I'm starving and I've gained weight!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Okay, I'm not really starving, especially after the Thanksgiving weekend.

But, seriously. I'm going to complain here. I have not had a kitchen to cook in since September 14. That's 11 weeks. Between take out and restaurant meals I have been putting on weight at the same time as feeling very deprived.

I can't make bread or rolls or pie or cookies. All fall. And fall is prime baking time here at my house. It's the time I make apple pie and apple crisp and pumpkin bread and snickerdoodles and start putting away goodies in the freezer for the Christmas holidays.

You would think all that would make me gain weight. But being able to bake and have things in the pantry makes me feel prepared and satisfied. I'm not as tempted. (much) I think I have been overeating because there's nothing in the pantry (I better fill up; it could be my last meal!!!). So I eat more, and more things that aren't satisfying.

I guess I never realized how much I like my own home cooking. Not to be a food snob, but really. I stopped today at the local health food store to get some roasted veggies for lunch. The sweet potatoes weren't peeled, and they weren't even completely cooked. The garlic pieces were huge; no one took the time to mince them. The brussels sprouts must have been sitting under the warming lamp too long because they were all dried out.

I've been craving homemade soup. We have a local restaurant that sells quarts of soup for takeout. It's not bad, but it is loaded with sodium. My ankles are starting to swell. And the chicken chunks are huge! They don't fit on your spoon, and you're sitting on the couch trying to eat soup on your lap and cut the chicken with your spoon . . . Oh, and the crackers are stale.

I love my homemade soups and roasted vegetables. Or any warm comforting homemade foods for when the cold weather hits.

I did have a wonderful time cooking Thanksgiving dinner in our son's apartment. It was the first homemade meal we've had in weeks. We packed the trunk full of turkey and ham and potatoes and stuffing mix, sausage, onions, butter, celery . . . a roasting pan, a turkey baster, an apron, potholders, sharp knives, and cutting board . . . the works. Drove it all across five states. And I have to say that meal tasted really good.

It was only the three of us, the smallest Thanksgiving we've ever celebrated. But my son couldn't get home for the weekend, so we took Thanksgiving to him. No fancy table setting or china or linens, but it was a great meal, and a very relaxing day.

Good news is that as we were driving home on Monday the countertops got installed. Everything's been held up waiting for them. Now the plumber and electrician can come and hook everything up. So maybe a working kitchen by the weekend? 

And maybe I'll lose this extra weight by cooking more. Weird, but I think it will happen.

It will be a while before I want to go out to eat. And please, Lord, don't let me start complaining when I have get to cook every day again! 

Glimpses of grace

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I’m not given to visions or supernatural experiences. I can count on one hand the number of divine encounters that I’ve had during my life. 

By “divine encounters,” I don’t mean the miracles that we experience every day. Yes, I do believe that miracles happen all the time; in fact, they are so commonplace and so “ordinary” that we may very well miss them. Our good God creates them over and over for us. They are all around us, if we only have eyes to see. 

Sunsets come to mind. A cardinal landing on a branch just as I'm needing a little grace for the day. A "chance" encounter with someone. Healing after a surgery. A "prompting" to give someone a call.

No, I'm talking "Moses and the burning bush" - type experiences. The kind where we see a lifting of the veil, a glimpse into a world beyond. A very real connection, a tailor-made, just-for-us touch from the Lord. When our heart stops and we know that we are on holy ground.

I experienced such a moment years ago in, of all places, a Kroger parking lot. God is present with us not just in a beautiful sunset across a tropical ocean, or in the awesome grandeur of a mountain range, but in a slushy, muddy parking lot of a grocery store on a cold and gray Michigan winter afternoon.

I was a young mom and had run out to the grocery store one Saturday afternoon while my husband watched the children. I had finished my shopping and I was trying to push a fully-laden grocery cart over the parking lot and across ruts of melted snow and ice to get to my van. The wheels were jamming and I had to keep adjusting the cart and steering it around puddles of icy water. My boots were leaking and the bottom of my jeans were wet. I got to the back of my van and lifted the rear door, grimy and dirty with the slush that always sprays up from the roads in such weather. 

I started lifting the bags of groceries into the back of the van. Pausing as I reached for another one, I glanced up. Strings of electrical and phone wires hung limply between the telephone poles edging the side of the road. Cars drove past, overhung by the kinds of massive, heavy, gloomy clouds that can hold sway in a Michigan winter sky for weeks.

And then a strange thing happened. It was as if, as I looked through the wires and up at the sky, a kind of film was lifted up and away off of everything and I got a glimpse of something different, something that existed behind my view.

