My Whole 30 Journey (week 2)

WEEK 2

October 8:  It’s a baking day. In South Africa this eating style is called “Banting,” this paleo-esque diet. The Real Meal Revolution book was introduced to me by a SA friend. My two favorite recipes from the book appear W30 compliant; nutty seed crackers (delicious crunchy crackers made purely with seeds and water– psyllium husks make it doughy enough to bake; and nut granola, which as its name implies is nuts toasted in coconut oil and spices. Since the nut granola usually was a garnish for yogurt or oatmeal (and rarely, to dress up ice cream), I’m not quite sure its use now… I’m sure I’ll find a way.

Dinner: Roasted Za’atar chicken breasts (bone in and with skin, cuz it’s juicier) with lots of veggies–Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, red potato– cuz roasted veggies are so flavorful. This is an easy meal cuz you just toss ingredients in olive oil and Za’atar spices (most inexpensively found in middle eastern stores, online for a bit more; or you can make your own if you can find the ingredients; sumac lends it the exotic touch).  You can use other spices like Italian or Herbes de Province.  Roast together in one pan 40 minutes. Served with half a sliced pear. We eat the last of our pumpkin custard; oh wait, I just happened to have half a can of coconut milk leftover so add 2 eggs, a couple mashed dates, and half can pumpkin, pp spices — blend in bullet, voila, 4 mini custards. Top with nut granola.

October 9: Breakfast: two fried eggs, hash brown patty (baked from frozen and possibly not legal, because it tastes so good… white potatoes have always felt “wrong” on a diet) and a slice of amazing pineapple that tastes like candy (also not good… my body needs to not want this sweet taste).  Lunch- my fav chicken salad with HB eggs and homemade Mayo, chopped veggies, pumpkin seeds, and a few grapes sliced super tiny. Delish on 3 seed crackers, and I’m full and happy!!!
Movies: ahhhh!! Have to resist hot buttered popcorn smells, but proud that I did (even though my companions were indulging!). Larabar and seed crackers in purse, smuggled in a kombucha. Coffee after was black. I hate black coffee.  Dinner Cuban picadillo hash, grilled plantains (bananas since I don’t have) and pineapple slice; green salad with W30 Mayo-based dressing. This is a dish that begs black beans and rice… was so hungry I didn’t miss so much.

October 10:   This morning black coffee or with Nutpods was not cutting it. I used a few drops of “illegal” stevia extract. This has been so intolerable, the plain coffee. It’s one thing to sugar up my diet with teaspoons upon teaspoons of pure sugar (aka a real Coke). It’s another to just enjoy coffee that tastes good in the morning. Nutpods does little more than just change the color of the coffee (and sometimes seems to separate into an oily mess on top of the coffee).  Breakfast: Spinach/pepper/potato scrambled eggs.  Getting tired of this.  Lunch: finished off yesterday’s chicken salad, and unsweetened grapefruit slices.  A couple hours later succumb to the call of the “Key Lime Pie” Larabar.  It is delicious. Somewhere in the back of my head “Delicious=Bad.” Dinner: Friday’s left-over stew. Snacks at Bible study are tempting, I have a few grapes and one Trader Joe’s chili mango slice—before checking ingredients and seeing it has added sugar.

October 11: Hubby out of town. Challenge for “if no one sees it, it’s not really cheating.” Breakfast:  Eggs for breakfast are getting very old, so I try a version of this “Grain Free Oatmeal” recipe adding a few tweaks of my own (stuff already in fridge: a tablespoon of pumpkin puree, coconut milk, some of my nut granola, and one egg for a protein boost… I microwave the concoction 1:30, and find it really good and satisfying.  I return to coffee, no sweetner today, and it’s not as objectionable. Today’ goal will be eating more veggies, and avoiding snacks (especially after dinner).  More shopping at Trader Joe’s for Whole 30 compliant foods (including turkey and ham slices!!!  This is a major coup, to find these without added sugars and chemicals).  Dinner is a hearty chicken crock pot stew which will provide several meals this week.  Try tapioca flour in place of cornstarch for thickening and it works great (learned a new cooking term: “slurry,” which means a mix of a flour with water to thicken a soup, stew, etc.)

Today I just couldn’t resist a piece of my favorite sugar-free (chemical laden) gum because dragon breath just wasn’t cutting it with a client.  Yes, burning fat does stink up your breath.

October 12:  Hallelujah!  I feel I’ve found the holy grail of breakfast—grain-free “oatmeal” is delicious and a great alternative to eggs every day (I put one egg in my mix of chopped apples, one date, a few tablespoons each of coconut milk pumpkin, coconut and slivered almonds; dash of pumpkin spice mix; 2 minutes in the microwave results in a creamy-custardy deliciously filling concoction.  Lunch (out): Great compliant salad with lots of greens and grilled chicken; Dinner:  chicken salad with homemade mayo for evening snack.

Noted: The past couple of nights have been good and restful sleep, without the help of Ambien.

October 13:  Found a recipe for W30 pork sausage.  It was pretty good, but in spite of all the seasonings I added, it wasn’t like the “real deal.” Big protein breakfast, not too hungry rest of day.  Today I put a few drops of stevia in coffee to enjoy, thus making it a “cheat day.”  This evening I’ll see what looks good.  My friend arrives today for the weekend, and she’s the one who is willing to adapt to whatever crazy diet I’m on.  I will miss wine and snacks, but we will enjoy each other’s company most.  I’ve prepared lots of reheatable meals that are W30.  Just thought how I’ve now gone more than 2 weeks without cheese; today’s the first day I really miss it.  We end up having reheated butternut squash soup (made paleo with coconut milk and other veggies, it’s good but quite sweet).

I’ve noticed in recent days some return of belly issues—slight cramping and loose bowels.  Not sure if it was the extremely cruciferous salad yesterday; that it was “restaurant food;” or, i don’t want to face it– is it the few drops of stevia?

October 14:   Everything for my girls’ weekend is super planned-out, but easy, as my friend Lynn wants to experience a Whole30 eating experience. Prepare breakfast of veggie-loaded spinach frittata with enough for another day. Late lunch is a picnic of veggie sticks, chicken salad, seed crackers, apple, Larabar “treats” (bad—not supposed to have “treats”). As we road-trip today, I do crave a Coke or some other beverage but water, but resist.  I also can’t resist a piece of SF gum because breath stinks. I must congratulate myself more often rather than chastise.  On most normal road trips I’d buy some bad packaged snacks, and I resist this time even when at a store and confronted with these.  At home, a light meal of leftover Cuban Picadillo.

Our weekend together is a success for staying on Whole 30, as I introduce a few “recipes” to her.

Week Two Reflections: 

I should start with the “good” before I complain.  I have lost another few pounds (illegally weighing myself– but this just is a non-negotiable for me, I need the reinforcement of the scale) so perhaps from my highest, most bloated number 14 days ago this makes about 5 lbs lost (but I’m thinking more like 3-4)? For me, it’s not fast loss, but it’s loss with healthy “real” foods and some deprivation (without starvation).  No outright bad packaged foods and no glaring cheats.  A bit of longing for pizza, donuts–the latter I rarely indulge in (sadly I pass donut shops as well as other restaurants in my daily walks, and yes I need a different route).   I have reduced cravings for salty and sweet snacks and junk and managed to race through the cookie or baked goods aisle without “noticing.”  I am also sleeping better.

I’ve been on a variety of diets over the years.  Among them are Weight Watchers, Adkins, South Beach, Mayo Clinic, “Banting,” and Medifast.  Each had it attributes and drawbacks, most were ketogenic/paleo/protein types.  Weight Watchers always was a sane eating plan, but there was so much cheat factor for me because there were too many choices and opportunities to negotiate with myself. When WW changed their rules every few years, I grew disenchanted.  Medifast was the one that helped me lose a massive amount of weight; yet after 75 pounds, I neglected to follow their transition and maintenance programs, which would have likely helped me to move on to healthier choices rather than return to the poorer habits (and I see they have updated their plans to give more options, like “fast loss” and “slow and steady.”  I’ve got to wonder if others have had the same regain issues that I have; in all fairness, Medifast was created by Johns Hopkins’ doctors to help morbidly obese patients lose dangerous weight fast before surgery).  Medifast “helped” me because the choices were easy and clear;  5 of my 6 meals were their packaged products (technically not “real food,” mostly “add water,” and very soy-based).  But I felt full, and the gluten-free aspects were helpful for my body; I got refined sugar out of my body but not sweet tastes as they have fake sugar. I hated not having fruit.  I believe there was something to eating smaller “meals” every 2-3 hours was helpful for my metabolism.

