Fat Fridays: Me and the St Croix River

So, today is more of a story, but I feel like it works for Fat Fridays because this story would never have happened if I had not started a weightloss/exercise journey and got the confidence to try more strenuous activities.

I just got back from a three day river canoe trip. Woohoo! A three day river canoe trip with all my children (minus the oldest two), several nieces and nephews and assorted aunts and uncles, and our dog. Double woohoo. 

Will I ever take small children on a river canoe trip again? No.

Will I ever take my dog on a river canoe trip again?  Also No. 

Am I still glad I went? Definitely!

We did a twenty mile stretch on the St Croix River in Maine. It’s on the border with Canada which made for the interesting situation where you can only get out of the river on one side. Look! There’s Canada! Don’t touch! 

We had five canoes. One wooden, four aluminum. My husband made homemade paddles for all the kids ahead of time. We had a total of six tents while camping. We were a good size group. 

So, I looked up the St Croix River on the internet a day or two before we left and I found this description that said the St Croix had class 1 and 2 rapids and was a perfect river for beginners. “Light-hearted rapids that make the trip fun and enjoyable!” Yeah. Ok. I can say with all honesty, that I spent three days in high-adrenaline mode, heart racing, with the feeling that I was fighting for my life and the lives of my children almost the entire time. Which is kind of silly. As I pointed out to my children, in an effort to sooth them, the water itself was not that scary. If we had come to the river to swim or tube it would not have been intimidating. Even in the very worst rapids, I was able to get out of the canoe and stand in the water as I wrestled our boat off of large rocks. It just feels scary when you’re in a narrow boat and it feels like you’re going to tip over at any moment. 

We did tip over. All of our boats. Except one. Yay Uncle Mike and Auntie Asanuo! (And on the last day I put my two youngest in their boat in an effort to save them from any more trauma.) We had one boat severely crippled on the second day, so we had to distribute it’s load to all the other boats. Another boat sprung a bad leak at the end of the second day. But we were able to patch it. The younger kids did NOT enjoy tipping over. To put it mildly. (Pro-tip, from about eight years old and up the kids did fine. We had one seven year old do great and another, not great, younger than that, it was a bit much.) (But they all rallied at the end and claimed that they enjoyed themselves…Mostly.) 

We camped two nights. The first night was idyllic. We had a great site all to ourselves. The camp cooks made an amazing gourmet tinfoil dinner. My husband got to show his nephew a bit about fishing. I took lots of pictures and felt very content with life. 

The second night we showed up at four in the afternoon to the campsite. We had just had a long traumatic day. Everyone was wet and shivering. We had two kids wrapped in emergency blankets. Two crippled boats. Moral was low. There were two campsites, but a guided tour group had got there first and they had spread out into both campsites. My husband went and asked if there was any way we could squeeze into one side, as we had cold children, crippled boats etc. The tour guides said no. We could go across to the Canada side (illegal) or we could go another four miles to the next campsite. I was not thinking happy thoughts at that moment. 

We assessed our situation and knew we could not go farther. One of our group walked downriver to see if there was a place in the woods we could just make do with. We sat there and waited as we figured out what to do. In the meantime, the group from the guided tour spoke up and told their guides that they should make room for us and group peer pressure won the day. The guides came back and said they would move over and give us a campsite. We said we would greatly appreciate it. When we got into camp, we hung up a line for wet clothes right at the edge of camp and created a privacy screen and then attempted to keep our kids a little more quiet and kept to ourselves. The guides did come over several times and offered assistance with anything we needed, so it turned out ok. But it was awkward. That night I retreated to bed at seven and left my husband to wrangle kids. Which he did admirably. 

The last day was short and only had a couple rapids that we all, with our new skills, went through with very little problems. 

Accolades. I can’t finish this without handing out some awards. 

The dog gets DOG OF THE YEAR award. Every day he got back into the canoe. He didn’t try to run away. He didn’t fight us. He just got back in. Even though he knew what was coming. He didn’t panic while he was in the boat, except to stand up every time we got into rapids. Which you really can’t blame him. I’m sure it was just survival instinct kicking in. The knowledge that he needed to be ready to abandon ship at any moment. So yeah, I’ve got the best dog ever. 

