Fat Fridays: Quick Update

So, last week I had some big slip-ups involving cake. And pasta. And maybe something else I can’t remember? I figured out why I was in binge-mode, but I was still bummed at my set-back. On Saturday I decided to weigh myself, kind of as a punishment. Here, weigh yourself so you can see how badly you did from messing up. I weighed myself, and low and behold, I had lost three pounds. 

????????

Life doesn’t make sense. 

This means I hit my thirty pound weight loss milestone! Yay!!! 

This was very inspiring and I jumped right back on the wagon, and have done very well food-wise this week. 

In other news, I ran two miles yesterday, two minutes faster than before. Still ridiculously slow. I realized that right now, my running time for two miles is the same time I used to have in college for running three miles. And I wasn’t fast in college. But, progress is progress. We take what we can get. The other big progress is that, after running, I was not crazy sore. And today I don’t seem to have much lingering after effects either. 

This week I have been making a slow shift to gluten-free. I’m not being legalistic about it, I have told myself I can have bread if I want to, it’s an option, but I’m trying to have some gluten free options readily available. This week I’ve been eating VANS gluten free ancient grains waffles that I found at KROGER. They’re pretty good. I like them because they have a bunch of different grains and aren’t just rice, potato and corn flours. 

I also had a first this week. I went biking one day for my exercise. I was supposed to bike eight miles. I was happily biking along when my phone in my pocket beeped, reminding me of an upcoming appointment in ten minutes. I was at least fifteen minutes away from my house. It was a zoom meeting where I was supposed to be actively talking, not just silently observing. Yikes. I rode as fast as I could toward my house but was still a mile away when it was time for the meeting to start. So, I got off the bike, logged into the zoom meeting and kept my camera off. The person running the meeting asked if we could turn our cameras on, and another person chimed in to say that they were driving and would turn their camera on soon. I jumped on this excuse and said, Yes, I am heading home, not quite there, I’ll turn on my camera in a couple minutes. Then, I put the phone in my pocket, where I could still hear the meeting and started riding like crazy towards my house. I almost made it, I was maybe two minutes from my house, but then they asked everyone to go around and introduce themselves. I had to get off the bike so I could hit the right buttons and turn on my speaker to introduce myself, but then I was out of breath and breathing hard cause I had been pushing so hard to get home. I ended up apologizing and saying, sorry, I’m on my bike, out of breath, almost home. 

Sigh. 

Technology creates weird situations. 

Well, that’s my update for now. I’ll see you all next week!

I am Not your Enemy

I had to take my daughter to a doctor’s appointment this morning. Last year she broke her arm and had a metal rod put in her bone. Now that the bone is healed, we have to have another surgery to remove the rod. She does not want to have another surgery. She did not want to miss some of school this morning as they were doing something fun in class. She was not happy. When we got to the waiting room, she chose a seat just far enough away from me to announce how unhappy she was with me. And I sat there watching her angry face and I thought, I am not your enemy! I am doing this for you! 

This week I had to take my six year old who is homeschooling this year, to the public school four different times so he could do some testing. We are trying to get a good evaluation so we can get him placed in the right class next school year. In order for them to get all their data, they needed him to do some writing samples. He hates writing. With a passion. He is capable of writing. He writes for me every day in school. And every day it’s a fight. So, when they asked him to write for the testing, he dug in his heels, mad at me, mad at the testing. I had to talk to him. Listen, this is in order to help you so you can be placed in the right class next year so you won’t be bored in school. I am not your enemy. I am trying to help you. 

I’ve had a couple other situations this week where I have come across as public enemy number one because I’m making the hard choices that aren’t popular, but are for the best. It’s not fun. I am a peacemaker, and a people pleaser. I just want everyone to like me and be happy. That’s not too much to ask, is it? 

I was grumbling about it to God this morning. Here I am, just trying to help people, and everyone is mad at me. I am not the enemy! 

And he kind of whispered back to me, I am not your enemy either. 

Ah. 

Yes. 

