Saturday, January 28, 2012

Skin care

I've been finding out some things about skin care.

For starters, I began using the Oil Cleansing Method.

This is actually biblical! Psalm 104:14-15 says of the bountiful providence of God,
"He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for men to cultivate--
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart."

You use a washcloth and hot water to warm your face and open your pores. Then you massage about a teaspoon of oil into your face. I use 75% sunflower seed oil, 25% castor oil and a few drops of geranium essential oil. (When I make the next batch, I'm going to try substituting grapeseed oil for the sunflower seed oil.) After massaging this into your face for a minute or two, you use your washcloth and hot water to remove most of the oil from your skin. Leave a little on to moisturize overnight. This is a night-time treatment.

In the morning, I just wash my face with a washcloth and warm water. If you have trouble with breakouts, you might want to try washing with a small dab of organic honey in the morning.

Apparently castor oil is really good for your skin. I have tried dabbing a small drop on problem areas in the evening, after using the Oil Cleansing Method. You can also dab a bit of tea tree oil on a trouble spot (it works particularly well if the skin has been prepped with castor oil). If you are using this method and still need additional moisturizer, I'd recommend massaging a bit of evening primrose oil into your skin.

If you need additional help clearing up your skin, you can try applying an aspirin and lemon juice mask (I got this idea from One Good Thing by Jillee, and she got it from Dr. Oz). All you need is 6-12 aspirin tablets and the juice of half a lemon. Dissolve the aspirin in the lemon juice (I'd suggest crushing it first), apply to your face and leave for ten minutes. Rinse off with a baking soda solution, if you wish. Do this once or twice a week.

Another huge hint for clear skin: try a sugar and gluten-free diet, like this one.

Good luck!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Awesome God

We sing a song...

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns in heaven above
with wisdom, power and love
our God is an awesome God

Well, it goes something like that. We sing it happily and go home and hum it while we barbecue hamburgers in the backyard or peruse the internet in search of deals on Amazon.

I think we forget what awesome means. We think it means "really great." We use it as a synonym for "fantastic."

Awesome means inspiring awe. In other words, something that is awesome makes us feel awed. To feel awed is to be filled with feelings of reverence and fear, to become aware of the overwhelming greatness of something, and the smallness of ourselves in comparison.

(In contrast, fantastic means incredibly great, as though conceived by a wild imagination. It comes from a Middle English word that has to do with the imagination. )

Here's a story... it will relate, I promise...

When I was expecting our first child, we had a group of friends who got together weekly for Bible study and such. One of the women in the group, Meryl, had a brother who was a wonderful singer and worked on Broadway. He was in Les Miserables, and he was playing the part of Javert. Best of all, their company would be traveling through Syracuse, and we could go and see the play, right here in town. Meryl's brother could get us prime tickets, the very best seats.

One problem... the show was scheduled one week before my due date. The tickets were great, but they were not discounted. Shawn and I decided not to risk it and did not purchase a pair. Everybody else did, though.

In the end, Shannon came two weeks early, so it was a good choice. The night of the play, we were home with our brand new one-week-old baby.

Later, we heard about it. It was a great show, fantastic. Our friends loved it. But they focused on something else. The ones who went, Anthony and Elizabeth, Craig and Becky, and of course Meryl and her husband George, all went out to eat together before the show. And... they went out to eat with Meryl's brother, the one who played Javert. Before the show, they had a rollicking time together, talking and laughing and joking around. Elizabeth, in particular, was a witty young woman who enjoyed bantering with a Broadway actor.

After the show, after the stunning performance, they met up with Meryl's brother again. And at this point everybody remarked on how very changed Elizabeth's demeanor was. She was shy, overwhelmed, possibly (and you don't know how uncharacteristic this was) speechless.

She had met him and known, originally, that he was a Broadway actor. She thought it was pretty amazing to meet him and eat dinner with him and talk to him.

But after she saw him in the play, watched him perform, heard him sing... after that she had a new appreciation for who he was, and she was changed.

I think it will be like this for us when we meet God face to face in the hereafter, except much more so.

We know He is God. We think it is pretty great that He made us and that He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross to save us.

We like the fact that we can pray to Him.

We are happy that He loves us and watches over us, provides for us, forgives our sins, comforts us and sometimes even heals us.

But somehow, I think, when we see Him face to face in all His glory, when we realize Who He is and what He can really do...

We will be changed.

We will be speechless.

