Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Way To Serenity

I have a Zen calendar this year, and one day recently, the message was "Do your work, then step back--the only path to serenity." Somehow this message resonates with me and the things I've discovered and keep discovering about myself and my way of life.

I run a rental business, and I've been teaching part-time AP English Literature at a Catholic high school down the block until this week. Between these two endeavors, many days I have many things on my plate to accomplish. My way of making sure I sleep well at night is to "do my work, then step back" and through those efforts, I find serenity. Serenity brings me peace, and peace helps me to make better choices in my eating.

Yesterday I made a trip to Michael's to purchase the yarn that you see in the photo above. I've decided to spend lots of time this summer crocheting and listening to my husband's classical music library. It's been sitting here since I married him in 1999, and we didn't make a dent in listening to all of it. I plan to spend my days doing that. Already yesterday and today, with the time I've put into this afghan I'm making for my living room, I find that eating is far from my mind as I sit and enjoy the peace and serenity of my home while making a piece that I know I'll treasure when it's done.

My high point for this week is refinding my old love of crocheting. I haven't picked up a needle in at least 15 years, and yesterday I picked one up again. I'm loving it. My low is about the seafood again. My school is celebrating the end of the year, and every meal so far has been seafood. I haven't partaken. I plan to go to the crawfish boil tomorrow and say good-bye to everybody, but I'm sticking to my plan to end my allergic reactions to seafood.

I got my filing cabinet home from St. Louis a little while ago. That particular act is a mixture of high and low. I feel good that I've done such a good job of teaching in every year of my career really, but especially this past year, but I'm kind of sad to be at an ending point. Crocheting is going to help me not go into eating mode over this.

Wish me well, Linda

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Michael, the kids and I spent yesterday and today at Big Lake with my sister's, their husbands, my brother and nephew, Justin. We weathered a pretty wicked storm on Sunday night, and there are threats of possible flash floods in the area of the lake. It is hard to believe that this new oasis Lanelle and Jim have built, may now be the victim of another possible flood. Harder to believe, considering we spent a really relaxing 24 hours sitting on the partially finished deck, floating on the rafts and today we all got to go for a ride on the twin waverunners that provide some of our on the water entertainment. As we left, Lanelle, Jim, Lisa, Dick and Justin were winding down and weighing the odds of another flood as they contemplated just how many beds and other things they should carry up the stairs "just in case." We got home in time for me to fix dinner for the kids and for Michael to run Micaela to the clinic to attend to the swimmers ear she was suffering from.

I skipped dinner tonight, nibbled "uncle Joe style" on what Marc didn't eat, but truth is I wasn't really hungry. We ate a good breakfast, my usual - eggs, bacon, potatoes and the homemade baked beans I made in the crock pot overnight, which smelled so good, we all decided to eat for breakfast. And they were yummy and so, so, so good! Lunch was served late, I had two ears of corn, some ham and fruit salad. So, I skipped a complete dinner, and even turned down ice cream when Michael called to offer it to the troops. Now, if only the exercise could find its way back in my routine. I can't really say I exercised much beyond climbing the stairs at the cabin - floating on a raft and riding a waverunner just doesn't count, does it?

Here is the recipe for the baked beans, they are vegetarian - though not fat free!

1 lb navy beans, washed, rinsed and soaked in water overnight.
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (b-grade preferred)
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/4 tsp dried summer or winter savory, or 2 1/2 tsps fresh
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 medium sized white onion, peeled, left whole , scored with an X at the root end and studded with 4 cloves
Boiling water to cover
1/2 cup butter or margarine, cut into pieces

After beans have soaked over night, drain and rinse. Cover the beans with fresh water by 3 inches, cover and cook on HIGH for 1 1/2 hours (crock pot) until still undercooked. Drain.
Return the beans to the crockpot and add all but onion, cloves and margarine. Stir well. press the whole onion down into the center of the beans. Add boiling water to cover by 1/2 inch, stir gently. Cover and cook on HIGH to bring to boil, then reduce heat to LOW and cook until the beans are soft, thick and bubbling - about 10-12 hours.

Remove onion and stir in the butter until melted. Taste for seasoning.

I suppose you could make this and skip the butter, but I admit, I didn't. I also did as directed and removed the onion, though next time I may just chop it into the beans, as I love onion, even though, after 12 hours all the taste was already in the beans.

This recipe is gluten free and, as I said, not fat free, but if anyone tries them without the butter and it tastes good, let me know. When I have time I'll figure the carbs per serving. Makes 6-8 total.

