Friday, December 30, 2011

7 Quick Takes, with Prayer Buddy Reveal


1) Okay, my apologies!  It's taken me way too long to get to my Prayer Buddy reveal, but it has been busy.  I got the pleasure of praying for J. at Silliest Bunny Eats More Carrots. She was a new blogger to me, but it's always a pleasure to get to "know" more people.  J, I prayed for you with Morning and Evening prayer, and with every Mass I went to.  I also tried to offer up frustrations when I remembered. Many blessings to you and your beautiful family in the New Year!

2) I also wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you to A. at All in His Perfect Timing for praying for me this Advent. It is so humbling and wonderful to know that someone is praying for you each day, and I really needed it! While I'm at it, another thank you to Alison at Matching Moonheads for a sweet email that totally made my day!! And thanks to the wonderful bloggers who did so much to organize Prayer Buddies.  I love so much about it.  I love that it makes me take the focus off me and pray for someone else.  I love knowing that someone else has my back, and I love that I get to find a whole lot more fun blogs to read during reveals! I strongly encourage anyone that might be interested to take part in Lent.  I think the season of prayer is so much richer because of the focus on other members of the Body of Christ.

3) I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  I know I did.  I have lots of good stuff to blog about if I can remember it all by the time I get a chance to write it all down.  The best part was definitely seeing family and friends, though one of my friends had this crazy idea that she should be out of town visiting her in-laws for the holidays.  I don't know what's up with someone deciding to leave when I'll be around!  ;)

4) I would just like to say that I have some friends with some very adorable kids.

5) When I got home from Christmas, I had no heat.  Sweet.  The pipes in the pink bathroom did freeze, but thankfully didn't burst. Those are the days that I love that I rent.  I went over and knocked on the landlords' door and they came over to take care of things.  They did have to call someone, but I don't know what was wrong, because I left.  I probably should've stayed, but there was nothing for me to do and it was cold. So I met up with a friend, and by the time I came back the problem was fixed and the air was warm.  The furniture, however, was still cold.  It was not fun to crawl into bed that night.

6) Being back in the Midwest for Christmas made me realize that my eating habits really have changed.  I probably ate more red meat in three days than I usually eat in a month (or two!).  In fact, I probably ate more meat in general than I usually do in a week or two.  That's odd to me, because I didn't notice how much meat was not the main focus of my meals until I went back to where meat is practically the essential for any meal.  I don't think it's because I don't eat meat (I do! I swear I do!).  I think it's because my meat is not front and center in a meal.  Although, I don't know that it's just a Midwestern thing.  It may also be my parents' generation.  My friend made a Thai pumpkin soup that was wonderful, and I would say that's the type of thing I like to eat more.  It had chicken in it, but it also had a lot of other great stuff as well.

I should make it clear, it's not that I didn't enjoy the food that we ate (it was the really good holiday stuff), but it was different, and my stomach wasn't too happy about it part of the time!

7) I was at the climbing gym yesterday.  I flexed my knee, feeling a new bruise or two, and I looked down to see chalk on my shirt and pants, and it made me happy.  I didn't get to challenge myself as much as I would have liked- because I gave myself a minor neck strain the other day, and I was trying not to hurt it worse- but it was still fun.  

Have a wonderful and safe New Year's!

Head over to Jen's for more Quick Takes.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Christmas Gift

I had one goal for Advent (other than praying for my prayer buddy), and that was to make it to confession.  I think confession is amazing, but I've been so bad about going since I've been out here.  I have gotten used to some really good confessors, and I haven't found that yet.  Though, I need to be honest and admit I haven't tried very hard.

Unfortunately, I didn't work too hard at actually going to confession.

Finally, on the last day that I had available before I left to see my family, I took myself down to confession.  Only to find that no one was available.  As in, the lights are off and nobody's home, though the sign clearly indicates that the confession times should be right at the moment that I was there.  I was disappointed, but what are you going to do?

Therefore, I went on my way and headed home a few days later.  My mom said that their priest hasn't been able to be as consistent about confession before Mass recently, and he was never that consistent on the big holidays (understandably, since there's so much going on with those).  So I gave up my intention to go before Christmas and decided to go on my first available time when I returned to my normal routine.

Only, we ended up going to "Midnight" Mass (one of those 10 o'clock deals, but don't get me started on that.)  We had to be there early so my little brother could serve, and wouldn't you know it? The priest was in the confessional!

I was a little unprepared, but I jumped in anyway, because I didn't want to miss.  I hope I remembered most of what I needed to say.  The thing about this priest is, I never know what he's going to say, but it's usually worth listening to.  The first thing that he tells me?  That I need to open my heart to receive love.

What?!

If you had heard my confession, you might have said (and I certainly would have said) that I needed to open my heart to give love and stop being so hard on everything and everyone around me. But, no, he said that I needed to pray that God would open my heart to receive His love and let it push out the anger and bitterness and frustration.

Well, that was unexpected.  And though it was the opposite of what I thought I needed to hear, I knew somewhere- before I even had time to process the words- that it was exactly what I needed to hear.  It occurred to me that if I wasn't open to receive His love, then what love would I have to give others? And if I was not willing to receive the love of the people that He placed in my life, the same thing.  What store will I draw from to give love to others?

I think, being single, that sometimes it's easy to misinterpret things a little bit.  Sometimes it's easy to feel unlovable.  Because (however unconsciously) I sometimes see myself that way, it's easy to dismiss the love that is there in the people around me.  I mean, I know people love me, and I love them, but I think I don't always allow myself to give that the weight it deserves.  If that makes any sense.

Anyway, as disappointed as I was to miss confession when I thought I was going to go, I'm really glad it was a bust then, so I could go to confession when I really needed to go.

Love and healing from confession, and the One they really come from is the One who became flesh to dwell among us at Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I didn't do Christmas cards or letters this year.  I rarely do.  I like to receive them, especially when there is a letter included.  I assume that people would like to hear from me, too, but I  get bored of the idea about writing about me.  (Okay, I guess that's a little ridiculous since I write a whole blog that's all about me, but Christmas letters are different.  Don't argue. Just go with it.)

This is as close as it gets to a Christmas letter for me this year.  There are pictures from throughout the year, and many have been on the blog before, but there are some that have definitely not been up before.  I don't think I ever posted any of the pictures from my sister's and my trip to New Mexico at Spring Break. There are also some from the Midwest at Easter, and of course, many that you've seen from Colorado and Wyoming.  But hopefully there are some new ones of those as well.