Not a thing had changed. The telephone wires were still there, the gray clouds, the slush-spattered cars, the banks of gray snow at the edge of the parking lot. But everything took on a new look. As if everything had been washed clean, as if somehow it had all been redeemed. Even the noises I heard, the traffic, people’s voices, were clear and bell-like, clean-sounding and fresh.

Everything was the same and yet everything had been transformed. The whole world had taken on a different aspect.

Is this what the world is really like? Or meant to be? Or what it will be some day? Was it a glimpse of heaven?

 I pondered this event for a long time before I realized what it was that I saw behind the curtain that had been lifted for my benefit. For me, a young woman, tired and a little worn from the cares of the day, who was given this gift. What I saw that day was what is beyond and behind everything. And that thing is Love.

These are the bits of precious gold that I cling to.

It makes me think of the cabby in C.S. Lewis’s book, The Magician’s Nephew. At the end of the book, he gets a glimpse of heaven.

“Glory be!” said the Cabby. “I’d ha’ been a better man all my life if I’d known there were things like this.”

I hang on to this memory, this snapshot of what the world is really like, of what it will be like someday when everything broken will be restored. The Bible tells us to think on things that are true and lovely and of good report. The world here is a beautiful place with many awesome and wonderful things. But the truest things, the best things, the things that endure and last, are not what we can see.

But a lifting of the veil, and all is revealed.


A very Happy Thanksgiving to my U.S readers.

Weekly to-do chart

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thank you all for your kind comments on my last post. I had several hundred more views than is normal, so I feel encouraged to write more about this topic. In fact, I'm even considering doing an e-book. So, thank you for the support. I so appreciate it.

Also, thanks to many of your comments and some (gentle) pressure on the home front, we are going to keep our mural in the foyer. Seems I've been outvoted, but that's okay. That tells me I really am okay with it, because usually if I really want something (like growing out the bleached blond hair and going natural), I'll do it despite the opposition!

Today, I'm going to share with you a weekly to-do chart I've come up with.

I live by lists. Daily and weekly and seasonal to-do lists, shopping lists, Christmas planning lists, you name it. I couldn't have planned my daughter's wedding without a whole notebook of lists. If it's organized on paper, and all I have to do is do what it tells me and check it off, that's half the battle right there.

I write everything down. Except, I realized, the daily, everyday tasks. And lately, I've realized how annoying it is that my list of daily to-do's is always playing and re-playing in my mind as I go through the day. Not things like write a letter to my mom or buy a present for someone or RSVP to an invitation. Those things I write down.

I'm talking about that running list of everyday to-do's -- make the bed, do the dishes, make dinner, clean the kitty litter, take vitamins. I have these tasks all arranged in a certain order in my mind, and I find myself running through the list many times during the day. There are items on that list, like vacuuming, that I don't do every day, but it's still on the list so I can think about whether I need to vacuum that day. I had over 15 things I was repeating over and over, with a list of secondary items, things like write a blog post or work on my knitting, claiming my attention and just taking up too much mental space.

And even if I had already made my bed or cleaned the kitty litter, I was running the whole list, including those items, through my mind again whenever I thought about what I needed to finish for the day.

Well, that's just ridiculous.

I found a chart on my Mac Pages that is actually an attendance chart and modified it for my use. There are tons of free daily and weekly planning charts available online, and whole systems of household management worksheets you can find. Usually I end up modifying them so much that it's easier to make my own. And for this purpose, I don't want to carry around a whole binder; I just want one sheet of paper for the week that will cover just the daily to-do's. 

Sorry that it's a little hard to see. (It got cut off, but I do have a column for Sunday; I just don't put any unnecessary chores on that day.) The chart is roughly divided into four categories. Spiritual, I guess for lack of a better word, daily chores, health, and fun stuff I hope to fit in.

I'm a little embarrassed to share the second item with you. "Do something kind" seems disingenuous, like if I do it just because I need to cross it off a list I'm not really being sincere. But honestly, sometimes I just need to be reminded. I want to be that kind of person. And it ain't always just gonna happen!

Sometimes the day will easily present opportunities. Like someone out of state is having surgery. I can't be there so I send off a care package. Someone's sick and I take them some soup. But other days I might have to pray to find some extra kindness to do for someone. 

"Pray" is another strange one to have on a list. I don't just pray once and then check it off. I tend to pray throughout the day. So this is one that never really gets checked. Not sure why I have it on the list. It wasn't on my previous mental list of things to do, but when I see it there in black and white as I'm checking things off, I get a little reminder to pray for someone.