My teens get TEENS OF THE YEAR award. My seventeen year old proved to be a very competent paddler and we made a great team. She stayed calm, jumped into the river multiple times with me as we freed our canoe. I was super impressed. My fifteen year old did great and she was willing to get into the canoe with the twelve and thirteen year old boys (ok, I bribed her, but still, she was willing to be bribed). The teen/preteen boat had very little skill and hit almost every rock in the river and capsized quite a few times. BUT!! They stayed cheerful and had fun with it the whole time! YAY preteens/teenagers!!! 

My little kids get BEST KIDS EVER award for loving us and forgiving us for getting them wet and cold. And they did their best to have fun and stay positive. YAY KIDS!!

All of my inlaws get the BEST INLAWS EVER award. We had some rough spots and it could have got ugly. But everyone stayed calm, there was no complaining. Everyone did their part cheerfully and went above and beyond what was necessary and we all ended up with a great trip. YAY INLAWS!!

And of course my husband gets HUSBAND OF THE YEAR award. Cause he made it all happen. And he’s just awesome anyway. 

And me? I came away with a giant dose of confidence. Yeah. I’m pretty sure I can do anything. 🙂

“Ravished”

Several years ago my older kids learned a dance to a song called “Ravished” by Jesse Cline and Ashleigh Brison.  It’s from the album “Breathe Ultimate Call”. I love this song. Every time I hear it I cry. I remember watching my children worship as they performed this song and it was like a foreshadowing of heaven. Watching your children worship Jesus is the ultimate goal for parenthood. 

Now, as I interact with my adult children and other people in the same age range, fresh, just starting out into the world, I feel like this song says everything that I want them to know. 

These are the words from the Bridge: 

Bridge 1

Whеn I was broken

When I was wounded

Like a hero, You saved the day

Your love has rescued me

But now that I’m made new

I found new life in You

And I’m never going back

Oh, You have my heart

You have my heart

And I found it all in You

And I’m sitting here crying because I want everyone to know this. Jesus is the answer. That’s it. There is no other way to get through this life. There aren’t any shortcuts. There aren’t any other paths that lead in the same direction. Jesus. That’s it. Accepted on his terms. He is Lord. He is Savior. Give your life to him. Surrender completely. It’s the only way to have happiness in this life. The only way to peace. The only way to Joy. How do you make it through this crazy thing called life? Jesus. How do you survive anxiety and depression? Jesus. How do you figure out what to do with your life? Follow Jesus, he’ll show you. How do you fix the brokenness in your life? Jesus. How do you become the best version of you possible? Jesus. 

I don’t know how to convince people of this except to say, Look. Here is my life. Here is how I’m getting through. Jesus. Everything I do, He is the only way that I’m doing it. And I would never do it a different way. I have found everything I need in him. 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

And my heart sings, “I found it all in you.” And I want everyone to have this same peace and confidence. Jesus. He is the answer. 

Fat Fridays: Taking My Pulse

Hey everyone. Hope your week has gone well. I’ve had a great week! We’ve been on vacation and it’s been a lot of fun. Now, my diet? It’s not going so great. 

When I was getting ready for this trip I was planning ahead, thinking about the KickOff App I’ve been using to keep track of everything I eat and get my daily exercises. Do I still need this? Do I still need this level of accountability? I knew on this trip it was going to be difficult to use the App. We don’t have good phone connection or wifi where we are staying so I knew that regularly logging my food throughout the day was going to be next to impossible. I finally decided that on this trip I would use the app to get my exercise, but I would hit pause on logging my food every day. 

That is not going so well. It has become very clear to me that, even though it’s been almost seven months of using this app, I still need a high level of accountability. Like, really need it.  My default eating habits are just Not Good. Which is kind of depressing. 

As usual, I have to fight the feeling of, Well, I messed up a bit, I might as well jump off the cliff and mess up a lot. You know what I mean? You eat one donut and think, that’s it, I’m off plan. Might as well eat the whole box of donuts. This is REALLY BAD THINKING. And I think that’s what I’m going to be working on during this vacation. Moderation!!

