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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

My husband and I dated for a few years before we got married, living in separate households and reveling in the excitement of coming together every weekend. We’d both been married before, and were now living as divorced single parents. I longed for the time when we could finally blend our households and things could become much simpler.

Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. Things were bumpy when we finally did move in together, mostly because blending a family is hard work. But the other hard part was learning how to work together as a team in every decision when both of us were so used to being independent.

Marriage only made this worse.

Our first year of marriage was really rough. I loved being married to Shawn, but I also recall the many fights we had, the loneliness I felt as I clung to stubbornness, the continued struggle of being two different families in one house, and the daily realizations over how different we were in so many areas.

Things finally did settle down, and our family has learned how to come together in many ways. We still have differences, as many families do, but mostly, we’ve learned which battles are worth fighting and which ones aren’t. I won’t pretend we’re perfect — we’re not. But the place we are now is paradise compared to the darkness we experienced in the beginning.

The biggest reason, I believe, things are much better is because Shawn and I have come together as a solid team through all of this. Every year I’m amazed at how much more I love him than the year before, and how there’s still so much we get to learn about each other. He’s my biggest champion, and I’m his. It makes me excited to see where our marriage will be by year 10, 20, 50 and beyond.

The other day I was thinking about the things that makes our marriage so wonderful, and the following things came to mind:

1. We compliment each other often. When I look in the mirror and am disappointed by what I see, he’s right there behind me to let me know how sexy I look. Just this morning I was bummed out about the number on my scale. He didn’t know this when he asked me to stop what I was doing and take a turn for him. “Damn, I’m a lucky man,” he told me. I know we’re supposed to love ourselves and all, but it sure is helpful when the man I love reminds me every day that he finds me sexy. It goes both ways, too. I think my husband grows more handsome and sexy every day, and I tell him so. It goes beyond looks, too. He’s my biggest cheerleader to the things that mean most to me, helping me to see the positive when I’m stuck in the negative. I tell him how proud I am of him, from the big things to the small. We both try really hard to notice what the other person is doing, and acknowledge those things with words of affirmations.

2. We respect each other’s seasons. Let’s just get right to the point: sometimes I’m not in the mood to have sexy time, especially at the end of my cycle. There’s a particular week when there is nothing he can do to awaken the sleeping dragon. What I love about my husband is that he understands this and is completely respectful about it. However, it would be completely selfish of me to let this mood control our sex life. There has to be a give and take when it comes to sex. Sometimes I fight through my “don’t touch me” feelings for his benefit. And vice versa, when I’m in the zone and he’s not, he’ll make sure I’m taken care of. The benefit? More times than not we’re in the same space, and I firmly believe it’s because we understand the give and take, and respect each other’s moods.

3. We spice things up. Right now, our lives involve a very busy household, teenagers, hectic jobs, and we just moved his mother into our home. All of that is a combination for passionless nights as we collapse into bed so we can do it all again the next day…even with everything I mentioned in #2. Luckily, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. I won’t divulge our secrets here, but if things are feeling fairly routine between the sheets, perhaps it’s time to get a little creative. Is there something you’ve wanted to try, but haven’t because it feels a bit too naughty? Maybe it’s time you let down some of your guard. You might be surprised at what happens. 😉

4. We plan for uninterrupted time daily (even if it’s just 10 minutes). Our lives have only gotten busier since our earlier days. Two out of three of our blended kids are in college, plus I started college two years ago. We both have demanding jobs. Plus, we’re caretaking for his mother. Life is crazy busy. There are some days I only see him in the morning while I’m getting ready for work, and in the evening when we go to bed. Still, we make it a point to ask about the other person’s day, and then LISTEN, phones away, completely focused. This is one of my favorite things about our marriage, that we still have so much to share with each other every day, and this uninterrupted time becomes some of our best conversations.

5. We support each other as much as possible. Shawn is a gardener. I am not. But I love the outcome of his efforts when we have fresh tomatoes in the summer. Usually, he’s the one out there watering. But (when I remember) I’ll go out and water, too, simply so he doesn’t have to. I wanted a dog. Shawn did not. Guess what? We have a dog. And despite his repeated insistence that he never wanted a dog, he still takes the dog for walks regularly. We’re both writers, and we are each other’s first readers. We attend events that are important to the other person, even if they’re not our personal cup of tea. We only talk kindly about each other to others, never slamming the other person (how many times have you been uncomfortable around other couples who do the opposite?). We build each other up and cheer each other on. I can truly say Shawn is my best friend, and he says that about me, and it’s because we truly support each other.

6. We put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. One of the secrets to our happy marriage is our level of empathy. I’m not going to lie, we still have our fair share of fights. But these fights never last long. One of the reasons is because we have a high level of empathy for the other person, willing to see the situation from the other person’s point of view. This isn’t easy, admittedly. However, we both know each other’s true nature. When I’m mad at Shawn, I also know he’s not a bad person. I know his reasoning isn’t to be malicious, but because he has his own reasons for acting a certain way. I try to see what that reasoning is, and if there is something I should bend on. Shawn is the same way. Even more important, he knows how to say he’s sorry when he’s wrong, and has been a great model for me so that I can learn to do that, too. And man, is that hard!

7. We recognize each other’s strengths, and remind each other of them. I’m the worst when it comes to knowing what I’m good at. I’m really hard on myself. That’s why it means so much to me when Shawn stops everything and tells me all the things that are special about me. I need to hear this, because I forget. In the same way, I often tell Shawn what I admire about him: his confidence, his way with words, how he carries himself, how personable he is, how much people appreciate his wisdom.

8. We date each other. If I had my way, Shawn and I would go on a date at least once a week, if not more. However, we live in the real world, and that is rarely possible. We do make time for each other regularly, though. This could be a movies date, or time at a coffee shop, or even, and I’m not even joking, a Costco shopping trip. It’s mostly about the time together without anyone else so that we can talk and have fun together. It keeps our friendship alive in our marriage.

9. We are social together. There’s something so romantic about being with Shawn among a group of friends, from quiet dinners to group outings, laughing with friends and having him close to me as we experience the same thing. I always feel so proud of him when we’re out together, and we often come home feeling closer than ever before.

10. We’re social apart. We don’t have all the same friends or interests, and that’s completely okay. I love that Shawn has no issue whatsoever when I enjoy time with my girlfriends or some solitude time away from him and everyone else. Likewise, I don’t have a problem with him going to the ball game or the movies with his friends while I stay at home. We both enjoy a healthy amount of time away from each other and by ourselves, which makes our together time that much more special.

11. We work as a team. Earlier this year, Shawn’s mom moved in with us. This change in our household held all the promises of stress on our marriage, and yet, I’ve never felt closer to him. We have divided the duties, trying to avoid burnout. We are talking so much more about real feelings through this, being open and honest, even about the hard stuff. We give each other breaks. We build each other up. We do every single thing on this list. I can honestly say that his mother moving in has brought us so much closer, which, seriously, astounds me.

12. Our shared faith is at the center of our marriage. I recognize not every married couple is lucky enough to share the same faith. I feel fortunate that Shawn and I do. I’ve been in relationships where the faith is different, whether because someone didn’t have faith or we shared completely different faith altogether, and it was HARD. I won’t say it’s impossible, but it definitely takes work to be in a loving, committed marriage, and share vastly different ideas about God and what that means for humanity. So in that, I feel very fortunate that God is our partner in our marriage, that we both view God through loving eyes, we see our duty as to love all people, and we do all this together.

What works for you and your spouse in your marriage?

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Beans and rice

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Our church is challenging the congregation to take part in a Beans and Rice Challenge on Monday through Friday of this week.  Basically that means to make beans and rice the main course for every meal of the day. There are two purposes to this challenge. The first is to give us a taste of what it’s like in other countries who have no choice but to eat beans and rice for every meal.  Of course, we are still spoiled in this challenge since we can also add different things like spices, vegetables, meat, tortillas, etc.  Other countries have only beans and rice, no seasonings, and definitely no meat. In fact, many times they don’t even have clean water to cook their beans and rice in.  The second purpose of this challenge is to save the money we would have spent on groceries for the week and donate it to help build a church in India.  The goal is $10,000.  Before the challenge started, two families pledged to give $500 each, one family pledged $2,000, and a local business donated $1,000.  We are only on day 1 and already 40% to our goal!

Our family admittedly hemmed and hawed about the beans and rice challenge a little bit. Or should I say, Mr. W and I were hesitant.  He was concerned about being hungry all the time, an understandable concern since the boys in our family tend to be hypoglycemic without enough food.  I was vainly concerned because I’ve lost all this weight avoiding things like rice and too many beans.  But when the challenge got closer and we talked about it with the family, it was the Taz who was instantly intrigued.

Ask the Taz what his favorite dish in the whole world is, and he’ll tell you ‘burritos’.  The kid lives for them.  If we have refried beans in the fridge, he’s good for lunch.  He’ll even pack burritos in a brown bag for school, not even caring that they’re cold by the time lunch rolls around.  And rice?  Probably in his top 5 of favorite foods.  So a week of beans and rice sounded like heaven to him.

I went about packing mine and the Taz’ lunches last night just to set us on a good start for the first day of beans and rice.  For me, I packed a breakfast of red beans, rice, and yams.  For lunch it was red beans, rice, and avocado.  I added a little salt to each for flavor, and had an orange for lunch.  For Taz, I gave him red beans and rice for breakfast.  For lunch he had red beans, rice, and avocado in two tortillas.

I brought all my food to work, and immediately ate my breakfast.  It was a little bland, but not that bad.  But having avoided rice for so long, I felt really bloated when I was done – almost too full.  “This is going to be easy,” I thought.

An hour later I was starving.

I spent the next three hours until lunch time drinking tons of water to keep me filled, as well as half of my orange.  When lunchtime came I nonchalantly heated up my beans and rice and brought them to my desk where I proceeded to devour them.  They were even plainer than before, though the avocado gave it a nice texture.  I was full and hungry at the same time.  I ate the rest of my orange, drank a boatload of water, went pee about 50 times, and then waited till it was time to get home.

Once home, I could barely function.  I was in one of those places where it was best if I just avoided everyone altogether.  It’s luckily Mr. W’s turn to make dinner, so I sat outside and read a magazine until dinner.

For dinner we had…..wait for it….beans and rice.  But we also had all the fixings for tacos, including chicken.  I made sure to put a good amount of chicken and beans on my plate, but I avoided the rice like the plague.  Still counting calories, I couldn’t fathom filling up on something that was so lacking in nutrients when what I really needed was a proper amount of protein.

“Thanks God,” I said, when I saw everyone was waiting for a prayer before beginning to eat.  And then I bit into my first bite of dinner as if I were coming up for air.

“I find it strange that you’re doing all this challenge for a Godly reason, and can’t even pray before we eat,” DQ said with her nose up in the air.  I was just about to hit her over the head with my taco and a flurry of unGodly words when Mr. W interrupted with a much more proper prayer.  I decided it was better to be holy in my discontent at my self-righteous daughter than to say something that might make me slightly less holy in my sacrifices.  Besides, it took about two tacos worth for anything that made sense to come out of my mouth and be able to look people in the eye again.

The Taz admitted that he, too, suffered adverse effects from a day of beans and rice.  He had no energy when it came to playing with his friends during recess.  And in class, his teacher had to kept reminding him not to lay his head on his desk.  And then there were all the times he kept sneaking a left-cheek sneak, and then looking at the person next to him so that everyone in class thought it was the other guy and not Taz.

Day 1 down and I’m already sick of beans and rice.

I am re-evaluating the whole challenge for my diet by nixing the rice.  I just can’t eat it.  I hate the way it felt to feel that full and then that empty soon after.  I know, I know, there are starving children in India who are forced to eat this way daily, and I can’t handle even one day of it.  But hey, those starving children aren’t going to be fitting into a wedding gown in a month and a half, either.  Besides, this whole stomach-eating-brain-because-I’m-so-hungry thing just doesn’t bode well for being able to work properly, and especially for keeping the peace in the household.  It’s only been one day, and I feel like we’re all ready to bite each other’s heads off.

Only 4 more days.

Here’s a cool recipe I found for Bean Cookies that I plan on trying out this week just for the fun of it:

Breakfast Bean Cookies
by juliewashere.blogspot.com

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour (or half all-purpose, half whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda (I’m guessing, since the original omitted this step)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 – 19 oz. (540 mL) can white kidney or navy beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips, the darker the better
1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots, or a combination of dried fruits
1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed

Preheat oven to 350° F.

1. In a food processor, Pulse the oats until it resembles coarse flour. Add in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and process until it’s combined.  Transfer to a large bowl.

2. In the food processor, add in beans, butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla, pulsing till smooth.

3. Combine bean and oat mixture in bowl and stir by hand until combined.  Add in chocolate, raisins, nuts, and flaxseed.  Stir till just blended.

4. Place large spoonfuls of dough on a greased (or parchment papered) sheet, and flatten each one slightly.  (The blog I borrowed this from suggests dampening your hand first to keep it from sticking).

5. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until slightly browned on edges but soft in middle.  Cool on wire rack.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Per cookie: 138 calories, 3.5 g total fat (1.4 g saturated fat, 1 g monounsaturated fat, 0.8 g polyunsaturated fat), 3.4 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 14.2 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber. 22% calories from fat.

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I broke my Lent

Rule #1 when it comes to Lent promises: DO NOT BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW.

(CLICK HERE to get a recap on the millions of things I’m supposedly giving up for Lent)

You’d think I’d know this by know, what with all the broken New Year’s Resolutions I’ve created and then conveniently forgot. As far as I can tell, those 10 pounds I’ve wished away are still there. And judging by the softness in my belly, wishing them away is not going to help them vacate.

Neither are all those Paleo friendly nuts I’ve been eating.

At any rate, I wouldn’t say the whole Lent thing has been a bust. But at least half of my promises have vacated the building. However, since I believe we’re only supposed to fast from one huge thing, I still have some extra credit on board. And a little brown on my nose as well.

First the successes.

I have stuck to my Paleo diet, with only a few cheats that included corn and a Fortune Cookie I devoured when no one was looking. But beyond that, I have managed to keep away from all dairy and bread with no looking back. I have even managed to refuse, not one, but TWO Sift cupcakes (only the best kind of cupcakes there are) two days in a row. One of the days I was practically held down and force-fed the devilish treats until I raised my Lent shield and said I was fasting for 40 days. But I was still coerced into bringing some home for my kids. You guys, I didn’t even lick my fingers when icing got on them, I was so good. And I instantly went to weight myself when I got home, knowing that this kind of willpower would result in an immediate loss of 10 pounds. Unfortunately my scale didn’t know that, and I weighed the same as I did that morning. Good news though? In the almost 2 weeks that I’ve been faithful to this way of eating, I’ve lost 3 pounds, and my pants are starting to loosen up. Who knows, I might just be a Victoria’s Secret model when this is all over.

Second success, I have finished my bridesmaid flowers!

Aren't they gorgeous???

Well, they’re almost finished. Two are done, and I have one left to wrap up.  But we’re not counting that one. They are so gorgeous it’s disgusting, and I am going to have the prettiest flowers in all the land! Take that, live flowers that cost too much and start to wilt upon purchase. Now all I have left is my own bouquet, and I will officially be able to cross that off my list aaaaaaannnnndddd……

….edit my novel! (and then become rich and powerful from the royalties so I can buy my own island and crown myself queen.  The end.)

I also bought a really great wedding planning book that has encouraged me to be super obsessed with all things wedding. And I am now having a hard time conversing with anyone about anything unless it has to do with my wedding. So naturally, everyone else has gotten really boring.

Now for the things I was giving up that I gave up.

My phone is super intelligent. And Facebook is still as lame as always. I know, I’ve checked it at least 10 times in the last hour. From my phone.

I may have told my son to “shove off” yesterday when I got mad at him. Except, I didn’t use the word “shove”. Strike two for using my pirate voice instead of my inside voice.

And the praying department? Not so bad. Not so good, but not so bad. But I may have been able to have a bit more success with the top things had I just prayed a little instead of giving up because it was too hard.

However, I’m learning some things through this whole process of Lent.

First, I learned just how many food addictions I have. I mean it, I’m obsessed! It’s getting better since I’ve managed to stick to this and not eat the foods that cause me to spiral downward. But if someone were to put a box of chocolates in front of me, I’d probably make out with it. I know exactly what it would taste like to devour a whole box of cookies, and my willpower is hanging by a thread. The only thing that holds me down is knowing that if I invite even one cheat into my mouth, they will invite all their friends, have an all night orgy, forget to use protection, have a million fat cell babies, end up on my thighs, and then make me blow ass the rest of the day because I’ll have gone into shock from all that sugar sex they were having.

Second, I am a rockstar at planning my wedding when it comes to folding little tiny flowers and gluing them together. The dress thing however? It’s scaring the bejeezus out of me. I mean, first I was going to go wholesale, because I can’t imagine spending so much money on one article of clothing that will only see the light of day once in its whole existence before I put it in a box for my daughter to wrinkle her nose at when I suggest it is coming back into fashion around her own wedding day. But what if wholesale means they are sending me a dress made out of bed sheets that would fit me perfectly assuming I was a fire hydrant? But then the bridal shops are about 5 times the amount of what wholesale costs. And then alterations? A friend of mine told me today that her alterations cost as much as her dress. That’s a lot of money! And what if I gain or lose weight? I have to get it altered. Again. And what if I hate the dress I picked out as the wedding date gets closer? And I haven’t even gotten to the part where I haven’t tried any dresses on because I’m scared to go in and try on dresses.  Basically, I just want it to look totally perfect and cost next to nothing.  Is that too much to ask?

On the other hand, I’ve been watching a lot of “Say Yes to the Dress”, so I think that counts for something.

Third, I’m using my iPhone less.

Ok, just kidding. However, telling the truth isn’t part of my Lent promises, so we’re all good here.

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Fat Tuesday, Lean Wednesday

While no longer the genuflecting type, my Catholic roots have kept a few traditions under my belt that I cherish in my Christian faith. One of those is the season of Lent. I find it a beautiful time of starting over and ridding myself of the things that are warping my life. Much like the rest of the population has New Year’s Day to create resolutions, Lent is the perfect time to rid my life of everything that is bringing me down.

It’s the time when I make my life more holy.

Admittedly, diet is about to take a huge part of my Lenten fasting. Knowing I’m embarking on stricter food rules come Wednesday, I relaxed my regiment over the weekend. On Saturday I had a sandwich in a thick Dutch Crunch roll. I had not eaten bread in months. It was delicious, if not super filling. That night I enjoyed a dessert of King’s Cake in honor of Mardi Gras. The almondy taste was heavenly. Over the weekend I filled up on Ritz crackers. OMG. Ritz crackers are golden! I could eat those buttery loves all day long. And then last night I took a flour tortilla, filled it with refried beans, and then topped it with cheese. Dairy is another food item I have nixed from my diet in suspicions of being lactose intolerant. But nevertheless, I figured a little bit wouldn’t hurt.

Today I am down for the count and have been a slave to the toilet for the past 3 hours. Damn you cheese.

I fantasize about chocolate. I feel dumb when I go out to eat and can’t enjoy what everyone else is eating. I hate that I gain 5 pounds immediately when I stop eating “clean”, and it takes me weeks to lose it again. I think about food all the time.

I suffer from food addictions.

So yes, I am going to be making some changes for Lent, and am starting early today to give my tummy a break, as well as to fix some of the other areas in my life that are less than holy.

Lent Promises

Paleo Diet: So easy a caveman can do it

1. Diet: I am going back to my Paleo way of eating, but will be even stricter about it in the next 40+ days of Lent. I will allow beans in my diet (not considered Paleo), but am giving up corn and corn products, soybean, grains, and dairy – focusing my diet mainly on lean meats, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. I also plan on trying my best to stick to non-GMO foods (I am really scared at how genetically modified food has transformed the health of our society!).  And buh-bye sugar. It’s been sweet knowing you.

2. Use my inside voice: I am raising a teenage daughter. I have not been very good at it. I find myself acting in ways I swore I never would. In the past few weeks we’ve gotten into at least two screaming matches. I said things I’m not proud of, and acted out in ways I’m ashamed of. If I were my daughter, I would want to move out of my house and in with my dad – just as she wants to do. I can’t blame her. So the first rule on this I am making for the next 40 days is that I am not allowed to raise my voice. If I feel the need to yell, I need to take a moment and think before speaking. It is my hope that this will also help me to pause and remember what it felt like in her shoes, and to not take everything so personally. And perhaps I can become the kind of parent I’d want to have if I had to (God forbid) relive my teenage years.

3. Make my phone “dumb”: Another addiction? My smart phone. I am attached to my iPhone, and have become dependent on it. Free time? Feeling lonely? Need to do something I don’t want to? My iPhone is right there to distract me and help me procrastinate, replace my need for actual socialization, and help me feel less awkward in times of discomfort. And it’s holding me back. I have a wedding to prepare for. I have a novel that will never be completed until I start editing it. I have kids who need my attention and a career I need to refind my passion for. And my smart phone is right there telling me that all of that can wait because I need to beat my high score on Bejeweled. I can use the Internet when I’m sitting at a computer. All other times, I don’t need to. So my iPhone is about to become really “dumb” and lose its internet abilities so it can be used only as a (gasp!) phone.

One of the bridesmaid bouquets in the DIY wedding project I've imprisoned myself to.

4. Wedded focus: I have a bunch of really cute DIY bouquets I’m creating instead of using real flowers. But they aren’t going to get done if I’m not doing them. By Easter, these bouquets are going to be finished. I also plan on finalizing the centerpieces, invitations, and have my dress ordered. Phew!

5. A novel idea: This step is tentative, and really hinges on whether I can get the steps in #4 done. But I need to work on my book. I’ve written it, and marked it up with a red pen after re-reading it twice. But I am scared to make any changes. I need to step over my fear of altering it and dive right in. After all, what if my procrastination is depriving the world of the next NY Times Bestseller?

6. Pray. Pray like there’s no tomorrow. Pray like there is a tomorrow. Use this time of Lent to remember to lean on God when times get heavy, when parenting hurts the most, when going to work feels like heading to my execution, when I’m scared to talk to people, when every day feels like a repeat of the last, when life seems bleak, when friends feel far away, when I feel fat and ugly, when I’ve lost my purpose, when time seems too fast, when the clock seems at a standstill, when unfairness rears its ugly head, when I’m overwhelmed, when I don’t know what to do with myself…. And pray when I remember all that God has blessed me with in the hurdles he’s helped me overcome.

And perhaps some of this might become lifelong habits long after Lent has ended.

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