I’ve been kind of mad this week. Why haven’t you intervened in this situation God? Why haven’t you healed? Why haven’t you stepped in and shown up big? 

And I am reminded that the same trust and faith that I require of my children, is being required of me. My kids can’t see the big picture in the same way I, as an adult, can. And I can’t see the big picture in the same way God does. And so I have to just trust. And in the same way that I can point out to my kids all the ways that I love them, to reassure them that my actions are in their best interest, I can remind myself of all the ways God has shown his love to me, and be reassured myself. 

Not the enemy. 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!!

May you feel seen and appreciated today. May you get rest from your labor if even for a moment. May you recognize the significance of what you do every day and be encouraged. May God meet you where you are at and give you what you need for the season you are in. May your children bring you joy and may this day be a wonderful celebration of you and all that God has used you for in blessing others. 

Have a Great Day!

And to my Mom and Mom-in-law, thank you for loving me and being there for me and helping to shape me into the mom I am today. I love you!

In Memory of Grandpa Picazo

This week I have found my mind wandering back to the day that my grandfather died. My grandfather Mardoqueo Picazo, known as Mardy, or Grandpa, was a great man.  He was a US Navy WWII veteran, broadcast engineer, minister, missionary, and radio personality among many other things… As I sit here, I don’t think I can properly write down all his accomplishments. Instead I’ll tell you about his role as Grandpa. 

I remember sitting on his lap when I was very young, listening to his deep rumbling voice as he read stories to me. I remember him sitting at the head of the table at meal times. He had a rule that when us grandchildren were done eating, we had to come over to his chair and ask permission to leave the table. Looking back, I can see it was an excuse to get an extra hug and kiss before we ran off to play our own games. 

I remember the sparkle in his eyes, the amused smile. His love of corny puns and jokes. His warm hugs. 

I remember when I was fourteen, I flew from Haiti to the States to visit my grandparents and other relatives. My grandfather drove to another city to come pick me up at the airport. We drove back towards the small country town where my grandparents lived. When we were close to my grandparents’ farm, we stopped at a roadside stand to buy some fruit. My grandfather proudly announced to the lady at the cash register that his granddaughter had come from Haiti to visit him. The lady looked surprised then eyed me carefully. (Keep in mind, I was a very quiet, reserved kid.) Then she leaned towards my grandfather and whispered, “Does she speak English?” My grandfather nodded gravely and said, “She gets by.” We got in the car and he chuckled to himself. My grandfather is Mexican American and has a slight Spanish accent. I am very white and have spoken English my entire life. He thought this was hilarious. 

As I think about it, my lasting impression of my grandfather was a gentle, humble man who quietly went about his days doing God’s work. No fanfare. Just quietly going about his business with a lot of humor mixed in. 

At the end of my grandfather’s life, after the passing of my grandmother, he ended up spending his last weeks at my home in hospice care. We had a lot of family coming in and out during that time. I remember times of sitting with my grandfather, singing the old hymns. By that time he was not able to communicate. And so I sat and held his hand and we sang songs that we knew he would remember. 

At the very end, I had the privilege of being in the room when he passed away. He was surrounded by family. My father recited the Twenty-third Psalm as he breathed his last. And I remember walking over to the corner of the room by myself, tears streaming down my face, and suddenly I was overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. I was sobbing, hands lifted up in worship, my mouth speaking words I did not know, and I had the impression of light, even with my eyes closed. 

And that is my final impression of my grandfather, and the legacy I want to live out and pass to my children and my grandchildren. May we live our lives in such a way that our passing is a Holy moment covered in the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

Fat Fridays: Restriction=Binge Eating

I”m writing this on a Thursday night. It has not been a great day as far as health is concerned. Yesterday I was jogging and I didn’t take the time to put the right shoes on, and I ended up pulling something on the side of my knee. Not real bad, but noticeable enough that I knew I had to rest it today. So, I told my trainer about it and she cancelled my jog for today and said no walks or runs for a couple days. I think I’m going to do some strength training tomorrow. But, I was really looking forward to my jog, and being inactive hasn’t been great for my mood. 

