On Giants' Shoulders

Sunday, December 24, 2006

No Picture Yet

Sorry folks, the computer genius didn't bring her camera with her, so no photos for Christmas I guess. Maybe we'll try for New Year's.

Aunt Drucilla's cookies came out tasting just like Aunt Drucilla's cookies. The goose is now thawing in the sink, the Christmas bread is rising. I just picked up fresh eggs at the neighbors for our omelet in the morning. I guess what I should do now is go wrap gifts, or cut out sugar cookies (sigh... why don't I feel like cutting out sugar cookies!). What I feel like doing is taking a nap. YAWN.

Here's wishing all of you a joy filled Christmas and a not too early rising in the morning.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Technical Help on the Way Please Stand By

If the current font on my blog is driving you mad, please hold on. The technical genius arrives home for Christmas today and hopefully she can show me how to fix it. Somehow in deleting a link I managed to change the font size. Don't ask me how, because if I knew I would have changed it back by now. Maybe while she's at it she can also take a new picture of me and put that on the blog as well (per Karen's request!). Of course if she doesn't bring her digital camera with her she won't be able to since I don't own one.

Now I have to go bake Aunt Drucilla's tea cookies which I mixed up yesterday. For nearly 30 years they were a gift from her to us and we loved them. For the past few years we haven't had them because she could no longer make them. This year I dug out her recipe and decided they just said "Christmas" to our family. Here's hoping mine are as good as hers.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Car Dramas Continue

Nope, it wasn't me this time. I stayed safely at home (well, safely except for laundry mishaps that is). However, my poor dear husband had a harrowing experience after doing a bit of shopping. He was in the left lane when the car in the right lane began to move into his lane. He slammed on the brakes and suddenly had NO brakes. Apparently hitting them as fast as he did broke the cylinder or something. He then had to make repeated evasive maneuvers as the car next to him kept trying to move into his lane (right where he was) and then make a left turn in front of him. He ended up first in the lane headed in the other direction and then finally into the parking lot of a convenience store, which he had to drive right through because he had no brakes. He finally got out of the jam and drove the car home (with no brakes). All of this happened right during evening rush hour so it was particularly frightening. It was a good thing it was him instead of me because I doubt I could have done all the evasive moves. Of course I might possibly have had an easier time finding the horn to blast at the inattentive driver who caused the problem since I wear bifocals and can see where the horn button is. I'm sure his guardian angel was working overtime today.

However, it does give one pause about getting back behind the wheel of a vehicle again. Of course now that he has to get the car fixed perhaps he'll attend to the couple of other things that have been wrong with it for awhile (like the shocks and the radiator!).


Nearly all the ink came out. There's one very faint spot near the hem that, as Pa Ingalls would say, 'will never be noticed on a trotting horse,'so I guess I am good to go (as Apostle on Water would say). And I even accomplished it without taking all the skin off my hands in the process. Those chemicals are harsh!

We Need to Buy Stock in This Stuff

In our family 4 people routinely do laundry, but only two of them frequently wash the unwashable. You know, things like debit cards, rosaries, driver's licenses, money, church bulletins, and oh yes, the ubiquitous "rogue pens" as my daughter calls them. It's not the males in the family who do this. They routinely go through their pockets and empty them out before doing laundry. My daughter and I, however, a. keep things in pockets that probably shouldn't be kept there and b. rarely go through said pockets before throwing stuff in the wash.

I did it again today. I washed my white winter coat, along with a number of other items without checking the pockets. When I opened the dryer what did I behold, but a blue pen right at the front of the load. I could see my white coat on top of the load and right in a conspicuous spot the marks of the pen. I checked the other items and I was fortunate that only two shirts had been affected, and those only marginally. Alcohol and Oxi-clean took it right out. The coat on the other hand is another story. It's still sitting in the sink in an Oxi-clean and alcohol solution. The stains are diminishing, but they aren't completely gone yet. I have hope because some of them have vanished, but the worst ones are still hanging on. Fortunately this was a coat I've had for quite awhile and it was super cheap to begin with. It's not like I wrecked my L.L. Bean jacket. But still it's the only dress coat I currently have, so if the ink doesn't come out I'm wearing a red parka to church this week.

