Nominations for the Catholic New Media Awards are now open (picture me coughing nominateme into my fist while acting coolly detached).
I see that they have yet again missed an opportunity for the ironic hilarity of including a “Most Humble” category. I can’t believe they’d pass up such a chance to have some fun at the expense of the shamelessly self-promoting among us, who would see the ridiculousness of asking for votes in that category…yet realize the high chance of winning since few other people would be bold enough to go there. Or maybe that’s just me. I’ll shut up now.
A friend of mine just sent me this wonderful gift, and I had to share:
It’s a “verse purse” by Palmetto Handmade, a little pouch filled with cards with inspiring and thought-provoking Bible verses on them. I love the idea of having this with me to pull out a random card and think about it whenever I have a free moment, like when I’m waiting at the doctor’s office. Definitely put this one in your “gift ideas” file.
(This is not a paid ad, just a product I think is cool.)
I mentioned a couple weeks ago that there was a recent scorpion sighting. What I did not mention, however, that I am convinced that it was caused by mushroom-Feta breakfast casserole. Allow me to explain.
Last summer I was really into making this great breakfast casserole full of yummy mushrooms and Feta cheese. However, after the spectacular hospitality fail when a lovely casserole brunch turned into me asking my pregnant guest to jump repeatedly on a book to smash a scorpion while I ran and hid, I stopped making it. I’m not sure why. Maybe I just got lazy, maybe I associated it with the ego-checking trauma of the day.
Anyway, for the first time in almost a year, I decided to make it again a couple weeks ago. And that’s the night we saw the scorpion. In the panic that ensued from that scorpion being seen waaaay to close to my bed, I convinced myself that making mushroom-Feta casserole causes scorpion infestation and have not made it since. (And we haven’t seen a scorpion since then, even though I still haven’t gotten around to calling the exterminator. See! This is NOT a crackpot theory!)
So for those of you who find my site while Googling about scorpion problems: avoid making mushroom-Feta casserole.
I got some questions about where we got our great bookshelves that were pictured in the shot of my office I posted last week:
A few years ago we just found a local carpenter (I think via Craigslist) and hired him to custom build them for us (there are two more on the other wall not pictured here). I don’t remember how much it cost, but it was surprisingly cheap given how nice they are. If you can find a reliable carpenter, I highly recommend it!
Those of you who share my interest in the lack of cohesive communities in modern America (you can see all our discussions on the subject here) will find this interesting:
A friend of mine was wondering what she could do to bring the people of her neighborhood together, so she started a community theater. Their first performance is a couple weeks from now, and already it’s been a huge success in terms of bringing people together. They’ve had neighborhood bake sales to raise money, the local church has offered the use of its facilities for rehearsals, there have been all sorts of fun jobs available in terms of producing the play, and everyone is looking forward to bringing their families out for the performance in a local park at the end of the month. What a great idea!
I’ve lost so much weight/puffiness from the Saint Diet over the past few months that I had to replace my wedding ring! My old one was slipping off all the time, so I treated myself to this:
I look forward to reading your posts!NOTE: It seems like there are some technical problems with Mr. Linky today. If you don’t see the list try refreshing the page and wait a moment.
Also, I was listening to my iPod a lot while I wrote and realized that I had a couple of songs on there that were essentially about writer’s block: These Words by Natasha Bedingfield and Square Pegs by Pain. I think I listened to the latter song about 100 times this week. Anyone know of any other good songs about writer’s block?
I feel that it is my duty to warn the people of Europe that the Yaya World Tour kicks off next. She’ll be setting the people of Germany and Czech Republic straight all next week.
Just heard that nobody will be drinking from the Cup at Mass in our diocese because of swine flu.
I’d be interested to know: How concerned are you about swine flu? On the one hand it’s not something we should take lightly, and I think that precautions like the one our diocese is taking are good ideas; on the other hand, I feel like there’s some Bored Media Syndrome going on here where they’re a little too eager to start throwing around ratings-getting ominous predictions.
So I did end up creating a prayer corner! I haven’t updated about it because my office has been so trashed that I didn’t want to take an “after” picture. But here’s the “before” picture:
I moved everything around to create some space over to the right. I’ll write more about it later, but I’ll say briefly that it’s been great. I’m so easily distracted, it really helps me block out distractions when I want to spend time completely focused on God.
A couple weeks ago I ended up getting a pretty serious virus on my computer that required me to have it professionally repaired. What’s funny is that my computer had been fine until I was looking up a recipe on Pioneer Woman’s cooking blog, and as soon as the page loaded my computer froze and all sorts of weird error messages started popping up.
