Thursday, December 31, 2009

Deep Thought Remains Elusive as 2009 Wanes.

I went grocery shopping today and was fairly well exhausted from it. I'm clearly still recouperating from bronchitis...or perhaps I'm just still a bit sick from it. The cough is still happening, that's for sure.

But I managed to get the groceries bought and I managed to make dinner-roasted chicken, carrots, greenbeans, and (shhhhh) some stovetop stuffing. And homemade cranberry sauce left over from Christmas dinner last week.

It was good.

I didn't over-eat.

I HAVE to lose significant amounts of weight in 2010. Might as well get a few days jump on the process. I hope this blog doesn't de-evolve into a weight loss journal. Because those are boring. But this blog's been pretty boring lately, anyways.

I remember when I used to write things theological, things significant, things thoughtful and perhaps even things profound. 2009 has seen lots of the mundane, some doses of despair and depression...not much insight or profundity.

One would think that getting older my thoughts would become more scintillating and worth having/sharing, and I'm sure they would be if I could actually figure out what they are.

But alas, deep thought remains elusive.

Happy New Year!

Sick of my own cooking RANT!

I'm so bored with my own cooking that I could scream. This whole "trying to buy more natural ingredients" thing that I've been doing since last spring (thankyou Nourishing Traditions...more like BORING Traditions), combined with B being on the gaps diet means we've been eating ground beef, and a whole chicken for our meat (fasting period excepted of course) for lo these many many moons, and I am SICK of hamburgers on sprouted grain buns, I'm SICK of roasted chicken and vegetables, I'm SICK of meatloaf-especially the gaps kind, and I'm SICK of meaty pasta bake (ground beef, pasta, sauce and cheese...yay rah!)....What else is there? I don't cook much else. Boring, boring, boring. I'm in SUCH a rut!

I can't think of anything to cook, and I've been making the same darned thing over and over and it's just not good.

Yeah, sometiems I'll take some of that ground beef and do a stir fry with curry powder. Oh, the thrill! (Not!).

I want to buy breakfast cereal. I'm SO GLAD that convenience got ruined for me. NOT!

Perhaps my new year's resolution ought to be finding RECIPES, and actually using them. And then what would Bethany eat? Meat and veggies, veggies and meat. poor kid. Well, that's all she eats anyways. And what would Eric eat? See, he's got aspie food issues and stuff has to either be hyper processed or super plain. Perhaps I should just buy a stack of frozen pizzas for the boy and wash my hands of his food issues.

It all gets to be a bit much and I truly wish sometimes I could try an exotic recipe on this family and have it be something that people would or could actually EAT.

Can you tell I'm needing to go grocery shopping right now? Should I spend it at Kroger, Aldi, Whole Foods (aka WHole Paycheck) or the dread Walmart? Maybe I should find a balance between my pastured beef, raw milk and some Lucky Charms?

And to top it all off, I need to lose some serious weight in 2010...and I have no idea where to begin other than drinking black coffee and gagging down eggs for breakfast.

It's all so complicated, and yes, I guess I'm crying right now. Happy homemaker I am SO NOT. Good thing no one is going to fire me.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Meme

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

I wore the same 2 identical brown dresses for 30 days in a row. Yay me!

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Well, my 2009 New Year's Resolution was NOT TO DIET, but rather to eat like a mature individual and let my weight natually drift downward and find its own level. HA! Ha! Ha ha ha! I failed. On so many levels. I tried the "No S Diet" and gained weight, I went to OA and did not lose and the month after I quit, I gained ten pounds. I tracked my food, off and on, via www.sparkpeople.com and never did lose, but at least while I was tracking I didn't gain weight either.

Grand total this year: 30 pounds gained! How's that for letting my weight drift downward by mature choices? FAIL!!!!!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My neighbor had a baby. He's cute.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No.

5. What countries did you visit?

Sigh. I don't think I even left the State except for going to Indiana to pick up my milk every week.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

I would like to have WEIGHT LOSS in 2010. All my efforts will be bent towards this task. Mwahahahahaha.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I don't really do specific dates.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting off my butt/over my overwhelmedness and having Eric and Maia tested for autism spectrum stuff.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Struggling with the same lame-o sins over and over again. Mostly having to do with GAINING 30 pounds.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Does Fibromyalgia count? Had a few flare ups of that. And bronchitis. And crushing fatigue and sleeplessness and hot flashes.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Raw Milk!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The kids. They are so wonderful.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Mine. I can't believe I let myself gain 30 POUNDS!!!!! Aaaaaagh and Aaaaaack!

14. Where did most of your money go?

Buying wool to knit, and cookies. I'm sure I bought too many cookies. And starbucks. Yeah. It's no mystery HOW I gained 30 pounds, is it?

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Knitting lace! Knitting socks!


16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2009?

Song? My life lacks a sound track. I have no song.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

* Happier or sadder?

-I don't know. About the same. Stressed out about slightly different stuff, I guess.

* Thinner or fatter?

- Way Fatter.

* richer or poorer?

- Same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Wish I'd prayed more and met more people.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

worry, comofort eating,and self pitty.


20. How will you be spending Christmas?

Sick and bundled in a quilt, coughing my lungs out.

21. How many one-night stands?

Only with the guy I'm married to.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Chuck!!!!!

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No hate.

24. What was the best book you read?

Nothing stands out.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
No musical discoveries.

26. What did you want and get?

for Christmas? earrings, faboo purse and an awesome scarf. In general: I wanted lots of cookies and I got them. 30 pounds worth.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?

Harry Potter, I guess.

28. What did you do on your birthday?

Birthday was so long ago, that I don't remember what I did on it.

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

FRUMPY!

30. What kept you sane?

Going out for coffee with my new friend Rachel, going to knitting group, singing in the choir and lots of trips to the Louisville Zoo.

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Gerard Butler

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

Mountain Top Removal.

33. Who did you miss?

Everyone in the greater Lexington area that I said goodbye to when we moved. sniff sniff.

34. Who was the best new person you met?

Rachel, Abbi, Marta and Caroline!!!!

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

Not dieting is not an option.

I'm not tagging, but if you want to, feel free. :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ecclectic

Lime Aid

I"m Tired of Being Sick!

The coughing is getting better, and at least when I do cough it is productive (oh, so yummy!). But the lack of enenrgy is astounding. I slept until 12:15 pm today and was surprised when I woke up to sunshine streaming through the crack in my homemade "blackout shade" (quilt hung over window).

I shuffled to the kitchen, heated up some chili, and made decaf coffee. Yeah, that is the good thing I did: used being sick and miserable anyways to get off caffeine (AGAIN!). The headache is finally gone.


But beyond sitting here like a lump and contemplating crawling back into bed, I have no energy. I wish I did.

I don't mean to complain...really. I just wish I had the energy to bustle about and be a bit domestic, tidy things up, fold some laundry, clean the kitchen, cook something nice.

Today is Wes' birthday. I suppose I will have to find the energy at some point to make something nice and egads, is it already 4:10???? Sooner than I thought I'd have to, I guess. I am in a total time fog and it's just slipping out from under me this day.

I need a nap.

Church Lady


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Crawling out from beneath my rock...

...is anyone still out there? Am I alive? It has been years since I've been this sick. Oy!

Cough, cough!

Christmas was a blur. I missed Church, of course, and then just sat on a chair in the living room wrapped in a blanket while Christmas joy happened around me. I blurrily remember us unwrapping presents. I sort of recall helping Wes to put the Goose in the oven.

After that we played Quelf, and I think I was on some cold medication because it was a blur. I barely remember the inedible Goose. I decided that I don't like goose. It's not good enough for the price I paid for him. I'd rather have a succulent deli chicken than that hard bone dry desscated piece of bird. Impressively ginourmous wings, though. Like turkey on bad steroids...all dark meat, even the dry bits. I don't think we cooked it right.

Yesterday...was that the day after Christmas? I barely came up for air. Spent the day in bed, haking my lungs out, and zonked on cold meds. All the muscles in my torso are SORE from coughing. Wes made goose soup. It seems like it took him hours to remove that stubborn meat from those stubborn bones. I ate half a bowl. Not much appetite.

Today...just a wee bit better. Enough so, to hope that I'm on the mend.

Did Christmas happen? I feel like I missed it. But we are finally eating that frozen lasagna that I bought, that I theoretically know would be good if only I could taste it. The only thing I CAN taste are Ricola lozenges, and those have long since lost their "herbal goodness" luster.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Lesson Learned the Hard Way

I did an experiment in 2009. I had for my new year's resolution that I would NOT diet. The idea was I'd learn to eat the right amount of food for my body, be lovely and self-controlled and come to a new and mature place of balance.

Result: FAIL!

