Monday, March 31, 2014

Another ticker

This one moves at my choice.  Each day, or not.  Totally according to my own volition.  The purpose of this ticker is to record my minutes of exercise between now and the end of the BL challenge in May.  May 9.  This represents 1 hour of exercise three four days a week.  That's more than I've done in a number of years.  But it's a goal over which I have control.  Wish me well.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Morning musings on Satan's temptations, sinful nature and depression

I rejoice this morning.  But it was not without worry.

Worry that I was once again slipping into the dark void of depression.

It's been a hard winter in that regard.  I'm nowhere near as low as I was two years ago.  Uffda, that was a bad time.  As I've said before, I didn't even realize I was there.  At that spot.  I just kept plugging along, doing my thing, which at the time wasn't much.  But once I started to feel better, Oh, my!  I couldn't believe the fullness of life that I had been missing. 

And I don't ever want to go back to that place. 

This morning I got up.  I had three goals:  finish the final set of bootcuffs for Allie's order, so I could send them with Joe to deliver to Cheryl at Nazareth; switch the wash load so I had some clean unders for church; make hot breakfast. 

For a couple of years or more I've had my alarm clock set for 5:30 and 6:00.  It's an old second hand one, and the buttons are stiff and very hard to reset.  So I mostly leave the settings as is, even if I don't want to get up at those times.  It's easy enough to just hit the button and go back to sleep right?  Sometimes I set my kitchen timer to go off at the time I really want to get up.  Sometimes I use Joe's little battery operated travel alarms.  

I try to get up by the 6:00 alarm most days, but this winter I've found myself more often opting for the kitchen alarm at 6:30.  I knew this morning I had to be up by 6:00 if I wanted to get the bootcuffs done to send with Joe at 7:00. 

So I sat on the edge of my bed.  And had a great. Big. Argument.  With myself.

One of those in which you can almost hear the temptation in one ear, and what little bit of strength of conscience you can summon in the other.

"You can send the boot cuffs with Joe later, after the Oak Park service.  You don't have to have it done first thing."  "Cold cereal is fine."  "The clothes will be dry by church time even if you go back to sleep for awhile."

And so on. 

And I was close.  So, so close to going back to bed. 

But I didn't. 

After I got up, I realized that the reason it was so hard to get up was that it hard for me to care.  I found it hard to find any real reason that the above things were really important. 

And I realized that most of this winter I haven't cared.  I've simply gone back to bed with no further thought. 

And so I worried.  "Is this the beginning?"  "Am I slipping again?"  "I do really care, but why is it so hard to feel?"

But what I finally realized is that I DID GET UP! 

I said to Joe, "I don't know whether I should be worried that took so much argument, or rejoice that I actually realized there ought to be an argument."

We both agreed to go with the second.  There are times when just realizing one ought to argue against the lack of caring is progress.  When even the pang of conscience is laudable. 

And this morning, I rejoice in that fact!  I thank God for it.  And I thank Him even more for the Salvation through Jesus, which washes me clean of all the times that even the pang of conscience is missing.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring Cleaning 2014

Sometimes I'm organized with my own chores. 

Sometimes I'm organized with my kids' chores.

Sometimes I'm not organized at all.

Sometimes I can't think past each afternoon.

This winter has been one of those times.

I knew, for instnce, in the back of my mind, that in the last month or so,I had two soup suppers for Lent, a baptism church dinner to which I had to bring a GF dessert, and cole slaw to mix up for the electrical co-op annual dinner.  Of those things I've mostly kept the plates spinning, except for the cole slaw which I forgot to mix up and the ladies down at church had to do it for me at the last minute.  Thanks to whoever had to do the extra work.  And my apologies.

I also know in the back of my mind that I have one more soup supper to do; prom coming up, for which Louisa and Elsie have asked me to host the group of friends for lunch and pictures before they go into Oklee.  Within one week in May, I have Clara's confirmation, winkel at Oak Park, and Louisa's graduation. 

The parish board is getting us new carpeting in the living room sometimes soon, so will have the ensuing busyness with that.  And Lana has offered to help with some more painting this spring, if we can work it in. 

