Monthly Archives: September 2010

Just what I needed, too!

I haven’t done a meme in a long while.  I found this random meme at the blog of Sue, at Living and Learning.  Originally, Sue is from the Midwest, now permanently living in Japan with her native husband and their four children, whom she homeschools.  I *LOVE* Sue’s blog.  She’s a cool ocean breeze of peace and beauty.

If you choose to do this meme, please do leave a comment with a link!

1. What’s your middle name? Joy

2. What’s your favorite magazine? Currently, it’s Clean Eating and World.  If I had more time and money for magazines, I would also get Arizona Highways and Sunset.

3. What are you wearing right now? A light blue tee and jeans.  Barefoot.

4. What color are your bed sheets? A damask-striped foresty green.

5. Who was your third grade teacher? Mrs. Cook.

6. What is the weather like right now? Sunny and too hot for almost-October

7. Do you know how to ski? No.  I used to water ski.

8. What was the last thing you drank? Hansen’s Diet Tangerine Lime soda.

9. Dream vacation? Anywhere but a city.  In the States, my heart is longing for the Big Sur area of California, or Yellowstone.  What I’d REALLY love to do some day is take a two-month driving vacation of the lower 48.

10. Favorite article of clothing? Jeans.

11. Do you prefer baking or cooking? Both.

12. Is your hair above or below your shoulders? Below.

13. What drink do you order when out? Water or Diet Coke.

14. What book are you reading? A Long Shadow by Charles Todd.

15. What did you dream about last night? I can’t remember.

16. What was the last movie you went to? Prince of Persia.  (Interestingly, that was Sue’s last movie, too!)

17. Any injuries at the moment? Nope.

18. What color is your bathroom? Tan.

19. What’s the state of your laundry right now? Telling me that it’s mid-week and I haven’t done any since Monday.  🙂

20. Do you take vitamins? Currently just a multi-vit and Horsechestnut seed extract (it does seem to really help my aching varicose veins!)

21. Where do you love to shop? Anywhere!  I really do love to shop.  I don’t get a lot of chance to, though.  I especially love one-of-a-kind import or handcrafted kinds of places.  And antique stores.

22. How often do you buy groceries? Usually once per week.

23. Do you have a pet/pets? One dog, the dear Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Tally.

24. If you are married, when is your next anniversary? On November 12, it’ll be 16 years of more better than worse to a hubby who still think is strikingly handsome and funny.

25. How do you take your coffee and/or tea? My coffee has half and half with a bit of honey and a bit of stevia, if I’m at home.  Tea, just a bit of honey.

26. Mac or PC? Desktop or Laptop? PC desktop.

27. Favorite month of the year? Probably March.  In the desert, days are in the 70s and new growth is happening.  Lovely.

28. Do you have a hobby? Blogging.  Reading.  Birding.

29. What salad dressing do you prefer? Right now, I really like Trader Joe’s Romano Ceasar

30. Live or fake Christmas tree? I swore I’d never have a fake one, until two years ago, when I realized that my youngest son’s winter asthma was closely tied to us having a pine tree in the house.  😦  We all mourn the live tree.

31. Did you walk or take a bus to school? Neither.  My mom drove me.  Well, until I was 15 and we moved within walking distance of my school.

32. Do you have any phobias? Living forever (that’s true — it’s been a lifelong struggle to just TRUST JESUS that the things I cannot even begin to comprehend are going to be OK).

33. What’s your favorite snack food? Lay’s plain Stax.  Or tortilla chips and salsa.  Or caramel corn (but not plain popcorn).  Or homemade trail mix.

34. When do you take your shower/bath? It varies.  Usually in the morning, though.

35. What time did you get up this morning? 6:45, about 15 minutes earlier than my weekday wake-up time.

36. What’s your favorite animal? I really do love all animals.  From afar, birds.  Close up, dogs.  Wild animal, probably antelopes of all kinds.  (Although, birds are wild, too.)

37. Have you ever broken a bone? Only my pinkie toe on my right foot.  Hurt like the dickens.

38. Do you wear makeup? Only 2-3 days a week.

39. Do you speak any foreign languages? Nope.  I tried Italian.  I really find it… foreign.  I wish I was good at languages.  My husband is.  🙂  He “only” speaks Spanish, but he picks up languages SO easily!  Ask him to say something to you in Romanian.

40. Have you ever played a sport? Volleyball, basketball, softball, track.

41. Your last UPS package contained … Books?  I don’t remember.

42. What’s on your desktop? Of my computer?  A picture of the cabin in which we stayed in Colorado in July.

43. What is your home page? The admin page for my blog.

44. Extrovert or introvert? Introverted, but not painfully so.  🙂

45. Favorite board game? I prefer cards.

46. What class did you like best in high school? In college? Choir in high school.  Advanced Expository Writing college (no lie).  In college, the professor has SO MUCH to do with how much I liked a course.  I really like to learn just about everything.

47. What would you do with an extra hour each day? Read, probably.

48. Do you have allergies? Itchy-eye seasonal allergies, not nearly as bad as they used to be.  And, probably some un-identified food allergies.