You'd think I'd have learned by this point, but no, I haven't. My dear daughter hasn't either. She washed her debit card a couple of weeks ago and sent it through the dryer. Only she did it in the laundry room at her boyfriends apartment building. She didn't find it afterwards either. The person who did find it reported it to the financial institution and then cut it up. So she's had to wait for a replacement. Live and learn, except we don't seem to.

What we obviously do need to do is buy stock in Oxi-Clean.

A Further Thought

About 12 years ago God gave me a gift I never wanted. As I looked at the package I was not impressed with the bow, the wrapping paper really turned me off. I opened it up and looked inside and was not immediately impressed with his choice. It certainly wasn't a gift I would have picked out for myself! Yet as I tried to smile prettily and say thank you, I came to recognize how special this gift really was and how much I truly needed it. The gift God gave me was the Catholic Church and all these years later, after nearly 10 years of being a Catholic I am still finding new treasures in the hidden nooks and crannies of the gift. Maybe some of those ugly duckling gifts you get this Christmas are God's way of preparing you for an ugly duckling that will turn out to be a swan in your life as well.

What Makes a Good Christmas Gift

Over at Danielle Bean's blog there's a contest going on. People are trying to guess what Dan got Danielle for Christmas from Bass Pro Shop. There are all kinds of ideas from the practical, to the romantic, to the whimsical, including the idea that the Bass Pro Shop was just a red herring and that what he really bought were diamonds or something else from another store. Some people had negative comments about some possible selections. It set me to wondering about what makes a good Christmas gift.

Are mats for your car a good Christmas gift? How about a meat slicer, or a mixer, or a new hammock? Do gifts for wives need to come in tiny jewelry boxes or be pretty or frilly in order to be a good gift? Once upon a time when I was a young bride I thought that things for the kitchen weren't the best kind of gift, but as I got more mature I began to realize how much more I actually enjoyed them than the less practical gifts. Whenever my husband buys something for my kitchen for a gift he buys a really high quality item. It's nearly always a far better choice than I would have made myself. For example, years ago I bought a cheap food processor after Christmas with Christmas money. David thought I'd never use one, so he didn't get me one. We used it for years until finally it had enough things wrong with it that I asked for a new one. The new one was a Cuisinart and it's a whole lot more powerful and does things the other one couldn't. I newer would have bought myself a Cuisinart, but he looked at all the options and decided that quality was important. So now I get to actually grind up meat in the food processor and can make my own ground pork to my own specifications or grind pork and beef together for some sorts of sausage etc. Was that a good gift? You bet it was.

So was the new mixer, the new toaster, the new set of stainless steel cookware, etc. For a wife who enjoys cooking and spends a lot of time doing it tools that help her in the process are welcome. It isn't that I don't enjoy frilly things or that he never buys them, it's just that I don't insist on them exclusively or pitch a fit if he gets something more practical.

Ideally gifts should be suited to the recipient. Sometimes they are things the person specifically requested. Sometimes they are things that you suddenly think of that the person might not even know existed like a book by a new author or a video tape that they might not have thought of getting for themselves. Last year my brother-in-law and niece sent us a slew of DVD's for Christmas. Most of them were movies we'd never seen, and some of them were movies we'd never thought of watching. However, we enjoyed every one of them thoroughly and it gave us some wonderful evenings and Saturday afternoons. I still use gifts my sister gave me years ago, particularly this little one person tea pot with accompanying cup. Not only is it a most convenient way to have tea using loose tea, it also reminds me of her every time I use it.

Each year I try to find at least one thing for people that wasn't on a Christmas list, but that I think they would enjoy. It might be a book of poetry or lit crit for my daughter that I know she doesn't have. It might be a new book or movie for my son or my husband. It might be something that people have mentioned months before, but didn't think to put on a specific Christmas list. Everyone laughs about the fact that I always give them books for Christmas, but, for the most part, they love the books I pick out. I try to honor people's list items as well.