I gained 30 pounds this past year. Yay, me! (I know EXACTLY how I did it...yum! Late night nachos, too much red winea nd way way too many cookies. You know, the big ones from Panera. Starbucks: also a problem. You get the idea.)

And yes, I went to the endocrinologist to get all those nice happy tests done that would prove that none of the weight gain was really my fault.

Result: All tests normal. So, not thyroid, not bad hormones. Just too much food.

So, I guess I know what my new year's resolution is going to be for 2010 and it's NOT going to be NOT dieting. He he he.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Not the Flu!

After I vomited this afternoon from coughing too much, I scrambled around to find an urgent care placed open late afternoon on Christmas Eve...we made it. They did a flu test, and it came back negative!!!!

I'm so glad!

Wes just arrived with a boatload of antibiotics, prescription cough meds, and the sort, because I DO have bronchitis.

Glory to God for all things. I think this is an illness given to me for reflection and repentance.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thy Nativity O Christ Our God

Today All The Angels

An Arabic Christmas Carol (Byzantine Hymn of the Nativity)

I. Hate. Shopping.

I like having food to eat, though.

So we went grocery shopping today. Wes came with me and that was such a treat. He's a true gentleman, and he helps me so much, especially when I get tired. So, being with him was very nice. But traffic, oh my! The traffic was HORRIBLE. The grocery stores were packed...it was miserable. We had five stops to make (Home Depot, Dee's, Steinmart (for a last minute Christmas item) and then finally Whole Foods and Kroger) and it was nutso, crazy, very unpleasant.

Home now. And I'm SO GLAD to be home.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dear Blog readers...

I'm opening up my Free To Cover blog once again. Yes, Mrs. "On again, off again" is "On again". What is it with me?????

Rudolf das kleine Rentier

Impressive translation...but SCARY nonetheless.

Rolf Zuckowski - Ihr Kinderlein kommet

Nostalgia!

Friday, December 18, 2009

More uses for Lego

So, yesterday in a stroke of home school teacher genius, I suggested to B that if she was having trouble memorizing the process for somethingorother molecular process on a cellular level (hey, she's the one taking the class...I'm just supervising) that perhaps she should walk through the steps with various lego pieces representing the various hydrogen, carbon, etc. molecules involved.

She did, and was able to memorize the process.

Score!

I think it would be nice to have a real kit, though.

The Woman and the Wheat-Book Review



I'm so glad I have the opportunity to reveiw this wonderful book here on my blog. The Woman and the Wheat, by Jane G. Meyer, is a story about a woman who tills the soil, who plants wheat, who waits patiently...in the style of many classic "this is the process of how it's done" children's books, the seed's life cycle is traced, from planting, through harvest, milling, bread baking and culminating in it being offered up in the Eucharist.

The style of writing in this book is very poetic, and almost musical, without being pedantic or sing-songy. And the illustrations are absolutely breathtaking, with rich color and unifying elements throughout (a very charming dog, for instance.)

I would say this book would appeal to pre-schoolers the most, as a read aloud. But when I walked in a room where my kids were, opened the book and started reading it out loud, it grabbed everyone's attention and the book had an audience-even though my kids are 10, 11, 13 and 15 years old.

God parents: This book would make an ideal Christmas or Pascha gift for your young god child.

It is available for sale at SVS Press.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent Miscellany

Lets see, what's been going on around here? Busy with scouting activities. We had our city-wide American Hertiage Girls Mother/Daughter Tea last Sunday afternoon. I had to miss Sunday morning Church because A. had pink eye, but the doctor said that by the afternoon she would have been on her eye drops long enough to go to the tea. Our troop leader surprised me and asked me to speak about Christmas in Switzerland. So, I got up on stage and told about Christmas in Switzerland. That was a surprise, and fun to do. My preaching training came in handy, and I did get a few laughs from the audience. I told about the Fast of St. Nicholas, and other various things, as well as giving a synopsis of who St. Nicholas was in real life. Most of the audience had never heard of the real St. Nicholas. And of course I talked about other Swiss Christmas traditions as well: The nativity plays, the Chirst Child being celebrated, all the Christian carols and hymns.

On Monday we baked Christmas cookies: Sugar cookie cutouts with decorations (my son is at that age when he likes do to things like make the gingerbread man shaped cookies have various bodily injuries...fuuun.) Chocolate crinkle cookies and ginger snaps. The cookies went into the freezer to await the Nativity. Well, most of them did. ;-)

Christmas shopping: Hardly started. We have an Amazon order in, and plan on spending Saturday amidst the crowds in some brick and mortar stores. The kids are worried and we are making jokes about having invisible presents this year.

B. is sleeping better. She is doing well on her meds, until she gets tired and then she's a blubbering mess. Fifteen hits hormones hits autism hits schizophrenia: A perfect storm. Any and all prayers on her behalf are very welcome and needed on an ongoing basis. It is never easy living with mental illness. God have mercy.

Christmas time brings of so many memories of two years ago when B was hospitalized during the first part of the month of December. That Christmas was difficult. She was not OK when we brought her home. Just barely well enough to eat. But mentally she was still pretty much out of her mind and was for months. I suppose it's good to remember, and to be so very grateful about how much better she is now than then.

Living with this, I realize I carry with me a deep sadness. All the time. I think everyone has their own deep sadnesses. I think the best we can do is offer those up to God.

I keep having the phrase "born to die" in my head, as I meditate on the incarnation of God. And this old Advent carol, on my mind:

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
has come to thee O Israel.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Need Some Prayer Here, Please!

I've been really really busy lately. And nothing blogworthy to write about. I do have a prayer request though:

My oldest, B, is getting her days and nights reversed, thanks to her new medication (Geodon) which is working GREAT when she is alert and awake. Unfortunately, that happens to be at night. She did not sleep at all last night. Says she saw the clock change every hour. Her sisters complained to me this morning of her dividing the numbers on the clock into factors etc. All. Night. Long.

Please pray with me that she would be able to stay up today (this is going to get hard for her and be a LOOOOONG day for all of us, I'm afraid) and that God would grant her sleep tonight. That her days and nights would NOT get reversed.

Night before last she woke up at 2:45, and was awake. Then she spent the day sleeping, some in her bed, and then when I got her up after a two hour nap, she crashed on the couch all day.

We tried messing with when we give her her meds, but I'm thinking she needs to just take them at night. I don't know. Can't really tell. I spoke with the pharmacist and although restlessness is a side effect, sleeplessness is not (supposedly). Heh.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Since I've blogged about it...

I went to the Endocrinologist about a month ago. I had to call them twice to get the results of the massive amount of bloodwork they did.

Everything is normal.

I'm unsatisfied, but that is the answer I always get. Yes, he tested for free T3 and T4 levels, etc. He tested my pituitary, He tested me for diabetes..etc. etc. All of it.

I guess it boils down to this: There is no blood test for Fibromyalgia, and that's what I've got. I've already been dx'd with that, so I guess this is just more of that.

And I have to take responsibility for the fact that I've gained 30 pounds in the past year. So I will.

And now I get to do something about it, like tracking my calories and exercising every day and drinking tons of water.

Yay, fun! But that's reality.

So, there it is. I think I complain too much.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Brown Dress Report

Well folks, I did it!

I wore two identical brown dresses for 31 days in a row. (With the exception of the doctor's visit-but I changed when I got home, and an appointment at an exercise place, where I changed right after...well, right after I did the laundry, that is).

I liked the ease and simplicity of not having to think about what to wear. That aspect of the project appealed to me.

Not focusing on my clothes for a month has allowed me to delve into my inner self and gain some personal clarity on some issues. That's been good and somewhat unexpected. I don't know that I truly expected that. I learned that there's really nothing new inside of me. I'm still me. How exciting. Not.

I saw more clearly how broken I am. Into the desert, and I see this blubbering, broken mess of a person who is me. In the ultimate reality of things, clothes are just clothes. Not important. And that can go both ways. Plain brown dresses are not holier than any other type of modest garb.

I also learned that a brown dress is not the right thing to wear on all occasions, unless I want to form some sort of monastic-wannabe community of brown dress wearing ragamuffins. Yes, that's right. I felt like a ragamuffin after about two weeks. Well, I guess I only felt like a ragamuffin at Church. I missed dressing up.

The dresses held up OK, but they've each gone through the wash 15 times or so, and the new has definitely worn off. They are still nicer than most things I wear, but they certainly are not very dressy. (I did try to wear each more than one day, before washing but that usually did NOT work out, even though I try to wear an apron in the kitchen consistently. I'm a messy.) Very much in the comfy at-home and running errands category of clothes. Most of my life fits that category, but not Sunday mornings.

