“Bethlehem, make ready, for Eden has been opened for all…”

whole30onWell, we made it. All 30 days. Today is, in fact, day 31 and we have chosen to keep on going. When you have made poor dietary choices for so long, it sometimes takes your body longer to adapt to new energy sources and to adjust to eating clean food. It has been hard for us. There are detoxing things like headaches and grumpiness, as well as lethargy and plain old feeling tired. Most people experience that right off. For us, we have just started feeling those effects of clean eating. So we opted to keep this up until at least the 21st of November. Our oldest son has been out of town (in the Arctic Circle, in fact) on a long distance job site and returns about then. So we thought it would give us a good target date.

One of the things about changing so drastically is the fear of falling back into poor choices and being “food lazy.” To me, “food lazy” is hitting the drive through on your way home, or ordering pizza, or eating pre-mixed/frozen foods on those nights when you just don’t want to face the stove again. For me, my go-to then is bacon and eggs! Ha-Ha! And I am also afraid I will go back to the easy recipes I have been boring my family with for the past 32 years, that are not compliant. I truly want to put my “sugar dragon” in its cave, never to see it again. So I am avoiding all sweets for now. I am good with no bread or noodles or rice. Don’t really miss it. Sugar is in everything – try reading a label. It shocked me. So much of our “convenience” foods contain sugar as one of the first ingredients. And if push comes to shove, isn’t homemade always better than boxed?

One of the things that doing this has done for me is that it has focused me on being healthy. It also showed me that my success or failure is one bite, one day, at a time. I am the one who controls what goes into my mouth. I can choose good, healthy foods, or I can plop in an Oreo. Trust me, Oreos are truly like crack! So addictive. I know. It is one of my weaknesses. And I am working, daily, on better choices. An interesting thing about that is it makes you think about other times you make choices.

sparkling-trees-snow

As someone who literally lives near the North Pole, once it snows, we all get sort of “Christmas-y.” It’s not shocking for us, on snowy Halloweens, to have Christmas lights already up and on. Nor is it odd for kids to wear snowsuits under their costumes on Halloween. This year our pumpkins literally froze on our front porch. And promptly thawed and crumpled on a day we had sunshine and 40-degree temperatures (what a mess that day was) just before Halloween! And for us, we are becoming pickier at what we choose to watch and have in our home. And I am going to confess that television right now sort of stinks. The news is horrible, the political garbage is just demeaning and depressing, and the violence abhors me. We spent the morning the other day, standing and waiting for the cavalcade of a deceased police officer to drive by, on his way home to Fairbanks. We all spoke to one another and shared tears for the young father of four who was slain, doing his job. And so our choices as to what we bring in our home have also changed. We have opted for different news sources and for programming – here is the big confession – we are watching the Hallmark Channels’ “Countdown to Christmas” every night! Ha-Ha! They now have two channels – one is for the romantic, “happily ever after” sort of stories, whereas the other is for more dramatic story telling. To be honest, I can’t really tell the difference. Our TiVo is programmed so we don’t miss a single one! Why are we doing Christmas when Thanksgiving hasn’t even arrived, yet? Well, it’s truly that part I took from Whole30 about “one bite, one day, at a time” and transferring it to our entertainment.

advent

If you have never read the book, “Ben Hur,” I highly encourage you to do so. It will enrich you beyond what you can think. Truly. It is the single most read book outside of the Bible in the world. It is how many people were introduced to Christ. And in the book it describes where Mary and Joseph were…the stable, and the process of finding a place to stay. The time and era of when Christ was born. It was messy and crowded and in a town. It was hot and dusty. There were people on the roads and everyone was trying to get to where they needed to be for the census. And the census took a long time. There were only 1-2 people counting everyone in each town. And there were no computers to tally things. No printers or iPhones to record information. It was by hand and it was time consuming and frustrating for everyone. The stable was not off on some mystical hillside, all by itself. It was a common place for travelers to leave their animals, near the city gates. Don’t forget Joseph was returning to his birthplace. He was related to many people who lived there, and all the others making their way to Bethlehem. Advent. That is the time we prepare for the coming of Christ as the Babe…as the God Who chose to become Man to save us all, coming as the weakest of us, an infant. And it is the time to get our houses in order. We begin Advent soon. So why not start by moving towards our “Manger scene” and getting our houses in order?

mary-and-joseph-walking-camel

For us, that means getting ourselves on this Whole30 regime so that it becomes habit, so that it remains, among all the Holiday temptations. We have to make our way through a miasma of things getting in our way, just as Joseph had to guide Mary to his home in Bethlehem. It is nowhere near the same importance, don’t think I am equating it at all. But it descriptive of a journey. We are all on a journey. Ours began with food, but it is making its way felt in so many other areas. What a blessing, choosing to do Whole30 has become!

“Today the Virgin is on her way to the cave where she will give birth to the Eternal Word of God in an ineffable manner. Rejoice, therefore, O universe, when you hear this news, and glorify with the angels and the shepherds Him who shall appear as a newborn Babe, being God from all eternity.”

This is what is sung in the Melkite Church from the Nativity Fast on November 15th, through Christmas Eve, December 24th. It reminds us that Mary is making her way to give birth…but also, “Bethlehem, make ready, for Eden has been opened for all; Ephrata be alert, for the Tree of Life has blossomed forth from the Virgin in the cave. Her womb has become a spiritual paradise wherein the divine Fruit was planted- and if we eat of it, we shall live and not die like Adam. Christ is coming forth to bring back to life the likeness that was lost in the beginning.” We are all Bethlehem…we are all preparing to welcome Christ into our homes and into our lives on Christmas Day. What a better way than to clean our homes and our bodies and prepare to receive Him!

All of the above first paragraphs can also be taken in context of our faith. We mostly make poor choices throughout our lives. We are given opportunities to “eat clean” over and over again by a loving and forgiving God. Each time we stumble, He lovingly assists us to get back up and keep going. The choices we make each day affect our eternity in more ways than one. Each bite I take, each time I choose to be a couch potato, affects how long I have with my loved ones. Each prayer I don’t say, each religious service I duck out of, affects my eternity. Each time God calls and I ignore that in favor of “food lazy” (i.e. not wanting to go to Church or opting not to pray) affects my relationship with Him. He knows our hearts and He often places choices in our paths in order to help us grow. I have grown a lot over the past 30 days, but I don’t think the program had that in mind! To me, that’s totally a win-win! I have learned about healthy food choices and making good choices is affecting my other choices. How awesome is that?!?

cave-manger-scene

On December 24th, we sing, “Christ is born to renew the likeness that had been lost of old.” Quite often Christ comes so that we can put off the old, and adorn the new. But He also wants us to reclaim what has been lost over time, over habit, over poor choices. I want to truly prepare for this Christmas by making good choices all around. For my health, my relationships, my business, my family, my God. And so we will Whole30 on until we begin to prepare, in earnest on the start of the Nativity Fast, for the coming of the Christ Child.

 

“To everything there is a season…”

“To everything there is a season…” Ecc 3:1
pumpkins

Autumn is my favorite season. And I love decorating with a fall theme. I am not that into Halloween. It has just never grabbed me and my kids never really liked it until they were teens and then it was just to scare each other. The candy thing was always a pain. Do you let them eat it? Do you parse it out, a little at a time?  Have you ever found Easter Candy in July? Well, I have found Halloween candy in August! As the kids got older, we started a family tradition where we would take them to dinner and a movie. The next day, we would take them shopping for one bag of candy each – it was always on clearance – and they usually got more than if they would have trick-or-treated, and they got exactly what they wanted. Worked for me. Tonight, I am attending a pumpkin carving party. We’re supposed to wear costumes. That is so not me. And we got 6″ of snow last night. Kind of dims the party spirit.

The party was actually fun. The people were so very nice. And I had a great time. The pumpkin carving was funny. I was able to drive to and from our friend’s very isolated home, up steep and icy roads, without a problem – I was quite proud of myself. And during this party, I found myself seated at the table…right in front of some cute cupcakes and some sort of peanut butter dip covered in Reese’s Pieces, to be scooped up by chocolate ghost cookies! And after a short chat with a new friend, I was even offered a drink of 15-year old Macallan Scotch!!! The absolute torture!!!

scotchneat

For those of you who know me, I would much rather have one to two fingers of scotch, neat, than pretty much any other alcoholic beverage. Even after discovering Chocolate Martinis – I still prefer my scotch. And the thing is, I am still on Whole30. Part of the program is no sugar in any form – and no alcohol in any form. None. So far, so good. Today is day 24. About a week to go before we add things back in. Now before you freak out, I had no problem sitting in front of all that sugar. I kept seeing chemicals and pasty-feeling frosting on my tongue and I was not even tempted. I happily reached for the fresh baby carrots and celery sticks. Truly. I did not miss it at all. I was sorely tempted by the scotch (it was Macallan!!) but that was about it.

porkbutternutsquash

Don’t feel too badly for us. Tonight we are having the recipe above – Pork Shoulder Roast with Butternut Squash and tomatoes. I am opting out of the kale, because we are just not kale people. But we are not suffering in the recipe department. Last night I made bacon-wrapped chicken breasts on sliced white sweet potatoes and a side of green beans with garlic. It was amazing! We are devouring eggs and we discovered British Breakfast Smoked Bacon. Oh my goodness – where have you been all my life??? No sugar added. No extra salts or seasonings that are not compliant. It is delicious. We have adopted many butternut squash recipes. I love to eat them but not so much in the prepare department. They are a pain to peel and gut and dice! Ha-Ha.  But they are so tasty! We have discovered that our taste buds were somehow in a coma. We could not taste – we thought we could, but truly, we did not taste. Now, I am in love with all these amazing spices and ways of cooking. I had to go out and buy two more pans because I kept running out. The prep is a  lot but I am re-discovering my joy of cooking.

sausage

I learned how to prepare my own sausage from organic ground pork. It’s simple and fast and we have found we like the flavor much better. I discovered a new way to make meatballs (a family tradition in the Kaiser household) and we discovered we like that recipe better, as well. We have slowly converted our teen son to a better way of eating. He is still eating snacks a lot, but his meals are far better. His choices are better. We found this recipe for “Mexican” meat that is so good. We fry it up and put it on a bed of raw spinach and mixed greens, topped with salsa and guacamole. Oh my goodness! The teenager had seconds. And asked that I make it again.

oilandvinegarcruets

The journey of Whole30 has taught us so much about how we have been trained to eat. How we have also been trained to shop. It truly is less expensive to shop the perimeter of the store! We buy a grocery cart full of fresh ingredients and spend far less that we ever have. I have learned that I actually prefer WALNUT OIL and APPLE CIDER VINEGAR with simple salt and pepper on my salads. I even cook with it. But you have to know that prior to this, I was a heavy ranch and thousand island user! I would dip in it. I would cook with it. I would slather my salads with it. I loved my dressing. But now, I am enjoying the taste of my salads, enhanced by a mild oil and vinegar. Wow. This is big for me. It is huge. Whole30 is changing my relationship with food, and with my kitchen!

masonjarstorage

Because we shop for pretty much all fresh ingredients, I have discovered Mason Jars! Oh my goodness. I have all my dried fruits and nuts in them. We go through them so quickly. I love making my own “trail mix” using fresh, bulk-bought, dried fruits and nuts. I now love shredded coconut with no sugar, and add it to a mix of nuts and fruits and keep in my purse for a pick-me-up. Mason Jars are pretty awesome. You can see what you’ve got and what you are running low on. I am using small and large ones, not having discovered the need for medium ones, yet (give me time). And this week, I am re-doing my kitchen insofar as organizing it for easier prep and use. Whole30 has up-ended our lives.

dishesrestaurant

Another thing that Whole30 has done is positively affected our budget. One way, other than eating fresh ingredients made at home, is that we have not dined out. Most of the dishes served locally are very non-compliant with Whole30 guidelines. And for now, that is fine. We mostly miss the convenience of grabbing a bite on late, rushed evenings. And we miss the social aspect of Saturday morning breakfast with our grandkids at a local Grill. But, we are eating better and we are eating simpler. And we are sharing it so much, that we are seeing others adopt the process, including some people very close to us, just by modeling this behavior. Eating simple and cleanly has changed not only how we see food, or taste food, but it is slowly changing how our bodies absorb food. Our bodies were so used to using quick energy from sugar-ladened foods, that they are now learning to grab energy from our fat stores, and the healthy fats we are feeding ourselves. This process has causes a few reactions. We have found ourselves sluggish and days of a headache or two. But as we are starting to see the finish line, we are not questioning the process.

This process has caused me to think more about the end of the day when we gather for dinner, the breakfasts and lunches we will share and prepare as the family goes about its day, and the healthy snacks we will consume in-between. We have become planners and label-readers. We have become more concerned about content and quality, rather than quantity.

kitchensinkeggs

But one of the most amazing things, is that it truly has taken the emphasis off food for food, and replaced it as food for health. Think about that. Why would I ingest a BigMac meal with fries and a soda? I can feed my body a healthy meal, for less money, less negative affect on my body, and with very little effort? Convenience? We need to stop being so lazy. The recipe above has you gather whatever you have left over insofar as fruits and veggies, and with some spices, add them to eggs for breakfast…or lunch…or dinner. Why not? I no longer crave McDonald’s fries. No more. It’s simply not tasty for me, nor worth the damage to my body. I do crave that British Breakfast bacon and some eggs over medium. Yum. With a side of a sliced apple. Yes, please. And one of the biggest things? I have discovered that I actually love the taste of coffee. For coffee. Not the creamer or sugar I had added to it. I like black coffee. Who knew? I actually went to a business meeting at one of our local coffee houses and ordered decaf drip, black (it was at night – still can’t do caffeine late in the day!!) in an awesome mug…with free refills. First.Time.Ever.

blackcoffee

I am not sure, once we reach day 31, what I want to add back. I do not miss bread or crackers or cookies or cake or noodles or rice or cheese or many of the other things I have not eaten. My first thing to add back? I have thought long and hard about this. And to be perfectly honest, I am not sure. I am enjoying learning to eat this way. I am proud that my body is now getting better nutrition. And I am not sure if I want to re-introduce the things I have loved eating without. There are a lot of Whole30 graduates who pretty much adopt the Whole30 lifestyle in perpetuity. We just might. My husband misses pizza. I think I would scrape the toppings and cheese off and skip the crust part. Maybe. Sometimes what we think we are addicted to, we really are not. We are just in a rut or have developed a bad habit. And Whole30 challenges you to break these habits. It challenges you to think about your choices. It challenges you to choose healthy over convenience. And I have always liked being that stick in the river, refusing to go the way everyone else does. Whole30 is not really going against anything, but rather, returning to how we once ate, before chemical additives and boxed everything. Join me! You might be surprised at yourself.

woodinrivers

For some, it is not time, yet. It is hard to look at habits and how we live. It is hard to delve into things that are not comfortable. Looking in a mirror is not easy. Trust me. I am overweight and out of shape. I have, however, faced my fear. I have enrolled in a water aerobics class. Ha-Ha. The first laugh is my bathing suit. I have had it since our kids were little. I am surprised the material is still hanging together (sort of scares me, wondering what it is made of). And the other funny thing is I have re-entered the world of the dreaded locker room. When I was in high school there were girls who could walk around naked with no care in the world. Even back then, I could not do it. And being 60 and overweight, it is just not happening. However, those same girls who walked around nude at 14 are still doing it at 70 – and there are some things you just cannot unsee. They are not literally the same people, but are sort of like the same ones, if you get my point. And changing and showering and all of that has been the subject of quite a lot of laughter. The funny thing is that while we do water aerobics, they have children’s swimming lessons. So there are little children from toddlers with their swimming diapers all the way through to us old grandmas, running around the locker room and shower area. The noise level is hysterical – my head just about explodes! But the sights are quite something to see.

wateraerobicsbarbells

Do not poo-poo water aerobics. Join me, I dare you. During the night right afterwards, I am already rolling over in bed, aching. This last class caused me to wake in the night to revisit my oils and relieve some of the aches and pains, and to ensure a restful night of sleep. It’s been two days and I am off to play with those silly noodles and water barbells again tonight. Those barbells, made of foam, are no joke, either. My arms are killing me. But I am moving. I am out and about. I am giving my body the proper nutrition, and I am moving all my muscles. Movement is so important, even if it is just to walk to the corner and back again. To stroll through the mall. To park the furthest away at the store and walk in (except for in ice and snow – I park as close as possible). The Whole30 program challenged us in more ways than one. I know it has been life changing and I cannot see us returning to the lazy ways, the lazy days, prior to Whole30. And I’m not sure if we’ll add foods we have done with out for 30 days, back into our diets. We are still thinking about the long term process, once we realize the full affects of this program. It is pretty amazing, and so very simple. Think about it, and, again, think about joining us!

whole30on

 

 

“I just needed a time out…”

My aim, when I first started this blog, was sharing my “musings of a mom.” I had my first child almost 31 years ago, and our baby will be 18 soon. I have experienced many things as a mom. I have been filled with such an immense joy that I thought I would burst, and with such sorrow that I thought I would break. God intended us moms to be pretty strong, because bringing new life into this world and sharing in the gift of creation with our Divine Creator, is pretty amazing in and of itself. But then there is the whole raising of these children. That is another chapter. One that I do not think will be done until I draw my last breath, and at that point, God and my child will be on their own! Ha-Ha!

I have embarked on some new journeys recently, and through them I have walked away from some things and some people, and have begun new things, meeting new people. I don’t think that life is something we ever stop exploring unless we choose to, or we are dead. I have heard some amazing sayings and one of them recently was, “Stop being in love with your couch.” This could mean laziness in a physical sense, and that truly applies to me. But the context within which it was stated had to do with business and being a self-starter.

AncientPaths.

Sometimes we get stuck. We dig trenches of our own making. We get so deep into what we are doing, we cannot see out of our habits.  And while in those habitual trenches, we develop a “comfort zone.” It can be so debilitating we cannot function well too far from our zones, or outside of them. We freeze. We fall in love with our couches. However, there are ancient pathways, tested paths, that help us to find our way and keep us close to God.

THINK – PRAY – ACT

This is something that can be so hard to do, because we have lost contact with our own sense of the “go-getter,” that person we were when younger or more motivated. I often watch my 2-year-old granddaughter and long for her energy level, as well as her joy in life. She seems to just enjoy every day, moment to moment. She throws tantrums once in awhile (more often as she is growing up but is not quite where she can communicate what she is feeling. She then gets frustrated with life and just comes unglued – I can relate to that, as well!!) and I often wish I could behave with that abandon! However, being the mature adult (cough-cough) that I am, I am reduced to stomach acid that sometimes goes into overdrive, and having to realize that I am a child, too. A child of God. I need to run into the arms of my Lord like my granddaughter runs to her mom’s outstretched arms. And there I need to rest. I need to gather myself, pray, and then act.

I recall my kids having tantrums and we’d send them to their rooms, until they were better company (or could behave around others in a way that was acceptable to us). As they got used to that, quite often they’d run to their rooms on their own and then as I would check on them, I would hear, “I just needed a time out.” Wisdom from the mouths of babes. We all need a time out now and then! And when I think, then pray, then act – well, it turns out better than “re“-acting to my environment with my own “adult” tantrums.

Silence

As I have mused over events and memories of being a mom, I have learned a few things. One of the most profound is to keep silence in situations where speaking would result in turmoil. Keeping silence and your opinions to yourself often results in untenable situations becoming more tenable, and even forgotten, as time goes on. Teenagers, but often strong-willed and undisciplined children, will erupt and spew their newly acquired opinions, creating strife in a relatively short amount of time. Poorly disciplined kids are relatively hard to deal with, especially when they grow into poorly disciplined adults. And that is when the balm of silence can truly help a situation. When you throw all of that undisciplined humanity into a group’s gathering, it can be quite tense. It is at that point that I will retreat inward and think and pray…my action is my inaction…it is my non-contributory silence. And I recently had the opportunity for silence and the action of being silent and although my inner self was in turmoil, I did not contribute to the turmoil around me and I found great peace in that. It calmed me and provided a salve for my inner-self, my heart, my nous, my center where God resides. He reminded me of the many opportunities I have been given to contribute and that now, silence is often my best contribution to a situation and/or a person.

be9cb61d6b10264977a58ac7bc314c8c

I was staring at my bedroom today (this is just an image; not my own room) and I still love the craftsman-styled furniture we bought for ourselves. We finally got our own bedroom set after we had been married for about 15 years. Today, as I was dusting our dresser and holding items precious to me, I just started to bawl. I looked around, wondering who would be dusting this dresser that I love so much, in 30 years? Who would care about this flower bowl I got from my grandma and kept because I love the way the pink and purple colors are all swirled together? Who would be making this bed, and for whom, in 40 years? Because, I realized that my days are numbered here on earth. That we all truly die. And I do not think I will be dusting anything in 40 years, nor making beds, nor admiring my grandma’s ceramic flower bowl. Someday relatively soon my family and small group of friends, well, they will only have me as a distant memory. And that I will cease to be a part of their lives. And I am not ready for that, yet. Oh, I know it is coming. Getting closer by the day. And all of this musing about sharing and not sharing, being silent, and choosing ancient pathways brought me to this point of my weeping at my coming death. I pray I will be worthy of the nosebleed seats in heaven; that God will share His Mercy with me and I will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  (“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6). But that still means I will not be with those I love. And my circle has shrunk over the years. Boy oh boy, has it shrunk. And as I wept, I thought of those I would like to be with me, as I draw my last breath. The list is small. And I found comfort in that. Because as we go through this journey, those who truly matter are there for us, regardless of our weight, our success, our homes, our choices, our gray hairs…they love the inner me; the me Our Lord sees every time I seek Him in silence and in prayer – the child of God I am when I run to the One Who comforts as only our Creator can.

candles lit

Today I wept, and I kept my own counsel; I didn’t call a friend or my husband. But I also sought my Creator to center myself. As I mused on motherhood, I mused on the many choices I have made for my family. I truly feel I was led by Our Lord to make the choices I made. I know He watched over us and has each of us in His hands. And as others criticize the choices I made for my kids, make fun of the choices I am making for my family and my life now, I realize that Our Creator has got all of this. I place my trust in God, in my salvation with Him for my eternity, and I will enjoy the precious moments I have left with those I love. I will keep silence when it is better to do so. I will also continue to make choices based on my keeping my silence, but also with thinking, praying, and acting within the Will of God.

God words