Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bread and Birds

Kneading bread while watching birds,
I see them hop and flit and pick and fly,
Leaving tracks in fresh fallen snow.
They feed since fast the day goes by.

Punched down, the bread is left to rest
To breathe and grow and stretch and sleep,
Like the living loam of earth beneath
The snow that blankets it so deep.

Dough surges up to peek above the bowl,
The darkness deepens early in the winter skies.
The birds have gone to roost till morn,
And like my bread, so slow the moon will rise.

Monday, October 21, 2013

An Ugly Poem by Someone Who Can't Sing

Singing off key
With a voice that cracks,
Croaking not warbling,
Grasping for breath,
Losing the melody
(Pretending it's harmony),
Gravelly notes,
And a beat that falters.
In spite of all this
To sing with my soul
Pleases my Father.
That's enough for me
To endure listening to myself.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Blueberries and Serenity

I just read an article about a billboard in Michigan. It says, "I'm concerned about the blueberries." See this. The man basically was encouraging people to be sensitive to others' troubles and help them out if possible. In other words: do good deeds--pay it forward. It comes across as very feel-good-about-yourself-by-being-nice. I really don't have any problem with the concept, except that it still bothers me. Why? It's a new godless version of the golden rule. It is basically saying that lots of real problems could be solved if we are just selfless. This is true, but the deception is that the solution is too simple. It forgets that we are sinful. It also forgets that helping people out there is much easier than fixing up the messes we've made with people right here--in our own circle of friends, in our own home, in our own bedroom. It's like the Serenity Prayer without the first word and the second stanza.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Under Observation

A break in the foliage,
A fluttering weed,
Shadows and darkness
And rustling speed--
Something has passed
Like a flighty thought
That escapes my attention
Before it is sought.
A turkey, a chipmunk,
Or maybe a deer--
It shot into the bush
Before I knew it was near.
Safe now and still
In the coolness and shade,
It watches my movements
From its gloomy glade.
The tables are turned--
I wanted to see
To admire and thrill!
But the "it" watches me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Let the Party Begin

There is not a breath of wind. The trees stand perfectly still, silent and thoughtful. The dogwood, ever impatient, has shed its green gown for a red one. They are all like brides, awaiting the celebration--not ready to sport their wedding finery. But that glorious day is coming, and they will parade their colors in heady celebration. The party begins, the wind picks up, and the leaves begin to dance and swirl and fall, till the trees stand naked and exposed for a long and dark wedding night.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cosmos for all Times

Jack and I embarked on a quest a few years ago to get to every Major League Baseball park--there are thirty. With a little effort and a few years gone by, we have made it to ten now. Looking back, and then looking forward to what we have yet to get to, I realize that it has not been the experience I had been expecting. My original thought was that if we did this, I'd get to see all these cities. The ballpark would be a bonus. It has been the opposite, and I am surprised at how satisfying that seems to me.

Each ballpark has its own personality, and the city wraps around it, embracing that personality with its people. Pittsburgh has a stunning skyline view from its park, while Wrigley's Field is like a step back in history. Cincinnati, right on the wide Ohio River, has a Southern flavor with its paddle boat theme. Minneapolis was sleek and modern in a big city with a small town feel--or was it a small city with a big town feel? Each stadium seems familiar with its similarities, and yet unique because of its location, its people, its club history, and its tradition.

Woven through all these parks is a common culture. The shirts and hats. The hotdogs and nachos. The National Anthem and the flag. The seventh inning stretch and singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". I feel so American at a ballpark. I feel so united with everyone there. I feel like there can be world peace and healthy rivalry at the same time. Fads come and go at the ballpark--the wave being one on the way out. And hopefully YMCA. But some have a clinging power that will last for decades. Who can't help wanting to holler "Hey-O" like Harry Belafonte? Or anticipate the bugle and call to charge?

Have I mentioned they play baseball there? Known to be a slow-paced game, the ballpark provides distractions and entertainment aplenty. There's the "Fan Cam" panning across the stands putting shots of people on screen for their five seconds of fame. If you dance really well you can stretch that fame into half a minute! Some stadiums now have the "Kiss Cam" which could be embarrassing if that cute guy you're with is your brother! There's the mascots cavorting around the field and varying amounts of organ music. And while you're waiting for the club to change pitchers, you can buy peanuts, beer, cotton candy, pizza, sushi or pretzels. Foot-tall florescent cocktails with foot-long straws to match are consumed along with ice cream sandwiches and fresh squeezed frozen lemonade.