Then, earlier this week, I was talking about some problems I was having and my trainer suggested that I take bread/wheat out of my diet for a little while and see if it solves the problems. Ok. I can do that. Except, on the same day that I decided to do that, our neighbor, who works in a food pantry, ambushed me. While I was out, she dropped off two cakes, cinnamon rolls, carrot cake sandwich cookies, and muffins. She needed a home for them and thought of us. I walked in the door and was bombarded by baked goods (my number one weakness) and I caved and ate two cookies before I even gave myself time to think. I did manage to stop after that, but felt crummy for caving in the first place. I sent a lot of the food with my husband to his work to share, but we still had two cakes in the house. The kids asked if they could cut one of the cakes this afternoon, and me, just wanting these things gone, said yes. And then suddenly there was chocolate cake everywhere and I caved again. And then I made the family chicken alfredo while I had a chicken salad, but still caved again and ate some alfredo. 

And I’m sitting here thinking, what on earth is wrong with me???? 

And I realized what it was. It all started with deciding to cut bread/wheat out of my diet for a while. I do really, really, really, bad when I feel like I’m being deprived of something. If someone tells me I can’t have something, I immediately crave it. I get this mentality of, better eat a bunch now, cause I’m not going to be able to get any later… 

I have done a lot better these past months telling myself I can have whatever I want in moderation. And as I’ve started counting my calories, I’ve gravitated towards nutrient dense food just so I can get more bang for my buck. I mostly eat Ezekiel bread now, and no more than two slices at a time so I can keep my carb load low. I made that choice naturally without having to set strict guidelines about which kind of bread I can eat. If I feel like I have freedom to choose whatever I want, I am much more likely to make good choices. But if I feel like I am being restricted, it sets off a bunch of weird cravings and bingeing. 

So, moving forward, I think I’m going to have some good bread alternatives laying around the house (I found some gluten free ancient grains waffles, and I found some low calorie popcorn), but I’m going to give myself permission to eat whatever I want. And hopefully, without the weird emotional response to restriction going on, I will feel free to make better choices. We’ll see. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Penance or Grace?

This past week I’ve been thinking about penance and grace. The dictionary gives the following definition for penance:

pen·ance

noun

  1. 1.
    voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong.

I have been on a journey this year to lose weight. At the beginning of my journey I was losing two pounds a week. Yay! It felt like I was making good progress. Then the weight loss slowed down to one pound a week. And that just feels agonizingly slow. Every week I am working out six days a week, I am keeping a record of everything I eat, keeping my calories at the right amount, always choosing the healthier options, checking in with a personal trainer daily…it’s a lot of work just to see the scale move one pound. 

And I had this thought. This is my penance for being overweight. My punishment for gluttony and sloth. My just dues for allowing myself to get to this place of needing to lose so much weight.

And that thought felt very comfortable. Yes. I am facing the consequences of bad choices, and I’m just going to have to work really really hard to get myself back to a good weight. It’s all my fault and this is my punishment. 

So, I kept hold of this idea for a couple days and then, all of sudden, out of nowhere, this thought popped into my head. What if, instead of punishment, this is grace? 

Definition of grace (Entry 1 of 2)

1a: unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification

What if I have simply not been in a place, mentally or spirtually, to be able to fully learn how to take care of my body the way I need to? And finally I am in that place. And God is teaching me how to care for myself. And it’s a long process. A long process of breaking off bad habits and establishing good ones. A long process of learning how to gage how much food is “enough” and how much is just gluttony. A long process of learning how to enjoy movement, exercise. A long process of changing my lifestyle so that it embraces health. What if that one pound a week is a symbol of grace. Proof that God does not simply leave me wallowing in my sin, but has opened a way for me to change. 

Last night I attended a Celebration of Life service for a man who had recently died of Covid. I was not personally friends with him, but I am friends with his wife and one of his daughters. As people shared stories of his life and personality and character, a picture was painted of a wonderful father and husband and friend. But what really stood out to me was the observation, by more than one person, that this man was who he was because he was a follower of Jesus. It was Jesus’ grace in his life that enabled him to be this wonderful father, husband, friend. And I think about this as I think about penance and grace. 