This time off has been a good chance to take my pulse, see how I’m doing. And I’ve figured out that I still need a high level of accountability. But at least I know what I need moving forward. 

A Time for Quiet

We are on vacation right now. Taking part in a family reunion. Back to the stomping grounds of my husband’s youth. It’s a place that feels like home. Lakes, fields, forests. Small towns. Vast northern skies. It’s been almost twenty-two years since our honeymoon when my husband first brought me to Maine. And since then we’ve made regular pilgrimages. I am very familiar with the over-eleven-hundred-mile drive. 

For me, it’s a place where I can get steeped in nature. Forget about city traffic, polution, people everywhere you turn. It’s a place where you just sit and stare at the water. Watch for loons. See an eagle every once in a while. Laugh at the ducks. Take long walks down dirt roads. 

It’s a place where I can slow down my heartbeat. Slow down my frantic thoughts. Slow down the rhythm of our family. Life simplifies to the lowest common denominator. Play, eat, sleep. 

This morning I sat on the porch, watching my kids swim, painting my toenails. After a long time, I finished. Beautiful! I did it! (This is an accomplishment for me to not get nail polish all over the place.) Then my four year old wanted to sit with me and he stepped on my foot. Back to square one. But it’s ok. I’ve got time to fix it. Nothing else is pressing in. 

The kids are reconnecting with cousins. Aunts and Uncles catching up on each other’s news. We break bread together. Pictures are taken. 

I think about the fact that years ago, a family this spread out would never have seen each other again. The distance too far, the cost too high. Now we can jump in our cars, book airline tickets. Set a date. Here we all are. What an amazing time we live in. 

I have hopes for my time here. I hope I can disconnect from the world that is full of human drama and stress. Connect with an older world. The one that is tied to the changing of the seasons, the moving of the sun across the sky. The activity of the clouds, will it rain or not? Tune my ears into the sound of the wind in the trees, the calls of the birds. Smell the damp forest floor. Feel the rain misting on my face. 

I am thankful. Thankful for my husband’s family that has claimed me as one of their own. Thankful for the heritage of this place that we can pass down to our children. Thankful that God provided a way for us to get here. Thankful for rest. 

This is me and my husband, after our wedding, about to get in the car and drive cross-country to Maine for the first time. I had no idea that this was going to become a major theme in our lives. But, I’m really glad that’s the way it’s turned out. 

Fat Fridays: New Esther versus Old Esther

Yesterday was a really rough day. Like, envision a bloody battle with swords and shields and everyone is wounded and bleeding. That was my day with food. 

Yesterday I hit that place where I just didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care about my diet. I didn’t care about eating healthy. I didn’t care. I’m too tired. Too stressed. I found myself hunting the house for sugar. I just needed something sweet. Anything. There was some cereal and I grabbed several handfuls of frosted flakes and stuffed them in my mouth. I just didn’t care. One of the kids had a leftover ham and cheese sandwich they didn’t want. I ate it. Cause the thought of fixing myself a salad or cooking up vegetables just sounded horrible. And there’s nothing wrong with a sandwich right? Except, it wasn’t even really that great of a sandwich. Something I would usually deem not worth wasting my calories on. But I just didn’t care. 

I had to drop my teenagers off at youth group and then I needed to go Walmart to get some things for my kids. And I started thinking about what I could buy as a special treat at Walmart since I would be out by myself. That is, after all, my old pattern. Go out by myself, get something yummy to eat as a treat. I thought about all the things I haven’t eaten in a long time. Chocolate cake. Debbie cakes. Donuts. Ice cream. A big bag of Chips. Which one should I get? And at the same time there was this sinking feeling going on. I’m doing it again. I’m falling off the wagon. I’m blowing my diet. I’m returning to all my bad habits. And I felt kind of hopeless. Like, I’m never going to win this battle. I will always be overweight. 

I was in the car, still driving, and I had the thought, What are you hoping that food is going to do for you? (Which seems to be a theme this week. I mentioned in a previous blog about asking the question, What am I looking for? when I turn to mindless distractions.) And this is a good question. Why am I wanting to eat all this food and what am I hoping to accomplish? And I had to remind myself that eating food was NOT going to make me feel better about my life. In fact, I was going to feel a LOT worse if I turned to food. But, if I made good choices, I would feel better about myself. This is the place where you imagine two warriors hammering away at each other with their swords. Old Esther verses New Esther. Flesh verses Spirit. 