On a practical level: I had planned on mixing things up with some fun scarves that I own, and also with a variety of sweaters and jackets, and the weather turned out to be TOO WARM. Seriously. On many many days I was sweating a little bit and wishing I could just change into a t-shirt already. But I stuck with it.

IRL people's reactions to the brown dress project: I think I made some people snigger behind my back. I definitely got some gentle teasing. I think mostly people were like: "Why on earth would you do that?" When I confided to one friend that I was glad the project would be over today, because I was sick of the brown dress, she said she figured I would be.

I figured I would be, too. I am sick of the brown dresses. I pretty much accurately predicted how I would be to be wearing the same thing every day for a month: Very excited and happy at first, settling into a "this is normal and I"m ignoring it" phase, and culminating with a "I'm so sick of this and I want a change" phase. Yes, that's me.

But one thing I think it has cured me of (at least for now): My weird fascination with "plain dress" and the desire to have a uniform.

But you know what? I'm not getting rid of those brown dresses. They will probably be a staple in my wardrobe for a long time to come. For today at least, I will thoroughly enjoy wearing some sweat pants. Who knows? Tomorrow I might just reach for one of those brown dresses. They are, after all, so comfy and practical!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Something Pretty

Wes and I were cruising around Bed, Beth and Beyond this evening on our Sunday night date. We needed a roasting pan for the ginormous Turkey we bought, and also some pan scrapers. After we found our needed items, it was fun to look around.

I, of course, wandered into the fine China section, having had no success in convincing my husband of almost 18 years to pretend that we are engaged and picking out china. Oh well, I said to myself. I guess I'll look at the fine china myself.

I looked. I liked. Several I liked, but then I saw some I liked even more. Waterford. Of course. Then I noticed the name.
It's Alana Waterford China. And it was my favorite out of all of the ones I saw. Isn't that strange, and neat? Sigh. Maybe in heaven I'll have something similar. Or better.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I did too much...

and still more to do! Aaaaaaggggghhhhh!

Turkey pick up from our farmer early this morning. Had to stand in line at the Farmer's market. Meant I was slightly late for Church.

Rush home, get girls, put Turkey in freezer, off the Church.

After Church, give friend ride and she wants dunkin' donuts. mmmmm. Good idea. So we get some dunkin'. Home again. Eat said donuts.

Then it's time to make a to-do list, have discussion about holiday cooking with mother on phone, make more lists, etc.

Run off to store to get some supplies. Brave dreaded mall traffic to get a bottle of ear lobe cleanser at Claire's. Meh.

Know you are tired but it's time to dig really really deep and do stuff anyways: Time to start cooking for the holidays: I have to bring GAPS stuff so my daughter can eat while we are with relatives. Knowing the menu in advance, I'm cooking GAPS versions of the things that my mom and SIL will be making: GAPS chicken curry into crock pot. GAPS meat loaf made and into oven. Bake two pumpkins. Make a meal for a sick person. Puree pulp. Make GAPS pie crust and turn pumpkin into GAPS pie filling. Bake a pie. Make regular pie crust dough. Oh, no! Out of time. Have to run an errand to sick person's house. Set aside pie crust dough for tomorrow and put pie filling into refrigerator.

Run errand . Return just in time to whisk kids into car for Vespers. Give hypoglycemic kid who has spent entire day on nothing but donuts and the computer two pieces of cheese.

After Vespers...so very tired. Been cooking all day. Have very messy kitchen and no energy. Chinese takeout! Go to nearest Chinese place and learn they are cash only. Drive to another Chinese place and order shrimp Lo-mein. Pay too much money for too much food. (Leftovers!)

Drive home. Eat. Blog.

Now I just need to:

Finish restorative glass of wine.
Convince someone to empty dishwasher (being done as I type this).
Load dishwasher.
Put GAPS Meatloaf in freezer.
Put GAPS pie in freezer.
Remove GAPS chicken curry from crock pot and divide into conatiners and put that int he freezer.
Put laundry from washer into dryer. No wait! Tell other teenager to do that.

Tuck kids into bed.

Collapse into heap.

Yeah. I did too much.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Grandpa during WW2



Second from the right, in the back, standing in the shadow. Serving our country in the Navy.

Offer it Up

I'm having a really really hard time focusing on the need-to-do details of my life right now. Like I'm all ADDish or something. Constantly feeling overwhelmed, like there's a phone call I'm forgetting to make or a list I ought to be writing or a chore I ought to be doing (well, we all know that is true) but I'm all a-muddle and get pull myself together enough to figure it out.

It is difficult to go through life feeling like this and not feel like an utter failure.

Next week is Thanksgiving and we are packing and joining family at a cabin in the mountains, which means we have to coordinate and import all our food, some kitchen gear, etc. Along with clothes etc. And I need to think about that, and make that happen. Along with a goodly pile of other things. Schooling the kids? Perhaps they can do that themselves, eh? Mostly they do.

And I've had a caffeine withdrawal headache for two days because I'm going off caffeine once again. How do I keep getting addicted to that stuff? Over and over again like a stupid.

I wish I could just run away to the forrest and not deal with anything but sitting on a stump and praying and tinkering with a fire for a few days. That would be nice. But alas, life calls, and I'm at a point where life itself feels like a mortification. I think that feeling just comes from the headache. As my Roman Catholic friends say: "Offer it up!" So I do that.

Offering up the pile of towels and rags that need to get folded, the bed that needs to get made, the laundry that needs doing, the boring brown dresses, my obesity and fibro, my sick daughter, asperger's syndrome, the fact that I never have enough time to do everything and I always feel like I'm running around (albeit doing necessary errands) when I ought to be at home...all of it. Offering it up.

Lately during Litugy at the part where we are called to lift up our hearts, and we respond: "We lift them up unto the Lord!" I can hardly sing for the lump in my throat. All I can imagine is a broken (ground meat more like), bleeding mess of a heart that I'm offering up to God. Offer it up.

All of it, even the lack of focus. Offer it up. I lift it up unto the Lord.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Putting my Clothes Back

Since next week is going to be busy, and Monday is my last day of offcial brown dress simplicity I decided to get my clothes out again.

But I sorted as I went. A whole entire bag's worth of stuff I just don't want. Probabaly even more than that that I don't NEED, now that I know how little I really do need.

But to be quite honest, this little experiment as been good for me in that it's stripped away some layers of stuff and shown me some inside-of-me isssues that I need to address.

I also learned that no, I really don't want to be this plain all the time. And perhaps I don't really want to full time uniform. Just a mostly uniform. A classy smaller wardrobe that is less of a hodge pode and more coordinated, for sure. Putting my things back made me realize that I do own some good pieces of clothing.

And I learned that there needs to be a difference between every day wear and Sunday Best. That's perhaps my biggest lesson. Before, I would wear nice skirts every day. That was a bit much. Now I'm thinking those brown dresses are an excellent foundation to my every day clothes. Save the nicer skirts for Sundays.

And so it goes.

And Jesus still said not to worry so much about clothes, that our Heavenly Father clothes us in splendor.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Breaking my Own Rules

Well, I'm gonna have to break the rules of the brown dress experiment. Eeeeek. Here's what's happening: I signed up to try out Curves for a few sessions, for free, and this afternoon they want me to come in for a tour and fitness assessment (har har har! Fitness? more like how UNfit am I?). And they want me wearing workout clothes. Brown dress not included.

So, it's sweatpants, long sleeved t-shirt and sneakers for me at 3 pm.

And...

tomorrow I'm going to see my allergist for my nut allergy testing. They are going to want my back exposed. If I wear my brown dress, the entirety of my back side will have to be exposed. If I wear a skirt and top, I can probably just remove my shirt. Skirt and top wins due to modesty issues. Even in a hospital gown.

So...Just for the sake of being up front, I thought I'd share.

I AM going to be glad when this is over.

New Hair Cut



and color. I'm like a fat, brunette Meg Ryan now. he he he.

Monday, November 16, 2009

One Week Left

I've only got one week left on my brown dress experiment. I need to sit down with myself and ferret out all the goodies I've learned about myself during this process. There has been some self discovery, or at least some clarity. Folks, I have me some ISSUES. Ha! like you all didn't already know that.

Will I be glad when it's over? Yes. Will I still wear my brown dresses often? Oh, yes! Will I go through my wardrobe ruthlessly and cull? Definitely.

Mostly, I'll be very glad to wear something dressier to Church again. I feel dressed down and too comfy there. Like I'm wearing sweat pants to Church. That's how cozy the brown dresses are. I understand the concept of "Sunday best" now, like never before.

I'll blog more about it later.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Photos Online of St. Michael's 75th Anniversary LIturgy

Here is the link I'm still not used to the size and grandeur of this place. But oh, when the whole congregation is thundering out the Nicene Creed, it gives me chills of joy.