I think that any Christmas gift that is selected with love should be received in the same spirit. Now if someone really does buy you a jar of protein powder at the all night drugstore because they didn't shop any earlier than that, you might have some justification in being slightly hurt. Although, if you are an athlete who uses a lot of protein powder. even that might make a tolerable gift. However, if your beloved mother, father, son, daughter, husband, sister, or in-law gives you something just a little bit unusual that they carefully picked out with you in mind, even if it's a green sweater with a huge reindeer on the front and you're 25 years old, smile prettily and say thank you. Figure that sometime in the middle of February blahs that the green sweater is going to pull you out of a funk with it's whimsy. Figure that the mats for your car are going to protect the carpet and save you some work cleaning it. Figure that the meat slicer is going to save you a ton of money in your food budget by eliminating deli sliced meat from your grocery list. Most of all figure that love went into the gift and that even if you can't figure out the reasoning behind it, the person who gave it was attempting to express love. We receive love in the form of dandelion bouquets from our kids and accept it graciously. We need to accept those ugly duckling gifts in the same spirit of love. Who knows they might even turn out to be a swan in disguise.

Oh, and by the way, no one needs to worry about getting a green sweater with a huge reindeer from me. First of all I haven't had the time to knit one and secondly I haven't yet mastered intarsia knitting well enough to knit one. I haven't seen any in the store, and I know better than to buy one for anyone on my list other than an elderly aunt and I got her comfy clothes, but nothing with reindeer.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Middle Earth for Advent

After my car accident last week I retreated into a weekend with Tolkien. I watched the DVDs of the Lord of the Rings, I pulled out the books and read favorite passages, I began reading some Tolkien I hadn't yet read (even though some of it was in a book I've owned for no less than 30+ years!). So you can imagine my pleasure today when I wandered over to The Immaculate Direction and found that one of the recent topics was essentially: What character in the Lord of the Rings are you?

I haven't quite got it figured out yet. Am I Rosie Cotton who stays at home while everyone else goes out to have adventures and ultimately makes a nurturing environment for Sam and the little Cottons? Am I Galadriel, mystically minded who refuses power and diminishes in order to remain herself? Am I Pippin who seems to go from one scrape to another? Am I Gandalf who likes to set people on the road to adventure? Or Eowyn who is uncertain just exactly where she does belong? Or Faramir who is unattracted by the Ring? Or Arwen who gives up everything for the king she loves? Or even Frodo who despite all his best intentions would have failed in the quest were it not for grace and the faithfulness of others? What I know I'm not is Sam, the faithful, plodding Sam with the single minded eye. Sam was not distracted from his fidelity to Frodo and the task appointed by anything. Sam always remembered the Shire and the beauty of their life there. And that despite the fact that Sam was not a wealthy hobbit in material things.

Anyway, I haven't got it figured out yet, but it sure was fun to think about. I've been reading a book about Tolkien and environmentalism that actually was what sent me back to Middle Earth this past week. I've actually been contemplating for a couple of years the idea of Tolkien as a proponent of distributism. I've tried to find evidence that he read Chesterton, and I'm only beginning to find it, indirectly. Interestingly, I discovered that someone did a paper at this year's Tolkien conference on the subject of Tolkien and distributism. Unfortunately, the paper wasn't available on-line. So I guess the quest for information continues.

Now I have to go clean up the kitchen because apparently the hobbits left the washing up for Lobelia. I certainly hope that's not REALLY who I am, but she did ultimately leave money for hobbits left homeless after Sharkey and his crew did their worst, so she wasn't ALL bad.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Memories

My memories of Christmas as a child do not center around midnight Mass as they do for many of you. As a matter of fact, we didn't go to church on Christmas at all. There was a Sunday School Christmas program when I was younger and a Christmas cantata that I sang in when I was a teen, but those happened well before Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were undisturbed by church. They even seemed a bit undisturbed by the Christmas story. My mother was more apt to read The Night Before Christmas, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, or recite a poem about Santa Claus and the Mouse. It wasn't that we didn't believe the Christmas story, it's just that somehow on Christmas Day it wasn't the focus of our attention.

We did have a cardboard nativity set that got put out every year. I loved to open it up and place the figures under the Christmas tree. Yet somehow that was the end of Christ's place in our Christmas celebration. This was true even while my mother decried the people (like my aunt!) who put up Merry Xmas signs and our pastor preached on keeping Christ in Christmas.