God’s grace in my life enables me to become the best version of myself. It’s not about punishment any more. Jesus already took that punishment on the cross and then declared that It was Finished. Yes, we face the consequences of our sins, but it is not in a spirit of punishment and condemnation. It is a spirit of Grace. Here, my daughter. The way you are choosing is not bringing you life, try doing it my way instead. Let me restore you, strengthen you. Walk with me and I will turn your ashes into beauty. 

Penance or grace? I choose grace. Or rather, grace chose me. 

Fat Fridays: Fast Food

This week I have been thinking about fast food. When I was a kid, growing up in the 80s, our family did not eat out very often. Rarely. I remember going to Mcdonalds for my birthday, because that was a special treat. I think our family treated restaurants as an opportunity to eat food we wouldn’t normally get, like Mexican or Asian food. I do remember an occasional trip to Pizza Hut, but wasn’t a normal thing. A treat. 

I spent eight years of my growing up in Haiti where fast food, at that time, was not an option except in the capital city, and we rarely went there. Then, we moved to bush Alaska for my last two years of high school. Again, there weren’t any of the traditional fast food restaurants. There were mom-and-pop restaurants that served hamburgers and french fries for a hefty price, but I don’t know if I ever ate a hamburger and fries while I lived there, or even a pizza. What we did eat was Chinese food. We ate out a little more, still not a lot, and I always got Mongolian Beef. (I was not an adventurous eater, I found one thing I liked and then stuck with it.) When I went to college in Southern California, I didn’t drive and so I only visited the fast food that was in walking distance, a Taco Bell and a little Chinese Restaurant. I did not have a lot of spending money. Two dollars and some change got me two little tacos at Taco Bell that did not fill me up. But, two dollars and twenty-five cents at the Chinese restaurant got me a huge serving of Fried rice and a huge serving of sweet and sour pork. I went for the Chinese. It became my Friday night treat. After two years of college I spent another year overseas where, again, fast food was not available, or I didn’t have a lot of extra money to be spending on it. 

So, it wasn’t until I was married that fast food even became an option. I remember driving around with my husband one day, and he suggested we stop in at Mcdonalds for some food. And I remember feeling this shock, like, wait, we can just go there whenever we want? At the time I was pregnant with our first, and we were taking birthing classes at the hospital. It became our ritual to stop at Mcdonalds afterwards for cheeseburgers, fries, and my favorite, Hi-C Orange Soda. 

Fast forward to the present day. Fast food has become a convenience. The thing to get if I am in a rush and don’t have time to cook. Or, a way to give a special treat to the kids. We probably gets pizza once a week, and I make occasional runs to Mcdonalds, but not that often. My husband and I go out a couple times a month, our favorite kind of food we look for is Mexican and Thai. Since I started this new diet plan I have been trying to avoid fast food. 

This week I was out, I had plans to stop at a restaurant and get a big salad and sit and enjoy myself. Then, my plans changed, and I needed food quickly. I remembered getting salads at Mcdonalds in the past, so I got in a busy drive-thru lane and waited a really long time. When it was finally my turn to order, I found out that Mcdonalds no longer serves salads. (I guess it’s been a while since I’ve ordered a salad.) I was on the spot, hungry, but not wanting to blow my diet. I ended up getting a regular hamburger (250 calories) and a small fry (220 calories) and a diet coke. I ate, it tasted good, I was full, and I didn’t want any more. Victory! 

Then last night I had to run out with my son to handle a broken phone emergency. My husband was home, it was getting on supper time, so he ordered pizza. I came home, hungry, and there was yummy pizza. I got one slice of pepperoni, ate it, then went and got some tomatoes from the kitchen to finish off the meal. It tasted good, I was full and I didn’t want any more. Victory! 

