Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Downward Trend Continues

Just popping in to say that THE DOWNWARD TREND CONTINUES!!!!  After struggling, what with the weird "is it or isn't it" menopausal stuff going on, I lost another 2 pounds last week.  Huzzah!   I didn't run, unfortunately, and I'm kind of mad at myself about that, but all in all, I am pleased!  I'm only one pound above where Sparkpeople says that I should be at this point to be "on track".  This is exciting news!

Happy happy dance.

Don't forget, today is the feast day of St. John Paul the Second.

Some favorite quotes:

"Family, become what you are....  And since in God's plan it has been established as an "intimate community of life and love,"(44) the family has the mission to become more and more what it is, that is to say, a community of life and love, in an effort that will find fulfillment, as will everything created and redeemed, in the Kingdom of God. Looking at it in such a way as to reach its very roots, we must say that the essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God's love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride."  (Familiaris Consortio)

"Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

And for more lovely quotes:  Click here.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Switch

Years ago, I was a smoker.  I mean, a real smoker, not just one or two puffs here or there, or only when I was out, although that's how it started.  No, I was one of those people who woke up in the morning, made a cuppa, and had a cigarette.  I smoked while driving (blech), while talking on the phone, while reading, during work breaks. It was ingrained into my daily living.  And it was crazy.  For someone like me, who started life with serious health issues, including multiple bouts of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis, to smoke, that is cray-cray, as Chickadee #1 would say.

And then, one day, I wasn't a smoker.  It's not just that I stopped smoking, although I did.  What I mean is that, something had to happen mentally before I could think of myself as a nonsmoker, rather than a former smoker who struggles against a tobacco addiction and is in danger of falling back into the clutches of the demon weed.

I've described that smoker/non-smoker mental magic as a "switch" to people who ask me how I quit.  I can honestly say that I didn't really quit -- I just stopped.  I never had a craving that I can remember (other than one particular day when someone was driving me crazy) and only twice since then have I put a cigarette to my lips -- throwing it away after one or two puffs in disgust.  So, what happened?  It really was like a switch had been thrown.  What had seemed so impossible was possible.  What had seemed so unlikely was reality.  I wasn't a smoker.  I didn't want cigarettes.  I didn't have cravings.  I wasn't in a bad mood.  I was just a non-smoker, living my non-smoking life.

I bring this up because I went to bed yesterday, praying that the way I am currently feeling means that "the switch" has been thrown.
I feel happy, y'all.
I feel powerful.
I am doing fairly easily staying well within the caloric limits that are outlined on Sparkpeople (1400 to 1700 calories per day).
I'm drinking my water.  All of it.  Every day.
I'm even eating the right kinds of foods, as you can see in the charts below (this is one of my favorite Sparkpeople features -- a daily nutrition report that shows how you are doing along a number of parameters).

I've signed up for The Color Run in November in Charm City and enlisted my lovely sister and some cousins to join me. Training for that, I started Couch to 5K (podcasts courtesy of the National Health Service in England) and, although it nearly killed me, I completed Day One (Day Two is today).

Before the run
After the run.  LOL

I even didn't react in disgust when the scale this week showed that I'd regained 3 of the 4 pounds I lost last week.  I know that I did everything and more that was required of me last week and that, if I truly have gained weight, it's only from retaining water (cue "I Enjoy Being a Girl,"  a song my college roommate would sing ironically every 28 days or so), if you know what I mean.  Prior to "the switch" having been thrown, I would have been really depressed and angry about the gain and would most likely have accompanied my morning coffee with a cinnamon roll or a danish, rather than a nice healthy bowl of oatmeal.

Of course, I have to bring in U2 to this discussion.  I know they are publicity hounds and annoying to a lot of people.  But, heavens, they speak to me sometimes -- I can't think it's coincidence.  They recently released a new album, "Songs Of Innocence".  Immediately, the standout track for me was "Every Breaking Wave".  This video from rai3 (Italian tv) has a live performance with just Bono and The Edge.  If you can ignore the really annoying moving graphics in the background, the lyrics are just breathtaking.  The parts that really speak to me are the refrain and the bridge.  