Sadly, I had to delete the music that I have with it on my computer since it is a copyrighted song. The music makes it much better. (If you happen to have "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", by Casting Crowns, you might find that the length music and the pictures fit together remarkably well. Just saying.)

Have a wonderful Christmas!




Saturday, December 17, 2011

And the Winner Is...

I always start these posts before I actually pick the winner.  I want everyone to win, so I like to pretend for a minute longer that I can give it to everyone but, since there's only one calendar, let me pull up a random number generator and pick the winner.


And the winner is...

#1, who happens to be Perfect Power in Weakness! I'm excited to be able to share this with a fellow transplanted Midwesterner that loves the mountains. :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday


--1--
I'm not sure if Blogger and I are in a fight, or if it's me and the computer.  I love the computer a lot so it's hard for me to blame it but I cannot get it to upload a video that I wanted it to, even after some advice from a lovely friend.  It will keep working on uploading for hours and never stop, or if I change formats, it rejects it outright.  Annoying!

--2--
We had another RCIA team meeting last week, and once again it was at 10 am Saturday.  Who does that?! That may be one of the all time worst times for a meeting!  I don't know, though, I don't want to try to find a worse time.  Anyway, I did make it, and I have my new topics that I will be teaching for the next few months, and I get some good meaty ones this time.  My next topic? The Mass!  I didn't even have to beg. :) I will say that I'm already almost as concerned about this one as I was about the names of Jesus, but for opposite reasons.  On that one, I wasn't sure what I would say.  On this one, I have no idea how to fit it all in to only 2 hours!

--3--
I have some pictures and stuff that I would love to post.  I don't suppose that this blog is quite as anonymous as I'd like to think that it is, but I can't be putting my face on it.  Which is to say, I see why some people go private...  Speaking of going private, know this: if you've gone private any time recently (especially when I was moving at the beginning of November) if I didn't email you to let you know I'd still love to follow, it's only because I never had a chance!

--4--
I am still giving away a wall calendar here. You can still leave a comment!  As soon as the calendar gets here, I will close the comments and pick a winner.  I promise to do my part to get the calendar to you by January 1, but I cannot make any promises that the USPS will be as accommodating.

--5--
As I was telling my sister, I like endorphins.  Endorphins make me happy.  (I think she rolled her eyes, but it's a little hard to tell via text.) It's been kind of a rough week, but when I went climbing, it was just good. I was climbing some harder stuff, some stuff that made me think.  I loved it.  I loved not thinking about anything but how to make this reach or where to place my foot so that I could get farther up the wall.

--6--
I have not done a very good job of making it to confession since I moved.  I used to make it about every month, but it's been every 3-5 months since I moved.  I tried to go today, but even though I was there during the normally scheduled hours, there was no one there.  I guess I need to keep trying; I'd really like to make it before Christmas.

--7--
Prayer buddy, I've been trying to offer up my crazy emotions this week, so I hope it's helping!


Have a great week and in case I don't get it posted later, have a blessed and Merry Christmas!
Go to Jen's for more Quick Takes!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thankful Thursday



I've been enjoying Rebecca's Thankful Thursdays for several months now, but this is my first time participating. Today I am thankful for:

1) Pumpkin bread! I am currently obsessed with it, it just tastes so good.

2) To live in a place where I can go to a grocery store and immediately have hundreds of different food items to choose from.

3) That in one week the days start to get longer again!

4) Daily Mass.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Waiting and Expectation

The season of Advent.  The season of waiting and expectation.

Ouch.

That's all I have to say about that.

I am really, really, really, really tired of waiting and expectation.

I am tired of carrying the weight of emptiness.

I am tired of watching everyone else move down paths I cannot follow.

I am tired of having so much to offer and no one to offer it to.

The fire of this desire for the fulfillment of my vocation seems like it's about to burn me out.

I asked Him why He wouldn't fix it, why, if for the love of all that's holy, if He wasn't going to fix it, could He not at least make it easier; let the fire burn out, let there be another purpose and direction in my life instead.  I asked Him why He wasn't helping.

But if He wasn't here, I wouldn't be either.

Lord, do not reprove me in your anger;
punish me not, in your rage.
Have mercy on me, Lord, I have no strength;
Lord, heal me, my body is racked;
my soul is racked with pain.

But you, O Lord... how long?
Return, Lord, rescue my soul.
Save me in you merciful love;
for in death no one remembers you;
from the grave, who can give you praise?

I am exhausted with my groaning;
every night I drench my pillow with tears;
I bedew my bed with weeping.
My eye wastes away with grief;
I have grown old surrounded by my foes.

Leave me, all you who do evil;
for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord will accept my prayer.
All my foes will retire in confusion,
foiled and suddenly confounded.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rejoice!

Gaudete Sunday is an interesting thing, stuck in the middle of Advent.  Suddenly there is this reminder to rejoice.  For some, it comes as a reminder in the midst of a crazy busy schedule.  As for me, my schedule is pretty laid back this time of year, and getting lighter as Christmas approaches.  For others, it reinforces the joy of their current circumstances.  For many, hearing the call to rejoice is almost like a slap in the face. Rejoice? About what?

Weekends are always kind of a tough time for me because they involve too much time in my head. Ugh.  That's all I have to say about that.  But I will say that this weekend gave plenty of cause for rejoicing as well.

Rejoice in all things...

I'm really enjoying my laid back Christmas season schedule.  It's allowing me to take it easy rather than pull my hair out.

I'm thankful for the wonder of Christmas. The magic of big fluffy snowflakes, the sparkle of Christmas lights being diffused through tinsel garland.

I pulled out two Christmas movies this weekend, Elf, and The Santa Clause, two movies that I love to watch every year. After watching Elf, I've been looking for an excuse to refer to myself as a Cotton-headed Ninnymuggins.  I don't know why that cracks me up so much!

I am definitely rejoicing in the wonderful people around this internet space; your words of support and prayers were a huge help this weekend.  Thank you!

I rejoice in a phone call with a wonderful friend.

I rejoice in hiking opportunities not 10 minutes from my house.

I rejoice in my house!

I rejoice in climbing and in new challenges and obstacles overcome on the wall.

The way Dickens writes.  The man had a grasp of English that expressed himself in ways that we cannot begin to approach in a world that has that annoying thing called textspeak.  He did have me a little worried where the story was going, but he pulled it off fairly nicely, though there were still a couple of things I wasn't entirely sure about. (I read "The Cricket on the Hearth" this weekend.)