I am so used to letting my cravings and appetite control what I eat, so this has been a big deal to me to see that I can eat the occasional fast food and keep it within a reasonable amount. Self-control. 

In the past, when I was trying to be healthy, I would just avoid all fast food, no matter what. And eventually, that method would fail. Because fast food is everywhere and it’s a part of our eating culture. And it tastes good and it’s very tempting. I still don’t plan on eating very much fast food, but it’s good to know that this is another situation that I can handle if I have to. 

What do we Stand For?

Today, at my daughter’s high school, some of the kids staged a walkout in “protest”. It was in the news. I found this interesting because I had already seen my daughter after school and asked her how her day was, and she had made no mention of a walk-out. So, I asked her what had happened, and she was like, oh yeah. They did a walk out. I asked if she participated. She said no. I asked what her reasons were. She said it wasn’t very organized and she asked the kids what they were protesting, and no one could really give her an answer, just that they were protesting, and she should join. She said she didn’t join because she didn’t know what they were exactly protesting. 

And I’m proud of her. Because I think she was the only one that didn’t walk out of her classroom. I would have been proud of her if she had joined the protest too, if she could have told me what issue she was protesting, and what she was hoping to accomplish by protesting. 

The main thing is that she knows her mind and does not thoughtlessly follow along with the crowd. 

This has kind of tied into other thoughts I’ve been having today. I have been thinking about conservative politics and how it presents itself in the media and social platforms.  And I have been feeling today that the conservative movement has adopted a defensive position. Everything that we say has to do with what we DON’T support. We don’t support gay marriage. We don’t support the trans movement. We don’t support the idea that our country has racism problems. We don’t support BIG GOVERNMENT (which translates to: we don’t support expanded food stamps, welfare, subsidized housing, etc). We don’t support immigration over our Southern border. We don’t support Common Core…I’m sure there are more, these are the just the ones that are coming immediately to mind. 

My question is, What DO we support? 

I know that we are vehemently against abortion. And I agree. I am against abortion. 

But what are we FOR? 

I have many, many Conservative Christian friends who are foster parents, who volunteer at Pregnancy Centers, who work with the homeless, who volunteer their time to reach out to prisoners. I have Conservative Christian friends who organize food trucks for areas in our city that are food deserts. I have Conservative Christian friends who reach out to our refugee population here in our city, helping them connect with the resources they need. I have Conservative Christian friends who volunteer their time to teach English as a Second Language to those immigrants who are coming across our Southern border. 

I see this. I know that a great deal of my Conservative Christian friends are very involved with helping those around them in their community. But for some reason, whenever we, as a group, engage with the general public, the only thing we seem able to portray is what we are against. 

I find myself kind of in the same place as my daughter. I have always considered myself Conservative simply because I don’t support abortion and I don’t want to tie myself to a political group that openly supports abortion. But, these past four years I have become increasingly hesitant to affiliate myself with any political group. And I feel a bit of pressure. Come on Esther, aren’t you a conservative too, aren’t you going to join our conservative politics? I’m not sure. What do you represent? What is your message? What goals are you trying to accomplish? I know what you are against, but what are you for? 

(And forgive me for messing around with politics. I love my Trump friends and I love my Biden friends. What I especially love is when you know your mind and can tell me, with precise bullet points, why you are in the political party you are in. I feel like I don’t know my own mind right now, and I’m asking myself hard questions. ) 

Thoughts on the Protests

This past week the DA in our city released the bodycam video of the police shooting of Anthony Thompson Jr at Austin East High School. I watched the presentation the DA gave as she walked through all the evidence, one step at a time, and ended with the conclusion that it was a justifiable action by the police officer and no charges would be brought against the police. Seeing the evidence, as she presented it, I had to agree. Yes. This looks like it was definitely justifiable. 

So, I was really surprised when I started reading FB posts from my black friends from this neighborhood. They had a completely different perspective. They felt that the DA maligned Anthony’s character by bringing up the domestic violence incidents that led to the police being called. They wanted to know why the police did not use a taser or try talking first. They wanted to know why the police did not speak to Anthony from the doorway of the bathroom and ask him to drop his weapons and come out with his hands up. They watched the video and felt that they were seeing the police’s hands on the gun, not Anthony’s, when it was fired. In fact, they were seeing something completely different from me. 