The refrain says, in part:

Baby every dog on the street
Knows that we're in love with defeat
Are we ready to be swept off our feet
And stop chasing 
Every breaking wave.

The bridge says, 

The sea knows where are the rocks 
And drowning is no sin.
You know where my heart is
The same place that yours has been
We know that we fear to win
And so we end before we begin...

This time, I'm not going to end before I begin.  I'm not -- Bono tells me, and I must obey, LOL.  
So, I'm still hopeful.  I'm still liking SparkPeople.  I'm still drinking water.  And I'm going to do my podcast run thing tonight.  

Go me.  


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pep Talks and Iconic Clothing.

So, I've been logging onto SparkPeople, which is a really comprehensive and helpful resource.

I lost 4 pounds last week.  Amazing.  I don't really trust it, but WAY TO GO ME!

I'm also working on the "head" piece of all of this.  And, yesterday, I gave myself a pep talk.  I was partly inspired by something I'd heard on the radio in the morning, part of an ongoing series on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.  Called "Why Saying Is Believing", it was really interesting, and you should go the the link and listen to it.  But what really struck me was two notions.  The first was that positive self-talk is more than just being nice to yourself.  It's actually kind of "internal remodeling," according to the story.  The second thing that stood out to me was that it is important to achieve some kind of distance from oneself when doing this -- for example, instead of saying "I can't or can do x", you would say "Colleen, you can do x".  This provides some psychological distance that is very effective in getting people to be less emotional, more rational, and even kinder to the people they are naming -- even when those people are actually themselves.  It's really fascinating.

So, I tried it.  Right that morning.  I went up to my bedroom, undressed, and actually looked at myself in the mirror.  Before I started, I was emphatic that I couldn't be mean to myself -- no name-calling, no hatred.  But I was also adamant that I would spend only 5 minutes and that I would be truthful and positive.

I would be lying if I said it was easy.  It was one of the longest five minutes of my life -- I really can't believe what I see in the mirror (I avoid them at all costs) and it's so difficult not to be hateful towards myself.  But I promised myself, and I followed through.  I thought about what a gift my body is -- to me and to others, and of all the wonderful things I've been able to do with this body.  And how there is no other -- it's like the little life raft for the seed of my soul, and it has to carry me forward until the next phase of my life.  It's going to be with me through eternity.  God made this body for me, so there has to be a reason.  It's assuredly not perfect, but it's mine and I have to love it.

At the end, I felt really good about that exercise and I'm glad that I did it.  So, WAY TO GO ME! (again).

The mirror I was using was a full-length mirror on the inside of my closet (where I put it so that I don't come across it unexpectedly).  It's the only full-length mirror in the house.  Because the mirror is inside my closet, the door was open, naturally, which led me to look at the clothes inside my closet (the ones I don't usually wear -- my daily outfits are mostly the folding kind). I pulled these two dresses out of the closet:

They don't look like much on the hanger, but boy did they look good on me.  And what I love about them is not only are they several sizes smaller than I am now, but that they are associated with such great memories.

The blue dress is the one I wore on my first date with my husband.  I was so excited that day -- floating on air.  I walked into the Humphrey Building with such as spring in my step that the security guard stopped me to ask if I had a hot date that night.  I was very happy to be able to say "Why yes, I do" and even happier at the smile of appreciation he had for me as I left the building 8 hours later, all dolled up.

The green dress is the one that I wore to a family wedding 4 weeks after Chickadee #1 was born.  It was the first time I'd been away from her, and I remember feeling like a million bucks in that dress.  My husband's aunt, the mother of the groom, kept introducing me to people by saying, "can you believe she just had a baby a few weeks ago?"  It doesn't hurt that that is my favorite color of green.  Can I just say, though, that wearing a dress that zips up the back to a wedding where you are going to have to use a breast pump regularly is NOT the world's most splendid idea.

