Monday, June 27, 2011

Loving Mom

It's been a hard week for me. Mom said recently she's been feeling dizzy when she first wakes up, and isn't sure who or where she is, and doesn't know what to do.

These incremental losses are excruciating. Alzheimer's is called "The Long Goodbye." But that fails to capture the agony of watching a loved one slip out of reach. It's grieving in slow motion.

These are the things that have been on my mind lately.


Mom, how greedy of me to want more mothering than what you've already given me. But I know you weren't done, either. What you had left to give was stolen from us both.

What a rich, deep life you've given each of your children, thick with memories of your smile, your scent, your body's warmth, your voice, your hands. All the synonyms for "nurture" flow through you like sap through birch limbs. Because your roots run so deep, we know you are in good hands.


Seeing someone cry isn't the same as understanding their grief. Unless you too have stood on the precipice, the mouth of a gaping, dark, bottomless hole. Grief is a wide open mouth, crying too deeply to be heard. It's in the belly, reaching out toward things that can't be held.


Monolithic - that's what Mom's become to me. An ideal, a heroine, a goddess. In real life she smells unwashed, she fidgets and stammers, her unshaven legs are scaly they're so dry. But in my mind's eye she's verdant and lush and happy and angelic. It's because I know the real person, the one hidden by dementia.


Living in grief is bitter. But it concentrates everything. Pain is difficult and condensed. Beauty and appreciation are overwhelming, too. It's all breathtaking. A tea bag in hot water knows what I'm trying to describe.


"What's the price of a pet canary? God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail - even numbering the hairs on your head. You're worth more than a million canaries."

Matthew 10:29-31

Friday, June 24, 2011

One of those days


Trying to appreciate the soil and darkness. Believing someday there will be fresh air, sunlight, and growth.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


When I’m tired of telling myself “no more,"

When I’m sweating at Boot Camp,

When I’m sure exercise is going to give me an aneurism,

When I’m overwhelmed knowing this is going to take time,


...I'm choosing to eat what I actually prefer

...Relationships are more important than size

Uganda, 2006

Auntie and Nephew (3 months old) March 2011

...I've completed even bigger goals

Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa
Hiked December, 2005

...There are trips to look forward to this summer and fall
Lake Chelan, WA

... and cute bathing suits exist!


Monday, June 13, 2011

May/June 21 day challenge

Recap: inspiration came from here (blogger and runner Tricia wrote about how she lost over 120 pounds by starting with a short-term goal). I was inspired to try it myself.

Three weeks ago, I made the following goals (editorial comments included):
  1. Cut out soda. I drink it because it’s in the house, not because I love it. It's an easy break-up since I don’t see any real future for me and Diet Coke. Meh. Easy place to start. I know water is better for me. I have a feeling if I were to Google “artificial sweeteners” I would have nightmares for a week. 
  2. Eat less LIFE Cereal and Wheat Thins. I know they are made with manna from heaven, but man shall not live on carbohydrates alone. The only portions that satisfy my cravings require mixing bowls-full. Too much. No more crates from Costco.
  3. Less peanut butter.
  4. More fruit. Appealing because fruit is DELICIOUS. Buy a juicer?
  5. More veggies. Drink leafy greens? Raw foods until dinner? Natalia Rose and Cheri Calbom make a compelling argument for vital nutrients and overall health coming from liquefied vegetables. Too good to be true? Maybe. But I’m willing to give it a try.
Notes from my journal May 23rd:
My approach to weight loss needs to change. 'Cause I’m not losing any. My motivation can’t just be "Oh, it'd be nice to fit into cute clothes." The ideal size pair of pants that sat in my drawer for six years wasn’t enough. I found semi-cute XL clothes instead.
The good, healthy things that come with being skinnier need to be my GOAL not just nice by-products. I turn 30 next month. I don’t want to stay on the trajectory I’m on. Another few years, and I’ll be on a TLC show (not the funny kind), needing surgery or an intervention.
So, here we are, three weeks later. I did it! I haven't had soda or peanut butter or LIFE cereal in three weeks. I cut down on Wheat Thins and upped my fruit and veggie intake (this is the BEST time of year for eating raw food. The produce stands are overflowing). I drank lots of water, and started excersising again.