And they play baseball there! We love the players. We love the fans. We love the game. Oh beautiful, for spacious fields, for enthusiastic waves of fans, for purple pennants, and green and blue and yellow, above and about the rim. Baseball, O Baseball. God bless you for all the forgetfulness of troubles you give us, for all the fanhood that unites us, for all the excitement that you thrill us with. Impart to us brotherhood that goes beyond your walls, joy that lifts our spirits, and contentment with your simple pleasures. You are the American pastime, presentime and futuretime--a little cosmos of what is best about us as Americans. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Better Part of Valor

The warm, sunny half of the year is at my back  now, and I look ahead, literally, through a dark window--my own reflection staring back at me. It is time to write again. When the weather is warm and there is yard work to do and sunshine to warm my back, I find I have less to say and more to enjoy. As the days get shorter, I turn to writing to keep my mind in gear. However, I'm finding each year that I have less I want to put down in words. This is not an indication that my mind is shutting down, but more that there is less I want to say out loud.

Words are powerful--some too potent to be spoken and best left to thoughtful reflection. It's discerning which to speak and which to just think about that is difficult. There are questions to consider. Who will hear these words? What effect will it have on them? Is it my business to say words that will change them? How much do I need to say these words, or is just thinking them sufficient?

Some words deserve a cost/benefit analysis. If we ask what we are trying to achieve--an honest appraisal--we may find that our motives are turned too inward. We just want to hurt back, we are selfish, we want attention, we don't care. The most effective communication usually has the listener in mind. How will they hear this? Do they need to hear this? Will hearing this make them a better person? Is this the right time to speak?

Words that are spoken cannot return to being unspoken. Sometimes the better part of valor is silence.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Holding Down the Fort

All of us have certain principles or beliefs that we live by. Some of them change as we see the need arises, and some are steadfastly unalterable. The trick is to know which is which, and most of the time there is no trouble identifying the foundational beliefs from the preferential ones. The trouble comes when a crisis arises that challenges those beliefs. That crisis, if remote, does not usually make us waver. It's the crisis that hits close to home that is dangerous. We may think we won't change, but when being steadfast hurts or is incredibly inconvenient, we may discover loopholes or excuses or viewpoints that we did not think possible before.

What might that crisis be? Are we pro-life until a loved one is pregnant by rape? Are we pro-traditional marriage until a child of ours decides he/she wants a homosexual union? Are we pro-gun rights until someone we care about gets injured by an armed criminal? Are we in agreement about the indissolubility of marriage until our own marriage seems empty and dead? Are we against artificial means of getting pregnant until we discover our own infertility?

All of these crises are heartbreaking and challenging. They smash into the truths we built our lives on with devastating force. Wrenching emotions defy our convictions and threaten, like an earthquake, to bring them crashing down. We thought our beliefs were based on truth, but now we need to face the possibility that they were based on comfortable complacency. This does not mean that what we believed was not true. It just indicates how much we embraced that truth, and how unalterable we believed it to be.

It takes great faith and courage to stick to a conviction that has a painful price tag on it for us personally. Holding down the fort could feel like an Alamo--a last stand in a futile defense.

The Art of Compromise

Rarely do things happen along the most ideal path. There are variables that won't cooperate with our best principles. When this happens we need to know which ways we can bend and how much. There is an art to knowing how to compromise. Unfortunately, especially in the sphere of politics, many people choose not to participate unless their ideal path is in place. This is a tragedy, because by choosing not to participate, even their second-best options become vulnerable to being sidelined.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Getting Things in Focus

I'm a natural pessimist. If a disaster is possible, I've already imagined it. If I've done something well, I focus on the part I was least satisfied with. If things are going well, I brace for a change in fortune. Who  knows why I am this way? The challenge is change.

This morning I was reflecting on the fact that September is lurking only seven days into the future. School will begin again soon, and I don't feel refreshed and ready to hit the classroom. What did I do with my summer! Where did all the time go?

It would be easy to beat  myself up for spending so much time solving Sudoku puzzles. What a waste of time. However I'm not going to do that. The summer flew by because an extraordinary number of things was happening, and I rose to many challenges. If I had not kicked back and done some Sudokus and spent that time accomplishing things instead, I would be completely exhausted. It's true there is yard work unfinished, and a quilt project languishing on the  ping-pong table. The windows never got washed and my office could still use some more organizing. It's also true that I was frayed and depleted when summer began. It's true that circumstances were stacked against my getting rested as soon as school ended. So the Sudokus were mini-vacations in the midst of a hectic summer.