"Call/text/write family/friend." Only introverts will understand this on a list!! I can go through a whole day happily occupied all by myself. Too much of that, though, and I can end up isolated and self-absorbed. This reminds me to stay connected, and I'm always happier when I do so.

The rest of the chart is fairly self-explanatory. I have vacuuming down on Mondays and Fridays.  But I don't worry too much if I don't check that off on the exact day, just as long as I try to vacuum twice during the week. (I don't vacuum the whole house twice a week; I do the upstairs one day and the downstairs another day). Same thing with bathrooms. I don't clean everything twice a week. But I try to work on it twice a week so everything gets cleaned at least once during the week.

The end of the list is the fun stuff, and I try to work it out so I can do at least some of these things every day. (You'll notice I have "write a blog post" on twice during the week. This is a goal; I've only been writing one a week for some time now.)

On the back of this chart, on the reverse side of the paper, I write out the days of the week and handwrite any special things I have to do on each day that aren't part of the regularly scheduled items. These include things like appointments, errands, meetings, phone calls to be made, etc.

So, there you have it . . . Does anybody else do anything like this? Anybody found a good system for keeping themselves organized on a daily basis?


We finally got to the apple orchard. It is the thing to do here in Michigan in the fall. Everybody goes to pick apples and pumpkins and have cider and donuts. It wouldn't be fall without at least one cinnamon donut from the cider mill.

Or, in our case, more than one. That's my husband's hand there. He had three donuts! I ate mine before I took a picture, so had to get another one out of the bag for this picture.  I have to admit, dear reader, that I ended up eating this one too. 

Coping with depression

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I have wanted for a long time to do a series of blog posts on depression, and how I have coped (or not) with it through my life. It's not something I could have written about even five years ago, and even now is difficult to share.

But because I am in the middle of a 50, 000-word novel writing project for the month of November (NaNoWriMo), I don't have the time to do the series right now. Maybe after the holidays.

But for now, I just want to share a few ways I am trying to cope with a depressive illness. It is particularly important right now for me as I have, in the past few months, gone off anti-depressant medication, medication I have been on for the past eight years since I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

It is important for me to monitor myself closely (and under a doctor's supervision). The jury's still out as to whether or not I will go back on meds. My mood has definitely ratcheted down a few notches, but I have lots of really good days, and so far I'm doing okay.

Lots more info to follow if you are interested. I have loads to say regarding the stigma surrounding mental health, attitudes toward medication, unhelpful comments from people of faith, and more. (In fact, I think I could write 50, 000 words on this rather than agonizing over a novel where my characters are refusing to do what I want them to do!)

So, here is a list I have made for myself to check off each day in order to keep my mood as stable as possible. I share in hopes that maybe it will be helpful to someone reading this.

1. Exercise. Every day. I hate it and have to drag myself kicking and screaming to do it, but if there is a Magic Bullet for depression (non-pharmaceutical), this has been proven over and over to be it. Saturday I missed my Zumba class, but I worked up a good sweat vacuuming and mopping. Another day I raked for an hour. Most days I'm down on the treadmill. Sometimes I just dance by myself in the kitchen! Whatever works. 

2. Omega-3s. Especially those blends having lots of DHA. I'm trying to get around 1, 500 to 2, 000 mg per day of DHA in the mix.

3. A light box. I've been using one of these for years. Every morning, for about 45 minutes, from September to May. This is especially important in cold, cloudy northern climates. We can go weeks in Michigan in the winter with no sunshine. It can depress anyone, but especially those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

4. Get outside. Not hard at all right now, with the beautiful weather we've been having. But even a little fresh air in the depths of winter is a mood booster.

We enjoyed a picnic here on Saturday.
5. No caffeine. I've given it up before, but I'm going on six months or so without, and I think it's now the new normal. It helps with my sleep to be caffeine free and also with the anxiety that accompanies my depression.

6. Low sugar intake. Um, still working on this. I know I will just feel better all around if I can minimize the sweets. (I didn't say eliminate; that would be too depressing!)

7. Good protein and fats. When you're depressed and it's cold outside, nothing spells comfort more than carbohydrates. Bread, potatoes, pasta . . . but I have to remind myself that some good protein and fat will make me feel lots better.

Here are a few other things I've come up with over the years.

1. Do something kind for someone every day. It's easy to withdraw and become wrapped up in myself when I'm not feeling well. I try to look for opportunities to do something for someone else; it helps them out, but really, it blesses me even more, and can lift me out of a spiraling downward cycle.

2. Do something creative. One of the hallmarks of depression is that it can leave you feeling like a failure. It's wonderful how just the process of creating something of beauty can remind you that you are a competent person with something to offer. Whether it's whipping up a special dish or knitting a sock, it is definitely therapeutic.

