Fat Fridays: Tis’ the Season

Good morning everyone. Hope you all are well today. 

I am busily cleaning my house, listening to Pentatonix’s Oh Come All Ye Faithful. (Ok, I had to stop writing there for a second so I could sing along. Ok. Focus on writing.) 

I was up all night thinking about all the things I need to do in the next couple days. My son has a Christmas program at school tonight, and we have family coming to watch. We’re having our annual Christmas Open House on Sunday which involves a lot of cleaning, cooking, and planning. And on top of all that, this week I pulled a muscle in my back and spent a whole day just sitting in a chair. Yesterday I was able to move around, but slowly and carefully. Today I am stiff, but able to move.  But, that put me two days behind on all the Christmas preparation I was planning on doing. And then last night the PTO from the elementary school said we are selling popcorn tomorrow, can you come help? And I said yes, while my eye started twitching. 

I am pretty sure that I pulled a muscle this week because I have been walking around in a physical state of stress. I love Christmas time. I love doing things for other people, making things special for my kids, all the extra Christmas activities. But, it can be stressful. I like my life slow paced. And the whole month of December is not slow paced. At all. And there are a lot of social interactions. And I am an introvert who has discovered over time that I thrive on a lot of alone-quiet time. And I haven’t been getting a lot of that. Last night I went to my son’s basketball game with one of my daughters. We watched both the boys and girls games. Another mom from the team was sitting next to me so we engaged in polite social chitchat. It was noisy. I spent a lot of time talking to my daughter. When we got home I gathered the family together so we could do our nightly Advent devotions that we do in the month of December. We finished Advent and then I gave my husband “The Look”. The look that says, I am done. I need to disappear. PLEASE TAKE OVER!! And my husband, who stayed home with all the other kids, fed them supper, helped them with homework, goes, “What??” All you’ve done is go to a basketball game! But, going to a basketball game takes a lot of energy! 

So, we tag teamed and made it through bedtime, crashed into bed, and then I dreamed about cleaning my house, preparing for parties, and kept waking up wondering if it was time to start the next busy day. 

So, for this blog, the question is, how do you maintain diet, exercise, and self-care during the holidays? 

I think the best I can come up with is Be Realistic. 

The next three days I am not going to have much time, but I plan to get up early tomorrow morning so I can squeeze in a workout. I don’t think I will get to one today though, too many things to do. But, I know that next week I will have more time, so I just have to accept that sometimes you can’t do everything. And as far as self-care, I think I just have to keep reminding myself that none of this is life and death. If I don’t get everything done, it’s ok. All of these things I’m doing are because I want everything a certain way. And if it ends up not being the exact way I want, Who cares? No one else does. Just me. So, I have to keep reminding myself that the level of importance I’m putting on all these plans is very flexible. And diet? Well, there is always January. Though I am going to try and come up with some quick, healthy meals we can just heat up for the next couple days without needing a lot of prep. 

So, I’m off to do more cleaning and then go sell popcorn and then cook and clean some more. And maybe try to remember that this is fun and I love the holidays. 

Fat Fridays: In Search of New Strategies

Well, it’s Friday, and I’m still fat…Guess I don’t have much else to say. 

Just kidding.

I’ve been “training” for my 5k. Which sounds really pretentious. But, I don’t know how else to put it. Last Saturday I ran 5k in 37 mins and 28 secs. Which was an improvement over the 40 mins it took me the time before. I think I’ll be trying it again tomorrow. Today I’m supposed to run 5 mins at a moderate pace, 5 mins at a fast pace and 3 mins ALL OUT. I am not a fast pace or ALL OUT pace kind of person. So, this will be interesting. Ok, so here is a question. How do you keep track of these times when you are running? I have a fitbit and I have a cellphone. Running with a cellphone in my hand is awkward. Trying to press the button on the side of my fitbit to light up the screen while I am running is also awkward. And sometimes I accidentally bump the screen and it pauses my workout and then I’m frantically trying to make it start again, while still running. It does not make for a smooth running experience. And I can just see myself today, trying to go ALL OUT for a whole 3 minutes and I’ll keep having to stop and look at my watch. Not an ideal situation. So how does everyone else do it? 