We will know the real meaning of the word awe.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Getting away from MSG

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is bad for you. You can read about it here -- I'm not going to get into that discussion in this post.

The problem is: MSG is everywhere. You aren't going to find it written as "MSG" or "monosodium glutamate" on all your labels, either. They have all kinds of tricky names for it.

A friend of mine told me, "Don't eat anything that comes in a box or a can."

Seriously, it's in everything. It is particularly dangerous for the very young, and it is in things that people give their children all the time, like those little orange fishy crackers, and even baby formula.

MSG makes things taste good. It is why you can't stop with just one Pringle's potato chip. It is the reason McDonald's can use the lowest possible grades of beef and chicken, and still sell things that taste great. It's in canned soup and envelopes of soup mix, onion dip and salad dressing.

It's in everything. The last time I was in a restaurant, I ordered a hamburger and french fries because I knew that if I got the "Asian wrap" there'd be a ton of MSG in that. My hamburger tasted pretty natural, but the fries had an orange seasoning on them that tasted delicious. I'm pretty sure it was partly MSG.

I figure that the frozen turkeys they sell around Thanksgiving time contain MSG, too. They always say, "injected with a solution." That solution almost certainly has MSG in its formula.

If it's in everything, how do you avoid it?

Here are three things you can do to reduce your intake of MSG:

(1) Make your own bouillon substitute for soups and casseroles.

In other words, don't buy canned soup and don't start with mixes when you make a casserole. No more Hamburger Helper. No more taco seasoning mix. No more bouillon cubes or chicken base (sorry).

Now, since MSG is the thing that makes it all taste so good, how do you make it taste good without MSG?

I have found that a splash of molasses works wonders. The amazing thing is that molasses is actually really good for you! And trust me, if you just use a tiny splash, it doesn't all come out tasting like barbecue. The molasses just adds a slightly deepened, rich flavor different from but similar to the flavor that comes from MSG.

For an average recipe, in place of a cube of bouillon or 1 teaspoon of chicken base, I add:

1 "splash" of blackstrap molasses (about a teaspoon)
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 - 1 tsp. sea salt (depending on how much additional salt the recipe calls for)

A splash of molasses in beef dishes also gives the gravy a nice brown color. Molasses is good stuff!

(2) Make your own white sauce instead of using cream soups
like cream of mushroom or cream of chicken.

Learn how to make a simple white sauce. This is one of the most basic cooking skills. Now, this does not apply to people who are are gluten-intolerant. We are a low-gluten family. Now and then, I have a piece of whole grain toast, and I do thicken my white sauces with white flour. So we are not a no-gluten family. We have not needed to be. Therefore, this is how I make a white sauce:

Basic white sauce recipe:

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
(dried onion, granulated garlic, dry mustard, black pepper, various chopped vegetables)
2 cups milk (we generally stock whole milk)

In a medium, heavy saucepan, melt the butter. If you are adding vegetables (onion, peppers, celery, etc.) saute them in the butter and add whatever seasonings you are using (onion, garlic, dry mustard, black pepper, etc.) and stir around.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir it in well with everything else.

With a spatula or a whisk, stir in a little bit (about 1/3 cup) of the milk. Stir well until the mixture is smooth. Then add another 1/3 cup milk and stir and-so-on-and-so-on until you have added all the milk.

Stir constantly over medium low heat until it comes to a boil. Boil about 30 seconds or so.

At this point, I often add cheese, but whether you would want to do that depends on what you are making.

This is what you use in place of "cream of mushroom soup" in those old family recipes. If you want a little extra kick, add the bouillon substitute that I explained above.

(3) Make your own salad dressing

You need a blender or a food processor to make dressing, and you need to experiment and get it the way it suits you. Here is a basic recipe that I shared earlier:

Salad Dressing --

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
1/8 tsp. sea salt
a small slice of fresh onion.

Blend in blender until smooth and drizzle over your salad. You can double or triple this recipe, but it doesn't keep well for more than a couple of days, due to the raw onion.