My high for the weekend was getting away and relaxing a bit. My low was not getting anything accomplished around the house.

Goal for the week, add back the exercise and clean out the closets in our bedroom. Both are extremely ambitous for me. I suppose at some point I should get back on the scale and face the music, perhaps the week after next . . .

Friday, May 23, 2008

Checking In

I'm checking in to say that this has been an incredibly hard week for me. The baby blues hit along with several inches of rain over several days, plus little guys getting into stuff and just dumping it. Yesterday Baby James, our newest addition, spent all day on me - either being nursed or carried. Having experienced post partum depression once, I'm very conscious of my moods and finding ways to get myself back in the groove, such as through exercise. Fortunately Greg is very quick to take over when he gets home and he makes sure that I get a little time by myself to do my stretching and other parts of my bedtime routine. That half hour of me time makes a big difference at the end of the day.

This week I did find myself getting stronger as I added hills to my walks and as I added more ab work to my evening routine. Being physically stronger makes such a difference in how I deal with my day. I had a particularly difficult time with this last pregnancy because of various physical ailments and lack of exercise, and now I'm so excited to be getting back to my usual level of fitness. I'm even considering getting back into running, a longtime love of mine, though my knees and hips may not cooperate.

My walking goal next week is to add another hill to the two hills I did this week, plus increase my time from 30 minutes to 40 minutes. I'll stay with my current evening routine and add in a short set of weights for my arms. I got a Vegetarian cookbook out from the library and I'll be playing around with recipes from that for myself and the kids.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Blue Glass High

This little cobalt blue glass frog toothpick holder gave me a high this past week. I was on my way to somewhere else when, on a whim, I pulled into a flea market that I had visited only one time before. I didn't expect to find anything, and then this little frog appeared.

My husband Ray brought my love of scanning for cobalt blue glass in flea markets and antique stores into my life nearly ten years ago. I have a collection of all kinds of cobalt blue glass fowl in my kitchen, and chickens are my favorite. Recently, since I seem to have everything they make of the covered candy dish variety, I branched out to collect cobalt blue toothpick holders. I couldn't believe there was such a thing as this frog. I walked out of that flea market on a high.

I also have a collection of blue glass in my kitchen window. I'm always looking for the unusual piece to enhance the look. I don't know why it gives me such pleasure to find a new thing to add, but it does. I seem to be in a nesting mode since retiring this month. Blue pots and blue glass have fed this feeling in me. It may be that I'm in the process of making my home my home now without Ray.
My low for this past week is food-related. I had a lovely lunch with my son Will at the Villa Capri Restaurant on Saturday before a wedding I attended, and I ordered the Capri grilled tuna steak smothered in tomatoes, garlic, onions, and capers. It was so delicious... But the downside of it was, I was, within thirty minutes, suffering from cramps and diarrhea, which lasted over several days. I felt terrible. As a result, I've put on my calendar for May 18 that this will be the last time I eat seafood. I've known for some time that salmon and shrimp and abalone lead to this kind of reaction, but I've been ignoring it because this kind of food tastes so good to me. It's something that I don't really prepare for myself, and in restaurants, I often order seafood. But I've got to give it up, just like I gave up popcorn because of periodontal disease nine years ago. Wish me well on this... It's my low point of this week. Til later, Linda

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Catching Up

Talking about stresses are we? How about "life" as a stressor? But we can all be creative as to how we deal with the stresses in ourlives.

My husband's nephew just e-mail me and asked for prayers for his 45 year old wife who is being diagnosed with cancer. With two small children, thats a stressor. My ongoing back problems seem miniscule by comparison.

I guess my best stress reliever is listening to music, and if no one is around, singing my heart out.
oh, in the day, I used to have a fine voice, but age and lack of use have led to a loss of range and most times I adapt my singing to my alto capabilities.

I find that good friends with listening ears have been a huge stress reliever, too. A few in particular, who I know won't judge me and my idiosyncracies, are a God-send. Family dynamics, and interfering clients who are demandng are my biggest stressors I guess. And, I've found as I grow older, that over-scheduling myself can also lead to stress with a capital "S". The old "I'm not as young as I used to be" takes some getting used to.

But I consider myself fortunate that for the most part, my life is good. I have caring family, and friends, and they ar my greatest gift.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Stress and the Lawn mower . . .

