Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why are you asking me "Why?"?

I made a comment about mind mapping yesterday and since then I have had people asking me "Why?", and I don't know how to answer them. Every year for my birthday (which happens to coincide with New Year's) I take the day to look back at the year past and look forward to the year coming. I wouldn't say I make resolutions per se, but I do like to have a project to work on.
The biggest thing for me is that it drives me nuts to sit still and feel like I'm doing nothing to move my life forward. I used to think everyone did that, but more and more I am learning that a lot of people just carry on day after day in their lives without giving much thought to it all. I suppose each person's past would play a great role in how they live out their present and plan for their future. And don't go getting all Biblical at me about planning for the future. I am well aware of the folly of future planning. BUT, I think if your plans are prayed over and made from the desires of your heart and involve the allowance of God to evaporate your plans in an instant, there is nothing wrong with plans. Plans give me something to hang on to. Plans give me a focus. Plans give me something to do. And ironically, plans keep me flexible and able to adapt to whatever God hands me each day.

I have 4 significant life events that were completely out of my control that have contributed to me and my planning.

1. A near death experience in March 1994.
I stopped in to our little local hospital on the way home from lunch one day because I wasn't feeling the greatest. Nothing I could really put my finger on, but I just didn't feel "right". I was looked over by the Dr and declared completely fine and sent on my way. I had recently started the pill (I was getting married in two months) and she figured it was something to do with that. I can only tell you that I wasn't convinced and asked if she would do a blood test (the only explanation for that is God). It wasn't busy and she ordered the test. (Let me also point out that I really had NO symptoms that would indicate I needed a blood test or that I was even sick - no fever, no pain, vitals were normal, etc.) After waiting for about an hour, the Dr returned with another Dr and they asked me if anyone was with me. I said "no", and they suggested I call someone to come and be with me. According to my blood work I had a massive infection, but they didn't know where it was or what kind it was, and I was being admitted. For the rest of that day I was watched round the clock by a collection of nurses, until just after midnight when I lost consciousness and a fever spiked. My appendix had ruptured the previous day and I had been a walking, talking body of toxic waste since then. The next days were two more surgeries in order to save my life and then 2 more weeks in the hospital. When I saw my surgeon for a follow up 6 weeks later he told me if I hadn't asked for that blood test and had been sent home, I would have died in my sleep that night. He had never seen anything like it before.
When all this happened I wasn't married yet and I didn't have children. I had a future that looked exciting, romantic and full of adventure. The promises of the world were before me. My fiance and I had big plans. Almost dying made me realize that I was kept alive for a reason. God had a plan for me and it obviously hadn't been completed yet. What I thought the plan was then is VASTLY different than the plan I would walk over the next 15 years. I had the plan wrong, but the purpose right. God's plan hadn't been fulfilled in me yet.

2. I have a child who lives with a chronic, severe mental illness.
He is my second son and I knew something wasn't right from the time he was about 2 months old. After the loss of my marriage, and moving around the world, he was diagnosed at the age of 3 and hospitalized for the first time at the age of 5. He has been depressed and suicidal for the majority of his 13 years. I can't adequately explain the lack of control I have over 98% of the things that happen in our world because of mental illness. He has the best care and the best medications, but mental illness is still winning. It is impossible to plan for anything, let alone the "future". The uncertainty of life is made very clear when you live along side mental illness. It as a world with very little light, very few people and a lot of despair. It is also financially, mentally and physically exhausting.
This is where I learned that plans are for the weak and faith is for the strong. So my "plans" are my stubbornness. Plans are the last of the fight in me. Don't get me wrong, my faith is strong and I lean heavily on it, but I am an imperfect, fallen person and my plans are sometimes the only thing that keep me moving forward. I know it should be God, but sometimes it is not. My plans have failed to come to fruition many times because of mental illness and every time they fail I am reminded of Jeremiah 29:11-13 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord."
So for all of my failed plans, there are the plans that succeed and are truly blessed by God.