In my panic-stricken state of mind while the computer was at the repair place, I got myself all convinced that the virus came from the Pioneer Woman. I began speculating to friends that the entire site is a front, put together by malicious 17-year-old hackers living in their moms’ basements who created this “Ree Drummond” character for the sole purpose of luring unsuspecting people to the site to put viruses on their computers.
Once I got my computer back safe and sound I decided that I guess it was just a coincidence that I was on PW’s site when the virus hit. But “Ree” had better watch out — I’ll be eyeing her next installment of Black Heels to Tractor Wheels for any suspicious inconsistencies!
I wanted to reiterate a good point that was left in the comments to that post about the documentary about the desert hermit. If you thought that was interesting, you should definitely check out the wonderful movie Into Great Silence. Here’s a preview:
I have decided that rice and beans is the perfect recipe: It’s cheap, quick, healthy and delicious. Here’s the super easy recipe I use:
Make rice. Dump in drained cans of black beans, kidney beans and diced tomatoes. (No need to heat — the heat from the rice will warm the beans.) Top with shredded cheese. Yum!
This recipe has replaced pizza as a Saint Diet-approved fallback for those nights that I need something quick and simple.
I look forward to reading your posts!
A lot of people have asked for details about what I’ve been doing on this Saint Diet I keep referring to. Here’s the scoop. I apologize that it’s a long post; there’s no short way to get it all down!
This past summer I decided that now was the time for me to finally deal with gluttony. Not only was my weight creeping up higher and higher after each pregnancy, but for as long as I could remember I’d had a real problem with overeating that I seemed unable to conquer.
I first tried to get this problem under control when I was 15, and had been trying — and failing — ever since. None of the zillions of diets or programs or mental strategies I tried ever worked on a long-term basis. Starting this past summer, however, I decided to try something radically different: I would ask for God’s help. I was sure that this was the missing piece of the puzzle, that by leaning on the Lord I would be able to get my tendency to commit the sin of gluttony at least somewhat under control.
I was surprised and disappointed — you might say, “crushed” — when things didn’t play out like I’d hoped they might.
I was incorporating prayer into the fabulous No-S Diet plan for conquering gluttony, and that took me a long way…but not far enough. After a few weeks went by I started to fail. A lot. I have so many vivid memories of sitting in front of a plate of food and saying a prayer begging God to give me the strength to not have extra helpings, pleading for him to let me stop eating when I felt full…and then I’d eat to the point of being overstuffed anyway.
I know, it makes no sense. Why didn’t I just stop eating if it were so important to me? If you’ve never experienced this I’m not even sure I can describe it. “Stop! You’re full! You’ve had enough!” one part of me would say; but some other, much more powerful force within of me would rise up and override all other thoughts, fixating on the food in front of me in a blind panic. It was truly a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type situation, the Dr. Jekyll in me powerless to stop the gluttonous Mr. Hyde.
I prayed over and over again to ask God to help me stop overeating, yet it continued to happen day after day, week after week. Eventually I stopped praying about it.
Then, a few months later, I got in a regular habit of going to Adoration. I even got to the point where I would leave my list at home and try to just clear my mind and let the Lord lead me. And a funny thing started to happen: even though I had long since given up on the topic, I started to feel strong guidance when it came to my food issues. Through prayer and meetings with my spiritual director I got a loud, clear message that my bad eating habits were not just leading me to the sin of gluttony but leaving me tired, sluggish, irritable, and thus impacting my family and spiritual life.
After a profound moment in Adoration when I finally realized after 17 years of repeatedly falling flat on my face that my way wasn’t working, I admitted my powerlessness and turned the whole thing over to God. With no more plans of my own, I finally began just listening when I prayed about this issue.
And, sure enough, God had something to say.
Shortly after that moment, a series of “coincidences” led me to discover the concept of food addiction. A rough summary of the theory is that some people’s bodies react to sugar- and flour-based foods like alcoholics’ bodies react to alcohol and that, like alcoholics with alcohol, these people need to surrender to the fact that they’ll never be able to eat those foods in moderation, that they must abstain from them completely.
It sounded pretty extreme. In fact, I probably would have blown it off I hadn’t encountered people who had had astounding results by putting it into practice.