Sometimes I think that time is our most precious commodity, and that is when I realize I am fooling myself. Time is elusive, running away from us, and we can't hold on to it. Taking some of that precious commodity every morning to read the Bible, reflect on eternity (where time becomes irrelevant) and making daily resolutions to find new ways to love God far outweighs focusing on time itself. Perhaps keeping focused on what is truly important is the most valuable possession we can own.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

How I Eat, part 5.

This post will focus on when I eat.

In my first post on eating I talked about some bad habits I learned about eating. When growing up, we also had an unfortunate rule. I was taught that it was rude to eat in front of other people without sharing what you have with them. This sounds good--polite in fact--but it has some unfortunate consequences.

1. When you had something to eat and didn't want to share it, you had to go into hiding and eat it alone, feeling very greedy all the while. This is how I consumed most of the candy bars I ever got in my childhood.

2. If someone else had something they wanted to eat, they would fix enough to share with everyone--so you found yourself eating things that other people wanted that you were not planning on eating.

3. When in a group, everyone had to eat when anyone wanted to eat. That meant that I learned to eat, not because I was hungry, but because other people were eating.

4. No one felt comfortable eating something they wanted if anyone present said they didn't want any. So often I would say I would have something to eat too, because if I didn't I knew I would inhibit them from eating something they wanted.

So how did I fix all this?

For number 1: I just fix a snack when I want it and eat it. If I don't want to offer a bite to anyone around, I don't. Everyone else in the family does the same thing, and no one seems to be shy about asking for a bite if you have something particularly tempting.

For number 2: I turn down offers of snacks if it something that I was not planning on eating, and I ask people first if they want me to fix them some of the snack I'm planning on eating, instead of expecting that they will.

For number 3: I tell people I'm not really hungry and to not be offended if I don't eat, or eat very little.

For number 4: In our home, everyone fixes their own breakfast and lunch and eats it when they are ready. Everyone got used to other people eating around them when they were not eating themselves. We all had dinner together, and even then, it was OK if someone wasn't hungry to not eat a full meal.

So when do I eat? When I want to or need to, not every time anyone else is eating.

How I Eat, part 4.

In this post I will explain my attitude towards food. How we think about food is going to affect how we eat and what we eat. It is important to understand that food needs to take a certain amount of our attention--but when the attention is excessive, food may be creating disorder.

Food is nourishment. We need it to stay alive. I don't always get to eat what I want, so when I have to eat something that is less than my best choice, I remind myself that I am getting needed calories and should not be disdainful of that.

Food is a blessing. I regularly thank God that I live in a country where I can go to stores that have food in abundance. I cannot ever recall a time when I went hungry because there was no food to be had. I may have been hungry because I did not plan well and bring food with me, but the problem was temporary and solvable within a reasonable amount of time.

Food is a pleasure. It brings joy when you have food that is high quality and tasty. For several months after some ear surgery, my sense of taste was affected. Almost everything tasted like it had mint in it. I am not a big mint fan. To be deprived of the pleasure of food for a while helped me to appreciate it more when my taste buds returned to normal, but it also taught me that tastiness is an optional gift.

Food is a pathway to health. We can make both good and bad choices in what we decide to eat. I have learned that as I eat healthier, I crave unhealthy foods less. It is like reprogramming my body to desire what is best for it.

Food serves me, not the other way around. I become a slave to food when I must have something my way. I decided to develop a certain distance from food preferences a while ago--a kind of detached indifference. This does not mean that I don't gravitate toward food I like, but that I can look at food I like and decide I don't have to eat it. I am the one in control. The food can wait for me.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Feeling like a juggler
Who's just dropped all the balls.
Feeling like a Samson
Who's just knocked down the walls.
Feeling like it's winter
When we just started July.
Feeling rather worn out
And I will tell you why.

When school got out
I thought I'd rest,
But little did I know
That work would get my best.
Things began to happen
Out of my control.
A gap was made--
I had to fill the hole.
So I've painted two rooms,
Picked a ton of weeds,
Refloored four floors,
And many more deeds.
I've made two quilts
And planted shrubs.
I've packed up boxes
And filled planter tubs.
I've moved tons of stuff
And mowed many a lawn
And that is why
My energy's gone.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Straining tethers taut
The bonds that hold me tight
Keep the harness as it ought
And binds me to the fight.

Though freedom beckons to me
Alluring my weak will
The task at hand is duty--
I'll plow the furrow still.