Of course this was a hierarchichal liturgy, with our beloved Bishop Mark.

Many of the pictures are of an ordination to the diaconate of one of our own.

Update: I did not take these pictures. I just found the link and posted the link on my blog.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nativity Fast Angst

It is upon us once again...the fasting season. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) I've made lots of really really healthy changes in our diet since last Lent, and now I'm caught flat footed, not knowing what to do or what to feed the kids this Advent season.

So, for this week, I bought all the old usual stuff. Weston A. Price is probably spinning in his grave right about now. I can't help it. I have to get meals on the table and food into some very very picky bellies and it take BABY STEPS at this house! BABY STEPS!

So, what's an Orthodox Christian to eat if soy anything is totally off the table? No margarine, friends. No tofutti, no boca burgurs, no TVP or Tofu or any of that stuff.

I hate to say it, but I did buy corn chips and lots and lots of things like canned beans, salsa and corn, chiles, etc.

I know, I should be doing my own beans, from scratch. Maybe in a week or so I'llo ramp up to that. Meanwhile we compromise.

And lots of Alaskan canned salmon. Mmmm, Alaska. If I can't go there, I can at least eat some fish from there.

I also decided to try the Barilla high protein pasta. Hopefully that won't get rejected by the ueber-picky crowd.

And I bought fish sticks. Hangs head in shame. Yes, I'm human.

And so it goes. Instead of blogging about all the horrid things I did get, I should be writing about all the even worse things I did not get, like crackers, grahams, sugary canned fruit and oreos or ramen noodles. Yes, those are "lenten". Ha!

Am I the only one, or do others feel like any sort of health and nutrition goes out the window during fasting periods? Or is it just becuase I'm somewhat carbohydrate intolerant and the mere reading of the upcoming menu makes me sick to my stomach?

And on top of all that, Bethany's on the GAPS diet. Fuuuun cooking MPD for a few weeks. This is my cross. I take it up. I will follow.

jokerman - BOB DYLAN

one of my fave songs evah!

Time to do a gratitude post

Grateful that M emptied the dishwasher this morning, without me asking her to.

Grateful for the back rub Wes gave me.

Grateful for coffee.

Grateful for piano lessons my son is getting and how much he enjoys practicing.

Grateful that it's Thursday. For some reason I like Thursdays.

Grateful there are no appointments today.

Grateful that my kids are home schooled and we can take it easy in the morning.

Grateful that its Thanksgiving soon and I'll get to see my family.

Grateful for the drop in temperature back into November chill as opposed to indian summer weather.

Grateful for this very comfy chair I"m sitting on.

Grateful for friends, near and far.

Grateful that Wes is packing his own lunch today.

Off Balance

I'm feeling stressed this morning and I can't quite figure out why.

Other than the fact that my back is hurting. A Lot. Put ice on it last night, and went to the chiropractor yesterday evening. I may just have to break out the TENS unit, but how will I wear that without a waistband to clip it to if I'm wearing my brown dress?

Ever have one of those days when you just can't get your head around much of anything? My week's been like that. A muddle.

Perhaps I'm stressed out about the upcoming Nativity Fast. I have not taken the time yet to figure out a menu plan. Quite frankly, I'm scared of it. I need to eat more vegetables and less bread this time around. Yeah. Famous last words.

I've pretty much given up on ever in my life "getting healthy" or "losing weight". All my efforts in that arena are too short lived and too much in vain. You know, if I'm going to be hungry every day for hours on end I need to see some motivating results. Whether it's a character flaw or not, I don't know, but I just don't have the gumptitude to be hungry for hours on end every day and NOT be losing weight. It will be interesting to see what my endocrinologist says. He says I have all the symptoms of low thyroid, and now we are waiting on some blood work. Sigh. As crazy as it sounds, I really really hope something shows up there because as it is, I"m living with ALL the symptoms of having an ill-functioning thyroid, and the way I figure it, if I have all the symptoms, I may as well have the problem and get some meds for it.

And with exercise, it's the ever present issue: I try for a while, and then I hit the ol' fibromyalgia wall where I barely have energy to get through the day, and I'm in pain of some sort, and before I know it it's two weeks later and just as unfit as ever.

And despite my best intentions, I have not been to Matins more than once this week. I've been staying up too late in the evenings. It's a vicious cycle and I can't seem to break it. When the alarm goes off, all I can think of is how long the fatigued afternoon will stretch before me if I get up, and then I turn it off and go back to sleep for an hour (or two).

All the kids have been dealing with colds this week, so no one is in the mood to do math or english...at least not with a good attitude.

OK, so I've shared all my little personal stresses with the entire internet. I feel a bit better.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brown Dress: 19 Days in!

Has it only been 19 days? Really? ONLY 19 days? It seems like I've been wearing these brown dresses forever.

Not that that's a bad thing. A bit boring, yes, but anxiety free. I did not realize how much clothes angst I live with, until I decided to go without...not without clothes, LOL. THAT would get me arrested and would blind people with my magic superpowered ugliness death rays. But without the choices that plague me normally.

Now, I know that choices don't plague everyone. (Yum this Venti decaf Cafe Americano with Sugar Free Caramel syrup that I got with a Starbucks gift card I won at my chiorpractor's office sure is tasty...just thought I'd share.) But they do plague me. Clothing choices, that is. And sometimes Starbucks....talk about an icon of American Consumerism. What is it I'm drinking, again? But I digress...

So, I'm 19 days in. I like the simplicity. Sometimes I feel a tiny bit awkward, but then I remember that strangers at the store don't know I've worn the same 2 identical dresses for 19 days running. So, to them I look normal.

And the people I care about? Well, they all know about my project and are supportive, or at least polite enough to not laugh at me to my face. A friend at knitting group last night said it doesn't seem like I'm wearing the same thing over and over, since I always have some color around my neck or face. Hmmm. I think I've rotated between only four different scarves in these 19 days. I have not worn any sweaters, jackets or cardigans because it's been WARM and Indian Summer-like. In fact, on several days I've been a bit hot in the brown dress. But I soldier on despite the weather.

What have I learned:

1. That I need to massively simplify my wardrobe when this project is over.
2. That if I could find a way to make wearing a brown dress a weight loss plan, that Icould market it and get rich. Hardy har har har...that's a running joke.
3. That what's on my body has nothing to do with the state of my soul.
4. Perhaps it's the novelty, perhaps the simplicity or the sameness, but this is a lesson in setting my mind on heavenly things, not on earthly things, in a very small way that is.
5. Albeit with a massively simplified and much smaller wardrobe, I think I'll enjoy having a few different things to wear when this month is over.
6. But so far, I think the brown dresses are going to remain a huge favorite of mine.
7. That I am more myself or more at home with myself in these two brown dresses than anything I've worn in years. I can't even think of anything that compares. What does that say about me?
8. Loving God and loving other people is all that matters. Clothes are just for covering our nakedness and preventing hypothermia or sunburn.

Socks



Awesome knitting, so-so star embroidery, and horrible photography.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Finishing Touches


Tonight at knitting group I finished up this blue hat and added a bit of whimsy to the crown.



And I wove in the final threads on these scrumdillyicious dish cloths.

The hat has a home, but I'm still trying to decide to whom the knitted dish cloths belong.

Woo Hoo, I got linked!

*(the “least of these” in whose eyes? God’s or ours? It was uttered for the enlightenment of our eyes and hearts, by the Lord Jesus Christ our God, concerning His folks at the bottom, on the margins, with whom He most identifies- our God, so aggressively downwardly mobile, now glorified with wounds of love on His hands and feet, with the holy martyrs)

I like that quote. Especially the "agressively downwardly mobile" part.

And seriously, folks, if anything I write is something you feel the need to pass on to someone else, feel free. Just keep my name on it.

And if you have not noticed, in the sidebar, on my blogroll, there's an excellent blog called Arms Open Wide that is all about Orthodoxy and disabilities issues. Check it out.

Losing It

"Happiness is fleeting, but sorrow lingers on and on and comes back to bite you in the butt when you least expect it."--me.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Living Deliberately: Imitating the Saints

Ever since my patron saint, St. Juliana of Lazarevo adopted me, I've had strange urges to imitate her life in certain ways. In baby step sort of ways. There's no way I'm as godly as she is (she knew the psalter by heart and I spend time on facebook), for sure, but it seems like a good idea to start being intentional about how I live and to intentionally incorporate some copy-cat-ishness into my life. A good reason to do this is that I'm not automatically holy, you know, being the worst of sinners.

And the little pitch-fork toting guy that sits on my shoulder wants to discourage me from such a plan with thoughts such as "Oh, but that doesn't count...if you are PLANNING it...your good works need to be spontaneous." Thoughts such as these.