As I go through Whole 30, I have the sense that I am truly “feeding” and “healing” my body.  I’ve taken away chemicals and harmful foods; I’m healing my gut (I hope–this last week has seen a return of a few small belly discomforts, and some small RA flares).  It’s teaching me to reach for more natural options, to read ingredients, and not to be lulled into thinking everything is healthy just because packaging tells me it is.

Will I forever give up my favorite guilty pleasures like Utz Special Dark Pretzels or Barbeque potato chips, or Tasty Kakes Peanut Butter Kandykakes (the only time I want to have milk)?  Chocolate? Lovely cheeses? Yogurt? Occasional ice cream?  Fake sweetners?  I doubt it, but hopefully  I will use these as very occasional treats rather than staples, and more often reach for “real foods.” I prefer the concept of eating healthy, ethically produced real food, no additives, and am more educated than ever about how difficult these are becoming to find and afford.

W30 says: Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. (and goes on to comparing “hard” as cancer, childbirth, and death of a parent). It’s hard to argue, but to me it’s an apples and oranges comparison.  I hate black coffee, so I’m faced with a dilemma.  I don’t want to give up my coffee… (OK, beyond caffeine, it has a “laxative effect” for me and keeps me regular) and I don’t want it black.  I have been putting a few drops of Stevia in it, half of what I’d normally do, but no dairy, so I suppose I’m not contributing to my gut healing… I’m mustering the motivation to this coming week to resist stevia.  I may need to just go to herbal teas, which I can manage without sweetner… yet that proposes some caffeine withdrawal which I’m not looking forward to.

Their site says: “Whole30 is, at its heart, an elimination diet.  Just a small amount of any of these inflammatory foods could break the healing cycle; promoting cravings, messing with blood sugar, disrupting the integrity of your digestive tract, and firing up the immune system.  One bite of pizza, one spoonful of ice cream, one lick of the batter in the 30-day period and you’ve broken the reset button, requiring you to start over again on Day 1.  It’s only 30 days.”

This strict program can be a set-up for failure among the less strong of us.  Nearly every single day a small, tiny choice has come my way (eating a piece of SF gum for stinky breath; coffee with stevia; wanting a sweet taste after a meal, even if I’ve not done any refined sugars and only “natural” sugars from dates (high sugar) or other fruits).  To claim total “defeat” isn’t helpful.  I’d say I’ve been 90% compliant.  But for this program that’s not enough, only 100% compliance counts–and I do understand what they’re all about and can’t argue it.  I’ll continue and see if I truly can get sweet tastes out of my life, and finish this 30 days of less-than-perfect compliance out with more compliance.  That will be my personal achievement, even if 90%.

For me, in spite of not meeting the strictest of requirements, I feel it’s been a success.  I wish I could be as disciplined as they require for “success”: eliminating all dairy, grains, sugar, artificial sweetners, legumes, alcohol, additives carregeenan, MSG, sulfites, treats, and stepping on the scale.  But even a 90% has been beneficial for me.

Advertisements
Posted in On "My Temple" (Health), Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Whole 30 Journey

(I considered creating a blog page just to detail this attempt at following the Whole 30 Program(R); but truthfully, it was just too much trouble.  So here is my log with my impressions, successes, and challenges during this 30 day plan.  I do not represent the perfectly compliant follower of this plan, so don’t look to me for advice.  If you have no interest in reading a log about my attempts to complete this month-long challenge, skip!)

MY WHOLE 30 LOG

Pre-plan

Not sure what convinced me to try this plan, because it is super restrictive. Oh yeah, how about nearly 3 months of misery in my gut? Not to mention I could not stop gaining weight (5 years ago I lost 75 lbs, and felt wonderful. Since then, 30 lbs have crept back). It was starting to become a pound a month; no diet or deprivation seemed to work. But this truly came to a head mid-July. I was plagued by a UTI that just wouldn’t go away. Followed by the antibiotic macrobid, and then the horrible Cipro. Cipro is an over-prescribed, broad-spectrum drug, with horrendous life-altering side affects and I avoid it like the plague (google “Cipro toxicity” or “floxin/fluroquinolone poisoning”). Sometimes in your UTI suffering you make desperate choices.

I now realize that 3 months of misery was in fact the Cipro annihilating my good gut flora– to the extent that it hurt to just sit down, ride in a car, enjoy my husband, and involved an emergency room visit for excruciating upper abdomen pains. After a CT scan, blood work, Gastro ER doc report, and a follow up with a Uro-gynecologist and fears I had some form of cancer or bladder mesh erosion, I was pronounced “ok.” No medical professional even considered for a minute blaming Cipro or bad intestinal health.

Not to belabor this, but from hours of research I realized my entire digestive tract was damaged. The best advice given from an essential oils friend was to take LIVE probiotics (found in fridge section of health food stores). Within a couple of days my 3-month saga of pains subsided.

This was a wake up call. I needed to feed my body with good, healthy, natural foods, and heal it. Whole 30 fits that description. This really isn’t gimmicky or a fad-diet. It’s rather normal.

I’d already known the benefits of trying a gluten-restricted diet. Even my Upper Respiratory allergy issues improved when I restricted gluten. I love veggies and fruits, try to cook healthy meals, but sugar and crunchy, salty snack foods was my real addiction. My first successful diet (75 lbs in 5 months on Medifast– yes, that’s fast but very gratifying) forbade fruits because of sugar, so I have always been very selective to pick the lowest sugar fruits like berries.

I was game to eliminating sugar, dairy, grains, and all fake/unpronounceable additives for 30 days, and instead eat clean, single-ingredient natural foods.

Here’s my journey!

September 28-30: asked hubby if he’d like to join me in this 30-day eating challenge, starting October 1. He says yes. I promptly start cleaning out all the forbidden foods remaining in our cupboard or fridge by binge-eating: chips, crackers, breads, pasta, microwave butter popcorn, Tasty Kakes, chocolate, cheese, Halo Top ice cream. Finish the “healthy 80-calorie greek yogurt.” Kill the open bottle of wine. Although I’d already been weaning off my twice a week Diet Coke, I had my last ones in these days. I’m eating like a condemned woman.

Shop Whole Foods and Mom’s for acceptable shelf items like ghee, coconut aminos, LaCroix waters, and kombucha. Will be sourcing as many organic and unprocessed fruits, veggies, and meats as possible (organic, non-GMO, and clean/ethically raised is recommended– hey, isn’t this what we basically called “FOOD” 40-50 years ago?). Panic about an upcoming trip and find Epic meat bars and certain Lara Bars are Whole30 compliant (always check ingredients for sugars etc; these are “emergency food” with “legal” ingredients, and not recommended too often; but isn’t it utterly amazing you rarely can find a packaged food with 3 ingredients or less? Lara bars are exceptional in this way). Research, research, research (Whole30.com). Print pages of FREE helpful guidelines, shopping lists, and put in a binder.  Screen shot a few pages for ready reference on my phone.

October 1: Hubby and I embark on our W30 journey. Black coffee is UGH (I’m a stevia and low-sugar flavored Coffee Mate gal). Dinner is zucchini “noodles” with a meat sauce made from scratch: veggies, herbs, simple tomatoes and paste; plus a salad with avocado, walnuts, strawberries S&P, oil/vinegar. Dessert is strawberries.

October 2: I leave 4:45 am for my 4-day trip. Packed refillable Nalgene water bottle, apple, tangerine, Epic and Lara bars. Have “Mr. T’s” Bloody Mary mix on plane, only to find out later it’s completely NOT W30 compliant (neither is innocuous sounding Dasani lime water– both have high-fructose and sugar along with other unpronounceables). By 3:30pm I’m starving and have head ache. Hubby texts: “Was dizzy this morning. Had my appointment w doc. Really low blood pressure. Probably from diet. Still a little blurry. Made my cod dish – not bad. Miss you.” (Note: his BP was 107/70– his norm is 140/90).
IMG_3974Dad’s senior-living dining room thankfully has a big salad bar and plain meat and veggie options on buffet.

October 3: hotel breakfast has hard boiled eggs and basic fruit. I took the turkey sausage knowing full well it probably was not compliant and full of bad additives. Patting myself on the back I avoided waffles, pastries, muffins, bagels, yogurts, cereals.  Paltry salad IMG_3976lunch at Dad’s club. Stop at store to buy compliant kombucha, freeze-dried fruit, Lara bars at Walmart. Later for my dinner (Dad has his left-over Reuben and an early night) I’m combing the aisles of local grocery and finding NOTHING. Eventually settle for the healthiest frozen meal I can find, a salad and fruit. Find one brand of sliced turkey without sugar or additives. I consider this a coup, since most options involved fast food, Chinese, pizza or tacos.

