m. But rules are made to be broken, right?

I’ve said before that I have high standards for myself. I set goals. I keep track of my progress. And I cheat. Some examples:

Rule: No TV before 7 p.m.

Exceptions: Snow days, sick days, weekends, Exercise TV and if I’m really, really crabby or exhausted.

Alternatives: Internet, reading, cooking, running, blogging, spending time with friends, volunteering.

Rule: Savings account funds are not for spending.

Exceptions: Vacations, emergencies, whoops! I used my Visa online shopping again.

Alternatives: Umm … wait til the next paycheck?

Rule: 5 servings of fruits or vegetables per day.

Exceptions: Snow days, sick days, weekends, and if I’m really, really crabby or exhausted.

Alternatives: Blueberry jam, apple juice … does wine count as grapes?

Rule: Books before bed.

Exceptions: When I’m too sleepy because I stayed up watching TV or drank too much wine.

Alternatives: Magazines, fall straight asleep.

Rule: Exercise 30 minutes a day most days of the week.

Exceptions: Illness, injury, plans with friends.

Alternatives: 20-minute lunch-break walk.

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