But is that true? Of course not. Liturgy is planned out prayers that teach us and guide us and help mature the prayers of our own hearts. Holy Tradition is planned out Scriptural interpretation that keeps us faithful to the Faith once given to the Apostles. And so on. Nothing wrong with planning and execution.

So it seems to reason that we can imitate the Saints on purpose. Plan and do. Did St. Herman do something that particularly inspired you? Copy him. Does your patron saints life make your heart yearn to be like that? Imitate her. Do what they did. Pray their prayers.

And so often it's simple, unglamorous stuff. St. Juliana spent some of her extra time sewing clothes for the needy in her community. St. Herman baked cookies for the orphans in his care.

Who are the naked? Where are the hungry? What small and caring acts can we do, right here and right now, deliberately on purpose, to manifest the Kingdom of God in our midst?

Give alms just a little bit more.

Pray just a little longer and harder.

Embrace one more teeny tiny act of renunciation of something that might be a barrier in your heart between you and God.

Spend just a bit more time seeking God.

And soon that will become a new "normal" and then we can build on that, and go from there.

Doesn't that seem reasonable?

Friday, November 06, 2009

False Fixes

My house is a mess because I've been so busy doing things like running to the library, running errands buying things that people in this family need, etc. I can barely wrap my head around what's for dinner and I'm just plain tired and behind.

And oh. so. tired. I mentioned that.

Today is the kind of day when I'm tired, aching all over, stressed, busy and very very very prone to depression. OK, prone to is an understatement. Depressed.

I was really struggling today at stuffmart. I had to go there to buy a hat and some camping dishes for my boyscout, printer ink...stuff like that, and while I was meandering along, I was oh so tempted to feel so very very down about myself. The depression is always expressed as disssatisfaction with my own person...my looks, my clothes (those are easy to change, aren't they... but my brown dress project is making me realize that is a false fix) my body, my hair, my personality, my weaknesses...when I get depressed my thoughts just attack me, and my feelings take over.

And when I'm tired and achy, all I want to do is curl up and eat something soothing, drink something soothing...fattening. The temptation is there, but it's not cure for tired and achy. Just a fix for hungry...but not tired and achy.

I'm still feeling unwell and depressed, and I know I have many more miles to go before I sleep. But go and do I must. People are depending on me. The biggest thing is driving out to Taylorsville to take my dd to a sleepover birthday party. Wish I didn't have to drive out to Taylorsville. But once that's done, everything else can be shoved off until tomorrow. And I really really am glad she's been invited to a birthday party.

OK, so what's the point I'm trying to make: Clarity, I guess. I blame the brown dress project for the clarity. False fixes can be avoided with the help of God and sometimes it's OK to just be tired and a bit depressed without a fix. "His mercies are new every morning."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Rambling thoughts on Mental Illness

I've been thinking for a while that I should write something about mental illness that sort of parallels the post I wrote recently about how the Church can minister to the chronically ill and I've had a hard time wrapping my head around the subject.

Perhaps the subject is so huge, and perhaps I don't want to invade my daughter's privacy too much, but I do want to write about it. Forgive me if this post is less well organized than that other post.

First of all, a bit of background: When my oldest daughter was 13 (two years ago) she had a major psychotic break and was hospitalized for 10 days. Now we know that she suffers with Catatonic Schizophrenia. She takes medicine and sees a therapist (most psychiatrists require that). Her illness started manifesting itself when she was 11 years old, but we weren't sure of the extent of things until her break.

So, I am parenting and attempting to home-school a teenager who is "mentally ill". Based on how much she is/isn't able to get accomplished I can say this: Her illness is disabling.

Why did I put that "mentally ill" bit in quotation marks? Because I believe mental illness is physical illness. It is a disease of the body, since the brain is a part of the body. But it is NOT a disease of the soul, or of the nous. My daughter's inner mind (nous) is affected by her illness, for sure just as my nous is affected by the fact that I have fibromyalgia, but it itself is perhaps more whole and sane and healed and certainly more innocent than mine is. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

So, from an Orthodox perspective of the human person, I see mental illness as being in the category of bodily illness, and the spiritual life of the person who is thus afflicted can still be healthy, as determined by the inner struggle against sin that all Christians participate in. Now, the challenges are different...greater to some extent and lesser in some ways perhaps. We each have our cross to bear.

So, those are my thoughts on that. Now, practically, what does this mean in terms of life in the Church?

I think the most important thing Christians can do is inform themselves about mental illness and the issues that the mentally ill face, and then approach those suffering with patience and compassion. I think that any time a person's illness affects how they interact with other human beings, it gets really scary for people because we are fundamentally social creatures and we don't like the rules to get broken. (I'll go more into this in a post on autism). And it's easy for people to shy away from interacting with people they are scared of, who might be different. Easier just to avoid those people, and write them off as "not normal", "afflicted" or "losers". No, normal would not describe a mentally ill person, but such are still worthy of love and patience, understanding, help and genuine friendship. And one thins I must say and emphasize: A person struggling with mental illness can't just "get over it" or "pull themselves together and do better" or "repent of it". It is possible, I know, to have a mental illness and to be a manipulative, bitter, horrid person...those aspects of human nature are not tied to mental illness per se, but rather to the state of one's soul. Because it's also possible to have a mental illness and be innocent, pure in heart, prayerful, and to grieve over one's sins. One's spiritual condition is not determined by one's mental health status.

I've been friends with several different people, over the course of my life, who suffer from illnesses that are categorized as "mental illness": Bipolar, Bipolar-Schizo-affective disorder, Schizophrenia, Depression...and in each case the person has a real and vibrant love for God, has been a participant in his/her Church, seeking God and living a life of prayer and struggle, like was all do...along with a great deal of physical and mental symptoms that make life hard.

The prayers and the yearning for God are the most important things in life. But it's easy to see the instability and disability that can come with the "mentally ill" package and write such people off.

So, what is it that makes it so difficult? People suffering from mental illness might have so much they are contending with: hearing voices, panic attacks, paranoid thoughts, seeing things that aren't there, deep depression, neurological issues, catatonia etc. Or the side effects of medications: lethargy, weight gain, sleepiness, dizziness, tardive-dyskinesia (uncontrolled twitching)...this is a very very difficult package for a human being to deal with. A person dealing with these symptoms might be doing more work just sitting on the sofa than a healthy person is doing in the course of a productive day.

Personal cleanliness and grooming can be a struggle for a person with mental illness, simply because they have so much else on their plate. I sometimes wonder if there isn't something about the biochemical make-up of the illness that causes people's hair to stand on end. Seriously. A good caregiver will be helping the sick person to present themselves at their best, but I've never met a person struggling with mental illness for whom fashion is a priority. Over look this when you are extending love to a person with mental illness.

It's easy to be impatient with disassociated ramblings of such a person, or their paranoid thoughts, or repetitive behaviors. But it is absolutely vital that we extend love and compassion and patience instead. (I see more of the bad times at home than I do when we are out and about so even our friends don't really know the full extent of what it's like to have mental illness in the family.) People with mental illness did not ask for their diseases. They just have them.

And parish members struggling with mental illness need our prayers. Their caregivers and family members need prayers, too. Because it is an on-going reality with it's ups and downs. Sometimes meds are effective, and then sometimes they cease to be effective and the struggle with unwanted symptoms increases. This is always a very stressful time in the sick person's life, and in the lives of those who care for them. It is a lonely place to be.

Sometimes one hears stories that a person with mental illness had had a pyschotic episode and stuff will happen. Perhaps stories will be told of the police getting called, or someone being carried off to the hospital in a "paddywagon". Gossip. These incidents do occur, but not always nor for everyone.

But once that person is sitting across the table from you at coffee hour in Church, chances are very very good that they won't "go pyschotic on you" at that particular moment. Not everyone who is mentally is is violent. In fact, most aren't. That's just a lame stereotype. There's nothing to be afraid of. It's not catching. (Neither is everyone who is mentally ill a saint, either. Don't get me wrong.)

Prayer, friendship, compassion, support, the love of Christ: In so many ways, people struggling with mental illness are "the least of these" and those of us who are healthy of mind must remember that.

An Attempt at NT Granola


The NT part stands for Nourishing Traditions. No, I didn't get the recipe from Nourishing Traditions, just the idea that it would be good to pre-soak my oats. So I did.

Now, normally when I make granola (which has happened often enough for me to feel confident throwing it together, but not all that often in the grand scheme of things) I don't soak the oats, and it all comes together, crispy in the oven.

Here's the basics, which I learned from the excellent More With Less Cookbook:

take several cups of dry stuff: oats, wheat germ, whatever.

Mix in some oil, half cup maybe, and some sweeteners such as brown sugar or honey.

cinnamon, vanilla, etc. to taste. Get creative.

