Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Weight Watchers, Week 4

I went to Weight Watchers this morning. I lost five more pounds this week. Last week, I gained one. I was frustrated, I didn't do anything I wasn't supposed to, but I decided to stick with it--counting points and keeping a journal. I did not expect to lose five pounds this week. Our scale at home said the same thing, but I didn't believe it. I managed to be the "biggest loser" this week.

When I was asked what helped me, I mentioned my sis who calls me and encourages me to stay with it. For me, that is what makes the difference. I don't feel alone dealing with this.

Results and progress. Something I am not used to seeing these days.

The journal helps because everything I eat has a certain value. I can't just eat anything I want whenever I want. If I want something worth more points than usual, I have to work for it physically. This week, my goal is to reduce my daily points allowance by five points so that I have to work out more. If it helps, fine. If it doesn't, I will go back to what I was doing since that was working just fine before.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Submission. I have no negative feelings about the word. I think it is an important practice, something I do imperfectly. I think about it from time to time, not too often. I read Scripture about it. I believe in it. It makes a difference in my relationship with Jesus.

Some thoughts:

Dennis wanted to refinance our mortgage today. He had been spending hours talking with a sales rep on the phone. They hammered out an arrangement over a couple of days and Dennis took the figures over to me and asked me for my thoughts. After hearing him out, I said "no". The house is in my name, too. The sales rep called again and asked to speak with me. I wouldn't take the phone. Dennis spent several embarrassing moments trying to tell the rep that my mind was made up. The fees were 5,000 dollars to do the refinance. Something about it told me it was not the best we could do.

We talked about it some more. Dennis pulled out paperwork and some quotes he got from Learning Tree. I showed him how the fees came out to around 1500 dollars from several other institutions--that was the common going rate. Then he found a letter from VA benefits and as a retired military guy, he could qualify for a better deal. He called them and showed me the numbers. Waaayyy better. Plus, a lot of other benefits.

Huge sighs of relief, but an hour earlier there was a lot of tension. Dennis was proud of me for sticking to my guns with the first offer only after a better result came our way. But before that, I know he was thinking I was a pain in the neck while it made him dig deeper into what other options were out there.

So, was I practicing submission during this everyday life sort of situation? I have a hard time seeing it. My husband was embarrassed with the pushy sales rep. I wasn't disrespectful, but I was being firm. Hubby became elated when he found a better deal from a source previously overlooked, and suddenly very thankful that I held my ground.

We've ended up in trouble in the past when I turned off my brain and said, "Well, Honey, if it makes you happy..." and ignored red flags that were going off in my head. When I signed tax forms without double checking Hubby's work, for instance. For awhile after getting letters about paying back taxes owed a few years ago, I was struggling with Dennis in my heart until I remembered that we as partners signed on the taxes, so it was just as much my responsibility to know what was going on even though he took on the task of doing them. He waited too late and was tired because he had to stay up and do them past his bedtime. I was reading a book and being very passive. Which is not being submissive. Submission meant I would get involved and offered assistance-- get off my butt and double check the math. Even question his work and give him my two cents worth. Every year previously for the last 18 years, Den explained to me in detail what he did and showed me where to sign and every year everything went smoothly. To the point where I got complacent as a cow about it.

Submission to me is being helpful, aware and engaged in all things that our marriage partnership is responsible for...health, finances, ministry, hospitality, house, sex, pets, family, etc....and doing my part and contributing my gifts and talents. Submission is active, not lazy. It is getting involved in supporting my husband's leadership, and if neccessary, keep him from doing things we both might regret later. That's why two are better than one, a better return for their labor.

When we got married, Dennis was 33 and I was 27. He had been independent from home since he was 17. He took care of himself and did not depend on parents or anybody for anything. I was sheltered, and parents provided a safety net for every decision I made. Most decisions I made were good ones and I did not have huge needs, but they were there for me in case something didn't go right. My two years in Seattle after graduation didn't compare with Den's 16 years as a single man. Part of the appeal of marrying someone older was the feeling of security.

As I moved into my early thirties I realized that I was now a grown up and in many ways, had caught up in worldly-wise experience with my husband. It was a pretty quick process, actually. It was a shock to both of us. I wasn't a protected little kid anymore and Dennis didn't know everything. It happened on a trip to Europe. A good friend observed us two in Paris and she pulled me aside to let me know that I was too passive. She said being too submissive was not true godly submission and the only person that could keep Dennis from being overly controlling was me. I wasn't doing him any favors to let him walk all over me, either. My security had to be in God, not a husband. And God endowed me with a brain to use, for the benefit of myself and others.

While alone with him in Sweden a few days later, I asked Dennis if he felt intimidated by my intelligence. And I told him it was a gift from God to him. Actually, I don't know how smart I really am. By virtue of being raised with certified near genius level brother and sisters, something might have rubbed off on me. My parents were smart, too. It's like the height thing--at 5'7 1/2" I am the short one compared to family members, but compared to most of the population, I'm almost tall. Perhaps, it is the same thing with brains, compared to the family, I'm not as smart but as I interact with other people, I use skills that I picked up from my family. And then, there's the theory that there is different kinds of smart. I know a lot of smart people who do really dumb things.

But that's another blog.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Today's Specials

Yes, I turned off the annoying song by Bob Dylan that automatically played on this site. And what was that about anyway? Dylangospel.blogspot.com has links to all things that mention Bob Dylan and religion. My blog "The Gospel According to Bob Dylan" was included a few weeks ago. You can read it here if you'd like. I was pretty excited! So, I stuck the message from bobdylan.com on my page, you can build your own messages on the cue cards Bob is holding. It was amusing for a little while. I found the Dylangospel site really helpful and informative and if you're interested, it is a nice detour.

Today, I'm cooking a couple of selections from my new "Cooking Light" cookbook. Today, a ciopiolini onion ragout for lunch. Tonight, pork roast with autumn vegetables. The ragout won't take long, it is a simple saute with tomatoes that I roasted in the oven. I'll assemble the roast and leave instructions for Dennis to put in the oven.

And, I'll still have time to go to the "Y" and swim before work!

Today's english muffin breakfast by Thea:

1 toasted 100 calorie english muffin
1/4 cup Eggbeaters
two sliced tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach

Coat a small frying pan with Pam, saute spinach. Set cooked spinach aside on a plate. Spray pan with Pam and lightly scramble the Eggbeaters. Assemble ingredients by layers on muffin halves and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I grew up Catholic and was raised with the idea that I needed to confess my sins during confession--only talking with a priest about the darkness of my heart was horrifying for me but I was trapped, since that was the only way to experience the sacrament was to go through him. I didn't care how nice these guys were, I really didn't want to say much to them .

As I got older, the more horrifying the idea became. I took sin really seriously and it was hard dealing with the crushing weight of guilt. On the outside, I seemed to be a good girl, but I knew with all the intensity of my heart that was not true. I was disrespectful, unkind, selfish, rebellious and angry. It was hard for my family to live with me and I was having a difficult time even living with myself. And I desperately wanted to change. To be loving, peaceful, self-controlled, mature, thoughtful and generous. I didn't know how to deal with my negative emotions. I didn't know where to begin. And talking with a priest about it seemed to be a waste of time to me.

When I went to college, I started going to a bible study about the promises of God. I was assured that God would forgive me. I did a basic topical bible study about God's forgiveness and how it was possible through Christ dying for me. I memorized 1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Based on this and a lot of other verses, I began to believe that God's throne is a throne of grace, and that He lavishes His grace on us. I had nothing to fear in confessing what God already knew about me, and that He longed to hear from me that I had sinned against Him and Him only. And most of all, that He is faithful to listen to me, that He is righteous and that He is able to cleanse me from all that offends Him. He cares that much about us.

This particular promise was a major turning point for me. Despite all the failures, sins and weaknesses that I had to bring before Him, and still continue to, I was assured that His love never ceases, His kindnesses never fail, they are new every morning, great is His faithfulness.
And I didn't change by sinning less. I find that I change more by believing in His compassion, believing that He welcomes my confessions of sins and imperfections and believing that He is not tired of cleansing me and renewing me.

Even after all these years.

I, on the other hand, do get to the point of forgetting to confess, to talk things over with God about my need for His grace and to receive His forgiveness. As I become callous to the effect of sin on my relationship to Him, I also become callous to the effect of my sin on my relationship to others around me in my life. I stop caring so much. That's what we call a hardened heart. When I get like this, I was much better off as a guilt-ridden, desperate teenager who at least cared about how she affected others even though she was confused as to how to deal with it.

The problem with the hard heartedness is that on the outside you seem okay and you are fooled into thinking that you really are. Pretty soon, the little dark secrets that you take for granted begin to grow into the big dark secrets that go off like bombs in your life, hurting and burning and scarring the people you relate to. The closer the relationships, the deeper the hurt. And pretty soon, you don't even know who you are anymore. And that cozy and vulnerable openness you had with God seems like a far distant dream.

So my prayerlife pretty much sums up as a wild desperate cry for God to keep me honest, to love the truth and live by it. And, to love Him first and most and best of all. To search me, know me and tell me if there is any hurtful way in me and lead me in His kind and gentle way everlasting....whatever it takes.

Whatever it takes.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bob Dylan and His Band

I got to see him in concert last week. It was my third time and we had seats on the main floor, ten rows back from the stage. It felt like a mile, because Dylan likes to park himself on the right, several yards from the stage edge.

When he came out for his first song "Rainy Day Women", I didn't get to enjoy it that much because I was climbing over people trying to get back to my seat. (You can read other reviews about this here). I swear, the next song he sang started out "Please sit down", and almost everyone sat down. Talk about subliminal messages.

The last two shows I attended last year, I was busy analyzing every song and every gesture. This time, I just wanted to relax and enjoy the show but he made it very hard for me to be a passive listener, like I wanted to be. Even when he sang "When The Deal Goes Down" it sounded to me like an angry, edgey attack instead of the flowing ballad I was used to hearing on my CD. Dylan wasn't interested in a boringly pretty song, and his nonverbal language gave a whole new meaning to the lyrics. It was memorable. He reminded me that he owned the song and he will sing it any number of ways that he feels like. If the lyrics mattered to him, he sang them. If they didn't matter to him, he didn't sing them but conveyed them without words. I don't think he forgot them. He's the boss over them. I had the job, as an audience member, to listen actively and think about what was sung and what wasn't, and think about why. He's the leader, the audience is the responder. He's not playing the music. He's playing us.

And that, I think, sets him apart from the most of the musicians of the world.

And what did I come up with, after not hearing coherent singing during some of my favorite songs by my favorite artist? Who, for all I could see, was stone cold sober? Dylan once said it, and it is quoted on the top of http://www.dylangospel.blogspot.com/, that singing is a form of prayer. And there is some prayer that only the Spirit can interpret for us, with "groanings too deep for words." (Romans 8:26) Dylan might be speaking in tongues. He had spiritual roots in a Pentacostal church, after all. Just a hunch.

You never know.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Song

"...I went for the singing, but I stayed for the song.”
--musician Michelle Shocked, on how she visited a church for their black gospel music and "went one Sunday too many..." Read her testimony here.

Breakfast Number 3, Weight Watchers Style

Tijuana Muffin (Weight Watchers)

In a skillet, scramble 1/4 cup Egg Beaters, southwestern style in 1 teaspoon safflower oil. Serve on 1/2 whole grain English muffin. Top with three avocado slices and 2 tablespoons salsa. (six points)

Thea's Muffin

Scramble 1/4 southwestern style eggbeaters on a skillet sprayed with Pam. Split eggs between two halves of a 100 calorie english muffin, top with sliced tomato. (six points). When I want a bigger breakfast, I fry two turkey sausage patties, drain the grease and blot the patties with a paper towel, and add each one to my muffin halves. It doubles the points to twelve, but if I'm working out that day, it's worth it.

Berry Good (Weight Watchers)

Mix 1 cup fresh berries with 1 cup plain yogurt and sugar substitute to taste, if desired. (three points) I like fresh fruit with yogurt instead of the premixed fruity kind you get in the store. Sometimes, I add a small amount of Mueslix on top or chopped almonds for crunch factor.

So, what's up with the points? I get a certain amount per day, and each food has a point value that I look up online or in a reference guide. Right now, I'm on 35 points per day, and often I can't eat that much. Yesterday, we went to a Chinese food buffet, which is the kiss of death for most diets. But because I worked out and planned what to eat and planned to use my weekly bonus points (they roll over to the next week if you don't use them, and I had a bunch extra, about 70 in all) I actually came out of it pretty good. I started with the hot and sour soup, had 1 cup chicken and broccoli stir fry over a half cup white rice, one egg roll,vegetarian and plain, 1/2 cup shrimp stir fry over 1/2 cup noodles, one cup stir fried green beans, one pork rib and one char siu chicken skewer.

Since I don't know how much fat was used in cooking the food, I added more points to be safe. I figured I ate fifty points in one meal. The restaurant is a mile from our house, so next time, we'll walk there. But I go by there every day and it is reassuring that I can eat there if I want to as long as I practice self-control. If I save up enough points, I could probably go there once a month safely. I don't need to eat a lot. I just like the variety. The difference is that I made choices and ate consciously. I avoided a lot of stuff I used to not think twice about.

Doesn't living for Christ include this kind of awareness in all aspects of life? The fact that I can choose because God empowers me to live for Him and in Him and through Him is startlingly real to me now more than ever.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Second Meeting

I made it to my second meeting after a week of following the flex plan with Weight Watchers. I was given an award for most weight lost last week--four pounds. My award was a big Dorrie stuffed toy--Dorrie was the fish that Ellen DeGeneres' voice played in "Finding Nemo". Lately, Dorrie has been out in the car. Tonight, Dorrie will come inside the house to motivate me to stay on my program. I might need to hug her, too. It's tough.

Customers and co-workers have noticed I lost weight. After my meeting at WW, I had a doctor's appointment and it showed that I didn't just lose four pounds, but six.

Who's right? I don't know.

This week, I'm planning to exercise more and harder than I did last week. Last week, I mostly did short walks. My goal is to lose 26 pounds--two pounds a week. My ultimate goal is to lose 120 pounds. That's like losing an entire person. My ultimate reward? I'm thinking either a black leather jacket or a trip somewhere.

Where should I go?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Here We Go

As I mentioned in my last blog, my sister Amy lost a hundred pounds by Weight Watchers. Isn't that great? She started by just following the tools online at Weightwatchers.com, and lost 40. After awhile, she knew that she needed more support and encouragement. She got the lifetime acheivement award, which means she'll never have to pay again to attend the meetings. She made friends who started with her, among them a married couple who had type 2 diabetes. They are now just managing it by diet and no longer have to take medication for high blood pressure or to manage high blood glucose. Amy has never missed a weekly meeting. She is a middle school teacher, a mom of three kids under age of seven and very busy.

When I went to the last weekly meeting with her last night, she was so excited that I was there. She was whispering in my ear about this person and that person next to us and about what wonderful progress they made. After awhile of listening to the speaker and noting Amy's obvious enthusiasm for the program and for my decision to start it, I realized that it was a lot like when I take friends to church who are new to it. That although I always enjoy going, it seems more wonderful that my friends are with me and I am full of hope that they experience the wonder of worshipping God.

On the health and diet front, I decided to work on this program because I was stalling out on my own. I am still losing weight, but I am taking more drugs to control the diabetes and blood pressure. Amy told me that exercise was really the key, and that losing weight was good but I have to actually move. That part of my program has been flagging lately-- getting lazy and rationalizing a lot about it. My last doctor's visit, Vicki asked me point blank if my diet was changing. I kept telling her that I was losing weight, but she wasn't impressed with that. She wanted to know if I was paying attention to what I was eating. No, not as much as I needed to.

So, Weight Watchers seems to be the answer. I have a journal and a lot of fun fact filled tools to monitor my intake. I started today. I get a limit on how many points I get daily and I subtract the value of each thing that goes into my mouth from my total. Today, I had a surplus of 3 points because I went for a two mile walk. I even drank a small bottle of beer and had three pieces of pizza. Amy cut the pizza so that each piece was worth three points and she weighed and measured each piece to calculate the point value. Amy suggested that I not deprive myself when I want to eat, but to make good choices.

For instance, I made myself a little egg sandwich for my breakfast at 7am and calculated its point value. Two hours later, for some inexplicable reason, I was hungry again. At this point, I got nervous because I felt I shouldn't have been hungry and that I shouldn't eat. And then the anxiety got worse. I ate a banana and drank several glasses of water. Still hungry and nervous. So I broke out a can of soup to heat up--Amy has the Progresso no points kind--and for some reason, that did it. I didn't have to eat again until four hours later after my walk. It was a relief to see the list of everything I consumed that day--it was all good food and a lot of it. But I didn't overeat and I stayed within a very reasonable limit. I felt good.

I don't know what the anxiety was all about. I've kept food journals before and had good results as long as I kept them up. Perhaps, that is something I need to look into.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I'm in CA, I'm in CA, I'm in CA....

It's been good to see my family, having a good time, enjoying the sunshine and pinching myself every two minutes that I'm actually out here.

My flight to Fresno was pretty calm until we hit the last leg from LA to Fresno. Apparently, I was on a plane with a big time celebrity. Think American Idol. He had a band and their equipement weighed so much that there was no room for my suitcase, which was flown out several hours after my flight and delivered to my sister's house for me.

My nieces and nephew have grown considerably, it's been fun taking them to the open house at the firefighter's station for a ride on the firetruck and squirting a firehose. They got to talk to the firefighters and recieved gifts like stickers, hats and badges. Noah is going to be a firefighter when he grows up, so he has frequently declared.

My sister drove up from San Diego and we shopped all day to today together. I got several tips on "What Not to Wear" from my sisters, it was a revelation. I need more color in my wardrobe and feminine shoes. I tried several things on that I wouldn't have dared without their encouragement, and found out that they fit.

My youngest sister had a baby last year and lost almost a hundred pounds on Weight Watchers. She and I have had some good talks about counting points and keeping a food journal. I'm going with her tomorrow to her meeting and she gave me some materials on how to set goals and plan menus. We also talked about Mom's diabetes. I asked how Mom lost her weight. My sister has a daughter who has type 1 diabetes and very knowledgeable even about type 2, which Mom had. Amy described how Mom had ketoacidosis, a problem that arises from not managing diabetes and can cause dramatic weight loss. Amy gave me a tough talk about self-discipline and taking care of myself, the kind of talk only a sister who loves me could give.

I went to a party this afternoon with Amy's extended in-law's family, it was a nice chaotic hour of children running and playing and interacting and everyone else bonding and laughing. Right now I'm going to help put up Halloween decorations.

Pictures and more to come!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What God Did Through a Mom

I've been blogging a little about women of the bible. My previous entries were about Hannah and Mary, both who had their praises to God recorded in Scripture. I have been reading about Deborah, a prophetess and a judge during the times of Judges. The time of Judges was a chaotic period of time after the Hebrews entered the promise land, led by Joshua after Moses died. It was the time that the story of Ruth took place, and the prayer of Hannah occured.

I looked up Deborah's name, and it means "a bee". Bees are hard workers, make honey and sting. I wonder if Deborah's name was chosen based on her character. She was married to Lappidoth, sat under a palm tree in a specific place in Ephraim, where the sons of Israel came to her for judgement. Her judgement was probably about what was right or wrong, settling disputes and concerning what was God's will. In order to be effective, she was a prophetess, meaning she heard God's voice. And the men came to her, she didn't go out to them trying to tell them what to do.

When she sent for Barak to tell him what God wanted him to do, basically to go out and confront the Canaanite king's army commander, Sisera, Barak wouldn't go without her. Deborah agreed, but told him that the honor would go to a woman for the Canaanite commander's death. I wonder if Barak didn't believe her when she told him that God said He would give them the victory. Or he didn't trust God. Or if he trusted in Deborah than he trusted in God. Whatever the reason, he would not enjoy honor, that God chose to give it to Jael, a Kenite woman living in a tent on the outskirts of Kedesh, where Sisera hid under a blanket after running off on foot when his army was defeated. Jael gave him some milk, and while he slept, she drove a tent peg through his head.

So, both Barak and Sisera had honor escape them. This had to be a tough thing, since men universally live for respect from others, and also die for it sometimes.

Deborah and Barak sing a song of victory and praise to God afterwards. What I especially love is how Deborah referred to herself as "a mother in Israel". That the peasantry of Israel had ceased until Deborah went to work as a judge, whose heart went out to the commanders of Israel. She wanted to see the men of Israel to be good leaders, and her motive was to help them be the kind of men that God wanted. But she herself, despite the remarkable things God accomplished through her, saw herself simply as a mother. That was enough honor for her.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Ushpizin--a movie to watch

Ushpizin is a movie about prayer, an almost contemporary version of a familiar Old Testament story. "Almost contemporary" because it was hard to believe that it was filmed just a few years ago. Shuli Rand is a professional actor who turned to an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. Rand wrote the screenplay based on real life events that occured when his pre-Orthodox life was introduced to his new life of strict religious observance. Rand's wife also co-stars as his wife in the film, since Orthodox rules prohibit unmarried couples to have any close contact. She does a good job in her role since she is not a professional actor.

It is an encouraging movie about belief, even when we don't understand what God is doing in our lives. I enjoyed the prayer lives of the story's characters, and their world view. It dovetails along with the books I recently read: "Night" by Eli Weisel and "Evil and the Justice of God" by N.T. Wright. Weisel's book is a memoir of his Holocaust experience, but he writes a lot about the Jewish community before and during the terrible events. Wright's book makes several references to the Holocaust, specifically how important it was for the strong Jewish communities to be destroyed because they held on to the old moral values when a new order, Nazism, needed to be established to re-interpret right and wrong.

And of course, all this parallels the stories I've been reading about Bob Dylan, of his blend of Jewish tradition and Christian belief, but that's another blog entry.