I know these things are coming, but when I am at a point at which I can barely handle meals and laundry for the family, ... the extra things get squeezed to the back of my brain.  I know they are there.  And I try to throw everything together at the last minute to accomplish such things.  But I don't always make it.

Today, I took some time to get my head on straight for the coming busyness.  I wrote down all the extra and bigger cleaning type things I want the kids and I to work on in the next several weeks, along with some of the regular-keeping-up-with type things that sometimes get set aside when I'm in one of my low energy states that leave us all flying by the seats of our pants.

For the sake of accountability, I'm going to post it here.

Looks kind of funny squished out long and thin, but it gets the point across.  The kids will be asked to initial those things they accomplish. 

Mudroom bathroom
Main bathroom
Dining room
Living room
pick up
pick up

Pick up, sweep, mop
Pick up, sweep, mop
Pick up, vacuum
Wipe outside bottom cupboards
Clean and dust inside glass cupboard
Wash counter
Wash counter
Wipe outside top cupboards
Wash walls, and hallway walls, front door
Wash toilet

Wash toilet
Clean inside lazy Susan
Scrub walls
Wash windows
Wash walls

Wash shower
Straighten coffee cup and water bottle cupboard
Wipe map
Fix wall behind wooden couch

Wash and arrange inside silverware drawer
Scrub table legs
Paint wooden couch

Wash and arrange inside utensil drawers- label
Repaint benches
Put pads on back of wooden couch
Toilet paper supply

Toilet paper supply
Sort utensil baskets
Scrub chairs
Order new cushions for wooden couch
Clean towels

Clean towels
Clean /arrange inside upper cupboards
Glue chair
New cushion covers for new cushions for wooden couch
Towel supply

Towel supply
Wipe outside upper cupboards

Move TV to family room
Wash outside of cupboard
Wash outside of cupboard
Scrub wall above counter

Paint shelf
Wash both sides of door
Wash both sides of door
Scrub counter

Wash walls
Wash behind oven
Wash walls

Wash front door

Clean oven
Paint dresser


Sort arrange tupperware cupboard

Sort arrange baking dish cupboard

Wish us well, friends. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Slow two weeks' start on my weight goals

Here I was, all excited (or almost excited) about this biggest loser thing I joined.  I confess it's a bit frustrating to have two weeks of higher numbers on the scale.  I don't really diet.  Or at least I"m not so far.  But I have been watching my portion sizes, doing without dessert at all the church dinners, and exercising.  Yes, it's a bit frustrating.  It makes me want to take desserts next time.  "Hey, I'm going to gain anyway, I may as well at least have dessert."

It's a good thing I don't pay much attention to the pounds.   Last week I was angry that I had gained.  I didn't even update my Lilyslim chart.  But after two weeks, I figured I better 'fess up.  And hope for smaller numbers next week.

I don't care about the number of pounds, but I was frustrated and tired of my inactivity.  My compulsive eating.  My sitting around and napping, and barely being able to drag myself to fix meals for the kids.  Don't even ask about my laundry these days.  And I could count on one hand the number of days since fall that my walking ladies and I have managed to squeeze in a walk.

I'm very glad to at least be caring now.  I'm not fully engaged in the whole "life" thing yet.  I'm not fully engaged in the Biggest Loser thing yet.  But I'm getting there. 

I'm glad to be paying attention to what I eat, and to be noticing that one adequately sized portion is enough. 

I'm glad to be up and moving.  To be pecking away at all the chores and projects that built up during the winter.

I'm glad to be getting together to walk with others.  And to get fresh air and sunshine.

Hopefully this new goal, the coming spring, and my increased activity will all snowball into an altogether better place of mind and body.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sophie's GF chocolate chip bars (like tollhouse bars)

Sophie found the original recipe for chocolate chip cookies on the Land of Lakes website.  She adapted it to better fit our baking style.  Great job, Sophie!

Sophie's fabulous Gluten Free chocolate chip bars
Heat oven to 375°F.