October 4:  stay as compliant as possible with hotel breakfast bar (I know the bacon isn’t the compliant kind, but who resists bacon???). Black coffee results in less temptation for 2nd and 3rd cups (but REALLY looking forward to the W30-compliant Nutpods coffee creamer I’ve ordered) Lunch: plain burger patty and simple salad (scrape off cheese and croutons but not before brother notices). Dinner: Dad wants to treat me to a “nice restaurant dinner” and suggests the Italian place. Nothing on that menu is W30. I suggest the other restaurant and have filet steak, sweet potato with no toppings, asparagus and salad (while breathing in the aroma of Dad’s yummy BBQ ribs). A feast and I couldn’t finish!!! Dad now has at least two meals in leftovers boxes between his and mine.

October 5:  Hotel breakfast bar, same as yesterday. Proud of my travel-food prep today: in my backpack I have my compliant turkey slices; carrot sticks, banana and an apple for lunch (too much fruit but better than alternatives). At about 3pm at 35,000 ft. I resist the airplane pretzels and have fully researched the compliant beverage options (I ask for IMG_3979seltzer and OJ–having asked flight attendant before take off to look at ingredients on OJ).  Have also figured out an herbal tea bag in my Nalgene’s cool water lends it a nice subtle flavor. Also packed are oven-roasted almonds, Orange, Epic and Lara bars– I won’t land until 7pm and don’t want to be ravenous and tempted to cheat (and with the 3 hour delay, I’m not home until 10).

According to W30, ANY “cheat” puts you back to day one, and this is understandable but rather sad. I know these first days had a few things that would not be 100% compliant, but I think in spirit I did the best I could with a lot of uncontrolled factors that come with travel. Possibly sugar detox is happening.

October 6 – Now at home I can have better control (I hope). On the run this morning so a HB egg and some grapefruit. Did the big shopping today for healthy stuff, planned a menu, did a lot of prep. Lunch scrambled eggs with a touch of onion, spinach and potato. I wonder if Ore-Ida hash browns are legal? No bad ingredients listed… Nutpods hazelnut “creamer” is ok but not great. I mostly miss my stevia sweetness in coffee.

Tonight’s crockpot veggie-packed beef stew was a little disappointing; the beef was tough; without Lipton’s Onion soup mix it was missing flavor. Threw in a diced turnip, a first. Ground up the remaining stew meat for leftovers.

Also roasted beets today (another first– always used jarred), sliced for salads and pickled an few as well.  Homemade Mayo is excellent and quite easy to make.

Oh– and why is arrowroot so expensive? $7 for a small spice jar size?? Need a cornstarch replacement for thickening sauces and stews.

The redeeming part of today was the pumpkin custard   which was amazing but probably qualifies as SWYPO (“sex with your pants on,” aka an “almost cheat” because technically I guess it’s a dessert-y thing). Still, it felt virtuous because there was no sugar, dairy or gluten; it purports to be W30 compliant (more about these boasts later). It’ll be a breakfast alternative when the eggs get old.

A pitcher of Raspberry Zinger iced tea, and LaCroix flavored waters provide more appealing beverage choices.

October 7:  spinach onion frittata with a handful of OreIda frozen potato cubes. Cooked up 6 pieces of the pricey sugar-free bacon, intending to have leftovers. We each had 3. So IMG_4001delish (W30 is right to caution that bacon can be abused; good thing the “legal” kind is so expensive, won’t be buying often). Tomatoes, avocado garnish, 6 grapes. For lunch I coat thin turkey cutlets with almond-coconut flour and seasonings and cook in coconut oil. Slice over raw spinach with 2 sliced strawberries, several pecans, dribbles of Italian dressing made from W30 Mayo. Satisfying. Mid afternoon I’m hungry so a small hand of mixed nuts, and a Larabar. Dinner out with friends (we requested a steakhouse): 4oz filet, plain baked potato (asked for drawn butter vs regular– isn’t this close to “clarified?) and asparagus. Later at home we have a small serving of pumpkin custard. Are we feeding our “sugar dragon” with this? Always have craved “something sweet” after a meal; so, how is it different than if we ate the component ingredients of this custard?  Also, can’t resist stepping on the scale so broke that “rule.” I just need that motivation any time I’m restricting food. Small reductions are motivating.

Reflection on Week One:  It’s officially one week on Whole30 and the jury is still out for me. The more I read up about this plan, the more Nazi-like I find it (as each day an illegal choice comes along). And, I accept it’s ONLY 30 days, AND you can eat delicious REAL food.   Whole30 requires a TON of careful label-reading as you shop, lots of prep and cooking to have control over ingredients and what you’re putting in your body (which is why I chose October, it was a month I knew I had more time).  But forget about any concoction that reminds you of dessert or sugar, which feeds your “sugar dragon,” or qualifies as “Sex with your pants on (SWYPO).” Sure, fruit is “legal,” but in small portions and with meals so you’re not pouring sugar into your bloodstream (which apparently disturbs the good things this plan does for your body, especially weight loss). Of course W30 doesn’t want to demonize IMG_3999healthy fruit in reasonable portions (and even opines it is “optional”). But what disturbs me is that W30 says I can’t mix “legal” ingredients like coconut milk, fruit, and OJ into a smoothie. Or, eggs, coconut milk, banana, and pumpkin into a yummy custard– because these things are “desserts” or “treats,” and the point of Whole30 is to get out of this need/mentality.  I despise black coffee, and the Nutpods “creamer” really doesn’t cut it.  One side of me agrees that’s good and for 30 days I should be able to; the other side (the side that enjoys life and food) says this is too harsh, and decidedly not fun. Gotta start focusing on all the good points.

Learning to make sure my purse is always stocked with emergency snacks: Epic! Bar, Larabar, nuts. All of these things are considered “last resort” options but better than going on a desperate fast food binge while out.

I “illegally” have weighed myself, which is something I just need to do. And the news is good, so I stay motivated.

IMG_2931

The “good” I take away from week one: I’m pretty much off sugar; I’m down a couple pounds; I managed to stay with it even when traveling and it wasn’t easy to find foods; my GI system feels better; my water intake is up; I haven’t had one packaged salty or sweet snack food or drink in a week (aside from legal Epic and Lara bars); and I’m not consuming lots of chemical additives.

Now on to Week 2.  Eggs for breakfast is getting old.

 

Posted in On "My Temple" (Health) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hospitality

Related image

Our door is always open. Drinks can be ready in minutes, and the kitchen is a place of problem solving, peace and love. Anyone who needs to chat is welcome anytime.

There may be laundry to be folded and housework to be done, but it can wait! I have food in the fridge and tea in the cupboard, listening ears, shoulders to cry on and love to share.

We will always be available… you are always welcome!!

This is an old value that is being lost to technology…a text, Facetime, or emoji is not the equivalent of making time for those we love or care about!

Could at least one friend please copy and re-post (not share)? We are trying to demonstrate that someone is always listening, you are never really alone.

A friend posted this today on Facebook.  Except for the part that exhorts one to copy and paste, I loved it.  (I don’t like being “expected” to copy something… at least they said “please”).

In the past, this friend practiced the art of hospitality when I was single, alone, and living in a foreign country.  I started out as a “stranger;” we are now close friends.  I watched hospitality4their kids grow up, and am friends with them still.  Invites for day trips to family beach outings were frequent.  Once when I was dealing with an excruciating unexplained pain, her surgeon husband himself transported me to the hospital and saw I received good care.  Throughout my Foreign Service career, home hospitality was central for most (having full-time housekeepers of course made that easier).  In most third world countries, there are few places to gather in public, so dinners and hospitality2parties abounded and were the way people socialized.  People would sit around someone’s patio or living room until the wee hours of the night enjoying conversation, good food, drinks, and company.

Hospitality is becoming a dying “art” and that makes me sad. I am grateful I was raised this way and had my time overseas understanding what hospitality looks like.  It was never a burden and more often a privilege.  Growing up, invitations to dinner were routinely extended by my parents.  Mother could whip something together, always ensuring there was double the food needed so guests never refrained from seconds.  We kids were pressed into service serving guests drinks and snacks;  setting the table and cleaning up; as bell hop; and other general welcoming duties.  We loved it. We always had a guest room at the ready; and if there were more guests than rooms, my brother and I were expected to give up our rooms.  I never recall being upset by this displacement; perhaps it was fun to sleep on the couch or in a sleeping bag in the family hospitality6room.  I’d like to think it was the joy of having guests.

