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 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.


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 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 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.


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 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.


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
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's late.