49. Are your nails painted? No.  And, I recently started biting them again.  Not good.

50. Where are you right now? In the dining area, at a little desk, looking out the window at my completely bare garden (except for weeds), where little sparrows are dust-bathing themselves.

Day 2 of… the rest of my life?

I’m not big on diets.  I’ve been on two in my life.  One was when, in early 2000, my husband and I did a Body for Life challenge.  That was successful, but very shortly after its completion, I got pregnant, and the whole thing went out the window.  I didn’t know how to pull off diet + pregnancy.

Ironically, the other diet upon which I embarked was two years ago, when I was pregnant with Fiala.  For three or so reasons, my doctor thought it would be wise if I did not gain any weight during my third trimester.  He put me on phase 2 of the South Beach Diet for gestational weeks 28-40, and guess what?  I didn’t gain any weight.  In fact, I had to allow myself to eat more, because following his recommendations caused me to initially lose weight.  For that entire pregnancy, I gained 17 lbs, which was the fewest of my five, by far.  I felt SO GOOD after she was born, too — not bloated and huge, and I recovered, in every way, so much more quickly.

Then, when I was nursing Fiala, and she had (has, still) major food allergy problems, I put myself on a Total Elimination Diet to make my breastmilk safe for her to drink.  During that time, I dropped to 135 lbs, which is what I weighed when I got married, nearly 16 years ago.  I weaned Fiala and went off of the TED in January of this year.  I expected to go back up to 155 lbs or so, because that’s pretty much where my body settled, post-pregnancy, after babies #3 & 4 were born.  It took a number of months, but yes, I got back up to 155.

Then… 160.

A couple of weeks ago, when I hit 165 — which is the heaviest, un-pregnant, I’ve ever been, I decided that I had to do something.  Gaining 30 pounds in nine months just is not healthy.  Also, having to buy clothes because you’re smaller?  Feels fabulous.  Buying clothes because your chub won’t fit inside of your favorite jeans any longer?  Not so much.

The part of me that doesn’t like diets is the part which rationalizes, “Diets aren’t sustainable.”  And, I still wrestle with that.  I eat healthy — very healthy, in fact, if you don’t count my penchant for dark chocolate chips and 2-3 servings of ice cream per month.  But, apparently, I’m just eating too much of it, whatever “it” is.  Even though I cannot see measuring my food and counting my carbs to really be a sustainable plan for the rest of my life, I can’t simply do nothing.  And, since I know that a modified South Beach Diet is effective for me, that’s what I’m going with.

Speaking of sustainable, right now, I would say that, on average, I have ONE day per week where I have some sort of extended form of exercise.  Ideally, I’d like that to be three or four days.  But, if I tell myself, “I am going to work out four days a week,” and I don’t reach that goal, I know I’ll be discouraged.  But… I do need to step it up.  So, part two of my plan is to double my strenuous activity to 2x/week.

The reasons I like South Beach (which I’m not trying to sell — they have a book, which I’ve never read, and they have a $5/week online program, to which I’m NOT subscribing) is because it fits in so well with what my food aims are, anyways:

  • Nutrient-dense, fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains;
  • Legumes;
  • Lean sources of protein;
  • Low-fat dairy products;
  • Good fats from foods such as omega-3-rich fish, healthy oils (like extra-virgin olive and canola oils), and nuts

I don’t know what they do in the “real” South Beach Diet, but in my modified version, I don’t count calories.  I don’t count fat grams (though I do minimize unhealthy fats).  I do count carbohydrates.  Fiber carbs, though, don’t count against the daily total.  So, say, three ounces of carrots would only count as 6 net grams (8 total, minus the 2 grams of fiber).  My “goal” for fiber is a minimum of 20 grams daily.  I say “goal” because I hit that — and soar past — every day.  I’ve read that most Americans consume less than 10 grams of fiber each day, and that’s nearly incomprehensible to me.  It would be hard for me to NOT eat 20+ grams per day.

For now, I am going to stick with 150 grams of net carbs per day, and see what the results are in two weeks.  If I’m not losing any weight, I’ll drop it down to 125 g daily.

A lot of people who do South Beach use liberal amounts of artificial sweeteners.  Um, not me.  I do supplement my coffee’s teaspoon of honey with a bit of stevia each morning, but I’m not going to eat — ever — a cupful of sugar-free Jell-O, just because it has no carbs.  Chemicals, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors… Yuck.  Can’t do it.  I want to be HEALTHY, not just carb-less.

Oh.  I do allow myself one soda every afternoon, almost always Hansen’s.  It is sweetened with Splenda, but it is all-natural besides that.  I’m iffy on Splenda.  But, I figure if my one vice is a daily can of diet Hansen’s, I’m gonna be OK.

OH!  And, I do need to find some sort of better dessert option.  After the kids go to bed, I like to settle down with my husband’s company, a book (or a TV show), and a container of frozen yogurt.  I mean, regular yogurt that I freeze, then let thaw for about 15 minutes before eating.  I’d really like one that is around 20 carbs per serving, with no artificial anything and inexpensive enough for me to buy 4-6 each week without messing up my family’s grocery budget.  Hm.  Maybe I’ll look at Trader Joe’s.  Currently, I’m eating Yoplait light, but those have aspartame.