As SJ and I searched for a new home, I always envision it filled with family and friends. I love to entertain and cook, and I love having good people around me.  We will have a nice open concept living area and kitchen, with lots of counter space over which to linger (we’ve always found folks gravitate towards the kitchen (the “hearth”), and it’s always been the center of our home).  There are bedrooms and baths enough for all our kids, and future grandkids.hospitality7

Through the years, I’ve enjoyed extending hospitality.  For new friends, SJ and I often invited people over to dinner at our home; we hosted church community groups, studies and gatherings.  We welcomed our children’s friends, and made it a fun hang-out during the teen years when having them closer to home gave us peace of mind.  Those who happened to be in our home at meal time were offered a place at the table.  We routinely extended invitations for a place to stay.  For my close circle of college friends, I’ve always loved hosting them at my home.  First when I was single in a one-bedroom apartment; and later in the large home I shared with my hubby.  Recently I’m back to the apartment (two bedroom) with plenty of room for guests.  Fun hospitalityGirl’s weekends are back, now that we all live closer.  A pack of late 50-somethings sit around, eat, and happily yack for hours on end.

But what’s interesting to me, is that many people seemed uncomfortable or even embarrassed after the first or second invite.  Hubby counseled me that I had to pull back a bit, because most people felt awkward that they could not/would not reciprocate. This baffled me and made me very sad, as truly I didn’t care that much what others did, or if they reciprocated.  Even now that we live in a wonderful area for tourism and have extended invites widely, few have taken us up; a couple actually chose hotels and meeting at restaurants.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn or say I’m special… because hospitality selfishly makes me happy.  It’s just that I don’t get how it’s changed.  I don’t think we smell bad; and I know these people like us.  Even accepting old-fashioned hospitality is on the decline.

I’ve several cousins in town.  We’ve been here for about 18 months and yet to have an invite.  I’ve extended invites multiple invites.  There are many excuses and some apologies (some legit for those with busy schedules, families and younger kids).   Hubby IMG_4241has urged me to pull back.  It has made me sad.  To my favorite cousin’s remark during a phone call: “we will work harder to get together,” I said “It better be soon, because in about 7 months we’ll have moved.”  (In all fairness, this particular lovely cousin with half dozen kids and a hectic lifestyle invited our family to their home when we in town over holidays some years back, and showed lovely hospitality).

I recently had the chance to visit my 30-something niece, who I don’t get to see much anymore.  She recently purchased her first home, and I knew she was rightly proud of it.  I decided that while I was in her town, I’d make an effort to go visit her and tell her what a wonderful home she had (of course we all want to hear this; our first home is especially special, be it ever so humble).  Now, she has the misfortune to live next door to some very tough looking alleged drug dealers.  And she has two large pitbulls who terrify me (and hopefully the drug dealers).  She politely exiled them into the backyard during my visit.  She had earlier given me the idea that she had to be somewhere that afternoon, so my visit would be short, 30 minutes max.

The visit ended up more than an hour as we caught up and enjoyed reconnecting.  She gave me the 10-minute house tour, as she told me of all of her plans to “finish” or complete renovations or organizing.  I praised and complimented her home and her fix-ups (ignoring the lived-in state, which I never feel should be held against anyone or Image result for pit bull attackcreate a barrier to invitiations).  We then stood either in her kitchen or living room, and talked.  At no time during my visit did she offer me a seat, or a refreshment.  At one point she opened the back door to show off her “fur babies.”  The dogs are not trained, and they went wild with the presence of a stranger.  One aggressively tore through the screen door and into the house, and immediately for me (a person who has been attacked by a dog in the past).  It jumped on me, wove between my legs, and acted aggressive and wild.  When I attempted to muster my courage and speak calmly to the dog, or pet it, it nipped and grew more agitated. I tried the command voice, “SIT!” to no avail.  I was completely unnerved.  For several minutes my niece only shouted wildly at the dog to stop; the dog didn’t listen.  Panic was setting in for me as my efforts to seem unfazed and accepting of her “fur baby” were wearing thin.  The dog didn’t have a collar to grab to lead off.  I finally said, “I need to go to a room away from the dog, because I am very freaked out right now.”   The dog merely followed me.  Eventually she pulled it off and away…  (To her credit my niece apologized and expressed understanding of my fear (in response to my apologies for freaking out and that I held nothing against her precious dogs), and admitted she hadn’t trained them properly for company. I tried to get my Chippyracing heart to slow down and smile sympathetically).

[Contrast this to an old friend’s family who prided themselves on well-trained dogs; although their collie was large—I know, and a more gentle breed—I loved that dog and felt comfortable around it, well, until it would stick it’s long probing nose somewhere I didn’t like.  But there was a time that people would be horrified if their pet distressed a guest; the guest came first.  We will shut our cat into a room if we have anyone visiting who is discomforted by cats.]

What are we teaching this generation about hospitality, which really is akin to “otherness?”  I fear not much.  I can only pray that my own kids, once in a position to have their own places and extend hospitality, will have something to look back on and model.

Image result for home hospitality

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

Posted in Fruit of the Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Attracted to Your Husband?

I did some research on this topic, because I will be honest with you, it happens to the best of us.

“I love my husband but I don’t feel attracted to him…” this apparently is a plight shared by many women, young and old, across the globe.

I am in a marriage that came back from the grave.  We married in our mid-late 30s, immediately added 3 kids to the mix, and things just spiraled downhill for the next 15 years as we struggled to cohabitate “for the sake of the kids.”  One of us had an exciting and experimental sexual past; the other perhaps didn’t.  As Christians we wanted to forgive the sins of the past, and move forward together in our marriage and future together. We believed that Marriage was a covenant for life.  It just wasn’t always simple.

Then a miracle happened and I don’t know how to explain it other than I worked on ME and MY attitude (it’s all in the “Our Story” tab). I lost weight and felt better (aka, sexier, desirable, healthier); gave an honest ultimatum (let’s not stay together and continue to make each other miserable; if we can’t change for each other, let’s move on…); got honest with him about what I liked sexually, deciding not to act like an inexperienced virgin who just spread her legs in the dark for 60 seconds and pretended it was OK.

For the past 4-5 years we have worked hard on improving our marriage, our respect, our intimacy, our commitment, our love.  We’re still pretty new at this.

And, quite frankly, very little of it comes “naturally.”  It requires superhuman effort and sometimes we are quite lazy.  So easy to default to lazy.  Just like leading the proverbial horse to water, you just can’t lead every man to a hot sex life. Trust me, I’ve tried.  And at times I just accept that this problem “is about me, and not him.” I must reflect on the many great things about him.

Closing in on the end of my 50s, with 25 years of marriage under our belt, it gets no less Image result for sexual disinterestconfusing and perplexing.  There are things (books, movies, memories) that can get me hot and bothered and aroused; yet sex with hubby is rarely more than just a loving, connecting, physical bond, with little sexual pleasure for me.  As we age, our bodies start doing strange things, and emit strange odors.  That dreaded sense of loss of attraction looms menacingly.  Hubby is a man who values health and hygiene (in case anyone suggests diet is a culprit), and keeps himself in good physical shape.  He is also a man who can go weeks without sex and seem not fazed.  I find that recently my husband’s body odor turns me off (it’s so hard to describe—even though he’s washed, and he eats healthily, he puts off “eau de old man.”)  His breath isn’t the nicest, even though he’s fastidious about dental care, with just-brushed his teeth.  I realize that for 25 years, he apparently has thought kissing involved wet licking and lots of heavy tongue thrusting—not a turn-on for me.  His ejaculate burns me at times.  I’ve never known him to own fingernail clippers or a file (I think he’s a secret nail bitter) and ragged, scratchy fingernails do not mix well with tender lady parts; not to mention I’m easily prone to UTIs, and any hint of bacteria can lead to weeks of terrible pain.  Consequently intimate touch scares me a little.  And yes, I’ve tried to be honest about all of this with him in the nicest way I can, to the point of suggesting a manicure, and introducing pure essential oils.

Now, I’m sure he has his own list of turn-offs about me; he’s just too much of a gentleman to mention them. I struggle with weight.  I have frequent “flare ups” of conditions that Image result for sexual disinterestmake sex difficult.  It’s quite embarrassing to admit but extra push-down pressure in the area can also push out other unpleasantness.  Often that gassy fear just stifles any desire to just “let go” with an orgasm (which requires the use of a vibe).  Still, I exercise regularly (yoga is my thing… and there is no more sexy exercise IMHO…), try to be very attentive to his sexual pleasure, try to keep weight down (a struggle recently), dress nicely, fix my hair and make up– oh, and try to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.

There are some who might say, “hey, by the time you hit 60 and beyond, sex isn’t so important anymore, it’s the history you share together and the companionship.”  Perhaps this is true… but there is this part of me that still very much likes erotic and sensual experiences, and these seem few and far between these days.  I love him, and I’d love to find the key to our “mojo.”