The time of leisure is not come
And work remains undone.
That may be well enough for some--
I'll stop when I have won.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Not Vacation Yet

Right now I am making a few more typos than usual. That's because my fingernails are a bit longer than usual--AND they are polished. That's because it is just that particular time of year...

The school year is about to end, but hasn't quite. The pressure is lifting just enough that I had time to polish my modestly long fingernails with an almost clear enamel that makes them look natural but shiny.

It is that time of year when gardening hasn't begun yet, because if it had, several nails would have broken and then all of them trimmed.

It is that time of year when there is still just enough pressure to finish up work, that I haven't had time to paint my toenails bright red. Sigh. When that happens, I'm on vacation.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Now That's a Word I Don't Like

I love St. Thomas More, and especially the movie made about him called A Man For All Seasons. One particular line that always brings a laugh is when Will Roper is called a heretic by More, he objects by saying, "Now that's a word I don't like." More responds by saying, "It's not a likeable word. It's not a likeable thing." More does not back down from insisting that Roper repent from his heresy before he can court More's daughter.

Sometimes we have to take the hard stand on things. It can make us uncomfortable and unpopular, but we know we have to be firm. Often we can find ourselves to be in the reverse of Thomas More's situation, where the Will Roper's in our lives tell us unlikeable things, and we need to still stand unmoved.

One phrase I never like to hear is, "So, you call yourself a Christian." There are several reasons why. First it is always judgmental. Whatever you have done to receive this rebuke, that action is being judged against what the speaker considers true Christian behavior. And that is the problem. Do they really know how Christians should behave in every situation?

Another problem with it is that it is intended to shame the person spoken to. Sometimes shaming someone works--more often than not, it only entrenches them more deeply in the objectionable behavior. And yet it still remains to be seen whether that behavior is truly reprehensible, or just in the eyes of the accuser.

I dislike that phrase because most of the time I have heard it applied, it has been done unfairly. The speaker was only looking at a small picture of the problem, and not considering all the repercussions of the consequences of behaving differently. The speaker is usually personally invested in something happening differently than what is unfolding, and not capable of stepping back and seeing more than what they want.

Finally, it implies that if you are a Christian, you are, if not perfect already, well on your way of doing everything graciously, wisely and prudently. In fact, most of us, when we are honest, know how fallible we are--how rash, hasty, ill-prepared, unequipped, unwise, impatient, and a dozen other things that we are, and we are Christians because of it. We need a Savior. We are Christians because we know we are flawed!

There are lots of uncomfortable situations out there brewing these days. The accusations against the faithful will begin pouring in as hot issues boil over. More than ever, we are going to need cool heads like Thomas More's when we hear words we don't like.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Windows into Lives

The view out my window is of my backyard--a short span of patchy green grass with a backdrop of a messy, tangled jungle of wilderness. Between the lawn, if you can call it that, and the woods is a short dropoff, where I literally drop off yard waste to compost. From my window viewpoint, you would have to know what it is to realize it is there. Since this is my property and I have lived here over two decades, I realize it reveals something of how I operate--not a full picture, but certainly part of one.

First the patchy lawn. We built this house in a briers-covered clearing of immature woods. The property is on a ridge made primarily of sand, which is wonderful to dig in but hard to keep plants alive in. We built on a modest budget that did not allow for bringing in loads of top soil for the grass. No sod laid down. The lawn came from seed, was sporadically watered, and has survived mostly on neglect and occasional fertilizer. Mercifully the backyard is mostly shaded, so it has some relief in times of drought. The front yard is not so lucky and it really shows. So what does this reveal about me?

1. I work with what I can afford, and that ain't bad.
2. I'm not too interested in perfect lawns. Golf courses have never drawn my attention.
3. I've been busy doing other things.

The messy wilderness is another matter. There are currently several fallen-over trees in view. Most of what you can see would be difficult to walk through because of all the undergrowth. What does this say?

1. I don't know how to use a chain saw. I recently asked to be shown how. The request was declined.
2. I can't control everything.
3. I let nature take its course in many instances.

The composting dropoff: It's not too unsightly from most viewpoints. It is serving a purpose, disposing of yard waste. It is not too far away and definitely not out of sight. So...

1. I decided to put it there because it was convenient.
2. I really don't care much what other people  may think about it.
3. I must do some yard work, since I create yard waste.

