Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fasting update

I've done the fasting cure for two weeks now.  This week I haven't started -- yesterday, we had some dental trauma with the chickadees that involved laughing gas, a tooth extraction, and an all-ice-cream diet for Chickadee #1 and two (count 'em, TWO) fillings for Chickadee #2.  We followed that up with a visit to the dreaded McDonald's, which we chose at the express wish of Chickadee #1 who, in my estimation, had been a trouper when it came to getting her tooth pulled.  I'm sure the nitrous oxide had a lot to do with that, but I was still proud of her behavior.  She got "ice cream" and Chickadee #2 got a cheeseburger.  I got the Angus burger and I really didn't like it, yet I ate it all.  Still have some more work to do on myself, I guess.  I did make up for the atrocious lunch I had by having lovely lentil soup and homemade ciabatta for dinner.  Today, I've had a slow start, having to oversee the drafting of a letter of apology to a teacher this morning, making lunches, and getting the chickadees off to school.  I sat in the car to plan my day, naming going to Curves, saying morning prayers, painting a kitchen wall, and prepping the back porch for spring as among my priorities.

Instead, I emptied and filled the dishwasher and made these disgusting things (Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars).  The children will love them.  I'll have to be judicious with them or they'll devour the entire 9x13 pan today.  I think I'll wait til they are cool, cut them into bars, and pre-package them for lunches, then throw them into the freezer.


From that, back to fasting... the four days of fast I've completed have been really good, with the exception of the first day.  I have felt empowered and strong each time and have been really proud of myself for staying on track.  It's kind of an amazing feeling.  I'm going to fast again tomorrow and Friday.  Will keep you updated!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Flawless Girl

The other day, I saw a beautiful video from Dove about women's perceptions of themselves.  It's part of their Campaign for Real Beauty.  It was very moving and poignant, and I've been wondering how others would describe me to a forensic artist.  I look at my face and see its flaws - the skin tone that is muted, the circles under my eyes, the falling chin, the short eyelashes and small eyes and mouth.  I try not to look too closely:

(FYI, the poem on the whiteboard to my left is James Joyce's Go Seek Her Out, which I put on my poetry whiteboard in dual honor of Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day).  Guess I need to change to T.S. Eliot's opening lines of The Waste Land or Chaucer's opening lines of The Canterbury Tales.  I try to keep it fresh.  I'm hoping the chickadees will learn to love poetry by osmosis.)

Right now, my daughters are watching Phineas and Ferb, probably the only program they like than I can stand (with the exception of the Science Channel's How It's Made).  The episode is called "Attack of the 50 Foot Sister" and is a fantastic send up of the unreasonable expectations women have of themselves and how the "beauty industry" feeds their insecurities.  My favorite is the song, "Flawless Girl"

Psalm 139.  Psalm 139.  Psalm 139. 

I know I'll never be a flawless girl.  And really, I don't want to be -- I'd rather be able to run out of the house to pick up the girls after a long day of spring cleaning in a tunic and pj bottoms (sadly, my outfit of today).  But the pressure is still there. 

Psalm 139 works for me.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fasting, Day 3

I didn't write about it, but last Thursday was my second day of fasting.  For some reason, I must like self-torture because I ended up in the grocery store on Thursday morning, as I had on Monday.  But I did wonderfully well at the store -- I had 2 boiled eggs for 72 calories each, 3 pieces of mini-pita for a total of 90 calories and about a cup of raw spinach (thank goodness for Whole Foods!).  So that is a total of 234 calories for breakfast.  For dinner, I did less well, but still reasonable.  I had 1 cup of spaghetti with 1/2 cup of Classico spaghetti sauce and a big salad.  The spaghetti noodles were about 220 calories and the sauce was 70 calories.  So, all in all, I did really well (yeah me!)  at 524 calories.  The only issue I had with the whole thing was that I ate breakfast a bit later than I should have (around 9 rather than 7:30) and had dinner earlier than I should have (around 5 rather than 7:30) because of some issues with my schedule.  So I only had eight hours to contend with rather than 12.  I'm not sure that matters, but it still wasn't what I wanted.

Today is my third fast day.  I had oatmeal for breakfast (145 calories) and just now had an orange  (62 calories).  Tonight, I am making Lentil soup (better have a back up plan for the husband and children).  I've got a bit of headache now, which is why I decided to have the orange, and I am really thirsty, so I'm drinking seltzer right now.

I plan to stay busy, busy, busy today - I certainly have enough to do.  This morning I had a planning meeting regarding Girl Scouts for next year.  After that, I stopped by the Eucharistic Adoration chapel, looking for a few minutes of peace before the Blessed Sacrament.  I was shocked that there were so many people in the chapel, until I remembered that 9:30 am mass was getting ready to start.  I stayed for mass, and I am really glad that I did.