So,  I loved those dresses, but most of all, I loved how happy I was at the time I was wearing them.  I could have been dressed in a paper sack and I would have been beautiful, because I was so so happy.
It's a good thing to remember.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Future Fast Forward

You know those Weight Loss Success stories that appear in women's magazines, on CNN, and sometimes in newspapers?  They follow a typical pattern,
  • First, the introduction to the subject with special emphasis on the dire condition he or she was in prior to losing weight.  
  • Then, a list of past sins (never liked to exercise, diet consisted of soda and ice cream, in denial)
  • Next, there is a "life changing moment" -- the turning point when the subject decided. through dint of will, that things were going to change this time, for good.
  • Now, the payoff -- the moment we crave  -- the moment we crave.  We see the before and after photos. We hear about all the great things the subject can now do.
  • At the conclusion, we may be treated to some advice and motivation, mostly centering on "don't give up" (with the silent (or not so silent) corollary of continuing to buy whatever product or lifestyle is being promoted.   
I used to read those stories  -- I'm a firm believer in the power of words.  I'm a writer after all.  I have written myself into college and into graduate school, into job after job after job.  I take consolation from the written word.  I find my worldview (weltenschauung -- see I can't even help it -- learned that in Lit. Trad. IV) is interpenetrated by things I learned in books.  So, it's no wonder that I really believe that words can transform us.

Except, they kinda can't.

There was a fantastic lecture I once attended in an epistemology class in college given by one of the 20th century's preeminent Thomist philosophers -- Dr. Frederick Wilhelmsen.  In it, he discussed the differences between the scientific way of thinking and the magical way of thinking.  I remember being so shocked when he asserted that both science and magic spring from the same root -- both attempt to affect change in the material realm through the use of formulas.  He talked about alchemical roots of science and how the assumption in science is that, if you can understand nature through experimentation which you record and duplicate, then (ultimately) you can change nature, just as the alchemists were doing when they tried to turn lead to gold.  It completely blew my mind, and still does.

What I'm learning, though is that words are not enough to transform.  All the knowledge in the world is not going to affect change unless it is put into action.  And so, I start again, with the basics.  8 glasses of water.  Salads.  Movement.  Determination.

And I'm doing pretty well, so huzzah for me.

I thought again of joining Weight Watchers but, really, I don't want to go to meetings and I didn't want to pay for the online plan.  Luckily, I (re)discovered SparkPeople, which is very similar in a lot of ways to WeightWatchers, but which is free (they just subject you to a lot of advertising -- okay with me because I just ignore it).  So far, I believe I've been doing very well. Tomorrow is day 7, so I will do a weight at the beginning of the day and see whether my intuition is correct.

Oh -- also -- for my goal setting.  I did do something scary.  I signed up for the Color Run.  That is terrifying.  November 15.  AAGH!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Setting goals

Getting back on the horse.

I was inspired by the lovely Brooke of Brooke:  Not on a Diet to set some goals for myself for this month.  I spent a bunch of time the other day and used Brooke's Goal Digging printable to articulate what I want for myself this month.

I like the structure of the printable because it helps to visualize daily, weekly, and monthly goals, and provides a space to list a reward that you will do or buy yourself at the end of a successful month.

So, what are my goals?

15 minutes of intentional movement
Drink your water every day
Take your vitamins
Make your plate half veggies and fruit 2 times per day

Walk 10 miles
Stick to food plan
Put on makeup and do hair 3 times per week
Get up early to meditate and pray 4 times per week

Do something scary
Get rid of old, unattractive clothes that make you feel frumpy

I liked this Alex & Ani Moss Winding Road Beaded Bangle.

So, how have I done so far?