  • You may find that you prefer a different oil, like sunflower or grapeseed.
  • You may find that you like apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar rather than balsamic.
  • You may want a bit less or a bit more salt.
  • I have found that adding whole wedges of lemon (unpeeled, but I do try to get the seeds out), and pureeing them into the dressing, provides a nice zesty flavor and thickens the dressing in a rather delightful way.
  • This dressing is sugar free. You could add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar--or better yet, molasses--if it doesn't taste quite right to you. Sugar is really bad for you, but we are talking about quite a minuscule quantity. While sugar is bad for you, it is not an outright toxin like MSG, and if a tiny bit helps you get off MSG, it's a good trade.
If you cut out commercially prepared seasoning mixes, canned soups and prepared salad dressings, you will be well on your way to reducing MSG in your diet. Of course, you must also stay away from all the chips and snacks that come loaded up with it, from cheesy crackers to nacho cheese flavored corn chips. There are nice organic chip options in the organic section of most grocery stores, if you need those kinds of snacks (I'd still read the label though). Raw vegetables dipped in homemade hummus is a better snack than chips.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writing? Housekeeping? Dreaming?

The thing about writing is this: you have to invest a lot of time into writing, without expectation of any payoff for a very long time. For me, this is tremendously difficult to do, not because I am impatient, but because of guilt. I feel that I ought to be doing all sorts of other things, like cleaning and organizing and being available for my children at all times. Not that I do clean and organize (I despise these occupations). Mostly I sit around and feel worthless for not cleaning and organizing. But I do not allow myself to write, because I have not done the cleaning and organizing.

Now and then, I write a blog post, because a blog post is fairly short and I can steal that much time, forgetting myself for a little bit. But the thought of starting "The Novel" is something else... something like a forbidden fruit. How dare I? How selfish would I have to be? How much would it cost my family if I devoted myself to such a passion?

I used to be absolutely paralyzed with cleaning because my mother taught me, literally pounded into me, that I absolutely must do the dusting before I vacuum. Thirty years later and 1400 miles away, in my own house, I would walk around in bare feet, feeling yucky stuff sticking to the undersides of my toes, sickened. I would wish like the dickens that I could vacuum. But I could not bring myself to dust first, and so I suffered.

Then one day I pulled out the vacuum and vacuumed. I vacuumed a dusty room. But the floor was clean then, and it felt better on my feet. A few days later, I did dust. Dusting is not so bad. It is quiet and does not require any heavy lifting. Wood furniture looks pretty nice when it has been dusted; dusting is not even a thankless job.

I can clean now and then. I can even enjoy it... randomly. But I don't think I will ever be able to clean on a schedule. It's like eating oatmeal; I do it once, and the next day the thought of it gives me a gag reflex, and I have to wait quite awhile before I can stomach it again.

I wonder if I could ever get to where I felt I had permission to set other things aside and write?

Friday, January 13, 2012


To go along with the sugar free diet, here are a few recipes...

(1) Chili

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp dried minced onion (or 1/2 an onion, chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder / granulated garlic (or 1 clove garlic, minced)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. blackstrap molasses (don't measure, just drizzle)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes (or stewed or diced, but blend them up)
  • 1 or 2 cans beans -- pinto, black, kidney, whatever you like best (don't get pre-seasoned chili beans, because they have "spices" which is code for MSG)

Brown and drain ground beef. Add seasonings and cook over lowish heat until fragrant. Add water and bring to a simmer. Add tomatoes products and beans (drained) and bring to a simmer again. Simmer at least 30 minutes, longer for best flavor. This can be frozen in individual servings. It is totally high protein, low carb.

(2) Smoothie
(this is for later in the diet)

  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp. stevia powder, if you have it
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 banana (if you have bananas that are getting ripe, you can freeze them and then use them in smoothies -- just be sure to PEEL them before you freeze them!!!)
  • 1-2 cups baby spinach

You can also add ground flaxseed or chia seeds if you have them, and/or a scoop of natural peanut butter.

Blend in blender until smooth. Drink. :)

(3) Soup

  • about 1/2 lb. beef or chicken breast (or a bit more)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. molasses
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. onion
  • 3 cups water
  • frozen mixed vegetables (1 bag... ~12 oz?)
  • 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained
Cut up the beef or chicken into bite-sized pieces. Cook in a small amount of olive oil in a large-ish pot. Add salt, molasses, garlic and onion and cook over low heat to blend flavors. Add water and bring to a boil. Add frozen vegetables, return to boil and cook for 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and black beans and simmer another 15 minutes or more. Like chili, this is nice to make ahead and freeze in individual portions for an easy meal.

