Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Gospel According to Keith

If the New Testament took place in the twenty first century, I'm pretty sure the captains on Deadliest Catch would be disciples. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John's testimonies seem less believable to me right now than life through the eyes of Captains Sig, Phil, Keith and Andy.

Photos from here

Talk about a raw perspective. I cried during last night's episode. The tipping point was when Keith heard about Phil's condition after a massive stroke and prayed, "Cut him some slack Big Guy, cut him some slack."

Faith at such a gut wrenching level is compelling. I could say more about all the spiritual parallels in the show, but that seems unnecessary. The impact of last night's episode is still lingering.

Monday, June 28, 2010

This is why the word DIET makes me cringe

This awesome and/or horrible website was introduced to me today: diet recipes with pictures, circa 1974. Oh my word! Be still my gag reflex. 

Check out the website, because the accompanying comments are priceless.

But wait, there's more! A whole book of this nastiness. On the bright side, my low calorie menu seems delicious in comparison.

The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan: Classic Diet Recipe Cards from the 1970s

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Light bulb

As I was responding to the latest post from a new blog friend, inspiration struck.

Keelie at made a good point that got me thinking. While describing unhealthy relationships with food she says,
We fatties like to think of food as something we can earn, spend, save, and even gamble with.
It's true. It's subtle, and it's all internal monologue, but I find myself doing a lot of bargaining over food. I give myself lots of excuses.
  1. It's been a hard day. I need a pick-me-up.
  2. Look at what I accomplished! I deserve a treat.
  3. Nothing can make me feel better except [chocolate, mocha, chips, candy, you name it].
  4. I'm too hard on myself.
  5. It's not that big of a deal.
  6. I'm an individual. I don't need any one's permission or approval.
  7. I can't help it: life is really overwhelming right now.
What if I used the same prompts to exercise instead of eat? I could become an emotional exerciser, who processed angst and anxiety and celebration with exertion not consumption.

Wouldn't it be nice to respond to those excuses in new ways?
  1. I need a pick-me-up. So I'm going to take a walk. Heart pumping, lungs filling, fresh air and sunshine: that will pick me up.
  2. I deserve a treat. I'll join a fun class at the gym. Zumba? Hot yoga? So many choices.
  3. Nothing can make me feel better except the exhaustion and accomplishment of working out.
  4. I'm too hard on myself when I eat nothing but junk food. My body deserves better than that.
  5. It's not that big of a deal to go to the gym after work or take a walk on the weekends. Really low impact, but I feel so much better when I do.
  6. I don't need any one's permission or approval but I know I feel better about myself when I'm healthy and strong.
  7. Life is really overwhelming right now. I'd better keep a level head instead of letting circumstances get me down. There's more to me than a couch potato.
How different would my life be if I lived by those rules, even for a week?

Monday, June 21, 2010

One More To-Do List: David Allen and Erik Johnson

My latest Amazon purchase was just delivered. More to add to the "currently reading" shelf.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
It was highly recommended to me by my dad, who recently streamlined his calendar, harnessed his note taking obsession, and revamped his appointment-setting procedures. I credit Pop with my 1) eagerness-for-new-things, 2) tendency toward shorter-than-desirable attention span, and 3) adoration of organization (among other inherited traits). The man who taught me the philosophy "A clean house is a happy house!" and "A place for everything and everything in it's place!" is also the man who has had more hobbies than I can count. The list of his personal interests and topics of research over my lifetime boggles the mind. This July, he will be exactly twice my age, and I can only imagine the variety of his pursuits prior to parenting. All that to say: if a person with as much creativity and passion as Dad recommends anything to do with productivity, it would behoove me to listen up. I'll let you know what I think of the book. As soon as I  make time to read it.

PS: Dad started his own blog. Check it out. He also Twitters, Facebook-status-updates, sends photos to me via text message, and emails from his phone. He's the most millennial baby boomer I know. Someday I'll write a post about my technology-absent childhood, which seems Amish in comparison.

Currently reading

As usual, I'm in the middle of several books at once. Here's what you're most likely to find on the coffee table this week.

Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing MemoirMy Family and Other AnimalsKnow Doubt: The Importance of Embracing Uncertainty in Your Faith

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, and Six More [WONDERFUL STORY OF HENRY S]Beat Sugar Addiction Now!: The Cutting-Edge Program That Cures Your Type of Sugar Addiction and Puts You on the Road to Feeling Great - and Losing Weight!

I just noticed there are two books with "sugar" in the title. Funny.
What are you reading?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 16, 2010: Happy Birthday to Me

My co-workers decked out my cubicle for my birthday. I cringed a little bit: my inner strict-librarian-party-pooper objected to streamers and pinwheels in the workplace. But I liked the attention.

See? I wore pink. How festive is that?

All the clients I worked with seemed amused. I told myself in a stern inner monologue voice not to freak out so much over [gasp] what people might think. I like to think of myself as generally fun-loving and giddy. Unless I feel self conscious. Then I am a clam and burrow into the sand. Frowning.

So it was a good exercise for me to take myself seriously as a professional even with tacky birthday decor all around me. And I think it made me more human. My first client came into my cubicle and said, "It's your birthday?!" and gave me a big hug. So sweet!

The ironic thing is that before I got to work, I was feeling mighty sorry for myself. I was missing a childhood tradition. As a kid, every June 15th, Mom left a surprise in my bedroom after I fell asleep. When I woke up on birthday morning, I always found a big balloon hovering over me like a celebratory cloud. I was queen for the day and got special treatment from my parents (fewer chores) and from my four siblings (artwork and little handmade gifts). I got to choose one meal on my birthday. Barbecued hamburgers and shish kabobs were favorites, and then strawberry pie instead of birthday cake. In Northwest Washington, strawberries first show up in grocery stores and farmers' corner stands in June. Those first berries of the season are the best. A whole year without them makes them that much sweeter when they're back in season.

My husband, on the other hand, is not so fond of birthdays. He would just as soon skip them. They make him feel older and further removed from the happy days of childhood. He tends to be a curmudgeon in general (not always, but he can makes my inner stern-librarian-party-poop persona look like spring break in Cancun) and birthdays bring out a cynical side of him. So let's just say there was not the festive atmosphere that I grew to love as a child on this, the morning of my 29th birthday. We'll just leave it at that.

And how can I really complain without sounding like an eight year old? "Do you remember what day it is? Are you going to say happy...... you know? Is it party time?" I may or may not have heard this sentence: "I gave you a gift last night!" In this hypothetical scenario, you can imagine me replying, "but that was yesterday! TODAY is my birthday!" I may or may not have heard, "It was after midnight! It was your birthday!"

So anyway, all hypotheticals aside, I was sulking on the drive to work.

Until I got to my cubicle and found more birthday party decorations than I'd seen in a long time. And my co-workers even brought angel food cake with strawberries, Boston cream pie with strawberry topping, and sugar cookies with strawberry frosting. I almost cried. I don't know which was more fun, the excitement of being celebrated, or the sugar high. The card they gave me is PERFECT.

And for the record, that night a certain curmudgeon took me out to a wonderful dinner of my choice and spoiled me rotten in more ways than one.

A very happy birthday indeed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Still feeling raw...have to write.

On Monday, my mom got lost while taking a walk. It was something my family hoped wouldn’t happen, didn’t want to predict, but feared the day would come eventually. She doesn't drive anymore (and hasn't for about three years, since we found out her memory loss is actually Alzheimer's, and not just a goofy stage of menopause). She has always loved walking, and has a regular route she'll take (sometimes twice a day), just to get out of the house for a while. My parents have been in their home for 25 years, so it's a familiar neighborhood. Unless your brain is working against you and one wrong turn can throw you completely off course.

Dad left for work at noon. Mom was up, showered, and dressed. She was having a good day: did a load of laundry and washed the dishes, keeping herself busy. The weather was beautiful and she wanted to take advantage of the rare sunny afternoon (sunshine has been sporadic this spring). The caregiver arrived at 4pm to an empty house. She started making phone calls to friends, wondering if someone had picked Mom up for an outing and lost track of time. No luck.