So I did some Googling.  Because frankly I was amazed and perplexed at how my increasingly frigid body could become highly aroused by watching Fifty Shades of Grey, in ways that sex with hubby rarely does.  Some might say, “stop watching that filth.”  It’s hard for me to bridge this gap in my sexuality—the gal that still desires (and is aroused for)  hot, erotic sex; and the mature lady who loves her hubby but can’t get off with him.

Here are some of my take-aways from the research (I’m not giving attribution as it’s too much work… but I don’t claim authorship except for a few added notes of my own):

  1. There are few fates more hollow and numbing than a lifetime of chaste cohabitation with someone you probably wouldn’t choose as roommate, let along spouse, if you had it to do over again.  (Yeesh, it’s tough when you hit the roommate times… been there, done that!   Chaste cohabitation though is sad to contemplate)
  2. When a woman decides she doesn’t want the husband she still loves even to kiss her  (I’ve mentioned the breath thing… no clue how to remedy since he otherwise does all the right things…)
  3. Can sexual passion ‘last a lifetime’?  Very rarely. It’s usually replaced by a deeper love and warm companionship, shared habits and humour which are the bread and butter of a good life. Physicality may be expressed more often in cuddles than the rampaging sex of youth — but touch remains important.  (Yes, touch is important.  Hubby knows exactly the type of (rougher) touch I crave… but it’s rarely served up in his repertoire.  Reminding starts to feel like nagging… or worse, pathetic begging)
  4. Couples find different ways of dealing with getting older and changing needs.  (Still looking for this elusive secret.  I know I love him to the end… and it’s more than a feeling).
  5. If there is anything worse than the assumption that we all have a divine right to happiness, it is surely the belief that we all need to feel sexually fulfilled all the time.  This is the message of a heavily sexualized society.  (Yup.  How do I change that?)
  6. Sometimes I think of sex as a savage dog snapping at our heels that would be better off put down. Enjoyable it may be, but it causes so much unhappiness. (That’s a pretty extreme paradox… I suppose that given the choice to kill sex or have it be unhappy… I’d still choose sex).
  7. Ask for God to reveal all these things to you—what’s so great and attractive about Image result for as long as we both shall liveyour husband, how to take care of your bodies better, what will make your spine tingle, how to see your husband the way only a sexy, loving wife can. (this falls under the category of “pray for your marriage and even sex.”  I’ve not felt much responsiveness from prayer for this, but I will pray without ceasing).
  8. Let me ask, would you still work at a job that hasn’t paid you in three years? Well that’s the last time your wife had an orgasm during sex. (I think he tries, or wants to try.  He doesn’t view sex as his “right” and he wants me to enjoy it.  The fact is, he can’t make me orgasm, and that is hard on both of us).
  9. In the beginning… you enjoyed being in each other’s company and you naturally responded to one another sexually. In those early years, there wasn’t much else to bolster your affection . . . no shared history, no bank of fun memories to reminisce about, and no legacy of weathering the storms of life together. God, in his grace, wired our brains to be drawn to young love with powerful neurochemicals that caused you to find great joy in your relationship. However, those chemicals representing physical attraction and sexual excitement were never intended to last indefinitely. (sadly, I don’t know that we really ever had the “natural sexual pull,” which always was a bitter pill to swallow.  We’ve had to work at this, always. A complication was that I was a naughty girl who liked bad men; he was a nice guy who liked good girls.  It’s insane how we ended up together).
  10. Believe it or not, there is a study that proves those long looks can actually increase attraction. See how long the two of you can gaze into each other’s eyes without laughing or talking. This can be awkward and the time can feel long but I dare you to find out if it rekindles the fire of attraction. (He’s full of humor.  Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes juvenile or prejudiced, sometimes demeaning.  Because of the mixed humor, I have struggled to express appreciation for his humor, a trait I know he is proud of.  I feel like this exercise would be doomed to failure; a similar exercise is holding a hug for 20 seconds or longer, twice a day.  It’s insane, but this is a challenge… He doesn’t naturally gravitate to this; I have learned to shut off the expectation for it.)
  11. Someone making you laugh, being clever, sharing hobbies and interests, and being kind and compassionate are all things that might make you feel attracted to someone.  (Quite frankly, it is his kindness, compassion, patience, intelligence, and trustworthiness that keep me with him and loving him.  He possesses numerous Image result for as long as we both shall livequality traits that are rarely all found in one individual; and traits that outlive the purely physical ones.  He will take care of me (and has).  He is a “GOOD MAN” and that is always better than a “SEXY MAN” if you have to choose. Still, I am selfish.  I’d like both, please…)

 

One thing that I know in spite of the occasional dissatisfaction: I will be here until death do us part, good, bad, ugly and not-sexy.  The good far outweighs the bad and I just need to keep focusing on that good, with God’s help, every day.  Just keep loving, even when you don’t feel it.

Posted in On Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

New Chapters

What are the chapters of our lives?

For some it might look like childhood (0-12), teen (13-18), young adult (19-34?), middle aged (35-50?), and retired.  Of course each of these can be further subdivided and age ranges are average and can widely vary.

Now, each of these first four stages of life may represent 10-15 years each, give or take.  The younger you are on this continuum, the more you are eager to move on to the next stage.  Of course the definitions of the latter two seem to be in constant flux.

“Adulting” is a long stretch of time.  The time you begin to live self-sufficiently, photo(19)working, and paying your bills, until retirement, can involve many years and many long hours in the workplace.  During these years we may marry, have children, advance in a career, and find ourselves on a hamster wheel.  Soon after entering these adult years, we may initially yearn for the easier, simpler times of dependency on our parents over the benefits of independence; but as we age, those golden years of retirement start looking very tempting– that is if we have saved and planned to make retirement a financial reality.

[If you are in the earlier stages of “adulting,” the best advice I can give you is: 1) have a budget and always pay yourself first–aka save money from each paycheck for your future; better yet, start an IRA or other retirement savings plan, and don’t touch it!  2) Establish credit, but don’t run up your debt!  3) Live within your means (once again, this where a budget is necessary; if you want a new car, an exotic trip, or a designer bag, budget for it and try to limit debt in your life to mortgage and car payment), and 4) stay humble by helping those less fortunate–this would include a line in your budget for donating or tithing.  Act Justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.]  

These days, that last chapter can be the longest of all.  Another moving target, over the years it could start as young as 50 and as late as you please.  The definition is murkier as well.  In the US, the average age of retirement is currently 63 (one year after Social Security retirement can be taken).  Since the average death rate in the US now stands at approximately 79, that gives the average American about 16 years in retirement.  In many cases it can be longer.

My father retired at 55.  I mean, completely retired.  He had some hobbies like golf, boating, and fishing, and he enjoyed tinkering around the house.  But he left the world for all intents and purposes and created a new world, with my mother at his side. Dad was never one to put anyone before his own needs, and that included Mother.  Exercise, eating healthy, or drinking in moderation wasn’t even a consideration– it’s taken its toll on his health. Charity and volunteer work were never part of his life.  He was always consumed with making sure he got what was due him.  My mother died 7 years ago, and Dad realized too late he hadn’t appreciated what he had; his health and mental acuity has declined.  He is a recluse.  For 30 years, dad did nothing that didn’t accrue benefit to himself.  He was always frugal and he has always been concerned about his money.  Money, amassing and hording it was a priority.  And he is a very unhappy person.

He inadvertently taught me a valuable lesson.

SJ also retired at 55.  I was just a few years older than that.  Fortunately we’ve always been the type to stay busy with volunteer work and in our church.  Money is necessary, and we made sure to save it and invest it (SJ is wonderful at this) so that we could pay for our kids’ college, give to God and charity, take care of our own needs, and have a nest egg that could take us through this final chapter of our lives.  But money for the sake of money, or the identification of “rich” or “conspicuous consumption” has never been our thing.  We believe that all we have is from God, and the belief that we should work hard and not expect hand-outs.  We don’t pray for money or riches (prosperity Gospel), nor do we love money; we pray for good health, good relationships, protection for ourselves and others, and the means to live life with as few concerns and stress as possible (knowing full well that God will regularly bring trials into our lives, which we should count as “all joy” in that it strengthens and matures us).