To make a special stock, you can cook some onion and celery (and carrots and cabbage if you wish) in a some lightly salted water until they are very soft. Then puree--broth and veggies together-- in a blender or food processor and add to the soup in place of some of the water (or in addition to the water, depending on how thick you like your soup).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Axing simple carbs

Sugar is the enemy. It affects our hormones and does awful things to our waistlines, skin, mood, and endocrine system. Over-consumption of sugar can even induce diabetes. Residual sugar floating around in our systems provides nourishment for many micro-organisms we do not wish to host--viruses and bacteria--seriously impeding our immune systems.

Refined white flour is equally bad, and anything with gluten in it can also cause trouble.

Here is a diet that you can try if you'd like to work on purging the excess sugars out of your system and see if you feel any better.

Step One -- Purge out the sugar

Do this for at least 3 days. You can keep going longer if you feel OK and have enough energy.

The idea is to cut out all simple carbs for a few days. Yes, all of them.

Things you can eat:

  • meat (fresh, good quality meat)
  • chicken
  • fish
  • eggs
  • cheese (real cheese.. not American or Velveeta or Cheez-Whiz)
  • nuts (almonds are particularly good)
  • natural peanut butter (Smuckers has a natural, no-sugar-added peanut butter that WalMart carries for a decent price)
  • legumes (like black beans, chick peas, etc.)
  • sunflower seeds
  • chia seeds
  • flaxseed
  • lettuce (all types)
  • spinach
  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • avocado
  • carrots
  • celery
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • peppers (any color)
  • zucchini, yellow summer squash
  • bean sprouts or other sprouts
  • green beans
  • peas, snap peas
  • brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • onion
  • garlic
  • asparagus
  • lemon
  • milk (hormone free)
  • plain yogurt
  • kefir (plain)
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • herbs and spices are fine: oregano, cinnamon, etc.
  • unsweetened tea
  • unsweetened coffee
  • stevia (in moderation) to sweeten coffee or tea, or to make a sugarless lemonade
  • lots and lots of water

With this menu, you may find that it is helpful to plan your meals around this framework:

  • Eggs cooked with vegetables and cheese (cook chopped vegetables in a small amount of butter or olive oil until tender, add eggs and cook until set, sprinkle with cheese about a minute before the eggs are finished so it can melt, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper)
  • water
  • coffee or tea (with cream if you need something to make you feel full and satisfied)

  • Make a nice salad of your favorite vegetables and greens.
  • Top with diced chicken or sliced roast beef or sliced hard boiled egg
  • Garnish with black beans, chick peas, slivered almonds or sunflower seeds... or any combination thereof

Salad Dressing --
(since most commercially prepared salad dressing contain sugar
and/or MSG, you can make your own if you have a blender or a bullet. )
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
1/8 tsp. sea salt
a small slice of fresh onion.
Blend in blender until smooth and drizzle over your salad. You can double or triple this recipe, but it doesn't keep well for more than a couple of days, due to the raw onion.

  • Drink a large glass of water with lunch!

  • Cook yourself a nice little portion of fish, chicken or beef
  • Serve it warm with a crisp vegetable salad and a hot cooked vegetable (2 sides)
  • Drink a large glass of water with dinner!

  • lemon water with ice
  • raw carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. (you may dip raw vegetables in hummus-- make your own from chick peas, tahini, fresh garlic and lemon)
  • a handful of nuts or sunflower seeds
  • celery or carrot sticks spread with natural peanut butter

When you don't feel full:
  • have a nice, hot cup of tea with a bit of cream, and some almonds on the side
  • an avocado (this will make you feel nice and full, but it's too expensive to do very often)
  • broth (you need to make it yourself, as commercial broth always has unhealthy seasonings added to it)

Follow the above diet for a few days, at least three. If you are feeling good and doing well, stay on it for as long as you'd like.

Step 2 -- Add a few fillers
If you are feeling empty and unsatisfied, add the following as snacks and side dishes:

  • sweet potatoes (boiled or baked, you can serve them with butter and cinnamon... and pecans if you have them)
  • brown rice (bake brown rice pilaf with seasonings and some onion)
  • quinoa (follow package directions, experiment sauteing with olive oil and vegetables)
  • squash (like sweet potatoes, serve with butter and cinnamon)
  • spaghetti squash (try serving with tomato based meat sauce)
  • oranges
  • grapefruits
  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • (make kefir smoothies with stevia and frozen berries; add spinach and flax or chia for a bang)

After trying the diet with these foods added in, see how you do. Try to go at least another three days, preferably a week, with these foods. You should not feel distractingly hungry. A small amount of hunger is not a bad thing. It is good to be truly hungry before you eat. Try always to wait to eat until you are hungry. But if, after a week, you find that you are always hungry, go ahead and...

Step 3 -- Add a few comfort foods

  • bananas
  • apples
  • unsweetened (no-sweetener-added) applesauce
  • oatmeal
  • one daily glass of orange juice

Adding these few foods will really open up a large opportunity for nice snacks. You can eat oatmeal with applesauce and cinnamon. Although you should not put sugar in your oatmeal, by this point you should have been without sugar for so long that it will taste good to you even with just natural applesauce and cinnamon in it. You can also mash a banana into your oatmeal to make it sweet.

If you have trouble finding unsweetened applesauce, it is easy to make. Just peel and core some apples and cook them in a small amount of water until tender. You can add cinnamon if you wish. This can be done in a crock pot, or on the stovetop. It goes pretty fast on the stovetop, especially if you slice the apples fairly thin. You could have hot, fresh applesauce within 10 minutes of the beginning boil! You can make it as smooth or as chunky as you like, depending on how you slice the apples and whether you mash them after they have cooked.

Bananas spread with natural peanut butter are a very satisfying snack. You can also spread peanut butter on apple slices.

You can stir natural applesauce into plain yogurt, and it isn't half bad.

Try to keep your diet at this point for a month or more. After 4-6 weeks, evaluate how you are doing and feeling.

  1. Are you often hungry to the point of distraction, or do you usually feel satisfied?
  2. Do you have energy?
  3. How are your mood swings? Do they happen less or more than before you started to stay away from carbs?
  4. How is your complexion?
  5. Have you had any issues with constipation or diarrhea since you began this diet?
  6. Have you had more or fewer headaches?
  7. Have you gained or lost weight?
  8. Have you been sick?
Depending on your answers to these questions, you can decide whether to continue the diet, modify or relax it, or quit it altogether.

Remember to take vitamins and supplements.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ornamant stories

I was packing away Christmas decorations today.

I stopped.

The kids leave home and the decorations come down... and there are still four more months of winter. I seriously cannot even think about this right now.

So, I will tell you a story.

Every year, we always gave each of our children a Christmas ornament on (or around) December 1, to commemorate the onset of the Advent season. We did this because the first year Shawn and I were married, poor college students that we were, we had only two little ornaments in our possession. We bought an itsy-bitsy fake tree at Menard's for about $2.99 and hung our two ornaments on it.

The next year at Christmastime, I met a friend who had a beautiful tree filled with lovely ornaments. She also was a young wife, so I asked her how she came to own so many nice Christmas decorations so early in life. "Oh," she told me, "my mom always gave me an ornament every year until I had quite a collection." Instantly, I decided to copy the tradition.

In 1993, Shannon was four, David was two-and-a-half, and Lulubelle was a wee babe of fourteen months. That year I bought these three ornaments for them:

Not perhaps the most stunningly gorgeous ornaments, but they
were durable, and at that point, durability was important.

The white one was Shannon's, the brown one David's, and we gave the black and white one to Baby Laura. Even at the tender age of two-and-a-half, David was always figuring things out. He studied the ornaments carefully and lined them up on the sofa with his chubby little hands. "Look Mommy," he told me, "Shannon got a polar bear... and I got a honey bear... and Baby Laura got a SKUNK!"

It's a memory that still makes me chuckle when the ornaments come out... even eighteen years later.

1999 must have been a crazy year. I bought these ornaments for Laura and Jonathan, but I forgot which one I had bought for whom when it came time to pass them out.

I bought the candy cane one for Jonathan, because J (the candy cane shape) is for Jonathan. I bought the clothespin one for Laura because she was always such a good little helper.

But when it came time to pass them out, I had a mental block, and I could not remember whose was whose, or why. I looked them over very carefully and noticed that this one had a little yellow duck on it:

Laura's favorite color was yellow, and at the time she had a rubber duck collection, so I figured I must have bought that one for her.

Jonathan is my biggest adventure thrill seeker, so a sledding squirrel is not entirely inappropriate for him.

Even though I gave Jonathan's ornament to Laura and Laura's to Jon, in the end I guess it's all good.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Christmas when...

Since my purpose in writing here is to capture things that will link my family members with memories of our past life (which is currently mostly our present life, but will in the future be our past life)... I am going to list a few noteworthy memories and thoughts related to our recently passed Christmas season.

This was the year Shannon and I
trekked out to Granger's Tree Farm
and harvested a tree.

It was a mild day, probably nearly 50 degrees, with a soft gray sky. We drove out in the rusty old van, the car I finally love (I never love them until they are beat).

On the way, Shannon regaled me with stories of her chemistry department and the personalities therein. We arrived at the farm and found a person to direct us, even though it was about 3 p.m. on a Friday late in December, all the wreaths were sold, and we were were the only customers there. This man also gave us a plastic sled on which to drag our tree back.

We hiked up the hill in the wind which was turning chilly. The ground was mushy. After inspecting a number of trees, we found one we agreed on... a fat, jolly one, the fattest, jolliest tree I have ever seen. Shannon went about trying to cut it down while I held the trunk. She ended up positioning the sled beneath the tree so she could sit on it and keep her backside mostly dry while sawing. This turned out to be a good use for the sled, which was not much use otherwise.

Finally, the tree felled, we headed back to the barn to pay. The tree was so fat, it rolled off the sled twice, after which we just picked it up and carried it, dragging the sled awkwardly behind us.

The man at the barn tied up the tree for us and then asked for his money. I handed him a credit card. He said, "We don't take credit cards." So... to make a long story short, we left the tree on the ground in front of the barn and drove across the rural wilderness of northern New York State until we came upon a gas station with an ATM. And we ended up, service fees and all, not getting such a great deal on the tree as we otherwise would have. But we got a great tree, and Shawn was not angry with us.

This was the year that the girls and I
went for pedicures.

During the week between Christmas and New Year's, Lulu got a bit bored and blue from the quietness of life at home in contrast to the excitement of dorm living. So I scheduled pedicures for the three of us, and Shanny, Lulu and I went, all 17 feet and 5 inches of us (that's our combined heights), and had our feet "spa-ed" and toenails painted by tiny giggling Asian girls. It's a bit intimidating to have your feet done by minuscule creatures who chatter to each other in a foreign language and laugh while they work, but we tried not to imagine what they were saying and just enjoy the sensation of hot, damp, peppermint-scented towels laid across our calves. Shannon and Laura had their toes done in deep reds. I got a girlie, pearly lavender.

This was the year that Jonathan
played a triumphant trumpet fanfare
with four other trumpeters at church
on Christmas morning.

It was an arrangement of Joy to the World. I wish I had a recording of it. What an amazing way to begin Sunday service on Christmas Day! I really like when Christmas is on a Sunday.

This was the year when I realized
that I should be thankful
for my Christmas birthday,

because it meant that my entire family was home, in our house. That night all the beds in all the bedrooms were occupied by their proper occupants.

This was the year that we had a glorious,
warm (well, 50 degree),
sunny, green Christmas.

I have had enough white Christmases in my life. I thoroughly enjoyed the change this year.

This was a year of feasts...

A fantastic ham dinner at the O'Briens' house on Christmas day, a turkey dinner (with cranberries from scratch!) on 12/29, and prime rib and shrimp cocktail on New Year's Eve. Usually we just have nachos on New Year's Eve, so it was a pretty big deal.

This was the year I got Shawn
a contraption that would
convert his slides to PDFs,

so he went to town and got all his slides from his youth missions trips loaded onto his computer. On New Year's Eve we sat in the family room and he projected (onto a large sheet of Masonite leaning on the entertainment center) the photo-journal of his journeys to Australia and China. He took a picture in Tienanmen Square a number of years prior to the massacre. A strange thought. The kids enjoyed seeing what their dad looked like when he was about 17.

Shannon baked cookies; Laura organized David's desk; David worked on writing essays and personal statements for all kinds of things he is applying to do in the future; Jonathan was happy that his sisters were home; and we all slept until we woke up without alarm clocks every day for a week. That was Christmas 2011.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Phase next

It snowed last night, finally. But Jonathan did not get a snow day. He had to go to school.

I felt so bad for him. Everyone else is still sleeping in.

Shannon goes back the end of this week. David starts the 15th. And Laura starts on the 23rd. I wonder if the spread will make it all easier or harder for me... is it easier to take off a band-aid all at once or bit by bit?

It feels as though winter just started.

Shawn is going to Minnesota the end of next week, but I won't be going with him.

Sometimes when you just start randomly typing, thoughts and creativity come to you, like hot water flowing from your shower head.

And sometimes, like a cold shower, they don't.

That's when you stop and do something else.