My youngest brother came home at 4:30pm and started looking, driving on Mom's usual route and a few miles past that. He called my sister, who got the word to my husband. Wisely, Hubs didn't say anything to me until I was done with my last client of the day. I work for a financial intuition as a loan officer and was wrapping up a busy Monday: an application I loaded that morning had been approved and I was finishing paperwork so my eager client could go pick up his new car. We finished financing right at closing time. As soon as I locked the lobby doors, Husband followed me back to my cubicle (one of the benefits of working for the same employer as your spouse).

He said, "You should probably get your things; you're not going to want to work out tonight."

The look on his face got my attention real quick.

"They can't find your Mom."

My ears rang. I asked him to repeat himself.

I finished my end-of-day routine quickly, stuffed unfinished paperwork into my cabinet, and we headed to my parents' house out in the county. I tried to keep my imagination in check, refusing to picture any worst case scenarios. The scary feeling was physical: my head was spinning and my guts were churning. It didn't seem real. She might be two blocks away, she might be hurt, she might not even realize she's been gone long enough to cause alarm.

When we got to Mom and Dad’s, there were six law enforcement vehicles outside the house: Search and Rescue and several Sheriff's deputies. Dad pulled into the driveway a few minutes after we did, around 6:30pm. The deputy in charge came inside and asked Dad all the appropriate identifying questions: date of birth, height, weight. Any distinguishing features? What was she wearing? What’s her shoe size? Who is her dentist?  We collected recent photos of Mom on the kitchen table.

The deputy recommended a radio-transmitting bracelet for Mom, to cut down the time of any future searches. He said, "It's the same technology that was used to track bears and wolves in the seventies." Great. "Don't tell Mom that," I thought. Dad asked for the informational brochure.

The deputy asked about any previous workplaces (we all stared at him blankly, thinking, “She worked here, she‘s always been a stay at home Mom"), friends or relatives she might be visiting, destinations she might inadvertently be headed for. He asked us to search every nook and cranny in the house, just in case. He said to search the perimeter and “outbuildings” to eliminate those options before the search really got underway. He said a border patrol helicopter was on it's way back to the area, available to help if the other officers and K9 search party didn't make any progress.

A search and rescue specialist came inside for Mom's white sweater (hung haphazardly on the coat rack; we knew she was the last one to touch it) and brought it to the search and rescue dog as a scent sample. The deputy explained that human scent is even more individualized than fingerprints. We saw the dog through the living room window on a long leash, RACING in big circles, plowing through the overgrown flower beds, bounding from front yard to back. The deputy said, “He gets excited because he knows this is real; it’s not training anymore. It’ll take five minutes or so for him to get some energy out and then focus.”

The deputy described how big the search area was since noon was the last time anyone had seen Mom. “She could have as much as a 6 hour head start. That could mean 12 or more miles in any one direction, depending on how fast she’s walking.” He was used to searching for 80 or 90-year-olds who wandered away from home or got lost outside their nursing homes, and stopped whenever their energy gave out. He wasn't sure how far away Mom may be, an able-bodied woman in her fifties.

I said, "Depending on how long ago she left, she may not even be thinking about the return trip yet. She's not aware of the time; probably still enjoying the sun. A two hour walk wouldn't be unusual."

We all took the deputy's business card so we could call when we found her. He went outside to make phone calls from his truck. As soon as he left the room, Husband said, "Let's be sure to drive in pairs, so one person is free to make the calls. Y'know, and not break any laws." We all laughed. Last week the state made talking on a cell while driving a primary offense. Oh honey, always so practical.

We disbanded to start searching. Blanketing the neighborhood were eleven family and friends in seven vehicles. Dad stayed home for updates. Husband and I drove east, since I thought Mom would probably want to stay in the sun. While he drove, I made a few more phones calls. Our friends at the local library hadn't seen her. Our middle brother in Seattle had been notified and he wondered if he should come up. We said no, there wasn't anything more he could do, but we promised to keep him updated.