I am still trying to combat my stress levels. Yesterday afternoon, after picking up Vickie (I've decided to use our names, so let me know if you still want to remain anonymous) and Marc after school, I went home to fix dinner. I let Vickie drive home from the gas station in our neighborhood, which is about 8 blocks from our house. Stress relief, not exactly, but she's really wanting to get behind the wheel of the car and at 16 1/2 it is time. We will be enrolling her in Driver's Ed this summer, for sure! That will alleviate some of the stress.
Michael had a meeting after work, so before I fixed dinner, I decided to mow the lawn. Mind you, I haven't mowed in probably more than 25 years - not since we moved off the acreage and had our own plot to mow or the summer Dad volunteered his kids to mow the city park. After I had the neighbors on both sides consult me on starting the mower, I finally got it going and cut the grass in the front lawn. Strangely enough, even though I ache from the vibration of the mower and my back is killing me, the process of cutting the grass and digging the dandelions was somewhat of a stress relief. I proceeded to make dinner consisting of braised pork loin, brown rice and green beans. It was yummy and nutritious! I also made some gluten free meatballs and sauce for Michael to serve for dinner tonight, as I will be working late. I did two loads of laundry and uploaded a couple of batches of pictures to Snapfish. The ones on this post are part of the group, our family's recent attendance at the sold-out Husker Spring game.
I find cooking and baking to be really relaxing, in fact a day of standing in my kitchen, making breakfast, lunch and dinner, is a day that makes me happy. Working full-time and managing a house that consists of 4-8 people, depending on the day, creates stress, that I can relieve if I just get to feed everyone. It could explain my tendency to gain and hold onto extra weight, because my love of cooking translates into my love of eating.
On Mother's Day I fixed breakfast at my sister and brother-in-law's new lake house. I know many mother's who might prefer to be waited on for Mother's Day, but it gives me great satisfaction to prepare meals for a group, so I usually appoint myself as cook. My sister's would say it is because I don't like to do dishes, and that's partly true, doing dishes adds stress, cooking and making the mess in the kitchen relieves it. Hmm . . .

It is evident that this will become a place to seek rest and relaxation as the summer approaches. When our family is visiting from the East, we hope to take them to the lake house for a visit and some swimming, boating and fishing. This is a view from our dock, across the lake, toward the hotel, where my sister-in-law has already reserved rooms for the family to stay.

This morning, I let Vickie drive to school. She was elated. I found out in a hurry that we have a little more instruction time needed to get her ready to be completely road ready. We took one turn kind of fast, she got honked at for crossing the lanes a couple of times (imagine that, with me instructing her!), but the look on her face when I suggested she drive was priceless, and worth the little bit of stress that it added to my morning.

We've started a practice a dinner time where we go around the table and mention our highs and lows. Marc is always anxious to start it, and almost always has at least one high and for about a week straight, his days haven't included a low. My high today was letting Vickie work toward her independence as a young woman, by turning over the driver's seat. My low was staying late to work on backlog of paperwork, and missing a night with the family around the dinner table.

Tell us your highs and your lows - please.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

An Introduction

My name is Barb and I'm one of Lindy's sisters-in-law from back East. Greg, Michael's brother, and I just had Baby Number 5, James, two weeks ago. The pregnancy was a particularly long, tiring and wearing one, even though I only had some minor health issues. I didn't exercise or stretch for most of the pregnancy, unlike my previous ones. I ended up gaining 40 lbs. which is a little high for me. At this point I have 25 lbs. to go.

At two weeks post-partum, I've been setting goals in walking, stretching, strength-training, and drinking water for myself. I have a Franklin Covey planner which allows me to do a master task list for the week, but print it daily. As I do each task, I cross off a hash mark. Some days I get all the hashmarks crossed off, and other days only one. It's like stringing a necklace; the beads start to add up and make something bigger than the individual beads.

In terms of stress relief, walking, gardening, working on a creative project like knitting or embroidery, reading, and baking are all things I do when I'm feeling stressed. Taking a computer break to read some craft blogs can help give me space to deal with the stress. However, when at least two kids are screaming at once, I have to stick it out and figure out which kid will calm down first and work with them. I learned in college when I started long-distance biking, that hills/stress can be our friends if we learn how to stick it out and manage the stress. My final stress relief is being conscious of the rhythm of the day. We stay home a lot because it's tough to move four little people in and out of the mini-van and in and out of stores. By staying home, we can stick to a predictable routine and have lots of space in our day for playing, reading books, working on stuff around the house. If we do need to get out, I'm mindful of how long we'll be out, and ways that I can make coming home easier like buying McDonald's after a doctor's appointment rather than trying to make lunch when we get home.