3. The loss of all of my "stuff".
I was on an extended trip to Canada with my two boys when my husband called me and announced that he didn't want to be married anymore. I was in Vancouver to seek medical care for our youngest son (he hadn't been diagnosed yet) and my husband was back at home in London, England. The boys and I had our suitcase of clothes with us, but because of the timing of events I was never able to return to England to go through our belongings and every thing I owned was sold or thrown away. Clothes, books, kids toys, photos (baby and wedding) all of our papers, etc. It was the equivalent of losing all your belongings to a natural disaster. My husband dismissed our belongings when he dismissed our family. I never realized how attached to things I was at the time, but it turned out to be a turning point in my faith and in how I lead my life now. It is hard to have all of your worldly possessions at the whim of someone else. I was very angry for a long time.
One of my biggest goals at the moment is to become as possession free as possible. By the time I turn 50, I don't want to own anything beyond the personal things I need on a day to day basis. How does this fit in to planning? I have a dream of getting on a plane the day I turn 50 and not having an attachment in the world except for my sons. I want to see and serve around the world and I want my ties to be to people and experiences, not things. I don't want to be remembered by the things I have acquired. I want to be remembered for the things I have done.
(more on this to come in a future post....)

4. My mother.
I'm not sure if it's fair to call my mother a significant life event, but most of you will understand what I mean. My mom passed away a year ago. We had an interesting and complicated relationship and it was a VERY different experience being her daughter than for other people who were her friend. It's hard to remember that when people talk fondly of my mother and how much they miss her, that they had a good and friendly relationship with her. Here's the thing... as harsh as it is to say, I didn't really have much respect for my mom. I appreciate the things she did for me throughout my life, but I didn't respect her and I never wanted to be like her. My mom let life happen to her. She never fought back against the crap or did anything to make her life better. When she and my dad divorced she became bitter, angry and depressed (all totally natural responses) and she never moved past that.
When she passed away, I was tasked (along with my aunt) to go through her house and get rid of everything. That was the turning point for me and the last push I needed to start down the road I am now on. I was angry cleaning out her house. The amount of waste and selfishness that was in every drawer and closet was overwhelming. I have always fought against my mom and cleaning out her house was the final battle.
My mom has pushed me to my current plans. Because of my mom's lack of plans, I learned how important plans really are. I learned that making a plan and giving direction to your life is part of what will keep you moving in a direction. I learned that plans and a purpose will keep you from sinking and letting life pass you by. I learned that the expression "Life is what happens while you're busy making plans." is a very true statement. My mom made more pointless lists than anyone I know. She was great at writing it down, but seemed to have no ability to carry out any of the plans. She is where I learned that you have to have drive behind your plans. My mom disagreed with the majority of my plans, but if I had listened to her, there are so many things I wouldn't have done. I learned from my mom what can happen to your life if you DON'T have plans.

So, why am I mind mapping? I am mind mapping because I need the illusion of some control in my life. I need to know that I am working towards something. So much of my world is out of my control (and I'm ok with that) that I need to have a purpose that I have some say in. It's ok if none of it works out the way I want, but at least I won't have been sitting idly by watching life out of the window (really it would be being watched out of the car window, because all I do is drive kids to their places...). Ultimately, I want to grow and become a better person. I want to make sure I'm using my gifts and talents in a productive way. I want to learn new things. I want to achieve new things. I want to one day be able to fulfill my real plan - the Jeremiah 29:11 plan.
And that is why I am mind mapping.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I'm just too lazy.

I had big plans for a blog post yesterday, but do you know what I did instead? I took a nap. I am just too lazy to put fingers on the keyboard and pull the thoughts out of my brain. And don't be fooled by these words either... these are just "tide you over" words until I get less lazy and write about something real.
This isn't going to even be a post looking back over the year of 2011. Nope. Too lazy. There isn't even a funny story to tell. Sorry.
I am sitting on my couch, the dogs and one boy are sleeping (yes, they are lazy too) and the other boy is at his dad's. The Christmas tree and mantle are lit up and the rest of the lights are off (I am NOT one of you Christmas freaks who has the tree pitched over the balcony already) and I am sitting with my computer, reading other people's blogs and drinking a cup of tea. I am going to meet a friend for lunch and if I feel really inspired and the wind won't blow me off the dyke, I will go for a run later.
I have many thoughts popping around my brain and ideas for blog posts are piling up, so there is some good stuff to come - I promise. But for today, I am going to enjoy no stress. I am going to look around my world and be content. I am going to be thankful. I am going to relax.
Tomorrow is the day my world can go back to normal.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I hit the wall.

You all know by now that I am working my way through a few different programs to get lean and mean. I am doing sit ups, push ups, dips and squats. They are each a 6 week program to reach a goal. When I started the programs I read through all the stuff that talked about expectations and pushing yourself, but not pushing yourself so hard that you break. The stuff also talked about "the wall". I was assured that at some point in the programs I would hit a wall and have to repeat a week before I could continue on. I, of course, thought that was ridiculous and I would definitely NOT be taking the time to repeat a week.

I hit the wall tonight.

My body will just not co-operate. I simply can not heave myself up for one more dip or push up than this week is requiring. While I was doing dips tonight my arms were shaking and my shoulders were burning. At one point I stopped mid dip thinking I would be stuck there for the rest of the night because I couldn't make my arms move up or down. And next week there is a fairly big jump in the reps. The most disappointing thing is that this will put me a week off of meeting my goals by my birthday. I know, I need to keep focussed on the big picture.

On an entirely different note, I went in to a store today for the first time in a VERY long time (grocery stores not included). Dylan had a bunch of gift cards to spend at Chapters and they were burning a hole in his pocket so we headed out to lighten his wallet. The store was packed with crazy people. Having not participated in any Christmas shopping this year, it was kind of a shock to the system. I used to LOVE to shop and be out with the people filling my arms up with bags full of treats and gifts. And now the whole process makes me cringe. The thought of spending money on things that I can get in other ways (library, borrowing, thrift stores, etc) seems almost irresponsible. I'm starting to sound sickening (I know, I can hear it!), but the point is, I am happy with where I have come in the past year. I am glad that I am no longer held hostage to the consumerism that society promotes to me. I know I am not part of the norm, but that's ok - I never did like to be in the middle of the pack. Don't get me wrong, there are times that I long to be spending money on something frivolous or buying something just so I can feel like I am like everyone else (how stupid is that?), but I committed to stick to a no spend plan and I am happier and more relaxed because of it. When there are not bags of stuff coming in to the house, the house is a lot less cluttered. And a lot less clutter means a lot less stress. And with no extra money to be buying things that aren't food, meds or gas, it takes a lot of pressure off. I will definitely continue my minimalism quest in to 2012.

And P.S. - I received so many private messages about the post I wrote about my ex marriage. It is amazing to me that God uses my little blog to help people. Thanks to everyone that shared their stories with me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wait... what WAS that???

I think I have talked here before about my at home, no expense necessary, workout regime - haven't I? I am on a mission to complete the 200 sit ups, 200 squats, 100 push ups and 150 dips program by my birthday (January 2). I work on a schedule of reps 6 days a week and then I walk/run 3 days a week. To be honest, the reps schedule I do without fail, but I am not so consistant at the run/walk 3 days a week part. As in, I haven't done it once this week. I know, I am only cheating myself. But that's not the point of this blog.
Tonight, as I was on dip number 18, I glanced sideways and saw the outline of a muscle in my shoulder/arm that I am pretty sure I haven't seen since 1987. That spurred me on to more dips so I could check it out to make sure it was what I thought it was and NOT a new fat roll that was casting a shadow. Can you believe it? It was really a muscle. AND, there was one on the other shoulder as well. Of course you can only see this muscle when I'm heaving myself up from the bottom of my dip, so all you people who will be craning your necks in church to check out my new found muscles.... save yourself the trouble - there is nothing to see.
Another success tonight? While I was on sit up number 57 I opened my eyes to check out the lay of the land and I'm pretty sure I am down a stomach fat roll. Or maybe the big one above my belly button absorbed the medium one below it. Who cares? I say. As long as I can't see it, it isn't there. (hmmmmm, that is a fairly bad life philosophy, but I think it can apply here.)
Ever since I gave my scale to Cheryl (I was getting a bit obsessive with it.) I have had to rely on new ways to measure my progress. I did have one cheat weigh in when I stopped by her house a week ago, but that's it. I am so determined to make my goals by my birthday. I can't think of any better birthday present to myself than to look down at that scale and see the results of effort. If I do it, I will have broken through a weight barrier that I haven't crossed in 15 years. I get excited just thinking about it.
I dream about these things you know. One day I might lie in the bath tub and there will be room for the water to swirl AROUND me. One day I will look down at my stomach and not mistake it for my butt. One day I will walk down the street and there will be daylight between my thighs. One day I will raise my arms and all the hanging down bits will raise up too. And, one day there just might be an angle from my chin to my neck that is closer to 90 degrees rather than 45 degrees. Oh, one day, how I long for you to be here....

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why I miss being married.

I've been thinking a lot about my ex marriage this past week. Probably because I have been emailing with the ex about a kid and the kid's needs and all that emailing has led me to thinking. (you have to understand I don't normally spend much time on this topic as it's not one that leads to thoughts of butterflies and rainbows) All of this thinking has turned distracting and is sometimes depressing and sometimes empowering. Here's the thing... if you were holding a gun to my head and made me choose "married or not married" I would choose "married". I know this is surprising to many of you and to be honest, it is a bit of a surprise to me too. I came out of my marriage shell shocked and a bit worse for wear, but I also know I have become a very strong and faith-filled women because of it. I have always said I would take the me I am today over the me I was back then any day. I can't pick and choose circumstances to wonder what I would be like if I was still married, but I am pretty confident I would be quite a different person. I appreciate where God has taken me in the last 10 years and what He has trusted me with, but at the end of the day, when the house is quiet, I miss having a husband.
You know what the biggest thing is? There is no one to talk to. My ex and I would go to bed early many nights to just lie in bed, in the dark and talk. We'd talk about our days, his students, his research, the kids, our future, our dreams, our families, philosophy, news, travel, education, and on and on. We could talk about anything. That's what I miss. I have great friends and I love them, but it's not the same as having someone to talk with on an ongoing basis. I process things by talking about them - over the course of days, or even months and that's tough with friends.
I have some huge things rolling around in my brain right now and those things are going to need decisions at some point, but it's hard for me to process because there is no sounding board. There's no one to tell me I'm crazy or brilliant or both. :) There is no one to hold me accountable for moving forward and making progress. Everything is on me, 100%, all of the time. Of course, as a Christian, I have God. Walking right along with me, ready and willing to carry the load, offer guidance, available to listen whenever I want to talk and won't be rolling His eyes if that happens to be at 230am. I don't dispute that God is with me always and can provide all those things I'm missing, but it is different. It is hard to find fulfillment and have complete reliance on a God that is not physically present. I wonder how married people do that. I wonder if anyone really does that. Are there people who genuinely rely on God for EVERY single one of their needs? Hmmmmm.....
I know if I was married, I wouldn't. It would be too easy to find many of the things I was missing in a husband. Hmmmmmm.... this is not where I thought this blog post was going.

I have been asked many times, by many people if I would ever get married again. Usually my answer is an unhesitant, clear, "No". I have nothing against marriage, but I've found my groove as a single parent and I can't imagine upsetting that apple cart. (I know, I know, God is bigger than my little apple cart and if He brought along the perfect person it would all work out...) Not only that, but I can't even begin to imagine trying to have sex in this house - I'm just sayin'.

I talk with so many friends who are struggling in their marriages and I know I have friends who are struggling and don't talk about it. Work it through people. I know it's hard in the middle of it and lots of times it doesn't seem worth the effort, but being single is hard. It wears you out. Sure, it's fun at times and there are definitely perks (lots of them actually), but at the end of the day you are alone. Not just the kind of alone you dream about, where no one bugs you, creates a mess for you to clean up, criticizes you, uses your stuff, etc. But the kind of alone that is actually lonely. All the friends in the world can't fill that. As a Christian it is a hard growth curve to truly have God fill that loneliness. I used to think that I was filled up with God, but I was wrong. If I was truly filled by God I wouldn't have a gaping hole longing to be filled by a person. If you are married, unentangle your partner from yourself and God and see who is filling what inside you. Are you relying on God or partner? I think it's taken me 10 years to figure that out (apparently I am an incredibly slow learner).

When I started typing this I thought I missed being married, but maybe I'm just missing God. Hmmmm...

Oh how I wish I was a person who didn't question things and just rolled ignorantly through life. Is it too late to change?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

This was supposed to be MY year.

This past year was supposed to be about me. (I realize the delusion in that sentence, considering I have 2 teenage sons at home.) However, I really wanted to focus on things I wanted to do and I really wanted to meet my weight loss and fitness goals before my next birthday. Well, my birthday is in a month and I am not going to make it. Don't get me wrong, there have been improvements in both diet and exercise, but I am not where I wanted to be and sometimes I don't think I will EVER get there. The year started off with lots of progress, but I stalled out around the end of May and I never really got my mojo back. I continued to eat well, but I lost the motivation to exercise with gusto. So of course, my gut reaction, knowing my birthday is a month away, is to go in to panic mode. I don't really need to eat do I? (Who am I kidding?!) And if I worked out Biggest Loser style for a month, I might at least get close to my goals. But, NO. I am going to fight my gut (literally and figuratively) and continue on at my VERY slow and steady pace. After all, I want to do it right and I want to do it permanently. I have managed to make a life change with my diet by becoming a vegan and sticking with it for a year (small exceptions on our trip when I had dairy and some bites of seafood). I know I will never go back to a traditional diet. I feel better eating as a vegan and that is good enough for me. Now, if only I could conquer the exercise part of it. The gym is too rich for my blood right now, so I've been looking for things to do that I can do anywhere and without equipment. Logically, that would be things like squats, push-ups, sit-ups, dips, etc. And I should be able to get some cardio in with some runs and bike rides. So simple.


It is soooooooo easy to get distracted or be called away when I'm at home. At least at the gym it was an out of sight out of mind situation for the boys. Not so much at home. I need a plan of attack to make it happen. I don't think there is anything I want more than to meet my goals and know that I was able to do it.
After a quick google I found a plan. A 6 week schedule to 200 squats, 200 sit-ups, 100 push-ups and 150 dips. I took the initial test for each one and I didn't suck nearly as much as I thought I was going to! Yay me!
The reps have been put on the calendar and I have an actual plan. I will add in 3 runs a week and reassess in 6 weeks. That will be after my birthday, but oh well. Small victories. I will still be at least 20lbs lighter than my last birthday and 55 lbs lighter than when I started almost 2 years ago (or is it longer than that? I've lost track.). At least I am still going in the right direction.

Yes, this was supposed to by MY year. In some ways it was. I learned to box. I became a vegan. I took the boys on a once in a lifetime kind of trip. I bought a car. I adopted us a beautiful new dog. I got the majority of my house cleaned out and pared WAY down (one room to go!). I paid off debt.
It's good to take stock of the positives - it helps me distance myself from the negatives (and there are plenty). It's almost time to reassess my goals and make new ones for my next year. And in the midst of all the hard stuff that is surrounding me at the moment, that is something I can look forward to.

Friday, November 25, 2011

That's not how I thought it was going to happen.

I have been following a blog by a lady named Jo, who lives in the UK. Her blog is called
Simply Being Mum and she does this great thing called "No Waste Tastes Great". Check out her site and read this post about her Friday routine. She has found a way to greatly reduce the amount of food her family wastes each week and it inspired me quite a while ago. It is amazing how much food we waste without even realizing it. Some of you may be on top of your fridges and pantries but I was NOT and I HATE throwing food in the garbage because it has spoiled in the fridge or on the counter. And do you know what I hate even MORE than throwing food away? Cleaning out the produce drawers in the fridge after things have.... what's the word I'm looking for? Hmmm... How about "deteriorated". I can handle a lot of things, but cleaning out produce slime simply grosses me out.
Anyways, since I discovered Jo's blog, I have been more conscious of what I buy, how I use it and when I use it. My ultimate goal is to have a menu planned for the week and then shop weekly and only buy for the menu. I am close, but not quite there. (I should add in here, that the boys are not a fan of this new shopping strategy, because as a result of my new awareness, there is very little "easy" food in the house. They are slowly adapting and I'm trying to ease the pain by baking a little bit more.)
All of this fits in to my whole quest to travel farther down the minimalism road and simplify our lives as much as possible, but I have found myself getting stuck a bit and hitting the minimalism wall, so to speak. Well, I was forced to move forward today when the shelves in my fridge collapsed. Yes. Collapsed. As in, big noise, things crashing, the door popping open and jars rolling around the floor while the dogs moved in for the kill. You don't know how thankful I was that my fridge was CLEAN and had nothing rotting in it! (I did a big fridge purge and clean before we went on our trip and I have kept it up since we have been home.) I took everything out and surveyed the problem. It appears that the center post that holds the shelves in place let go of the back of the fridge. Upon further inspection, the top screw in that post actually broke off inside the fridge and I can't fix it.
Or is it?
Looking at the stuff on the floor around me, I figured it would all fit back in the fridge without the shelves and we would be A-ok. When we lived in England for all those years, we lived just fine with our tiny little British fridge. (If you've ever been in a British person's house in Britain, you know what I'm talking about. And if you haven't been in a British person's house in Britain, think of a very basic, very small bar fridge.) Therefore, we will be just fine without our much bigger North American style fridge. So, instead of paying someone to come and fix my fridge I am going to use it as incentive to step up my goal of menu planning/shopping and finishing each week with a clean and nearly empty fridge.

FYI - I found this fantastic guide to storing fruit and veg and it has helped a lot with how I use my fridge. Check it out... Fruit and Veg Storage