What are you rejoicing in?

~~~~

Quick reminder that this giveaway is still going on. As predicted, I find myself wanting to rig the results in favor of each and every single person commenting.  As I only have one calendar coming, I suppose that will keep me honest and using the random number generator.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Merry Christmas Giveaway!

I think you all know that I have a love/hate relationship with giveaways.  I love to give stuff to someone, but I hate not giving it to everyone!  Anyway, since I wish I could give all of you a Christmas present, I'll settle for a token of giving one of you a Christmas present.

The present is a wall calendar, mostly with landscapes, of course. Most of the pictures have been on the blog before, but I'm going to be lazy and not put them up here, so the specific pictures will be a surprise.  (Like how I spin that? "It's a special surprise", not "You're out of luck because I'm too lazy.")

I'll leave this up for a week or so, because that's about how long it should take for the calendar to get to me. But then I'll have to pick someone, because I'm hoping that I can get it to you in time for January!  Like always, if you'd like to enter, just leave a comment. If there's a link to your email, or you know I have your email, that's fine. Otherwise, be sure that I can contact you!  If I can't reach the first person I pick, I'm going to immediately go to someone else, because of the time issue and the dealing with the post office this time of year issue. If you don't want to leave your contact info in the comment, you can email me at catholicmutt(at)gmail(dot)com.

Merry Christmas!  And know that for every single comment that I get I will be hoping that you win!

Friday, December 9, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday


1) Okay, I don't normally do it, but I deleted a comment the other day on this post.  It was an anonymous commenter, and while they didn't say anything bad, I also got the feeling that they didn't really read the post.  It is also probably my fault for not making it more clear that I was not being serious. My first hint was that they questioned the "reasoning" and "analysis" that led to my "interpretation" of those verses.  Reasoning? Analysis? There was none of that going on!  Since I apparently didn't make it clear, that post is merely about my knee-jerk response every time I hear those verses, it has nothing to do with an actual belief about what those verses say!  It's also an excuse to post some pictures.  However, anonymous, I do thank you for taking the time to comment, and I did read what you had to say.

2) The first couple of weeks of Advent have been... Interesting.  This week has not been too bad so far, just minor moments, but last week was so much up and down that I thought I might lose my mind. (Or that it was already gone.) Nothing particular happened, the emotions just go crazy this time of year.  No matter how hard it is, it's still my favorite time of year.  Therefore what tends to happen is that I get all excited about it, then I get sad that I can't share it with someone.  Even Christmas with family is not quite what I would like it to be because I want to share my family with a special someone and vice versa.

3) Okay, this may be boring for everyone but me, but when I went out to find stuff for my tree, I found some ornaments that I really liked.  I am coming to the conclusion that I'm a little more country than I would like to admit.  I don't think of myself as country, but that's what a lot of these ornaments are.  However, there will not ever be any geese with bonnets or various pictures of cows anywhere in my house. 

My special angel, Mark

It took me a while to find something for the top of the tree.  Most of the stars and things are HUGE! They would have been way out of proportion for my little tree, not to mention being way too heavy for it.  Even this angel is almost too much.  But I like it, and I think I will call it Mark. (Because one of my sisters misunderstood the song "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing". She sang it like it was a song about two angels: "Mark and Harold angels sing.")

4) Then there's this guy:

I had to!  Given the bears that wander around this neighborhood (though not this time of year).  However, the bears out there are not covered in glitter.  Not really sure about the necessity of the glitter, but I'm not going to lie, glitter and sparkles make me happy.

There is also this guy:


I think it's just because I liked his skis. And really, who doesn't love Santa? (If you are the Grinch, feel free to click away now.)

5) And I have to finish off my show and tell with the snowmen:


Absolutely let it snow! I love the big glittery flakes.  It's perfect this time of year.  Not only that, but it's time to break out the snowshoes, but I need some snow for that.  Also, I plan on trying skiing this year (but probably more cross country than downhill). That's a lot easier with enough snow.


And I like this one a lot, too. Yes, the generic message to "believe" could credibly refer to about anything, but it means that I can make it be about whatever I want it to be. Believe that God sent His only Son into the world because He loves us that much? Yes. Believe that we have it in us to be nicer people and that the Christmas spirit brings that out? Yes. Believe that not every Christmas season will be as hard? Yes.  See how that works? Whatever I want it to mean, it means that.

6) Totally changing the subject, I have a tendency to think of dvd workouts as kind of lame.  Not sure why, exactly, but it may have to do with visions of headbands and leg warmers.  However, this Monday I decided that I needed to do some sort of a workout and it was going to be too cold to be outside, and I didn't want to stay late to do it at work, so out came a dvd that I had.  Let me tell you, 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down with only a 20 minute workout.  The next couple of days involved a lot of whining.  I sent out a whiny text to some friends about my muscles feeling like they are marinating in lactic acid.  

7) This is such a tough time of year.  If I left you a comment to tell you that I was praying for you, know that I really was!  I like to pray right at that moment, but I also keep praying after that as well.  My prayer is so much for all who wait.  It can be so hard to feel that you are not hanging as many stockings as you would like, or to walk by the presents that you would like to buy for the people that you wish were in your life.  For those that are waiting, who have suffered loss, and all who are struggling this time of year.  I am praying for you!  Prayer buddy, please keep praying, too!  Some days I don't know how long I can keep up this single thing!

Have a wonderful weekend and head over to Jen's for more Quick Takes!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Little Guide to the Mass: The Liturgy of the Eucharist, Part I

The idea of starting this portion of the Mass is a little daunting to say the least.  There are no words to explain it all.  You could talk forever and never stop.  You could be intimately familiar with the entire Bible and still have more to learn about the liturgy of the Eucharist.

On the other hand, I guess it takes the pressure off.  There is no possible way that I could explain it adequately, so I guess I'll have to try to do my best at a poor explanation.

The very beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist is the Presentation of Gifts/Preparation of the Altar.

Priest: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.  Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which the earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.
All: Blessed be God forever.


Whatever we have, whatever we bring to the altar, comes because of His grace for us. I can't remember where I heard it, so take it with a grain or two of salt, but I heard that when the priest lifts the gifts up as he prays these words, it is thought to be like the wave offerings of the Old Testament.  I also remember a story about a woman with a Jewish background, who, hearing these words (particularly our response) thought that it sounded very familiar, because that is a frequent response in Jewish prayer as well.