I sat in the parking lot. Staring at the store. Ok. Make a plan. I will buy some blueberries and some carrots and hummus. And then I will stay away from the food section. 

Walmart is a dangerous place when you are trying to resist temptation. I felt like a nun at a nudist colony. AVERT THE EYES! Dont look there! No! Don’t look over there either! Keep walking! Get away from the food!! 

I needed to get some things for an upcoming car trip and I contemplated getting my kids some yummy snacks, but quickly decided against it. Nope. Can’t do it. If I buy that stuff, I will eat it too. So I bought them some gummy snacks (which they love, and I think are disgusting) and determined that on THIS trip, they will be eating fruits and vegetables right alongside me. 

I finally got out of the store, got in my car, slammed the door, and did some deep breathing for a minute. I made it. I did it. I didn’t binge, splurge, over-do or anything. I bought some healthy food and walked out. Whoosh. 

And I do feel better about myself today. A lot better than if I had just given in. But man, that was hard. And just a quick note. I think what has put me in a bad place was my two weeks when I went low-carb. My personal dysfunction with food cannot handle diets where entire food groups are eliminated. It stirs up a lot of unhealthy emotions like feeling deprived which then makes me want to binge. So, moving forward, I’m going to continue my LowER carb diet where I just try to eat grains in small portions and with moderation. 

New Esther won the battle this time. But I anticipate a lot more skirmishes in the future. 

It’s a Place Worth Fighting For

I went jogging in my neighborhood this morning. I looped around and went over some sections of the road twice. I finished running and started walking towards my house. An elderly woman came rushing as fast as she was able, out of her house. She had a big grin and was holding a cold bottle of water. She called out, I’ve been watching you! And handed me the bottle of water. I’m Karen! And then she turned to go back to her house. 

The other day I was jogging/walking and I had hit my walking stretch and another lady called to me from her porch, wanting to know if I got out at a regular time every day, wondering if I wanted to join her on her morning walks. She also wanted to know if I needed a drink of water. 🙂

This morning, as I was running down a familiar road, I realized that I had a nodding acquaintance with almost all of these neighbors. My kids had played with a lot of their kids. I passed another lady out running and we waved at each other. We met last summer when a different neighbor held a block party. Her kids bring their dog to come greet my dog pretty regularly. 

Our next door neighbor has a little girl who is best friends with my foster daughter. That friendship, and their willingness to have my daughter over to play regularly, has been a life-saving thing for us. 

I ran into another neighbor at the grocery store last week. I testified at the trial of the murder of his son. He came up to tell me how the family was doing now that the trial is over. 

One of our elderly, very civic minded couples that live in our neighborhood has started a text chat with as many neighbors as they can add. I think we have forty people on the chat right now, and they are always looking for more people who want to join. They talk about the monthly neighborhood meetings, a community garden that we have down at the park, congratulations to the new parents on the birth of their child, does anyone know who this stray dog belongs to? (pictures attached!) 

Neighborhoods are great things. Our neighborhood has had a rough year. Lots of gun violence, deaths, craziness in our high school. At times I have had the thought, we should just move. This is ridiculous. We talk about it. Where would we want to live? (Definitely the country!) Wouldn’t a small rural school be better? But so far, every time I think about moving, I have a check. No. Not now. This isn’t the right time. 

And I think we don’t give enough thought to what we would be giving up. We have lived in this community for almost seventeen years now. And it’s taken us a long time to establish all these connections. But they’ve been established. They are here. This is our neighborhood. This is our community. And it’s a good community. Lots of good people. 

And I guess this is part of the  answer to the question a lot of people think, but don’t come right out and ask..Why do I live here? Why haven’t I moved? Because it’s home. It’s a good home. And it’s worth staying and fighting for the changes needed to make it a safer and better place. 