Stir.

Spread into a large flat pan and bake at 300 degrees, stirring every ten minutes or so until the correct crispyness is achieved. Let cool. Add in nuts and dried fruit if desired. Store in a sealed container, if it lasts that long.

But this time I modified it by soaking the oats.

It was mushy! I drained them, added the oil and honey and spread it in a pan thinking "this isn't going to work unless I bake it twice or something".

Sure enough, the oats baked into a gooey, sticky mass that would have made a nice bowl of "baked oatmeal" but was certainly not granola-ish.

So, late last night I got out the food dehydrator and put the goo on parchment paper strips into that appliance.

And I had crispy, chewy granola this morning.

It was a bit of a pain to do it all, but I was REALLY craving granola, and it was fun to try it out.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Blocking my Green Leaf Scarf



I'm really happy with how this leaf scarf has turned out. Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Daybook Type of Entry

FOR TODAY November 3, 2009...Tuesday
Outside My Window the sun is down and the sky is dark, I can hear cars driving on the expressway.
I am thinking about God.
I am thankful for facebook chat and the ability to get to know people that way.
From the learning rooms: American History: Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies
From the kitchen: Meatloaf, carrots, broccoli and turban squash.
I am wearing brown dress, brown leggings, brown shoes.
I am creating a hat in my knitting basket.
I am going to bed in a few hours.
I am reading lots of things. Gospel of St. Matthew among them.
I am hoping to relax with my husband this evening and watch House MD on hulu.com.
I am hearing my son yodeling and a general clamor as we gather at the supper table.
Around the house are crunchy leaves on the ground.
One of my favorite things: Church when it's dark outside and the chapel is lit by candles, filled with incense and singing.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Getting started on a baptismal gown that I promised to sew. Blocking a green wool leaf-patterned lace scarf I just finished.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Brown Dress at Church

Since I was sick last week, this was my first Sunday in the Brown Dress. Now, at my old parish, I would have fit right in. It's a "poorer" parish where we ladies would regularly brag to each other about our thrift store finds.

At St. Michael's, only a tiny subset of people might shop at the thrift store. Most folks are dressed to the nines in whatever the latest fashion is.

And I was in my brown dress.

I did make an effort and wore some knee highs, some nice shoes and a pretty head scarf...with the brown dress.

I think I might have had one or two fleeting thoughts about not looking so dressed up as others, but then I quickly got over it and was fine, comfortable and OK. The dress is not that casual, being a stretch knit courduroy/velour type of fabric. And it fits me well.

And so I was able to concentrate on singing the liturgy this morning and that was fine.

Yesterday I spent the day at Church listening to talks on various topics by Mother Macrina from Dormitian of the Theotokos Monastery. That was very good. I wondered if anyone would notice I had on a brown dress two days in a row, but nobody cares about what other people are wearing. People just care about their own bodies, really.

Mother Macrina gave the homily this morning and it was about the Rich Man and Lazarus, and how we ought to concern ourselves with the Heavenly Kingdom. I have much to pray about.

On that note, I'm going to withdraw to my bedroom....it's late.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Doing with Less

It seems like the Holy Spirit is gently leading me along and in some many still small ways I am having thoughts about the subject of "doing with less". Self denial.

I used to joke about the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where someone, probably Elmer Fudd would go around singing in opera "Kill de Wabbit, kill de wabbit!", except in my version it was "Kill the passions, kill the passions!" to the same melody, which I obviously can't reproduce here on this blog. What am I watching, reading, eating, drinking, talking about...and am I bludgeoning people with my vocal chords in order to be a minor domestic deity of wrath? Or am I a repentant creature, glorifying my God in body, sould, word and deed?

I certainly don't want to trumpet anything about how great I am or how much I'm "doing for God" and to do so would be false, so don't get me wrong. I'm just ruminating, and thinking of ways to live the spiritual life as a lay person in 2009 in L-ville Kentucky. In many respects, it is as ordinary as can be, and that is a good thing. Of course it does not hurt at-all that I was priviledged to be at a retreat with Mother Macrina (Holy Dormitian Monastery) today. Very good lectures were given (and received).

But where the rubber meets the road is the things I tend to give in to my cravings about, and that, my friends, is the hard part. The clothing is easy, and just a beginning.

But all this to say: The brown dress simplicity experiment is continuing to bless, and to be an instrument for some clarity, for some reason or other.

I wonder what it would be like to only own two dresses, and not have a closet full of clothes stashed in bags waiting for retrieval. But those thoughts are premature. All in good time, self. All in good time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pascha on my Mind

One of the things that stirs in my heart at this time of year, when we are surrounded by the beauty of the fall leaves, the cooling of the air, the coming of winter, is Pascha.

It's a chain reaction, really. But lately that's where my thoughts keep turning. It feels like Pascha is just around the corner. No, I didn't say Christmas, I really did say Pascha.

In the singsong crunch of the dying leaves I keep hearing "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tomb bestowing life."

I'm looking forward to the Nativity Fast, to be quite honest, and every year it is the same: The Nativity fast is like a roller-coaster swoop towards the feast of feasts, and the feast of the Nativity is just a curve on the way and one swoop after that and we are arrived at Holy Week.

Pascha! The Pascha of our Lord! Frome death into life! A new and holy Pascha, a great Pascha. A Pascha worthy of veneration, a Pascha which will open to us paradise...

A breezy Friday

The wind! The fall leaves! The colors! Kids are outside doing their school work, loving every minute of it.

This wind is going to bring 20 degrees cooler temps tomorrow, but that's OK. It's days like today that I think there are a great many virtues to be found in long nature walks in wild places. Who needs books, eh?

But friends, the kitchen calls me with a long list of scrubbing and baking chores today: Some pumpkin chocolate muffins, and a big vat of lenten chili, and some Gaps friendly chicken chili for Bethany. And I need to pay some attention to the much-neglected Kombucha. I hope I don't run out of pots.

I'd best get going so that I can get some time outdoors before the sun goes down.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Six days in...



I saw this wool at Hobby Lobby, and it has ALL the colors of the trees right now. I had to knit it into a slouchy hat and cowl set. So here it is.

I have to say, folks, that I am STILL loving this brown dress project. It is so easy and I feel like myself in a positive way. The feeling like myself part is HUGE because that's something that I struggle with: often feeling like my clothes are a costume, or that I'm cramming myself into a mold that I don't fit in...into which I do not fit. Or that I am somehow "faking it". Whatever.

So, I'm enjoying not having to think of what to wear.

I'm enjoying the comfort and the simplicity of dressing this way. One advantage is that I can't really go wrong with mismatching clothes.

Perhaps all those years of saying "I wish I had a uniform" weren't me being silly at all, but rather me in those moments being in touch with that elusive myself on a very fundamental level.

So what, if it's counter-cultural? It's one less layer of things to worry about, and one less thing holding me to this earth. Really. That's what I'm experiencing. I find my thoughts turning much more to God-things this week. Sort of what I experience when I am wearing a head-covering for prayers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How to Bake a Pumpkin

...or any other type of squash, for that matter...

1. Buy a big pumpin...the cheap kind used for jack o' lanterns will do just fine. In fact, in my opinion it is much nicer to use them for food, as God intended, rather than in imitation of erstwhile pagan traditions, but I digress.

2. Find a big pan. I used my big turkey roaster. Wash the pumpkin

3. Place pumpkin in said pan. I had to saw the stem off, and use the bottom oven rack, in order for it to fit into my oven.

4. Place pan with pumpkin in the oven.

5. Bake it for a couple of hours. Perhaps at 350 degrees Farenheit.

6. Remove from oven, cut it open and let it cool. It will be soft and easy to cut. If it is not, bake it some more.

7. Once it is cool, scoop out the seeds, then get the flesh off the skin (or the skin off the flesh). Save the flesh, discard the rest.

8. Our carving pumpkins actually are much like spaghetti squash on the inside. This will vary by type of squash or pumpkin. Could be eaten as is, or pureed in a food processer to make pies, etc.

9. I pureed all the flesh (13 cups worth) and froze some of it into 4 cup portions, and used the rest for a couple of pies.

10. A great way to put up some cheap food for later in the year.

Pumpkin is good in: pies, pumpkin bread, soups (pumpkin clam chowder comes to mind, but would also be good added to chili), quiche, cheesecake, muffins, pancakes...and hidden as a secret ingredient in spice cake or chocolate cake.

Today I Must

get out and go for a walk at some point. The weather is fine and the trees around here are gorgeous. I want to stare at them and store up some colors in my heart to get me through winter, like the little mouse in the story whose title I can't remember.

In the same vein, I picked up some wool to make a hat, and it's varigated in all the best fall colors, so I'll take some of the fall with me when winter arrives.

