Friday, July 21, 2017

Busy Fingers

 What better way to keep busy in the summer heat that sitting inside and playing with yarn?
I'm knitting a shawl with lots of old Charisma yarn. It's a chunky yarn that I used to crochet smittens with. I love how all the colors are coming together!
 This big bag belongs to Anna, but she left it here, so I've loaded it up with all my skeins of Charisma yarn. I like to sort and organize my yarns by types that way.
I'm nearly done with this scarf on my loom. It's a soft, loose weave.
 I don't crochet much anymore. It hurts my thumbs. But when I sit at the market on Saturdays with nothing else to do, making a little crocheted soap pouch is so easy.
 Don't you like all the stripey colors? I hope somebody wants to take it home :)
These are the dog days of summer, as they say. Adam is out mowing and mowing. The grass gets ahead of him! We had day after day of rain, and then when it was sunny, he needed to finish the new chicken coop (which is finished! yay!). Bless him ... summer is not a time for farm projects when there's mowing to do!
I took Julia to WalMart earlier this week for the once-in-a-lifetime, set-her-up-for-college shopping trip. Actually, we were quite moderate in our purchasing; she's not a high-maintenance shopaholic type of daughter, I'm glad to say. She has less than a month left at home. She will visit us, but somehow I don't think she's the type to come back to live with us. She's quite independent.
Anna is now on her long school break. The Japanese school year starts about April 1, and they have a long break (kind of like our Christmas break) from mid-July till September 1. During this time she works for the Board of Education office. But in a few days she has a friend coming to visit her from the States, and she will spend a good bit of time with him.
Enjoy your yarn, ladies, if you're knitting these days!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Ugly Truth About Weight Loss

Adam and I lost lots of weight a few years ago. 
Adam lost 66 lbs., and I lost 31 lbs., and we looked good, if I do say so myself!
............
May, 2015. We were already beginning to gain it back again.
We started reducing our calories significantly on June 1, 2013, my birthday. So ... we had pictures!

We were tubby. One year later, June 1, 2014, same restaurant, we were much improved:

Of course, it helps to have smiling faces. But we've got the records and numbers to prove it. We looked better because we'd lost weight. The photo at the top, from Philip and Kara's wedding, is one more year along, May, 2015. Already, we were struggling to keep our weight down. The weight loss regimen that had worked so well for a while, was failing. At first, when were dieting together, we'd sometimes say, "Wow! This is great! This doesn't really feel hard! I can't believe we waited so long! We can eat this way the rest of our lives and attain any weight we want to!" Ha! Adam's goal was to weigh 165 lbs., and he truly believed he would just keep going down until he got there. Why wouldn't it work that way? 

We were eating very carefully. On a food log on his iPad, Adam entered every morsel he put between his lips. We looked at that old food/weight log again last night. We didn't stop dieting, and he didn't stop exercising. Why did it fail? I remember well when he'd come back from his daily 20-mile bike rides, wondering why he had plateaued on his weight loss, why he was again gaining weight slowly, even though he was riding more than before, and he was still logging his food, weighing himself daily.

We watched a video last night by Dr. Jason Fung that quite clearly showed us why our calorie-reducing plan failed, why it's designed to fail. If you struggle with this painful reality, please watch it. Find out why cutting calories and increasing exercise will not work because the human body is not designed that way. It's not "calories in/calories out." It's "fewer calories in/your body stores it up and rebels and shuts down your metabolism/gain the weight back." Yeah.

Fung is a kidney specialist and cancer doctor who advocates fasting. He has many other videos and a book too, so you can find out more about his theories of how the body works, and why our usual diets let us lose weight and then regain it.

He talks about insulin, obesity, metabolism, and fasting, and how the body stores fat. And it makes good sense. Adam noted in himself that the caloric intake that allowed him to lose weight back in 2013 will now cause him to gain weight. His metabolism has slowed so much, he can't lose weight unless he goes on about a 1300 calorie/day diet. That's insane!

When you've been morbidly obese -- a weight that is killing you -- and you lose lots of weight and feel great, it's crushing and depressing to gain it back and feel helpless about it. The feeling of failure, the disappointment of family and friends, the decreased mobility, the daily food restrictions that accomplish nothing -- it's all horrible. So we are ready to hear what Dr. Fung says.

I've never fasted. I've never been convinced that, as a spiritual discipline, it would accomplish for me what it is supposed to, although I'm happy for those who find it useful in that way. But perhaps for losing weight again, it would be useful. I'll keep you posted. If you have any thoughts on this, please comment. I have so many friends who've dieted, lost, and regained. I have one friend who had the surgery Dr. Fung mentioned, and she has kept off her weight. I have one friend who's lost lots of weight and seems to keep it off with huge amounts of exercise. Other than those two, I really don't know anybody who's lost weight from being morbidly obese, and kept it off. (I'm not talking 15 or 30 lbs.; I'm talking 50 - 100 or more lbs.) I have many friends who've had the failure we've experienced.
Here's a second video where he talks more about the fasting concept, if you're interested:

Monday, July 17, 2017

Thrashing Some Poetry

My friend Gretchen Joanna recently posted this poem on her blog. I love wrangling with a good poem, and this is a good poem. So even though I'd never read it before (nor heard of the poetess), I can't resist trying my hand at this challenge. What's this poem talking about? What's on the author's mind? I googled and searched just a little bit, but found no online assistance in this matter, so I'll just have to dust off my literary tools and take to it myself! Gretchen, on her part, thought perhaps the poem is a dream. What do you think?
Image result for peaches on the tree
The Leaving
My father said I could not do it,
but all night I picked the peaches.
The orchard was still, the canals ran steadily.
I was a girl then, my chest its own walled garden.
How many ladders to gather an orchard?
I had only one and a long patience with lit hands
and the looking of the stars which moved right through me
the way the water moved through the canals with a voice
that seemed to speak of this moonless gathering
and those who had gathered before me.
I put the peaches in the pond’s cold water,
all night up the ladder and down, all night my hands
twisting fruit as if I were entering a thousand doors,
all night my back a straight road to the sky.
And then out of its own goodness, out
of the far fields of the stars, the morning came,
and inside me was the stillness a bell possesses
just after it has been rung, before the metal
begins to long again for the clapper’s stroke.
The light came over the orchard.
The canals were silver and then were not.
and the pond was–I could see as I laid
the last peach in the water–full of fish and eyes.
The poetess is Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Here goes. After several readings, I note that the title of the poem seems to have nothing to do with the poem itself. Usually this means that the title is a clue, a key, and that the poem's meaning is hidden: the surface message is not the real one. So -- this poem is not really about picking peaches all night. Phew! That's a relief! Because that would be a silly poem.
The next thing I notice is that the poem starts with a relationship conflict. The daughter challenges her father. He says she can't do it, and she stubbornly insists she can. And then she does! But what does she do? What's the all-night, grueling activity that a daughter must do, that her father thinks she can't do? Well, I'd have to answer, it's the leaving. He says she can't leave; she insists that she can.
So, what does leaving feel like? It feels like picking peaches in the moonless dark all night long, up and down a ladder. Now that's a metaphor I can chew on!
I've invited our black Lab, Ned, into the garden with me a few times to scare off the rabbits who've murdered my bush beans. Ned quickly grasped the fun of chasing a rabbit around the beds. He enters the gate, sniffs high and low, flips his ears inside out (which looks hilarious), stands erect, and then bounces around the bed, fixated on the rabbit. I can become just like Ned when hunting down the whiffs of literary ideas in a poem or short story. So rather than hanging my entire interpretation of "The Leaving" on the word "leaving," I must find other clues inside the poem that tell me the daughter has travel on her mind.
First, each time she twists a peach from its twig, she is turning a door knob, opening and "entering a thousand doors" as she goes through this lonely process. A child leaving a parent is certainly opening many doors, looking for the right exit, looking at the many options for leaving, perhaps opening many doors in succession like Max Smart heading for his phone booth.

Remember that? How many doors must this girl open? A thousand.

In the next line, the daughter says of her picking/leaving, "all night, my back a straight road to the sky." In the poem, the trees, the ladder, the pond are the things tying her down, the final task she must master before leaving. Freedom is represented in the sky, the stars (which are moving, while the orchard is "still"), the sunrise which allows her to stop and comes "in its goodness" to end her vigil. The morning moves, it comes over the "fields of the stars." The light "comes over the orchard," while during the dark night, only her hands were "lit" and the fields of stars overhead, her companions. Her back, which is her hard labor, is her escape into that sky, into that light that is her future. Her past is in the orchard, the labor of childhood, which is full of murmuring voices (from the canal) and watching eyes (from the pond). The canal voices seem to tell her of all those who had left before her, who had also done this work.

The most obvious message is that a Herculean task is set for the girl, a task her father says she is incapable of doing. It takes all night, but when the darkness leaves and the morning light comes, she is free. Only at the end does she realize she has been observed each time she places a peach into the cool pond water ... a thousand times! A task she thought was a lone endeavor is not. 

At first this poem made me uncomfortable because of the girl's obvious awareness of her own body. She mentions it often: her chest, her hands, her back. She can feel, all night long, the stars moving through her body. At sunrise when the light comes, her body responds to it like a bell that's just been rung, and the vibrations still resonate and ring, an inner tingling and shimmering of response to the light -- a beautiful image. The focus on fruit and on a young girl's body reminded me of Rossetti's "Goblin Market," a poem designed to make the reader uncomfortable. It makes you squirm. But the night-time dreaminess of this poem also reminds me of Frost's "After Apple-Picking." Yet Kelly is charting her own path. Her character has no tale of sin or redemption, and the repetition of the ladder-climbing and fruit-picking doesn't make her stumble and stop. The daughter is driven to complete her leaving. She mentions her father only in the first line. After that, she's on her own course, accomplishing her own metamorphosis, moving from darkness into light. The only moment of hesitation and doubt is in the final line when she realizes she's been watched, supervised. Only the light of her leaving gives her the ability to see how she has had watching company through it all.

"I was a girl then." Doesn't that say it all? Beginning that night of picking, she was a girl; now she's a woman. Her heart then was walled in, secret and private. Now it is open. Leaving is a labor.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Choosing to Be Happy

I'm borrowing from Rev. Shane Bishop's blogpost on this topic, although I'd like to reword some of his points about "12 Things I See Happy People Do that Unhappy People Don't Do." We can all choose to be happier, and we can choose to be miserable. Decide what you want to be, and then take in hand your perceptions. If your vision needs correction, change glasses!

Eight Behaviors of Happy People:

1. Happy people are thankful. Unhappy people complain.
Do you spend time thinking about all the things you want but don't have? It'll make you unhappy. Focus on what you do have, and be sincerely grateful. Stop thinking about the "I wishes." Change your expectations.
2. Happy people are generous. Unhappy people are stingy.
Related to #1, people who don't feel they ever have enough are slow to let go of anything they do have. Practice giving things away.
3. Happy people forgive. Unhappy people hold grudges.
This is perhaps the hardest and most important. If you've been done wrong and you're holding bitterness against that person -- no matter who -- it will eat you alive inside and make you unhappy. The ONLY way to overcome this is to forgive the person. Don't ask me why; I only know that it works like a secret weapon. Nothing kills bitterness off like thoroughly forgiving the person.
4. Slow down!!
I can't emphasize this enough, for all you "doers" out there. Your "doing" is wearing you out, especially when you hit middle age. Try this: choose a simple task at home (sweeping, vacuuming, hanging out laundry, dishes, etc.) and attempt to do it as SLOWLY AS POSSIBLE. If you find this uncomfortable, you're probably a person who needs to slow down a lot.
5. Happy people look at others. Unhappy people are self-focused.
Rich or poor, young or old, sick or healthy, no matter your gender or race, try to stop thinking the world is about you. Is your brain on a thought-loop about your troubles? When you enter a room, do you look around to find out who is looking at you? If you do, you probably need to work on this one. Again -- it's about expectations and perception, and you need to stop expecting everybody to be about you.
6. Happy people watch their words. Unhappy people don't know when to control the tongue.
Adam says that we all believe what we tell ourselves, and it's so true. Stop telling yourself you're unhappy, stop telling yourself what you don't have, stop telling yourself how you've been wronged and abused, stop telling yourself you are worthless (or conversely, that you are the most worthy), stop telling yourself you can't forgive, and stop telling yourself that you can't change. And stop telling other people all that stuff too.
7. Happy people are not self-pleasers. Unhappy people are greedy for their own happiness.
Happiness is a butterfly. You can't catch it in your hand but it will light on your shoulder if you leave it alone. Happiness is a side effect of other ways of living, not a goal in itself. Stop grasping at the air.
8. Happy people let go of regrets.
If there are things in life you feel you missed that you can go back and recover, do it. Stop whining about it. If you're not willing or able to get up and go fulfill those little dreams (travel, music lessons, more education, learning a skill) then let them go. 

Most of the people out there you think are very happy are just struggling along like you are. They may be a bit ahead of you in the effort, but they're working on these things like you. Look at those happy, smiling people who are kind and thoughtful and uncomplaining, and remember they have chosen to be so. You can too.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Over the Fourth

 

We watched the fireworks in Oriental. This year they set them off from the top of the bridge. The reflections on the water were breath-taking, as usual!
 To avoid the crowds in Oriental (a town of population 850 swells to about 4000 for the weekend), we viewed the show from Green Bay Marina, where our little boat is moored. We'd planned to take the boat out on the water for the show -- and it is stupendous to view them overhead and reflected on the water, from a boat!! -- but the water was quite low and the rudder was stuck in the mud. So we watched from the dock.
I've been eating tomato sandwiches at last! My Brandywine tomatoes are beginning to come in.
 The big news, of course, is that Philip and Kara are visiting and resting, and they brought OUR GRANDDOG along!! His name is Charlie, and he s utterly adorable.
 Adam is enraptured with Charlie. Beau is trying to cope with the addition of a more-beautiful dog than he is, in the house.
 

Look at those soft, curly ears!

 The above photos were taken on our drive back from Fort Macon beach yesterday. Charlie was snoozing from sheer exhaustion on Philip's chest.
Hiya from the beach!!
 Adam's been cooking up a storm. Yesterday he made pickles, a gallon of salsa, and then made fabulous nachos for lunch. We had burgers from the grill on Sunday, and today we'll have Nathan's hotdogs for "The Fourth."
 

We are officially on tomato overload. We've made salsa and tomato sauce (over 6 quarts), canned and frozen. I've given some away. I hope to sell LOTS at the market this Saturday, but not selling at the market this past Saturday really set me back!
Adam's pickles
 Last but not least, my four baby chicks are doing quite well. They are old enough now to take the warming light off of them, even at night. I also had heavy plastic and towels draped around their pen so they wouldn't escape through the metal bars. But I think they're big enough now they won't squeeze through.
 I have two silkies (the gray ones) and two others that are a little smaller.They are living a good life on the front porch now while Adam builds their new coop and run.
I'll try to nab a photo or two of Philip and Kara, but you know how it is when photographing your children -- especially when they are on vacation and resting! I don't want to put them off in any way from coming again, haha :) Have a happy and safe July 4th, everyone! Happy Independence Day, fellow Americans!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Kid Gifts

I've been saving some of these photos for a very long time. As our kids move into adulthood, they have begun giving us presents. I posted about some of the Christmas gifts, which were so lovely. Here are some other presents we've received from our kids recently.
 Anna enjoys shipping things to us from Japan. I know it must be a lot of trouble, but that doesn't slow her down! This is a package I received several months ago.
Cute paper:
 Very cute box ...

And inside, a fresh pile of letters, written lovingly, by hand, on individual sheets, for me to read day-by-day. An account of her first year teaching, how she felt, how she struggled, how she missed us. It's not easy reading at times! A mama's heart seizes up a bit, but it's good to know it's all last year, and she's adapted so well. Sweet, sweet letters.
Julia gave me art. I look at this Every Single Day. She knows I love the ocean.
Philip and I share a love of music, and he enjoys getting me CDs.
 These are all excellent, but of course Chopin is my favorite :) Or maybe Brahms.
 While in Massachusetts for Peter and Shani's wedding, I told Kara how much I liked her sandals. And then ...! A pair arrived in the mail for me for my birthday! Yippee! Isn't that the best?
 Anna also sent a fun package for my birthday. She found a shop in Japan called "Afternoon Tea." Sigh!!!!!!!!!! A shop made just for me! Look at this tea strainer:
 
 The base is a mini cup and saucer!
 
And she sent two dish cloths that are absolutely the BEST. Perfect fabric, cute design. 
Anna, I give you permission to give me MORE of these for Christmas, okay?
On to Father's Day! 
Here's Anna's package:
 Both these ties are a lovely blue, not gray. Blame the camera :( But Anna has impeccable taste in ties, and all Adam's new favorite ties are gifts from her.
 
 More cute packaging there.
Okay, then we move on to the adorableness in a little bag within. She sent her daddy a bag full of Japanese candy!! Squeeeeal!
 
Aren't they cute!!??

I tried this one first. It's a chewy candy that's supposed to taste like Coca-Cola. Not bad!
 And now for some of the others. I can't tell you how they taste because I didn't try them, but they sure are fun to look at! It was hilarious to study them all.
 

Adam says the Hello Kitty was a combo of white and dark chocolate .. yummy.
 
Philip and Kara called our favorite restaurant in New Bern and had a gift certificate waiting for us there on Sunday evening, for Father's Day. Goodness!!! You would have thought we were the World's Best Parents ... which I can assure we were NOT. But we have the sweetest kids ever. And what did Peter give us recently, you ask? The best gift of all ... a new daughter :) Is there any better gift to your parents than choosing a lovely spouse? They are busy, busy, busy in Boston trying to settle in, do new jobs well, adjust to married life, and plot a course for the future. That's a tall order, and I think they are very brave and adventurous.

I must say, I'm so proud of all our kids. They are not perfect, and neither are we. But we love them all so dearly, and we know they love us. I hope you enjoyed the fun presents they've thought up lately.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Review: "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains"

Image result for a lady's life in the rocky mountains
I bought this used book at Christmas as a present to myself. This is now the fourth Christmas-present book I've read this year. (The others were: "The Singing Line," "Home Fires," and "Idyll Banter.")

This book may well be the best of the batch thus far. Isabella Bird has a lovely, engaging writing style, and the subject matter is very interesting. In the autumn of 1873 she spent time traveling alone in the Rocky Mountains, in the middle of a lengthy trip from the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) on her way home to England. The book's text is her letters written to her sister back home.

Daniel Boorstin, who wrote the Introduction, was the Librarian of Congress from 1975-1987 and a noted historian, so this is no third-rate book. Each evening I regret leaving its reading until bedtime, when I've trained my brain to succumb to slumber upon opening the pages. I'll read this one during daytime when I can enjoy it longer.

Most fascinating are Bird's descriptions of life in the rural, rough human landscape of California and Colorado at this time. She's a horsewoman, unafraid of bears or camp living. Her accounts of how woman are treated (with respect), of travel (very uncomfortable), of the bugs (a constant cloud in the air and film over all surfaces) of immigrants to Colorado (many were there to cure illnesses in the rarified air) are fascinating! Because she's writing to her sister who knows her well, her words are matter-of-fact and personal. She is not trying to impress or sell, and the stylistic effect is refreshing.

She has lovely description:
"The beauty is entrancing. The sinking sun is out of sight behind the western Sierras, and all the pine-hung promontories on this side of the water are rich indigo, just reddened with lake, deepening here and there into Tyrian purple. The peaks above, which still catch the sun, are bright rose-red, and all the mountains on the other side are pink; and pink, too, are the far-off summits on which the snow-drifts rest. Indigo, red, and orange tints stain the still water, which lies solemn and dark against the shore, under the shadow of stately pines. An hour later, and a moon nearly full -- not a pale, flat disc, but a radiant sphere -- has wheeled up into the flushed sky. The sunset has passed through every stage of beauty, through every glory of color, through riot and triumph, through pathos and tenderness, into a long, dreamy, painless rest, succeeded by the profound solemnity of the moonlight, and a stillness broken only by the night cries of beasts in the aromatic forests." (15)

All her appeals to color and visual delight, augmented by the sounds and smell of the woods, plus the movements of the sun and moon, make this passage a nearly heady experience for the reader. I hope you can see why she is worth the read!

Isabella Bird was a world traveler for most of her adult life, and I hope to find more accounts of her globe-trotting. You can read more about her adventurous life at her wikipedia page. I'll be looking for more of her books in future.