I tried some new things in the last 3 weeks:
  1. Baked whole wheat bread in my bread machine. YUM. That's the way to replace white, overly processed bread. Unforeseen temptation: fresh, hot, whole wheat bread is best in large quantities and slathered in butter.
  2. Bought goat's milk to use instead of Coffee Mate flavored creamer. Not terrible. Downside: made my coffee taste like cheese.
  3. Started a new exercise program at the gym, sweating my heart out twice a week (week 2 of Boot camp starts tonight!). Lesson learned: I am way more motivated to be active when I'm with other people and accomplishing a task rather than simple repetition.
  4. I tried to eat only raw food for the first half of the day. Instead of granola or toast for breakfast, or snacking on vending machine cookies, I ate bananas, oranges, strawberries, and cherries. YUM.
  5. I started keeping water bottles (with straws) with me all day. I now have a water bottle at home that I refill first thing in the morning and when I get home, and another water bottle on my desk at work that I refill throughout the day. My record-setting day was 86 ounces. Lesson learned: space it out over the day instead of drinking 20 ounces in one sitting. I was running to the bathroom every 30 minutes.
The scale isn't showing evidence that I made any changes at all, but I'm OK with that. My thinking is changing, and my habits are changing, and I think that is where this all has to start. And I'm feeling better because I'm conscious of what I'm eating (instead of mindlessly munching) and I'm aware of how I feel based on my food and activity decisions throughout the day.

New goals for the next three weeks are percolating.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Giveaway winner!

The winner of my Quitter giveaway is the lovely LISA!

As well as a reader of my blog, she is a blogger herself and also happens to be a real-life co-worker of mine. She is very deserving of this prize, number one because she is following her dream while keeping her day job as we speak and number two, she is the only participant in my giveaway who doesn't already own the book. :)

Check out her funny and fabulous blog, The Spice Pantry.

Happy reading, Lisa-lou!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Help: Book of the month

Synopsis: during the early 1960s a young white woman in Jackson, Mississippi interviews black maids in her community. Together, they write an anonymous book sharing life from the maids' perspective and in the process, redefine what they believe about friendship and identity.

The HelpI have had this book on my “to read” shelf for over a year. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until I saw a preview for the based-on-the-book movie (to be released in August) that I picked it up for the first time. 

The quotes on the back of the book made it sound depressing. Another poignant, painful novel about the South. But the movie trailer hooked me. I saw the frilly society ladies' homes; the dark, beautiful faces of the story tellers; the landscapes of cotton plantations and a city in the midst of the civil rights movement. It made me curious. One image shown during the preview was a front yard full of toilets. What's that all about? 

As the trailer concluded, I realized one of the protagonist is a writer. SOLD! To the woman who judges books by their covers. I got home and started reading.

It’s a story steeped in it's setting. From the very first sentence, you know you’re in the deep south. Everything takes place in an unmistakable location: warm kitchens, spotless parlors, dusty roads, empty mansions, country clubs, and hot attic bedrooms. Food is a prominent theme, and the author (Kathryn Stockett) does a masterful job of placing the story in a specific era (brand names, clothing descriptions, stores, appliances, songs, societal changes, etc.). The details aren’t burdensome, they bring the story to life. No other book has inspired me to clean my whole house and bake cornbread from scratch.

The book is written from three different perspectives. And it’s seamless. The chronology wasn’t confusing at all. In fact, the three distinct voices helped round out the narrative: the journalist-hopeful doing the interviewing (Miss Skeeter) and her complex family and romantic relationships; a wise, compassionate middle-aged maid (Abilene) who lost her own son but loves helping to raise children; and a younger, spunky, "sass-mouthed" maid (Minnie) whose family life is filled with conflict and whose soul is filled with strength she's still discovering.

Oh! To be able to write like this! It kills me to read Kathryn Stockett's mini-biography on the dust jacket “…this is her first novel.” Such a blazing success of a first novel! The “New York Times Bestseller” stamp of approval is well deserved. Bummer it took me so long to join the club of fans.

And I just can't resist pointing out: we're a week into June, and I already finished a book! That alone could be my glowing recommendation for The Help.

Hooray for meeting goals (book reading aspirations explained here).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Healthy inspiration

Want to know the most motivating thing I've read recently? This blog post: Endurance Isn’t Just Physical. I've followed the blog for months, most interested in the before and after weight loss photos, assuming that kind of success is a fluke. But the author didn't start out dramatic, she worked up to it with small goals. Baby steps, to quote Dr. Leo Marvin.

At Tricia's recommendation, I'm in the midst of my own 21 Day Challenge and so far, small goals and a small time frame have made healthy goals realistic for me. Another week to go, then I'll share. 

In other health-news: tonight I started Boot Camp at the YMCA (Zumba's schedule changed last fall and I only went back once since then). 

Boot Camp was brutal. But in a good, lung-filling, head-clearing way. The instructor is British. Exercise directions are SO much better with an accent. Circuit train with a Brit, if you can swing it. The hour was dignified but strict. Like Mary Poppins.

How awesome would it be to have Mary Poppins as a personal trainer?!

She'd probably sing "Just a spoonful of Sweet n Low Makes the Medicine Go Down."