Next, the same prayer is prayed over the wine.

Then, the priest "washes" his hands.  This is very much a ritual washing, because no one would get clean with the typical way this is done, but it's not about proper handwashing.  It's about the priest acknowledging that he is a sinner and turning humbly to God for forgiveness before he offers the greatest sacrifice.

(Usually said quietly) "Lord, wash away my iniquity, and cleanse me of my sin."

Then the priest turns back to us.

Priest: Pray, my brothers and sisters, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.
All:May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.


I used to wonder a bit about this.  If we believe what the Catholic Church teaches, that this really is the Body of Christ and His one and perfect sacrifice that we are offering, why wouldn't it be acceptable to God?  But when I think about it, it's really more about the fact that we are not just offering Him, we are offering ourselves.  The Mass is not a one way street.  And let's face it, all we have to offer of ourselves is none too pretty, seeing as how any good in us is from Him, so all we have to offer is our sin and weakness.  You know what? That's exactly what He wants from us. We bring ourselves, and our problems and we offer them at the altar, uniting ourselves with His sacrifice, and His perfect sacrifice transforms ours.

The Preface Dialogue is as follows:

Priest: The Lord be with you. All: And with your spirit.
Priest: Lift up your hearts. All: We lift them up to the Lord.
Priest: Let us give thank thanks to the Lord, our God. All: It is right and just.*

After the priest prays over the gifts of the altar, and the Eucharistic prayer begins. Pay attention.  Remember that the Mass is not just for the people sitting there in the pews.  The Mass is about the entire mystical Body of Christ.  Pay attention in the Eucharistic prayer, and you will hear many people mentioned.  We pray for the pope and the bishops, we often ask for the prayer of the saints who have gone before us, as well as our fathers in faith, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Different Eucharistic prayers emphasize different aspects, but remember that the Mass is always prayed in community.

Next is one of my favorite moments of the Mass, the Holy, Holy, Holy.

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Isaiah 6:3-4 (Note: "They" refers to the seraphim surrounding the Lord's throne and serving at His altar):
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts!" they cried one to the other. "All earth is filled with his glory." At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.
This is the beginning of the call of Isaiah.  Shortly after this description of his vision of heaven, one of the seraphim brought a burning coal from the altar to his lips to purify him for his mission as prophet of Israel.

This means that we are joining the cry of the angels in heaven.  Do not be fooled by the plain pews and the seemingly mundane routine.  As we join the chorus, the heavens shake. When we receive the Bread of Life from the altar, we, too, are purified and sent to be prophets to the world. This cry is repeated in John's vision of heavenly worship in Revelation 4:8.

Next, let's look at Psalm 118: 19-29:

Open the gates of victory;
I will enter and thank the Lord.
This is the Lord's own gate,
where the victors enter.
I thank you for you answered me;
you have been my savior.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice in it and be glad.
Lord, grant salvation!
Lord, grant good fortune!

Blessed is he
who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the Lord's house.
The Lord is God and has given us light.
Join in procession with leafy branches
up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, I give you thanks;
my God, I offer you praise.
Give thanks to the Lord, who is good,
whose love endures forever.

I am not looking tons of stuff up, but if I remember correctly, this was a psalm that the Jews felt referred to the Messiah.  That is why they greeted Jesus with the words "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. They were proclaiming their belief that He was the Messiah. Note that the Psalm refers to a procession with leafy branches.  Accident?  I think not. (By the way, the Hebrew phrase that means "grant salvation" is translated into English as "hosanna".)

It is a joyful, thankful psalm, rejoicing in the day of salvation. Rejoicing that the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  Little did the Jew suspect that even though they were so right in identifying the Savior and the day of salvation, how it would all come about in the Crucifixion.

As we conclude the Holy, Holy, Holy, we join with the Jews in recognizing the Messiah, in recognizing our salvation. Just as their proclamation on His entry into Jerusalem leads into the story of His sacrifice on the cross, our proclamation leads us into the sacrifice of the Mass. (They are one and the same, just to be clear.  The Mass makes present Christ's sacrifice on the cross. He is most definitely not re-sacrificed at every single Mass!)

The very end of the psalm returns us back to our previous prayer (that it is right and just to give Him thanks and praise.) It answers the why: because He is good, and His love endures forever.

Okay, I think that's more than enough for one day! Sorry this "little" guide is so long!


*I had a friend that left the Catholic Church, and this response really bothered her (or rather the previous response, "It is right to give him thanks and praise.") This was not why she left the Church, of course, but she didn't like it. The best that I could tell was that this bothered her because she didn't want to be told to do it because it was right.  She wanted to give thanks and praise out of the sincerity of her heart.  I agree that it is more pure to pray this out of love, but it truly is right and just to give thanks and praise to the One who gives us so much. It doesn't bother me, even with my jokingly diagnosed ODD (oppositional defiant disorder; the more you tell me what to do, or try to guilt trip me, the less likely it is to happen.)  I guess this note isn't important, but I think of her every time we say this part of the Mass, especially with the new translation.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Spicy Cheeseburger Soup

It is the season for soup!  We've had some cold and snow in the last few days, so I pulled out some soup recipes.  One of my favorites is not the most healthy soup ever, but it is fantastic.  If you don't like spicy, leave the peppers out. I always take a recipe and substitute for my own taste, but I'll give it to you as I got it:

1-1/2 cups water
2 cups cubed peeled potatoes (I actually like it better with the peel left on)
2 small carrots, grated
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green pepper (I like a little more than it calls for)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (Use plastic gloves! Also, I like it spicy, so I let some of the seeds make it in)
1 garlic clove, minced (Or two. Or three.  Just saying.)
1 tablespoon beef bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb ground beef, cooked and drained
2-1/2 cups milk, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 ounces process American cheese, cubed (I always use cheddar, because pasteurized processed cheese product? Gross!)
1/4 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
1/2 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled

In a large saucepan, combine the first nine ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Stir in beef and two cups of milk; heat through. Combine the flour and remaining milk until smooth; gradually stir into soup. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for two minutes until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; stir in cheese until melted. Add cayenne if desired. Top with bacon just before serving.

6-8 servings