11034949_10152774512718581_350318555215379373_oWe are among the youngest “retirees” that we know; we actually don’t much like referring to ourselves that way (it tends to illicit judgment of a sort; perhaps it’s envy for some).  We purposely decided at the beginning of this retirement chapter to return to the city in which I used to live, to spend two years enjoying this area.  It’s been a blast.  We’ve enjoyed history and beautiful sights; we’ve gotten involved in some volunteer activities and in our church.  I’ve done a little part time work.  We’ve been able to travel, near and far.  We take care of elderly parents from afar.  And now, it’s time for a new adventure: we have found where we want to build our “forever home” on earth.  Mountains, lake, rivers, seasons, proximity to airports.  Away from the busy hustle-bustle of bigger city life.  Our kids are on their own now.  We do hope that we will get to be part of their adult lives, and future grandchildren, but right now they are in that stage of breaking ties and starting their own lives.  Parents are extraneous (until your car needs work and you can’t afford it…).

But there’s a determination that this chapter won’t be sedate or a downhill coast for us.  If anything I’d love it to be the best chapter yet.

life-should-not-be-a-journey-to-the-grave-hunter-thompson

We still have a few months before we settle into our new locale and find our plan, purpose, and passion: ways to give back to the community, involvement in a new church.  New friends. Entertaining old friends who will hopefully visit.  Activities to do together (I’m looking forward to kayaking, dream of having another small sailboat; skiing with a senior pass would be pretty radical, continuing yoga; he loves the many wooded trails for running and hiking, a place to work out, and the presence of a small university).  There’s the continuing challenging to continue to learn to live contentedly together in such close proximity, to find our separate interests, and appreciate each other.  If there’s a little passion sprinkled in, so much the better (interestingly, as we age we need to be very intentional about this).  We need to appreciate the gift of these extra years (we have seen way too many friends our age and younger succumb to cancer and other diseases).  Live or die… these are the options.  We need to chose to live big.

Love your chapter, make the most of it.  There’s no going back, no do-overs.

Posted in On Life in General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

25 Years

Related image

Here we are, 25 years together.  It’s a momentous occasion to be married two decades and a half. We are in a minority, supposedly only 33% of couples make it to 25 years.

We’ve beat the odds.  Go figure.

I’m not bragging or self-inflated about this milestone.  It happened in spite of me, in spite of us, and by the Grace of God.  I’m stunned, amazed and extremely grateful.  I don’t know that I deserve this blessing.

I’ve often written here that marriage is hard work, sometimes harder than what you think worth it.  There can be sad times, lonely times, apart times.  Times when you look at that person and wonder what were you two thinking?

We’ve had a lot of bumpy roads over these past 25 years, but by the grace of God we’ve avoided the major ditches that can ruin a marriage: there has been no infidelity, no alcohol or substance abuse, no porn.  At the end of the day, we toughed through the difficult times, some ugly times, and gratefully came out on the other side—perhaps a bit battered and beaten up, a bit numb, a bit wary. But when we look back and see these as times of firing, refining, growth and perhaps even discipline, we realize that God could bring good out of bad, if we let Him and acknowledged this as a possibility (“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4)

I won’t lie to you.  There are still moments and days when we are fed up with each other, Image result for if you saw the size of the blessing coming you would understand the magnitude meaningtired of the same old same old.  Little things bubble up, frustrations arise.  We both can be stinkers.  Distance sometimes happens.  The desperate human thoughts of, “how can I live the rest of my life with this person?” do crop up.

There are also the days when we count the blessings.  Our general health, our kids, our families, our amazing life together.  None of this is perfect, but even with the little warts and hiccups, we still know how blessed we are.

We are learning every day that in the process of being obedient, we both have to acknowledge something incredible: our emotions eventually catch up to our obedience to remain in a covenant relationship made before God. “Though the joy may have left for a few days, a few weeks, and once or twice, for a season, it came back. Deeper, richer and more abundant than we ever expected.” (from https://careynieuwhof.com/20-honest-insights-on-how-to-make-it-to-25-years-in-marriage)

It’s perhaps hard to distill it down to one thing.  Love certainly is the glib answer (with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as a good measuring stick).  Our tongue can really get us in trouble, so this one maxim seems to cover a lot:

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” James 1:19

Maybe in this way, we can pray to be “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” Psalms 148:8

We have some major landmarks that accompany this 25th celebration:

  • One daughter is getting married in a few weeks, to a man we have prayed for as a Related imagespouse.  They are covenanting to have a Christ-centered and God-honoring marriage.  Both are sold out to the Lord (that is such “Christian-speak:” what it essentially means is that unlike myself and her father, this young couple knows they want to put Christ at the lead and center of their lives from day one forward.  It took a while for SJ and I to get there).  I have confidence that despite their young ages, the inevitable pitfalls, and growing up they have to do, they will see their 25th mark—and they have every potential to celebrate 80 years together.
  • The other two kids are transitioning to adulthood with transfer of car titles, paying their own rents and utilities, moving off our insurance, and our financial support.  Yes, we do get the occasional “wow, my car needs $600 worth of work…” and we attempt to work out a plan where they feel some pinch in the decision to accept our loan (our payoff terms are better than a bank’s, but not too lenient).
  • We just put money down to build our “forever home.”  That was a big landmark decision marking our 25th.  A huge and exciting step forward together with the hopes that what we picked out, and what we’re committing ourselves financially to, is the right place for us.  As long as I can see mountains and have four seasons, I reason that I can be happy in a place.  Yet I know that more than that, as long as he is there to catch me, I will be content.

Grateful for 25 years.  And trying ever so hard to be grateful for today, one day at a time.  Reminding myself that SJ also needs to hear me express this gratitude daily.

Posted in On Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Armchair Activists

Something horrible and reprehensible happened in a state I just happen to live in right now (albeit over 100 miles from my front door).  Some terrible people (some from other states) did some terrible things.  They happen to bear a physical resemblance to me.  They also claim associations like me.  They are identified as people of privilege (like me) who as such, can supposedly have no possible clue about the evils of bigotry, hatred, and racism.

Violence and hatred are bad things.  Most reasonable adults and Americans can get on board with that.  I deplore and denounce what happened.  I also know that in this fallen world, it will happen again, in another state, another city, by perhaps another race or class of people.  Ugliness is an equal opportunity employer among the human race.  Satan sees to that.

So what am I going to do about it?  Many seem to think spinning more hatred, vilification, and dissent on social media is an appropriate way to address the issue.  Related image

I just see Satan gleefully rubbing his hands together as he watches the sparring, the self-righteous accusations, the character assassinations, the tearing down.

The rants on Facebook are back.  Articles, comments, personal testimonies (“I have black, gay, tall, short… friends…”), renouncement (“This is why I don’t want to be a Christian”); and dares (“If you don’t agree with me you’re a scum bag and I’ll unfriend you.”). They dissolve into personal attacks and slurs, strangers judging strangers.  Cussing them out.  Calling them stupid.  Some posts may be well meaning, but they are armchair activists.  Just like me right now—sitting in our comfy chairs blasting out our views.  SNL did a spot-on sketch about this:

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/thank-you-scott/3498997?snl=1

I seriously don’t want to rant here.  I make the mistake of looking at my Facebook first thing in the morning, and I get sucked in to reading the ugly back and forth rhetoric that Related imageaccuses any one of a different view immediately suspect of being part of the hatred and vilification that happened.  God forbid you say you live in Virginia– Oh, you are one of those….  I want to say authentic Christians don’t act hatefully, but I know there are plenty who claim Christianity and do horrible things.  I want to say not all white people think or act that way: but I realize some do.  I want to say a lot of things, which will just stir the pot.

But I’ll limit myself to this: instead of sanctimoniously throwing up a comment on Facebook, Twitter, or a Blog like this, please be damned sure that you are actually living what you write. 

And maybe a little more “Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…” (and yes, I see the irony in this post).

Posted in On Life in General | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Why I Don’t Comment

Image result for bloggin

Over the past year and a half of writing on this blog, I’ve done precious little commenting or in-depth reading or following of other blogs.  I sometimes feel quite guilty about this, because there’s a lot of good stuff out there, and I truly do enjoy and appreciate what others have to say and share.

But I had a dilemma to face.  I had been blogging actively for several years (anonymously) in a bid to understand myself, my past, my desires, my broken and then healing marriage, my motivations.  It was also a bit of escapism from boredom.  I was encountering a lot of interesting people who also were enjoying the anonymity of blogging, and with similar quests for answers.  I voraciously read their blogs.  Comments on mine were helpful, caring, informative, encouraging, and complimentary (things I was lacking in my marriage then).  I rarely had any inappropriate or “weird” commenters; most were incredibly gracious and very helpful. Being able to open up fully about my questions was freeing,  I learned a lot, and I don’t consider it a wasted time.  It served to grow me and inform me.