When I look over all these things, I get the definite impression of a laissez-faire attitude, and maybe laziness. But if my life was judged from a one-window viewpoint, people would never really understand who I am. Swivel the viewpoint ninety degrees to the left and you would see a terraced garden that has obviously taken some time, grueling effort, and creative thought--something that the first viewpoint gives no clue of. Back up a few feet from the window and you get a glimpse of the room the window is in. It is full of junk! Currently lying around are horseshoe magnets, a box of flashlights, a yogurt carton full of dirt, an empty aquarium and a box of electrical wire. This is a room that another science teacher would immediately recognize and respect.

Too often we look at others through just one window. Our exposure to their lives may be minimal, sporadic, and accidental, yet we make assumptions based on incomplete evidence. We may never suspect things about them that we cannot see. Some windows are public. Some are private. But they all give views that show us something. To know someone well, we need many windows pointing in many directions, and we need to be allowed to look. Sometimes the curtains are drawn, but when they are open, we can see a life from what is revealed through the window.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How I Eat, part 3.

This post is going to use the “D” word—run for cover. Discipline. I read a book decades ago called Discipline: The Joy-filled Life, and I found it to be true. It is not drudgery, but a way of life that accomplishes goals, makes healthy choices, and is not prone to out-of-control frenzies or despair. So how am I disciplined about eating? This might take several posts actually…

I never create food habits. As soon as I see a pattern with food that I might be dependent on, I break it. I don’t have to have certain things every day at a certain time. I am in charge, not the food.

I never carry food around with me, except bag lunches, which I do a lot and don’t eat until it really is lunchtime. No candy bars in my purse. No regular stops for lattes or fast food.

At home food stays in the kitchen or pantry. No stashes of food here and there, so that there is something to munch on in every room. One exception: the candy dish in the living room, which never has chocolate in it, and from which I can have one piece a day—but not if it’s becoming a food habit.

I don’t nibble while I cook, unless it is raw vegetables or fruit. I don’t eat cookie dough unless it is in ice cream. The only food I sample while cooking is gravy, because I find that impossible to make without a taste test. I admit I might lick the beaters when I have whipped cream…

I rarely take second servings, with salad and plain vegetables as the exception. I keep my meat portions small and gravitate toward whole grains and fruits and vegetables to fill up on.

If I do overeat till I am too full, I don’t eat again until my stomach is empty. That means growling. Sometimes that will be late into the next day. Then I just eat a normal meal.

I don’t reward myself with a snack if I exercise. In fact, I rarely reward myself with food for anything. My life is too full of other things to celebrate with food to add rewards of any kind.

If I am eating out and the restaurant portions are large, I divide everything on my plate in two, ask for a doggy bag, and take half home. If it is really good, it sometimes helps to get the doggy bag right away, so the food is packed up before I whittle it down. Then I enjoy what I have in the restaurant and anticipate enjoying it again the next day.

I never completely eliminate something I like to eat. It’s all about portion control. If I had an eating motto it would be: “Moderation in all things.” So when I dish up, I take some of everything, but there should still be space between each item on my plate. It should look ample, not loaded.

I realize that there are other people around me who can eat more than I can and get away with it. I don’t dwell on that. Learning what is right for me to eat—what, how much, and how often—is an important key to how I eat now.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How I Eat, part 2.

This post is going to be about why I eat how I eat, and for me this was a huge part of being able to manage and control my weight. There are lots of reasons to eat, staying alive being the most obvious, but often not foremost in our minds when we fill our plates. It is important to ask ourselves why we are eating, because when we discover the answer, we may find that our motivations to eat might be best served by doing something other than eating. Let me illustrate.

It is winter. I am prone to SAD (seasonal affective depression) moods. I wander into the kitchen to fix a snack. I am not hungry, but I need some comfort. This is why I am about to eat. But wait! What if I found that a little classical music (or better yet, CCR's "Traveling' Band") would do an even better job? "Travelin' Band" would even get me dancing, and therefore, burning some calories. The need is met. Food is not eaten.

I finished a quilting project and my knitting project and have not started a new one. I have also finished my book and have not been to the library. I want to start a decorating project, but don't have the funds/materials/motivation to get it going. I wander into the kitchen and peek in the fridge. I am about to eat because I am bored. But wait! Remember all those photographs you wanted to scan and put in a facebook album? That doesn't need money and the materials are on hand. Get busy. The need is met. Food is not eaten.

I'm at a party. I don't know a lot of people. I am shy. I go to the food table and am about to fill my plate up again. But wait! I am about to eat because I am nervous and uncomfortable. I look around the room and find someone who looks more nervous than I am. Time to practice overcoming shyness. I leave the food table, take a deep breath, and say, "Hi. There sure a lot of people here I've never seen before. My name is..." A challenge is met and brought down to a smaller size. I chose to grow in confidence, and the food table is abandoned.