A few little notes on my own modifications.  Last time I made it, I was careful to follow the above proportions, but I didn't like it quite as well.  I usually have about 3 cups of potatoes or a little more (about 2 medium potatoes), about 4 carrots (but I don't really know for sure because I buy the carrots that are already grated; I don't have a food processor and I hate grating carrots), and at least 1/2 cup chopped green pepper.  The rest of the ingredients stay the same; I just add enough water to cover the vegetables. I take that back, I also cut back the amount of bacon a little bit.  I love bacon, but it seems to get a pretty good bacon flavor from 3-4 strips of bacon.  If you like really meaty soup, keep the proportions as the recipe calls for.  I like meat, but the way the recipe makes it is about half meat, and I don't like quite that much meat in soup.  I never worry about having a big batch, because it freezes well.

Anyone else have any favorite winter soup recipes?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Least Favorite Verses

We have come again to my least favorite verses in the Bible.  If you were paying attention at Mass, you heard them several times today.  If you were not paying attention, or don't go to Mass, then you can read them here (you may have to change the date if you're not reading this right away).

Now, I've written about this before, and reasonable people everywhere gave wonderful, reasonable explanations for these verses and explained them well.  In my head, I understand perfectly well what these verses are saying and that they are, in fact, quite beautiful.  Unfortunately, cold, hard logic cannot keep me from cringing at the words.

"Let every valley be filled in"


And "every mountain and hill laid low"




"Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley"*








Yes, yes.  I understand that we are talking about preparing a way for the Lord and removing any obstacles that stand in the way of that.  I agree that the meaning of the words is beautiful.  Still, if you wish to reason with me about all of that, you might as well save yourself the time and trouble.  The idea of leveling the mountains will still strike enough horror into me to recycle this post every time I hear them.


*Note also the inconsistency of this; if the valleys are going to be filled in, then why are we turning the ridges into valleys? Why not keep the valleys we have?

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Christmas Tour of Homes... Virtually

I have been in my new place for nearly a month now, and I absolutely love it.  I have had a request or two for pictures, and since I have Christmas decorations up now, today seemed like a good time.  I knew my little cottage was small, but I realized how small when I was trying to get a few of these shots and couldn't fit everything in because I couldn't get far enough away.

First up is my kitchen.  It really looks like most kitchens, so I can't say too much about that.  I am amused that I have a double oven (that you can sort of see), but no real good place for a table... So I guess that means that I'm set to bring a lot of food to a pot luck, but entertaining is a little tricky.  I have cooked more in the last month than I have for quite a while.  I guess I like the kitchen that much!


The real downside to the kitchen is the windows, which were behind me in the picture.  I guess I should say that the windows are fine, but the curtains are rather hideous.  Are you ready for a close up of this awesome pattern?  I hope so, because here it is:


Well, you probably didn't really want to see a picture of the bathrooms, but I'm going to show you anyway.  The first bathroom I actually like, but I wanted to try to show you how small this thing is.


There is barely enough room to turn around in here.  If I come in too far to the right, I run in to the door. Too far to the left, and I'm bouncing off the sink.  But I like it because the shower is nice, and unlike the last place, it gets hotter than lukewarm.

Now the next bathroom is extra special.  It's just a half bath, but...


Oh, yes.  It's pink.  Now, I like pink, but this is kind of a pukey pink.  And if you are asking yourself "Is that a pink toilet?"  The answer is:


Yes.  Yes it is.  With a white seat.  Because, I'm guessing, that they couldn't find a replacement seat that matched that special shade of pink.

I also have a spare room, which becomes my library/office/catch all.  It's not really that exciting and you really probably don't need a picture, but here goes anyway:

There's one corner, anyway.

And a quick peek in the bedroom:


I was going to fold down the fleece blanket that I use because it really looks better with just the bedspread, but I thought this lady and my sisters would appreciate the awesomeness of the fleece. (Well, that, and I'm lazy.  But Rock Chalk Jayhawk!)

I saved my living room for last because it's my favorite.  I really feel like I can relax here. 

And from the opposite corner:

My little cottage, just like most of my stuff, is pretty simple and none too fancy, but I like it.  Thanks for stopping by!  And just to make it a true tour of homes (plural), I'd love to see some pictures of your Christmas trees, too, if you feel like posting one or two.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent

We finally made it to the first Sunday of the new liturgical year, the first Sunday using the new translation of the missal.  My impression? It doesn't really seem to me that anything has particularly changed.  Yes, the wording is a little different, but the Mass is the same.

I happened to go to the cathedral for Mass this morning.  I was taken by surprise when the bishop was the celebrant.  I know it makes sense that he should be there, but I've been to Mass there plenty of times, and I think this is the first time I've seen him there.  One of the things that I love about going to a Mass with a bishop or a cardinal is that there is just a little more ceremony to certain parts of the Mass.  I love this because it is a respect that we owe to their office as bishop.  I don't feel that I know much about the bishop here, but I know that when he was ordained as a bishop, other bishops laid their hands on him, as bishops before them had laid their hands them, and on down the line back to the early Church fathers and to the apostles themselves.  For that, I will gladly give him honor and respect and pray for him, though I know little else about him.

The other thing that I love about going to a Mass with a bishop or a cardinal (or even the pope, though I've never been to a Mass with the pope) is that it is still the same Mass.  He is not so important that he gets to choose his own readings or his own way of doing things.  In fact, the only way that he can truly fulfill the office he has been given to guard and protect the Church, keeping her teachings safe so they can be handed on, is to to follow each of the rules of the liturgy, to say the Mass in unity with the pope, with all the priests in his diocese and with Catholics around the world.

I think what I love about that is that it reminds me again that the Mass and the teachings of the Church are not ours to decide as Catholics.  They are what has been given to us, they are bigger than us- all of us- from the people in the pews up to the pope himself.

The changes in the wording of the Mass, to me, are an example of thoughtful and prayerful study of how we can most accurately pass on and live out the teachings that have been given to us.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Holidays

Oh, man.  What to say about the holidays.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us."

It has already started, these schizo, crazy holidays.  It is not because I am busy.  As I have mentioned before, the busier everyone else is, the less busy I am through the holidays.  No, the schizo part for me is how much I love them, and how much I can't handle them.

For example, I had so much fun on Thanksgiving.  It was great!  And then I had to get back in the car by myself.

There is no getting away from it.  If I put decorations up, I wish with every fiber of my being that I was putting them up not just for me, but for my family.  If I don't put decorations up, I wish with every fiber of my being that I had more reason to put them up.  For the record, I will still put them up.  The holidays may hurt, but I will celebrate them as much as possible.

When I am alone, the fact of being alone is intensified and magnified.  When I am with people, I am even more aware of the fact that I am by myself.