We drove for about twenty minutes, maybe thirty. Every intersection felt like a gamble. I scanned side streets, trying to see it through Mom's eyes. Could she have thought it would lead her home? I looked closely around every horse pasture, knowing Mom's love of horses and the likelihood she'd want to feed them dandelions. There's very little foot traffic in the county, no sidewalks, and barely even enough room to walk on the shoulder. We only saw a few people on bikes. Someone on foot should stand out.

Then my sister called. “They found her." She didn't know any details, but she was calling our brothers next. "See you at the house.”

Mom was 13 miles from home, almost to the Canadian border. A border patrol saw her walking slowly, holding her side. He pulled over and talked to her. An ambulance met them and gave her water. The deputy at home drove Dad to her. When he arrived, she was in the back of the aid car drinking water and resting. I was afraid she would be terrified, or ashamed, or oblivious. But she knew she had walked for a really long time. She was exhausted but appreciated the attention.

When we all got back to the house, in she walked, rosy cheeked and a little wind blown. She didn’t have a hat, no long sleeves, and no sunscreen. Her neck was almost purple with sunburn. She had a big smile on her face, knowing all eyes were on her. We had all just been at my parent's place on Saturday, for my youngest brother's high school graduation. She said, "I didn't know there was another party!"

Her feet were sore so my sister filled a tub with water to soak them in. She pulled off Mom's socks and put them in warm sudsy water. My sister is the kindest person I know. Mom guzzled water and juice, luxuriating in the pampering and enjoying her spot on the couch (you know how good it feels to sit down after a couple of hours on your feet? I can only imagine the relief Mom felt).

The officer gave Dad the brochure about the radio transmitting bracelet. He explained again how it is recommended for folks who are likely to wander off. I thought it was insensitive to discuss it front of Mom, but she listened to his description and piped up, “Do I get to wear one of those?! Oh goody!”

We all sat in my parent's living room for an hour or two, visiting, enjoying each others' company. We bantered and joked and did what my family does best: appreciated each other. As conversation wound down and we prepared to leave, Mom suddenly asked, "am I the reason we're all here?" We looked at each other before responding, not wanting to sound too alarmist, but nodded yes. "We wanted to make sure you were OK, Mom."

"Well," she said, "glad I could help!"

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bellingham Scottish Highland Games

Saturday morning. 8:30am. Arrive at Hovander Park, directed by boy scouts to parking in a field of knee-high grass. Pay entrance fee. Walk to orchard. Stand in awe.

Pipers of all ages were practicing, some in groups, some independently. It was like a really loud and quacky orchestra warming up before a concert, melodies overlapping each other, no intelligible rhythm, just sound. It was glorious.

Something about the music of bagpipes feels like a call to arms. There's no subtlety, at least to my untrained ear; no "dynamics" (as my piano teachers taught me: playing louder or softer). I doubt bagpipe sheet music includes words like pianissimo or mezzo-forte. It's all fortissimo. The reaction I felt was the same as standing near a waterfall, the sound thunderous and overwhelming, filling my ears entirely so that I can't hear much else, rattling my innards.

On top of the appeal of the music, bagpipes are crazy looking instruments. It takes a minute of observation to understand how something so bizarre can play a song. Bagpipes make a loud honking sound while the piper breathes forcefully into the mouthpiece and the bag fills with air. Once it's full, the piper presses against the bag with their arm, while continuously blowing, maintaining full pressure in the bladder of air. The Chanter is where the piper plays each note. Unlike a clarinet, the musician's breath doesn't pass directly through the instrument being played; the breath is diverted and builds up pressure before being released through the chanter (as individual notes) and through each of the pipes (playing one note each). It almost looks as if the piper has an additional, external lung on their hip, which they pinch and poke into playing music.

And what powerful music is it. In the orchard, the pipers practiced until it was their turn to play for one of the many judges who sat scattered throughout the area under patio umbrellas at small round tables, taking notes. Some cupped their hands behind their ears, trying to isolate the sound of the performer and muffle the sound of dozens of others still practicing. The pipers usually play while marching and with the accompaniment of drummers, so many of them tapped their feet as they played for the judges. Some marched in place. Singled out, the rhythm was unmistakable. I couldn't help tapping my own feet, or bobbing my head.