Goals have been lacking since I hurt my back somehow.  (Okay, I'll be honest -- I hurt it while SLEEPING.  Getting old really is awful, isn't it?) so

  • movement, intentional or otherwise, has been problematic this week.  It's getting better, and I'm contemplating setting up my living room as a dance hall tomorrow -- I've been listening to some old beloved music tonight and really enjoyed the memories of all those dance clubs of my youth. 
  • Drinking water -- I'd say I have a 50 percent success rate.  Working on it.
  • Take your vitamins.  Fail.
  • Make your plate half veggies/fruit 2x a day.  I've been more successful with this.  Good thing I love vegetables.


  • Walk 10 miles.  I'm not going to do this this week.
  • Stick to food plan:  I've been trying hard this week, but I'm feeling confused and paralyzed.  I haven't been really draconian about it, and I am struggling this week with not eating for hours and hours.  For example, yesterday, I ate a bagel with butter in the morning, then a bowl of soup in the at lunch and another at dinner and that was it.  The soup was chicken tortilla soup and I did have some tortilla chips with it both times, but I don't know, is that a normal thing?  On Monday I didn't eat anything at all between breakfast (a power sandwich at Panera) until dinner -- I was really busy grocery shopping, doing laundry, and cooking.  Today I had a bagel and a banana for breakfast, a bowl of Chicken Tortilla soup for lunch with a handful of tortilla chips, a pumpkin spice latte (no whipped cream and smallest size and a cheese danish from Starbucks), a banana, and a cup of whole wheat pasta with broccoli and white sauce.  
  • Put on make up and do hair three times this week:.  Well, I took my makeup out of the drawer in which it usually hides and put it in my purse.  But not on my face.  And I did do my hair this morning.  I have a few more days to do this though.  
  • Get up and pray 4 x per week.  Well, since I have not gone to bed yet and it's 12:52 am, I don't think tomorrow is going to be the morning either.  But, we are saying a decade of the rosary or two on the way to school in the morning.  It keeps me calm(er) in traffic, prevents the chickadees from listening to the trash on radio, and helps to start the day intentionally.  I went to prayer group this morning and did some Lectio Divina on the Gospel for Sunday and I am going to teach Children's Church this Sunday, so I will get some prayer time in this week.  It just won't be early.


  • Do something scary.  Hell, getting up every morning is scary -- I've got that covered.  Really, I'm thinking.  I would like to do something adventurous.  Maybe I will sign up for this?  I wonder if I could walk it.  Running it would be scary and probably impossible.  
  • Throw away or give away old, unattractive clothes.  I am thinking of which ones to give away, but am worried about not having anything to wear.  Seriously.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I'm sitting at my computer, waiting for a repairman and trying to get my mind into work mode.  In the background, I am listening to relatives of those lost on 9/11 in New York read the list of names of those murdered by members of an Islamic death cult.  Every year, I listen to the names and feel such empathy for the relatives standing there, naming strangers in alphabetical order.  All the while, they know that, at the end of their portion of the list, they will have to acknowledge in speech the gaping hole that was torn in their lives by people who looked at their precious loved one as just part of a hated group.

This reading of names, this insistence on the particularity of each person who was murdered, is the kernel of my philosophy.  People are not groups.  They aren't "liberals" or "conservatives" or "men" or "women" or "black" or "white" or "Christian" or "Hindu" or "Muslim" or "American" or "alien" or "the 99 percent" or "the 1 percent".  Those are labels that the political cynics and the race baiters and the haters use to divide people from one another in order to accrue power, prestige, and wealth to themselves.  It's time that we stop playing into this tactic.