I just looked up Breyer’s Mint Chip, and each 1/2 cup serving has 18 carbs!  A 1/2 cup serving is really, really small.  But, when I’m accountable to my tally sheet, I think I could do it.  A little bit of ice cream?  Or no ice cream?  Little bit, it’ll have to be.  😀

So… it’s my hope that I’ll learn to make better little choices that will be sustainable.  Long term do-able.  For instance, raw almonds are one of my very favorite snacks.  But, instead of just keeping the bag open in my pantry and grabbing a handful whenever, I now put 2 oz (1/3 cup – 6 regular carbs, 6 fiber carbs) in a little bowl, and be happy with that.  And, last night, with our grilled chicken, I chose not to use barbecue sauce, which I love.

I figure the least I alter what I currently do — yet, alter it, indeed! — the more likely it is to stick.

We’ll see.

I promise this won’t turn into Karen’s Diet Blog — there are enough diet blogs out there already.  But, I figure that blogging about this adds one more layer of accountability, which will help me stay on target.


Anyone wanna join me??

Plan D (Or, The Bagdad “Adventure”)

I have a traveling buddy.  Her name is Allison.  Allison is just the right type of companion for me:  laid back, can make fun out of almost anything, likes to drive, and has children whose company my own greatly enjoy.

All of those qualities are important, because the outings and adventures I have with my children are usually to fairly far-flung locations, and NOTHING ever goes exactly according to plan.  Normally, I am 100% OK with that;  Plan B is usually just as great as the original.  However, when I have friends with me, I get extremely nervous, because I then feel responsible that they have a good time, and that everyone’s expectations are fulfilled.

But, Allison doesn’t care, and she assured me with a laugh that, yes, even though our trip on Friday totally didn’t go as we had expected, she had a great time, and her two boys did, too, and she’s looking forward to a do-over.  Two for the price of one.  🙂

So, here was the plan:

  • Apple-picking at the organic orchards of Date Creek Ranch.
  • Playing in the Santa Maria River.

Here was Plan D:

  • Driving for two hours to play in a tiny town’s public pool.

Believe it or not, reality ended up being really fun.

Normally, Date Creek Ranch, a small organic farm, is open on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall.  However, when I contacted them a few weeks ago to inquire about a Friday visit, they said that could easily be arranged;  I just needed to call first.  Now, I freely admit I should have called on Monday or Tuesday.  I had no reason not to.  But, I didn’t.  I called on Thursday morning, and got their voice mail.  They didn’t return my call.  I called Friday, after we had hit the road, and again, left a message, which they never did return.  Hmph.

So, we decided that, until we heard from Date Creek Ranch, we’d go to the river first.

The Santa Maria in early November 2006

Now… after I got home, I decided to check online to see if there was some sort of info online about the Santa Maria River.  I should have done this FIRST.  Lulled by my success in finding copious amounts of water flowing in the river for trips past (see lovely pic above), we set off willy-nilly, me with no doubt that there’d be plenty of water for all.  I was disappointed and surprised — crushed, really — that there was NO WATER in the river.  None.  Not upstream, not downstream.

And, that’s just what the USGS real-time data for the Santa Maria River shows:  Zero flow, which is where it’s been at all summer, minus about two days.  😦

Additionally, the place where we have previously accessed the river now has barbed wire and ominous No Trespassing Private Property signs.  I’m enough of a rule-follower not to flaunt such warnings.

So, we had lunch under a hopeful-looking cottonwood tree (which also appeared to be a favorite hang-out of cows) and reassessed out situation.  We decided to go to Bagdad, which is a company copper mining town, currently entirely owned by Freeport MacMoRan.  My elder brother used to live there (he did something with the computers on the big trucks).  Additionally, Allison’s mom had recently traveled to Bagdad and raved about the mine tour she took.

So, after the failure of the apple-picking and river-playing, we decided — Plan C — to try for the tour.

Bagdad was only about ten miles, almost all on paved roads, from where we had taken our lunch.  So, we quickly arrived, and followed the signs to the mine.  When there, Allison went into the office, where she discovered that not only are tours by appointment only, they are open only to those aged nine and over, which left out my two girls.  Office Lady gave us the business card of the tour guy, and suggested that we call him, in the off-chance that he would be available.

We did, leaving a message on Tour Guy’s voicemail.  Allison and I discussed how the girls and I might be able to pass the time, should Tour Guy become available.  I was not really looking forward to passing time outside with two little girls for a couple of hours in near-record heat (it was hovering around 100°).  Allison went back inside the office to ask the Office Lady if she had any suggestions.  She highly recommended the community center, which had a pool, library, a playground, and the museum.

We had wanted to find the museum anyway.  So, off we went.  We found the community center complex in short order.  And, while the library was closed, and though the woman holding down the fort in the office would have to track down someone to unlock the museum, the pool and playground were open, and what’s more, it was all FREE!  I’m into “free”.

The playground was in excellent condition and shaded, and the pool was partially indoors.

