Friday, May 20, 2022

Unexpectedly Caught Up...And Yet,,,

I am one month and one week ot from gastric bypass surgery. That first week, I lost about twenty pounds of excess weight. What?! The next week I lost two pounds. What?? Did I do something wrong? 

From then on, it's been two-four pounds weekly. I know this rate of loss is much healthier. I can't expect the pounds to just melt off, twenty pounds a week, until I'm at that impossible-seeming goal; the proper BMI for someone my height. I was unexpectedly caught up in the numbers on the scale.

I did this for my health. The weight loss was secondary - I wasn't interested in that. A nice bonus, but not part of my health goal. And yet...it is. The more weight I lose, the less my knee hurts (I currently have a disability tag in my car in order to park in handicapped spaces because the knee pain and instability were so bad. I had to use a cane, and scooters in the store.) The more weight I lose, the less my SI joints hurts (four injections over a year; none helped for long.) The more weight I lose, the less stress on my heart, my blood vessels, my legs and feet...the less inflammation in my body. That means even less pain; possibly an end to migraines, less arthritis pain, less fibromyalgia.... Since this journey began, I've had one day of overall pain...I felt as though I'd been beat. Everything hurt. The day before, though, I had WAY overdid it. Not even cleared for exercise, and my Beloved and I wandered around Allerton a long while the day before. By the next day, after the pain day, I was fine. Once I had a headache. Just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill headache. Don't know when that last happened. Before, all headaches slipped into migraines almost before I could register them. Incontinence even seems to be gone. I have no idea what the mechanism behind that is, but I will take it!

So. I did this for my health, thinking the weight loss was just a happy benefit. And almost despaired when I realized I was so shallow as to get caught up in how many pounds I'd lost. Vain. Fitting right in with society; pervading, invasive American culture. I wanted my mind on HEALTH, not weight loss. And yet, weight loss is health.

I have lost 24% of excess body fat. I have lost 5 BMI points. No longer considered morbidly obese, just obese. I'm on my way to health through weight loss. Please pray for me.

Monday, May 2, 2022

the Work of God

 I've often, over the years, asked God how best I could serve Him: what could I do to make an impact for His kingdom? I didn't find an answer in my angst-filled teens. I did go to an Evangelical Bible College and got a degree in Bible with an emphasis on Biblical Counseling. For one reason or another using that degree was blocked. It seemed I couldn't serve God that way. I drifted through my twenties still asking how I could serve. 

Then I stopped asking. I turned my back. I made one disastrous decision after another until I lost everything: boyfriend, job, bank account, living arrangements...even my truck broke down as I was trying to return to my parents. I still wasn't asking; I was half-way turned back to Him, but still resentful. I figured I'd be alone the rest of my life; whatever job I got would fill my days; I'd live with my parents until I got on my feet again.

Then I met my Beloved Bill, married, was slammed into our first difficult pregnancy. Shortly before our marriage, we had started attending Church (Mass for him, service for me) and the question started echoing again, "How can I serve you?"

With Christopher's birth, I knew my service in that season was to raise godly children. I threw myself into that; and the babies, the heartaches, the joy, the big decisions kept coming; but I knew where my service lay. With my family.

Then depression, illness, LIFE happened. I was bedridden much of the time. I felt useless. What could I do then? My wise husband told me I could always pray. And I knew I could offer up the constant pain for someone else's benefit. Yet I felt I didn't do either very effectively. In James 5:16, we're told "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective". I wasn't righteous. And I was so wrapped up in my pain I forgot to offer it up - it was wasted. Just...pain.

I wanted to be USEFUL. I wanted to be ACTIVE. The things I was trying to do seemed so static. Stagnant. Worthless. Of course, the Word of the Lord had the answer all along. Jesus had just multiplied the loaves and fish. The crowds had seen the apostles leave on a boat to Capernaum without Jesus; but in the morning, he wasn't there. (He had joined his disciples overnight, walking on the water.) So the crowds found him again in Capernaum. After a discourse by Christ, they 

                               "said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works

                                of God?"

                                Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of 

                                God, that you believe in the One He sent."       --John 6:28-29


Now obviously, it isn't quite that easy. But with belief IN Him, comes love OF Him. With love OF Him comes the desire to be LIKE Him. With that desire, combined with action, in whatever season of life, you're automatically doing the will of our Father: because that's what Jesus did, and we're imitating Him. But it all starts with faith. Love. Only then will we have hope of eternal life.Yet we do need strenghth for the act of service. Jesus announces in John 6:27 that what nourishes man is a spiritual food which gives us eternal life. God is the One who gives us this food and He gives it to us through His Son. We must eat His body, drink His blood, in order to continue receiving power and virtue; in order to continue the work of God which is believing in the One He sent. The Eucharist is REAL, thank Goodness! My Lord and my God. + Amen +

Friday, April 29, 2022

Freedom from...is this a sin?

"He does not ration his gift of the Spirit."       --John 3:34

"Thou hast multiplied, O Lord my God, thy wondrous deeds and thy thoughts toward us; none can compare with thee! Were I to proclaim and tell all of them, they would be more than can be numbered."       --Ps 40:5


I never thought my eating habits were a problem. When I cooked for the family (which, admittedly, was rarely) we had a meat, a starch, and a non-starchy vegetable. Since I often was nearly bedridden, my husband or , again rarely, one or more of my daughters cooked; the servings of starch went up and the vegetables pretty much... disappeared. Now I really can't complain, right? He's doing this wonderful service for me, which shows he loves me, because most of the time he's wiped out too. Brain work, requiring concentration and attention to details, many times is more taxing than physical work. So we'd end up in a "carb coma" for a short time, needing a nap, and wake ready to nosh. Eating much more than intended, and much more than necessary, on a particular day. Is this a sin?

I was/am? also an emotional eater. Angry with one of the kids? Stuff that emotion down with some chips. Frustrated with Bill? Push it in with some cheese and crackers, A LOT of cheese and crackers. Simply bored? Popcorn, nicely buttered, is always a panacea. The list goes on: grieving, exhausted, sad, happy, energetic, lonely, need a reward...all were "satisfied" with unhealthy, in nature or in portion size, food. Is that a sin?

Yes. They both are sins. The first: "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple." (1 Cor 3:16-17) 

The second is a sin because I'm not relying on the Lord, I'm trying to fill a God-sized hole with food; it doesn't work. "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit... ." (Rom 8:5)

Our family is quite fond of the Aubrey/Maturin series of books written by Patrick O'Brien. In _Blue at the Mizzen, before telling Captain Jack Aubrey about a naval attack on Valparaiso, Chile, the naturalist, spy, and ship's doctor, Stephen Maturin says, "I tell you most solemnly that I must be fed." "Well, if your god is your belly, I suppose you must worship it," said Jacob.

Our god has been our belly. We are to "abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thess 5:22) "I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." (Rom 12:1)

"Nevertheless,He did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the greatest slavery, sin, which causes all forms of human bondage. (CCC #549)


Sunday, April 24, 2022

Health and Mercy

"The last degree of love is when He gave Himself to be our Food; because He gave Himself to be united with us in every way."                                         ---St. Bernardine of Sienna


On April 13th I had Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass surgery. I chose to do this in order to gain some form of health; type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, constant pain from fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraines, back issues (my SI joints were getting routine corticosteroid injections) ... lingering pain from knee replacement surgery done in 2008 and mildly damaged in 2015. I had no energy, no stamina, virtually no hope. I mourned the person I used to be: capable and strong. I no longer canoed, or hiked, or camped, or socialized, or just about anything. I didn't have the spoons. If I did have a good day, inevitably I did too much, and would have to spend the next few days in bed doing nothing. When does invalid become in-valid? For that's how I felt: isolated, useless, forgotten. And there was unrelenting pain.

After some research, I realized this surgery would help more of my conditions than anything else. I had accepted the fact that my body's set point for weight was around 250 lbs., a lot to carry on a 5' 4" frame, but there you have it. I took this option for HEALTH. The weight loss was just lagniappe.

So. Surgery the 13th. I followed all the rules preparing for the surgery - a highly motivated candidate. My last blood sugar pre-op was 197: the first post-op was 115. Half of my medications are gone: my body can no longer absorb them properly. Others have lesser dosages. My way of eating is forever changed, of course, and exercise must become my good friend. it's worth the cost...I've had more energy the last week than I've had in years! My family has to keep reminding me to take a break. There has been no pain other than the incision sites. Not a headache, let alone a migraine. I have stamina. BP readings are on the low side of normal. I've lost 9 lbs. (as of Wed. I only weigh once a week.)  I'm 11 days out from surgery. If it can make a difference that quickly, just imagine the possibilities! Oh, I've been. 

This surgery has been a Blessing: a Mercy.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday on the Church calendar. In Dives in Misericordia, Pope Saint John Paul II tells us that Divine Mercy is the ultimate manifestation of God's love in a history injured by sin. John 3:16 declares "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." In the Easter vigil we proclaim, "To redeem the slave He has sacrificed the Son." Our own despicable situation, caused by sin, is placed by God into the loving heart of Jesus, faithful to the Will of the Father and Food for our souls. That's Mercy.

In today's second reading we find, "I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the Kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus..." We are all distressed. The sin in our life strangles, maims, leaves us spiritually bedridden. Then Christ appears; makes us valid through the Sacraments, shows us the Kingdom as long as we endure in His Way.

"Let those who fear the LORD say, 'His mercy endures forever."       ---Ps. 118:4

Monday, August 9, 2021

Book Girl

"A woman who reads is a woman who taps into the fundamental reality that she was created to learn, made to question, primed to grow by her interaction with words. A book girl is one who has grasped the wondrous fact that she has a mind of her own, a gift from her Creator, meant to be filled and stretched, challenged and satisfied by learning for all the days of her life. A woman who reads is one who takes ownership of herself, aware that words give her the holy power to seek, to grow, to question, and to discern. She knows that to read is to begin an adventure of self-formation in partnership with the Holy Spirit that will shape the choices she makes, the dreams she bears, the legacy she leaves in the great tale of the world."

Sarah Clarkson Book Girl p 34

I have always been a book  girl. I don't remember a time when I could not read. My parents are both readers and I probably picked it up by osmosis, following their fingers across the page as they read to me. I was given the impression that this reading business was fun; but not only that, it was important. What child doesn't want to do important things?

I distinctly remember my first days in kindergarten. I was excited; I'd been told I'd learn new things! We learned the Pledge of Allegiance (to this day I distinguish my left and my right from how I stood facing the flag in that classroom). We had a game, song-time, then we settled down to work. On the alphabet. I was baffled - this wasn't new! I did it for the first week, until I felt safe enough with Miss Gibbs (the gentlest of souls but I was a wary child) to admit to her that I already knew my alphabet. I already knew how to read. I said this with some trepidation as I didn't want to get kicked out of kindergarten because I knew more than the other kids.

I grew up in a rural Indiana community with about 0.1 percent diversity of any kind. Miss Gibbs was my first exposure to an African-American. She was beautiful, with a well-modulated voice, quiet and warm, and with infinite patience. I loved her dearly. Didn't even mind when she married over Christmas break and became Mrs. Whalen (though it was hard to remember the change). Knowing the alphabet already was certainly possible but she was, understandably, a little skeptical that I could turn all those letters into reading.
She sat on one of the little chairs, pulled me close to her side, and asked me to read a book to her. She chose, I read. After three books, she was convinced. From then on, at alphabet time, I was given worksheets to practice printing, or math worksheets, or sometimes coloring pages. I wasn't kicked out of kindergarten and I did learn new things!

I devoured words. I've read, through my life, anything I could get my hands on. Cereal boxes, of course. Dad's Andre Norton, Mom's current fiction. They didn't curtail my reading. If I had questions, we could discuss. I think I read Valley of the Dolls when I was 10. That was shortly followed by Flowers in the Attic and Salem's Lot. Yuck. That was when I realized that just because it was a book didn't mean I had to pick it up. I stay away from horror, movies and books. The books are more detrimental to me; I put my own images to the words which is much more realistic than the gore pictured on the screen. I read Mom's romance novels throughout my teens, until I was glutted. Then I had a realization. I was growing increasingly restless, not only with those books but also with my life. I wasn't catching a stranger's eye across my algebra classroom. Nor was any handsome rogue eager to rip my dress away from my heaving bosom. And I had a sneaking suspicion that if one tried it, I would knee him in the groin and run away. 

I came to the realization that I was dissatisfied with my life because of the words I was stuffing into my head. They were giving me unrealistic expectations. My ordinary life didn't measure up. I'm so glad the Holy Spirit led me to that realization. Otherwise I would have kept up my steady diet of the stuff of unreality as a means of "escaping" my ordinary life. This is the siren call of soap operas and porn magazines; any addiction really. Unrealistic expectations.

So I cut out romance as a genre of interest (recently I've let it back in, a book here or there, if highly recommended by a trustworthy source). Discernment. Knowing what suits your life, your season and circumstances, your available time...it all matters in the reading life. I can't go willy-nilly through the library stacks pulling out random titles. I have to have a plan. I have a to-be-read list as tall as I am and getting bigger by the day (I put asterisks by titles I really want to read before I die). Then I choose my books to look for by what I want to get out of them in the next month. Am I having trouble praying? I'll choose reading to address that need. Just a bit of fluff? A mystery to read in waiting rooms. I usually have several books going at once, a practice I learned from my husband. And I've learned (though I still feel a little...guilty) to abandon a book if it's going nowhere for me. I once read The Catcher in the Rye for "fun" : I loathed it. And I thought, but this is a classic; I must have missed something. And I read it again! Nope, hadn't missed anything, still hated it. There's no more of that. I've tried 3 times to get through War and Peace; the last time I was more than half-way through. I cannot do it. If I've abandoned a book 3 times at 3 different seasons of my life it's time to throw in the towel.  Some people can do this innately; I had to teach myself, to give myself permission to put a book down without finishing it. I have a page at the back of my book journal that simply says DNF (did not finish). I put the title there with a line or two of why the book wasn't for me. 

Through the years I fed many interests and learned much with words. From all the poetry as a girl, confidence-building as a teen, college degree in Bible, other cultures while single, marriage and family, child-rearing and homeshooling, different abilities and love languages. I read my way into the Catholic Church. Books have shaped my life. Let them shape yours.

     "Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading."

                            Rainer Maria Rilke Letters to a Young Poet

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Thinking the best

 Recently, I looked into a repeat breast reduction. I absolutely loved the first one; felt good about my body for the first time ever. Never regretted it until it turned out I was unable to breastfeed my babies. That wouldn't have been so bad, except that at the time we were involved in State programs and I was at the mercy of "breastfed-is-best" nazis who thought everyone in the room should know my business. A little hint: fed is best. Anyway, after much weight gain and six pregnancies, my chest no longer looks as it did after my first reduction. I could get another reduction; if I paid for it myself. The insurance wants their pound of flesh - and they want that flesh to be breast tissue. Apparently, I don't have enough tissue. I have...fat. I also have pain, probably from scar tissue from the previous surgery. But nothing can be done about that because the insurance company has parameters.

I'm currently fighting a huge yeast infection and urinary tract infection. I'm absolutely worn out! I'm taking four extra medicines, plus pain medication on a regular basis. I keep dropping off to sleep. I've complained so much to my Beloved Bill. Retiring early, it was more of the same. "I just hurt ever where, and I'm SO tired! And to make matters worse, my right breast really hurts and nothing can be done about it because I'm just fat!" I waited a few beats. "I hate my body!" I said this with some expectation. That my husband would hear and give me a reason, ANY reason, why I didn't need to hate my body. Or that he would get off his rear, come to me, and embrace me. Like so many of my expectations, this one went unrealized.

Then I began to think about marriage; always attributing good intentions to the spouse. How often does Bill wear headphones when working at the computer on an especially difficult project? I said my last sentence quietly; he may not have heard me over the fans. And like many men, Sweet Bill compartmentalizes his life. Family and home are in outside "boxes"; easily accessible, more readily moved among. Work and hobbies on the computer are deeper boxes; harder to shake free of. Not as easily accessible and therefore not as easy to shift to another subject. He's a guy. He doesn't always hear me. That doesn't mean he doesn't always love me. And I love him; and the Holy Spirit, Who reminded me to think the best of him. Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Rain in the first world

 A couple of weeks ago, we got rain. Deluge, build-an-ark rain. The water table was already high; flood warnings out for the nearby Sangamon River. The front stalled above our house and dropped inches of rain. Epic proportions. 

Our basement flooded. The two lowest boards of our staircase dropped; disappeared. Not just under the water - no longer part of the stair. There was now a two-foot drop at the end of the staircase, though we didn't know this at first. Bill went down to explore, scraped his leg badly as his foot dropped into nothing. Bill is prone to cellulitis infections; it was obvious he couldn't go down again.

My turn. I put on my pink camo rain boots and headed down. Held tight to the rails and cautiously lowered my left leg down into the water. My boot instantly filled. Hmm. These boots are calf-high. Time for a different tack. I backed up the stairs, emptied my boot, and steeled my courage. In swimsuit and water shoes, armed with a walking stick, I tried again. Down the stairs and into the abyss. Shocking cold water. Up to my hips! Oh my!

It's never flooded this badly before. We have a submersible sump pump and a back-up; neither seemed to be working. In fact, the back-up was also submerged. Worse, the water was half-way up our furnace/air conditioner (which sits in a lower recess) and 2/3 of the way up our hot water heater. Bill had already turned the electricity off to the basement, of course. As I made my way slowly through the water by flashlight, hunched over from the low ceiling, growing increasingly chilled, my throat started to close. I could feel panic rising in my chest as I inspected the damage. I finally turned and rushed through the drag of the water from a full-blown panic attack, banging my head on some duct-work on the way out. The walking stick helped lift me to the now-bottom step, though I painfully wrenched my knee in my haste.

It took a week or so for the water to recede; but we're still using fans (no air conditioning) and washing dishes and showering in cold water (no hot water). We don't have money at the moment to have someone check the appliances out before bringing them back online, and didn't have a safe way for them to access the machines even if we had the extra funds.

Enter my parents. More specifically, my Dad. An industrial engineer by trade, he can fix anything. In my naivete, I thought all men had this gift. Bill didn't even bring tools into our marriage. I was gifted a tool kit at one of my bridal showers; we had that and a socket set Bill inherited from a great-uncle that neither of us knew how to use. He has since gained knowledge from on-line videos and we've slowly amassed more tools, however... My Dad is a Godsend. Thanks to him, we now have two sturdy new steps on the basement staircase. The back-up sump pump has been repaired; the submersible sump-pump has been replaced. My Mom has offered great comfort and distracting chatter. They've bailed us out more than once and we love them beyond measure. We  thank God for them daily.

And each time I take a cold shower I think of those who would love to have a shower, no matter what the temperature. Or those who have to carry water; they have no ready tap in the house. I think of my first world problems, and am grateful.