The news from this past summer has been unrelentingly bad, both internationally and domestically.  In April, 276 Christian schoolgirls were kidnapped in Nigeria, presumably to be sold into slavery or kept as sexual chattel by a branch of the Islamic death cult, Boko Haram.  Another branch of the Islamic death cult, the Islamic State (ISIS) spent the summer cutting a swath of destruction through northern Iraq, beheading soldiers and sticking their heads on spikes, raping women and children, cutting the heads off little Christian boys and girls, driving people from cities and villages that had had a Christian presence for 1,700 years, murdering, raping, and displacing members of the Yazidi ethnic and religious minority, driving them to utter ruin,starvation, and dehydration on Mt. Sinjar in Northern Iraq.  I defy anyone to watch the YouTube video of Vian Dakhil, the Yazidi representative to the Iraqi Parliament, beg for help without weeping.  Meanwhile, it was revealed that gangs of men in Rotherham, England had spent the past fifteen years raping and prostituting English girls without being hindered in any way by police and social service authorities who, while aware of what was going on, were reluctant to intervene because the perpetrators were Asian (i.e. Pakistani) Muslims and the victims were white Christian English girls.  Instead of addressing the crimes being committed, they sent social workers off to "diversity training" and threatened them with firing if they ever again referred to the criminals as "Asian" (i.e., Pakistani Muslim).

On the home front, we spent weeks watching riots in Ferguson, Missouri over a racially-tinged fatal shooting of a black man who may, or may not, have been threatening a white police officer who may, or may not, have been responding to reports of a suspect fitting the man's description who had just committed a strong-arm robbery.  Businesses, homes, and the city itself were well-nigh destroyed.  Respected civil-rights leaders were calling for the police officer to be arrested, indicted, and convicted before an investigation was completed, thus demonstrating their utter lack of interest in due process on national television.  Politicians who are facing tough elections in their districts are distancing themselves from a President who appears ever more disengaged and uninterested in leading, even from behind. The economy sputters along, cost of living rises every week (for example, my grocery bill at Aldi, the cheapest grocery store I can find, has risen from an average of just below $100 per week at the end of last school year to between $110 and $140 per week at the beginning of this school year), and I recognize that I live in a boom-town in comparison to most other places in the country.

This is where my mind has been this summer, caught up in all sorts of dark places.  It's hard to concentrate on the goodness in my life, which is undoubtedly more than I deserve, when, emotionally, I feel that it is teetering on the brink of chaos.  And so, I find it tempting to retreat into the make-believe certainty of a world with labels, of us vs. them.  It feels good.  It feels right.  I have even done it, to a certain extent, in this very post.

Yet, all the while, in the back of my mind, I hear those names.  Those particular people:

Emmanuel Akwasi Afuakwah,
Angela Reed Kyte,
Philip D. Miller,
Rhondelle Cheri Tankard,
Ching Wang, and
Christopher Rudolph Zarba, Jr.,

among so many others.

Each one a gift from God.
Each one precious in the sight of God.
Each one willed into existence by the Lord.
Each one taken from this world by an "us vs. them" mentality, ripped from existence by those who had succumbed to what we used to call "Evil" with a capital E.

How are we to function then, in the world, without our labels for others?  Empathy.  Compassion. Humility.  An understanding that we ourselves don't have all the answers or a lock on the truth.  And, always, with the words of a very wise Person in our ears:  "By their fruits shall you know them." From what I can see on the television screen, many of those who were killed on 9/11 bore the fruits of love in this world.  This is a day when we should ask, "What are the fruits that can be harvested from our own lives?"  I hope the fruits of mine are compassion, love, and kindness.  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Middle of the Night Musings

Last night, I was sad and went to bed early (at nine).  I woke up at 2 am and started to think.  It's now 4 am and here I am, writing.  I finished one post on JPII and Feminism, being vs. doing, and Martha and Mary which had been sitting in my list of unfinished posts for a few weeks.  But THIS post is why I was awake in the middle of the night.

I spent a lot of time yesterday reading a weird book called The Tapping Solution by Jessica Ortner.  Not that I'm totally sold on the whole concept, but I am reading it as a way to try to understand my own motivations and beliefs, and it's been pretty helpful... and painful.

So, anyway, I was depressed yesterday because the scale has ticked up again and is stuck.  I'm tired and frustrated.  In one of the meditations she offers, Ortner talks about the scale and how we allow it to be the thing that tells us whether we are going to have a good day.  She explains that the scale was not something that anyone even had access to a hundred years ago.  Bathroom scales didn't come into wide usage until the middle of the 20th century.  And here they are, these petty dictators that dominate our bathrooms and our imaginations.  This led to a discussion of the beliefs we allow to limit us.