Even the songs we sang during Advent were the popular songs of the period such as "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Winter Wonderland," "Jingle Bells," "All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth," etc. It was not until I was an adult and married that I discovered my favorite Advent hymn, "Come Thou Long Expected, Jesus."

Our Christmas traditions have been very different. From the very first year of our marriage we went to church on Christmas Eve, we sang Advent hymns during Advent, we had an Advent log (later a wreath), had a real (albeit plastic) nativity set,and on Christmas morning as soon as our oldest was one year old, we had a Christmas bread with lighted candles and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. Our main Christmas reading when the children were smaller were "Santa Are You For Real" (which has the Christmas story in it), the Christmas story itself, and Madeleine L'Engle's "The Twenty Four Days Before Christmas." We've abandoned the birthday song since the kids got older and we don't read the books anymore either, but we still go to church on Christmas Eve, although now it's to midnight Mass. We don't get home until the wee hours of the morning, but it's worth it. When we get home Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus are lovingly placed in the stable of the nativity set, joined by the shepherds and angel. The Wise men won't arrive for several more days.

Many of my Christmas memories center around things like baking cookies or making sugar plums. Those are still part of the traditions around here as well. We've even added a few food traditions over the years. We have oyster stew on Christmas Eve (or at least the oyster eaters do), we still have my father's omelet on Christmas morning, even though he died before my kids were born. We still have my mother's Christmas bread on Christmas morning, even though she is dead too, and never actually made it for us (she was rarely at our house on Christmas) as the children were growing up. Some of my Christmas cookie cutters are ones I used with my mother when I was a little girl. It always makes me smile when I cut out the bell shaped cookies and remember how we always placed a little silver sugar ball for the clapper.

Our own decision to downplay Santa Claus came out of a sense that in both our families Santa was rather played up too much. At our house St. Nicholas was talked about, but Santa Claus was clearly a mythical figure whom other kids really believed in, but mine (with the exception of one year for my daughter for some mysterious reason) did not. Oh, they watched the same TV shows as the other kids, but they knew that Christmas was about the birth of Jesus.

Now on December 6th I make speculaas cookies and put out a statue of St. Nicholas. My cookie cutters are copper and come from the St. Nicholas Center, but they are not Santa Claus cookies at all. They have St. Nicholas in his bishops attire and the small ones are simple mitre shaped.

We've found, I believe a better balance than our parents. I think there's still more room for improvement, and I hope that the next generation will actually find it. I'm pleased that we now celebrate other feasts during Advent.

The candles were lit in our windows last night for it is just a week now before Christmas and we must welcome our Savior on the way to the big event. The Christmas tree has not been purchased yet, the nativity set is still packed away. But this is the week of preparation. So today I'm baking fruitcake and perhaps making sugar plums. I'm hoping to actually wrap some gifts so that it doesn't all have to be done on Christmas Eve (one of the more unfortunate traditions around here!). I need to find all the Christmas stockings (which somehow don't manage to congregate together in the attic after Christmas!).

Until this week, despite some shopping, it hasn't seemed like time to prepare for Christmas, now it feels like time. My calendar just seems so different from my mother's. She would have had the tree up for at least a week at this point, and her baking would be done, she'd probably be finishing up her Christmas cards, and I haven't even started mine. However, her Christmas celebration would end on the 25th, and ours just begins then.

My mother's celebrations were shaped by the fact that her parents downplayed Christmas. They never had a tree until she was an adult. I'm sure they read the Christmas story, but that was about the extent of it. Even when I was a little girl the Christmas program at church seemed more important to my grandfather than Christmas Day, but that's just my impression. He died when I was fairly young and my grandmother went into a nursing home soon after, most of my memories of Christmas with a grandparent center around my other grandmother, and she was bigger into the Santa Claus aspect of things. My mother shaped her Christmas according to school and Sunday School programs and the offerings of the secular media. She wanted her children to have fun at Christmas, and for the most part we did. My reaction to that as an adult was to attempt to not lose the fun, but change the emphasis. My mother encouraged letters to Santa, we didn't. She was attempting to put joy into something that was pretty somber in her own home, we attempted to put reverence back into the celebration while still keeping the excitement.