Wisk dry ingredients together.
2¼ c GF flour mix (We use Pete and Kelly Bronski's flour recipe.)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp xanthan gum

Combine and whip until frothy.
¾ c melted butter
1¼ c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 generous tbsp molasses

Combine the above two mixes with hand-mixer.
Stir in 2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Spread patiently onto a jelly roll sized baking pan.  It works best to drop a little at a time around the pan.  But it still is a kind of putzy job.  It will feel as though there's no way there's going to be enough, but it will fluff up as it bakes and fill in the thin spots.

Bake about 10 minutes.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Springtime games

The kids are very eager to be out in the lengthening days and strengthening sunshine.  They play in the wet snow.  They ride their bikes on the freshly clean driveway and parking lot. 

And they absolutely love to be out on our southern exposure front porch.  It's a little pocket of warmth on a sunny day getting the heat from the southern sun.  And our lightly colored home reflects it back onto that little area creating a nice little oven this time of year. 

We also enjoy this little oven effect inside, opening the inside door so we can the enjoy the light and heat pouring in through the window in the storm door.  On a really sunny day, we even open that storm door window and let the warmed fresh air stream in. 

But once that inside front door is open, it's more than the kids can stand.  The simply must be out on the front porch.  And I kind of encourage it.  The sun is good for them.  The fresh air is splendid.  And so what if they get a little chilled.  So what if they drag blankets and pillows out there. 

After a winter cooped up inside, or bundled up in snowclothes, it's wonderful to be able to let them just be. 

Here are a few pictures from yesterday's forts.  I'm not sure what role all the dishes  were playing.  Inge said it wasn't a tea party, but she didn't really say what it was.  They hang the blankets around to protect from the cool breeze and then divide up the porch into rooms or hidey holes.  This was our youngest five.  Ages 5-12, all playing together sweetly for over an hour.

Sophie, Inge and Donna

I was trying to show the little hiding places under and around the chairs, but Donna stepped in at the last minute.  We got a fine view of her Ninja turtle costume, though. 

John and Stella.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

New ticker, ... new kind of ticker, even. ...

I wish Lilyslim would let me use their cute little charts without putting the weights. But I decided to just do it. I don't really care if anyone knows how much I weigh anyway. I mean, if you asked, I'd tell you. It's just that propriety thing.

So at risk of being improper, and because I think these little charts are just so cute, here goes!

The challenge starts yesterday and runs through May 9.  
  • Starting weight      187.4 pounds. 
  • Goal                       170 pounds

Some spring photos after the long winter

I know, I'm jumping the gun just a little here, calling it spring.  But I think last night was the first below zero night in about a week, so really, that's pretty springy if you ask me. 

I was tempted to take my book out on my front porch, well bundled in blankets, and with my coffee in a thermal cup.  Weather underground says it's 7 °F.

That white wicker love seat looks pretty inviting in the morning sun, does it not?

But before I got comfortable, I looked around a bit.

We're starting to see some earth up by the house.  I can't wait for my perennials to start showing themselves.

The snow is mostly melted off some grassy areas near the driveway.  And you can see a bit of soil in the field south of the church parking lot.

It will be awhile yet, before we can get the van into the detached garage.  If you look closely, you can still see the remains of the edge where Todd and others were plowing for us earlier in the winter.  Eventually they just gave up, since it drifted back in every night and often during the day, too.  We'd go out and not be able to get back in.  Or in the morning, the kids racing to school would find the van stuck out there with no easy way to get it out.

I think it will take some time before the mountain of snow from clearing the driveway is gone.

I won't be hanging out clothes just yet.  And that baby swing that hangs from the far end of the clothes line, ...  Yeah, I know, I don't have any babies, ... but the smaller kids still sometimes like to climb in it while I'm out there working, ... nobody will be swinging today.

We won't be getting any laying hens this week.

But the cat has been enjoying the shelter of the chicken house all winter.  Last fall Clara hung a bit of cloth in front of the chicken door.  She put the cat house inside, and hung another old blanket around it to shelter it further from the drafts.  Talk about luxury.  But I think the cat needed it this winter. 

The kids learned that the electrical box gives off a certain amount of heat.  One of them fell through the snow that had drifted over.  They discovered the little cave surrounding it a few weeks ago. 