So, that's the background.  When I woke up in the middle of the night, I started to think about my own limiting beliefs.  Several things popped into my drowsy mind and electrified me.  One of my beliefs was "I don't feel safe in my body."  And another one was "My body is not a prison."  This led me to think about my earliest experiences of my body --  THE BODY CAST.   I've written about it here and here.   Even though I don't remember it, how frustrating must it have been for a baby, at a crucial stage of motor development, to be completely encased in plaster from mid-chest to mid-calf.  I remember my own children at that stage and their constant movement. I look at my niece and nephew who are about 18 months old now -- they are constantly in motion. Could this be why frustration seems to be my base emotional state?  Really interesting.

While I would say that most of my childhood and adulthood was pretty normal, given the way things started, there are several things that have stuck in my mind and maybe have played too prominent a role in setting me up for all the "I Can't" stuff.
  • When I was sort of mid-childhood, I "caught a virus" in my hip.  I have no idea what that means, if it's possible, or if I am misremembering what actually happened.  (What do you know.)  What I DO remember is that I was not allowed to walk for what felt like forever (probably a week or ten days).  I could come down the stairs (on my backside) in the morning, go to the couch and lie down, and stay there all day.  In the evening, I could go up to bed.  I could get up to use the bathroom.  That's it.  Incredibly boring.  I mean, really awful.  I remember it so clearly because I was allowed to eat in the living room, something that was off limits in our house, and because my beloved godmother took pity on me and brought my older cousin, B., up to our house in the middle of the day one day (I don't know whether she took him out of school or whether he was off anyway), and he played Scrabble with me.  And let me win.  He was so sweet -- playing board games with a 9 or 10 year old cousin when you are a pre-teen boy is probably not high on your list of "want-to-do's", but he was so nice to me.  And I appreciate it to this day!
  • On our road, an older girl lived in an old farmhouse.  There was a root cellar built into the earth -- on the back, it was low to the ground, while it was high off the ground in front.  One day, all the kids took turns jumping off the front of the root cellar, a drop of probably 8 or 10 feet.  It was so much fun -- thrilling, even.  I remember how angry my mother was that I had done that -- not angry at my sisters -- just angry at me.  I couldn't understand why I was in trouble and they weren't.  There was a similar incident with our middle school bus stop.  Funny -- what's with country kids and jumping off of structures?
There are a couple of other things similar, but that's pretty interesting to me.  

When I was thinking, "I don't feel safe in my body," that was pretty interesting too.  I was thinking in particular of the terrible fall I took a few years ago when I dislocated my knee so painfully.  It was really scary because my body just sort of turned against me and it took me so long to recover and get strong.  It has made me really fearful of common things, although I was so happy to find myself stepping into and out of the baby pool easily and without fear, so I guess that is progress.

As I was thinking about these things, I thought also about how I could reframe these issues:

-- instead of "my body is not a prison," I considered all the amazing things that this body has allowed me to experience.  I've looked at the Sistine Chapel, smelled the salt off the Irish Sea, heard the Poor Clares singing in Assisi, tasted food so good I wanted to lick the plate, felt my babies moving inside me.  I've spent hours walking in cities that I loved.  I've heard music that has made my heart sing.  I've seen beautiful works of art and natural scenes that bring peace to my heart.  I have felt my husband's touch and heard his laughter and seen his smile.  So this body isn't so bad at all, is it?  Thank God for it.  
-- instead of "I don't feel safe in my body," I could try a little tenderness.  For that baby encased in plaster.  For that child stuck on a couch while her sisters got to run around and play.  For the young girl who never felt good enough.  For the young woman who had so dissociated her brain from her body that it was kind of pathetic.  For the middle-aged woman who just won't give up already.  For the old woman who I'll become who needs me to be healthy now.  So have some frickin' compassion already.  

It's a start.