I often wonder what shape the next generation will give things. Will they go in for Santa costumes or will they insist on reading the gospel narrative before opening meager presents? Will they retain our traditions or simply come up with a whole new set of their own? As long as they continue to remember what the feast is for it really won't matter whether they flame plum pudding and eat roast beef. The celebration of the Savior's birth comes with a variety of ways of expressing our joy, there isn't just one right way, but expressing the joy is integral.

Friday, December 15, 2006

It Just Keeps Getting Worse

So today I went to the rental car where the exchanged the HHR for a Dodge Charger. I was still not completely thrilled, but figured I could manage with it (it didn't have seats that adjusted upward, so I felt like I was sitting in a hole, but it wasn't a whole lot worse than our Taurus which I drive from time to time) no such luck. Within 5 minutes of renting it, while still trying to get adjusted to it's contours, I ran over a curb, damaged the rocker panel and bent the wheel rim. I took it back, of course, filed the insurance claim, and came home. They wanted to rent me another car, but I declined. All I really want to do is go crawl into bed with some good books and the remote to the DVD player. I don't want to DO anything more where I might possibly damage something or injure myself. I feel like a total idiot. What I don't want to do is drive a car that I'm not comfortable with. So for the moment we are not using a rental car. I figure I'll use the Taurus in the evening or on the weekend and I'll use my feet during the day. Hey, what's the worst I could do on foot other than break an ankle or something?

Oh well, I wanted a simpler life for Advent. I guess I'll exercise at home, cook out of the cupboard, and in general lie low until I get my own car back again.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More Tough Times

To add to the misery around here my horrible dishwasher (which I've mentioned before) decided to behave even worse than usual. I just had to redo an entire top rack's worth of dishes. I guess there must have been bean residue from the frijoles on one of the bowls because there was bean residue over every single glass and measuring cup on the top rack. Sigh...

Not Such a Great Week

I think that would be what both my dd and I would have to say about this one. I think we've both tried really hard to look on the bright side and be cheerful about stuff, but frankly it's just plain being one of those tough times.

So here's the tough times scoop from Vermont. Last week dd had an accident with her car because of icy roads and a thoughtless driver two cars ahead of her. At the time we figured it was no biggie because nobody was hurt and the insurance was going to take care of it. Well that's still the case, but it's getting more complicated. First of all the repairs (which we figured would take a few days) are going to take 2 1/2 to 3 weeks. Meanwhile she's driving my car which she hates and I'm driving a rental. Unfortunately when she took my car and the keys she also took my post office box key as well. The car the rental agency gave us is an HHR and I quite literally hate it. The visibility is lower than any vehicle I have ever driven and it makes me feel positively claustrophobic in traffic. Yesterday I was supposed to spend the afternoon with a friend, but got a call from our elderly relatives caregiver saying that I needed to sub for her at 2. So my visit with my friend from Colorado had to be cut short. Then last night I was cleaning off the bottom shelf on the refrigerator and my old knee injury (from high school no less) cropped up again for the first time in years and left me lying on the floor. This morning that knee is still sore, so no Bone Builders for me today. Dd meanwhile locked herself out of my car on Tuesday and had to get a locksmith to let her back in. Besides that one of the doctor's she works for has been positively beastlier than usual to her this week. And when she went to Mass just hours after her accident her friends found the accident amusing and were not sympathetic at all.

So all in all it's simply been tough. It hasn't been the kind of tragic tough that we've been through in the past, or the kind of long term tough that we knew in the months before she was born. It's been more like a cracked ankle kind of tough. You can still function, but it feels like you're slogging through mud and that everything you do is taking just a little longer. Meanwhile the people around you look on the bright side and feel like it's no big deal. And it really isn't a big deal, it's a bunch of little annoying deals which sap your energy and enthusiasm and make you want to be hugged instead of laughed at. It's one of those periods where you feel the splinters on the cross you are carrying. It's not exactly the sort of reflective Advent that we had in mind when this one started, but it has, obviously, given us a bunch of things to offer up.