It reminds us to be thankful for electricity and all the other many luxuries that make even such an extreme winter as we've had much easier than those through which generations past had to manage.

After my little tour of the "winter into spring time" yard, I decided it wasn't quite warm enough to have my coffee outside.  Even bundled in a couple layers of blanket.

My well concealed "Before" shots

The front doesn't look bad.  And the side view only looks half bad.  I only look maybe three or four months pregnant in this shot.  When I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror or window, I feel like I look more like six or seven months along.  I certainly weigh as much as I did at full term for many of my pregnancies. 

And after spending fully 18 years pregnant or nursing babies, ... I really, really don't need to look that way now.  Right?

New goals for a new season

The kids recently celebrated Dr. Suess's birthday at school.  So they've been reciting various parts of the different books.  One of them said yestereday, "No ups, I'm sleeping in today."

I've been needing a boost this winter.  I feel like every day is No Ups with me. 

But thanks to my friend, Dana, I'm taking on something new.  Dana is also a Lutheran pastor's wife.  She and her husband are much younger than Joe and I, but they have a growing family with very busy and imaginative children.  Very often her stories remind me of where Joe and I were ten or fifteen years ago.  Dana's posted various times about a Biggest Loser contest she participates in through a facebook group.  Different times I've been tempted. 

This time, too.  I was tempted.  But the way I frantically search my cupboards lately, and buy pop, and sweets, and whatever I can get my hands on, ... The way I sit around and can hardly make myself get off my chair, ... I just wasn't sure I wanted to commit. 

But something has to be done.  That fat little rabbit has been sitting on my ticker for way to long without moving.  And in fact, truth be told, he'd have to move backwards about ten or fifteen pounds if I wanted to still use that ticker.

So I've decided.  I've decided to join the Spring Biggest Loser challenge with my friend, Dana.  She was so excited for me last night when I was chatting with her about it.  She almost even got me excited for it, too.  See, that's how bad it is around here, even a new plan and an excited supporter, ... even that barely gets my energy going. ...  "She almost even got me excited."  Pathetic, Mary. 

In the next few days, maybe even today, I'll be changing my ticker.  A new ticker for a new goal.  My goals don't have so much to do with a specific amount of weight loss.  Just a little bit more control.  Of my eating.  Of my sitting around.  Of the procrastination.  And other less than constructive habits.  I don't think I can quantify those things for a ticker, so the ticker will represent weight loss. 

For the Biggest Loser Challenge, I have to send in before and after pictures.  Some of the others posting their pictures are so brave, ... doing the clingy, exercise clothing shots.  I'm just not able to do this.  The first photos I had Joe take, ... Well, at least I know I'm disguising somewhat the rolls and droops and sags.  I look pretty good actually.  But I think for the sake of integrity, ... I need to find something a little more form fitting to send in.

If I could capture the fat roll I see when I'm sitting here at my laptop.  I'm slouched down in my chair with my feet up on the piano bench. I look down and see that roll.  It just rolls, ... We're not talking muffin top here, we're talking ... mushroom top.  Or weeping willow even.

I think I'll post the ones Joe took, just to have a public reference.  But trust me and rest at ease, you'll not be subject to photos with anything clingy.  And you're also not getting the one with my feet on the scale. ...

But yes, I'll try to post here periodically.  My readers here are another source of support and knowing that you'll see my progress or lack thereof, ... It might help. 

My walking ladies and I have not walked much since last summer.  But two of us are committed to starting again regularly on Monday.  Connie been suffering with chronic tendonitis in her Achilles tendon.  Jan has had hip/ knee pain.  So it's just Lana and I.  But we ARE going to start in again, right Lana? 

It's time.  Time for a change. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Donna's Hopscotch

Last night was a relatively warm evening.  After supper was done, before I could re-focus everyone on evening chores and bedtime routines, several of them sneaked outside to play in the warmer than usual and so sticky and shape-able snow.

Donna didn't go outside with the others.  Donna built a hopscotch in our living room.  Donna learned how to play hopscotch at school recently, and was eager to teach us all how to play.  When I called the others in for the evening tasks, Donna asked, "Are you calling everyone in to play hopscotch?"

