Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Decorations

Some pics of our Christmas decorations . . . 




Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving

Like many, many other people around the United States, the past few days have consisted of lots of traveling and eating turkey with family.  We started by going to Fort Wayne and celebrating two Thanksgivings - one with Jackie's mom's extended family, then another one just with Jackie's immediate family, including her grandfather. Following that, we headed up to Lansing and had a small Thanksgiving meal with my parents.  Both my parents were feeling a bit under the weather, catching a cold bug that has hit my sister's family for over a month.  Because of that, my sister's family stayed home trying to get better and avoid exposure to more stuff, and our stay with my parents was a little shorter than usual.  Despite its unorthodox, at least for us, manner, it was still good to have the dinner with family and reflect on gratitude.  

After getting back last night, we started our now annual post Thanksgiving tradition, Christmas decorating.  This is to say that I generally stay out of the way while Jackie spends hours upon hours thinking and planning and turning the inside of our house to a warm Christmas glow.  Such decorating continued today with us decorating our family Christmas tree together and having our own little Thanksgiving dinner with all the leftover turkey and dressing and such we received from family.

After the whirlwind, and despite the looming hectic work week, I sit here tonight in a very calm and peaceful mood.  Our house glows with the lights and warmth of our decorations, which reflect the amount of care and passion Jackie puts into it, and makes the house feel like a sanctuary of love.  Truly.  As I write and sip on my Bailey's, I reflect on all that I have to be grateful for, and foremost of that is my family - not just Jackie and Ellie, but my parents and my sister's family, as well as Jackie's family in Fort Wayne.  Each year, we get to spend time with people we love, and those who love us.  Its a nice reminder that whatever may happen, and despite what geographical distances may be, we have people with us on this up and down journey of life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cause/Effect and Awareness

This is something I have meant to write about before, but there is something from my weekly Bible Study that I see as a huge plus, and it has nothing to do with the Bible, per se.  Each week, at the end of the session, we go around the table and lift prayer concerns.  Some weeks there are more than others, and some weeks those concerns are more weighted than others.  But I think that is my favorite part of the study, or at least what I see as the most beneficial thus far.

Now, I struggle with the concept of prayer, in particular the cause and effect of it.  I'm doubtful as to the effect prayer can have on physical outcomes, and remain somewhat unsure of prayer's effect in a purely mental, emotional, or spiritual sense.  But I know that many people take it very seriously, and thus I like to remain respectful of it.  But what I do see as beneficial from prayer relates to my experiences with Buddhism, and the concept of awareness.  Not a simple awareness of others (which this type of prayer can be great for - it helps you think of others as opposed to yourself when you have that list to go off of, and any time we can be less self-centric, that's a great thing), but in Buddhism its about awareness of connectedness.

When you pray for others, not only are you thinking about them, you are thinking about how you are connected to them.  That's what you are praying - through some activity they have become part of your community, part of your life.  When you say a prayer for thankfulness prior to dinner, its just not a prayer of thanksgiving to a God, its a recognition that creation was sacrificed for your nourishment - that you are connected to that creation.  Prayer, I think, can help create that more comprehensive sense of awareness.

Back to the Bible Study, and its end round table of prayer.  It always reminds me of this interconnectedness.  It serves to remind that I belong to something outside of myself, greater than myself, and that others belong with me in that journey as well.  I find that when I sit down to do my nightly/weekly reading, and I look at the notes on the prayer concerns, I have that reminder of my place in relation to others, and to creation.  Its not just the avoidance of self-centric worldview that is always so easy to fall into, but a greater appreciation of where I came from, what I belong to, and my dependence on others and their dependence on me.

I still remain hesitant about the cause and effect as it relates to the contents of specific prayers.  But I find that the general nature of prayer assists in causing greater awareness, and that, I think, is a very good effect.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

continued progress

I was looking at some of my blog posts from earlier this year, particularly dealing with weight loss.  That was one of my big goals for 2010, and I used this blog as a motivating and accountable resource.  I began the year by posting weekly updates.  Eventually, as my workouts became more and more routine and any blog posts about them became less and less common.  Reviewing, I haven't written a post addressing my weight loss progress since April.

Due to recent events in our lives, it has been more difficult to remain focused on this.  In part, its been tough to keep the motivation going.  The last two weeks I have only did my routine 3 days, as opposed to 5 or 6.  In addition, my eating habits regressed.  I understand that hiccups will happen along the road; but with a great workout this past Saturday, and a good motivating feel for the week ahead, I think the weakness, so to speak, of the last couple weeks is past.

Some things have changed about my routine.  I used to just walk for 45 minutes, with a minute of light jogging every 5-7 minutes or so.  Now, its walking with jogging mixed in every 2-3 minutes.  In addition, I no longer worry about 45 minutes, I just go til I reach 2 miles, which is usually just above 30 minutes at this point.  I then use the rest of my time to do a combination of weight resistance exercises.  I think its a fairly balanced workout most days.

Anyway, when I started the process, I thought it would be great if I could lose 60 pounds this year, 5 pounds per month.  It was a very ambitious goal, but I wanted to be constantly pushing myself towards something.  While I may not make that goal (depending on how the last few weeks of the year goes, what with the holidays and all), I have lost 50 pounds this year.  Soon, I will once again have to buy new clothes because the ones I have don't fit well - but now its because they are too big as opposed to being too small.

It's been a positive experience for me this year, to know that the hard work will yield results.  I focused this year on remembering that it was a commitment of multiple years to get where I want to be, and I remain fixed on my ultimate goal.  But so far, this year really couldn't have been too much better on this front.  Here's hoping for a strong finish for this year, a good start to next year, and continued progress towards my ultimate goals.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

journeys interrupted

A little over three and a half years ago, in April of 2007, Jackie and I bought our current house.  We had been in an apartment the two years prior, and were so excited to have our own space.  Part of the important to us was the dream of having children and raising them in this house.  After all, we bought a house that was bigger than our current needs; we have two additional bedrooms upstairs that stay empty, and we have been in probably less than 10 times.  Its a lot of house for two people, and we bought with the hope and expectation that we would be adding people along the way.

Probably for the first year after the house purchase, our attempts for children were always timed; that is to say timed to try to arrange for a birth at a certain time of year so it would have the least amount of impact on Jackie's working schedule (i.e., during the summer when school was on break), and thus a minimal impact on our finances.  Looking back at this year, I almost feel ashamed of the naivety and arrogance it required to think that such could be control.  After a year or so of that, and growing impatient, we decided not to worry about such timing concerns, and just hope that it would happen as soon as possible. 

After another year and a half with no luck - taking us to about the beginning of this year, we took the next logical steps.  Soon, there was more medical appointments, and we probably became more aware of certain things then we ever really thought, and charting, the rise and fall of temperatures, etc. became a part of our lives in a big way.  Not completely unrelated, these items went along naturally with out dual attempts this year to get healthier and lose weight (which has been successful, but that's another post).  So the journey, which started over three years ago, continued this year, with disappointment and growing frustration constant companions.

Three and a half years can be a long time to try and hope for something with no results; it can warp the perspective one looks through, the lens that colors our worldview.  It can take hope away.  In large part, that's what most of this year felt like - a life  of motions without hope, colored by the lens of disappointment.  But things changed.  On October 6, almost three and half years to the day of when we moved into our house, Jackie had a positive pregnancy test.  I remember that morning as I had to leave for Indianapolis for a two day conference, and wouldn't be back until late Friday night.  So after hearing such wonderful news, we were apart for a couple days - kind of putting the true joy on hold for a bit.  But we had a wonderful embrace early that morning before Jackie left for work.  An embrace where those frustrations and disappointments seemed to fade away, hope was restored, and joy was present.

We thought about what to do with the one room that would become a nursery - what furniture to buy, how to decorate it, and so on.  We decided to cancel certain subscriptions and services, so we could have more money for all the costs of the future.  We discussed names; we read applicable books; we were truly happy about what was to come.  It seemed like things just fit...a due date at the end of the school year/beginning of the summer.  Better than our own dreams.

As we all know, sometimes life doesn't work that way.  We went to the doctor on October 26 to do the first ultrasound.  The baby should have been around 8 weeks at that point - might even be able to see a heartbeat.  The ultrasound showed the baby at 6 weeks.  Two possibilities - not as for along as all the charting and dates would lead us to believe, or the baby stopped growing and it would simply be a matter of waiting for the miscarriage to happen.  So we went back about a week later, November 3.  That ultrasound confirmed that the baby had indeed stopped growing.

Suffice to say, its been a rough week and half or so around our house.  All the highs we had in the first part of October were replaced with some pretty low lows.  You have the statistics - 1 in 5 of all pregnancies end with a first trimester miscarriage; and the obvious statements - sometimes bad things happen, life's not always fair.  All this is very true.  But I think one of the truly maddening things about pain, is that truth is no comfort.  In some sense, we have a hope that we didn't have over a month ago, because of our three year plus history of getting to this point.  In others, that history can cloud one's lens and make it seem all the more cruel.

In a few months, we will be trying and hoping again.  And should we be blessed again with a pregnancy, we will never have the joy that we had on October 6th.  We will have nervousness, hesitancy, anxiety.  Experience does that, it makes certain moments be something they shouldn't. 

Jackie and I continue this journey together, attempting to avoid any sense of expectation, as well as any sense of despair.  Simply hoping for no interruptions.  Hoping.

"...hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." - The Shawshank Redemption.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Good crime, suspense book. I have had several people tell me I should read these books, with differing opinions. Several didn't like the book, others did but felt the two newer ones weren't as good (which I have yet to read), and as I am always looking for stuff to read that doesn't cross my normal radar, I picked it up and started reading this one. I feel like its almost two books. The first half of the book kind of dragged along for me...there was a lot of story that really didn't seem to go anywhere, and really didn't enhance the plot or develop certain characters more. The second half of the book was, I thought, very gripping, fast paced, and made it so you didn't want to stop reading until you finished the book. Thus, I found the first 300 pages to be somewhat of a struggle to get through, and the second 300 to be a breeze. There's little tidbits in the book that I think shows some insight into differing attitudes that Sweden has culturally than the U.S., and that makes it interesting as well. Overall, despite the slow start for me, I enjoyed the read and thought it was a good crime thriller.



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Review: One More Train to Ride: The Underground World of Modern American Hoboes

One More Train to Ride: The Underground World of Modern American HoboesOne More Train to Ride: The Underground World of Modern American Hoboes by Cliff Williams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A fun little book to read. Williams relays the stories of various men and women who continue to live as hoboes, the train-hoppers that started significantly during the great depression. Provides first rate insight into the philosophy these individuals carry, what motivates and attracts them to this lifestyle, and random tricks of the trade so to speak. A short book, but provides a nice glimpse into a lives that I think many of us forget even continue to exist.



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