I'd stopped in the chapel to get some fortification for the day ahead and, once again, God didn't disappoint - today's mass reading was from the Gospel of John (6, 30-35).  In this Gospel, we see the crowd asking Jesus for a sign so that they might believe in him.  They recall the sign of the manna in the desert, and Jesus tells them that it was not Moses who gave the Israelites manna, but God the Father.  He then tells them his Father gives the true bread from heaven, the bread that comes down and gives life to the world.  Of course, they want some of this bread (who wouldn't?).  He then tells them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."  Isn't that an incredibly appropriate mass reading for a fasting day?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Charged with Grandeur

Last night, at School of Community, I (badly) tried to articulate my thoughts on finding God in the everyday.  Gerard Manley Hopkins described it.  James Joyce (purportedly an atheist, and certainly a modernist icon) developed a whole theory of epiphany to describe it (even though, IMHO, he "knew more than he could say" as one of my college professors said of me in his grading of my Junior Poet oral presentation).

Today, I found this little gem.  God in the every day.  Amen.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Morning in U2 Songs

So, what do I mean by a morning in U2 songs?  As I'm sure is well-known, I'm a bit obsessed with U2.  I joke that I've been in a relationship with Bono for longer than I've known my husband or any of my friends. So, when Bono speaks, I listen, LOL.  For my birthday this year, I REALLY broke character and bought myself a subscription to www.U2.com (something I'd been resisting for  years).  It gives me access to all kinds of cool content, and also got me a wonderful cd and book from the last tour.  I've been listening to the cd in the car -- the chickadees love it too (#1 prefers "Get on Your Boots" because it opens with the "Ode to Joy" and #2 loves "Electrical Storm" because it's very romantic and she can sing it well.  (It reminds me of John Donne's "The Sun Rising".)  Anyway, while in traffic getting the chickadees to school, I heard an appropriate song.

Later, as I was daydreaming as I was driving, I wondered whether I'd sing the English or Italian part on America's Got Talent (My dream is to sing the Italian Part, but I just can't do it).  These lyrics are beautiful in either language:

Dici che il fiume/Trova la via al mare 
E come il fiume/Giungerai a me 
Oltre i confini/E le terre assetate 
Dici che come fiume/Come fiume 
L'amore giunger/

E non so pi pregare/E nell'amore non so pi sperare/E quell'amore non so pi aspettare 

You say that the river/Finds the way to the sea 
And as the river/You'll come to me 
Beyond the borders/And the thirsty lands 
You say that as the river/as the river/
Love will come 
And I cannot pray anymore/And I cannot hope in love anymore/And I cannot wait for love anymore 

While driving to Lowe's to pick up some paint and a few other things, I starting thinking about Susan and really missing her.  I was lost in thought, not really listening to the cd (From the Ground Up, a special live cd "curated" by The Edge).   Suddenly, I heard these lyrics:

A man dreams one day to fly
A man takes a rocket ship into the skies
He lives on a star that's dying in the night
And follows in the trail, the scatter of light

spoken by Frank DeWinne, commander of the International Space Station, FROM THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION:  I get it, Susan.  I get it.

While thinking about this whole body-hatred issue I have, especially the refrain.

While thinking about how good God is to me in trying to get my attention in ways that increase the likelihood I'll hear him.

When thinking of Brendan Kennelly, one of my professors at Trinity.  I especially love the last few lines of this.

Hope you've enjoyed this view into my stream-of-consciousness and slight (ahem) obsessiveness.

