Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A note to google readers

If any of you actually subscribe to me on Google Reader, I'd just like to say this... my first draft of a post is really a first draft. I have trouble seeing what I've done when I type in this little html box, so I always publish and then read and edit a few times, and then sometimes I even edit more a few days later (and add pictures). So I fear that if you are reading what pops up on Google Reader the first time, you are getting a rough, rough draft, and for that I apologize. You may want to wait a few days before you read this stuff, or at least a few hours, and then hit your refresh button a few times...

Good-bye, girls--part seven

I've been avoiding this post.

I've been writing to my daughters about all the things I wish I'd ever told them and am afraid I may have missed.

Shortly before Shannon moved out, I told her, "Come upstairs with me and watch me clean this toilet. You'll need to know how to do this on your own now." And she told me, "It's OK, Mom, you've already shown me how to clean a toilet." And I wanted to say, "But my technique may have changed since then," or "I think I use a different cleaning chemical now," or "Are you sure? I have no memory of that. I probably did it wrong; let me show you again." Actually, I probably did say that last thing.

Anyway, as promised at the end of the last post in this series, this post is about supplements. Shannon doesn't really much approve of taking supplements, and Laura hates the way the basket full of supplements looks in the kitchen, and I feel pretty self-conscious about this particular post. But it is keeping me at least one more step away from trying to talk about beauty, and for that I am truly grateful.

I take supplements because I think they keep me off prescription medications, and that is a very good thing, especially with the lack of coverage our health insurance provides.

One of the most important aspects of supplements is this: they can help you boost your immunities. Here is a list of immunity boosting supplements:

(1) Vitamin D3. We talked about this earlier. Vitamin D3 is very important, especially for those of us who live in the northeastern USA where there is precious little sun, and small children grow up believing that the sky is gray, not blue. It boosts your immunities, eases aches and pains, strengthens your heart... actually, I forget all the things it does. If we ever migrate to Arizona, we will be able to ease up on the vitamin D3, but for now, take a supplement, and some days, the darkest days, go ahead and take two.

(2) A multi-vitamin. Take a good multi-vitamin daily. I shy away from vitamins formulated specifically for women, because they always contain iron, and iron makes me sick. Men's multi-vitamin formulas often have selenium, which I always thought was good for you (in the proper amount, not too much) and helps with immunities, heart, skin, thyroid and eye health. It is a very powerful anti-oxidant and even has some effect on fighting cancer and neutralizing toxic substances that you may take in. I was a big proponent of selenium, and then Dr. Mercola came out and said that it is really dangerous and the kind they put into most multi-vitamins will actually kill you (not the kind he puts in his own multi-vitamins, of course...) But I'm sick of Dr. Mercola, so I think I'll go ahead with my recommendation that you take a muti-vitamin with selenium and no iron.

(3) Fish Oil. Fish oil is just so good for you over all, you ought to take it. Again, it is good for your heart. It helps your circulatory system, your nervous system, your digestive system and your skin, hair and nails. It's even good for your brain. The special kind of fat in fish oil helps you metabolize your food and absorb your vitamins. One of my friends told me that a psychiatrist told her that he takes four fish oil capsules a day to boost his mood and fend off depression. I'm not exactly sure if it belongs in my "immunity boosting" list, but it does everything else, so I figured that such an all purpose supplement probably boosts your immunities, too. NOTE: look for entearic coated fish oil capsules, or at least capsules that promise "no fishy burps." Cheaper is not better where fish oil is concerned. The cheap ones can give people wicked indigestion.

(4) Acidophilus or a good probiotic. The good bacteria in your "gut" (as they say) is very important to maintaining a healthy immune system. Antibiotics kill off these good bacteria. Other things do, too, specifically the chlorine in drinking water and--much stronger and more dangerous--the chlorine in Splenda (sucralose). Stay away from Splenda, almost as much as you would stay away from aspartame. (Anyway, Splenda tastes awful.) Besides generally keeping your immune system healthy, probiotics prevent and fight all kinds of fungal and yeast infections. Also, if you are having troubles with your stomach being off, or with diarrhea or constipation, a few extra probiotic capsules should help to right your system.

Then there are supplements I take for "womanly" issues. I will try to be careful about how I discuss them.

(1) Evening Primrose Oil. I love this supplement. It prevents joint pain, acne, heart disease, hyperactivity and obesity. It has a very high concentration of a fatty acid called GLA which actually works on your endocrine system and blocks certain hormones from bothering you. It is proven to help with both PMS and menopause, lessening menstrual cramps, breast tenderness, irritable bowel flare ups and hot flashes. It increases feelings of well-being. Applied topically, it also prevents wrinkles and heals wounds. Good stuff. It smells nice, too, and the capsules are one of the few without a nasty flavor on the way down.

(2) Estroven. This is an over-the-counter preparation, not exactly a natural supplement. I used to like the one that was actually a multi-vitamin with womanly help added to it, but they stopped making that one, or at any rate I haven't been able to find it. The important ingredient is Black Cohosh, which is a famous herb for PMS and menopause. You probably do not need to take this stuff, although if you run into PMS trouble, or lots of discomfort with your periods, you might want to pick up a bottle of Black Cohosh.

(3) Calcium. You need Calcium to have strong bones, and to prevent osteoporosis, which runs in my mother's family. The best way to take Calcium is in combination with other supplements that help you absorb it. One of these is Vitamin D, which we already discussed above. I also feel that it is important to take Calcium with Magnesium. Magnesium helps with a number of female and nervous system issues, and it also prevents you from getting constipated from the calcium. I have been taking a combination of Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc for many years, and it seems to be serving me well. DJ has encouraged me to take my Calcium and Magnesium at bedtime to help me relax and lessen my leg cramps. Calcium taken alone can cause indigestion, constipation and even kidney stones, so be sure to take Magnesium and Vitamin D along with it.

(4) Cranberry. I do not take this all the time, but if I run into trouble with my bladder, this is the ticket. If you get a bladder infection, or something that feels like a bladder infection, get a bottle of this. Look for one that says Cranmax on it somewhere, either in the main name of the product or in the ingredient list. To fend off a bladder infection, take the Cranberry tablets along with a probiotic and lots and lots of water. I have found that, for me, this works better than going to the doctor.

Haha. Here we are... my beauty supplements.

(1) Biotin. I take this, as the bottle says, for skin, hair and nails. I mostly notice that it works on my nails. Since I've been taking it regularly, My nails hardly ever break. I started taking it because my hair is falling out. My hair dresser says she thinks it is helping, but I can't tell that it is. I don't know whether it makes any difference in my skin, but I keep hoping it does. It definitely strengthens my nails, though.

(2) Saw Palmetto. Somebody told somebody that Biotin is useless without Saw Palmetto, so I bought some. I really can't say that I notice much difference. Saw Palmetto is a DHT blocker, and DJ says that means it should block acne causing hormones, too. My skin and my hair are holding steady at what I would call a passable condition, so maybe these two supplements are staving off excessive damage and I have no idea how bad it might be without them.