Commercials are everywhere for those special gifts to buy those special people in your life.  There are all sorts of fun activities that are advertised as fun things to do with the whole family.

People chatting about how busy they are reminds me of how not busy I am. (The reason that makes me sad is that I don't have more reason to be busy.  I do like the part about how relaxing it can be.)

On the holiday itself even Mass itself can be a really hard place to be.  Mass, which is normally my refuge, becomes a place that I can't wait to run away from.  Looking out at the sea of families is not easy.

The holidays can magnify a person's joy, but they can also magnify the pain.  I know I'm not the only one. I have already talked to so many people that are struggling with the holidays this year.  Some because they are alone, some because they want children but haven't been able to have them yet, some because of divorce, some because of loss in the family earlier in the year, and so on.

I look forward to the season.  This year, I have a cute little place that feels like home and that I can't wait to decorate. I have lots of people that are still wanting to hike and climb, and there are plenty of people to visit and see.  I know the pain will come, too, but there's nothing I can do about it besides accept it when it comes, use it as a reminder to pray for everyone who struggles at this time of year, and beg God for yet another time that can this please be the last Christmas season that I have to be alone.*

Okay, enough of being a downer.  My goal is not to be all depressing on the blog this year.  That goal can start for Advent in a couple of hours.

*For the record, by the grace of God, I have never had to be actually alone on the actual holidays, other than alone in the crowd.  But I think you know what I mean.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope you've had a wonderful holiday!  I was so ready for the day off; I had a class over the weekend, so this is my first real day off since a week ago Sunday.  The day started a little too early, but other than that, it's been about all you could want in a Thanksgiving. The reason for the early start? My smoke detector decided to spaz out.  Not the annoying "I need a new battery" chirp, but the ear splitting shriek that there's something wrong.  Only I could not find a single thing wrong with anything.  The battery's back in and no more noise (and the house didn't burn down while I was gone), so hopefully it's an isolated incident.  In the spirit of the day, I'm thankful to know that it works well enough to wake you up and get you out of bed before you even know you're up.  I'm also thankful that there wasn't anything wrong.

After Mass, the rest of the day was spent with friends.  I rarely so much as eat at the table, so I was loving the place settings that she had.


I had a hard time deciding which I liked more, the simple centerpiece (loved the light off the cranberries, as well as the colors):


Or the fun turkeys:


Aren't they cute?  They are also known as peacocks, according to her two-year-old. Speaking of turkeys, the little turkey saw me with the camera and decided to start taking pictures of his own:


I wanted to get a picture of all the food, but I forgot.  It was so much fun to be able to plan all the dishes that we wanted to see for Thanksgiving, and luckily we all wanted the same traditional foods; turkey, stuffing, cranberry salad, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, homemade rolls and pumpkin pie.  Did you catch that there were only 4 of us? Yeah, we did not run out of food.

Well, that was me.  What were you up to for Thanksgiving?



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Homeboy" Is Not Another Name for Jesus

I don't have time right now to finish my series on the Mass, which I was hoping to finish before Advent, but I will finish it whenever I get a chance.  In the meantime, I've been thinking some about the names of Jesus.  It is the topic that I have to present for RCIA next week.  I am so prepared, that I haven't even gotten to the point of looking up the actual names.  Other than it will obviously be important to discuss "Jesus" (Yeshua, "God saves") and Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew), "Anointed".

To be perfectly honest, it's taken me quite some time to even wrap my head around the idea of how a discussion of the names of Jesus is important to people preparing to enter the Catholic Church.  Not that I want to belittle it, but really?  The names of Jesus compared to topics like the Trinity, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the Mass, the Bible, Tradition, etc.

My mistake is that my concept of names is that of a modern person with a Western background.  Think of naming babies. What comes to mind?  Some of the discussion around baby names:

1) Do both parents like the sound of the name?
2) How do the initials work?
3) Is it unique enough?
4) Is it too unique (or weird, as the case may be)?
5) Is there a family member that the child is named for?

Those are just some of the things that we think about.  The question is, do we ever really think about what a name means?  What it means to us, yes, but not what the name itself means.  Now, I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with our method of figuring out names.  I think it's fine.  It's just that looking at names in this way does nothing to prepare me for the talk I have to give next week.

In ancient Hebrew times, names were much different.  Names revealed something essential about who the person is.  To know someone's name is to know that person.  A name wasn't chosen based on whether someone liked the way it sounded. It was given because it was something about who that person was.  This is why name changes in the Bible are so significant.  Changing a name in the Bible often reveals a changing in a person's mission.  Abram became Abraham (father of a multitude) when he was to become the father of nations. Simon became Peter (rock) when he was to become the rock on which the Church was built.

Knowing the names of Jesus does not merely help us to recognize His different names and titles.  It helps us to understand who He is, and what His mission is. If we know His mission, we can see how He fulfilled it in His own life, and how He is continuing to fulfill it through us, His Church.

Who is He?


He is Lord.
Savior.
King.
Lamb of God.
Prince of Peace.
Messiah.
Counselor.
Shepherd.
Physician.
Son.
Brother.
Beloved.

God.

Friday, November 11, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

--- 1 ---
Sorry to open this up with a whine, but I'm not a fan of the time change! I hate that when it feels like I should be home putting my feet up, I still have more patients to see. I hate that it's pitch black so early in the day. Forty-one days until December 21st, and then it will start to get better.
--- 2 ---
I still hate moving, and I still did my own packing, but I hired a moving company to get my stuff from the old place to the new place. Worth. Every. Penny. It was awesome! Granted that I don't have tons of stuff, but these guys showed up at one place at about 9:20, and the truck was unloaded and they were pulling out of my new place at 11:45. They would have been done at 11:30 if they hadn't taken a little break. Believe me, they deserved it! They jogged while they were loading and unloading. There were boxes that I didn't really want to try to lift; they lifted 2 of them at a time. I loved watching my furniture walk in without me having to try to lug it. I would say that I didn't have to lift a finger, but that would be a lie. I had to point where to put stuff. 
--- 3 ---
Despite the awesomeness of the movers, I still was exhausted by the end of the moving day. I still had to clean the old apartment, and I was a little obsessed by getting everything settled. Before I went to bed, all the boxes were cleared from my living room, bedroom and kitchen. The spare room was still a disaster, but at least the main living area was good. I should have paced myself better, but by Saturday I just had a couple hours in the spare room, and now it's all done but hanging the pictures. I've hung a couple of things, but I'm giving myself a little times to see where things will fit before I start pounding holes.
--- 4 ---