When two people watch the same video and see two different things, you’ve got to step back and realize that vision is not just a physical thing that our eyes do for us. Vision is affected by what is in our minds, our past, our experiences as well. Perspective. We can all see an image, but our perspective is going to tell us different things about that image. 

I think about where we are at in our country. When this incident happened, we were in the middle of the George Floyd trial. The news is frequently posting more and more incidents of police officer shootings that seem to have been avoidable. The experience of people of color in their involvement with the police has led to a feeling of distrust and danger where the police are concerned. 

Since the release of the bodycam videos, our city has seen a couple protests. I watched some video from one of the protests and the things that they were chanting hurt my heart. This is not my perspective. I don’t hold these views. But, I feel like I can understand, a little, where these views are coming from. 

So, here’s the question. Can we lay down our self-righteousness, our desperate need to always be right, and just enter into the idea that other people have different perspectives than us? Can we withhold our judgement for a minute and remember that other people have vastly different stories than we do, and those stories have caused them to see the world in a very different light than us?   

I believe in absolute truth. And I believe the Bible spells out what that truth is. But, when it comes to things like watching bodycam videos of a seventeen year old being shot and then deciding who is guilty and not guilty, I don’t think that falls into right and wrong categories. There is a lot of gray that we have to wade through. Let’s have grace for each other and understanding as we all react to this event in a different way. 

Fat Fridays: Fatigue

I do not like being tired. I hate it. It feels like I have to do a task that requires 10 units, but I’ve only been given 4 units. And then what do you do? 

Fatigue is one of the leading reasons I started pursuing a better diet and exercise. I needed energy. Really bad. My poor diet messed with my blood sugar. I would eat too many carbs and then my blood sugar would spike and I would feel like I was about to pass out and I would have to lie down. My lack of exercise made climbing the stairs at my house a major event. I felt like I was dragging myself through each day. 

So, I changed my diet, I started really keeping tabs on my carbs, trying to not go over 30grams per meal or snack. I started exercising and felt my endurance growing by leaps and bounds. I now started running up the steps at my house. I stopped taking naps every day. I started averaging about seven hours of sleep, instead of needing eight-plus. I started taking a handful of supplements, like B vitamins and Vitamin D.  And while I will never be accused of being the Energizer Bunny, I felt fine getting through my day. 

And then this past couple weeks happened. Last week I was on a stress-high from the recent gun-violence in my kids’ highschool and our community. Then this week that stress turned into depression. I have barely been able to get out of bed in time in the mornings. I do all my early morning stuff of getting kids off to school, getting young kids fed and settled in, and then I crash mid morning. Fall asleep. And though I don’t sleep too long, it takes me several hours afterwards to get myself up and functioning again. 

I’ve been rolling with it. Been sitting on the couch reading to my little boys instead of trying to tackle grammar and math lessons (I homeschool my six year old). I haven’t attempted to fold the six baskets of laundry, just made sure the kids grab something clean out every night for the next day. I haven’t tried to do any heavy-duty cleaning, just the basic daily tidy-up. My personal trainer is still sending me daily workouts, but twice I’ve traded in a tough workout for a long walk instead. And I’ve just been trying to be patient with myself. Depression is something I’ve fought before and I know it will pass. 

But, I have to say, I’ve been a bit surprised at the fatigue. I think, in the back of my mind, I always presumed that all my fatigue came directly from lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet. I never thought a lot about stress and depression being a significant factor as well. But, I think it is. 

The big reminder I’ve had to give myself is, even though my diet and exercise aren’t giving me energy right now, it would be a hundred times worse if I went back to my old lifestyle. I am still nourishing my body in the way it needs, moving it the way it needs. Fatigue is not an excuse to stop. It’s a motivation to keep going. No reason to make this any worse than it already is.