Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Miraculous Story of God's Love

I have dreamed of the day when I would have the miracle story to share. When everything in my life finally came together, made sense, had a purpose. I have dreamed of the many ways it could come together, whether spectacular or commonplace, it didn't matter. As long as it happened, as long as I finally found someone to share my life, it didn't matter which way it happened or which novena finally brought it about.

That is the miracle story that we all want. The infertility finally being healed. The adoption going through. The struggling marriage being restored, and back better than ever. The cancer being wiped out forever. The vocation finally being fulfilled. The long years of suffering finally culminating into something amazing that never could have been without the suffering. The senseless finally making sense. Right triumphing over wrong.

We love those stories. We live for those stories, for ourselves and for our families and friends. We are even happy when strangers are able to share these stories. And you know what? We should be happy, we should rejoice in them, and we should praise the goodness of God in the midst of them.

In case you couldn't tell, today's not that kind of story. It is nonetheless the sort of story that should be cause for joy (not necessarily happiness), a cause to recognize the great work of God in our midst.

Mine is the story of the unanswered prayer, when the prayer is "God, it is not good for us to be alone, please send someone to share this life." He is silent, but He is present.

Mine is the story of learning to live a life that is far different than I had ever imagined or dreamed. I do not know that you can really say that this is "good" or "bad". It simply is. And He is.

My story is of days of not knowing how to go on, but getting out of bed anyway. That miracle doesn't feel triumphant or beautiful, but it is a miracle. Every single day, it is a new miracle.

My story doesn't make sense. Pieces of it are nice. Other parts are really not fun, but there is no overarching point to it. That's not to say that there will never be a point, but there is not one right now. He's still there.

Not too long ago, I felt the bitterness closing in and killing off anything that was good, twisting what was left. At this moment, that is not really the case. That is a miracle, let me tell you!

There have been so many times that God has felt far away. Actually, He felt lost, like I could no longer find His presence. And yet He was there. Right there.

I got to the point where I didn't want to go to church. There were times where instead of being a comfort, it made everything hurt worse. I admit that I haven't always been good about paying attention, and I have developed a terrible habit of running out before the last hymn is over, but the fact that I was there at all is a miracle. It wasn't a miracle that felt good or nice, but it was a miracle all the same.

How's this for a miracle: No matter how bitter and cynical I have been, no matter how much I have dreaded church, no matter how little attention I have paid, no matter how far away from God I've felt, He was always waiting there for me. He was waiting and desperately desired my presence. How's that for a miracle? Again, He was there every time, but most times, it didn't feel like it. The truth is still the same. He is there. Always.

I think that life is such that there are days where the stories of the miracles of our lives are dramatic and lovely and happy, yet I sometimes wonder if the other miracles are not just as big of a deal, if not bigger. The miracles that don't feel good at all; in fact, the miracles that we don't even feel at all, because the pain overrides. There are the miracles in the midst of the very thing that we wanted the least, whatever is making life so difficult right now. Sometimes I resent those miracles for not being the miracles I want, but hopefully I eventually come to accept them as the gift that they are.

I still believe the other story could happen, the story that feels like a miracle, the one that I've longed and waited for for so many years. If that happens, I want to rejoice as such miracles deserve, but I don't want it to be the only miracle in my life that I acknowledge. It's also possible that it may never happen. I've met people for whom that is the case. I've seen the pain in their eyes, felt it, and tried to keep the fear at bay that it may also be what happens to me.  Whichever of these happens in the future, I can only live in the now. These are my miracles right now, and this is my miraculous story of God's love for me today.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Proof of God's Love

I read a story the other day about a miraculous healing of a baby, and the author was rejoicing how this healing was further proof of God's love for us all... I wish I could remember exactly how it was worded, or be able to find it again, but I do remember thinking what a dangerous thought it was. Don't get me wrong, we should all rejoice in the miracle of life and praise God, the Healer, for healing. But if healing one child is proof of God's love, then does it prove His lack of love, lack of trustworthiness when another dies?

I have grown up in and around this mentality. When you love God enough and trust Him in all things, He will work out all things for good. Do you see the problem in what I just said? It's a doozy.

Think about it for a minute. There was a time in my life where I would have wholeheartedly agreed with this statement, though now when I hear it, alarm bells are going off all over the place.



Okay, either you thought about it for a second or you're skipping straight to this to see if I'm ever going to make a point.

"When you love and trust God enough". It's conditional. It implies that those who love and trust well will have it all work out for them. The inverse implication lies beneath. Maybe if your life is not working out as well as it should, it was because you didn't do enough, or you didn't do it right, or you weren't enough.

God is not conditional. His love is not conditional, His answers are not conditional. If everything works out, it doesn't mean you did it all right; and if it doesn't all work out the way you wanted, it doesn't mean you did something wrong. If it fell into boxes like that, it might be easier. Life is messy, and sometimes in the short term it looks like it didn't work out, though maybe in the long term it will look completely different. Or the long term may also look like crap. I don't have answers here for you. All I can tell you is that God loves us unconditionally. In turn, we are asked to love Him unconditionally, even when all of the bad things that should never happen, happen.

The second very dangerous thing about this idea is our fairy tale mentality. We have this insane idea that yes, there will be trials and tribulations, but once we work our way through it, that will be it. It will all finally work out in the end the way that you wanted it to, and of course you will all live happily ever after. You know what's behind that mountain of a trial that you're climbing right now? More mountains. There are always more mountains. Sometimes it all works out. Sometimes it works out just how we wanted, other times it's not at all what we wanted, but we see how good it is in the way that it works out, sometimes it's beyond what we could have possibly imagined. But sometimes none of it "works out".

Does it make sense now why I shuddered to see that sort of an explanation? If this good thing happening is proof of God's love, then what are all the inevitable bad things saying? About us, and about this God, whom we call good.

Perhaps I am so sensitive because I believed that statement. Maybe not worded in exactly that way, but the concept. For a time, it helped me push through hard things, because I could handle it. God would work it out in the end. Then as trials dragged on, unchanging and becoming more permanent, it made me wonder who I was and what was wrong with me or what I was doing, and why I was not worthy, or worth it. Finally, it made me wonder about God, and what His goodness really meant.

I shudder at how many versions of this we believe and propagate, and the people that we hurt with this thought process.

Whatever you are going through, it is true that God will bring healing and redemption out of it. I can't tell you when, and I can't tell you if it will look anything like you would like it to look. I can't tell you if you will see that in this life or the next. I can tell you that this healing and redemption is unconditional, and will be offered to each of us, no matter what we have done right or wrong... But we will have to receive it. If we reject Him and his gifts, it is possible to miss out. However, it is a product of whether we are willing to receive his gifts unconditionally, or not. I know I want to put conditions on it. I want to stipulate what I want the gifts to look like, what I want healing and redemption to mean in my life. My life may never be the way I would orchestrate it, but it is a beautiful life if I only accept it as it is.

Every single mountain you climb will be difficult. Some will merely be uncomfortable, and you'll think you've done something. Then you'll do the ones that take all that you have, then asks for more. Those will hurt you, change you, break you. Keep heading up anyway. I don't know if there will be relief and comfort at the top of the mountain. I don't know if the next mountain will be comparatively easier, or if it might in fact be even harder. Maybe you'll get to a spot that you thought was the end, only to realize that it was a false summit, and there's more. I don't know what is waiting for you on the mountain, but I do know that you will meet God on every single mountain, in every trial. His presence in every part of that trial is the real proof of His love for us. His presence will redeem all of it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sick Day

I'm wrapping up (hopefully!) a couple of sick days. Sick enough to stay home, but well enough to be really, really bored. In other words, lots and lots of time to think.

One of the things that I think about is how crazy it is that I used to feel guilty for staying home sick, or trying to figure out if I was "sick enough". Because if you're not too sick, you should be at work, right? This is especially ludicrous thinking when you work in healthcare around potentially immunocompromised people, but I have done it in the past, and know plenty of people (including healthcare workers) that do this. I do not feel one bit guilty any more. Yesterday I didn't move much off the couch, and even though I didn't feel too terrible, I did feel like I was where I needed to be. Today, I've been better, but still spent most of the day resting, and the few things I did (like shower and get a couple of things at the grocery store), I could definitely tell how nice it felt to lie down for a few minutes afterwards. Why have I ever felt the need to push myself through a full day of work while feeling like that? I feel a lot more normal this evening, so I'm sure it will be back to business as usual tomorrow, even though I'm still a little stuffy.

I hate calling in to work, but I would have been useless except to spread germs, so why do we feel such a cultural need to push through that? Europeans are right to think that we're crazy for trying it.

At least this small obstacle of being a little sick and missing a couple of days of work provided a perfect opportunity to work on some of what I've learned in "The Obstacle Is the Way." Such a great book, by the way. At least it resonated with me. Some of it is accepting what we can't change, and dealing with it as it is, rather than as we wish it could be. For example, I started thinking about the things that I wanted to do rather than be sick, but I can't change getting sick. I can accept it and allow my body the recovery time that it needs, however. I can recognize that the places where it puts me behind are not going to matter in a few weeks. I was also able to use today to really work on some of my reading, catching up on a couple of podcasts and do a little writing. Tonight is also a great time to do some gentle stretching. Things that I don't always get around to in my normal busy days.

But. I really hope I'm over this little bug, whatever it is, because I'm going stir crazy!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Thinking Out Loud

(Please note that I am about to abuse the internet by trying to add my opinion to the glut of noise that is already out there. For those of you that are fatigued with all of the back and forth, please click away now! I sometimes just have to write to help me sort though my thoughts. You certainly need not read.)

I don't know what to think right now, but I know I'm overwhelmed by everything that's going on. I can't speak in more than general terms because I don't know anything more than generally speaking. I hear things that could be wildly out of place. I'm very concerned by what I hear and the reactions that are being reported. It is not "you" that is doing something inconceivable and out of proportion. Neither is it "them". It is us. Every single one of us.

As much as I sort of choose a bit of purposeful ignorance (not saying it's right, it's just been my preference to avoid the negativity and constant accusations getting hurled around), I can't do that anymore. There is too much going on and it is too important. I'm not sure how to find real information in a world that is flooded with information, but also with misinformation and leading information, but I'm going to have to start to make the attempt. It would be easy if all I wanted was to jump in one of the echo chambers. There are several to choose from, and I could start swimming around in all of the places linking back to one another and all agreeing together, but all presenting only one perspective: That "we" are clearly right, and "they" are clearly wrong. "We" see the truth, and "they" are blind, have terrible intentions, weren't raised right as a child, and likely smell funky.

I admit, I'm a little dizzy from some of the articles I read yesterday. I haven't even really started to figure out where to go for information, these were just linked articles that I read. I don't even know how to describe it. Each one talks with such conviction about how right "we" are and how blatantly wrong "they" are, but each one is saying so much the same thing that I can't tell which "side" anyone is on! Eventually someone will say something that tells me what they are trying to argue for, but they don't seem to realize how much they sound like the other side. Most people seem to think that it is obvious where the differences are, but I can't tell sometimes. Not anymore. It used to be easy, but it's different now.

Is this just me? Am I the only one who has read an article decrying those terrible protestors that are marching, and what are they whining about, and besides, if they really had something important to say, then maybe they wouldn't be so rude and crass and just generally awful people? Then I have to read further to see if they are talking about the women's marches or the pro-life march. Because one person will say all that about the women's marches, then go to the pro-life march. Or vice versa.

It is not "them", y'all. It is us.

To use the marches as an example, let's take the women's marches. I certainly don't agree with everything they were marching for, and some of what was being defended (abortion) was something that I am very much against. Nor do I condone some of the more crass methods that were used to spread the message. (You know what I'm talking about.) However, I think that there was something very important going on there, and I am grateful to those that went, those that voiced their concern in a tangible way, and I am especially grateful to those that went as pro-lifers, the ones that spoke out for me when I was too afraid or too confused or too busy to go myself. To go does not mean that everything that everyone is doing is right, but that it is still important.

Now, let's take the pro-life march. I admit that I have never been, but I am so grateful for those that go. Those that know that there may not be much coverage of it, but who stand up anyway. There are those that go that defend life in ways that I find abhorrent and not useful to the cause. (Graphic pictures, I'm looking at you.) Some are going to shame and blame the women that have committed abortion. How is that going to help anyone? But that doesn't mean that the marchers are all wrong. Sometimes people stand up for the right thing in wrong ways, ways that may make them culpable, but still cannot take away from the rightness of their cause, even if they make it harder to see.

I know that many people agree strongly with one march and strongly disagree with the other. That doesn't really bother me. I can see how that would be. I object to those that think that one march should not exist and that the other is a good and noble thing. It seems to me that if marching is a way to stand up for what we think, then we should not be bothered if others also stand up for what they think, whether we agree or not.

You know what bothers me the most right now? How much I let myself get caught up in reactions.  I am the problem. More than us, it is me. I don't fully know what's going on, but I get carried away by things that are said that fit snugly into my own thought processes and patterns. While, like everyone else, I am horrified by some of the things that are going on all over the place, I am also fascinated. Maybe that's wrong of me, but I can't quite help it. It is crazy to me to realize people that I used to never agree with that I agree with more and more, and people that I always agreed with that I agree with less and less. Sometimes it is more who I agree with on one level, but are completely at odds with how the problem needs to be solved. Again, it is at least fascinating.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Obstacle/Opportunity

I just started reading a book called, "The Obstacle Is the Way." I was intrigued by the title when I first saw it, and finally made it through the library waiting list to my turn to read it. So far, I am really enjoying it. It's based on a quote from Marcus Aurelius and explores some of the Stoic thinking in dealing with the obstacles of life. I'm not really familiar with the Stoics, but I'm intrigued by what is in the book. Still, it's not a book about Stoicism. It's a book that looks at systematic ways of viewing and addressing obstacles that makes them opportunities.

Think of a boulder in a path. There's no way around, so if you have to get to the other side, the obstacle is the only way that you're going to get there. However, if you have to climb over a boulder, you may have to learn new ways to move to get over it, you may have to build strength to be able to get over it. You may have to think differently about ways to help yourself over it. All of those things make you stronger and more ready to deal with more things in life.  I just love the whole idea of all of this! A quote from the book, "Obstacles are not only to be expected, but embraced."

From a Christian perspective, we may see it as a cross, but again, each cross has something in it to lead us to where we are going. The strength that we develop in carrying it, in embracing it and living it can be the very things that we need at some point in life.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bits and Pieces

Three weeks in; how's your 2017 going? This post would be a perfect "7 Quick Takes" sort of a post, but I'm not about to be organized enough for that. So instead, a random number of brief thoughts on a random day.

1) I did not attend any marches this weekend (unless you count snowshoeing, but that's apolitical). I did feel rather torn about it, though. On the one hand, I strongly disagree with certain held beliefs and ways of demonstrating them that were talked about so much. On the other hand, there are definitely things that I feel strongly about that need to be kept in mind. I am so grateful for those women that went and stood up for the good, while vocally stating their pro-life beliefs. Tough position to be in when there are those that don't want you there because you disagree with them, and others that think you shouldn't be there because some think differently than we do. I'm being too vague and general, but I love this post about it.

2) I don't think I ever said on here, but my holidays were fantastic. Simple and enjoyable. Lots of cooking, relaxing, and being outside. What more can you want? Okay, obviously there's a lot more I want, but given my current situation, it was everything you could ask for.

3) My spending fast is honestly not going too terribly well. I've been hungry! Then I eat what I planned for later in the week, and then I have to go to the grocery store. I'm trying to plan better, but it's hard sometimes, because I never know exactly how much food I'll need.

4) That's okay, though. One of the things that I was thinking of a lot in the last few weeks is that I didn't fail enough in 2016. Sometimes you can only move forward from trying and learning things both about what does work and what doesn't work. I'm seeing some areas that aren't working great for me, I'm going to try to adjust some things this week, hopefully do a little better. Then I'll try again in February! There are a couple of other things that I am working on as well. When it feels like it might not be perfect or successful in the way I would like, I'm just reminding myself that it's an opportunity to fail, which is a good thing, because it means that I'm trying.

5) I'm also trying to focus more on doing one thing at a time. Multi-tasking has never worked well for me (or anyone, really). It really is amazing how much less stressful it is and how much more I get done. I've had a few days that just seemed to have SO much going on, and I despaired of getting it done. But, one thing at a time, I was able to knock a lot of it out.

6) I love taking time to enjoy the simple things in life. I don't think I posted anything about here, but I recently read a book called "Suffocation". Interesting read, and I sort of agreed with some of what he said, but had some problems with his conclusions. Not that he was wrong, but that it would help us out of the morass we're in. Materialism is falling more and more out of style, and his thought is that experientialism is taking over. I think he may be right, and there is good in that, but one of the experiences that he talked about was a marketing launch that involved bizarre foods (like pig's ear soup) and an even more bizarre movie that was made with a lot of LS.D influence. Sure, that may be where we're heading, but those kinds of experiences will not give us any more lasting satisfaction than stuff does. It's about learning to savor the simple things in life.

7) Speaking of the simple things, this weekend I spend a lot of time re-watching Sherlock. So well done in so many ways that I can't say enough good things about it! Not that I have to, pretty sure you're all pretty well acquainted. I haven't gotten to Series 4 yet, but I will start it soon.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mini Spending Fast

I am currently working on a mini spending fast. You know my current obsession with minimalism, I trust, and I am also getting into a bunch of different things on how to try to make some progress on my school loans. Admittedly, I do not have the "gazelle focus" championed by Dave Ramsey, but I'm trying to figure out what I can do that works for me. Yes, I know that the only real way to get rid of debt quickly is to ruthlessly and relentlessly only put extra money towards debt. Yet, (and maybe it's all rationalization) I keep finding things that are hard for me to define in terms of "want" vs. "need".

One example is food. I eat a lot of food. (It made me laugh earlier this week when I went out to breakfast with a friend; she knows I eat a lot, but I don't think she's ever seen it. Her eyes got pretty big at the amount of food I could eat at one sitting!) I also have allergies and intolerances that mean that I respond better if I eat organic food, etc. While groceries are a growing expense for everyone as food gets more and more expensive, there are things that can be done to make the grocery bill cheaper that I am not willing to do. I don't really need to lose weight (okay, I'd like to drop a few pounds that I've regained in the last 1-2 years, but 5-ish is more maintenance than true weight loss), so eating when I'm hungry really is about fueling my activities. I'm not going to cut down amounts. As to the health difference I feel, even though I don't like having to be a princess about the quality of my food, that is not even a consideration.

What about something like massage? I know that there is no way that the financial gurus out there would consider that a necessity. It's a luxury item if ever there was one! Yet, I do not find it to be so. I am a movement and body worker. Not to mention the fact that I have been known to play hard outside. There is is huge difference in how I move and feel if I keep my muscles from getting too tight. Yes, I have learned a few tricks to self treat as much as possible, and I certainly spread them out as much as I can to save some money, but I do not feel that it is strictly a luxury. Again, maybe it is a rationalization, but I do feel strongly about this.

Then there are doing things with friends. I have been working on this category. Thankfully, most of my hiking and such can be done for the price of gas. But there's cross country skiing and the occasional weekend trip, as well as maybe a vacation. Yes, I know that these are luxuries, but as a single person with not a lot of family in the area, I have a hard time ignoring this stuff as well. I know how I get if I spend too much time alone in my house, and it is not pretty.

Ahem, now that you know about all of the things I feel guilty about and keep rationalizing to myself, here's one of the things that I've decided to do to start to address some of it. I keep hearing about people who have done year long spending fasts and the way that they have knocked out huge chunks of debt as a result. Granted, they had that "gazelle focus" and didn't rationalize the way that you see here. I can't quite bring myself to do that, but I did decide that I would try for the month of January to only spend money 2 days a week (as much as possible). One is on my day off, because that's when I have to get errands done, and it's a good day to get bills paid and so forth. The other is on Saturday, because that's the day that I'm usually going to go do something with friends. The exceptions to this is if I legitimately run out of food (that is, there is NO food, not just that I'm not in the mood for what I have or it's a weird meal that uses up leftovers), or if I'm meeting with a friend on a different day of the week. Hey, in the last year or two, I let my social life dry up a bit because I stopped working so hard on it and as people moved away and got busy with other things, I got left behind. I have to rebuild, and that is definitely a priority!

As I write this, I'm about a week in (because why wait to start in January when I could start now?), and it is crazy to me how even this little move, even with all of my rationalizations and exceptions, makes a
 difference in my approach to things. It's even crazier how it helps me to address a number of goals all at once!

Financially

Okay, this is the primary goal of doing this. Here's what I'm finding. So far, I am too early into it to have much of an idea of what it may be saving me in terms of actual dollars and cents numbers. What I do notice is that I have a tendency to run to the grocery store for any little excuse. Maybe I'm a little extra hungry, so I eat some of my snack food because I figure I can replace it before I need it. Or, I go to the grocery store when I am in a low willpower situation anyway (hungry and/or tired) so I make extra impulse buys. Knowing that I am not going to the grocery store for a week makes me really stop and think about how hungry I am and what I choose to eat. For example, I do have a lot of snack food on hand because I need it to get through my work day. When I'm home, it makes me not choose my work snacks but maybe eat leftovers instead.

There's also a matter of food waste. I got a spaghetti squash one Thursday with a plan to make a recipe with it later the next week. Squash can sometimes last for a good month or two.  Well, not this one. On Saturday, I noticed that there was a small, localized soft spot. If I made the squash that day, I could probably use most of it for my recipe. If I waited, I would likely have to toss it. Prior to my little spending fast, I would have taken note of all the stuff I had to do that day and decided to pick up another squash the next time I was at the store. This time, I knew I had to make time to make the recipe, because otherwise I was out a squash. (By the way, it was this recipe, and I thought it was pretty tasty!) So, not only would I have spent a few more dollars on another squash, but I would have probably picked up some other things that I didn't need that much.

Beyond food, I have found that there are a couple of other purchases that I have needed/wanted to make recently, and having an extra couple of days before I could go get them helped me make a little smarter choices. For example, instead of just going out and buying a couple of things, I realized I could get them on Amazon, and while I sometimes like avoiding the giant, I happened to have some rewards points that I could redeem for making those purchases with something that felt like free money. It's also a great way to help weed out a few impulse buys. If it's not still on my mind and list a couple days later, I really didn't need it!

Eating Well

I've already given you the boring details of my food issues. (In this post and too many others! Sorry!) However, like everyone, I don't eat as well as I should. There are always things that I can clean up a little. For one, there are certain processed foods that fit my dietary restrictions, and because they are easy, I eat them more than I should. By knowing that I can only shop about once a week, I get enough for the week, but not enough for the impulse moments when I'm hungry and they're easy and they just sound good. Instead, I have to turn to leftovers, or a bag of apples. It makes me eat better.

This also helps with my weight maintenance goals. While I am not trying to actively lose weight, the impulse eating may be a big part of the extra couple of pounds. Sometimes if there's too much availability of comfort food, I may want it due to hunger, but I may also want it due to the fact that it tastes good or that I am tired or bored. I am much more likely to be okay with the leftovers if I am truly hungry, and I eat less of them than the food that just sounds good.

Conservation

My sister and I slowly worked our way through "Laudato Si" last year. I loved everything about it, but it does make me think about and challenge some of the ways that I do things. Realizing how much I consume in general and how that affects my humanity throughout the world makes me want to find even small things that I can do to make progress. This is definitely one of the reasons that I feel so good about minimalism in general. Once a week grocery store purchases make me be very mindful of what I buy, I tend to get more fresh foods that I will have to cook (again with avoiding the excess snacks and all their excess packaging!), not to mention the gas I save from going once and being a little more organized about my errands to fit them all into the day. Not to mention something like that squash that I ate instead of throwing it out.

Time

I recognize that I have more time as a single person than some people do, but I still want to use time the best I can. There are a lot of things that I want to do that I say that I don't have the time to do. That's silly. To be honest, I have plenty of time if I am better about using it. It takes a lot of time to make several extra trips to the grocery store each week!

Enough

This is one of the things that I love the most about this little experiment. I can't tell you the number of times that I've had a long day at work, so I feel like I "deserve" whatever impulse buys sound really good at the grocery store that day. Or I'm a little down, so I feel like I deserve that extra snack, etc.  It turns out that I don't need or deserve those things at all. What I am finding is that when I don't gratify every little desire every time it comes to mind is that I am enjoying what I have so much more! When I am truly hungry, I am grateful for those apples or leftovers that wouldn't have been my first choice.   And, yes, I still do buy those treats, but knowing I can't just run to the store and replace them means that I wait for the appropriate time to eat them, and I enjoy them so much more as a result! Yes, some people have enough will power that they do this anyway, but I am not one of those people.


There you have it. Even with all my exceptions and rationalizations, recognizing that I could do more, this little plan is still doing something significant.  The fact that it is a bit of a challenge, but still feels very doable means that I should be able to at least keep it up for January, and possibly beyond.