I just finished an unfortunate phone conversation. It riled me up. Now what am I going to do? I snap open the fridge and start foraging. I am about to eat because I am mad. I grab the whole bunch of celery and masticate angrily to my heart's content. The need is met. A brisk walk might have been better, but no damage was done.

There's a pile of food on my plate. I am full but not finished. I pick up the fork and I am about to eat because I learned a bad habit. But wait! I put down the fork and remind myself that I am full. I save what I am comfortable with saving on my plate and remind myself that overeating is a worse habit than cleaning my plate. The challenge is met. Food is not finished.

My favorite dessert is sitting there making my mouth water. I just had a piece. There's still more. My body is telling me that my hunger is satisfied, but my love of good food keeps reminding me that it is still there. I am about to have a second helping. But wait! I remind myself that I get this dessert every now and then. Maybe I am the one who makes it. It will be back again another day. Maybe even as soon as tomorrow. More is not always better. Save it for another day and anticipate enjoying it. The second helping is reconsidered. The need is delayed. No damage done.

Last example, and this is the hardest. Sometimes there are deep emotional wounds that we have suffered in life. They will never be completely healed, because that healing may depend on other people's willingness to acknowledge hurting you and asking forgiveness. Maybe they can't, won't, or aren't even alive to do it. We eat to try and heal our past. It doesn't work. If this is us, we need professional help. Eating because of poor emotional health will only multiply the problems. It takes courage to face emotional wounds, and we must be willing to go through some emotional pain to realize some peace for that area of our lives. It may not heal completely, but we can reduce the gaping wound to a closed wound with a scar. I looked my emotional pain in the face. I don't need food to make myself feel valuable or lovable. It was hard. I don't use food as medicine for pain any more.

Oh, and by the way, one reason why I eat is because I'm hungry.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

How I Eat, part 1.

I am in my 60th year, weigh 137 pounds, am 5 feet 6-1/2 inches tall, and have not had a weight control problem in years. A good friend looked at me one day and said to the person next to her, "She's been that way for as long as I've known her." (35 years) She sounded somewhere between exasperated, resentful, and mystified. It occurred to me that I might share just exactly what I do to stay this way, and a lot of that has to do with how I treat food. This post is going to cover mostly how I don't eat any more.

I grew up in a family that had a bounteous spread on the table every meal. We were taught several things about eating. First, you must not waste food. Second, you must eat everything on your plate. Third, you must never complain about food. These rules are not bad if put in the right context. However, they can be deadly to your weight if taken the way I was taught.

You must not waste food. Generally we did not throw out food that was still edible. It returned as leftovers or as an ingredient in a new dish. However, if there as just a dab of something left, the question was, "Who is going to finish that off?" It was practically criminal to put a tiny bit of leftovers into the fridge for another time. Finishing things off is a dangerous habit to get into, since those little dabs, if eaten dutifully to avoid wasting the food, add up to a substantial amount of calories. The only food these days that I finish off is salad or plain vegetables, and even then, they often go into a plastic tub and are enjoyed the  next day in my lunch.

You must eat everything on your plate. If you do the dishing up on your own plate, then taking only the amount you should eat is best. However, as a kid, our plates were often loaded by a parent who decided how much was the right amount to eat. Kids' appetites change drastically depending on whether or not they are having a growth spurt. By being forced to eat everything on my plate, I was taught to overeat, to eat till it hurt, and that leaving things on my plate was a cardinal sin. I don't recall the line, "People are starving in China" used on me, but that logic never seemed to make sense, as if my eating something in America could do anything to help people in China. That line basically feeds into the idea of ingratitude, which is part of the next rule.

You must never complain about food. I don't. Food, especially ample amounts of high quality, is not something to complain about. Portion size is a different matter. So is pickiness. I am not a picky eater--I can eat whatever is served because I was not allowed to complain. But I did need to learn to recognize that it is OK to state preferences, and that is not the same thing as complaining. Being able to state preferences allows you to customize your food to your maximum pleasure. If you can do it without putting anybody to much trouble, you may do a better job of eating sensibly. For example, if someone is serving up grilled hotdogs, can you ask if you can have your hotdog without a bun? When I was growing up, that simple request was not allowed, so I had to eat the bun, even though it was nutrition-less, spongy white bread that only served as a holder for the real food.

Enough for this post. Eating is complicated, and how I eat has changed a lot over the years. I hope this and future posts are helpful to someone.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How Learning to Knit Has Changed My Life

I learned to knit a few years ago. Actually it was about the fourth time I learned to knit, but I forgot how the first three times. Now I can cast on without help, fix mistakes, follow simple patterns, and actually produce knitted items. It has changed me in several ways.

I knit mostly baby blankets and am fairly determined to always have a baby blanket in progress. With three  married children just beginning families, I would like each grandchild to have a hand-knit blanket from me. Let's hope my production keeps pace with my children's production! In any case, I am sure to attend baby showers for other friends and will have no lack of infants to bestow them on.

Knitting has taught me a new kind of patience. I make mistakes, some of which must be fixed. Others are too small to bother unraveling several inches to make it perfect. Those mistakes teach me to forgive myself. I don't have to get it all right all the time.

Knitting has taught me perseverance. Forty-six inches of blanket means about four months of steady work. They take determination and scheduled hours to produce.

Knitting has taught me that you get what you pay for. Cheap yarn shows. Quality yarn is easier to work with, doesn't unwind when you have to fix mistakes, and just looks better. I make fewer mistakes with better materials.

Knitting has shown me my limitations. Some people can knit without looking. I can't. Well, I can, but the results are usually regrettable. So that means I can't.

Knitting gives me time to think. We need moments of quiet when our minds can slow down and retreat from the hectic daily grind. It is always a welcome moment when I can pull my knitting bag out and settle into a time of thoughtfulness.

Some things are enormous, life-changing events from which we emerge altered for better or worse. We know when life has been chiseling at our shortcomings. Other things work quietly to polish us and make us glow. Knitting has been in the latter category for me--nothing earth-shaking, just a slow, steady change in my  life.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Breaking Records

I am thinking of two ways that records are broken. The first is to outdo someone who has already outdone themselves. Just when it seems that a record is unbreakable, someone finds a way to top it.

The second way often involves pain. You've been hurt. Now there is a broken record in your head, playing the pain over and over again. How to escape? Sometimes the only way is through the mercy of God's healing.

I'm done. Change the record.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I've probably had close to a thousand of them in my lifetime. Sometimes there is just one, and sometimes there are several. I have two right now and when I look in the mirror that is all I see. I am so conscious of them that I assume that is all anyone else sees. I feel Ugly. Diseased. Untouchable. They are cold sores.

I began getting them in grade school. Just look at the yearly pictures. There they are! Medications for them were few and ineffective. I had continual chapped lips from touching them with my tongue, hoping to dry them up quickly. In high school mean kids would tease me about them. I heard the words "venereal disease" whispered behind my back. With snickers.

I've heard that chocolate and nuts lower lysine in your body which makes you more susceptible. Maybe. Maybe not. I've tried taking lysine, lysine-rich foods, avoiding nuts and chocolate. (What kind of a life is that?) When I feel the tingle of one starting I get out Abreve, which is supposed to clear them up faster. Maybe.

Lately I've been getting them inside my nose. No one knows I have them, but they are much more painful and slow to clear up.

I don't know which stage is worse. The tingling feeling isn't painful, but my spirit sags when I know that for a week or two I will feel unpresentable, disfigured, a disease suspect. (Keep your distance!) The scabby stage is ugly, and when they crack and bleed, the stinging is intense.

It seems that some people never get them. It seems to me that MOST people never get them. It seems to me that it is because I am taking on the share of cold sores for dozens of people, so they don't have to suffer. I doubt that any of them appreciate what I am doing for them. I am losing perspective...

I am plagued.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Half Done

You need to take a shower but the water is not warm and you know it is not going to get any warmer, but only colder by the moment.

You have to dash outside for something but it's cold and raining and the wind is blowing and you don't have an umbrella or a hat.

The clock says it's time to get up, but the bed is warm and the room is cold, and you begin figuring how long you can delay before throwing back the covers to begin a day that will be non-stop until late evening.

You haven't been in a while and the phone number is in front of you, but still you think about that dentist chair and those whining tools coming near your person.

The job needs to get done and there's nothing you enjoy about it, but there's only you to do it and few reasons not to begin.

We see what all these things have in common. That nagging voice in your head that says, "Just do it. Get it over with." Still we hesitate.

Old adages are old because they've been around for a while. But they are old adages because they are bits of wisdom that stay true in all times and seasons and circumstances. They are enduring. I don't know if "Just do it" will make it to the "old adage" status--it's still a new kid that needs growing up. But it has an older sister that has been around. She speaks to me often when I'm faced with things like the above. So I listen to her, take a deep breath, and plunge in, because it really is true: "Once begun, half done."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to Use a Reprieve

Maybe you got a snow day. I didn't. I got a "no electricity in the building" day.