The other thing is I run in my neighborhood and there are awkward breaks where I have to cross a big road and so I’m trying to figure out how to map my route so that when I’m going fast and ALL OUT, I don’t have to pause and wait for traffic. RIght now I’m thinking it might be easier to just do the same half mile stretch several times because I know approximately how much time it takes me to run that and I’ll at least have some clues as to when to look at my watch. 

We’ll see. It’s cold outside. I’m not going to go out till it warms up a little bit more. 

Diet is going horrible. I find myself thinking, maybe I just need to try to maintain this weight until January when I can get all hyped up about healthy eating again. Why does January always seem like a good time to diet? Looking at the upcoming holiday season, it does not feel like a great time to be eating healthy. And this is my old, unhealthy thought patterns having full control right now. My memories of past holidays where I ate carefully are that I felt great from not over-indulging. 

Right now my brain is in high-stress mode and it’s really hard to practice self-care when your brain is in this mode. Really hard. I’ve been able to keep exercising and make that happen. I just don’t know how to keep the healthy eating happening. 

We have an important meeting today which I’m hoping the outcome is that I will be less stressed afterwards. We’ll see. The problem is that we can’t wait for the stress to go away before we try to be healthy. My experience of the past two years is that the stress is not going anywhere. It appears to have moved in to stay. And my main strategy has always been to wait for stress to pack it’s bags and leave. So now I need a new strategy. And actually, writing about this has been helpful. I don’t think I’ve put that reality into words before. The problem at least feels a little more simple. I need a new strategy for handling stress because I need to accept that the stress is here to stay so waiting for it to leave is no longer an option. 

Well, I think I’m going to spend the rest of the day pondering that. I’ll see you all next week. 

Fall Nights

It’s been a good day. A day to notice little things. 

This evening I heated up some soup for my supper. On Sundays I make a big noontime meal and then the rest of the day everyone fends for themselves (Ok, we help the three year old out, but that’s about it). I try to have sandwich makings or bagels or leftovers or something simple people can snack on. Today I heated up the homemade chicken soup which is more like chicken stew, it’s so thick, and two of my girls joined me. We got out the pretty colored bowls of mismatched shapes and sizes that always cheer me up. Sat at the big wooden table my husband made. 

After eating we moved back to the living room, the center of the home in winter time. My teen was playing the part of dj, selecting music off her playlists for us while she read her book. 

Some kids were gathered around the coffee table, having an interesting debate about how to draw animals. 

Another child was sitting on the couch with the dog, also reading her book. The puppy sleeping on the floor close by. 

Another child crawled into my lap and after a couple minutes of rocking in the old chair, she was out. I sat there holding her, enjoying my domain. 

Right now life feels a little crazy. Holiday plans are getting shifted, age-long traditions are being paused. Our country still doesn’t feel stable. I try to avoid thinking about the outside world as it seems out of control and bewildering. 

And so, it feels like a gift, to be able to just sit and see my immediate space. My home. The solidness of family. To feel the peace around me. Belonging. Purpose. Mission, as we try to raise these kids to adulthood. 

As we head into Thanksgiving this week, I’ll get started with the thankfulness now. I am thankful for fall nights, in my home, with my family. 

Not Bored Anymore

Well, it feels like it’s been several weeks since I last sat down to write, though in truth, it’s only been four days. I feel like I’ve crammed in enough activity in the past week and a half to fill at least one month. If someone were to ask how I was doing, the answer would be Tired. 

 

But it’s a good tired. It’s the tired at the end of a really good workout. The tired after completing some humongous task. It’s the feeling of knowing that you have worked really hard and now you deserve some rest. 

 

Introducing new kids into the family is very similar to having a newborn baby, minus the nursing problems. Our schedules have been tilted, everyone is in a transition mode. There’s excitement, and irritation, and 24hr-a-day parenting. 