I'm looking forward to sharing my progress and will be checking in weekly.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Waves of grief washed over me all day today for a number of reasons, I think. Yesterday for Mother's Day, my brother Lee drove my sister Debbie, me, and his family out to the Katy Cemetery to visit our mother's grave. We all still miss her often, and it was good to think of the possibility of being close to her for a little while yesterday. Then today dawned--an anniversary of a kind, too. I was scheduled to administer the AP Physics exam at my school, a voluntary job I've done for the past seven years. Three years ago, though, I was giving this exam while my husband Ray was having a CT scan. He was given the news that he had Mesothelioma (his death sentence) without me at his side, and I've always felt sad and bad about that. He was so socked with the misfortunate. Both of us were.
So in response to Lindy's call to talk about stress-release in our lives. Over so many years of my life, loss has been a stressor for me. I find it's so easy to shove comfort foods in my mouth to try to ease the voids within. Something that I'm trying right now is singing when I'm feeling this way. I came across an old songbook at an antique store recently. It has songs of faith and joy from the past in it, and instead of eating, I'm singing for 30 minutes. The hunger seems to pass that way.
I also go to Curves to stave off the stressors, but in the last three weeks, because of a hurt shoulder and arm, I've had to stay away from those machines. Maybe that's also why I've had a day like I've had today. I think being around people and talking also is part of the Curves formula for me in reducing stress. Living alone, I don't have anyone to share my day's events with. I often find friends at Curves to visit with while I work out. I've missed it here recently and am glad that I was able to be with my family this weekend for Mother's Day.
I look forward to Lindy connecting me up with some of you B-Hoppers in August. Til then, Linda

Some new features

At the request of LMH, I am adding a new category for posts to this blog. LMH and son participated this weekend in the Susan B. Komen walk for the cure and I am so proud of this mother, son team and their actions to support a cure for breast cancer. Please post pictures from your walk and let us know if this helped shed some additional pounds in the process.

I am also interested in stress reducers. Life has been full of stresses of late, both at work and at home. We are still acclimating our 16 year old to our home, I am finding the demands on me at work have increased of late and M's work is also picking up. Our basement is under remodel, from the intake of water last spring, and we desperately need to put siding on our house and do some serious landscaping. I know that many people get much stress relief from home improvement projects and from gardening, I find neither of them particularly stress relievers or really that enjoyable.

Stress causes me to be careless with what I eat and what I do. Not a good state of mind to be in for the purpose of this blog. But, I will find a focus and find a place to put my thoughts that are happy and productive and relieve some of the stress that I currently feel.

Tomorrow I attend a funeral for a former neighbor of our family growing up. Dolly was one of those women from a generation ago, that defined what it meant to be a neighbor of the 1970's. I have the fondest memories of sitting on the neighbors deck, our mothers in nightgowns and kids in our pajamas, eating popcorn, drinking "zooper doopers" and laughing a lot. Dolly was a part our my childhood, a good friend to my mother and witness to many "incidents" in the life of our family. Thinking about her in a fond way, has already worked a bit of stress from my system.

I had a long talk with Linda last week. She called to check on the wedding plans of M's oldest. Wedding plans have become a source of stress, but Linda's listening ear and understanding response was just what I needed to relieve it for the moment. She's planning to be in Nebraska for the wedding in August, and I can connect her with other B-Hop'rs while she is here.

I am ready to update our spreadsheet. At last count, about two weeks ago, we were at a net loss of 73 lbs - wherever you are, please let me know and I'll update it again. I'm back to where I started and looking for ways to focus and get back on track to lose my 20lbs by August. Ditching some stress along the way is bound to help.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I taught my last class at St. Louis Catholic High School a couple of days ago. Half my class was missing because of a State tennis tournament, but those of us who were there shared our hero's journeys through St. Louis and watched and listened to clips of various degrees and kinds of humor. The girls are ready to soar onto their next hero's cycle and see what God has planned for them. Me, too...

One of the things that I have in store is my continuation down the scale. I weighed in this morning and compared my weight with April 1. I lost three pounds in April. That's not as much as I was hoping for, but it IS progress, and that's consoling to me. I know that if I continue to "like what I'm eating," I'll gradually get there. May we all find success in May. I'm looking forward to it. Retirement stretches out before me... Til later, Linda