Oh, man, what could I say to that?  Suffice it to say we had an extra 1/2 hour or so of family play time.  It was well worth the later bedtime for all the fun we had trying to hop along the squishy, slide-y pillows Donna had used for squares. 

This is the hopscotch that Donna built.
Note the papers off to the sides.  Thankfully she numbered the squares this way, rather than with permanent marker.  Each square had a number and an arrow.  Each was arranged so it pointed to the corresponding pillow.

Dad takes a try.

Stella levitating.

Later she took flight.
I love those two pictures of Stella.  We had a bunch more photos that I've posted, but most were blurry.  I'm not really a very good photographer.

This is  Donna trying out her game.

And she got back to the start.

This one of Inge planning her route is a little blurry.  But I love how it shows the other kids all engaged.

Stella reaching over to put John's "rock" back.
Donna set us up as three separate teams.  Sophie, John, and Stella used the blue lid you see in this picture, lying to the side of the pillows, as their rock.  Daddy, Donna, and Clara used a coaster.  And Inge and I used a pink eraser.  These rocks did not stay put on the rounded pillows, so new rules evolved as we went along.  Where ever the rock first hit, whether it was one, two, or three pillows, those were the squares that needed to be skipped. 

Hence the illusion above that Stella was taking flight.  She was really just trying to miss the next three pillows.

And John ends with a bang.

Daddy getting ready to toss his coaster.  Oh, I mean, rock.

Is Daddy trying to imitate Stella in her levitation?

And now Donna appears to be imitating Daddy.
And this is Joe's video.  I don't know how to take videos.  He does.  Sadly.  You get to see theMom in all her glory.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Maryism: a strange and unusual happenstance, or a normal life event strangely told?

We all have our quirks and idiosyncrasies.  They are part of us, and we often don't even realize that a certain behavior or mannerism is part of us.  But others notice.  And with us or without us but in the company of mutual friends (or enemies, I suppose) these idiosyncrasies are pulled up enjoyed anew.  Imagine for instance former students at a class reunion endearingly imitating the voice and mannerisms of some childhood teacher. 

Some people have a knack for noticing and quantifying the mannerisms of others.  And they can be quite entertaining when their mimicking abilities are showcased.  Others of us remain the brunt of the imitations and so must learn to laugh along.

I've written before about how my friend, Lisa, and others of my friends from my young adult years think I'm prone to having very strange things happen to me.  I argue that I simply re-tell and appreciate normal things in a funny manner so that life is more laughable.  And probably it's some combination of the two.

Now combine the above thoughts to get to the point of this post.  None of us really notice our own idiosyncrasies as much as others do.  And my friends find certain of my life stories as being typically "Mary" stories.

Last time I wrote, I posted a photo and a story about how I didn't know the woman in the photo was me.  To me, it was just kind of a funny story.  But to my friends, it was apparently one of those Mary-isms. 

My friend Kristi wrote on my facebook,
I think the not-so-old not-so-gray Mar IS what she used to be!
"Hmmm," thought I, "I suppose she means that I am so dingy.  But I could take it to mean I have always looked old."

That she was likely referring to my dinginess was verified when I heard from my friend, Lisa, via e-mail. 
Well, well, well. . . dear Mary.  People really don't change do they. Oh seriously, I laughed so hard at your picture confusion.  "That older lady."  Awesome."
And then she proceed to compare this story to a couple of my other oft-recalled Mary-isms
That story is like a combination of the "freaking out at whose strange hand was in your bed. . . oh, . .that's mine." story and the "who's attacking me in the middle of this street. ..oh that's my purse." story. "

When I posted the above quote for Kristi, since I knew it would make her laugh, she replied
"Please, don't EVER change. We love you so much just the way you are.
After which Joe recalled another of my crazy stories,  
Don't forget being attacked by a piece of hamburger. I thought she was going to crash the car.
And I laughed too at this interchange.  More for the fact that my friends think of such things as Mary-isms. 

And it reminded me of a story from my young adult years that I don't think I've ever written about. 