We baked an pumpkin yesterday, let it cool, then scooped the seedes out, and processed the flesh: 13 cups. Of course we used some for pumpkin pie, but 8 cups went into the freezer for more pies later. We made the pie GAPS legal, and B's I did without a crust. It was very good. Sweetened with honey.

Other plans? Hmmm, need to get off here and start the kids' school day. Helping out at the food pantry later today, I think. Need to make a call to the Church office and reserve out spot for the retreat on Saturday with Mother Gabriella. I'm so excited! I LOVE Mother Gabriella. She is simply fantasticaly spiritual, simple and lovely, lovely, lovely. I visited Holy Dormitian Monastery last Lent, and that was so good to do. I think I left part of my heart there, as do most who visit, no doubt.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I'm Lovin' It!

Can I just say, that I LOVE the ease and simplicity (so far) of not having to make a decision about my clothes every day!!!!

Lovin' it, lovin' it, lovin' it! I feel so much like "me" right now and that is a good thing.

Now, I'm off to make some pumpkin pie! Wish all you dear blog readers could join me for a slice, with whipped cream and a cuppa decaf.

Some Scripture Passages I'm thinking aobut today

Matthew 6:25-34 (New King James Version)

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.


Isaiah 61:10-11 (New King James Version)
10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Journey Towards Simplicity: Overconsumption

Well, like I said, the first day my package arrived, I got out the dresses, tried them on and promptly decided that they needed to be altered.

But since then, I've spent most of my time in my night gown at home, sick with some kid of stomach bug. Just sick enough to be sick and feeling icky, but not sick enough to actually be throwing up. Lovely.

So, all I did on Friday night is go to the grocery store and pharmacy for some juice, crackers, peptobismol. And on Saturday all I did was go to the Farmer's market and make a big pot of chicken soup.

The rest of the time has been sick time.
Ideally: Rest and pray. And Rest in God's will. I read somewhere that illness is a time for self examination and repentance. OK, I'll bite.

When I'm sick, I tend to eat way too many crackers, for starters. Like feeling icky is an excuse to eat a box of crackers. Yeah, guilty as charged.

I seem to be keenly aware of my very strong tendency to over-consume. This has many varied forms, and perhaps the dress project is putting some focus on my urge to consume and I'm more aware of it than I am normally wont to be.

I found myself in a multi-purpose store the other day, and I realized that I needed to remind myself that I'm fasting from browsing (just looking, desiring, coveting if you will) the clothing and accessories section. I had to stop and be intentional. Calling a spade a spade, and coveting coveting...might as well. We are bombarded with the temptation to covet at every turn, are we not? It's the American way, is it not?

And the same awareness of my brokenness is present in regards to the food I eat. We all know I have a problem over-consuming in that area. It's mostly unconscious and automatic and very very habitual. But it's there nonetheless. I can't get away from it, and I can't fix myself. But I'm aware of the problem. I guess I just need to cry out to God and beg for mercy and grace.

I know that all the rules I make and impose upon myself from the outside still don't have the power to change my heart. Only God can do that.

"Change my heart O God".

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Someone Asked Me...

about what I was going to do about a head covering during this process.

Well, lets see. Still committed to wearing some sort of covering for prayers and for Church. As I get those little nudges, I'll probably be often seen wearing something on my head at other times.

Slouchy knitted hats are wonderful this time of year for a very "ingcognito" headcovering.

Whatever I do, I'm trying hard not to worry about it or fret about it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pictures!



The Dress. The Plain Brown Dress. The very comfy plain brown dress.



Here's me. Comfy in brown.



I'm smiling because I don't have to think about what to wear tomorrow.

Out of the Package

and onto my back.

The brown dresses arrived today. Shall I call them ugly? Perhaps. I put them on, and while the fabric is lovely and soft and stretchy-like a velour stretch knit courduroy, they are so. brown. How do I manage to imagine fabulous and get dowdy every. single. time.

And the dresses were too big for me in places. What would I do with these ill-fitting dumpy garments for a whole month? Oh, great. God is really going to teach me some humility.

First, I went through my entire closet, and bagged stuff up. It took three bags, and some loose stuff (I ran out of large garbage bags) thrown into the top of my closet (summer and winter stuff all combined) to get the "can't wear this with a dress" items out of the way.

As I went through my clothes, I tried on the various cardigans that I might end up wearing with the brown dresses if the weather is cold enough. And I have a plethora of shawls and scarves and such. Everything else went to the top of the closet. And most of everything that I kept looks rather ragamuffin-ish on me.

I also messed with a dress clip to deal with the extra fabric. It kept popping off as I tried on various sweaters, and it looked very 1990's, and lumpy. More lumps I don't need. I have plenty of those on my own.

Finally, I decided to get out my sewing machine and take in about three inches out from under each arm, resulting in a much better fit. I'm glad I have those skills.

Funny how clothes are. Two identical dresses and careful measuring, yet they are different. The first dress I altered is perfect now. Fits me great. The second dress seems like it must have started out fitting looser, so it's still a bit looser on me, even though I took it in the same, and then took it in some more. Odd.

Here are my first impressions: I Am Hollie Hobbie...the ragamuffin woman with the odd sticking out hair, the clupy brown shoes and the dumpy brown dress to go with my dumpy brown life. This is pretty much how I feel on the inside, and now the outside matches. No pretentions or fabulousness. Nothing suave or beautiful about me. Nothing shiny or holy or clean or perfect, and certainly no unmarred goodness.

Just me and a brown dress.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Journey Towards Simplicity: The Rules

Ok, so here are the parameters of my "One Dress" experiment (which is actually two dresses that are identical which I will rotate for laundry purposes):

1. I will wear this Spice Brown Land's End dress exclusively as my day wear (that includes to Church on Sundays, parties, weddings, funerals, etc.) for 30 days, with one exception: I have to wear my American Heritage Girls Leader uniform when I am attending AHG meetings. This consists of a blue AHG logo polo shirt and a khaki skirt or pants.

2. I will feel free to use various scarves, sweaters, jackets to accessorize the dress, but I won't be striving to come up with a vastly different look throuhgout the month.

3. This is an exercise in simplicity, not in fashion. I'm hoping that this "fast" will be a spiritual fast, and will teach me some things about myself and lead me into the light of repentance in some areas. I'll let God lead me.

4. During this 30 day period I will refrain from going out and purchasing any accessories, but I do reserve the option of knitting...and if I happen to knit a scarf or somesuch...well then.

5. I will post some photos on my blog, but since this isn't a "how creative can I get with accessories project", I don't think a daily photo is necessary.

6. I promise to blog honestly about my thoughts and feelings (don't I always just tell it like it is?...that's my gift) during this project. I don't promise they will all be positive.

7. I reserve the right to extend this project/fast (the Nativity fast is coming up, so things might go until Christmas, you know) if it proves spiritually beneficial to me. 30 days is my minimum commitment, though.


OK, folks, that's what I'm doing. I am expecting my package to arrive from Land's End tomorrow. If so, then I'll be starting on Saturday. For the duration of this project, most of my clothes will be bagged up (except things like cardigans and leggings and a pair of sweat pants that I might wear under the dress to go walking in the cold).

I'm not doing this for ecological reasons, or to be cool. I'm doing this as a journey of self-discovery and for the health of my own soul...into the desert, if you will. Pray for me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Words From Elder Paisios

I have realized that the destruction of man lies in the abundance of material goods, because it prevents him from experiencing the presence of God and appreciating His benevolence. If you want to take someone away from God, give him plenty of material goods. He will instantly forget Him forever.

...and for the rest of it, click on the paragraph above to visit the blog "Glory to God for all Things".

The Order of Confession (for Orthodox Christians)

My friend over at Little Steps Home could not find this and I thought I'd post it here for her:

While the Penitent is waiting for the Priest to hear his confessions he says quietly the "Trisagion Prayers" and Psalm 50, if he has time, and then aloud:

I have sinned, O Lord: forgive me. O God, be gracious unto me a sinner.

When the Pentient's turn comes, he goes forward and kneels (or stands in front of the icon of Christ) in the proper place and says aloud:

O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I confess to thee all the hidden and open sins of my heart and mind, which I have committed unto this present day; wherefore I beg of thee, the righteous and compassionate Judge, remission of sins and grace to sin no more.

Then the Priest says in a kindly voice:

My brother, inasmuch as thou hast come to God, and to me, be not ashamed; for thou speakest not unto me, but unto God, before whom thou standest.