Monday, April 8, 2013

First Fasting Day Reflections

I learned a lot on my first day of fasting:
  • Don't go grocery shopping on your fast day.
  • Eating a protein-rich breakfast carries me through til about 1 pm. 
  • A lot of my eating is situational, not in response to hunger.  On a normal grocery shopping day, for example, I would not have eaten breakfast with the children and would have stopped at the sweet little cafe in the store, had a coffee and a pastry or a breakfast sandwich and looked at magazines and made my shopping list.  If I had later stopped at IKEA, as I did today, I probably would have gotten a coffee and cinnamon roll as a little "treat" to reward myself for traipsing through two long floors of IKEA to see one wardrobe and pick up a duvet cover. 
  • 12:45 pm -- Right now I've stopped moving around and am doing work at the computer.  I'm distracted because I am hungry (so am writing to make sure that I stay on track).  I've had seltzer and broth.  I haven't had anything to eat since 7:30.  My stomach is empty (not rumbling, just nauseated, which is my response to hunger) and I am working on a headache.  But I believe that this feeling will pass.  I am not going to open the fridge, but I am going to say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and continue to do my work. 
  • It's 1:14 -- I've been feeling nauseated and headachy for about 30 minutes -- wonder how long til it passes?
  • It's 1:52 -- The acute nausea passed at about 1:30.  I've just gotten out of the shower, where I repaired to see whether a quick dousing would perk me up a bit (it did).  Now back to work.  I still have a headache between my eyes, but it's not too bad.
  • 2:30 pm. -- Now I'm starting to get nauseated again and my headache is getting worse.  Time for a cup of tea.
  • 2:45 p.m.  I'm almost done with my report.  It's been a slog.  Now I have to leave to pick the chickadees up from school. 
  • 4:07 pm.  Headache.  Hungry.  3.5 hours to go.  More tea.
  • 4:38 pm.  If you can believe it, I just got back from driving Chickadee #1 to dance class.  The place she takes it is about 1.5 miles away from home.  I left at 4:09, got there at about 4:20, and got back here at 4:39.  I really hate the DC area sometimes (well, honestly, every time I drive).  Traffic jams are much harder to take when you are hungry, by the way.  Did I mention that I could eat?  LOL.
  • 6:30 pm.  I had a difficult time making dinner. The chickadees got Tyson Dinosaur Chicken nuggets and sea salt french fries with broccoli and applesauce. The fries burned a little and I actually ate one or two of them, I was that hungry. Next time, I'm going to try sucking on a peppermint or an ice cube while preparing dinner or chewing gum.
  • 7:42 pm.  Ahhh.  Dinner is over.  We started eating at 7 rather than 7:30, but all-in-all, I think I was pretty successful today.  I still have a headache though.  I made the chicken and asparagus stir fry that I mentioned yesterday.  It was a bit salty -- I didn't have either low-sodium soy sauce or chicken broth.  I'd definitely suggest using low-sodium versions of those.  I had a clementine for dessert.
I'm pretty pleased with myself today.  I'll leave you with a quote from the Psalms:

If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is mine and all its fullness.  Will I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?  Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.  Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.  (Psalm 50, 12-15)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fasting for Fun and Profit

By now, you all should know that God speaks to me.  Don't worry -- I'm not hearing voices.  God speaks indirectly -- through hints, experiences, emotions, and other people, as well as through revelation, tradition, and liturgy.  I think it is my job to be receptive to what he wants to say, and I do try, although I wish sometimes that I were a more adept semiotician.  

One area in which I think I'm seeing "signs" is the possibility of incorporating fasting into my physical and spiritual practice.  For several years now and for many reasons, I have been thinking about trying it.  For one thing, I am just weary.  I am tired of thinking, scheming, planning, counting, calculating, defying, ignoring, and feeling bad about it.    I think that I might benefit from taking a break from it all every once in a while.  Additionally the "traditional" methods of calorie restriction and increased exercise don't seem to be working for me in my middle-aged body the same way they did when I was younger, leading to a bad cycle of frustration and self-recrimination and discouragement.  For a long time, I've felt that my incorrectly functioning metabolism needs a kick start.  I've had all the usual thyroid and other tests and, medically, there doesn't seem to be anything "wrong" with the way my body is functioning.  However, I have a lot of "anecdotal" evidence that things are not going well.  The nutritionist I saw last year was shocked that I rarely feel hungry, even in the early morning or after not eating for a long time.  She told me that this was not normal and that it was a sign that my metabolism was out of sync.  Hunger is a good thing -- it's a survival mechanism that the body needs.  The fact that I don't often feel it (or maybe don't recognize it) is not a great thing.  Finally, fasting is a discipline that is both physical and spiritual.  As you know, I've been working on integrating my concepts of body and spirit.  I think that fasting, by bringing both into relief, may help with that.

Now, on to the ways in which I believe the Lord is trying to get my attention regarding fasting....

  • Several years ago, I was visiting my Aunt Rosie in the hospital during her last illness.  In the hospital gift shop, I found a book that caught my eye:  Fasting:  Opening the door to a deeper, more intimate, more powerful relationship with God.  Although it is completely unlike me to do this, I bought it on impulse and brought it home.  And put it on the bookshelf in my office, where its spine remains pristinely uncracked to this day.  On Friday, as the chickadees and I were coming home from the airport on the metro, we sat across from a really lovely woman who engaged us in casual conversation.  I noticed that she was reading this very same book.  I asked her about it.  She was very enthusiastic and said that she reads it every year during Lent and that she finds something different in it every time. 