Related image

Eventually though, God was convicting me that sourcing wisdom for living in the blog world was not His best plan for me.  I longed to explore far more than just my needs and my desires for gratification in life; I wanted to include a God-view in my life, and this meant having to give up some thoughts and habits that were not helping me grow.  Namely, giving up my selfish fantasies about how things “should be” or “could be” better. I needed to factor God’s will for me into my explorations.  God has done some amazing work in my life, in my marriage.  I was feeling like God was telling me it was time to explore how that might serve others.

In the blog world there are honest people, people who just tell it like it is and let it all hang out; who share wisdom from living,  and mistakes; who don’t just write about themselves and how to have their needs met.  They live for a purpose bigger than themselves.

There are also sensational bloggers, who clearly seek an audience of followers.  Not to say they aren’t honest, but they like to write a riveting story; embellishments and fantasy are acceptable.  There is a blur between reality and fantasy.  The number of followers and commenters become a really important driving factor in their blogging.  However we the reader rarely know what is truth or fiction.  Some of these talented story weavers can really suck us in. Sex sells.

In just my first 3 years of blogging, I watched some bloggers crash and burn along the way of their sensationalist blogging (and concomitant lifestyles).  One woman who Image result for sex blogger 'regrets' life choicesdecided it was hip and cool to explore (and blog) something with another woman, supposedly with hubby’s permission, is now alone and divorced.  Another realizes that what seemed like a fun fantasy was really abuse.  A young mom seeking more excitement in her marriage found out he was cheating.  Another lady quit her job, packed up her life for her fantasy life with a blogger halfway across the country, only to repack and return “home” within four months, greatly disillusioned.  I’ve seen some crazy, sad stuff go down.  Along with crazy, sad, irresponsible comments like “You go girl!”  Sadly, these stories played out like that horrendous crash you can’t tear your eyes away from.

By now, most of us can smoke out the difference between the authentic blogger, and the fantasy-reality blogger. And we can make our choices.  I wasn’t always making good choices; I have a weakness for the sensational, the evocative, the erotic.  But I appreciate real, honest, and messy.

When one is searching for a better way, for better love, a better marriage, it’s easy to get sucked into something that looks so amazingly good, and think “that’s the cure-all, that’s what will make me happy.”  Especially when it’s titillating and/or sexy.

Being in God’s will can make me happy.  I know this.  It’s just easy to forget it, easy to get distracted, tempted. It’s easier to come up with some other ways that I think are “more fun.”

God is not a “sexy topic” these days (was He ever?)  He doesn’t sell too many novels, but Image result for blogginHis Book is still the world’s best-selling, most read, and most widely distributed book in the world. Not Harry Potter.  Not The Great Gatsby. Not Fifty Shades (which, incidentally is the fifth most best-selling books of all time according to the Guardian).  It’s even reached a point in some circles that to express one’s faith views or speak of God is considered intolerant.

From a pure modern-day marketing point of view, I saw little popularity in writing authentically about God AND sex AND marriage.  Imagine my surprise that some people actually want to read about this. Go God!  God knows exactly how 55 followers (plus me) can be reached through my blogging, even if it transcends my own understanding.

So back to reading and commenting.  It wasn’t always a healthy thing for me in the past. It informed me in some not-so-healthy ways.  I found myself sucked into a vortex of wanting my life to resemble another’s.  I enjoyed the sensation of being “listened to” and “approved of” when there were comments on my blog (and quite honestly, I still do–I appreciate those wonderful folks who take the time to leave their thoughts or approbation).  And I felt I needed to take a little sabbatical from gaining wisdom and information solely from the blog world.

I do read your blogs (and you know who you are), especially when I know that they won’t take me down that rabbit hole of unrealistic fantasies or desires.  I learn a lot from you.  There are things bloggers say that inspire me to try harder, to become less self-centered and selfish.

So thank you to all who have followed, read, commented AND prayed.  I appreciate you.  Iron sharpens iron. And I promise to be a better reader.

 

Posted in On Being Imperfect Me | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Love

Last year, I began to write on the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23): “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

I am currently reminded these days on how LOVE CAN BE HARD WORK, and that in most marriages, there are some times, some seasons, when it is harder.  Seemingly impossible.

Galatians 5:22-23 has long been one of my memory verses.  My pneumatic is to recall 9 fruit: 3 one-syllable, 3 two syllable, 3 three syllable.

This is handy verse to commit to heart because there are tons of situations in which you find yourself dragging it out to gain some power from the Holy Spirit when your own seems weak.  And even if you are praying “just” for patience (or peace or kindness, etc), you truly need them all to help you exhibit patience, and especially love.

Love anchors Galatians 5:22-23, possibly because it is required for all else. And, because while it seems so simple in principle, it can also be so, so hard.

Image result for the world says love is a feelingYou know what I like?  I like the FEELING of love.  That feeling that washes over you and makes you giddy and happy.  Adorable babies and puppies elicit this feeling.  Fun times with good friends.  New love and the passion it evokes.  A piece of amazing chocolate cake.  So many things can bring on that flood of “loving emotions.”

But it’s just not so simple, is it?  What about loving that fussy baby when he/she’s been crying for hours, or pooping green stuff?  That snarky teen? Or, that puppy that just chewed up your favorite shoes and/or left deposits in them?  Sometimes by the last bite of that rich amazing chocolate cake you possibly feel miserable (not to mention unhappy at the numbers on the scale).

There definitely are times in a marriage when all love threatens to just dry up, wither, and die, especially when we allow it to only be a feel-good feeling.  Without intentional care and nurturing, even hard work, it can become nothing but dust before you know it. Sometimes it is just a discipline to love, give love, act loving, speak love.

The Greeks had several concepts/words for love, and four are used in the Bible:

There is Phileo, which is brotherly love, the kind of love, affection, or fondness we feel for close friends.

Closely related is Storge, a kind of love is what a sister and brother for one another, strong feelings between family members. This love is one that most people have in family relationships.

Eros refers to the passionate and sensual love of lovers, husbands and wives, usually manifested with sex (however sex alone can be Eros, but it is often a fleeting love when it stands alone).  This word is used in Song of Solomon, one of the most erotic books in the Bible (and many want to call it allegorical instead of the lyrical love poem it is). Some may say there is no spiritual aspect to Eros, but I disagree.  The loss of this erotic love is often where many couples decide “it is over.”  And while erotic love should not be ALL there is in a marriage, it is very powerful, which is why the loss of physical affection and intimacy can really tank a marriage.

And there’s Agape love.  This is the highest form of love or charity, the love of God for man and of man for God.  It embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends, that persists regardless of circumstance. This translation of love occurs 320 times in the New Testament.Image result for 1 corinthians 13 4-8

Agape love isn’t always easy.  It’s seemingly practiced less and less these days, and it’s absence in social media is noticeable.  It’s the one we all need to work on, and which many of us don’t want to work on.  It’s the “why should I be nice/loving if he doesn’t…”  It comes up many times in popular verses of love in the Bible, but most famously in the 1 Corinthians 13 “Love is…” passage.

Love always perseveres.

Jesus was agape love.  He truly introduced the concept.  And of course, we want to be like Jesus, but we’re just not always good at it.  We don’t feel like it.  We get discouraged.  We fall short of the mark (a human condition).  We live in a world that has taught us to ask, “what’s in it for me?”

I have a confession: there are times when I don’t feel loving in this marriage of 25 years.  I may feel grateful, lucky, blessed, safe, indebted, guilty, duty-bound.  There are times I try to tell myself (or is it the devil?) that because I don’t feel love (especially eros or storge), why keep trying?

These are the times I need to be in prayer.  I cannot do it all on my own power.  I need to recognize and acknowledge that no love beyond God’s is perfect, and no marriage is perfect.  Love just doesn’t “happen,” but I need to make it happen.  It’s not a one-way street, but rather how I AM love and GIVE love. Unconditionally.  Unearned.

Whoa.  Hard.

Conditional and earned love was the MO of one of my parents.  I never was quite sure if I could “earn” or “deserve” love.  It could be taken away or withheld indefinitely at any time.  So, I personally had a lot to learn about love, a lot to heal.

As a parent myself, I had to reverse what I learned as a child and decide to love my children unconditionally, no matter howImage result for he first loved us they faltered, sinned, or got on my nerves.  I never stopped telling them I loved them, and I assure them that I will ALWAYS love them (even if at times I may not agree with their choices).

In a marriage, I have to decide to love my husband.  We have both made a Covenant, a promise, to love in a whole range of circumstances.  We don’t get to choose love, we just DO IT.  No matter if it is deserved, or how it might hurt, no matter how we feel.  (Clearly there is another complicated matter of abusiveness in a marriage or relationship; so safety always is paramount; you can walk away from abuse and still pray to love the sinner).