The first year Joe and I lived in Mankato, we met some friends from our Madison days for a winter retreat that the campus ministry in Madison was sponsoring.  Since not everyone knew each other at this occasion, the planners started the event with a mixer. 
(When I told Elsie this story a year or so ago, she was a bit confused and informed me that people don't do mixers anymore.  She laughed more at my use of such a word than she did at my story.  So for those of you who don't know what a mixer is, it's a little game or activity designed so that unacquainted people at a social function to visit and get to know each other a little bit.  

The mixer at the retreat was some sort of match the person with their story activity.  We all had to write something about ourselves that nobody else was likely to know.  These stories or factoids were then mixed up and distributed, one story to each attendee.  The challenge for each of us was, by visiting with the individuals in the assembly, to match the story we had been given with the person who wrote it.

OK, my first difficulty was to find a story that neither my handful of best friends who were at the retreat, nor my husband of three years, would know.  I mean, really, these people knew EVERYTHING about me. 

So I dug.  I stretched my imagination way back in my history.  And I drew out and shook off a little phobia of my childhood. 
I knew for a fact that I'd never told any of my friends about this, because it was so strange.  And kind of embarrassing.  And trivial.
I didn't ever clip my little toe nails.  I was always afraid that there was so little holding them on that I'd rip one off it I tried to clip it.  I don't know what ever happened to these pinky toenails.  Whether they simply wore off.  Or eventually tore off.  Or what.  But I went years without clipping my "pinky" toenails.
And that's what I wrote.  Almost in the same words as I wrote above. 

I was glad to have my life factoid chosen and written.  I was probably the last one done.  But after the stories were mixed up and handed out, I eagerly began to mix and mingle in the crowd to find the person whose story I had been assigned. 

Suddenly, from across the room, I hear this cackle of amusement.  One of those bursts of laughter that just explode out of a person.  Someone had approached one of my girlfriends with my "Mary story", and that girlfriend  KNEW!  INSTANTLY!  She knew it was me. 

And so it went.  Each of my girlfriends would read this story that this other attendee was passing around and crack up at the silliness of it, and the typical Mary-ness of it.  Pretty soon this dumb story of mine had kind of taken over the event.

But again, the funniest part of it was that they could tell simply from my retelling.  "Who else would ramble on like that, Mary, telling us all about how you don't know what happened to those toe nails?  You couldn't simply say, 'When I was young I was scared to clip my pinky toe nails.'  Then we wouldn't have known who wrote it.  But you!  You had to make a big story of it.  You can't even tell a story without being Mary."
But as I think about it, this particular incident gives more credence to my assertion that my retelling is what makes otherwise mundane life stories  into Mary-isms, more than that my life consists of one strange and unusual occurrence after another.


That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

I love you, my girlfriends and my husband.  You know who you are.  Thanks for teaching me and reteaching me how to laugh.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Old Gray Mar, she ain't what she used to be.

I was slapped in the face the other day with the realization that I am getting old.  I'm like middle aged!  Crazy, right?  This realization makes a kind of a funny story, so I'm going to share the whole silly shebang.

As I was clicking through the photos Joe posted of our recent trip to Washington for my dad's funeral, I saw this picture. 

It's a picture of my cousin, Paul Hinderer, and my Stella sitting on some older woman's lap. 

I remembered that conversation.  I was sitting just off the picture further to the right.  I could not for the life of me remember who we had been visiting with.  That older woman?  Who is she?  Who was it that we'd have known well enough that Stella would climb up in her lap?

Finally a different day entirely, I was clicking through the pictures again.  Found this same shot and again, went through all the people we visited with and who was sitting where, and WHO in the WORLD is that lady?!?!

Suddenly I noticed the sweater and realized it was me!

Crazy, ... I don't really have that saggy cheek do I?  Those lines around my mouth?  I'm not that old, am I? 

But yes, I am.  I will be 47 in June.  I'm middle aged. 

I do still have a few vanities, however ... I'm still the old brunette Mar, although the silvery streaks are there in and with the brunette.   I maybe ain't what I used to be, but at least I get to wait a little longer to be the Old Gray Mar.