You might possibly recall that I broke my camera’s LCD viewing screen in July, so I had no idea what my pictures were going to look like.  I also didn’t discover until minutes ago that there was a humungous smudge on the lens, right in the center.  So, my pictures, few that I took, really didn’t turn out well.  But, perhaps you can tell that the indoors part had a zero-entry toddler play area, complete with a variety of water squirters and dumpers, and the deeper part had a waterpark-style slide.  Plus, we had the run of the place:  Just two moms, seven kids, and a lifeguard who spent her time playing with her nails and texting.

The kids had a blast.

The pool closed a little more than an hour after we arrived…  After our swim, we found someone to unlock the museum (which was an interesting but haphazard collection of the 100 year history of the place).  We then went to the playground to play and have a snack — gotta love friends who, though they don’t have to be gluten-free, virtually never fail to make and bring gluten-free brownies to share.  After that, we stopped at the town’s lone grocery store (Bashas’ — I heart local stores!), got candy and cold drinks, and headed home by way of the Arizona 97, a hilly, scenic, high desert two-lane byway which I’m certain I’ve never been on in my life.

Other than me realizing about 15 miles on the far side of Wickenburg that I was about to run out of gas, necessitating that I turn around to fuel up, thereby losing an additional half-hour+, the ride home went smoothly.  We arrived a little after 6 p.m. to my smiling hubby who already had the grill going, bless him.

And then Allison’s Joel and my Wesley went down the street to collect a neighbor boy, and the boys had a sleepover for Joel & Wesley’s birthday (the two boys are birthday twins — same day, same year), and stayed up until 11 p.m.

I was beat.  Tired.  Exhausted.  Drained.

All in all, though, it was a wonderful day, made all the better by flexible friends whose company we enjoy, no matter how badly my ill-made plans fall to pieces.


Balancing the busy season

There’s a fine line, sometimes, between being refreshingly honest and complaining.  I sincerely hope I’m the former.

I really don’t like to be busy.  I don’t know if it’s that, at heart, I’m naturally lazy (I hope not), or that really, my best “work” is not that which requires activity.  I don’t know.  But, anticipating seasons like the one upon which I’m embarking can, if I let it, really stress me out and rob my joy.

I look upon this past spring and wonder how I survived.  On top of homeschooling and church, we had Little League (usually four nights a week), two weekly small groups (one for my husband, and one for me), plus a bi-weekly homeschooling art class, and a homeschooling group on the off-weeks.  Plus, all the activities and tasks which allow a family and home to function.  And an ill mother and the puzzle of my youngest daughter’s diet and health.

Fiala's current fave

Seasons like that necessitate that I be highly structured and organized, with which I have a love/hate relationship.  I get a lot done when my life is highly structured, but it…  I don’t know.  I just don’t like it.  I miss the freedom, and the opportunity to, say, respond to that little pleading, upturned face, and just sit down on the kitchen floor in the midst of dinner prep and read The Shy Little Kitten to my youngest, without the pressure of knowing what it’s going to do to our schedule, should dinner be 15 minutes late.

But, weathering this past spring gives me the courage — literally — to say, “OK.  We can do two small groups, and it’s going to be all right.  I will live and not die.”

That sounds so stupid and melodramatic, but it’s true.

My life is full of good things and blessings.  It really is.  And, it has been my observation that the enemy takes evil delight in taking our blessings and framing them — just so — in our minds so that they appear to be a detriment of one sort or another.  At least, I’m vulnerable to that:  I’m tempted to see the dark cloud behind every silver lining.  And, that’s not good.  Still, neither do I want to be dishonest and say, “I can do everything!  And it all makes me happy!  And it’s easy!  Being stretched is fun!”  Because, truly, even with all the good things in my life, sometimes it just seems like there’s too much of… something, and what I’d really rather be doing is putting my back against a shady tree beside a small stream, and reading a book with one eye, and with my other, watching my kids play.  And there’s too little of that, and too much of the other, and, frankly, I’ve not yet learned what the balance is between seeking Godly peace, and simply being lazy and self-serving and yearning for the idyllic.

Also, I’m taking into consideration:

  • This week is my youngest son’s 9th birthday.  We have a day-long outing scheduled (with a couple of other families), and an overnighter with two of Wesley’s friends.  (Obligingly, another friend of mine has offered to keep my older two boys overnight with her oldest son, thus there is no net gain of children.)
  • This week, we do start the small group/kinship season again, which, in many ways, is always so wonderful.  I’m truly glad, each week, when I look into the faces of those in group with me, and I hear the teaching — which frequently is just what I needed to hear — and I participate in discussion, and ministry, and even leading worship (which I really, really love)…  I so often think, “I am so pleased to be able to be here.”  Yet, the logistics of making it happen can nearly tip me over the edge.  One weekly night, my husband stays home with our dear passel of children, and on another night, I stay home while he does the same thing at his group.  Each scenario has its challenges.
  • This week, we started having my parents back over for dinner.  For literally a decade, my mother and stepdad have been coming over for a weekly dinner.  But, this past year saw a dramatic decrease in that, both because of me being distraught over Fiala’s health and how to feed her (I’m not distressed over that anymore, but she still is difficult to feed, and I have adjusted myself to making two meals, every mealtime)… and my mother’s health has been in serious decline, with three major hospital stays over the last year.  My mother and I also had a row a couple of months ago, our first in years and years, the end of which had her proclaiming that she never wanted to talk with me again.  That was distressing.  My stepdad and I came to the conclusion that it was her ill health “talking”, which is so odd, because my mother has forever been resolute and reasonable.  It’s very unlike her to be changeable and petulant.  But, bless God for that, because after sending me a few peace offerings (which is also unlike her) of a number of gluten-free grocery/convenience items, plus a good book, she asked if we couldn’t, please, start our dinners back up.  HOW COULD I SAY NO??!?? I couldn’t.  I can’t!  I don’t want to.  I dearly want to spend that time with my parents.  Dearly.  Yet, it’s one more thing on the plate, so to speak.  This Monday, just my stepdad came over, as my mother is in Illinois with her mother.  Same with this coming Monday.  After that, it will be the two of them, but only once every other week.
  • And, literally weighing on me is the fact that I’ve put on 25 lbs since January, and am now back to my pre-pregnancy (before Fiala) weight.  That’s not a good thing.  I am very uncomfortable with myself, literally, yet after a year+ of living on a hyper-restricted diet for her sake, it’s hard to Just Say No to chocolate chips.  🙂  But, I have decided that I have to do something so the weight doesn’t keep piling on, and that’s difficult, because I’m not a dieter, yet I’m aware that I simply can’t stay the way I am right now.  I haven’t yet figured out exactly what I’m going to do.
  • And, I’m in the midst of… distilling… choosing… seeking some wisdom from my Father… about some direction for my life for the next couple of years (at least)… and it’s unclear…  I’ve been meaning to fast, but I keep forgetting!  After about five solid years of either being pregnant or nursing, I got out of the habit.  Now, it’s like, “OK.  I need to fast.  Monday.  No, that won’t work.  Parents over for dinner.  OK.  Tuesday.  Tuesday it is!” then Tuesday happens and I forget until mid-morning after two cups of coffee, a banana, some almonds, and a bowl of granola.  Etc.  So, I need to figure that out, too.  😀

And other stuff.

I really just need God.  I need His presence, I need His peace, His wisdom, His priorities, His heart, even His energy…

I closed another recent post with this same thing, but it is so on my heart:

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!  How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!  For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?  Who knows enough to give him advice?  And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.  Romans 11:33-36 NLT

New Facebook page for OSC!

It dawned on me, not too long ago, that people who don’t know me in real life may want to follow my blog on their Facebook page.  Now, I’m certainly not twisting anyone’s arm, but if you wanna do it — there you go ——–>  On the right.

I messed up the code, twiddling with it, and now it’s not updating status and people.  I shall work on that soon, and then you can see your smiling little FB profile pic right on my blog!  😀 OK.  I fixed it so that it’s now updating, but the profile pics aren’t showing up.  That’ll have to do for now, because I’ve already spent an hour and a half getting my little page up and running, and fixing the problems that inevitably crop up.  Time to go make dinner!  My stepdad is coming over tonight.  🙂  Pork loin roast on the grill, steamed broccoli, salad, and something with red-skinned and Yukon gold potatoes, as yet undetermined.

In which my prayer revives a bird. Maybe.

I have really bad eyes.  Really bad.  I dream about winning the lottery (which we don’t play) and the first thing I would do is get lasik.  I have 20-300 vision in one eye, and 20-450 in the other.  Contacts correct my vision to nearly 20-20, and glasses correct my vision to… 20-25 or something like that.  My eyes, though, don’t like contacts, so I only wear them two or three days a week.

This is the bane of my birdwatching:  I can’t see.

Really, you MUST own one.

That’s an exaggeration, of course, but I think that it’s ironically humorous that I would really love a hobby that requires sharp eyesight.  On the rare times my hubby and I are able to go out birding together, he, with his Six Million Dollar Man robot vision, spots birds from afar, and starts describing them to me as I squint in the direction where he’s pointing, and furiously flip through my Sibley guide as I think, with a twinge of envy, “I can’t believe he can see that bird that well, from that far away.”  We make a good team, actually.

If I could balance my desire to wake up early to watch birds with my propensity to read books late into the night, things would be perfect:  I’d be able to wake up much earlier in order to accomplish everything I’d like to, early in the morning, having several hours in which to do so.  As it is, though, I typically have only a half-hour or so of quiet on the back patio with which to start my day.  Occasionally, I take out my Sibley guide and a pair of binoculars.  However, my primary purpose of this patio-time is to read my Bible and pray for a bit, before the chaos sets in.  My spirit is willing, but my flesh is easily distracted.  If I do take my bird stuff out with me, I invariably spend my whole time watching birds instead of spending time with my Father…  He created birds, with all their intricacy and unique qualities, and it’s not like I think He’s bothered by my compulsive birding, but I really do need that time — too brief as it is — to drink in some wisdom and feel His Spirit settle on mine.  So, I usually JUST SAY NO to birding in the early morning, at least official, equipped birding (contacts, binocs, guide).