  • While I was at my parents', my dad was flicking through the channels and landed on the local PBS station -- that he paused at all on PBS is a miracle in itself.  On offer was a show called Eat, Fast, and Live Longer.  Hosted by BBC presenter and medical doctor Michael Mosley, the program explores various research that is currently being conducted on the effects of intermittent fasting. There were three main types of fasting considered -- four-day fasting, one day on/one day off fasting, and two days out of seven fasting.  On the four day fast, Mosley ate nothing but one low calorie soup per day, as well as all the black tea, coffee, and water he wanted.  On the one day on/one day off fast, he consumed one mid-day 300 calorie meal on the "fasting" day and whatever he wanted on the "feast" day.  On the two days out of seven fast, he consumed about 600 calories in two small meals, one in the morning, one in the evening, leaving about 12 hours in the middle of the day where drank only water and tea.  The program is fascinating, particularly in its emphasis on the medical evidence for the efficacy of fasting.  It was intriguing.


  • Taking a cue from this intrigue, I downloaded Mosley's book, The FastDiet:  Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting.  After reading it yesterday, I've decided to bite the bullet and give the intermittent fast a try.  Like Mosley, my fasting days will be Monday and Thursday.  I'll be eating about 500 calories per day on those days and about 1800 calories per day on my non-fast days.  I'm really a bit concerned about whether I'll be able to do it and for how long, but I really feel frustrated and have decided to give it a try.  I don't know how I'll do, but I am hoping to turn all that crazy desire to eat a lot of crappy food into amazing productivity.  Just think -- instead of eating, I can:
    • Organize my closet
    • Wash my baseboards
    • Interview contractors for the potential small-scale renovations I'm thinking about
    • Finish the girls' room renovation
    • Pray more (I may be spending a lot more time in the Eucharistic Adoration chapel, which would not be a bad thing)
    • I have my eye on a craft project -- I want to make something like this adorable wreath in spring colors. 

Tomorrow, I am planning to start the day with two hard boiled eggs (72 calories per egg) and a piece of toast (110 calories) and then have tea during the day.  For dinner, this recipe from 100 Under 500 Calorie Meals: Healthy and Tasty Recipes sounds good: 

Ginger Chicken and Asparagus Stir Fry

2 T low sodium soy sauce
1 t cornstarch
8 oz chicken tenderloins, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 t peanut oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 T minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces (discard the woody ends)
2/3 c. chicken broth or water
drizzle of sesame oil

The first set of ingredients is combined to make a marinade for the chicken. 
Heat the oil in a wok over high heat.  Add chicken, salt and pepper to taste and stir-fry for about 2 minutes (until no longer pink -- about 2 minutes).  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds without browning.  Add asparagus and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Stir in broth, cover, and reduce heat to medium low and cook until asparagus is crisp tender (about 2 minutes).  Return chicken to pan and stir fry to reheat, about 1 minute.  Drizzle over a little sesame oil and serve immediately.
190 calories per serving
Makes 2 servings.
Serve with 1 c. brown rice, a cucumber salad and half an orange to bring the calorie count up to 490.

I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

What I learned on my vacation (Seven Quick Takes)

--- 1 ---
I haven't posted for a while....  Where have I been?   The day before Holy Thursday, I took the kids out of school and we travelled by air to see my parents in their new (well, they've been there for a few years, but we've never visited) retirement community.  My goodness.  It was beautiful. One of the residents said to me, "It's like summer camp for seniors" and it really is. There are many different "villages" in the community, all surrounding a beautifully landscaped golf course.  There are 84 different clubs, catering to interests that range from Yiddish culture to Mah Jongg, and from women's nonfiction reading to stained glass making.  It was so wonderful to see my well-deserving parents settled into a lovely and relaxed lifestyle.  My dad plays golf with a buddy twice a week, my mom has a group of ladies with whom she does water aerobics, and they are surrounded by extended family (many of my brother-in-law's relatives live there too).  It was sunny and 80ish degrees the entire time we were there, in contrast to miserable, rainy, 40ish Maryland.   And my children were ABSOLUTE ANGELS almost the entire time.  I am pretty much ready to move in myself, but I don't meet the minimum age requirement.

--- 2 ---
On the trip, I learned a lot about Chickadee #1.  She is growing up (tears and sniffling and (honestly) a sigh of relief).  She's my girl who has always had a hard time with transitions and new experiences, especially experiences that involve loud noises, hustle and bustle, or velocity.  Taking off in a jet full of crabby strangers after waking up at 5 am and rushing to the airport certainly fits that bill.  She was scared, surely, but there were no tears.  She hilariously tried to direct her thrill-seeking sister to close the window shade -- she didn't want to look out but, more importantly, didn't want ANY OF US to look out the window -- fear by osmosis, I suppose.  She also handled a disappointing situation (a water park we intended to go to was closed, which we didn't know because Mommy read the schedule incorrectly) in a really mature way -- no tears, no whining, no pouting.  Just a shrug and "okay" when I said, "We'll just have to find something else fun to do".  HOORAY!!! 