The fast-paced portion would be "Supercalisthenicswillmakeyourabsferocious."

Bert the chimney-sweep would lead a special session called "Chin-Chin Adieu."

I think I'm on to something.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friends in Blogland

Come meet a favorite Blogger of mine ( She invites her readers to share their own favorite post on the first Saturday of every month.

Happy June!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

My sister Olivia and I took Mom to Seattle on the 14th to celebrate Mother's Day with our grandma. 

I don't know if I can describe what it was like to visit my 91 year old Grandmother with my 58 year old mother who has been living with Alzheimer's for 4 years. It was rough. A lot of stories got repeated. There were moments of disorientation (for all parties involved). It was like being with two caricatures of women I used to know.

It was also beautiful. Even with memory lapses and confusion about where we were and why, Mom and Grandma were happy to see each other. We laughed a lot. Aging has awakened a child-like appreciation of the world in both of them. There's nothing like Alzheimer's to force you to live "in the moment." And there were a lot of special moments on Saturday.

Mom always used to initiate our get-togethers. She and Grandma talked on the phone weekly for as long as I can remember. Since life has changed so dramatically in the last four years, they've only seen each other a handful of times.

Grandma was in denial for a long time about her daughter having Alzheimer's. She told us a few Christmases ago, "We just have to pray! She hasn't been healed because we don't have enough faith!" Less than helpful. It was easier to avoid big family gatherings.

But the years have softened some edges and Grandma made no such comments during this visit.

Seeing Mom in the role of daughter was the most like herself I've seen her in a long time: listening attentively to stories, sympathy for her mom's aches and pains, laughing in her good natured way.

Mom's calligraphy. A gift to Grandma many years ago.
There was a familiarity between Mom and Grandma that didn't require any introductions or recall of facts. They were comfortable together.

Mom gave Grandma a hug and, face to face, told her "I love you so much."

Grandma said, "I love you so much, too."

I was SO glad to be with Olivia. We handled the day beautifully together, and then both had emotional melt-downs the next day. It takes a toll.

But we were both happy to make it happen. It was the best gift we could have given. 

Words just don't do justice to the amount of love and respect and admiration I have for these three women.

Quitter: Book of the month and a GIVEAWAY!

If you don't love your current job, there's probably something you dream about doing instead. And if you read a book with the subtitle: "Closing the gap between your day job and your dream job," you might expect, as I did, to be told to quit today and immediately follow your heart to make all your wishes and dreams come true.

But that is not the message of this book. In Quitter, Jon Acuff (of Stuff Christians Like fame) provides a handbook for making the most of your current work situation and pursuing your dream job. By not quitting. Yet.

And he should know. He quit eight jobs in eight years. He discovered what worked: "by the last time I quit, I didn't have to say a word...that's how good I got. No two weeks' notice needed" and what didn't: "The first time, I took my boss out to dinner as if we were breaking up. It was amateur. It was also overkill" (page 3).

Before quitting your day job, Jon Acuff urges readers to define the goal (what is your dream job?) and make the best of the job you're in (as training for the job of your dreams and as a platform to dream big, not just to grin and bear it). He uses lots of  stories from his own hilarious experiences. Including the opportunity to accept his very own dream job last year.

I loved this book. I don't know what my "dream job" is anymore, but I know there's lots of room in my life to incorporate more of the things I'm passionate about.

The two years I spent working with the African Children's Choir is hard to top. Being a chaperone for 24 children from Uganda was definitely a dream come true. That job had it all: travel, teaching, kids, music, Africa, Jesus, teamwork, meeting people, showbiz.

It also burned me out. That level of intensity was not sustainable. I loved (almost) every minute of it, but I came home exhausted.

But many of the same elements still lure me:
I miss teaching.
I miss my kids.
I miss traveling.
I miss knowing that what I did every day was meaningful in a big way.

I come alive when I get to participate in training at work. My heart rate quickens for any opportunity to create (whether it's a spreadsheet at my day job or a quilt in my free time). I love learning people's stories. I am drawn to other cultures (two of my current co-workers speak English as their second language, and when they answer a personal phone call in their first languages, I smile every time).

Reading Quitter got me thinking about my job. Not just my current position, but the idea that employment doesn't have to be a 40 hour-per-week chunk of time that is disconnected from the rest of my life. It's exciting.

Also exciting: Quitter is currently on the Wall Street Journal best sellers list! Jon Acuff just posted this update on his blog.


I'd love to share this book with you. I will give away my copy to a reader (chosen at random) who comments here and describes their dream job. This giveaway includes the hardcover book AND my post-it-note bookmarks. What a deal, huh? I'll announce the winner on Friday, June 10.