Because of this, most mornings find just me in my glasses, with my coffee, Bible, and journal, outside.  I must, when a bird tempts me by a flash of yellow or an unrecognized warble, look up and try to find the source.  However, because of my bad eyes, this is usually some source of frustration, because I just can’t see sharply enough to actually identify anything, unless I see it on frequent occasions, or unless it swoops low on the stretch of lawn between the patio and the trees.  So, usually, in my devotion-cum-not-real-birding time, if I spot an interesting bird, it’s never well enough to officially ID the bird, and make a note in my book.  It’s more like, “This morning, I think I saw a…” which, really, if you’re a birder, is a very unsatisfactory state in which to be.

On several occasions in the last couple of weeks, I have thought I have seen a female or juvenile male Black-headed Grosbeak.  I could tell, well enough, that it had sparrowish markings on its back, that its beak was very finchy, its breast was orangey, and there was bright yellow under its wings.  However, that would put the bird quite out-of-range — I’ve only seen Black-headed Grosbeaks in the mountains of Colorado, and if it was a juvenile, that would mean that he was likely born here in the desert, which I thought very unlikely.  So, he just remained my mystery bird.

Until this morning.

I saw him fly from one tree to another, remarking to myself, “He has a LOT of yellow under his wings.  Oh, he’s swooping this way… closer…  OH!!”  I leaped to my feet, jumping aside as I watched my poor bird dive at a fast clip right into the window directly behind me.


He immediately fell to the concrete patio below, belly up.

Thus began a solid… five or ten minutes (I’m really not sure how much time passed) of me both observing the bird, feeling badly for doing things like saying to myself, “Oh, his bill is bicolored!  The lower half is even a bit rosy!  Should I get my camera?  Should I pick him up?”  I had visions of a shoebox with leaves and a soft cloth in it.  “Is he just stunned?  I can see him breathing.  He’s blinking his eyes.  Would picking up a bird who has just whumped into a window endanger his spine?  Whom would I call for bird rehabilitation?  Maricopa County something or other…”

All those questions were alternated with observances of his plumage and the like.  I even contemplated getting out a ruler, thinking, “I’ve never been this close to a live bird who might let me actually measure it!”

I told you I was a bird nerd.

Then, with a quick motion and a flutter of wings, he flipped to his feet.  I thought he might fly away, but he didn’t.  This gave me a number of minutes to observe the plumage on his back, again feeling half-badly as I did so.

His head, then, began to dip.  He sunk lower, though still on his feet, and rested his beak on the concrete patio.  His head tipped a little to the right.  He started gently heaving sighs.  “This does not look good,” I thought.

I decided to pray for him.  I even reached out my hand toward him, though I didn’t touch.  I just asked Jesus to have mercy on His little creature, and to give him enough strength to fly away and heal, somewhere safe.

Right about that time, my husband poked his head out the door to tell me that our daughter Fiala was crying, and had a raging fever.

The bird startled, fluttered, and flew low across the yard, stopping in a low bush, behind a Little Tykes playhouse given to us by a friend.

I went inside to tend to my darling little girl who is, indeed, very ill.  (She’s napping right now.)

At lunch, I had a chance to pull out the Sibley guide.  Sure enough.  Black-headed Grosbeak.  First-winter male.  Bright lemon yellow under his wings and on the vent, no streaking on the sides or flanks… I could describe him further, but lemme tell you, I have virtually no doubt — the only odd thing was that the lower mandible did have just a hint of rosiness to it, like a female.  Still.

Looked very much like this guy:

Thanks to the Pacific NW Birder blog for this pic!

Martin and I checked the spot to where the bird had flown, later in the morning, and there was no sign of him.  I hope he’s well.

So, I don’t know if my prayer revived him, or that it was Martin startling him when he poked his head out the door — a true “flight” response, or what.  But, I’m happy that he didn’t die.  🙂

Tears, prayer, power, and courage (and a foot pump, too)

I remember, not long after my first son was born, someone said to me, “Karen, you used to be so cold.  Since you’ve become a mother, you cry at everything!”  I think she meant it as a compliment, like I’d come so far in such a short time.  It stung, and obviously, 12ish years later, it has stuck with me.  But, I think perhaps it is true.  Was true.  Whatever.  I’ve never been mega-highly-emotional, at least not in the classic sense of the Emotional Woman.  But, motherhood has definitely softened me.

Maybe it’s genetic.  My sister, who gave birth to her first child on August 1, said in response to a friend, “It’s true, I was not the one we thought would be all about “blessed motherhood,” but here I am, and I am indeed very blessed. Not sure how that happened, exactly.”  That made me so happy.

Ah, I’m getting myself off-course.

What I meant to talk about was crying about something yesterday.

Being that I’m still me, who thinks about things way too much, I’ve thought about it, and have concluded that the thing I cry most over is this:  People for whom I can see freedom.  I can see courage.  I can see a life that God has planned for them.  I can see their future.  Hope for them wells up in me.  Expectation, even joy over future events, or at least potential future events.  It comes to me in a instant.  It’s a feeling, a knowing, and I sense it very strongly.  It happens to me often when I’m praying for others.  I think it might be a prophetic sense of that person’s potential, given to me by the Holy Spirit, which enables me to have immense faith as I pray for them, because I can SEE what God has in mind for His dear child.

BUT, here’s where I cry:  They’re not walking in it.  The life I see for them, they’re not living.  They are depressed.  Or angry.  Or discouraged.  Or fearful.  Or frustrated, locked up, eyes closed.  Lacking in hope.  Any or all of those.

I can cry right now, thinking about a few people.  Weep.

I get so angry — SO ANGRY — at the enemy, angry that he’s successfully sold them a bill of goods.  Angry at his deceit.  Angry at his lies.  Angry that he’s been able to squash that precious person under his thumb, and keep them disabled from being the person who God has called them to be, and living the life God has planned for them.

It makes me angry and sad, but I also feel that hope of what is possible, because all things — ALL THINGS — are truly possible with our mighty God, creator of the universe, of things both infinite and infinitesimal, and a happiness, joy wells up in me, a profound sense of the Father’s love, and I cry.

I pray, with a growl in my voice, a growl of conviction, of feeling, of intensity, for the power of God to come wipe out the enemy’s plans for that person, and for God’s plan, and His power, and His love, and His hope, and His peace to reign instead, that His plans would triumph, and that the enemy would be given a swift and hard boot.  I pray with the thought, with the picture of me, as the intercessor, plucking things from the heart of God, and depositing it into the mind and heart of the person for whom I’m praying, pulling it from God’s heart, and placing my hand on their chest, which then fills with His heart… an impartation.

I got a picture, yesterday:  It was of one of those foot air pumps, and the person for whom I was praying was like a deflated air mattress.  I just asked that I be allowed to be the person who steps on the pump, and that His breath, His life, His courage would pour into the deflated person, that their life would fill with His life, and that this would bring the person to effectiveness and fulfillment in Him.  (Not that anyone really longs to be an air mattress, but everyone DOES long to have purpose in their life, and to do whatever it is that they are called to do, and that their lives be meaningful and count for something — and a deflated air mattress is not doing what it was “created” to do.)

But, even as I prayed, I was aware that He created the pump (so to speak), and He created the mattress, and He gives the power to man the pump.  Everything is from Him, and through Him, and to Him — to God be the glory forever.

Pancakes (Vegan, gluten-free, corn-free, rice-free)

Yes, these are vegan, so there is no dairy, and no eggs.  And, they’re whole-grain, which is all the rage these days.

But, are they any good?  Yes.  Yes, they are.  I started making these pancakes for my youngest daughter, Fiala, who has some serious dietary restrictions.  But, when the rest of my family found out that these were not only edible, but tasty, everyone wanted some.  Now, when I make these, I make ’em for everyone.  They stand up well under butter (or butter substitute of your choice — we love Earth Balance Soy-Free), real maple syrup, and jam.  This last Saturday, I made a faux Chatilly Cream topping with Tofutti’s Sour Supreme, vanilla, cinnamon, and powdered sugar, which we dolloped on top of our jam-filled pancakes.

Beware “light” syrups — I haven’t tried any on these (I don’t buy them!), but I think the water content would make these pancakes soggy.

Normally, I like my pancakes fluffy.  But, once I concluded that I was just never going to get a FLUFFY result while taking out dairy, egg, rice, potato, and corn, I was content.  So, the resulting product is a little thicker than a crepe, and a little thinner than your standard pancake.  The good news about that, though, is that they cook in a snap.

They are also a tad darker than most pancakes, given the flour content.  And, speaking of dark, you cannot omit the sugar, or you will end up with… flatbread that doesn’t look like a pancake, because it won’t brown.

But, if you can hang with all of that, you can make these easy, tasty pancakes!

They are also high-protein and compared to similar products, very low carb.  Per good-sized pancake, they contain:

  • 4.8 g protein
  • 2.4 g sugar
  • 3.0 g fiber
  • 23.8 g total carbohydrates

Vegan Pancakes
Makes 10

  • 3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups oat flour (no substitutions)
  • 1 cup garbanzo flour (no substitutions)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or other oil)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 cups water
  • Optional:
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1-2 scoops (45 mg each) pure stevia extract

Combine all ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Batter will very likely have small lumps (from the garbanzo flour).  Let the batter sit 5-15 minutes, and whisk again.  After sitting and re-whisking, the batter will have thickened slightly and be very smooth.

Right before cooking, add:

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Whisk thoroughly, but do no over-mix.  Lightly oil a griddle (I use olive oil on a seasoned cast iron griddle), and heat over medium-high heat.  Use 1/3 cup of batter at a time.  Cook approximately 40 seconds per side, flipping when top is bubbly, sides are slightly dried out, and bottom is well-browned.

Use within 48 hours, or freeze unused portion, separating each pancake with a sheet of waxed paper.

Accordion worship, “kinship” worship, birth sadness, learning to mother, and a few more groceries

  • Sunday morning, I was sitting next to my pastor (which virtually never happens — but his wife was out of town, my hubby was in the back of church for some reason, and there were other people on “our” row, so Dennis and I were thrown together) during announcements, and I saw that, instead of “kinships”, the church is now calling our midweek home groups “small groups.”  Hm.  I asked Pastor Dennis quietly about this, and he mentioned that it was intentional, and that there were other changes on the way, rather an update in image, from what I could tell.  “Maybe you’ll be dying your hair blonde!” he joked.  I laughed, envisioning it.  It feels good to have a relationship with my pastor where I can laugh with him.  I also disrupted a wedding reception about a week ago, laughing uncontrollably and way-too-loudly at his HILARIOUS description of the Worst Worship Ever, led by a man in Scotland, on a 120 bass accordion.  I didn’t blog about it then, because I was afraid that, somehow, it might get back to the poor chap who was so proud of his Beer Barrel Polka-esque “modern” worship… but then, Dennis mentioned it in his message yesterday morning at church, saying he didn’t care if the man heard, saying with a laugh, “the truth shall set you free!”  (The story is at the very start of the message…)
  • Speaking of kinship/small groups, I will be leading worship (on an acoustic guitar, NOT an accordion!) in one again this year, on Thursday nights.  The new kinship/small group season starts next week.  If you’re in the Phoenix area and you wanna come, let me know!   The leader is a Phoenix police officer, so I feel safe offering the general invite.  😀
  • I heard a sad birth story this weekend… mother induced three days before her EDD because she is small and the doc was afraid that the baby was “too big”.  Long story short, she had a vacuum-assisted delivery, and bled profusely, which led to her needing a transfusion.  😦  Induction… JUST SAY NO! Her baby was just a smidge over 8 lbs, though he was very long for his weight, which may have led the doctor to believe (via ultrasound) that the baby was going to be ginormous.  The poor, precious woman.  My heart absolutely breaks for her.  But, stories like that re-energize my drive to be a natural birth advocate.  But a kind one, who doesn’t make a woman feel like crap if the delivery goes awry.  I’ve been on way too many websites whose intent, it seems, is to make women feel like they are rotten, if they make choices, or allow themselves to be led into “choices” (IOW, informed consent, but not educated consent) that end up harming themselves or their baby.  Dear Jesus, help me always be compassionate and tender towards mothers.
  • Regarding mothering, a friend, pregnant with her second child, posted on Facebook about reading a horrid book on preparing for one’s second-born… and it reminded me, among other things, about how I virtually never read parenting books.  When I have difficulty with a mothering situation, I find someone who seems to be excelling in that area, and ask her, “What do you do?”  Not only do I gain pinpointed advice from a trusted source, but requesting advice from another mother always encourages her about her parenting, and the interaction brings our relationship just a wee bit closer.  Voila!  Books are better than people.  Most of the time.  🙂
  • And because I grew weary of blogging about groceries for a week, my remaining faves about which I (apparently foolishly) committed to blog are: Cholula, Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra, Marathon of Miracles food bars, Hansen’s diet soda, Kettle Krinkle Cut Chips, and My Nana’s tortilla chips.

Little back-yard birding interlude

Cooler weather has arrived.  Sort of.  “Cooler weather” here means that the highs are only in the 90s, and the early mornings are down into the upper 60s.  I even had to wear a little sweater on the back patio this morning, which was so nice.

Cooler weather also means that more birds come out to play.  There are a large number of birds who stay here year ’round, but summertime sees mostly house finches, house sparrows, grackles, and mourning doves.  There are other birds out there, but as far as what I see in my back yard, the summer pickings are pretty slim.  Hot afternoons are eerie, with not a chirp to be heard, nor a flit to be seen.

I do see hummingbirds here, through the summer.  Odd:  in my last house (in a less far-flung location), I would most often see Black-chinned Hummingbirds.  Costa’s Hummingbirds favor this location.  Watching a Costa’s try to sip from each of the five fake flowers on my hummingbird feeder led me to whip up some simple syrup to fill it.  Then, I broke the feeder, and now it won’t hold any liquid.  😦

(a snap I took of a Costa's, from a blog post of mine a few years ago!)

Now, for the last couple of weeks, I have seen, almost daily, a family (I believe) of Cactus Wrens — two adults and a juvenile:

(not my pic; click for pic's location)

Yesterday, I saw a really large and thick-billed Curved-billed Thrasher, and I had to giggle, because he was… thrashing around in the gravel.

Thanks to photographer James Prudente for his permission to use this stunning pic

And, this morning, I caught a glimpse — both by sight, and in hearing the flight call — of what I’m nearly certain is an Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler.  I got just a flash of yellow, but for certain caught the charcoal-colored wing with the white patch of coverts, while it was in flight — breeding plumage, still.

On a number of successive mornings, I also have seen three juvenile Mourning Doves;  I’m pretty certain they’re siblings.  I got excited at first, because I thought they were adult Inca Doves.  Sadly, no such luck;  when they took to flight, I realized my error.

I heart birds.

Did I ever mention that Fiala loves birds, too?  I’m tickled to have a birder-in-training.  She is genuinely interested in birds;  I haven’t bribed her or anything.  🙂

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