 -- 3 ---
On the trip, I learned a lot about Chickadee #2.    Chickadee #2 is a lot like me, so it has been easy to think that I know her very well.  On this trip, though, I learned that she is a really pious child -- really that both of my children are pious.  Neither of them complained AT ALL as we took them to Holy Thursday mass at my parents' church.  They listened to the Gospel and the homily, paid close attention to the washing of the feet, and asked a lot of great questions.  On Good Friday, they also willingly gave up a swim in the pool to go to Divine Mercy devotions and the Stations of the Cross.  This is huge.  I'm so proud of them.  But Chickadee #2 is especially prayerful.  In fact, yesterday (the day we returned) she asked me to teach her how to say the Rosary -- out of the blue.  I was amazed.  And taught her how to say it. 

--- 4 ---
On the trip, I learned a lot about myself.  I found that it is much easier to be a great mother when normal life doesn't intervene.  I was so patient and so happy to be with my children.  I loved seeing the games they came up with in the absence of their normal toys.  I learned how much I loved being in mom's orderly home, where the rhythm of life is much more predictable than in my own chaotic house.  I watched in amazement as my mother unfailingly cleaned her kitchen EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, making sure that all was put away and straight before she moved on to another activity.  I learned that I really liked NOT eating in restaurants.  The only time we went out was to make a visit to a Steak 'n Shake, which we had never encountered before.  My mother thought that the children would like their milkshakes.  She was right. 

--- 5 ---
On the trip, I made a commitment to myself to incorporate two new prayer practices into my everyday life.  First, I am praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day.  It's quick and easy.  It was a prayer greatly loved by my beloved JPII.  God knows very well how much I need his mercy.  I need to learn mercy and to show it to others, especially my husband and children.  I can be so hard sometimes.  I also need to learn to show mercy to myself.  Helping me with that is a daily reading of  Psalm 139, verses 1-16 every day.  It is a reminder that, indeed, I am wonderfully and fearfully made.  I hope that focusing in this way on the mercy of the Father through the Son will help me to see myself as God sees me.  With mercy.  With attentiveness.  With wonder. 

--- 6 ---
Calah Alexander, of Barefoot and Pregnant, wrote a beautiful post on Other People's Kids.  Calah is a fellow UD alumna -- many years younger than I am -- so I am always interested in what she has to say.  This post hits it out of the park.

--- 7 ---
Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that I have always loved "designing houses".  When I was a young teenager, I was enamored of the classical Roman villa style of home.  I loved the idea of having a courtyard in the center of the house, a little hideaway with a trickling fountain.  I drew version after version of "what my house will look like when I grow up."  Sorry to say, I have no courtyard.  No trickling fountain.  No hideway.  In fact, as I write this, the chickadees are watching Big Time Rush (which I hate) about 15 feet away from me.  I don't think I need to elaborate. 

My mid-20th century Cape Cod home is screaming for an update and for years I have been hoping to add a two-story extension.  Reality and the budget it imposes means that I probably will never get it. We also don't want to invest $100K into a home located in one of the lower-end neighborhoods of our county.  However, with one income, we can't afford to move.  We also love our church and our kids' school, so we don't want to move anyway.  So, for a long time, I've been kind of depressed about what I don't have.  I say to myself... "If only we had a coat closet..," "If only I had a pantry...," "If only we had a full bathroom upstairs..."   and "What the heck are we going to do when the chickadees reach tweendom (their bedroom is so narrow that you can't fit two twin beds side by side or across it -- currently, we took the bunk beds apart and ranged them along the "long wall" of the room; there are about three feet left over, if that gives you a sense of the size). 

Recently, a great book caught my eye at the library:  Not So Big Remodeling:  Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live.  Now I'm wondering how much it would cost to make changes within the footprint of our current home.  I have a lot of ideas.  We could build a closet where I made an entryway by hanging a coat rack and placing some chairs beneath.  We could enclose our back porch to make an eat-in area and secondary entrance.  We could make our downstairs bathroom into a powder room, reclaiming half of that room as a butler's pantry.  We could make our upstairs powder room into a full bath by changing the configuration of the second floor.....  It goes on and on.  Maybe it WOULD be cheaper to move. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!