However, keeping that HHR is not a cross I'm going to carry without question. I called the rental agency today and asked if they could swap it for something else. They're supposed to get back to me...So hopefully by the weekend I'll be driving something I don't mind driving.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Feasting on Feast Days

Yesterday was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We've never celebrated it before, but a Mexican meal was requested by my son, so we did it up right. We had enchiladas, tacos (made authentically -no packaged shells or seasoning packets here!), frijoles, and guacamole. We didn't have margaritas, but maybe next year.

It all fell in line with my philosophy of feasting on feast days. Those are special types of food that we certainly wouldn't eat every day. Not only are they more calorie laden (although in reasonable portions not too bad) than our usual fare, but they are more complicated than our usual fare as well. However, feasting on Mexican food gave us an opportunity to talk about the reason for the feast and to remember the miracle of Guadalupe.

Feasting on feast days does this. It sets the time apart to remember an event and or a person that is worthy of remembering and sharing with others. We are people with bodies and one of the best ways of helping each other to remember is by connecting the event with particular foods. Then each year as we eat the traditional foods we are reminded of the particular memories. Jews do this at Passover, at Purim, at Succoth, at Chanukah. In the Protestant home I grew up in such feasts were limited to Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and New Years Day and there seemed to be no particular reason for the particular foods (other than the Thanksgiving ones). Through the years I've attempted to add more and more of the traditional Christian feasts back into our lives. So we now always have Speculas on St Nicholas Day, we have special foods at Christmas, we have special foods on Good Friday, on St. Joseph's Day, on Easter, etc.

Today is the Feast of St. Lucy. Our only and eldest daughter is not here to serve us St. Lucy's bread in bed, so I guess we'll have St. St. Lucy's bread this evening at dinner. There are a number of legends surrounding St. Lucy, but what is clear is that she was a martyr during the reign of Diocletian. She is the patron saint for blind people. Traditionally in Scandinavian countries the eldest daughter brings a buns or cakes to the members of the family on the morning of St. Lucy's Day wearing a wreath on her head with burning candles.

A good resource of some of the feast days of Christian tradition and the foods associated with them is A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz. It has the recipe I use for Speculas as well as the recipe I use for plum pudding at Christmas. It also describes a rather different way of making a mince pie among other things. I recommend it for families who are beginning to celebrate Christian feasts and who are attempting to frame their lives according to Christian seasons rather than the whims of the marketplace. This attempt needn't be limited to the Catholics and Orthodox either. I bought and began using Vitz's book when I was still a Protestant. There are some elements of the liturgical year that are shared by all Christians and her book is an excellent resource for those feast days and fast days as well as a resource for the more specifically Catholic feasts, although she didn't have specific recipes for yesterday! It's also a good resource for looking at other cultures' approaches to Christmas and Easter celebrations. There's even a recipe for Latkes for Chanukah! It also has some great Christmas cookie recipes. It's a great book for homeschooling families.

"Why is any day better than another, when all the daylight in the year is from the sun? By the Lord's decision they were hallowed and distinguished, and he appointed the different seasons and feasts; some of them he exalted and hallowed, and some of them he made ordinary days." Sirach 33:7-9

Monday, December 11, 2006

Not So Mindless Eating

There's a new book out there, which Danielle Bean reviewed on her site, called Mindless Eating. It apparently discusses some of the reasons why we as a society are having problems with weight. Now this is a subject close to my heart this year. The author apparently gives suggestions for how people can lose weight without even really thinking about it simply by changing a few things (like the size of the plates they use). Well, while I agree that some of those things may help make a start on the project, my experience tells me that there also has to be some degree of conscious change as well. If you aren't aware that the portion sizes listed on packages are sometimes pretty inflated, that restaurants nearly always serve way too much, that two tablespoons of peanut butter have over 200 calories in them. Just think about that! Along with the bread a simple little peanut butter sandwich is over 300 calories or one fifth of what the average American woman - not pregnant or lactating needs in a day. That's without the glass of milk and piece of fruit that would make a fairly balanced meal. Throw those in and you've come close to a third of your daily calorie need, yet many people would think of that as a fairly light lunch and would expect a bigger dinner, a similar breakfast and a couple of snacks as well. Cut that peanut butter down by a tablespoon and you've cut a whole 100 calories out of the mix and believe me you can make a decent sandwich with just 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter (I typically make mine with 1/2 a tablespoon these days), no matter what they say on the Jiff jar.