 

The first day we got our new kids, that night, my husband hugged me tight, grinned at me, and said, “You know you’re crazy right?” I thought about that for a whole day then confronted him the next night, “If I’m crazy, what does that make you?” He said, “Oh, I’m crazy too.” Apparently we are well-matched. 

 

So, I know this is going to sound weird, but adding these kids to our family has added a lot to my life. I have to admit, I was getting a little bored. Our family was on cruise-control and while parenting is always challenging, there was nothing new or unexpected. I felt very much like I was treading water, trying to figure out how to challenge myself. Maybe I could figure out how to take on more piano students? 

 

Well, I do not feel bored any more. 

 

It makes me think about how God knows best. It seems that he has created us to enjoy change. We have the four seasons, or in other parts of the world, rainy seasons, dry seasons, stormy seasons. We mark time by how the weather changes. We have various holidays and festivities marked out to happen throughout the year, and we are constantly looking forward to these changes. I can’t wait for spring to come! Valentine’s Day is coming up soon! I can’t wait for next fall! 

 

It’s kind of strange that we live in a state of constant change, but we also crave the familiar, the comfortable, our safety zones. The two don’t seem to go together. 

 

I know that when we start getting close to Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years, there is a feeling of excitement and anticipation. I feel more alive and energetic, just awaiting all the festivities. I also know that when my comfort zone gets shaken up I feel more alive and purposeful. There is more zing in my step. 

 

I wrote in another blog, quite a while ago, about The Prayer of Jabez. How it was all about asking God to increase our boundaries, increase our area of influence. And I never liked that prayer. I never had any desire to make my boundaries any bigger than they are right now…thank you very much. So, recently my boundaries have suddenly increased. And I find myself happy about it. Feeling alive and useful. And thankful. Thankful that God knows a lot better than me what I can and can’t do. Thankful that he was willing to shake me out of my comfort zone. 

 

So, yes, I am tired. But I’m also not bored.

 

Let’s Just Skip the Guilt

December is here, and for me that means full-blown Christmas Celebrating. We put up the tree after Thanksgiving, pull all the decorations out, and when we’re done it looks like an explosion of red and green, silver and gold. On December 1st we start doing Advent Readings. Not really a traditional advent. We have a collection of readings on the attributes of God. Each night we read Bible verses about how God is our Rock, our bridegroom, the Desire of All Nations…And we have a little tray on which we put a tangible object to remind us of each of these names. Like a fancy rock, a ring, a silver coin. And then, after we’ve done our Bible readings, I pull out a treat like rock candy, or lifesavers (a ring) or gold wrapped chocolate coins. It is one of our favorite Christmas traditions. We also have a yearly Christmas party where we invite a ton of people to come and eat goodies and just catch up with each other. Add on various recitals and concerts that the kids are in, and a Christmas Eve tradition of making Gingerbread houses, and that about rounds out our Christmas Holidays.

 

When one of my kids asked me, Mom, is Santa Coming? I was a little stunned. Santa? It has long been our tradition to teach our kids about the historical Saint Nicholas and explain where the legend of Santa came from, but then tell our kids that we focus on Christmas being a Celebration of Jesus’ birth. The question threw me off. Have I failed? Have I somehow forgotten to put emphasis on the story of Jesus and so my kids have just latched on to what the culture around them is talking about? 

 

As I paused to think this over, I tuned into the Christmas music we had playing in the background. Almost all the songs were about Jingle Bells, and Santa, and Winter Days. Not a whole lot about the Birth. I looked over at the piano. My Christmas Favorites Book was open and I had been fooling around with some Jazzy arrangements of “I’ll be Home for Christmas” . Yikes. Suddenly everything felt very secular and my guilt-o-meter started ticking. 

 

And then, a quiet voice said, So do something about it!  Oh. Ok. I guess we could pull out some of our Bible Christmas Books and read through those. I can play my jazzy Christmas songs, but I can also pull out some of the old favorite carols. I can continue to remind my kids that Christmas is a Celebration of Jesus coming to earth. And instead of focusing on what gifts we’re going to get, I could get my kids working on some giving instead. Like making cookies for our neighbors, writing cards for their teachers, giving presents to friends. It’s never too late to change the focus. 