Something else that mesmerized me were the expressions on the faces of the pipers. Playing a bagpipe isn't exactly flattering. The exertion and concentration is obvious, and almost looks painful. I froze while strolling through the orchard with the camera, embarrassed to be a tourist and snap too many photos of something so sacred and, well, personal.

I wish I could take credit for these next three photos, but they aren't mine. Courtesy of the Bellingham Herald.

For more info, you can do what I did: Google "anatomy of a bagpipe."

(not published by the Bellingham Herald)

Seated on the sidelines while this procession marched in was coolest sound ever. There isn't any way to describe it other than WOW. I was on my feet, grinning ear to ear, snapping pictures like a tourist. I'm pretty sure 1 Cor. 15:52 is referring to bagpipes. I'm not going to visualize angels with harps anymore.
It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

More Lifetimes to Look Forward to

Another entry from my blog "drafts," this one dated 1/7/2009. I remember collecting these pictures when answering the writing prompt, "what would you do if you had five lifetimes to live?" My lack of explanation leaves more to the imagination, but I know exactly why I chose each image: 1) African landscape, 2) Amish clothesline, 3) REI model, 4) ranch. Number 5 must be a mystery.

From the archives

Found this in my posts from last year, started but never published. Wonder what prompted this. I never completed the thought.

Young adult mixer.

Why why why why why are Christians so boring?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Here we go again

Husband and I are counting calories, trying to kick-start our weight loss back in to gear. He's much more disciplined than I am. He keeps track of everything and sticks to his limits. I tend to freak out.

I HATE counting points, calories and ounces. It feels WRONG to measure one serving of crackers. That's 16 Wheat Thins, in case you wondered. Do you know how measly that is? Or my favorite-of-all time: Life cereal? 1 cup barely covers the bottom of my bowl. And 8 recommended glasses of water per day? I'm lucky if I can finish one Nalgene full of Chrystal Lite. I know its going to make a difference, so I'm keeping track of everything, but I'm begrudging about the whole process. "Reluctant" sounds too kind; I'm a pouting, cranky dieter.

Last night on the way home from work I confessed, "I feel frail."

Husband laughed and said, "Are you hungry?"

I answered with a feeble "Yes. I feel like I'm wasting away."

His response?


I know that's my goal, one pound at a time, but c'mon man, a little sympathy here.

Being hungry makes me feel lonely. How sad is that? Food has definitely become a coping mechanism. I didn't realize how emotional the attachment was until I started monitoring my intake. It's only been a week, but boy, it's harsh. It's like the point in an unhealthy relationship when you finally acknowledge you have to break up. Ouch.

To stay motivated, I just look at recent pictures of my double chin. OK, I don't really have portraits of my chin, but it sure shows up often enough. ICK! Plus, I had my cholesterol checked for the first time last year. The results were not great. I got a phone call from my nurse practitioner urging me to start a mega-dose of Vitamin D in addition to diet and exercise to keep it in check. I'm curious to know if it's changed in the last year. My family history of high cholesterol makes me want to keep a close eye on it. My family history also involves a deeply ingrained love of peanut butter, so go figure.

Now that Husband and I are back to really being serious about weight loss, I'm loving our local produce stand. It's open April through November, and we're getting all the fresh fruit and veggies we can get our hands on. I don't count calories for raw vegetables. I figure I should be earning bonus points for eating like a rabbit, so not counting "freebie" calories from vegetables seems like a good compromise with myself. I've been bringing bell peppers, carrots, broccoli and celery to work as a snack. I'm trying to use the afternoon munchies as a reminder to drink more water, have small protein or vegetable snacks, and spread the calories throughout the day.

And speaking of unhealthy relationships, I've got to end my torrid love affair with the vending machine. I'm not keeping anymore change in my desk drawer. Skittles and Famous Amos cookies can undo all my progress. Even mentioning them gives me butterflies. Office romances are never a good idea. It's got to end, Emily. You deserve better.