Unneeded Distractions

I haven’t written in a week. Which is weird for me. Not a sign of good mental health. Writing = thinking and processing. When I don’t write, it usually means I am avoiding thinking and processing. Now, some of this week was busy with seeing out-of-town family, and that was a great break. But, the past four days, I’ve kept thinking, I should sit down and write, and then I don’t. Instead my brain has been grasping for distractions. Let’s read a book. Let’s get in some extra exercise. Let’s zone out on social media. I’ve even found myself re-visiting old stories I used to play out in my head for entertainment. And I found myself faced with this question. What are you looking for? What is it that you are so desperately seeking in all these distractions? 

Good question. 

What am I looking for? 

Validation. I’m not just an invisible maid and caretaker that keeps the house running and keeps the kids alive and happy. I’m an individual whose feelings matter and who brings value to the table. 

Recognition. I want to be seen. I want to have people in my life who seek me out and find my presence to be important to them. 

Security.  I want to feel safe and cared for. To not feel like my existence and lifestyle is in any way fragile. 

Purpose. I want to feel like my daily actions have meaning. What I’m doing counts. 

Achievement. I want to feel like I am heading towards a goal and every day I am getting closer. 

Peace. I want to feel like no matter what happens, I’m good. Nothing’s going to rock my boat. 

Joy. I want each day to be a celebration of life and creation. A journey of thankfulness. 

I’m not wanting too much, am I? 

Here’s the thing. I think I have most of those things already. Perhaps not in a steady stream. But, if I look back at even just the last couple months, I can say, yes, there have been moments where I have had each of those things at different times. Sometimes all at once, sometimes just one or another. But they’ve been there. 

I think awareness is my problem. Life starts to get overwhelming and my vision gets really narrow. All I can see are the problems in front of me. The exhaustion I’m feeling. The weariness. And my eyes just sit and focus on what is wrong. This is wrong. And that is wrong. And here, let me make you a list of everything that is wrong and hard in my life right now. And all those good things, all those things on my list that I want and HAVE, they just kind of fade into the background. I forget they are there. And eventually, focusing on the bad stuff robs me of hope and energy and I just kind of melt into a useless puddle. 

So what am I going to do about it? 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

These are not simple platitudes. They are more like death-defying challenges. Can you rejoice always??? Pray continually?? GIVE THANKS IN ALL THINGS??? Not an easy path to choose. Which is why it’s a good thing we have the Holy Spirit as our helper. 

John 14:26  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you.

It’s a battle. A daily battle. In Christ, we already have all that we need. There is no reason to go searching for fulfilment in empty distractions. But it’s really easy to forget. When we focus on rejoicing, praying, thankfulness; we quickly get our vision back. 

Now, I’m going to go put on some worship music and try practicing what I preach. 

Fat Fridays: I really don’t want to mess this up.

Hey All. (Short for the Southern: All a y’all or all of you all or everybody.) Hope you have had a good week. Mine has been busy. As usual. In fact, it would be really weird to say that my week has not been busy. You would think by now I wouldn’t be surprised that I had a busy week. But here I am, still looking back in wonder, Wow, that was a busy week! Like it’s a surprise or something. 

This week of diet and exercise has been up and down. I’ve stayed consistent with the exercise, and most days I’ve done more than my trainer assigned me. Food, on the other hand, has been a bit more difficult. There have been days when I have breezed through the day eating salads and berries and lean meat and I haven’t had a single urge to eat anything else. And then there have been days when I’ve been stuffing the Chocolate Brioche into my mouth which my mom bought for the kids. And days like yesterday where I have stayed healthy all day, and then my teenage daughter asked if she could make pancakes for supper and I said sure, and I went off and ate a salad on my own. But then my four year old needed help serving his pancakes, and I got called, and so I ended up preparing these beautiful homemade pancakes with butter and syrup, cutting them up for him so he could eat and then running from the room because all I wanted to do was grab his plate from him and stuff my face with pancakes. And then I sat in my room trying to not think about pancakes, and I was about to sneak out and just grab one when I remembered something I’ve said to myself a lot. “If you’re going to cheat, cheat smart.” So I went and got the last of my skinny pop kettle corn popcorn. And ate one serving which was only 140 calories and which satisfied my sweet tooth. And then I stuck a piece of gum in my mouth so I’d stop eating. 

In other words, it’s been a pretty normal week. Small victories and lots of challenges. 

To tell you the truth, I’m getting nervous about this weight loss journey. About four years ago I tried to lose weight and I got right around the weight I am now before lots of stuff came up that derailed me and I ended up gaining all the weight back plus some more. I have a tendency to do well for about six months and then start petering out. 

I really don’t want that to happen again. And I don’t trust myself to not mess it up. So I’m feeling a bit on edge. I just want to get past this weight zone and into a lower level so I can assure myself that I’m not going to repeat old history. 

I don’t know what to do about it except make myself self-aware so that my “falling off the wagon” doesn’t happen so slowly and gradually that I don’t really notice. So, right now I am on High Alert as I try to keep this weight coming off. I really don’t want to mess this up. 

Fat Fridays: Which Direction are You Looking?

Losing weight is kind of a funny thing. You drop some pounds and you look at yourself and you’re so excited. I look great! I look so much better! Isn’t this wonderful! But then, after a while you start looking at yourself and thinking, man, I need to lose so much more weight. Look at all this fat. This is so depressing. 

It really has to do with your perspective. Which direction are you looking? If you’re looking backwards then losing weight feels great. I used to be THIS much and now I’m a lot less!! Yay me!! But when you’re looking forwards, it can get depressing. I want to weigh THIS much and I still have so far to go. Uggh. 

This week I found myself kind of in the UGGH category. I’ve lost a lot of weight (44 pounds as of this morning!), but in order to hit my goal weight, I still have 62 pounds to go. Argh. I’ve been having to encourage myself. I’ve been keeping a log of my weight loss and I went back and looked at the numbers. Ok, a month ago you weighed this much, you’ve made a lot of progress! 

It also makes me think about the WHY of weight loss. Why am I doing this? I know when I was in my teens and twenties, weight loss was about achieving a certain look. I want to wear THIS size clothing. I want my measurements to be THIS much. If I can look like that model in the magazine, then I will be happy. And I think I thought I would be happy because then I would be attractive enough. Which is what our culture teaches us. You have to look a certain way or you are not really worthy of being loved. 

Well, I have been happily married for almost twenty-two years now and my husband has proved to me that he is capable of loving me through thick or thin. And while I would love to look my best for him, I don’t feel like I have to look a certain way to be lovable. (I say that breezily, but it was a long, hard-fought journey to get to this place.) 

I now find myself being motivated a lot more by health concerns. I am prediabetic. I know that my weight is a major contributing factor. I have spent long periods of my life completely inactive and I feel like I’m missing out on things I want to do because my body simply isnt’ strong enough to do it. I want to climb mountains, go on long bike rides, go running. I want to have energy to do active things with my kids instead of just watching from a chair. 

These past six months as I have been exercising daily, losing weight, getting stronger, I have started to appreciate and love my body more. Look at you! Look at what you just did! I am excited to think of all the things I will be able to do as I shed more and more weight. 

But, all of this brings me to the final point I want to make. This week I was at the park taking a long walk, almost four miles. It was so nice to be outside in nature. The sunlight was at that perfect evening slant, the trees were shimmering in the breeze, the grass was extra green. It was just a perfect time. And I was thinking about my goals, ONE DAY, I’ll be at the weight I want. ONE DAY I’ll have arrived. And I was thinking about my WHY for weight loss. And it occurred to me that I was already doing my WHY. I was taking time for myself to get out in nature and walk. I was being active and doing something I liked. I don’t have to wait for some nebulous time in the future when my scale finally says the magic number. I’m already living the life that I want. Right here, in the present. And instead of swiveling my head back and forth: future, past; focusing on the here and now seems better. 

Weary

My head is fuzzy

Thoughts flit around and disappear

My shoulders, so tired

The world weighs too much

I try to move and bustle around

My legs are heavy

So tired.

Just keep moving, Just keep moving

I whisper to myself

The daily tasks stack up around me

Waiting.

Voices call my name

Everybody needs me.

How much longer? 

How much longer can I just keep moving?

Rest

My soul cries for rest.

God help me please.

And I wait

And I trust

And I just keep moving

Confident Help is on the way.