I love my new little place! I love that I don't listen to my neighbors walking above me, or slamming doors, or arguing. I love love love the fact that I don't ever smell cigarette smoke! And I love that it has all the charming quirks of being an older place with all the conveniences of being well updated. I don't really mind that some of the closets are small, or that you have to be careful how you open certain doors so that you have room to get around them. It's a cottage. It all belongs as part of its character. (That or I'm just overly excited from the unpolluted oxygen I'm breathing!)
--- 5 ---
The kitchen is very small compared to a normal house, but it's large compared to apartment kitchens, and especially my last small, dark kitchen! In fact, it's so much nicer that I was inspired to cook over the weekend. I made African Ground Nut Stew (ground nuts= peanuts) and I made my Grandma's pumpkin bread. Yum! I love almost anything with pumpkin. My Grandma's recipe has way too much sugar in it (3 cups for two loaves!), so I decided to cut the sugar in half and use a cup of unsweetened applesauce. SO good. Moist, and still plenty sweet without being too sweet. Healthier, right? Yeah, not when you eat as much of it as I did!
P.S.- I knew I had too many potatoes for the stew, but I couldn't figure out why, because I had measured it out and everything.  I was back in the store to day and had an epiphany... I'd measured out my potatoes in kg, not pounds! No doubt the next batch will taste even better!
--- 6 ---
The holidays as a single person are a little weird, but I'm looking forward to the weirdness this year. You see, everyone is SO busy that they cut back on some of the normal meetings and get togethers that they would usually have. But as a single person, you're not really that busy. I don't have tons of Christmas shopping to do. I may have a Christmas party or two, but not many. Holiday get togethers are easy, you just go home. I'm really busy for the next couple of weeks, but if I make it through to Thanksgiving, it'll be pretty quiet after that. 
--- 7 ---
Have a great weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

One Week

For almost one week, I was without internet at home.  You would think that I should have been too busy to notice, but I was not.  The funny thing is, all week I had stuff that I wanted to post on my blog, but now that I have access again, I cannot figure out what to say.  I haven't even been offline long enough for anyone to notice, but I've been off long enough for me to have a nice little block.  I don't get it.

Anyway, you may not have missed me, but I missed you!  I've been catching up as quickly as I can, but it's amazing how many big things you can miss in only a week!  I've tried to comment as much as I can, but I know it's been spotty.  I still read what you all had to say.

I guess that's all for now.  I'll be trying to write a real post soon! (I hope!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

--- 1 ---
I walked into my apartment tonight and got knocked over by the stale smoke smell. I don't know which is worse; my previous neighbor, when you could smell cigarette smoke all the time so I always knew to expect it, or these neighbors, where the majority of the time it's not bad, but then the surprise of it almost makes it worse. Okay, this is definitely better, but the best will be MOVING! Soon. Very soon now, and I cannot wait!
--- 2 ---
It's the feast of Saints Simon and Jude today. St. Jude and I may be talking. A lot. He's used to hearing from me, but he might actually get tired of me today. Can saints in heaven lose their patience? I feel like not, but I also kind of want to test it. Is that wrong?
--- 3 ---
I spent last weekend with my family and it was a blast! My siblings and I are not the most mature, though we are (most of us) technically adults. Case in point, I definitely heard someone break out the "I'm not touching you" game at one time over the weekend. Hmm, perhaps this is why I'm in the mood to "bug" a saint? Probably. And I have practice with continuing to work on someone who is studiously working on remaining unperturbed. (All my younger siblings are really good at ignoring the annoyances, so it's up to us older ones to keep at them until they break.)
--- 4 ---
I got back into the climbing gym today. It felt great to be there, like it'd been forever since I climbed. Really it's only been since a week ago Sunday, but that's plenty long enough. Saturday I'm supposed to try some lead climbing. I'm a little scared of that because it's easier to fall, and it's easier to fall farther. Nonetheless, when you fall, you're still on the rope, so it's really just the skin on my knees that's at risk. (Lead climbing is how you get the rope up to the anchor point in the first place.) I am excited to try a new skill, but I'm also ready to just do it already instead of just thinking about it.
--- 5 ---
Speaking of climbing, I really wondered what my Grandma would have to say about it. I haven't seen her since I started doing it, and I thought she'd be laid back about it, but I'm never quite sure. All she said was that I was young enough to enjoy trying something new like that. Then she mentioned that she always wanted to learn to ski, but never had a chance. Interesting, especially when skiing almost sounds worse to me than climbing. At least downhill skiing, anyway. My goal is to at least get on skis a couple times this winter, so I'll let you know.
--- 6 ---
I'm out of stuff. All I can think about right now is that I want to move NOW! Not even because of the smoke smell (which is clearing out), but more because I just can't wait to have all the nasty parts of moving taken care of and all the fun parts of settling in to a new and homey place to look forward to.
--- 7 ---
Oh wait! I thought of something! I really need to get more consistent with working out. Why do I stink at that so bad? I get out on weekends a lot, but I really need to do something at least a couple other days of the week, too. You know several weeks ago when I talked about trying to get into shape to try doing a pull up? Yeah, that so does not get any closer to possible if you NEVER WORK OUT!
Have a great weekend! For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Little Guide to Mass: The Liturgy of the Word, Part 3

Once the homily is over, it's time to finish up just a few things to prepare for the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We begin by standing and professing our faith. Yes, this will also have some wording changes.  Our faith and the substance of what we are professing is the same, but some of the wording is different. It's long, but I'll write it out here:

I believe in one God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
And one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the live of the world to come. Amen.

I love that this is our chance in the Mass to stand up with the other believers and proclaim what it is that we believe.  It is certainly a long prayer, but consider that it distills so many of the teachings of the Bible in one place so that we can proclaim our belief, but not just our own personal belief, but the belief of all those present, the belief of all those that are going to Mass anywhere in the world, and the belief of all those that have proclaimed their belief in these words throughout history.  The new translation has changed the wording from "we believe" to "I believe", but nonetheless, the fact that we say it together makes the unity of our belief clear.

Next, we take a moment from Matthew 18:19-20:

"Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."

This is the time of the general intercessions.  While the Scripture verse itself may not be heard during the Mass, it is lived.  For the general intercessions, prayers are read, followed by "we pray to the Lord." And the congregation responds "Lord, hear our prayer."  I don't pretend to fully understand the mystery of prayer.  I do know this, however.  They are heard, and we should not underestimate the power of these prayers that are prayed together.

Next we sit, the baskets are passed (tithing is also quite biblical!) and the gifts (especially the bread and wine) are brought to the altar for the preparation of gifts for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Food, Food, Food!

You know, that word looks really weird after you write it over and over again several times.