It's really little things like that that have helped me in this whole weight loss thing. I really haven't given up eating things I like. I had things like creamed onions and stuffing at Thanksgiving. I ate dark meat as well as white. I had pie on Thanksgiving and birthday cake a few days later. I ate St. Nicholas Day cookies just like everyone else... well sort of. I didn't eat as many and I balanced out the rest of what I ate and I got some exercise as well.

Sometimes this year it's felt like all I think about is how much I'm supposed to eat and how to balance it out with exercise. I took this weight loss thing on with the determination I would have put into a serious project, and somehow so far I've managed to see it through. In the process I've learned a whole bunch. I've figured out just how small a portion of a lot of things is actually satisfying. I've begun eating a whole lot healthier (at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day instead of perhaps 2). I've learned to really LOVE apples. I've also learned that I'm not quite as allergic to exercise as I thought I was. The lighter I get the more fun the exercise actually becomes. I should have guessed that because the heavier I got the harder it was to climb in and out of lambing pens. I guess maybe the reverse will be true as well.

Anyway, while I think that some of the suggestions in Mindless Eating will probably help in raising your children, or in keeping yourself from gaining weight in the first place, if you've got a lot to lose it's going to take some intelligent eating and some intelligent exercising to get there. I heartily recommend, strength training, swimming, walking, and a stationary bike. Dancing and hula-hooping are actually pretty enjoyable too. Of course until I lost the first 25 pounds hula-hooping was a pretty lost cause. It hardly seems fair, but the lighter I get the easier it is to hula-hoop. My goal is to get back to being able to do it for a long time without dropping the hoop. So far, well lets just say I now get more than 4 revolutions before it slips. Sometimes even as many as 10 or 15 and that's a far cry from the max of 3 it used to be. I've even been wondering whether I should ask for snowshoes for Christmas...that might be pushing it just a little too far.

I'm more than halfway to my goal as of this morning, but I didn't get this far by just using a smaller plate. I'd been doing that for years and it didn't really help all that much. As a matter of fact the whole family has been using smaller plates and 3 out of the 4 of us just got bigger. The only one who didn't is an exercise fiend who also eats mindfully.

Actually, as I suggested to my students last week, I think we should really eat as the Church year encourages. We should eat normally, and using healthy guidelines during Ordinary time, we should fast intelligently during penitential seasons, and we should feast on feasts rather than every day. When every day becomes, in essence, what feast days should be, feast days turn into days of major overindulgence. I'm not in favor of throwing out the cookies, cakes and pizza. I'm simply in favor of paying attention to how and how much we eat them. If food is a gift from God to be enjoyed it seems appropriate to savor it and also be mindful of the fact that there are others who don't have enough of it. We also appreciate a feast so much more after a fast.

Mindless Eating may be a good beginning, just like mindless exercise (parking your car further away, taking the stairs rather than the elevator) is a way to get started towards fitness. However, for most of us who really struggle with overweight, a more mindful effort is probably required.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Have You Read This One Yet?

I've been reading a book that Scott Hahn recommended on EWTN's Bookmark. Scott described it as something the average Catholic could understand easily. He may be optimistic about average because I am having to go through it pretty slowly and I know I'm better catechised than a lot of my cradle Catholic friends. However, I am enjoying it. Ironically, it is touching on theological issues that I used to discuss with my friend Shari when I was in my twenties. The book is called Transformed by Grace: Scripture, Sacraments & the Sonship of Christ. It was written by Dom Wulstan Mork, OSB in 1965. The theme of course is divine sonship which Father Mork identifies as the unifying theme at the heart of Sacred Scripture. For years my friend and her family were part of a group that caught a bit of that vision, but distorted it. Once again a schismatic group had caught sight of a Catholic truth that sometimes doesn't get emphasized enough.

Anyway I'm working my way through it, albeit slowly. I'm also planning on recommending it to some people for whom the Sacraments seem irrelevant, but who are interested in reading about grace. If you know the Sacraments are relevant, but you're looking for a book to encourage you to abandon split-level living I would recommend it to you as well. It's available through Amazon, but I think you can also get it through the Saint Paul Center that Dr.Hahn founded a few years ago. It's published by Servant Books.