To be totally honest, I think I do notice more problems cropping up when I forget to take my supplements for a couple of days (as I have this week).

Well... scary but true... we are encroaching on the subject of beauty, and we will have to face it head-on before long. Or maybe I will end this series with this post. What will the future bring?

Other posts in this series:
Good-bye, girls--part one,
Good-bye, girls--part two,
Good-bye, girls--part three,
Good-bye, girls--part four.
Good-bye, girls--part five
Good-bye, girls--part six

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A re-post from December, 2004 (just because I found it)

It has been requested that I put this story down in writing, although it has very little to do with Christmas. There is a loose association, in that it does pertain to the idea of gifts, somewhat. And it might bring to mind that pagan carol about the partridge in the pear tree, the two French hens, the three turtledoves and the four calling birds—particularly the four calling birds.

But in our case, it was two calling birds. Or, to be precise, two cockatiels.

It all began in August of 2003, shortly before Jonathan’s eighth birthday. All he wanted in the world was a game system for the TV, and some games to go with it. This was his hope and his dream. I, his strict, straight-laced and fun-squelching mother, deplored the idea of a game system in our home. Keeping the Gameboy and computer game usage under control was taxing enough. I did not want a PS2 or an X-box or a Gamecube to come under my roof. No indeed!

Have you ever seen Jonathan when he is hoping for something? There is a shining light in his liquid brown eyes, and his eyebrows arch above with a perfection that it almost hurts to observe. His mouth is serious and his olive skin pales slightly as though the hope is literally radiating out of him.

But I could not get a game system. They are so bad for kids—no exercise, total time wasters, a discouragement to reading and even to social interaction. I despise them. What then could I give to this precious child that would thrill him, when a Gamecube was the only thing he wanted?

I decided to get him a bird.

When Shawn and I went to buy the bird, we should have sensed trouble and left. To begin with, the man selling the birds was blind. But, being desperate for a gift for Jon, as well as feeling pity for this poor disabled person, we looked at his menagerie and picked one. There was another bird that the man wanted us to buy and kept pushing us towards. It had something on its beak that I didn’t like. We asked about it, but he didn’t seem to know what we meant. Being blind, whether he knew or not, he could act like he didn’t. Finally, when we picked the bird we wanted, he threw in the one he’d been trying to push on us. He said two birds would be nice together. We thought two male birds in one cage sounded strange, but we took them. We named them Jeeves and Bertie Wooster after the butler and drone found in P.G. Wodehouse’s writings.

Jon was thrilled with his birthday present. I will say that. He spent that autumn at school writing essays about caring for his birds and drawing pictures of them. Although the birds were wild when we got them, with patience we trained the calmer one (Bertie Wooster—the one with the funny beak) to perch on our fingers and shoulders. They were loud and messy and took up a lot of space, but Jon was enjoying them. I will say that.

On Thursday, October 30, 2003, we were getting ready to leave for piano lessons. I was upstairs, and I heard Jon call out, “Hey Mom, Jeeves is letting me pet him!” This sounded neither right nor good to me. Bertie Wooster was the tame one—Jeeves wouldn’t ordinarily even nibble a cracker if you held it through the cage. I went running, and Jeeves was huddled on the bottom of the cage. He looked very bad. I realized that he was seriously ill, and I had no idea what to do.

Shannon and David came running to see what was the matter. Shannon lifted Jeeves out of the cage, and he lay weakly in her hands, obviously dying. Everyone started to weep and wail. I didn’t know what to do—and we were going to be late to piano lessons on top of everything else. Should I try to get the bird to an emergency vet? Would he die before we could get there? I called Shawn at work to try to get some advice.

While I was on the phone, the weeping and wailing increased. On the other end of the phone, Shawn told me it sounded like a death procession in the ancient Middle East. Jonathan fell to his knees beside the birdcage and prayed, “Please, God, don’t let my bird die!” Shannon started screaming that it was dying and she didn’t want to hold it anymore. David bravely, compassionately took it from her. A miracle did not occur. Moments later, Jeeves convulsed in a final thrashing death spasm and flopped out of David’s hands onto the table next to the cage, dead. David said, “I killed him. I killed him.” I tried to assure him that he had not. Laura by this time had exited the scene and was sitting alone, out in the van, waiting to go to piano.

Shawn was still on the phone, so I told him it was over and hung up. We put the dead bird in a box and left it on top of the cage. I had them wash their hands very carefully, and we went to piano. They cried all the way there. It was a traumatic event, and creepy the day before Halloween.

While we were at piano, Shawn heroically went home from work and buried the bird. Afterwards, I thoroughly cleaned out the cage. But even then, we felt unsettled. Why had it died? It was the strong, healthy bird—bigger than Bertie Wooster and with better reflexes. So what was up? I decided to make an appointment to take Bertie Wooster to the vet to see if he was healthy, or whether we might expect him to die, too.

Upon first examination of Bertie Wooster, the vet exclaimed, “How long has his beak been like that?” I replied that he had been that way when we bought him. The vet immediately grabbed the bird and took a tiny scalpel to his nose, scraping away a great deal of his nostril. Bertie bled all over everything and was most unhappy. The vet informed me that Bertie had a chronic nose infection that would never go away. He gave me an antibiotic to administer orally twice a day for two weeks, and some salve that he said must be put on the nose once a day every day for the rest of the bird’s life. He said, “Don’t worry, I’ve seen them live ten years or more on this medicine.” Aauugghh.

So began the treatment of Bertie Wooster. Unfortunately, his surgically altered nostril was raw and moist and had a way of attracting seed hulls from his food. So along with administering medicine, we had to learn to pick seeds out of his nostril with a large safety pin every evening before applying the nose drops. As it healed, it left a huge, gaping hole on the right side of his beak, which is perennially filled with seed hulls.

We got used to the beak treatments. We were doing okay with them. Really, we were. But then one day last March, the kids noticed Bertie wobbling and almost falling off his perch. This, I knew, was not a good sign. Of course, Shawn was in California that week, so I was on my own with the issue. Upon closer observation, I realized that the bird’s feet were bleeding. I did not want to take him to the vet again, so I got out some clean, soft rags and pinned them around the perch to make it thicker and softer. Then I pulled out the oral antibiotic drops, which we had not come close to finishing over the original fourteen days. I gave him a dose of antibiotic twice a day until Shawn came home. The bird didn’t die.

When Shawn came home, he looked at Bertie Wooster, and pity won out. He told me to take him to the vet again. So I did.

This vet is probably older than we are—I’m guessing mid-forties—but he looks younger. He is tan and relaxed and obviously has not spent years of his life getting up with crying children in the night. He wears gold chains and smiles a lot. He looked at Bertie Wooster and announced, “I can tell you exactly what is wrong with your bird. Your bird has Bumblefoot. It isn’t that uncommon. In fact, I myself just recently returned from Aruba where I treated all the swans at the Hyatt Regency for Bumblefoot.”

I was dumbstruck. And then the thought lept into my mind, “Why don’t you just take your relaxed tan face and your gold chains and this stupid sick bird and go back to Aruba and stay there?” But, of course, I didn’t say that. Instead I said something like, “How does one treat Bumblefoot?”

I did not much like the answer I got. One treats Bumblefoot by completely cleaning and disinfecting the birdcage three times per day (yes, per day) with a solution of bleach and Lysol, changing the padding on the perch every time you clean the cage, and soaking the bird’s feet twice per day for ten minutes in an Epsom salt solution. If you do this faithfully, you should see good improvement within about four weeks. (You also give oral antibiotics for two weeks, but compared to the rest of it, that is minor.)

So, I bought a Rubbermaid bin with a lid (for the Epsom salt foot baths), and the treatments began. Actually, I am not ashamed to admit that I only disinfected the cage twice per day, while the bird was in his foot baths, because I couldn’t figure out where to go with him if I did it a third time. It was all we could handle, and the nose treatments were, of course, still ongoing. Anyway, it must have been good enough. At his four week check-up, the vet said that Bertie was much improved and another two weeks ought to do it. Yay.

Can I say that I am truly tired of this bird? He is not as tame as he used to be, due to the trauma of all his treatments. He still likes Jon well enough, since Jon has never taken any role in his treatments. He got pretty sick over the summer and grew black scabby stuff all over his face. We almost thought we’d seen the end of him when we left him with a poor, dear generous friend during our trip to visit relatives in August. But when we got back and brought him home, the black scabs fell off, leaving a featherless face with a crooked beak topped by a gaping hole where there was once a nostril. Jon says, “Isn’t Bertie Wooster cute?” Yep. Even cuter than a Boston Terrier.

I’m done spending money on this pet. We have developed a procedure for fixing his beak when it grows too long and crooked for him to eat. You are supposed to take him to the vet ($35) and have his beak filed down ($15), but we find that a toenail clipper works just fine.
The real kicker? Remember why I bought the bird in the first place? I didn’t want a game system in my home. Well, about 8 months ago, David and Shannon pooled some of their money, and Shawn took them to Toys R Us, and they came home with a Gamecube. So I have gotten nothing, absolutely nothing, out of this whole deal. Nothing but hard work and vet bills.

The moral of the story: don’t ever buy a bird.

(But I know one you can have for free, if you want him.)*

*That last statement is no longer true. We gave Bertie Wooster and all of his paraphernalia away to some friends who loved him. He moved with them up to the Adirondack mountains where he died a happy and fulfilled bird, may he rest in peace.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Good-bye, girls--part six

Dear daughters,

Good morning. I am sitting here in my study, virtuously drinking a smoothie made of nothing but homemade kefir, frozen strawberries and stevia powder.

But I have no right to tell you about nutrition because yesterday I blew it.

You see, yesterday, like most days, I started out with tea, followed by a fairly late breakfast. That is just how I do it. I eat with Dad while he is working at home in the mornings, and then I wait until somebody comes home from school before I eat again because I just don't like eating by myself. Ever since the old days when I never ate without company, I have trouble eating when I am by myself.

So yesterday when Jon arrived home from school, I had not yet eaten lunch. This was normal, but yesterday it was very poor planning.

Jon gets home from school at about 2:45. But yesterday he had a trumpet lesson at 3:30. And I needed to go to the bank to get money to pay for the trumpet lesson, so we needed to leave the house at about 3:05 to be sure to have enough time for everything.

By the time I realized what was going on, it was 2:50 and I had 15 minutes to think of something to eat, prepare it, and clean it up.

And then I realized that Jonathan had a doctor's appointment in the city at 5:30, to which we would have to go directly after the trumpet lesson. And directly after that I had Bible study at church at 6:30, for which I would certainly be late, followed immediately by choir practice from 7:45 to 8:45.

As I stood there realizing that I was not going to be able even to start making supper until sometime after 9 p.m., I totally panicked. I ate an apple, some almonds, a spoonful of chicken salad, and grabbed another apple just as Jonathan hustled me out the door, complaining about being late.

The trumpet lesson went until 4:45 because Mr. Coble is a generous teacher. That left us 45 minutes to get to the downtown appointment, and Cobles live closer to downtown than we do, so I was in a quandary about what to do about time and food and schedule. Would we be early? Would we be late? Did we have time to get food?

In the end, I swung into the Rite Aid at the corner of Bear and Buckley, and Jonathan and I bought a package of plastic spoons and a pint each of Edy's ice cream. Jon worked on his on the way downtown, and I started mine when we arrived 12 minutes early in the doctor's parking lot.

It was a good thing we had old Panera napkins in the glove compartment.

Here is the thing about a pint of ice cream on a warm fall day in the car, far from home: there is nowhere to put it. Unless you eat it.

It was right there, in my hand, and there was no freezer where I could tuck "the rest" away for later. Besides, I certainly wasn't full. It was good ice cream, and it wasn't particularly inexpensive. So you see, I did not want to waste it.

I did not waste it. I ate the whole thing, the whole pint of Edy's ice cream, 3.5 servings, the carton said.

By the time I got to Bible study, I was literally quivering from the sugar rush.

After 9 p.m. when I finally got home, DJ said, "So Mom, what did you have for supper tonight?" Sometimes living with DJ is like living with an extra (and fairly brutal) conscience.

I cringed and said, "I had a very bad supper tonight. A terrible supper."

"What did you do?" he pursued.

I spewed out the words, "I had ice-cream."

"Why did you do that?"

And I could not tell him, because I had no idea. He asked me, "Why didn't you at least get a granola bar? Why in the world did you get ice cream? Rite Aid has better choices than that."

So here I am trying to tell you about nutrition, and I failed yesterday.

But anyway, here are some guidelines that you ought to follow as well as possible, understanding that there will be some days... and we must have grace for one another and for ourselves.


Eat more than 25 grams of protein per day. This is not too hard. Milk has a gram of protein per ounce, which makes 8 grams in a cup. Eggs have 6 grams per egg. Almonds have 6 grams per 1/4 cup. And then there are your chicken, beef, pork chops and peanut butter.

Eat less than 25 grams of sugar per day. This is hard. Especially if you eat anything that comes with its own added sugar, like flavored yogurt or sweetened iced tea mix. A banana alone has something like 17 grams of sugar (fructose). So it is hard to eat less than 25 grams of sugar per day, but you will feel better if you do. I felt awful after I ate that ice cream. In fact, I still feel pretty bad this morning. When it comes to limiting sugar, some sources say you must limit your fruit consumption, but I find that counter-productive. I find that if I satisfy myself with fruit, I have less craving for sweets that are bad for me. However, you should try to eat more vegetables than fruit for your daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

Eat your vegetables. Vegetables are the bomb. They only do your body good, not harm. Nobody ever got fat on vegetables. The fresher the better--raw is best--but even frozen and canned vegetables are better choices than most of the food options out there in the American landscape.

Super foods. Just thought I'd list a few of the very best things you should eat, and things you should buy up as much as possible when you find them on sale: grapefruit, celery, blueberries, fresh organic baby spinach, raw almonds, avocados, lemons. Eat as much of these foods as you can, as often as you can.

Whole grains. I think you already know to eat whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, and brown rice. White bread has basically no good use except in egg bake (which is not very healthy, but man, is it good). Here is a wonderful hint... you can substitute whole wheat flour in most of your cookie recipes! It is very good with chocolate chips, and it makes the cookies chewier and more flavorful.

Beware of foods marketed as "low-fat". Foods marked "low-fat" often are actually high in sugar, and generally speaking, sugar is worse for you than fat. Fat is actually pretty good for you. Besides nourishing your brain and helping your body absorb many important nutrients, it makes you feel full, so you stop eating. I believe in real butter, whole milk, and salad dressings made with real olive oil. I eat an avocado for lunch whenever I have the opportunity (yes, a whole one, by myself). However, there are bad fats, most notably the ones in which they cook donuts and french fries, the hydrogenated vegetable shortening in pie crust (or in anything else... bakery "buttercream" frosting, for instance), and whatever it is that they use to make Velveeta.

Eschew white flour and white sugar in any form. Enough said. This is not easy to do, and there will need to be exceptions, but give it your best shot.

Eat one small piece of high quality dark chocolate every day. This is good for you! Dark chocolate has lots of antioxidants, it balances hormones and mood, and if you take a bit every day, you forestall dangerous cravings that would lead you to overindulge. Enjoy!

Coming up next: the supplements I recommend. (I'm sure you can't wait for this one.)

Other posts in this series:
Good-bye, girls--part one,
Good-bye, girls--part two,
Good-bye, girls--part three,
Good-bye, girls--part four.
Good-bye, girls--part five

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Good-bye, girls--part five

***update on what it is like to live daughterless.

(1) Yesterday we were out of bananas. I went to the store and bought two bunches of bananas, a yellow bunch and a green bunch. By bedtime, all the bananas in the yellow bunch were gone. I did not have a banana yesterday and neither (as you might have guessed) did Dad. This sounds like a set up for a math word problem, but I am going to leave it at that. Suffice it to say that food expenditures have not wavered since the females departed.

I made a huge pot of chili last night--I used my 8 quart pot and it was at least 3/4 full, so we're talking approximately 6 quarts, give or take. When I packed up the leftovers, there were about 3 cups left. Maybe. That's 3 cups left from 6 quarts, and 6 quarts equals 24 cups. So approximately 21 cups of chili were consumed last night, and we did not have company. That was Dad, DJ and Jon. I ate approximately 1.5 cups, so between the three of them, they consumed 19.5 cups of chili. Since we are intent on doing math here, you can see that each of these men ate an average of 6.5 cups of chili last night, over a quart and a half. Dad probably ate less than that, which means... I'm getting a headache taking this all in.

(2) There is less laundry. I am not sure why this is, because you never seemed to produce the bulk of what came through. However, I guess having less beds to change and less towels to wash makes a certain difference.

(3) Nobody ever throws anything away. This makes me sad. Especially when they actually put empty containers away and I think I have things and then find out that I don't (why is it harder to recycle the granola box than to put it back in the lazy Susan?). It also makes me sad to find little bicky wrappers, empty milk cartons, torn up bits of paper, tags that have been removed from new clothing, and little cardboard boxes that have been squashed but not tossed... all over the table and the counters.

(4) Bedtime has a distinctly different rhythm. I can't really explain it, but it is different, more abrupt, jaggedly lacking something. The other day I discovered that we get The Waltons on channel 286. I sat there and watched two or three episodes in a row, choking back tears the whole time. You have never even seen The Waltons, but it was a part of my childhood, probably the only show my mother ever liked. And at the end, all the Waltons lie in their separate beds in their various bedrooms and call out good-night to each other, and it is a long and loving process. Bedtime here is too short and lonely now. One of these days someone will appear in my room and have a heart-to-heart with me again while I am lying under my covers...


I was going to talk about nutrition today.

Today I think we will cover beverages, otherwise known as fluids.

My best advice is this:

Drink 64 oz. of plain, pure water every day.

I do not always do this. Especially in the winter, when I get cold, I have trouble with this. However, at those points in my life when I do it, I definitely feel much better. Here are some hints for helping you to drink 64 oz. (8 servings, 8 oz. each) of water per day.

a) Drink a glass of water first thing when you get up in the morning. This is really good to get your body going in a healthy way, and if you just gulp it down first thing, that is one glass out of the way, only seven to go!

b) Drink water with every meal. You will usually drink 12-16 oz. of water (or more!) with a meal anyway, as most glasses are larger than 8 oz. (our little juice glasses at home hold 8 oz., if that gives you some perspective). So if you use a large glass for dinner and if you fill it twice, you have probably consumed a minimum of 24 oz. right there. Suppose you do this for both breakfast and lunch. 24 + 24 + the 8 you drank first thing in the morning, and... voila, you have downed 56 oz, virtually pain free. That leaves only one more 8 oz. glass for you to swallow, which leads me to...

c) Get a water bottle (like your Sig, Shannon), and carry it with you as much as possible, drinking and refilling it. There you go. You are over 64 oz. and it was easy-peasy.

But, you may ask, "Why would we want to drink all that water?"

Drinking lots of water has so many benefits, it is hard to begin. It is good for your health, flushing impurities out of your system. In so doing, it fights infection and can also prevent illnesses. Water drinking also prevents constipation, and in so doing (and also perhaps independently) prevents headaches. It can even alleviate a headache. Drinking lots of water is good for your skin, good for your breath, and good for reminding you to get up and walk down the hall to the bathroom when you are focused on a sedentary activity and might otherwise forget to get up and stretch. It can help you keep trim and fit because if you are concentrating on drinking enough water in a day, you are less likely to think about snacks or feel that you need them. You get less of that gnawing hunger feeling in your belly if your belly is usually full of water, and that prevents overeating at mealtimes as well. It is even good for your teeth, keeping them rinsed and flushing away food particles.

You may say, "But the water where I live tastes bad!"

Some water does taste bad. There are times when the water here tastes bad. Let me know if you want a water filter system for Christmas. The Brita system is pretty good, although the replacement filters can get expensive.

When we go to NC on vacation, I hate the water there, so we buy gallons of water from WalMart. You can usually get a gallon of water from WalMart for about 88 cents. 64 oz. per day comes out to 3.5 gallons of water a week, and if you want to make a half gallon of orange juice concentrate with this water instead of using the blechy tap water, you might as well plan on four gallons per week. This will cost you $3.52 per week, which is not free, but probably won't break the bank. (The half gallon of orange juice which you make from the extra water should be a nice amount to carry you through the week. If you add the whole 64 oz. to the concentrate, it will be a bit weaker than their suggested dilution, but I've always added an extra can of water to our OJ to make it go farther, so it should taste familiar to you. In the end, that will give you 76 oz. which means you can have nearly 11 oz. of orange juice every morning for the week, not a bad system!)

Other tips for fluid intake:

Water is always delicious served with ice, lemon and a straw. For a really special treat, squeeze about a quarter of a lemon into a glass of water, then drop in the rind or zest it. Stir in 1/4 tsp. stevia powder. Serve with ice. This is natural, sugar-free lemonade, and it is delicious.

Tea is really good for you. You can't quite substitute it for water because of the diuretic effect of the caffeine, but tea is good stuff. It actually seems to help people avoid getting sick. Also, it is very soothing for almost all illnesses. It soothes tender stomachs when there is a digestive disorder, and it soothes sore throats and helps to clear out sinuses with its antiseptic steam when you have a cold, too. Keep tea on hand!

The green tea varieties at Aldi (lemon ginseng or passion fruit and jasmine) are quite tasty, even without any sweetener. You might like to brew two of these tea bags in a quart sized ball jar. After the tea has steeped for 3-5 minutes, remove the bags. Cap the jars and set aside to cool, then chill in the refrigerator. This is a refreshing way to reflavor unsavory water. I have plenty of ball jars, so just say the word if you'd like some.

Hot tea is best when you are sick. You can also drink hot water with lemon, which is incredibly healthy and purifying. Hot water with lemon and honey is an excellent remedy for a cold or a sore throat.

Please do not drink soda. It is so unbelievably bad for you. If you get a terrible craving for a sweet, carbonated beverage, try mixing half a glass of your favorite natural fruit juice with a half a glass of club soda. This is actually much more refreshing than soda. Plus, it has only half the sugar of a glass of juice and only half the carbonation of a glass of soda (carbonation contributes to kidney stones). I particularly like cranberry juice this way, but orange juice and ruby red grapefruit juice aren't half bad.

Orange juice is the best kind of juice, because they don't usually add sugar to it; oranges are naturally sweet (read your labels, though!). Most other fruit juices are loaded with HFCS. You can have some of these juices now and then for a treat, but they should not be a part of your every day diet.

Please, really, avoid soda like the plague. Please. Soda is death.

Milk is OK. I prefer to drink whole milk, because it is a more natural form of milk. If you can afford organic, that's obviously the best for you. I always try to get milk that comes from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones, even though I can't afford organic the way these boys go through milk. I encourage you to think of milk as a food rather than a beverage. Drink water to quench your thirst. Drink milk to give yourself a feeling of satiety. Kefir and yogurt are generally easier to digest than milk. If you ever want kefir grains, let me know.

Well, that's enough for today. There will be more coming.

Other posts in this series:
Good-bye, girls--part one,
Good-bye, girls--part two,
Good-bye, girls--part three,
Good-bye, girls--part four.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Good-bye, girls--part four

Here is yet another post in this lengthening series of advice to my daughters, wherein I attempt to convey to them everything I hope I've taught them and am afraid I have not (or something like that).

Today's post follows Good-bye, girls--part one, Good-bye, girls--part two, and Good-bye, girls--part three.

The last post (Good-bye, girls--part three) was supposed to be about health and beauty, but ended up only being about sleep. Today we will continue to look into healthy living. We'll see how far we get...

If you want to be healthy, you need to get enough exercise.
I don't mind admitting that I am really bad about exercise. I do not like to sweat. I do not like to feel pain. I do not like to get a stitch in my side or to wake up with sore muscles. I have never experienced the runner's high. Endorphins are alien to me.

But you both know that I have a really bad back/neck/shoulder situation. When I accomplish some moderate exercise, I really do feel better. When I let the vulnerable areas of my body get stiff from disuse, or when I spend long periods of time reading in foolish (but temporarily comfortable) positions, my neck goes out and I am in considerable pain. The more regularly I walk and stretch and keep those muscles warmed up and loose, the better they work for me.

The more exercise you do, the better you will feel and the stronger your body will be. Period. End of story.

I would be thrilled if you took up a sport or started working out for 45 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week in a gym. Just saying.

And then there is real life, which just doesn't usually work quite that way for most of us.

So this is about minimums. Just try to do what you can, as often as you can.

Have an exercise buddy. This makes a huge difference. Whether you are walking a neighborhood, jogging a track, or doing stair-masters in a gym, an exercise buddy makes it so much more fun! Besides that, if you are out walking or jogging in a public area, it is important for a young woman to have an exercise buddy for safety. Most of the young women who have been raped and murdered in Central Park in NYC were solitary joggers. So get an exercise buddy. And mace. Thank you.

Exercising with a buddy is a great way to develop a friendship. Especially if you walk with someone, you have such beautiful opportunities for conversation. And it is a no-cost activity you can do with someone else for fun!

I want to encourage you to do a minimum of 30 minutes of some sort of physical activity every week day, even if it is just walking (with a buddy, of course). Try to schedule some sort of more extended exercise over the weekend: a hike with friends at a nearby state park, a trip to a beach to go swimming and play beach volleyball, a service project to do yard work for an older person or couple who has trouble getting such jobs done. Try to get in at least 90 minutes of good physical activity or labor over the weekend. Your body will thank you as you age, if you develop such habits now.

Of course, exercise is a lot harder to accomplish in the winter. Since you are both students, check into what's available in the college gyms. You can walk in the winter, but I hate going out in the cold. Some people really enjoy bundling up with scarves, mittens and boots and going out to walk in a light snow, catching snowflakes on their tongues. You could try it; you might like it. And then there is always mall-walking. A couple of hours walking from end to end of a large shopping mall is pretty decent winter exercise, and you might even be able to get your Christmas shopping done early while you care for your body. Make a list and stick to it though, or this could get you into financial trouble.

I have also heard that if you exercise more vigorously, you can accomplish a lot more in less time. So if you do, say, 100 jumping jacks in the winter, that might make up for not going on a 30 minute walk. Anyway, if you're cold, it's sure to warm you up.

Exercise strengthens your muscles, gets your blood flowing, clears your mind and even sets you up for a better night's sleep. If you take good care of your body, it will take good care of you.

It is a beautiful fall day, and I am going to go see if I can pry Daddy away from watching football long enough to walk the neighborhood with me.

I want to say one more thing. You need about 20-30 minutes of time in the sun without sunscreen every day. You also need vitamin D. Vitamin D helps you with achy junk like headaches and leg cramps. It also boosts your immunities, and it is even good for your heart. Sunshine helps your body create vitamin D, so your vitamin D levels are closely related to your time outdoors... which is often the time you spend exercising. You should take a daily vitamin D supplement (1000 IU), and you should double your dose on dark, rainy or snowy days when there is no sun.

Tomorrow we will cover more on nutrition.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Good-bye girls--part three


It is a lazy, mucky day, cold and rainy. I did a lot of running around yesterday and got a lot of various and sundry things done. Tomorrow I have a brunch date with a friend, and I'll need to go to Wegman's to get ingredients for weekend baking. Today I will write to you about health.

I was going to combine health and beauty into one post, particularly given my exceeding slim knowledge about how to achieve feminine beauty. But I think I have to address health in one post, by itself, or it will get too long.

In these notes to you, in which I am trying to cram everything-I-wish-I'd-ever-told-you-and-might-not-have, I did succeed in addressing the two most import topics at the outset, those being your relationship with God and your relationships with people. Today I will begin to address the third thing: taking care of yourself.

In order to be healthy and productive, to be able to reach out to others, even to be able to reflect the beauty of God Himself, you must not neglect the care of yourself. There is a fine line you must learn to walk between neglecting yourself and becoming consumed by yourself. You may find it helps you to stay grounded if you think in terms of your body being the temple of the Holy Spirit, the very place where the Holy Spirit dwells, as well as a tool that God uses to do His works of charity towards mankind. When you take care of yourself, you do it to honor God and for the benefit of others. When you keep this in mind, you will not become selfish or narcissistic. Remember how, on an airplane, the flight attendant always demonstrates how to put on the oxygen mask in case of an emergency, and she always (always) says, "Be sure to put your own mask in place before you attempt to help others around you." We are best equipped to help in any situation (certainly not just on a plane!) if we have taken care to be in good condition ourselves, at the outset.

So... on to the topic at hand!

If you want to be healthy, you need to get enough sleep.
I cannot overestimate the importance of sleep. When you deprive yourself of sleep, your mind works more slowly and your body's immunities break down. The logical end of that is that you get sick and can't accomplish anything at all. Staying up late to try to accomplish things is a backwards endeavor. It's like driving north from New York to try to get to Florida.

If someone seems to be getting a lot done by staying up all night, just try sleeping at night and working during the day, and see how much more you accomplish. Psalm 127:2 says, "In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—-for He grants sleep to those He loves."

Jordan Rubin, who wrote The Maker's Diet, says that sleep you get before midnight is four times more productive than sleep you get after midnight. I do not understand why this should be the case, but in terms of my own experience, it certainly seems to be true. If I go to bed really late, it doesn't matter how long I sleep in the next day; I feel rotten. On the other hand, if I go to bed early, I can get up fairly early and feel quite chipper.

This being the case, if you are under a high pressure deadline and need extra time to work, I would encourage you to go to bed at 9 or 10 p.m. and set your alarm for 3 or 4 a.m. After six good hours of early sleep, with ideas cogitating in your resting mind, the time you spend working on your project from 4 a.m. until 7 a.m. will be exponentially more productive than the three hours from, say, 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. would have been. I know this from experience. When I was a senior in college, I scheduled as many classes as possible for the afternoon so that I could go to bed at night knowing I had the morning to get up and finish papers. My writing came out more clear, more fluid and more interesting when I did.

Six hours is a bare minimum for sleep, and if you have to resort to this short a night, be sure that it is on the early end... 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., for instance. If you train yourself to get up and do work early in the morning, you will learn to love it, and you will be incredibly productive.

Eight hours of sleep is ideal for most people. (Since undergoing four pregnancies and the sleep deprivation that comes with four little babies, I need nine to feel decent, but we won't go there.) If you can get eight hours, even midnight to 8 a.m. is not a bad night. But you might find that you feel better if you sleep 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and better yet sleeping 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Embrace the morning and learn to use it. It is a beautiful time to be up. Everyone else is still asleep, and you can watch the sun rise and spend some special time with the Lord, quietly praying about the day to come. You can also get a jump on tidying and cleaning, pay a bill online, do some prep work for a meal later in the day, apply an Australian blue clay mud mask (remember to wash it off), do a reading for the next class you'll attend, review your notes, etc. It feels good to head out for the day knowing that you've already accomplished something before you even left home-base!

If you get up very early, you might feel yourself needing a nap. Studies have proven that naps increase people's productivity. Naps are nice! Here is a caveat though: I find that afternoon naps sometimes leave me feeling groggy and nauseated (especially if I fall asleep for too long). I prefer morning naps. I also find that it is often preferable to nap on a sofa or in a recliner, rather than in my bed. If I have to nap on my bed, I make sure that I lie on top of the covers and use a throw or an afghan instead of being between my sheets. You want to be careful not to get too hot during a nap, or you may have some really terrifying bad dreams. For some reason, I find dreams that come during daytime naps to be much more vivid and memorable than those that flow through my brain while I sleep during the dark of night.

It is important to have peaceful signals that help you relax when it is time to go to sleep. This is why we had a Very Long Bedtime Routine for you kids when you were little, and probably why we never had any fussing or conflict over bedtime. If you have a habit of working on your computer during the evening (and since you are both students, I expect that you do), try to plan your study time so that you have a non-computer based task to do last.

Turn off all televisions, computer monitors, anything that glows, right before you begin your last task of the night. In fact, you might even want to wash and put on your pajamas at this point, since using the bathroom generally results in a fair dose of artificial lighting. Turn off all the lights you can, except for just exactly what you need for light to finish your last task; a single desk lamp should probably suffice. You may want to turn on some soft, soothing classical or inspirational music at this point, preferably instrumental with no words. Finish your last task and arrange your materials for the morning so you feel peaceful and prepared.

Keep a spot of sanctuary and refuge. For Shannon, this could actually be your bedroom; you could keep all of your work in other areas of your apartment. Laura, since your dorm room is a single space where you study and sleep, your refuge could be between your sheets. I know that you keep your bed neatly made while you are working during the day. At day's end, the act of folding back your covers to reveal your sheets could be your special signal that says, "This is my resting place. My work for the day is done."

Have a drink of water, read a chapter from your Bible, and lie back with your mind full of prayers and thanksgiving.

Wow. I was going to talk about health, and all I got through was sleep. Well, I hope you read this and find something useful to implement. Sweet dreams!

(P.S. This is stuff I wish I could implement for myself, but cannot because I live in a home community with others who render such a schedule impossible. You must live with grace for those around you--and you should live with more grace than I do. But as single women living more-or-less on your own, this is your golden opportunity to discover how to make the most of your natural biorhythms.)

Next up, exercise.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Beauty of the Church

The church is the bride of Christ.

The book of Revelation talks about this phenomena the most. Revelation 19:7, Revelation 21:2, Revelation 21:9 and Revelation 22:7 all allude to this beautiful allegory of the love between Christ and His church.

Besides Revelation, there is a wonderful and mysterious passage in Ephesians:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:25-32)

I could go on and on about what this means for relationships between men and women on earth. The main point is this: God created the husband-wife relationship to be a picture of His love for His people.

We honor God when we reflect the love of Christ and the church within our marriages. This is why God says that the man should be the loving head of the relationship, and that the woman should respectfully submit to her husband's authority. Many people do not agree with this position, and that, sadly, is probably mostly because they do not seek to understand what it means to fully glorify God with their lives. They still have their own selves on the throne of their lives, and they are mostly concerned with striving to grasp all of their rights and privileges. Their priority concern is not whether they gloriously reflect the Lord who made them. All of us struggle with the tension of being tempted to live a self-centered life rather than a God-centered life, and none of us have it down perfectly. The difference is that some of us attempt to get it right; for all the times we fall on our faces in the mud, we have a God-ordained desire in our hearts to put the Lord in the position He deserves in our lives. Others work to justify their natural selfish desires, especially the desire to be the boss of themselves. They allow nobody, not even the Almighty Creator of the Universe, to tell them that they might be mistaken in their judgment.

This is not exactly what this post is supposed to be about, so far. But it is groundwork that we must understand before we go forward. If you do not agree with me at this point, you might as well stop reading, because what I will go on to say is built on what I have said. I am not going to spend any more time trying to convince with logical arguments. Either you believe the Bible and accept what it says, or you don't.

The point is that we here on earth are to reflect spiritual truths about God in the way we live our lives. Recently I heard a woman say, "Be the moon. Reflect the Son." I love the moon. I think it is unutterably beautiful, and lately it has even been full. One year on my birthday, December 22, the winter solstice (and it really was smack on the winter solstice that year), there was a full moon. I remember we were in the midst of practicing for a church Christmas pageant, and we had to do a lot of driving around after dark (it's always dark that time of year, even when it isn't very late). Usually I hate winter, hate the winter solstice and hate the dark. But that year there was this huge, brilliantly bright full moon shining in the black night sky, and it was so incredibly beautiful that I felt moved to tears each time I went out to the car, and as I drove up and down Route 31 watching it. It was the best birthday present ever, and it came from my heavenly Father.

God wants the church to reflect His glory and beauty and magnificence just the way that winter solstice full moon was reflecting the far away sun that night.

The moon has no light source of its own. If not for the sun, we wouldn't see the moon at all. I think this is significant in regard to the beauty of the church.

The church does not need to drum up its own beauty. The only beauty regimen the church should follow is that of being Christ-saturated.

When churches put on cloaks of worldliness in order to appeal to the world, I think they little realize the incredible damage they do, both to themselves and to the people of the world whom they think they are trying to help.

The church should be beautiful. It should be appealing. But the appeal of the church should come from its holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16).

I think of Victor Hugo's view of the church in Les Miserables. I do not even think Hugo was necessarily a believer, but at the beginning of his novel, he describes Jean Val Jean--a newly released ex-convict with no hope. He can't so much as purchase a meal in a lodge. Nobody will have anything to do with him. Hugo shows how Jean Val Jean will be forced to turn back to crime in order to survive and eat, because there is no grace for him anywhere. And then, somehow (I don't remember quite exactly how), Jean Val Jean meets up with a priest. Does he find the priest's house? Or does the priest find him? I am not sure. But the priest takes him in, and the description of the priest's home is beautiful. It is clean and quiet. There are white tablecloths, white curtains, white sheets that glow in the night. At the priest's house, Jean Val Jean receives food and a bed to sleep in. The priest leaves everything in the house unlocked.

In the middle of the night, Jean Val Jean gets up, steals the priest's silverware and runs away. Police go after him, hunt him down and drag him back to face the priest. They throw him down before the priest and rip open his bag, which exposes the silver he has stolen. Guilt, shame and despair overcome Jean Val Jean. And then the priest says to the police, "But of course, my good men, these were my gifts to him." And then he smiles at Jean Val Jean, walks over to his fireplace mantel, and takes down the two silver candlesticks still standing there. "But how is it you forgot these, my friend?" he asks Jean Val Jean. (And of course it is this gift, both the material worth of the silver and--even more so--the grace and goodwill of the priest, that enables Jean Val Jean to make a new start and to become a good person.)

This is what the beauty of the church should be like, not a wild and desperate attempt to emulate the exciting sights and sounds of the world, but a peaceful beauty that originates in grace and is completely unlike anything in the world. It is God's holiness, the way He is set apart and different, that will attract the ones who need Him.

My husband and I heard someone say (and I wish I could remember who, so I could credit the person) -- "What you attract them with is what you will attract them to."

If churches put on a show and try to be hip, cool, "relevant" (don't get me started on relevance), and designed to make people of the world feel comfortable in their worldly ways and tastes, I fear that these churches are utterly failing to reflect the beauty of Christ. In failing to reflect Christ, they cannot possibly draw people to Christ. They may be drawing people into a club, yes, or an organization that sometimes even does some nice outreach projects in the community, but not to Christ.

If the church is the bride of Christ, then I think it can safely take advice from the Bible about what the beauty of a wife should be like. 1 Peter 3:2 says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

The beauty of the church should come from the gentle and quiet spirit of Christ in her, not from braided hair and gold jewelry and expensive clothes. The church should not put on distracting outward adornment that obfuscates the beauty of Christ within her. The church should trust in the beauty of Christ and have faith that in reflecting the beauty of Christ she will draw the lost to Him.

We are not called, as the church, to be God's public relations committee. He doesn't need one of those. He does not need us to change His image, or massage it to make it palatable to the masses. It is astonishing that we could be so arrogant as to assume so.

If we do not understand that there is nothing more exciting than knowing and learning about our God, who created the universe, planned our redemption, implemented the greatest rescue operation of all time through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and who delivers on all His promises through the powerful and mysterious work of His Holy Spirit in us, if we do not see that there is nothing more precious than His revelation to us of Himself through His holy Word, if we do not come to Him because HE is wonderful and worthy and beyond all we could ask or imagine...

If we think we need ear-splitting rock concerts, fog machines, cotton candy and bounce houses, if we think free food and fun and speakers who tell crass jokes in t-shirts with skulls and crossbones on them are a better draw than the gospel story, if we have so little confidence that people will be attracted to Christ that we actually tell our teens to invite their friends to church without using the word "church" or (especially) alluding to the name of Jesus...

Well, if that is what the church is turning into, then I think its beauty is fading. Fast. It is Christ in us that is our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). There is no other hope of glory. There is no other true beauty.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Travel log and preview of things to come.

Precariously balanced in my mind are a post about what the beauty of the church should be like, and a post to my daughters in the "Good-bye girls" series about health and beauty.

Reminding my girls about what I know about health is probably reasonable, although the idea of me giving beauty advice is clearly laughable. When our kids move away we have this need to try to tell them about things we wish we knew about, even if we have never become accomplished at them. My hope is that true beauty flows from good health, as well as from a loving spirit toward others and especially from the fullness of Christ in us.

But before I get to those two posts, I want to write about our trip out to Minnesota where we surprised my parents with a visit. Surprising them may not have been the best of ideas, since my dad had just suffered a massive heart attack. But we wanted to spare them the angst of preparing for us, so we decided just to show up, having made arrangements to stay with my Uncle Don.

We couldn't go immediately to Minnesota upon hearing about the heart attack. For one thing, we were in North Carolina when we got the news, and we had to stop at home first. My dad was doing pretty well, was stable, so we went ahead and got Laura packed up for college upon our return home after vacation.

The time at home also enabled Shawn to set up visits with customers his company services, customers he would visit along the way to Minnesota and thus not miss another week of work.

We delivered Laura to school on August 22, as originally planned. Since we live in central New York and she goes to college in western PA, we were already headed west, which is the same direction as Minnesota.

We had to rush a bit and leave before everything was "just so." But Lu has a cozy, comfortable room that is practically identical to her room last year, albeit on a much higher floor. We felt that as we carried things up.

Here we are, saying good-bye to our second daughter. I suppose it was easier to do since we had to hurry on to Chicago where Shawn had visits lined up for the following day. There's nothing like keeping busy to take your mind off things you don't like to face.

We had beautiful weather for driving to Chicago, blue sky and fluffy white clouds, black thruway headed at 73 mph for the west, cutting through green trees and the fertile farmland of Ohio.

We arrived fairly late at our hotel and ended up eating at a Boston Market instead of taking Jonathan to Lou Malnati's. Well, beef brisket is always tasty even though it's not, well, Lou Malnati's. I guess we will just need to go to Chicago again sometime.

The next day was rainy. I drove Shawn to his first customer visit and then went back to the hotel where Jon and I relaxed. I plunked around on my little netbook while Jon watched a cable movie. Just before noon, we checked out of the hotel and went to get Shawn. He had an hour break, so even though we weren't very hungry, we went out for lunch at a sweet little place called Egg'lectic. It was awesome! I only wish we'd had bigger appetites.

From there, Jon and I dropped Shawn off at his afternoon appointment, then headed to a mall where we killed a few hours and found Jon a new pair of sneakers for school.

We picked Shawn up at about 4:30 p.m. and from there we drove to Madison, Wisconsin where we visited my nephew Dan, my brother's son, who just graduated from college and started his first job. After we went out for dinner together, Dan put us up for the night in his apartment.

Here are Shawn and me with Daniel.

Daniel and Jonathan.

Dan has a beautiful apartment. He was such a good host, and turned his whole living room over for our sleeping comfort. He inflated an airbed for Jonathan and collapsed his futon for Shawn and me.

Dan used to play quads in Phantom Regiment, a drum and bugle corps in the DCI (Drum Corps International). Jon is interested in all things field band, so he was duly impressed by Dan's commemorative drum head arrangement on the wall.

The next morning we headed to Minnesota, where we finally got to see my parents.

We arrived in the Twin Cities during my mom's naptime, so we went to my sister's house to kill time. At 4:30 p.m. we thought Mom would be up, so we headed over.

The sign was on the door: "Napping. Please do not ring the doorbell. Please do not knock." This is the sign that has been on the door during naptime ever since I was a baby, and clearly it does not leave one with many options.

We looked in the windows, and my dad was neither in the den nor the living room. Then I thought to look in the garage, where I discovered that Dad's car was, in fact, missing.

I had a key, but Shawn and Jonathan told me for heaven's sake not to use it. So we stood on the front steps of the house wondering what to do. Just when we decided to take a walk and come back later, my dad floated up the street in his Buick, peering out the windshield at our van (which was parked a little beyond the driveway) and then at us. For a moment he looked confused, and then he broke into a smile.

Dad ushered us into the house and we sat and chatted in the living room, waiting for my mom to get up. He had been at his cardiac therapy, and he was doing quite well. He looked a little bit thin and a little bit pale, but otherwise good. It was so good to see him.

After awhile my mom got up. She didn't know who was in her house, so she didn't come out to say hello. Finally her curiosity overcame her and she peeked around the corner to see who was there, but even then she couldn't figure it out until she walked right up to me, and then she very nearly had a heart attack herself. "Oh Ruthie!" she said, "Is it you?"

This is Mom in her kitchen.

We assured my parents that we would stay with Uncle Don, but they insisted that we stay with them, and so we did, in the self-same bedrooms of the house where I grew up and lived all my life. It was a blessing, that's for sure.

Jon was a champion while we were there. He mowed.That little speck in the back in a yellow shirt is Jon... it's a very big yard.

He also climbed up high on a ladder to cut some dead branches out of a tree.

And, while he was there, Jon celebrated his sixteenth birthday (a day early since we had to drive home on "The" day).

Aunt Nunie came over for Jon's birthday dinner (which was heart-healthy chicken breast and brown rice with vegetables and lettuce salad). Aunt Nunie was a missionary in Africa for 30 years when she was younger. Now she is 86 and does visitation at nursing homes, where she is older than many of the residents she ministers to. We love Aunt Nunie. She brought Jonathan a card and an elephant hair bracelet that was handmade in Africa.

It was a good visit. Dad's color improved and his eyes got twinklier over the three days we were there. I am thankful to God for the way He allowed the visit to work out. I am thankful that my dad is doing well. And I am thankful that I got to hug my dad a few times.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Beach Pictures

Since I am always behind in life, I am currently trying to hold "Good-bye, girls--parts 3 through 5" in my head. A wobbly endeavor, that. My brain is leaky these days. Also, I've been wanting to write about my trip out to see my parents last week. But I was also meaning to post pictures of the beach. And that is what I will try to do today. Maybe tomorrow the Minnesota trip. Maybe not. Maybe someday.

I've always wanted to stay in a pink house! The experience did not disappoint. There is a certain thrill in coming home to the brightest house on the block every day after you've been to the beach. I had to take this picture at evening twilight, because we were so busy beaching during the day.

We felt very welcome here. Some houses are more personal than others. This one was stocked with books, games, extra pillows, charming art on the walls and friendly signs strewn about.

The name of the house was "The Three Sisters". This photo says it all.

This was our home base at the beach.

Jon spent a lot of time skim-boarding. He's not half bad!

Jon also spent a lot of time grilling... he made supper nearly every night, and we were very grateful. He may look like he doesn't like cooking, but really, he just doesn't like being interrupted by a camera.

This sign always makes me nervous. So far, we have survived. No sharks, either!

Here is the wagon in which we rolled all our gear to the beach every day. A very handy thing to have, that wagon.

My awesome kids, minus one.

Yes, there were more people at the beach this year. I guess it makes the place more colorful.

Classic relaxation.

Classic love.

David, trying to be taller than Jonno.

Posing for posterity.

Every house has a hose underneath, for cleaning off your feet before you go inside. Every house also has an outdoor shower. This is obviously so the mom can always be assured of getting an indoor shower upon returning from the beach, and, as years go by, also the sisters. It's a chivalry thing.

We watched Chariots of Fire one evening back at the house. The next day, Shawn was inspired.

We used to call these two "The Twins."

Towels drying on the front porch. Also our hammock, with Lulu in it.

This is the epitome of vacation. Just saying.

Wishing it wouldn't end.

Happy, happy, happy times.

You've heard of "Girl Power"??? Well, this is "Boy Tower"!!!

Walking into the wind, wiggling toes in the sand and the edges of the waves. Breathing.