When I woke up today, I didn't feel well. In fact, I asked my husband if he was willing to substitute teach for me today if I didn't feel better soon. But I did feel better quite soon and realized I had some work to do on lesson plans before setting off to the homeschool coop where I teach a writing class and a science class. But first I checked my email, and what do you know! Classes were cancelled due to power failure. Now what to do next? I realized I had several options.

1. I could decide I really didn't feel as good as I thought and go back to bed to read a book I am enjoying for the rest of the day. This is called PRETENDING TO BE SICK IN ORDER TO BE LAZY.

2. I could blow off the day surfing the internet. This is called WASTING AN OPPORTUNITY.

3. I could get ahead of the game and do some lesson planning, get caught up on correcting homework, and prepare to re-do the syllabi for those two classes (for the third time). This is called WORKING LIKE USUAL.

4. I could get another non-teaching project done. There's always a closet to organize or a room to clean from top to bottom. This is called BEING PRODUCTIVE.

5. I could get out a fun project, like that quilt I started and which has been languishing in my sewing closet, and enjoy that. This is called BEING CREATIVE.

The good choices are obvious. The bad ones equally so. But sometimes the bad ones are a needed down time. The hard part is deciding how much that needed down time really is. In my case, it would be hard to justify. So here is what I am going to do: some of each, starting with number 3 and going down the list, then starting at the top. I believe my day will be well spent even if I don't get to the last priority on my list. Pat myself on the back and chalk one up for good decision-making. Now to get off this blog and start my reprieve for real...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why I Won't Repost

You know what I'm talking about--those posts that go something like this: If you really cared, and I know most of you don't, you will repost this message....

I see those things and my automatic response is, "Whatever you do, don't repost that message." Why? Here are a few reasons.

1. It's emotional blackmail. "If you don't repost this, the whole world will know what an uncaring, selfish creep you are."

2. It's self-righteous. "I posted. I thank you, God, that I am not like all those other sinners..."

3. It's negative. There is a need out there, or information to be passed on. The first part of the message is usually positive. But then the positive message gets put in a self-destructive vehicle to carry it.

4. It's deceptive. It actually makes the post-er think they have done something caring, when in fact very little that is useful has been accomplished. If anything, they have spread ill will with the negativity more than any positive effect of passing along the message.

5. It creates passivity. This is closely linked to the deceptiveness. "All I need to do is repost this, then I have done what is necessary."

Now here's a suggestion. Every time you see one of those obnoxious posts, decide to do something positive instead. It hardly matters what. A prayer. A handwritten note. A kind word. A thoughtful deed. We need a lot more of those responses than we need people on a list. And that is why I won't repost.

End of rant.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

No Return

There is a certain unreality to traveling, especially when going to an unfamiliar destination. You  may be packed, have your ticket in hand, your passport ready with visas, and yet still not have grasped that you are going somewhere and won't be home until the adventure is over. That is my state at this moment. Russia looms before me like a tentative dream waiting to be grasped. I've been reading up, thinking through the details, washing and packing clothes, and yet still can't quite envision that I will not be sleeping in my own bed tonight. It is a mixture of excitement and anxiety.

Don't get me wrong. I love traveling to new places. The adventure is stimulating and the busyness of getting ready fuels my longing for exploring. I have a list of places I have not been to yet--may I never complete that list! May it continue to grow as my horizons expand. But I do love the comfort of my own bed and familiar routines. I do enjoy my own back yard and the people who live near me. I do like to know that things I enjoy are at hand, and if I never traveled again, there would be plenty to keep me happily occupied.

I also know that while traveling is exciting and stimulating, it does not satisfy my deepest longings. I can see that journeys need destinations and most journeys end back where you started. You have been changed by the travel, but in a certain sense you are little closer to your goal than before you left.

Today, Epiphany, I am reminded of the three wise men, who traveled to Bethlehem. They came to worship and adore the newborn leader. They came from afar and returned to their distant homes. Their travels came to an end, but their journey through history continued. I suspect that their deepest longings were not satisfied by seeing this child, but only increased their desire to see his kingdom come.

Whether or not we ever leave our own home, we are all on a journey through life, and what we do with the time we are given determines a great deal about the outcome of our life. Like the wise men, we are all called to come. We can try to choose not to, or drag our feet the whole way in a sense of obligation, or we can run with all our might to meet our Maker. One thing is certain, our new home is ahead, and there is no return on this journey.