I had the pleasure of corresponding with a blog reader who shared with me her own dramatic story of being chronically overweight, eventually topping out at 370 pounds and feeling suicidal. After she got the right information about food addiction she not only got down to a healthy weight of 150 and has kept it off for eight years and through two pregnancies, but her spiritual life grew by leaps and bounds as well (a version of her inspiring story written a few years ago is available in a Word doc here). When I joined the “The Body Knows” food addicts email list I encountered many other people who had almost identical stories to hers. Their testimonies were intriguing and compelling…and sounded vaguely familiar.
After a lot of research and more prayer, I decided to go ahead and cut out all foods with flour and sugar, as well as other processed foods, just to see what happened. Unlike other times I’d done something like this as part of a short-term diet, this time I would do it indefinitely, letting God lead me day by day.
That was in late December, and the results over the past 12 weeks have been amazing.
- As the food addiction theory would predict, when I cut out the foods I was addicted to, the insane cravings went away. Not having those foods in my system tamed that Mr. Hyde inside of me, so much so that I could even serve my family things like biscuits or cookies without having one myself — something previously unthinkable.
- Gluttony has become manageable. I quickly realized that when there’s not a sugar- or flour-based food involved in a meal, I can act like a reasonable human being when I sit down to eat. Suddenly those voices that said “You’re full! Stop eating!” actually had some impact on my actions. Though I still have a tendency to be gluttonous that’s not always easy to overcome, with that powerful Mr. Hyde vanquished from the table it is at least now possible.
- I’m no longer yanked around by food-induced mood swings. Not only has it been easier not to commit the sin of gluttony with this new way of eating, but it’s been easier to avoid a lot of other sins as well. The post-meal “crashes” that I used to experience on an almost daily basis left me extremely vulnerable to angry, selfish, slothful behavior. I still have all my same bad personality traits, of course, but without the biochemical factors to exacerbate them it’s much easier to overcome them. (My husband says it’s been stunning to see how much more calm and “able to deal” I seem when he comes home in the afternoons.)
- I’m much more detached from food. When I used to think of detachment from food, I assumed that that always meant eating all things in moderation. For most people, that’s probably the case. It’s taken me 17 years of banging my head into the same wall over and over again to realize it, but I finally see that the way for me to be detached from food is to cut out the foods that I cannot control myself around. I am now able to enjoy meals in a spiritually healthy way — that is, appreciating and taking pleasure in them without obsessing about them — and I don’t even miss the foods I’ve given up now that they’re out of my system.
- There have also been some dramatic changes physically as well. I am noticeably less “puffy” (I get many comments on that), and less inflamed and sensitive to pain. Also, my body has started dropping weight like crazy, even though I wasn’t trying to lose weight. Despite eating more than the recommended calorie intake for pregnant women, I lost a few pounds during the third trimester, and am already down to a post-baby weight that it usually takes me months to reach (in fact, after baby #3 I never did get down to the weight I’m already at now). I’m trying to make sure I don’t get caught up in the dangerous “high” of the scale, but it’s been amazing to see how my body naturally began to release weight after I cut out processed foods.
- And, finally, my daily diet is so much more nutritious than it used to be. I eat so many more fresh fruits and veggies than I used to, I recently calculated that the increase in vitamins and minerals from my new way of eating is almost equivalent to taking a daily multivitamin.
The biggest lesson I learned, however, was about listening. In all that time I spent chattering at God about gluttony, ordering him to help me follow through with my plans to stop overeating, I thought I had all the answers; it never occurred to me that I might be barking up the wrong tree. It was only after I got still and calmly let the Lord guide me that I realized that my particular problem was one of gluttony and addiction, and that I couldn’t treat one without treating the other.
The lesson I’ve learned here has made me think about how often I do this in other areas of my life: I think I know exactly what needs to happen, so I pray to ask God to make it so, as if I’m the one in charge and he’s some kind of wish-granting genie. Considering the dramatic changes I’ve seen in terms of my relationship to food, it makes me wonder what else the Lord could do in my life if I spent a whole lot more time listening.
So I did not realize that I am surrounded by a bunch of gourmet chefs. Friends have been bringing us dinners almost every night since the baby was born (thanks again to Care Calendar), and every single one of them has been a 10 on a scale of 1-10. I need to find some way to convince them to keep doing this indefinitely, because it’s going to be a major hardship to go back to eating my own cooking.
To my great distress, we saw a scorpion a few weeks ago (“a few weeks ago” as in “IN FREAKING FEBRUARY DON’T THESE THINGS EVER HIBERNATE!!!!!”). It is somehow not surprising that Yaya was involved (longtime readers may remember this classic Yaya + scorpion story). I heard her urgently calling the kids to come out on the back porch and ran out myself to see what all the commotion was about.