The Priest questions the penitent concerning his sins, and the questioning finished, he says these words:

My spiritual child, who hast confessed to my humble self, I, humble and a sinner, have not power on earth to forgive sins, but God alone; yet through that divinely spoken word which came to the Apostles after the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying: Whosoeever sins ye remit, they are remitted, and whosoever sins we retain, they are retained, we too are emboldened to say: Whatsoever thou hast said to my most humble self, and whatsoever thou hast not succeeded in saying, either through ignorance or though forgetfulness, Whatever it may be: God forgive thee in this present world, and in that which is to come.

And the Priest adds this Prayer, making the sign of the Cross over the Penitent (here the priest drapes his stole over the penitent's head for this final prayer):

God it was who forgave David through Nathan the Prophet, when he confessed his sins, and Peter weeping bitterly for his denial, and the sinful woman in tears at his feet, ad the Public, and the Prodigal Son: May that same God forgive thee all things, though me a sinner, both in this present world, and in that which is to come, adn set thee uncondemned before his dread Judgment Seat.

And the Priest adds: And now having no further care for the sins which thou has declared, depart in peace.

Then the Priest allows the Penitent to depart with this blessing:

May Christ our true God, through the prayers of his most holy Mother and of all the Saints, have mercy upon us and save us, forasmuch as he is good and lovest mankind. Amen.

--quoted from a Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians, published by the Antiochian Archdiocese. Words in parenthesis are my own additions.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Flint and Steel

My husband just started a fire in the fire place using flint and steel! How cool is that????

Anything I Can Do...

I find myself wondering every day this week if this will be the day? I even walked to the mailbox to check the mail...

I'm waiting for a package from Land's End. Yes, the irony does NOT escape me that I bought two dresses to do an experiment in simplicity. I know. But I did, so there. I don't really feel bad about that at all, since all my clothes are from the thrift store, or are old hand-me-downs, with the exception of maybe one thing.

I'm already finding myself bumping up against myself, in the sense that my thoughts keep going in the direction of my upcoming clothing experiment as I choose what to wear each day. I find that I'm gravitating to the plainer things, which also happen to be my favorites. Wearing them, as a temporary goodbye, because by the end of this week, or the beginning of next week, my month-long experiment will begin.

And the good thought that comes to mind as I mentally bump up against the looming of the experiment, is that I am greedy and need to consume less of many things. The clothing is perhaps an icon. I think the place in my life where I struggle the most with overconsumption is food. So I am conscious and aware, and that is a start, I suppose, towards repentance.

Anything I can do to make the whispers of that still small voice sound louder. And that is the spirit in which I will undertake to wear the same dress for a month.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How Can the Church Minister to the Chronically Ill?

I read an article today that my friend Lisa Samson linked on Facebook. The article addressed the church's failure to minister to the chronically ill. The article is about CFS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I think I have something to add to the subject. We know all about chronic illness at our house. I have fibromyalgia, and my daughter has catatonic schizophrenia. Additionally, she is on the autistic spectrum, as are two of my other kids. Like I said, we know about chronic illness at our house.

Five years ago I was much more ill than I am right now. I couldn't even make a stir fry without having to rest. I spent most of every day in bed. I thank God for sending me to a doctor who put me on the guaifenesin protocol for the reversal of fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome (Dr. St. Amand sees them as the same syndrome). Yes, the protocol has vastly improved my life. I still feel the effects of fibro , but I am no longer debilitated. For this I am glad, since I have a sick daughter now.

Chronic illness can really be an invisible issue in Churches, because you show up on Sunday morning with your game face on, and you meet and greet, and perhaps everything seems fine. "Hi how are you?" and you smile and say "Hangin' in there" and no one pauses to ask what "hangin' in there" really means. You don't say you are fine because on some level you aren't. Or if you do say "fine" you are talking about the grace of Jesus and not actually about your suffering body or your tired soul. The social convention has been met. You move on. Nobody sees that you go home on Sunday afternoon and collapse into bed or onto your best comfy chair because you are just. so. tired. and. in. pain.

Nobody sees that your life is limited, that when they are out going to fun places like apple orchards with their kids, you are at home in bed again and your kids are parked in front of yet another video.

Nobody knows that you might not be eating well because you don't have the energy to cook, or even to go to the grocery store.

Many of the effects of chronic illness are hidden from view in the type of community interactions that we call "church" because the effects are happening behind the closed doors of the ill person's home.

So, how can the Church minister to families and/or persons with chronic illness? What are some practical steps that parishes can take to help the chronically ill in their midst? Here are my thoughts:

1. Listening. Do you know someone with a chronic illness? Have you ever sat down and had coffee with him or her? Have you ever let them tell you their story? It is so good for an ill person to have someone to share their thoughts, feelings and struggles with. Most chronic illnesses are not catching. Spend some time. Have a cup of coffee, share a cookie and listen. And not just once. Be a friend and don't abandon the chronically ill to be by themselves. Being chronically ill is very very lonely.

2. Awareness. I touched on earlier about the reality that most parishes are very good at ministering to those in need who are in crisis. I have been on both sides of that reality, both with family funerals, hospitalization, and on helping to organize funeral meals and meals for the acutely sick and families who are welcoming a new baby into their midst. These are the types of situations where people really do step up the the plate. In the case of chronic illness, however, the needs are sometiems similar, but they are on-going. The lack of energy, the infirmity, the extra expenses of medications or doctor's visits, the exhaustion...these go on and on. So how about a ministry where people can sign up to bringing one meal a week or month to a person who is chronically ill? Even one or two meals a week, as a family deals with chronic illness (I'm thinking in particular if it is one of the parents who is ill) can make a difference in that family's stress load.

3. Remember the kids. If a parent is chronically ill, their children are not getting the same fun opportunities that your kids might be getting. Finding ways to let the kids of the chronically ill tag along to those fun things would be a huge blessing. If a sibling in a family is chronically ill, I guarantee you there is an imbalance in who is getting the most attention. This is unavoidable. Remember the young family members of the ill person.

4. A house cleaning ministry. Doesn't have to be often. Parish members could help with a spring cleaning, help with yard work, help with fixit projects. These are things that ARE getting neglected in the life of a person who is chronically ill. Illness puts a person/family in crisis mode, and you are living with MORE on your plate, and LESS energy/resources to deal with that "MORE". Physical, practical help is essential. A Parish could organize a "missions team" to help with the physical upkeep of such a person's home or yard, for instance. Great youth group project.

5. Do not judge. Jesus said that we must take up our cross and follow Him. Sometiems that cross looks like Chronic Fatige Synderome, Fibromyalgia, Dermatomyocitis, or Schizophrenia...among other things and a person's physical or mental health is NOT an indication of a lack of faith. I have several friends who live with chronic illnesses of various types, I live with chronic illnesses of various types and believe me, not judging is HARD. I think this gets back to that listening thing I started out with.

6. Include these friends in your regular prayer list. Faithfully. For a lifetime if necessary.

7. Invite those with chronic illness over and share your hospitality with them, but don't be offended if the visit has be be a short one. Chronic illness often leaves a person feeling like an untouchable.

8. If there are people in your parish who are chronically ill, there are very likely people in your parish with special dietary needs. Plan coffee hours or dinners to include some natural foods such as cut up fruits (without extra added sugar) and vegetables. Such foods are acceptable to almost anyone on most types of special diet: GAPS, Gluten/casein free, diabetics, etc. Be considerate. And pot luck/common meal foods should not include nuts in every dish. There are many many people suffering from food allergies. Label foods for their content at common meals. Be aware of these issues as they pertain to your own parish and the people in them. Often times, chronically ill people are left out of socializing opportunities because the food is off limits to them.

9. When planning a building program, get the input of the ill and specially-abled to plan the lay out of the facility. Is the building handicapped accessible? Are there ramps? Are the doors easy to get to? Are there enough seats (relevant in a pewless Orthodox Church) for the chrocially ill, old, infirm, and visitors? ELt the persons in your parish who have chronic back problems be on the committee that picks the new pews. This can make a huge difference.

10. Remember that as much as we would like everyone's life to be easy and filled with material blessings, for those with chronic illness it just isn't always happening that way. Be sensitive. Chronic illness robs a person/family of vitality, money, the ability to travel, sometimes the ability to care for or pay for their home...many things. Be careful never to equate material things or bodily health with the favor of God.

In a culture that proclaims and lives by the falsehood of "God helps those who help themselves" and that believes we are as healthy as our own lifestyle choices, how we treat the chronically ill who are in our own parishes might be an indicator of our health as a Christian community. I'm not saying that every parish or every individual Christian needs to do all the things I mentioned in this article for every chronically ill person in their midst, but I do offer up this list as a challenge for parishes: Think about the chronically ill in our midst, and find ways that we can remember "the least of these". Jesus said "Whatever you have done unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done unto me" and His list is as simple as the things I offered up here: a meal, a helping hand from time to time, and love.