Food. Food. Food. Food. Food. Food.

Yeah. You get the point (or you would if there was a point).  That's not what I intended to write about. I just noticed it as I started typing, and I get easily distracted by things.  They don't even have to be shiny! The point is that almost two months ago, I read this book and I really wanted to talk about it. It has to be now because I'm getting into a bit of a packing frenzy (my neighbors are particularly smelly tonight), so I won't be able to find it soon.

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler, M.D.  The first thing that I will say is that despite the fact that he's a doctor, I had a hard time telling how much of his expertise is specifically with obesity.  In fact, if I remember the bio right, he's actually a pedia1rician, and his look into our{country's eating habits had more to do with a personal journey rather than professional discovery.  Therefore, keep in mind that this is not specifically his area. (Or at least it wasn't. It may be now.) On the other hand, his own personal experience of overeating and obesity shed a lot of light in the book.  Furthermore, because of his background in medicine, he's able to pull a lot out of the studies that he is reading.

The whole point that he introduces is what is it about food that we can't stop thinking about it?  He says that there are some people that think about it a relatively small amount, but that a lot of us are thinking about it a lot.  If you put something we like in front of us, we can hardly ignore it until we go ahead and eat it.  He also points out that it's not just overweight or obese people having a problem with this.  It's also people with normal weights who have just figured out strategies to avoid overeating to the point of becoming obese, but are still on some level preoccupied with food.

I am one of those people.  I have a sweet tooth like you wouldn't believe.  I finally got into a normal weight range several months ago, but it's a real struggle to stay there.  I recently got back from a weekend with family, and there's always food available, and in particular there was a ton of chocolate this time around.  I started with one small serving, but by the last day, I had at least 2 normal size servings for snack and dessert.

Turns out, one of the things that he brings up is that we've loaded so much fat and sugar and salt into everything that it actually stimulates different pathways in our brains.  One of the pathways is dopamine. This is the one that keeps us honing in on that food and focusing on it.  The other is an opioid pathway, which is the pleasure that we get from eating it.  As Americans, we have so much easy access to these processed foods that we're changing the way that our brains respond to food.  These pathways even start to override the circuits that would have us stop when we're full.  Fascinating stuff! It's not just that highly processed foods pack in so many bad calories while stripping any positive nutrition from them, but also the way that it affects our brains and our responses to these foods.

It's the dopamine that had me focusing on those brownies, and the opioids that rewarded my eating them.  Of course I still have control over my responses, but that's why it can be so difficult sometimes.  Had I actually been thinking on those lines (instead of thinking, "Mmm, chocolate. Gimme more!") I actually would have probably found other ways of dealing with it. That's one of the things that they talked about in the book.  Knowing how some of this works helps you identify with when those cues occur so that you recognize them and reject them right away.

Anyway, I think it's a really good book to read, and hearing a little behind the scenes of how the food industry thinks is really eye-opening!  It finishes off with some practical tips of what you can do if you struggle.  For me, it is not what I would call life changing, but it was informational and helpful.  His writing style is a little repetitious at times, and he does get a little technical with the studies (which can be a good thing, but be aware if you're thinking about reading it).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Climbing and Waiting

I lean back and look at the wall, examining my route. About 15 feet to the top of the alcove, then some overhead holds before reaching around the corner to climb out from under the roof.  Then another 25 feet or so to the top.  The wall under the alcove is a slight overhang, and I seriously doubt my ability to climb this route today.  My forearms are already protesting from the previous route, and I'm just not sure how to work the reach around the corner.

No matter.  Whether I make it or not, I will try.  My belayer (the person holding the other end of the rope) and I work well together.  She'll watch out and I'll be fine if I make a reach that I can't finish.  There will just be a little swing on the rope is all.

We do our safety checks, and then:

"On belay?" I ask.
"Belay is on," she confirms.
"Climbing," I say.
"Climb on," she tells me.

Our commands completed, I take a breath and reach for the first hold.

The holds are rough under my hands, and the soreness of the skin and the immediate cramping of the forearms do not bode well for this climb.  However, as much as I doubt my ability to do the entire climb, I do know that I can make a reach for the next hold.  If you can do the next hold, then it's not time to give up yet.

Fairly quickly, I find myself approaching the roof of the alcove.  The route takes me deep under the alcove, and I know that if I fall, I'm going to swing out from under that roof.  I don't mind.  Swinging is fun.  I go for the first hold on the ceiling. Easy enough.  I walk my foot over to the next foothold.  Then there is another overhead hold.  This one's a little tougher.  I try several different positions, but nothing feels quite right. I fiddle around a while, trying one thing and then another, but finally I figure out how to advance my hands and I make it to the edge of the roof, ready to come out around the corner.

By this time, my hands are tired and don't want to obey my command either to open or to close. I try to see where to go next, and my belayer helps to talk me through it.  Only one problem.  The next hand hold is completely out of reach.  As tired as my arms are, I can't use the left to get me close enough to reach with the right.  "That's it," I think. "I'm ready to come down."  However, instead of giving the command to lower, I yell down to my belay buddy, "Take!"  She pulls the slack out of the rope and I sit in my harness, holding on to the wall enough to avoid swinging, but coming off the wall to give my calves a break, and shaking out my forearms. She holds the rope tight, and I don't lose any ground when I let go.

As I rest, I take a look at the holds, and poke my head around the corner to see where I had to go. In a moment, I realized that I hadn't used one foothold.  It was only a couple inches over, but it was a little closer.  I let my belayer know that I'm going to climb again, and I reposition myself on the wall, this time using that foothold.  Amazingly enough, that was just enough to allow me to reach that first hold around the corner, and in a second, my foot was around as well, and pretty soon I had climbed out from around that little alcove.

I immediately called for a rest, and catch my breath before making my way up the rest of the wall. I'm sweaty and tired, but I finish.

This is my wait right now. There are times that I don't know if I will make the next hand hold, but I can try.  Then there are the times that just plain old hurt.  I couldn't try another reach or step if you paid me. I'm just done and there is nothing left. I can't be hopeful and positive, I'm stuck with being depressed and depressing those around me.  Those days, I am learning to yell to God, "Take!" and He does.  He holds me up there, patiently waiting until I've caught my breath and have the strength to continue. Perhaps in that rest time I don't make any forward progress, but I'm preparing for the progress by resting, if that makes sense. In some ways, I am on the wall alone, but when I am sitting in that harness, suspended above the ground, I realize that I am not alone and that I do trust the One holding me there.