 

This is my normal pattern. I see a problem and I instantly get caught up in guilt and everything feels horrible and the world is going to end because I messed up. When really, most things just need a small fix. Ok. Here’s a problem. Let’s fix it. There is nothing wrong with all the trappings of Christmas. I love the lights and trees and gifts. I just don’t want that to be the main focus of our holidays. So, I can take steps to change the focus. 

 

So, here’s to having grace for myself. When I notice that things aren’t going the way I want them to, instead of getting all caught up in guilt and anxiety and anger…I can just make a change. Turn the direction back the way I want it and skip all the self-hate drama. 

May our holidays be filled with grace and peace! 

 

Let’s have a Chat!

Hey Everybody. It’s Tuesday and it is apparently time for me to write my blog. And I’m not feeling it. Sometimes this blog feels narcissistic. It’s time to write about ME again. Uggh. 

 

So, let’s make this about someone else tonight. How are you all doing? How is life out in internet world? Are you crashing at the end of the day and seeking some mindless relaxation on Facebook? Right now I am sitting in my little boys’ room, waiting for them to go to sleep. It’s Andy’s night off and I am solo parenting. 

 

How are you coping with the holidays? Are they a fun-filled nostalgic time for you or are they a non-stop hectic, stressful race to the end? I seem to seesaw back and forth on that one. I am trying to have a slow, peaceful holiday month, but life keeps interrupting. 

 

How are you feeling with the shorter days and winter weather? (If that applies to you, maybe it’s summer in your part of the world.) For me, I love winter, but the cold weather gets to me. Maybe because my kids don’t want to be out in the cold, so then they’re running around the house, shooting nerf bullets at each other, or literally, climbing the walls, trying to see if they can make it up to the ceiling. 

 

How’s your peace doing? Is all right with the world or does everything feel out of whack? Me? Well, I’m in that interesting place where everything is out of whack, but despite that, I’m at peace and can feel God’s presence in all the craziness. So, I guess it’s good. I’ll tell you what, Jesus is the only one that can do that for me! I hope that you can find peace in your craziness too. Cause, if I’m being realistic, there probably isn’t anyone of you out there that doesn’t have some level of craziness going on. 

 

How are your dreams coming along? It’s taken me years to even give myself permission to have dreams. For a while there, just taking care of little kids was so overwhelming, I did not have any time for dreams. It’s not a great place to be. Feels a bit dead. I’ve been trying to let myself dream again. One dream is to be a full-time piano teacher. I had four piano students this school semester and it was really fun. We had a little recital of sorts last night and it felt good to see how well they did. It’s a small dream, but I’m taking steps towards it and that is nourishing to the soul. I hope you can find a way to, first of all, have a dream, and second of all, pursue it in small ways tucked here and there in your busy life. 

 

Let’s see, we’ll just skip politics. And sports. Read any good books lately? I found a new author I like, recommended by a friend, Amy Harmon. Fluffy, funny, PG, but also some stuff to think about. Just what I’m looking for right now. I’ve also been reading 1,2, and 3rd John, in the Bible. I found 1 John to be very comforting for my perfectionist self. I am never sure if I’m doing enough, being enough, striving enough etc. And the main point I took away from the book was, Obey Jesus’ commands. This is his command. Love God, Love People. The End. And that doesn’t seem too burdensome. It seems like a joyful task, not a hard chore. And it also feels like a load of expectations dissolves off my shoulders every time I read it. Good stuff. 

 

Well, if you were sitting right in front of me, this is about the time I would start digging for the nitty gritty stuff, how are the relationships in your life? How are you feeling about yourself? How’s your spiritual life? What’s making you happy these days? What’s dragging you down? 

 

So, you should come on by when you can, sit at my kitchen table, where the kids will run around us, kind of like a rock sticking out of the current in a river. We’ll drink some hot tea, I’ll dig up some cookies, or carrot sticks, depending on where you are at with your diet, and we can chat (with plenty of interruptions, but it won’t matter!). 

 

Good night friends, let’s talk again soon!