When we all got outside she was forlorn, explaining that she’d found a scorpion under the kids’ toy box and tried to catch it for them to play with but, alas, it was gone now. Having long since given up on trying to have the age-old “Are scorpions appropriate playthings for young toddlers?” debate with her, I feigned disappointed and turned to go back inside.
Just as I was about to close the door, on a hunch I asked, “Where did the scorpion go?”
“Oh, it ran in the house,” she said casually.
Scorpion season has begun.
(New readers who aren’t familiar with my stinging arachnid saga can read the whole story here.)
After I published my 7 Quick Takes post from last week some of the comments made me realize that I might have made myself sound a little too pious with #7.
You see, the original version of take #7 was quite a bit longer, including a lengthy rumination on how I wish sushi restaurants would take a page from gaudy Texas steakhouses and have a deal where if you eat some unbelievably grotesque quantity of food you can get your meal free. I imagined myself signing up for some “Eat Everything on Our 10-pound Nigiri Sake Plate and Get Your Meal Free!” special, perhaps even wearing a sweatband like those people who enter eating contests professionally, a crowd of awed onlookers standing around and cheering me on loudly on as I stuff sushi into my mouth with reckless abandon.
It was then that I added the note about this perhaps not being the most appropriate musing for Lent.
I ended up cutting the eating contest part for brevity, leaving only the much more mild comment about my plan to eat a lot of sushi on a date night with my husband. So I don’t think there’s any worry of me being too strict with my Lenten observances. I’m still planning to do a great sushi dinner (hopefully on a Sunday and without being too gluttonous), I’ll just try to refrain from entering any eating contests.
I’ve been hearing all sorts of great buzz about Meetup.com. I know quite a few people who have found everything from playdates to exercise groups to book clubs through that site, and they’ve all had great experiences with the people they met there.
I thought I’d give it a plug since I occasionally get emails from readers asking for tips about meeting likeminded people in their area. From what I’ve heard, Meetup.com seems like a good way to meet nice, normal people who share your interests.
Our TV broke the week before the baby was born. In a different phase of life I might have considered taking this as an opportunity to just live without a television, but I knew that there are going to be some occasions over the next couple of months were I desperately need to break out a Veggie Tales DVD to keep my children from getting mutinous. At the same time my husband received some extra money for some work he was doing on the side, so we decided to use it to get a new television.
So I sent my husband and four-year-old son off to Wal-Mart with the famous last words, “Just get the biggest one you can in our price range.”
A few hours later I came downstairs from a nap to see my husband and son beholding a great monolith that had appeared in our living room. It was our new, huge flatscreen TV. I SEE FLATSCREEN TV PRICES HAVE DROPPED A BIT IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, I thought as I watched them “oooh” and “aaaah” at the vivid soccer game on the monstrous screen.
I gently tried to broach the subject of perhaps exchanging it for a smaller model, but they got all Gollum on me, all but clinging to it and hissing “My preciousssss!” when I tried to step near it.
I’m kind of used to it now, though I am occasionally struck by the irony of watching Sunday Night Live episodes about holy detachment or somber Lenten Masses on a huge flatscreen television that we purchased during Lent.
A breastfeeding update: the Medela skin shields are saving my life. They’re a tremendous help with the pain, especially on that one side that was really bad. Interestingly, I tried them with previous babies and they hardly helped with the pain at all because there was still an issue of excruciating pain from the underlying tissue feeling bruised. This time there is none of that underlying tissue pain (likely because of the diet), and only surface skin pain. So I am thrilled that I gave the shields another shot — it’s made the baby’s first few days much more pleasant than usual!
Speaking of the baby, everything is going well. Unfortunately she sleeps a lot during the day and is up a lot at night, though that will probably change on its own as she gets older and more alert.
I’ve been reading Seven Storey Mountain during our late-night feedings. I think I’ll look back on this time in my life with warm memories, recalling these nights of cuddling with the baby as she nurses, sitting in my silent house at three o’clock in the morning, reading Thomas Merton’s poetic story of leaving the world for the silence of a Trappist monastery. There’s something ethereal about it*.
* I realize that I will probably be using words far different than “ethereal” to describe middle-of-the-night feedings when I no longer have family around to let me sleep in and get naps throughout the day.
I look forward to reading your posts!