And why does anyone deserve unconditional and unearned love?  I’m sure glad that hard-workJesus didn’t ask that question as I do sometimes.

Love is not easy.  Love is often messy.  It is hard work in a marriage.  

And I know that the only way I can humanly do this hard work is with the power of the Spirit of God.

And LOTS of prayer!

Posted in Fruit of the Spirit, On Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Women’s Issues:  UTIs and Pelvic Floor Problems

A decidedly non-sexy post: in this blog where I pretty much have vowed to be honest—this post is brutally honest and “graphic.” I’ll discuss a demoralizing (and often embarrassing) medical issue many women face.  I’m not going to be fun or sexy or deeply philosophical here.   I just find way too little reliable information in the “Google It” format.  Consider this my Public Service Announcement, from years of experiences and a layman’s point of view, and decidedly “non-medical.”  (Always consult your doctor for a professional diagnosis and treatment).

Many women (and very few men) are prone to an extremely unpleasant condition called Cystitis, or Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).

Image result for women's cramps

And, well, it can totally mess with a woman’s sexuality.  It can actually make one fearful of sex, for all of the pain and discomfort it can potentially cause.

If you’ve read this far, you probably already know that any infection of the urinary tract involves a bacteria of the digestive system (namely E. Coli), that has invaded that otherwise sterile urinary system.  The symptoms usually involve burning, frequency, achiness in the pelvic region, and a sensation that you can’t completely void.  All of that irritation may also create a sensation of constant arousal… and ironically, it’s not a pleasant sensation.  It’s one of the most miserable pains I know (and we will rule out any other STDs or other infections for purposes of this discussion).

The cause of a UTI is often that fecal matter enters the urethra; but despite many women’s best efforts to clean themselves correctly (front to back), that bacteria can still invade.

It is also called “Honeymoon Cystitis” because the intensity and frequency of sex on a honeymoon (or any time) can often bring this on.  Those having frequent sex are advised to immediately urinate after sex to flush out any invaders (and if you are prone to UTIs, you void after all sex).

Image result for women's UTIIt’s also a condition common among post-menopausal women. Lack of estrogen may allow bacteria that can cause UTIs to grow more easily in the vagina or urethra and cause an infection in the bladder.

When the infection goes beyond the urethra (the tube that drains the bladder) and into the bladder or kidneys, it is a serious condition.

Here’s what you might not find in your Google Search:  There are some women who due to their individual anatomy, are very susceptible to repeated infections, despite best efforts at prevention.  So much of a woman’s vulvar anatomy are such close neighbors, it’s little wonder it’s not a constant state.  What a complicated area! But like fingerprints, vulvas are very unique.

And there is shockingly little research or answers about all of this.

There are thousands of women who regularly quaff cranberry juice, as legend has it (and science has yet to definitively prove), it makes the bladder and urinary tract inhospitable to bacteria.  What you paradoxically find, is that most cranberry juices are full of sugar, possibly other additives.  PURE cranberry juice is about the tartest thing I know, barely consumable even when you add stevia or other fake sugars.  Cranberry supplements are often made from by-products of cranberries, after they’ve been juiced (the one recently recommended to me—Ellura– runs about $1.50/tablet).  But there may be cases when cranberry (or anything acidic) is the exact opposite of what you should do. Others steer clear of sugar and caffeine, which can be irritants.  Of course drinking LOTS of pure water is always advisable for keep things flowing well.  This is all preventative, and once a bacteria has taken hold, there’s little “natural” you can do to back off from it.

There comes a time when the only way to handle a full-blown infection is with Image result for women's UTIantibiotics.  Usually when you see your doctor and give a urine sample, they’ll do a quick dip to check for bacteria and blood (you can actually buy UTI test kits at the pharmacy).  If present, they’ll start you on an antibiotic immediately, while they send your sample off for a “culture.”  From my limited scientific knowledge, in layman’s terms, that culture will grow bacteria and test its susceptibility or resistance to various antibiotics. If it proves resistant to the antibiotic you were first given, they’ll switch you to the better one.

So now here’s the scary part about antibiotics. You may have heard that there is increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics.  This causes many (lazy) doctors to just default to the strongest, most toxic and broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat UTIs from the start, namely Cipro.  Cipro is a floxin drug, which has some real horror stories associated with it (look it up… namely affecting tendons; I am sure my Achilles tendinitis problem is related).  I personally view Cipro as a poison.  It is so broad-spectrum that it destroys all of the good bacteria as well- in your gut, and the good bacteria that keeps your vaginal pH normal.  When I HAVE to take Cipro as a last resort, I also ask for Diflucan to battle the yeast infection that is sure to come.  And, lately, I feel that the toxicity of Cipro has actually prolonged my irritation and discomfort from UTIs. While the bacteria may be gone, the pain and discomfort remain.

My “antibiotic story:” as a child, I was diagnosed with probable Rheumatic Fever.  The therapy at the time was massive daily doses of Penicillin.  I took Penicillin for several years, daily.  My body’s bacteria have long ago scoffed at penicillin drugs.  As a young woman in my 20s, I got frequent UTIs.  The docs recommended a “prophylactic” daily dose of Macrodantin.  My body’s bacteria eventually learned how to combat this antibiotic (a common one for UTIs).  Last year my urine culture came back resistant to 16 antibiotics.  Cipro was the only option. But for weeks after, I had pain and discomfort.

With that scary news, I became determined to decrease or stop antibiotics in my life, and build my natural immune system.  Problem is, I can usually count on at least one major bronchial or sinus infection a year; and apparently at least one or more UTIs—which require treatment with antibiotics to prevent complications of pneumonia or kidney infection.

Preventative is what I’m left with.  Recently I’ve invested more into use of essential oils.  I’ve managed to forestall one pending UTI by taking a capsule with Young Livinig essential oils (of lemon, copaiba, Thieves® and juniper); but not having a tried and true protocol, I apparently didn’t take the blend long enough to really discourage the bacteria, and the full-blown UTI came a week later.

There’s another complication to mention.  In my early 40s, it seemed I had repeated UTIs, with all the full-blown discomfort symptoms: the constant pressure, frequency, and ache in my pelvis.  When cultures returned repeatedly without bacterial, I was on a quest to find out what it was.  Eventually my symptoms pointed to a little-known condition called Interstitial Cystitis, sort of an ulceration of the lining of the Urinary tract/bladder.  There are no known causes (some will say “stress” which to my mind is an overly simplistic and convenient supposition), and no definitive treatments, just a lot of experimental stuff (drugs from antihistamines to antidepressants were used to treat).  Plus, there were (and still are) many traditional doctors/urologists who do not believe this is “real” condition.  I had to learn the hard way, and would actually ask each urologist’s office “did the practitioner BELIEVE interstitial cystitis was a real condition, or did he subscribe to the prevalent notion that it was a “hysterical female psychosomatic condition?”  My take-away is that I will never see a male urologist again; and whenever possible, seek out a FEMALE gynecological-urologist who has invested into the research of female pelvic disorders. I’m currently on the wait list for an appointment, the earliest available being October.

Lastly, I’m faced with yet another complication.  About ten years after a large twin pregnancy that stretched a lot internally, I was experiencing stress incontinence (I was 48). My gynecologist at the time recommended a procedure called a Transobturator Sling, a “minimally invasive” surgical procedure that uses a narrow strip of permanent mesh to correct stress urinary incontinence (SUI) by creating a sort of “hammock” to lift the urethra tube.  The procedure was successful and SUI went away for me.  Since that time there have been issues (and lawsuits) with this material.  I’m a little concerned that this could be contributing to recurrent UTI issues for me.

Meanwhile, I’m blessed to have a husband who understands and is sympathetic (guys– the best thing you can do is hug, hold, massage, offer to draw a hot bath…).  I have “only” had a handful of these episodes over our marriage, but when I’m down and out with these symptoms (often accompanied by malaise and depression), I am not a happy camper.  It plays a cruel joke with my mind and body—because there is a constant Image result for women's UTIawareness of your pelvic region which can be eerily arousing in a very unsettling and unwelcome way.  Penetration would feel like a knife at this stage of discomfort; but it is hard to take your mind off of sexuality.  And the more I research this, the more I realize there are quite a few women out there going nuts over this, and very few remedies/answers.  My next steps are to eliminate caffeine, sugar, and gluten, which isn’t easy.

I don’t know how or when I will get this resolved, and I just pray for a miracle while I wait to be seen by a specialist.  But given the real paucity of information, I wanted to share with those who may have similar issues.  You have my sympathies.

Please share your stories here.  Women need to support each other.

Posted in On "My Temple" (Health), On Being Imperfect Me | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments