Thursday, September 27, 2012

Taking a Lesson From Sam

I had a conversation on Facebook yesterday, that got me thinking in a fresh way about what marriage really should be.
It started, of course, with Lord of the Rings. :)

"It got me thinking about Sam and Frodo. That is a beautiful picture of what marriage really should be- that lasting friendship, and deep loyalty, and that sense of 'I will be there, by your side, supporting you and helping you, even if it means we die together on a rock in Mordor. You will never be alone, because I will be there, no matter what!'

I love that! ♥ 

"You know, if in the marriage ceremony, God stood there in person and said something to the effect of, "Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee!!!" ...maybe people would approach marriage differently, if they realized that is really how God feels about marriage- even into the face of the fires of Mount Doom! Then maybe people would say, to the depth and extent of their whole being, 'I don't mean to!!!' and throw themselves into the river, and follow each other through the black valley, and truly have each other's back, no matter what!"

That is really what it should be. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is the Puppy Just Playing Me?


I know that the Small Dog (who was a year old in June) is perfectly capable of surviving for several hours at at a time in her kennel crate when nobody is home.

So, when I am home and she comes to me with pleading eyes and pitiful little whines every half hour or hour, why do I always believe that she is in the most dire distress?

I do not know how to tell when she honestly needs to go out, and when she's just bored and wants to know if Outside is somehow more magically interesting at that moment in time.

Does she really need to go out so very often, when I'm home?

Or is she just playing me like a banjo?

Indispensible, That's What You Are.....

Every time I come home from a trip, I wonder whether I want this to truly be my theme song.

I'm never sure of the answer.

At the end of a busy trip, with a long, exhausting drive home, I feel even more tired when I see the things that weren't done while I was away.

Then I feel ungrateful, for not just appreciating all that was done during my absence.

Then I wonder- would I really like coming home and seeing that my absence made no difference whatsoever; that everything sailed along just as smoothly without me?

Does my disgruntled grumbling have a smug edge? A satisfied core? A sense of, "Well, obviously they do need me after all!"?

I think it does.


I came home from a trip last night. I made the drive in record time (not speeding- I just didn't stop much), but I'd made such a late start that I got home a little after eleven thirty at night.

I did notice, and appreciate, that the dishwasher was running.

I did notice, and appreciate, the baskets of clean laundry in the living room, that were washed while I was gone.


And I also found myself prowling around, looking for proof that they just can't do without me!

[giant eyeroll at myself!!!]

I took the rotting chicken from the fridge, and tossed it in the trash. [See! Without me, things just fall apart!]

I grumblingly watered houseplants. [Does nobody water these but me?! Every time I leave, the same plants are nearly dead by the time I come home!]

[giant eyeroll at self, followed by "face palm"]

I am certain I am not the only one who does this.

I do, in fact, suspect that this is a fairly common human condition,
but that does not make me any less disgusted with myself.

I think most of us probably wrestle at times with this quandary; this flip-flopping between appreciating proof that the world does not fall completely apart the moment we step out the door, and dismay at all that is neglected in our absence.

I'm sure it's not just me.

But still.....

[face palm, shaking head at my own relentlessly consistent inconsistency!]

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Biggest Loser

I've started watching The Biggest Loser, Season 1, on Netflix with our younger daughter.

Does this show not just make you want to get out and exercise??!!!

And eat right?

Needless to say, after watching last night, I went back to starting my day with fresh fruit this morning! I really do enjoy beginning my day with flavorful, seasonal fresh fruit. Today it was chunks of juicy watermelon. It's just such a good way to start the day. :)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

When God Spoke To Me...In The Safeway Parking Lot

The few times God has spoken directly to me, it wasn't with a voice of thunder reverberating around me with solemn majesty.

And He never speaks to me like something out of archaic poetry, or the King James Bible. There is no, "Fear not, Beloved Daughter, to approach with joy. Be not afraid to cast thyself upon my mercy."

No. When God speaks to me, which has happened just a few times in my life, it is in a firm voice that speaks within my mind, but the words do not come from my thoughts. It is a surreal experience, but so definite that I do not hesitate to state that it was God speaking to me.

I have just re-read the Attolia series (a set of four books by Megan Whalen Turner, in the kid's or possibly young adult section at the library). We love this series! Anyway, in these books there are a few times when the gods of the main character speak to him. At one point, he complains to a friend that the poets lied; that the gods never speak to him in bold and majestic poetry. No, they say things to him like, "Stop whining!" I laughed when I read that, because I could totally relate.

So, to the Safeway parking lot.

Well, actually, before we get to the parking lot, there needs to be some background.

There was a time, a couple of years ago, when for two or three weeks in a row, I had the absolute best days...on Monday! It was great! Everyone around me was slogging through their miserable Monday-ness, and I was breezing along, having the most blissful time.

On Monday evenings, from September through May, I work in the Awana program at our church, helping kids learn about the Bible. My friend's son was in my handbook group at the time of this story, and he has some challenges in his life. During the time I was having these blissful Mondays, this friend called me on Monday afternoon, a couple of weeks in a row, to say, "He's had a pretty rough day at school. Where are you at with your day? Can you handle it if he's struggling this evening?"  And in the peace and ease of my days, I said, "I'm having a great day! I can totally handle it!"

Then there was the dark side of my Marvelous Mondays. I glided through the whole day, smiling and serene, basking in the peace of my own personal day. And then my family came home. And they spoiled my perfect day, with their crankiness, and their outrage over the day, and their very neediness sucking the marrow from my bones. I did not appreciate the way they ruined those perfectly lovely days. I'm pretty sure I even complained to them, "I was having this great day, and then you ruined it!" Needless to say, not some of my finest parenting moments!

Those few weeks of the Mondays of Peace and Sweetness passed by, and soon after, I stopped to visit with a lady I know, in the Safeway parking lot. Yes, we have at last arrived at the fabeled Lot of Parking that began this whole saga. I told her all about my Wonderful Mondays, and how much I enjoyed them, and how they enabled me to pour peace and love on the ruffled feathers of my friend's son...and also how my family just wrecked the whole thing and spoiled it for me.

We said goodbye, and as I walked to my car, God spoke to me, quite clearly, inside the privacy of my own head, interrupting the thoughts that were muddling around in there.

And God said to me....




Yet another time in which I felt I should be wearing a big label that said, "It's not about me!" I should probably tattoo that on the back of my hand where I can see it often. It bears repeating.

Yes, those lovely, peaceful days were a gift to me, but they were not for only me. I was feeling resentful of how my family spoiled my shiny mood...instead of loving them from that place of peace and sweetness; blessing them at the end of a hard day!


Those lovely days were FOR me, but they were not ABOUT me!

They were a gift to me, but a gift I was supposed to share!!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

What We've Been Eating Lately...

I have thought of my little blog often this summer, but my life and the inside of my head have not been conducive to reflective thought and writing. Today, I feel able for a brief post...before leaping back onto the whirling merry-go-round of the day.

I'm just feeling really good about the food choices I/we have been making these past several days, and wanted to write about it. After months upon months of heedless eating mixed with the heavy struggle back toward healthier ways, there is progress!

The other night, we had some steaks, so the Dear Eldest Daughter and I worked together to come up with a healthy meal. We concocted a Southwestern kind of dry rub (sea salt, cumin, oregano, parsley, chipotle chili powder, paprika, and a dash of cinnamon), which we massaged into the meat, then let it sit for a bit, before the Meat Maestro put it on the grill. As side dishes/steak toppers, we made guacamole, pico de gallo (freshly chopped salsa), and the black bean side dish we've been doing lately. It was all sooooo flavorful! And so healthy! And low on the glycemic index! Not one thing in there that compromised the health or well-being of any of us. That felt great!

**Black bean side dish: one can of black beans, drained. One jalapeno, minced. Juice of one small lime, and a dash of sea salt. I just put it all in a skillet and warm it up a little bit. We've been loving this as an alternative to refried beans.

** A friend recently taught me how to choose and prepare jalapenos so there is no heat, only flavor. Choose a jalapeno that is smooth and glossy, with no stretch-mark scars. Wearing gloves, clean it carefully, cutting out the whitish veins inside, and discarding the top and seeds.

The next night, we had hamburgers. I don't eat the bun anymore- avoiding wheat. So, I had a hamburger patty, with a hearty dollop of guacamole on top, with raw sugar snap peas, carrot sticks, and large chunks of cucumber on the side, with watermelon for dessert. Again, so tasty! So healthy! So perfect in regards to the glycemic index! So completely free of foods we can't tolerate! It feels so good to eat this way!

We went to see the movie Brave last night, which was wonderful- I especially loved the short film "LaLuna" before the movie. It was beautiful and precious. Anyway, at the theater, I considered the candy and popcorn, and then I walked away with just my bottle of water! I felt very proud of myself!

And today- I had half a fresh apple to start the day. I found some "Envy" apples at the store the other day, and I really like them. Later, I had a small carton of coconut milk yogurt. Just now, I had the other half of my apple, with a scoop of sunflower nut butter. What a great way to begin my day and my week!

I also weighed in this morning (a dose of reality/accountability that I've been doing for....maybe nine years?) and I am losing weight! At last! I'm not sure exactly how much total, but I think it's approaching ten pounds!

It feels wonderful to be walking a healthier path again!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Alternative Tamale Success!

In the past week, I have made tamales for the first time, and I was very happy with how they turned out. I used chicken breast, and made them flavorful but mild. I am a total spice-heat wimp. I also experimented with a vegetarian version, using Spectrum palm-oil shortening instead of lard, and a black bean-sweet potato filling. That also turned out well.

Now for the most recent challenge variant: How to make tamales for a daughter who cannot have any corn? The essential elements that define a tamale are the filling, on a base of masa (cornmeal) paste, wrapped in a corn husk. Filling. Corn. Corn.

I planned to use up the rest of the tamale ingredients for dinner tonight, and decided to improvise on a corn-free inspiration I'd had. Corn Free Daughter is back at college, and therefore unable to participate in the experiment, but I wanted to see how my idea would work.

Someone told me a while back, when I first set out on my tamale quest, that one can also use parchment paper to package tamales, instead of the traditional corn husks. Element one: solved.

I pondered the nature of the masa base.

Masa harina.'s really the same corn meal that my mom used to make hot cereal when we were wee girls.

So.......could another, corn-free, hot cereal work as well?

Why not?

I decided to try Cream of Wheat.

Cream of Wheat is also known as Wheat Farina.

Masa harina. Wheat farina.

Gotta love a food solution that not only works, but also rhymes!!! :D

I followed the same directions as for preparing the masa: Beat the shortening in the mixer with salt and baking powder; combine the dry wheat farina with warm liquid (I used chicken stock that I had on hand. Water works equally well, making a vegetarian version very easy); added the dampened wheat farina to the beaten shortening in several batches, beating all the while. It worked admirably!

I cut parchment pieces of approximately the same dimensions as the average tamale corn husk, spread on my wheat paste base, and topped it with my seasoned shredded chicken breast. You can use either kitchen string or strips of corn husk to tie the bundles shut. Since I had the pile of prepared husks, I used them. Also, my string is missing. :)

I put my corn-free tamales on to steam, and went about my other evening business.

They turned out well! The first couple/few bites seemed very different, but I quickly started to like the new version.

So, not only a successful experiment, but  tasty Friday evening dinner also! We had the chicken/corn tamales, and the chicken/wheat tamales, with a bean side dish that was also an experiment.

Beans- some Anasazi beans I had previously soaked and cooked from their dry state, then drained and stored in the fridge. Tonight, I added a carefully chosen, carefully cleaned serrano pepper, blended with cumin, oregano, sea salt and chicken stock. I added this seasoning concoction to the beans, along with kale cut small and more chicken stock. It turned out okay. I think it needed more flavor. There was enough of the pepper, but I could have used more cumin and oregano. Overall, though, it was good, and a good companion to the tamales.

I am rather pleased with the success of my experiment, and eager to share it with No-Corn Daughter!

p.s. fun note: one= tamal, more than one= tamales  :)

O, en Espanol, Un= tamal, pero moltos = tamales.   ;D   ....At least, I think that's right. :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sleepy Eyes, Sweet Potatoes, Stinky Hands and Sticker Feet

Wow! I hadn't realized it had been so long since I wrote a new post! Well, now I shall make amends. :)

I find myself extremely tired today. I have been putting in exceedingly long, full, busy days of late, and it really caught up to me this morning. After the busy beginning to my day, I took a solid nap! I rarely do that, but I seemed to be in desperate need of rest. I also rarely have a day that is not thick with commitments, so this was a rare coincidence of need and opportunity! I felt so much better when I got up again.

What was the busy start of my day, you ask? Well, maybe you didn't, but I will tell you anyway. :)

First thing this morning, at about 6:20 am, I drove clean laundry across town to our hardworking son. He's using a bicycle as transport just now, to save on gas money and because his pickup is having serious issues. It's pretty challenging to carry a full laundry basket on a bike, so he wasn't able to take it home yesterday. By the time I got home last night, I was pretty sure he was already asleep. When I called this morning and offered to bring his clean clothes over, he was so thankful. It's nice to do things for someone so thoroughly grateful and appreciative. :)

After I got back from my Errand of Laundry Mercy, I leashed up Mandy the Dog and we went for a mile-and-a-half walk. I do love how fresh and cool it is early in the morning. Today it was just a little too cool and a bit too fresh for comfort, but still a wonderful way to start the day. Singing meadowlarks are a great incentive to get me out the door for a walk!

After returning from our walk, I hand-watered outside. It is far too breezy today for the running of sprinklers, so hand-watering was the only way to go. I have some wee seedlings bravely pushing out of the ground, from seeds I planted a while back. I also have some new plants I've set out in the past week. Some were from a plant catalog I like- Annie's Annuals. It's such a fun catalog; whimsical and colorful. The plant selection they carry is unique- focusing on California wildflowers, and hard-to-find things like heirloom flower varieties. They like the original form of plants- the sort that still have actual fragrance. I love that! I'm excited to see the new plants from Annie's flourish and bloom.

The other plants are from Bloomer's nursery here in town. Yesterday afternoon, before our Dear Eldest Daughter headed back to college after a nice weekend at home, she and I made a pilgrimage to the nursery. We had so much fun, ambling through the greenhouses and seeing all the expansions and displays. Most of what I chose was for outside pots, but I did buy one small begonia for inside. I have wanted a begonia for so long, and I'm excited to finally have one. :)  After returning home with our treasure trove of plantly possibilities, we dug out pots and a bag of potting soil and got to work.

Unfortunately, the bags of planting medium I'd bought, on the advice of a guy at the store that sells it, was not what I should have bought! I had read that Potting Soil and Planting Mix are distinctly different, so I asked for Planting Mix. He told me this would work. If I'd actually read the bag, I would have known better. Sigh. Yet another live-and-learn. This mix was not for potted plants. It specifically says "for in-the-ground planting".  It is a mix of shredded wood product and steer manure and some other stuff. I've forgotten the other stuff, because the first two ingredients annoyed me enough to wipe the rest from my mind.

I think they must get their "steer manure" from a dairy! This is not the clean and healthy fragrance of a country field. This stuff has the acrid, penetrating odor of dairy slurry! And, us being us and in a hurry, we did not wear gloves! *regret!!!*  We scrubbed and scrubbed our hands, trying to get rid of the odor, but it took several hours for it to dissipate! Dear Daughter tried a strongly-scented hand lotion in her attempts, but that only made it worse. Then she had hands that smelled like fruity-flowery dairy slurry! Oh, how I wished I had stopped to think before we dug into our project!

The shredded wood annoyance didn't last nearly as long as the nasty steer odor, but it was plenty annoying all the same. Somehow, I got two tiiiiny little splinters of wood stuck in the tender arch of my foot! So tiny. So insignificant. And soooo annoying! They were far too small to find and remove, but every time I took a step (in that busy busy afternoon!) I got tiny little stabs in my poor soft foot. Sometimes it is the petty little things that bug me the most!

And last, but not least, I love when my food experiments succeed! I needed to make a vegetarian/gluten-free/dairy-free dish for a potluck last night, to meet the dietary needs of visiting band members (great concert!), so I made Sweet Potato Black Bean Tamales. Actually, they're not sweet potatoes, but what I call yams- the purple skinned deep-orange fleshed variety. Sweet Potato just sounds more appetizing in a recipe title than Yam. I mean, Yam Bean Tamales does not sound nearly as nice, now does it? ;)   I had some non-hydrogenated vegetable-based shortening (Spectrum brand) that worked beautifully in place of lard for the masa paste (the cornmeal tamale base). I used the Sweet Potato Black Bean taco filling idea that I tried recently, for the tamale filling. It all came together beautifully. I had the last few for my breakfast today, and they were delicious!

The nap and quiet day have helped. The steer manure smell finally went away. The tamales were wonderful, but now they're gone. The stickery bits of wood finally came out of my poor foot.

One concern remains. Just how bad of an idea was it to use a planting mix with a strong dairy slurry manure odor......for a houseplant?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Loved My Dinner!

A few days ago, I became suddenly and utterly booooored with every one of our usual dinner options. The thought of making any of the same-old same-old just makes my skin crawl. As a result, tonight I made a dinner experiment. Sometimes my experiments are met with raves, sometimes they are total failures. Not much middle ground in this world of meal invention.

I started from a concept I'd encountered a couple of different places: Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos. The title alone is enough to lure me in.  Sweet. Potato. Black. Bean. Tacos.  I'm already smiling. :)

I put several large yams in the oven to bake. Okay, I know that technically nothing we have here is an actual yam (they grow in Africa, are white-fleshed and can become just huge!), but calling the pale ones 'sweet potatoes' and the orange-fleshed ones 'yams' works for me!

I ended up only using two of the yams, but they were pretty large. I peeled  and cubed them, and tossed them into a pan with a little (Spectrum non-hydrogenated palm kernel oil shortening. It is one of the won't-kill-you good fats). I drained and added a can of black beans, as well as a pinch of sea salt, a sprinkle of ground cumin and a bit of chili powder. That's all. I stirred it from time to time as it heated. The baking gave the yams a flavor that was not only sweet, but deep and rich.

Our grocery store had some blue corn-flax seed-wheat tortillas, and they sounded like the perfect complement to my concoction. I added some slices of perfect avocado (a perfect avocado always feels like suddenly discovered treasure), a little shredded mozzarella, sliced black olives, and a bit of sliced tomato.

It was so good!!!

I get meated-out fairly easily, and we've had a pretty meaty few days, so I was loving the meat-free nature of my dinner. The flavor was so rich, and the texture so satisfying that I felt no lack of 'meatiness' at all. So many good nutrients in such a tasty package!

Because some around me do want meat more than I do, I wanted an option for them as well. The store also had some Smoked Andouille Chicken Sausages, which I cubed and heated/browned in a separate pan. My husband added a few bits of sausage to his tacos, and said he liked the combination. They added another level of flavor and just a big of spicy heat, which he likes.

Right away after dinner, I wrote down how I made these, so I will hopefully be able to duplicate the feat another time.

I really love it when an experiment turns out so beautifully, especially on a very busy night when there is no margin for do-overs!

Stereotypes vs. Racism

I got called racist the other day. Well, to be more specific, something I said was called racist.

I was pretty taken aback. I thought that was a pretty extreme thing to say to me.

People are so quick to call "racism" today. I think there's an important distinction between racism and stereotypes/assumptions that has been lost.

Here's what happened. We were talking about the paternity of our small puppy, whose mother was chihuahua-dachshund, and whose father was a mystery. As she grows, she looks more and more like our female golden retriever, so we think the father must have been at least part Goldie. When the vet saw the puppy several months ago, she thought the father may have been a Heeler, because of the freckling on the puppy's paws. As we talked about it this weekend, I suddenly wondered if Chihuahuas ever show that kind of freckling. So I turned to a teenage girl who was here, whose family is from Mexico (where Chihuahuas come from originally), and who has stated several times how much she hates Chihuahuas. If someone knows a breed well enough to hate them, they must have spent at least some time around them. Based on this I asked her, "Do chihuahuas ever have that kind of freckling on their feet?"  Her eyes got big and she said, "That is so racist!"

If I wanted to know something about lobster, and someone from Maine was sitting there, I would think it logical to ask that person, rather than someone from Wyoming. If I wondered whether hush puppies always have onions in them, and a person from Louisiana was present, I would think it perfectly normal to ask them. If I had a question about camels, and the subject came up in the presence of someone whose family came from North Africa, and who knew camels well enough to have a stated hatred of them, I would not think it odd to ask that person if they knew the answer to my question.

Any of those assumptions may be based in stereotyping, but are far from racist!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gazing Too Long At The Monster

I think this will be a short one. After plumbing the depths of my thoughts for the last post, I haven't much left, and am in real need of sleep. But I wanted to capture the germ of this idea while I have it.

Picturing  a hero from some myth or epic tale. He endures the usual epic quest to reach the monster's lair. He strives with the monster. There is much drama, much suspense, many close calls, and then, just when victory seems certain, when the monster weakens and starts to falter, the hero makes a fatal mistake. He gazes into the face of the monster. He is fixated. Mesmerized. And as he gazes too long, he is transformed into an exact replica of the monster. Tragic ending. Not the kind I like.

Here's the shade of an idea that I got from that phrase, that picture in my head:

What we focus our attention on is what we become.

If we focus our attention on what we are Against, we become consumed with Against-ness. It breeds all sorts of twisted, negative, destructive emotions and tendencies. Like when people decide it's okay to hate a certain group of people, or a cause, or a religion, or an idea. Giving oneself permission to hate anything is a treacherous and slippery slope. I think that any time people give themselves permission to hate, even if the hate is directed at truly terrible things, they are broken, changed, and scarred by letting that hate dwell in them. People on every side of every issue fall into this trap.

If, instead, we focus our attention on what we are For, we are transformed in an entirely different and beautiful way. Focusing on what is positive, healthy, hopeful and good fills us up with all those good things. Like the Bible verse....okay, I'll go look it up so I get it right...

Philippians 4:8..."Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things."

What we think about, what we dwell on, what we fix our thoughts on...that is what we become.

If we gaze too long at the monster, we will become just like the monster.

But if we gaze long and steadily into the face of Beauty, we will be transformed into a reflection of that beauty.

Stepford Wives to Labor Unions: Becoming the Dragons We Set Out to Slay

Okay, so this is a theory I have sort of swirling around in my head and I'm going to try to articulate it. I got to thinking about it after re-watching the newer version of the Stepford Wives movie the other day.

According to my understanding, labor unions began as a way for employees to address some truly terrible conditions. Business owners kept a heavy hand on their employees, controlling them with bullying, threats and sometimes violence. Anyone who spoke up often paid a heavy price. In the early days, when labor organizers traveled around, trying to educate workers about the possibilities they could have with unions to represent them, things got very ugly and bloody.

These days, it seems as if the labor unions themselves, at least some of them, have become the evil they set out to defeat. Their tactics closely resemble the ugliness, the threats and bullying, the suffocating control, and even the violence that were once used against them and those they represent.

I've thought about this ever since I saw a documentary on the early days of union organization a few years ago. It is sad and ironic that what began as a noble effort to protect, defend, and represent the persecuted and abused has bloated into the mirror image of the persecutor, the bully, the heavy hand.

And how exactly does the Stepford Wives movie tie in with these ponderings?  As I watched it, I began to see a parallel in the swing of women's roles. Just as the movie deals in pretty broad stereotypes, the germ of an idea that I had while watching it also springs from generalizations and stereotypes.

When I picture the Business Man, the Professional Man of earlier days, before Women's Lib, I think of a man in a suit...a dark, conservative suit...setting out for his important day of work. He is fond of his family, but he can't really be bothered with their activities or demands. He has More Important Things on his mind. His career is the highest priority in his life. He is driven, focused....and unavailable.

The wife in this picture looks something like Mrs. Cleaver, or Donna Reed. She is feminine, nicely groomed, and patient, tending to the many needs of her family in a dress, heels, and a pearl bead necklace. She does everything for everone. She adapts, compromises, and doesn't ask for anything for herself. She is there to have a nice dinner ready for the Man when he comes home, to hand him the paper and his pipe, so he can relax while she goes on doing everything for everyone. If she ever voices a complaint, the Business Man is kind, but in a condescending, patronizing way, and she ends up apologizing for being Such a Silly and fussing over nothing.

Then there came a change. Women wanted more. They wanted also to do More Important Things. They wanted to have a Chance, to see what might be out there for them. They became Career Women. They became hard-driving, respected professionals.These Career Women fought hard for every opportunity, every chance to prove themselves. Often, they had to work twice as hard to prove they were every bit as good as a man. And in time, many of them became the very image of that old Business Man. They wore dark colored, serious, conservative business suits. They were told that Motherhood was a sign of weakness, that it had no place in the work world. They were told to remember that they had More Important Things to do. In order to make it in the professional world, they became driven, focused, and unavailable.

As I watched the movie, I thought of my old thoughts on labor unions, and I saw an interesting parallel. The working woman became the dragon she set out to slay. She became the very things that drove her out of the house in the first place.  In order to succeed in Business Man's world, she was forced to become just like him.

In Stepford, all the wives used to be big-shots in their fields of work- executives, judges, famous authors. They were successful, forceful, driven. They weren't warm, or affectionate, or available to their families. Their husbands felt overshadowed, neglected, extraneous, resentful. They felt completely outdone by these Career Women, these Superwomen. And so the Superwomen were transformed into ultra-feminine, empty-headed, subservient robots.

There's also the whole angle of how it's not enough to be a successful career woman, but you also have to be super-mom-woman too, producing overachieving super-children. And the other facet- the disrespect of women who choose child-raising as their career. There's a lot of public lip-service to "Mom- the toughest job ever,"  but those who are Just a Mom, and not Career Woman plus Supermom, still encounter disdain for their choices.

I feel like I should tie this up in a neat conclusion, but I'm suddenly tired and my thoughts have frayed into the wind.

Labor Unions: set out to fight corruption, cruelty and persecution. Became corrupt, cruel persecutors.

Career Women: tired of being the drudge, dealing with it all without help from Distant, Driven, Cold, Unavailable Business man. Wanted a career of her own. Became Hard, Driven, Cold, Unavailable, Exhausted Career Woman. [And usually expected to be UberPerfectionSuperMom on top of it all- sort of a twisted mix of Career Woman and Stepford Wife!]

They became the dragon. Surely there is some mythological story out there of a hero who gazed too long at the monster he set out to slay, and was transformed into the monster himself.  It's the danger of gazing too long at the monster; the hazard of the pendulum that swings too far the other way.

I suppose there is a moral, beyond the fact that these transformations interest me.

Hmmm....Gazing Too Long At The Monster. Sounds like the title for another post. ;D

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Not Stuck On Band-Aid. Band-Aid Hates Me!

Seriously. This is ridiculous!

Last Thursday, I had a funky mole excised from my leg. It was being weird, and our doctor agreed it should probably not get to stay a part of me. I'm not stressed about this. Our family has had so many funky things taken off and tested, I realize I've just gotten used to it. Last time, by the time they called with the biopsy results, I'd completely forgotten about the whole thing. But this is not my point.

After they excised the mole, they put one of those large band-aids over the area, and I went on my way.  The next morning I changed the bandage, put on a fresh large band-aid, and headed out on my busy day. Dear Youngest Daughter and I made a nice early start, and headed for Medford. It was a long, busy, fun day-the four-hour drive to Medford, walking around and shopping, the drive back to Klamath, more shopping, then the drive home. As the day progressed, I was in more and more pain from the stitches, or so I thought. We got home at 6:30 pm, and both had places to be right then, so we were in a bit of a hurry. I noticed that my incision had bled, so I thought I'd give it a fresh cover before we rushed off for the rest of our evening. Being in a hurry, I ripped the bandage off...

Oh, was that ever a bad idea!!!  Apparently, with all of the sitting, driving, and walking of the day, the four corners of the band-aid had really adhered to my skin. When I ripped it off, each corner took a chunk of my skin with it. OWWW!!! I didn't have time to do much about it just then, so I put on another band-aid to protect the stitches, but rotated ninety degrees so as to leave the torn bits alone. We took off for our next events, and were gone for another couple of hours. By that time, I was in rather a lot of discomfort. It really stings to have strips of skin torn off!

By the next afternoon, it all just hurt, so I had our Dear Eldest Daughter, home from college for Easter, help me. That whole part of my leg was traumatized by that point, by adhesives. What wasn't held together with stitches or torn by the band-aid was irritated and sore where the other bandages had been stuck. We tried to improvise a covering that would not involve more band-aids. Our genius plan involved a large gauze pad, with Coban wrapped all around my leg to hold it on. It was a great idea. It failed. Every time I walked, the whole thing would slip and bunch up, which was not only uncomfortable but truly ineffective. I decided that the nice fabric band-aids that really stick were no longer a good idea, and switched to the wimpy plastic ones that I usually hate. If I use them on a cut finger, they fall off in a very short time, which is just irritating. Dear Eldest Daughter was so helpful. In the end, we put a small band-aid over the stitches, and over each torn place. It was tricky to place each one so that it covered the sore bit, but wasn't stuck over another sore bit, but we did it. This was Saturday.

Today is Wednesday. Over the past three days, I have gone through varying degrees of discomfort. Sometimes it's all pretty okay. At others, it just starts to burn. By yesterday, I was only covering the stitches, and the most affected torn bits with small band-aids. Last night, it was all just burning and stinging, so when I got home at the end of the evening, I took off the wimpy little plastic band-aids...and they had created new sores! ...sigh...  I must really have a reaction to something in the band-aids. I did have a reaction to the adhesive patches back when I wore a heart monitor a couple of years ago. By the time that week was over, I looked like I'd been attacked by an giant, acid-oozing octopus!

By last night, what started as an inch-long incision had become an area about four by six inches, with several wounds from band-aid damage, and with all the other skin irritated and sore from adhesive reaction. Though I was trying to protect my stitches from friction damage, the band-aids themselves have become a larger problem! It is just a mess!

So now, I have resorted to the CuddlDuds bandage....a.k.a. longjohns- smoother and less abrasive than Levis! Since there is apparently no form of band-aid in the house that doesn't cause larger problems, I am reduced to healing salve and long johns. I've just been to the store in search of latex-free band-aids, hoping that would solve my little dilemma, but they don't have a single one. I'll try the drugstore later, when they're open.

Things about which I have not gone into unnecessary detail: things like seeping, and torn-off scabs during the night, and the effect of pantyhose when skin has been torn off. Wasn't that thoughtful of me? ;)

What started as a minor incision with stitches now looks like I was attacked with claws, sandpaper and acid.

So, far from being anxious about a phone call with biopsy results, I have instead spent almost six days suffering increasing levels of pain and frustration! They seem so helpful and innocent, don't they? But then they turn to the Dark Side, and the nightmare begins.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Two Sandhill Cranes browsing in a field at dusk. 

Clusters of bright yellow crocus bursting into bloom- that splash of color so welcome after the long winter! 

Two meadowlarks have a singing contest as I walked this early morning- their song is one of my favorite sounds in the world. It feels like a special privilege every time I hear it.

The sound system in the new car! Big loud bass is truly like therapy for me. It unwinds my mind and relaxes me. I had it turned up so loud this evening that the air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror was dancing along! Love love love it!

The joyous greeting I get from the big dog and the little dog, every single time I walk through the door! So sweet.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Love When Healthy Things Make My Mouth Happy!

Such yummy things I ate today!

For a snack this afternoon, I make a smash of avocado, black olives, olive oil, sea salt, and a bit of pepper, then spread it on a brown-rice rice-cake. So good! It was kind of like a raw, garlic-free, healthy tappenade/bruschetta-topping sort of thing. All of those lovely pre-made tappenades and such tend to have garlic (kind of a basic with Italian foods!), which rules them out of my diet. They've been catching my eye at the grocery store recently, so I needed to find an alternative that I could have with no unpleasant consequences. When I used to get fascinated with an "off-limits" food, or get a specific craving, I would just go ahead and eat that food, because I knew that if I didn't, the thing would not leave me alone! Some of the hardest struggles for me have been lasagna and fettucine alfredo. I went through some hard years over those!

Now, I try to find an alternative that will kick the fascination/craving, but with no consequences for my health and well-being.

...And for dinner, I had chicken bits with pesto over spaghetti squash. It was an experiment, and it turned out sooo well! I made gluten-free brown-rice spaghetti for the family, but as I'm cutting back on starches again (like I've been supposed to all along!), I went with my favorite pasta alternative- baked spaghetti squash. I wasn't sure just how to do the chicken. I had chicken breasts, from healthfully raised chickens, but I wasn't sure just how I wanted to incorporate them into my idea. In the end, I cut them into bite-sized pieces, and sauteed them in some olive oil, with a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper. Toward the end, I added a few leaves of the fresh basil, to give it some flavor. I was concerned it might be bland, but when combined with the pesto, it was savory and wonderful. The pesto was homemade by necessity, as regular pesto has garlic and parmesan cheese, both of which are on our better-not-to-eat-it list. I used fresh basil, a little olive oil, pine nuts, some freshly squeezed lemon juice, and just a tiny sprink of sea salt. It tasted so fresh and tangy and delicious!

It makes me so happy when I can come up with an acceptably healthy, allergen-free alternative that is so good I don't miss the "real" thing! And I really love when healthy food makes my mouth so happy that all the sugary stuff doesn't even sound good- like it would be a really big buzz-kill for the healthy tasty happy-dance my mouth is doing. :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Even In The Valley Of The Shadow

I heard someone say to my friends, "God chose to give your daughter a brain tumor, because He knew your faith was strong enough to handle that"...and it made me furious! What a hideous thing to say! So hurtful, and so completely untrue. The Bible says "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:16-17. I believe to the roots of my being that God does not give fatal accidents or terminal diseases. He is the author of perfection. The Fruit of the Spirit, the evidence of His presence, is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. The evidence of His presence is not death, destruction, and heart-broken grief. "All things work together for good"...does not mean that everything that happens, no matter how terrible, is something God thought would be a good idea. It means that, no matter what happens in our lives, God will still be working in our lives for our good, and for His good purposes. It does not mean that terrible, heartbreaking things are some sort of twisted gift that God thinks will be good for us! I do not believe that God chooses death, destruction and disease, anymore than I would believe He was behind the actions of Adolf Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer. We live in a broken world, where disease is more and more common, and where people do terrible things to one another. I saw a video clip the other day of a blind, autistic boy who sings beautiful praise to God. Someone made a comment about God afflicting this boy to show His glory. What a slander against God's character. This boy's mother was on heavy drugs when she was pregnant. God did not afflict this child- his mother did! One of my very favorite incidents in the Bible is when Jesus wept with His friends over the death of their brother. The thing that I love about it is that when He stopped to grieve with Mary and Martha, He was actually on His way to raise their brother Lazarus from the dead...He knew that in just a short time, He would be presenting His friends with their brother resurrected and whole...but He had such compassion for their grief that He stopped to weep with them. This is an important part of my picture of God's character. He knew their grief would soon be turned into joy, but He did not dismiss their grief- he shared it. God is holy, and His defining characteristic is Love. He does not cause evil, or ugliness, or death, or destruction. He has deep compassion for our pain. He weeps with us. He promised that, no matter what happens, He will never leave us or forsake us. His love for us is unshakeable. He grieves over the ugly brokenness of our world. He wept with his friends. He wept over His hardhearted children in Jerusalem. The tears of the Son of God are a powerful testament to the tender, compassionate love He has for each of us. He will walk with us, weep with us, carry us, and help us through even the worst of times, even in the valley of the shadow of death. He will still work for good in our lives, work for His good purposes, no matter what happens. But He never causes evil to happen. He gives us hope when there is no hope, and peace that makes no sense- that is beyond human understanding, and joy in the midst of pain. His gifts are always good, and His love has no end.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Inspiration! Feed my face? No! Feed my soul!

1. Quote on Nikki's LeanBody Lifestyles facebook page:  "If you're tired of starting over, stop giving up!"  Yes!  So simple. So true. It made me laugh out loud. Stop giving up!

2. On her page, talking about non-food motivators and rewards for success.  Historically, the only rewards that come to mind for myself involve food and/or money. I am really digging down to the foundations of my habits and thinking patterns this year, working to change things from the ground up. This rewards issue has been a tough puzzle for me. In a conversation with Nikki on her page, I got inspiration at last. She suggested "me time" types of rewards, like a hot bath with candles, or curling up (and being left alone!) with a good book. That sparked a thought in me. My absolute favorite thing I did last year was a breakfast hike with Eldest Daughter Heather. We packed a healthy breakfast in daypacks and went for a hike. We ate our breakfast sitting on a hillside, overlooking our valley. It was perfect! That is the sort of thing that will motivate me! That is the kind of reward I need! Time with my favorite people, doing healthy happy things, building wonderful memories! Instead of feeding my face, I will feed my soul!

Monday, January 30, 2012

And the deer watched me pee

See, I knew that would make you want to read this! ;D  I had the best weekend! It was totally spontaneous; one of my sudden Mad Schemes. All of a sudden, the weather warmed, roads cleared, and I realized there was no school on Friday. Suddenly, going North to help my lovely sister and her wonderful husband move into their Own Home became a possibility worthy of consideration!

We gathered all necessary information and input, and made our plans. Friday morning, we decided it was a "go." In Star Trek terms, "4 of 4" (younger daughter) decided to stay home and rest, using the three day weekend to catch up on things that needed doing. But "3 of 4" (younger son) was on-board for my Scheme. My Scheme wasn't really Mad, more of a carefully calculated balance of risk/vs/reward, but to those who prefer long plans made in good weather, it all seemed very Sudden and a little bit Crazy. We quickly packed up, making sure we had plenty of food and water, and good amounts of cold weather gear, just in case. I was raised in a family that takes safety preparations seriously for winter travel. For our potential safety, and for the peace of mind of all who love us, we were well-prepared. I also made promises and assurances, to get an early start, to be extremely wise and careful, and I told everyone that if we encountered conditions that were truly dangerous, we would simply turn around and come home. Planned, prepared, packed, promised, and with a full tank of gas, we headed out.

It was a simply beautiful day for a drive! The sun was shining and the roads were clear for much of the way. My awesome traveling companion is compiling hours of driving experience toward getting his license, so this trip was a great opportunity for him. We had a plan for which part I would drive, and when he would take over. Of course, the part he drove turned out to have the only remotely hazardous road conditions of the whole trip! He got to deal with the packed/glazed icy snow, with a deer crossing the road in the midst of it, and he handled it calmly and smoothly, with a steady hand on the wheel. No abrupt braking; no swerving. I was very impressed! He handled it all perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed being a passenger for the drive. I don't think I've ever made that trip in January, so I got to see a whole new face of our standard route. Along one of my favorite parts, river ice had recently broken up. There were large slabs of ice jacked up on boulders, or jumbled in rugged heaps on gravel bars. Some parts of the river were still frozen over. It was impressive and beautiful.

I saw elk! Because I was a passenger, I got to scan the hills, looking for wildlife. Suddenly, as I glanced up one ridge, I saw elk! I'm still not sure exactly "who" they were, as it was a brief glimpse. It was either a currently antlerless bull, with a very young cow nearby, or (more likely) a mature cow with this year's calf. Either way, it was such a treat! Where we live now, elk sightings are rare. To spy any has become a special event.

On Saturday, after a good night's rest, we joined the work crew. There weren't many of us, but we all worked well together. The tall, strong son I brought along was of genuine and valued help. We worked for over eleven hours! We got all the big, heavy furniture moved, as well as many heavy boxes of books, and other various cherished posessions. There is still work to do, to make the move complete, but we pushed through the most daunting part.

It was also like a little miracle, getting to see and spend time with my family this time of year! Due to weather and road conditions, I don't usually get to see them from about October until March or April, or sometimes not till June. I got to work all day with my wonderful mom and her wonderful hubby, and my dear sister and her dear husband, and my dear Son. Friday and Saturday nights, we spent with my loving dad and kind stepmom. It was just wonderful, a surprising and joyful treat, to see all of them. 

My husband's one most serious request, in discussing the trip, was that I please please please make absolutely certain to get an early start on Sunday. I am given to late starts and long weary trips; to arriving safely but very late at night. For years, I have adopted a "Whatever it takes to get there" philosophy of travel. But I am very tired of driving at night. And he very much wants me safe. Also, Awesome Son "3 of 4" needed to be home at a good time, to be well rested for school the next day.

We left my hometown in good time Sunday morning. As we were driving through the awesome scenery on our way north, we had made a plan that Sunday would be our time to stop and take pictures. Through the long, scenic river valley, we stopped multiple times, to hike up and down the shoulder of the road, getting the best angle and light. It was beautiful! Sheets of ice over basalt bluffs, with hanging clusters and fangs of icicles. Little waterfalls rushing down between margins of glossy, distorted ice. Then we got to where the river was still wearing its blanket of ice, and looked for a good place to pull off.

Here is where the deer come in: This part of our trip, especially during winter when state parks are closed, is very bare of bathroom facilities. There is a long four-hour stretch between actual public bathrooms this time of year. Given the amount of iced tea I was drinking, to combat tiredness, and how we had prolonged the drive with our photography fun, I had reached the point of truly desperate bathroom need. Finally I just couldn't take it any longer. We found a good pullout to take pictures of the river ice, and my kind son stayed in the car while I found a secluded spot. Down the shoulder of the road, in a huddle of bushes, I found what I needed. As I conducted my important business, relieving my poor tortured bladder, I looked up to see a group of four or five deer just across the small river, staring at me in puzzled interest. It's a little unnerving to pee while being closely watched by a family of deer. But I was desperate and had no other options. :)

We got great pictures of the ice there, then drove on down the road, stopping at a couple more places with good angles, dramatic scenes and beautiful light. At one place, we decided to see if the ice were safe for walking-on. There, the river is broad and shallow, so there would be no surprisingly strong currents under the ice to thin it unexpectedly. Son the BoyScout carefully tested the stability and strength of the ice before we put a toe onto it, and continued to check every bit before we walked on it. It was thick and completely stable. We were able to walk clear out over the middle of the river, which was so much fun! I've never gotten to do that before. Out past the middle of the river, he was able to determine that the ice was almost a foot thick! We got some great pictures, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

After that, we got down to business and drove on down the road. There was much beautiful and enticing scenery, but we decided our photo shoot must end and we'd just have to enjoy it as we drove by. Due to our explorations and photo-dawdling, and some hazardously windy conditions we encountered toward the end of our drive, the trip took three hours longer than usual! The last hundred miles was a very slow hundred miles, but it was necessary. Learning Driver "3 of 4" was driving at that point. First, we had mile upon mile of stout headwind to deal with, so he took it slowly. Then, as we began to wind our way around the lake shore, the wind kept switching from head-on, to a strong cross-wind, pushing us toward the lake, on the narrow, winding, shoulder-less road! He took that long stretch slowly and carefully. It could have been hair raising, but due to the careful wisdom he showed, it wasn't too stressful.

Usually, that long last stretch is an endless trial of befuddled deer and suicidal jackrabbits. As we were already driving after dark, with a young driver, and troublesome wind conditions, I prayed the animals would all stay home...and they did! In that whole long stretch of back country, we saw one fat mouse, which scurried off the road, and one loose cow, feeding placidly in the ditch. That was a tremendous relief!

It was a truly wonderful weekend! I thoroughly enjoyed the time with this dear son. We got to be of real and deeply appreciated help to our dear people. We got to spend time with them during a stretch of the year that is usually empty of visits. He got about seven more hours of driving added to his total. We had a lot of fun together, and got some really cool and beautiful photos.

We helped with the Move!
I saw elk!
And the deer watched me pee. ;)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Negative Feedback Thing: Why I Think It Happened

That has been a big puzzle to me. It was so shocking and so hurtful. I was feeling so healthy, and so good about myself, that I was completely unprepared for negative comments. "You're so thin! Are you sure you're okay?" Not complimentary. But it also wasn't that "I'm so jealous, I'm going to tear you down" passive-aggressive thing, either. These comments were from dear friends who love and care about me.

I think I understand it now.

Most people here, in the town where we've lived for almost seventeen years, have never known me at my right, healthy weight. Almost everyone I know here has only known me overweight. Because I'm tall, and carry my weight well, they didn't realize how overweight I was. My health said differently.

My husband, wonderful, supportive, kind man that he is, never once in all those years made me feel fat. He never made a comment on the extra weight. Not ever. He was so concerned when we found out all the potentially serious health problems I was having. It was scary. When I started eating right, feeling better, and losing the extra weight, he was so happy for me. He was my greatest cheerleader. He didn't think I looked too thin at the end of it, because he actually knew me before. He knew that was the "real" me. It's the same size I was a few months after giving birth to our first child.

In addition to the part where almost nobody here knew what I really looked like when I was healthy, I lost the weight pretty fast. I didn't do anything crazy. I cut out refined white sugar and refined starches to begin with. When I found out the long list of foods I was reacting to (this explained the constant generalized nausea!), my diet got more restricted. I was eating plenty of food, but it was vegetables, some fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, meat.  It took months to lose that fifty pounds. I was losing at a healthy rate- a pound or two a week.

But I didn't exercise. I think that's the other big part of why people had so much concern over how I looked. Though I was eating well, I wasn't exercising. I lost the weight, but I didn't build muscle mass, so I looked skinny, not fit.

Also, I changed clothes sizes so fast, and I didn't have the money to replace my whole wardrobe every month or two, there were times when my clothes looked really baggy. I think that was also part of what worried people. At even a pound and a half a week, that makes ten pounds every month and a half or so. Ten pounds is a full clothing size for me. I would buy a few clothes that fit, but within two months they were too big. It really was a healthy rate of loss, but I think it seemed very fast to other people.

I am trying to really take a lesson from that whole experience. This time around, I am incorporating exercise into my plan, so that I will not only lose the weight, but be healthy, strong, and fit as well.

First Step...

I love certain analogies. One I use often is that of dominoes. I have to figure out which domino needs to be the first to fall, before I can start.

First domino: Sleep!

I have been desperately sleep-deprived for yeeears! Not insomniac. I have no trouble falling asleep. I have trouble going to bed. It started when our four children were small, and I rarely had a moment's peace...for years. I started staying up late to enjoy the quiet and the chance to do things I enjoy, like reading. They're not little anymore. The youngest is in eighth grade, so I now have time during the day to enjoy the quiet, and to do the things I enjoy. But I've still been staying up terribly late. It became an ingrained bad habit.

I have given a great deal of thought to the "whys" and "wherefores" of my sleep habits, and how to change them. After a great deal of pondering, I feel I've come up with a workable solution.

Factor 1: the two teenagers still at home have to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Until everyone has gone to roost, my brain stays on-duty. I need at least a little time people-free, with no chance that someone will need to tell me one more story about their day or ask me to do something for them, before my brain will gear down and relax.

Factor 2: I know that my judgment shuts down around 10pm. If I'm not pointed in the right direction by ten, all bets are off as far as sleep is concerned. If the wee darlings will go to bed by nine-thirty, then I still have a brain and am still able to make good choices. If they're still up at ten, there's a fairly good chance I'll be cleaning the kitchen at 1 am, or zoned out on facebook till two. If they go to bed, my brain revs down, I remember things to write down for the next day, and I still have enough brain left to not start a movie or turn on the computer.

Factor 3: No computer at night. It just doesn't work. I used to wait till everyone was in bed, then turn on the computer to check emails and cruise around facebook. No more. I cannot be online at night. I realized that I have a static time slot in the morning. After husband Lee leaves for work, there is an hour where I can't really get started on anything, because the kids are getting ready for school. That has now become my computer time.

Factor 4: Just do it! Easy sometimes, a challenge other times. But simple and straightforward. Just go to bed!

Since figuring this all out, and putting the pieces into place (deep thanks to the children for going along with it!), I have now gotten adequate rest for the past week. Eight hours would be ideal, but isn't actually practical for my life. I'm getting around seven hours a night, which is a dramatic improvement for me.

I think the reason I floundered already this year is that, even though I thought I started out slow, I was still trying  to make too many changes at once. Back to square one, moving forward with careful baby steps.

Fresh Starts All Around

So many people are using this new year as a launching pad for healthy changes in their lives. It really helps knowing there are so many of us doing this. I love fresh starts: new day, new week, new year. I love clean slates and do-overs and the chance to make better choices this time around.

I am in need of a fresh start. When we got answers to the great mystery of my poor health (two years ago?), I was so motivated! I completely changed my diet, lost that fifty pound burden of extra weight, got my brain back, and felt great.

But I'm not there anymore. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what happened. Partly, it got hard to maintain that rigidly limited food world over the long haul. It was especially difficult anytime I left the house- for baby showers, bridal showers, church potlucks, lunch with friends, eating on the road while out of town.

One of the most difficult parts of eating right is those situations where everyone is celebrating with something like a beautiful cake. It was hard enough not partaking. It was even harder, knowing that if I didn't have a piece, I'd hurt the feelings of the person who made it. I try very hard not to hurt people's feelings in general, and it's very tricky to avoid at times like that. For example: at a wedding reception, where there was a whole array of beautiful desserts, made by someone I respect and care about, the bride's mother...and where there wasn't a big would be so obvious if I didn't have any. And feelings were already a little tender, because so few people came to celebrate the wedding of this family's beautiful daughter.

It is also very difficult, being the person who always says, "Sorry, I can't have any," because after a while some people start to see you as picky or selfish. I don't actually enjoy having a big public "thing" about why I don't eat things, every time I'm in that sort of situation. I got tired of explaining, and defending my choices. I got tired of people arguing with me about what I could/couldn't eat. Very very tired.

I was also very surprised at the negative feedback I got when I lost all that weight. Surprised, and hurt. Here I was, finally eating a whole and healthy diet, finally returned to my "real" weight and size, and my husband was about the only person telling me I looked great. It wasn't jealousy over my weight loss, or mean-spiritedness. The comments came from people who really care about me. They were concerned that I got so thin.

On top of the deep and widespread frustration of trying to eat my limited, healthy way in a world thick with unhealthy foods, getting such constant, well-meaning but negative feedback from so many people was more than I could take. It hurt. It shocked me. It was discouraging. I was feeling so good, and so proud of myself, and so full of energy, but being confronted constantly with such negative feedback knocked my feet out from under me.

I gave up.

For about the past year, I have turned my back on almost all of the healthy changes I had made. I have pigged out on real pizza, eaten real ice cream, polished off bags of Lindor truffles. I have gone to potlucks and eaten those cheesy casseroles, and the desserts! I have gotten little sleep. I stopped taking all the nutritional supplements that helped me so much.

And I feel it.

Of the fifty pounds I lost, I have gained back about thirty-five. I feel tired and sluggish. My memory is affected. I have little energy, little motivation, and struggle to carry through on simple things. Just like the bad old days.

But no more. As we move into this new year, I hunger for change!

I made a good start. I figured out what are the most critical changes to make, and I started slowly. We're not even through January, and I have already floundered, but I am taking another fresh start. I'm applying everything I've learned, about healthy eating, and about myself.