I finished the toe today --  my first sock! After several frustrating attempts, I did it!!
3. Cry. Sometimes you just have to sit and have a good cry. There's a chemical that's released in tears that is actually healing. 

4. Divert and distract. I used to feel that I needed to analyze my feelings whenever I was depressed. This is very helpful to do at some point, and I would advise doing it, notebook and pen in hand. And with a trained professional, if needed. But sometimes in the middle of a depressive episode, you can just be spinning your wheels and spiraling further downward if you try to analyze it all. I've discovered that I need to just shelve all the stuff; it will still be there later. Now's the time to watch an episode of I Love Lucy or a cheesy Hallmark movie. Anything that will take you out of yourself for a while. I don't recommend taking a bath or doing any of those nice self-care rituals that still give you time to think at this point; you want to find an activity where you aren't able to still ruminate on things.

5. Challenge your thinking. The old messages, the old tape, the old story. This is a huge one. You may need professional help. Don't be afraid to get it. You're not embarrassed to go to the dentist or the doctor or the hairdresser on a regular basis. Your mental health deserves the same kind of attention! (Just be sure to get someone good; like anything else, do your homework before trusting someone with your health.)

6. Think of 10 things to be grateful for. I started doing this years ago. It doesn't fix things, but it does help keep things in a little bit better perspective. And there's always something to be thankful for, no matter how bleak. I avoid listing broad categories of things to be thankful for like family, food, health, etc., and instead concentrate on small blessings right around me. Over the years I think this has helped me to more truly open my eyes to all that the Lord has given me. 

Let's say you're slumped over the kitchen table, feeling blue and wondering whether you're even making a difference anywhere. Lots of things have been going wrong lately, and you're discouraged. A start might be to take a breath and say to yourself, as I have many, many times over the years, "okay, ten things . . . " and then you look around and think:

I have a hot cup of tea in a pretty china cup to drink
The chickadees at the bird feeder are so cheerful
There's dinner cooking in the crockpot
I got a text from a friend this morning
I'm wearing a cozy warm sweater 
The kitty lying in a patch of sunshine makes me smile
My son called me last night
I overheard my husband compliment me yesterday
There's gas in my car for when I go out later
The colors of the trees outside are beautiful

I can easily get to listing 30 or more blessings when I get started. There's always something beautiful to notice.

7. Pray. And trust that you are loved no matter how you feel about yourself. Read passages of Scripture that remind you of your worth. Read the Psalms. David was often depressed and yet he was "a man after God's own heart." Don't believe the lie that you are depressed because you aren't a good enough Christian! I could write a book on this one.

One caveat, and this is something I hope to write more about. This list is meant to help me try to stay balanced.  Sometimes we can do all we can to try to take care of ourselves and it isn't enough. That's when professional help and medication can be invaluable. Don't neglect getting help if you need it. And for those of you who don't suffer from clinical depression, I'm sorry, but this isn't like one of your down days. Don't tell your friend or family member to "look on the bright side," etc. That only makes them feel more of a failure. Understand that your loved one is dealing with an illness, just like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. A simple "cheer up" isn't going to cut it. The best thing you can do is just listen and love.

Well, I'm getting on to a whole other topic.

What do you think -- would you like me to blog more about this?

Stephanie's tea cup and mug exchange reveal

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It's time for the big reveal! Time to share the goodies received during Stephanie's 9th Teacup and Mug Exchange.  This lovely lady puts so much work and effort into making this a wonderful exchange for so many of us; I think I saw somewhere there were 198 participants worldwide.

Thank you, dear Stephanie, for blessing us with this fun time, and for helping us all to meet new friends.

I got a beautiful package from Cynthia at View from a Garden. She's got me all figured out, with my love of pink and feminine and girly details.

First, the beautiful pearlescent teacup in shades of pink and gold. Isn't it gorgeous?

Two adorable little Christmas trees, made by Cynthia. Love those pink and white pearls!

A fun notebook, pen, and bookmark.

And some lovely smelling tea, blended by a friend of hers, and perfect for sleep. Thank you, Cynthia, for remembering my sleep issues. This will make the perfect relaxing cup of before-bed tea.

It smells wonderful.

Pretty handmade note paper and envelope.

Thank you so much Cynthia. I will enjoy each and every one of these treasures.

I had the privilege of sending a package to Kim at Wisdom With Needle and Thread.

Love this shade of blue.

After I took the pictures above, I realized one of the vintage handkerchiefs had a frayed edge. So I swapped it out for this pretty one.

Be sure to visit all the other participants in this exchange by visiting Stephanie at The Enchanting Rose.
Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs