Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Generation to Generation

As a child, I was envious of those who had multiple grandparents.  Except for my mother's mother, all my grandparents were gone before I was born. 
Granny B was a huge part of our lives, especially since we lived in her house until I was about 12.  She was a constant, almost like another parent.  When I heard other kids talk about going to visit their grandparents, I couldn't really relate to their experience.  I never had to go to visit.  She was just there.
Our eldest grandchild is expecting in February.  Our son said, "you know, you will be like Granny B to our grandkids."
That really gave me pause.  A great-grandmother.  Wow.  I mean, I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that eventually our grandchildren would have babies, and that would make us great-grandparents, but I wasn't really expecting it this soon.
Not really soon, since Pie is older than we were when we married and started having babies.  but soon in terms of being prepared.  Or in this case unprepared.
We live a couple of hours away from Pie and her husband, not in the same house.  Not even in the same town.  How can we be as close to this baby as we were to our grandchildren?
Back then, when the grandbabies were coming along, we all lived in the same town, and saw each other frequently.  Most Sundays after church everyone came to our house for dinner and spent the afternoon visiting, and playing with the babies.
My mama lived right down the street, so it was less than a block to walk to her house with the babies.  And we all spent hours at the park across the street.
I have already started looking at patterns, getting ready to crochet, or knit, or sew a quilt for the new baby.  Pie says maybe we should get a pack-n-play for when they come to visit.  I hope they will come often.

To me, three of my grandparents were just a handful of faded pictures, and stories told by my parents, aunts and uncles.  I hope we will be much more than that for this baby.  So I have been thinking about what is the role of grandparents and great-grandparents.  As parents, we bear the full responsibility for bringing up our children.  As grandparents, we supplement the parental role, and our role is less about discipline and more about unconditional love.  What will we be as great-grandparents?  In just a few short months, we will begin to find out.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Update: Trim Healthy Mama

Since starting to eat according to this plan, we have seen some interesting developments.
Wick has lost 25 pounds, and 5 inches in his waist.
His blood sugar readings have come down so much, he is using about half the insulin he was using before.
My blood sugar A1C, the three-month average, has gone from 11+ down to 7.6, and is much more stable day-to-day, with fewer highs and lows.
Unfortunately, I have not lost any weight.

So...am I giving up? No.  This is a healthy way of eating, with few processed foods, and lots of protein, fat, and veggies.  We never have to be hungry, with so many snack options that don't affect blood sugar, and are relatively low in carbs and calories.  Wick says he can eat this way the rest of his life, instead of constantly thinking about what he can eat once he gets to his goal weight.

Chocolate, cheesecake, muffins, pudding, pasta--it can all be done by substituting whole foods for the white flour, sugar, rice, and potatoes we used to crave.  And we don't have those cravings any more.  It seems the more we eat carbs, the more we crave them.  It's like an addiction.  And now we are in recovery.

Yes, I would like to lose more than four pounds.  But whether I lose or not, I am getting stronger and healthier, and for now, that, combined with Wick's progress, is enough.

Usual disclaimer:  I have no financial interest in this book, and receive nothing for this review.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Trim Healthy Mama: a book review

Usual disclaimer:  I have no monetary interest in this book, nor do I receive any sort of remuneration for this review.

Our daughter shared this book with us when we had our Christmas together.  Wick ordered it.  I read it.  We are trying to eat a new way: not new foods, for the most part, but a different way of combining certain foods.

Basically, the idea is that within each meal there should be a source of good protein, and either plenty of fats or a higher amount of carbs.

The theory is that one should not combine large amounts of carbs with large amounts of fats.

The authors, sisters Pearl and Serene, use a friendly, chatty style to convey their messages.   Sometimes it feels like sitting in their living room, listening in on their lively conversations.

The overriding message for me is to be more thoughtful about what I eat, focusing mainly on unprocessed foods, instead of depending on pre-made, prepared foods, or going through the drive-through.

The sisters have a long history of searching for healthier ways of eating, from vegan to raw foods.  They share their experiences honestly, both successes and failures, and their research is ongoing.

They begin with sharing their Biblical view of how God intended for humans to eat, and near the end of the book even address hormones, sex, and relationships.

It took me several readings to feel that I was coming even close to understanding how the way of eating works.  I still struggle with when to eat S (satisfying, or higher fat) meals and snacks, and when to eat E (energy, or higher carb) meals and snacks.  I keep going back to the book, and gain a little each time.

For me there are only a couple of issues.  First is the lack of specific guidelines for S or E meals.  The only time I can find a mention of specific carb counts is very near the end of the book.  The sisters say that they do not want their readers to be constantly counting calories, fats, or carbs, but I at least need a little more of a specific guideline.

Second, regarding the recipes:  They are good.  However, the format is problematic for me.  There is a list of ingredients at the top, followed by numbered steps for preparation.  Here is my problem:  due to mobility issues, I try to gather all the ingredients on the table so I can sit down and prepare.  It is frustrating to get half-way through the steps, only to find that a required ingredient was left off the list at the top.

Another recipe issue concerns amounts, which are often vague or unstated.  Since the recipes involve several ingredients with which I was totally unfamiliar, I have no idea where to even start seasoning "to taste".  I had never used stevia, Truvia, Glucommanan, almond meal, or flax meal.  I had no idea how they would react in a recipe, or how to adjust if the taste or texture was off.  The ingredients are quite expensive to waste and then throw away if something does not turn out well.

It is possible to eat according to plan without the special ingredients, but meals will be somewhat limited and could get boring.  The recipes and the special ingredients expand options, and make meals and snacks much more varied and interesting.

Of the two sisters, Serene is the purist, and Pearl is more ... um ... liberal.  Serene will go to great lengths to eat purely, whereas Pearl is more willing to allow shortcuts and time savers.  For example, Serene refuses to use a microwave oven, while Pearl freely zaps her recipes.

We have both found our blood sugars are more stable than before.  We are looking forward to our next lab visit to see how other numbers, such as cholesterol, have reacted.

If you are looking for a 20-pounds-in-20-days weight loss plan, this is not for you.  It is a way of eating to be healthy and fit, with weight loss as a sort of side effect.  Results for us have varied.  In just over five weeks, I have lost four pounds, while Wick has lost ten.  Yes we want to lose weight.  But more than that, we want to be healthier.

We have tried literally hundreds of diets in our lifetime, trying to lose weight.  Losing is often not so much a problem and maintaining the loss.  Most diets don't give much explanation for maintaining.  One is either losing, or going off the diet and then regaining.

I realize some will say that I have not fully explained the content of the book.  I did not intend to.  I am merely making some random observations of what to me is important about this book and these sisters.  They make me laugh; they make me cry;  they give me hope.

For the first time, Wick says this is a way of eating he can do for the rest of his life.  I feel the same.

If you decide you are interested, you can not only get the soft-cover printed book, but also the electronic version.  And once you have read the book, you will want to check out the Facebook sites for ongoing support.

Authours: Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett.  Publisher: Prescott Publishing.  ISBN: 978-938945-00-7.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Is Coming

Getting ready for Christmas is almost as much fun as Christmas itself.  Starting about two weeks before Thanksgiving, I begin baking.

Some of the things I make will go with us to Thanksgiving celebrations with our kids and grandkids.

Some will go into the freezer to wait until Christmas Eve.

I usually bake several kinds of fruit breads in small loaves--banana, cranberry, lemon-lime, blueberry, pumpkin.  Then I start on the cookies.

I began this year with Cowboy cookies from Laura Bush's recipe.  This recipe includes, among other things, oatmeal, brown sugar as well as white, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, nuts, and maybe coconut.   I make big cookies, and still get about 8-9 dozen from this recipe.

Buddy, our oldest grandson, likes white chocolate chip/nut cookies, so I made those for Thanksgiving.  Son Scott loves Heath bits o' brickle cookies, so I made those last night for him.

The lemon-lime cake/bread is from my late mother-in-law's recipe, which has been a tradition for many years.  This, and the cranberry bread, my mama's recipe, have a delightfully tart taste to contrast with the sweetness of the sugar glaze.

Our big dinner on Thanksgiving and on Christmas consists of:
 baked or smoked turkey,
cornbread dressing from my Grandma Lee's recipe,
candied sweet potatoes,
macaroni and cheese (a perenial favorite of the grandkids, without which they think no family gathering is complete),
raw vegetables and dips,
jello salad,
fruit salad from my mama's recipe,
cranberry sauce,
rolls, and
mashed potatoes with giblet gravy.

After that meal, we indulge in pumpkin or pecan, lemon or chocolate pie, cookies, and cake.  This year at Thanksgiving I made another family favorite, red velvet cake, from my mama's recipe--with cooked frosting, not cream cheese.

Since we usually spend two or three days with our kids and grandchildren, our daughter Jeana usually makes up a meal plan.  She, our dear DIL Jamie, and Wick and I take responsibility for different parts of each meal.  Wick is usually the first one up, so he often takes full responsibility for making breakfast.  It's lovely to wake up to the smells of bacon, sausage, gravy, biscuits, and hot gravy.

This year I was sick for two weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I had a shorter window of time in which to finish my baking.  While I was sick, I had time to ponder on why I feel so fulfilled by doing so much baking.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, I pray prayers of thanks for all the many blessings in our lives.  Offering treats to our family is a small expression of our sense of blessedness.

At Christmas time, we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, who healed the sick and fed the hungry.

In some small way, my baking reflects that image of Jesus, feeding hungry people, just as the lights with which we decorate are reminders that He is the light of the world.

As we gather with our family, we talk about the many things for which we are thankful.  We celebrate communion together as a family.  We cook for each other, ministering to body as well as soul.  Being with my family feeds my soul.

Right now I am dividing all the baked goodies for distribution to friends, neighbors, and family.  Just my small way of sharing the love of Christ for all of us, and our love for one another.

Merry Christmas.  God bless us, every one.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Uncle Hardy, Big Tex, and Santa Claus

In Texas, September is still summer time; school starts, harvest begins, but asphalt in the cracks of Main Street still oozes and melts like bubble gum in the broiling noonday sun. But with October comes crisp autumn evenings, a huge pumpkin-orange harvest moon hangs low in the sky, and the State Fair begins. Pigs, horses, cows and rabbits vie for attention in the Livestock Building; jams and jellies jostle against prized quilts in the Women's Building; the lights of the Ferris Wheel spin dizzyingly; the sweet smell of cotton candy hangs heavily in the air. Looming above it all is a gigantic figure, one hand lifted shoulder-high in greeting, the other arm outflung as if to embrace all of Texas, stands Big Tex, the cowboy who symbolizes the biggest annual fair in the world. He has been standing there all my life. He seems to have been standing there forever.

As a little girl I was fascinated by Big Tex. He was both the first and last sight I wanted to see. Riding on Daddy's shoulder, firmly gripping a handful of his hair or Mama's finger for safety, I stared at the carefully detailed boots, comparing them point by point to those my father wore. Then my gaze moved up, up, past the long legs encased in blue denim, past the red and blue checked western shirt, to the face shaded by the big-brimmed hat. What would I find there? Would it be the affectionate twinkle that invites a little girl to snuggle in uncle's arms? Or the stern stare that nails a small sinner to the floor, awash in guilt for cookies stolen from Aunt Hazel's kitchen, apple cores thrown at the old sow, dirty footprints tracked across a clean floor? When one of my friends told me in breathless secrecy that she knew where babies came from, I said with infinite scorn, "Shoot, that's nothing - I know where Big Tex came from!"

He first say the light of day in the small town of Kerens, in Navarro County, over 50 years ago. As in many small towns, the people there go all out to decorate at Christmastime - not only their homes and businesses, but the town square as well. That year my uncle Hardy was not only the county surveyor, but also the model for the giant figure that would be the centerpiece of the holiday festivities. Tall, broad-shouldered and muscular, he was a fine figure of a man, and his measurements multiplied by seven became the measurements of the colossus. Back then, the cowboy's uplifted hand held a bag of gifts, and his bold features were almost hidden under a flowing beard made of ravelled cotton rope. Instead of a broad-brimmed Stetson, he wore a red cap trimmed with white, and he was known as Santy---Santy Claus.

After the celebration, this giant figure built of oil field pipe became a storage problem, which the townspeople solved by offering him to the State Fair. The company that makes Lee jeans offered to dress him as a cowboy, and Uncle Hardy helped dismantle him for his journey to Dallas.

I have never visited Uncle Hardy's house without thinking of Big Tex, and I never visit the fair without going to see my old friend, who is after all practically a member of the family. There is usually a daddy with a small child on his shoulders staring round-eyed at those enormous boots. Sometimes a tiny voice whispers, "Mama, where did he come from?" And I tell once more the story of Uncle Hardy and the Santa Claus who became Big Tex.

Monday, September 10, 2012

summer Is winding Down

Here at the lake, summer starts with Memorial Day weekend.  It is bookmarked by 4th of July, and ends with Labor Day.

That's when school starts, and football season, so we have fewer visitors in the fall.  The temperatures start cooling off, to low or mid-nineties, the mesquitoes are not so bad, and the hummingbirds gradually disappear.

We can once more enjoy taking the Chihuahuas out in the evenings for a run, and sit outside without melting.

We even talk about starting a bonfire, although that hasn't actually happened yet.  Wick is still cutting up and splitting firewood from the trees we lost in last summer's long drought, and it is a pleasure to contemplate winter evenings with a fire in the pot belly stove.

We've already started looking up soup recipes to simmer on the pot belly stove, and imagining the steam rising from the soup pot, and the aromas of beef, chicken, and vegetable stews.

The state fair is coming up soon, and I look forward to seeing the beautiful handmade quilts on display.

A few brown leaves have fallen from the trees, a reminder that fall brings with it the slowing down of life--the ducks and geese migrate; the squirrels tuck themselves into hollows in the trees and fluff up their tails to keep warm; the little rabbits hide themselves away until warmer weather.

I have several quilts in progress, each of which will be a reminder to the recipient of my love and will wrap each of them in warm hugs and prayers in every stitch during the dead of winter.

Fall is my favorite time of year.  A time of reflection, and a time of anticipation, relief from the heat of summer, and a promise of winter yet to come.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dickens' Fairy Tale

A book review

Many readers have been critical of The Old Curiosity Shop, feeling that it is too sentimental, too melodramatic, and poorly constructed. They are displeased with the lack of reality. This unreality, however, is exacly what one should expect, since the novel is not designed as a reflection of every~day life. Quilp the dwarf, Sally Brass the dragon, pure and innocent little Nell, and the puppets, giants, performing dogs and other grotesqueries are the cast of a highly imaginative and richly embroidered fairy tale.

Dickens' description of Daniel Quilp emphasizes his physical deformity: the oversized head, face and hands, the short stature, the mirthless grin, the long, crooked, dirty fingernails like claws. He is an animal, a monster who sleeps by day and prowls by night. In his deformity evil is embodied. And yet, as in all fairy tales, the villain must have some attraction or charm with which he draws his victims into his power. Quilp's is two-fold. He has the power to seek out his victim's greatest weakness and use it as a tool of destruction; and, according to his strangely infatuated wife, he has some personal charm, despite "his ugliness.. his ferocity or his natural cunning" (Penguin 73) He exercised his power over Nell's grandfather by lending him money. The sums are increasingly larger and larger, feeding the old man's mania for gambling, until everything he owns is lost to Quilp, who then assumes possession of the curiosity shop and all its contents. Nell and her grandfather are forced to run away from his overwhelming intimidation. He intimidates his wife as well, according to his mother-in-law:

"He is the greatest tyrant that ever lived, she [his wife] daren't call her soul her own, he makes her tremble with a word and even with a look, he frightens her to death, and she hasn't the spirit to give him a word back, no, not a single word" (Penguin 77).  But when Mrs. Quilp is encouraged by her neighbors to rebel against her lord and master, she defends herself by saying, " it's very easy to talk, but I say again that I know--that I'm sure--Quilp has such a way with him when he likes, that the best-looking woman here couldn't refuse him if he chose to make love to her" (Penguin 76).  Through intimidation or charm, this grinning ogre, this prancing goblin, overpowers his victims, until he finally meets disaster.

Small, delicate and beautiful, Nell is the embodiment of perfection, the idealized heroine whose nature encompasses perfect innocenee and goodness. As are almost all fairy tale heroines, she is an orphan, and her remaining relatives are so different in nature and treat her so poorly that one is tempted to think she is a misplaced foundling. Her brother has no real affection for Nell; he seems interested in her only as a means of gaining the fortune which he is convinced the old grandfather intends to bestow on Nell. The grandfather speaks often of his love for Nell, his desire to see her a lady, and his ambition to make her wealthy. But his fascination with gambling drives him to leave the little girl locked up alone night after night, while he pursues his elusive dream of winning a fortune. The gambling fever has such a grip on him that he even steals the few coins Nell earns working for Mrs. Jarley at the waxworks exhibit. He speaks frequently of his loving care of her, but tells Mrs. Jarley they can t be separated, or who would care for him? Instead of his caring for Nell, she cares for him, leading him as they flee London to search for peace and safety in the countryside. Ironically, it is not until Nell is at the end of her earthly journey, when it is too late, that he attempts to care for her as he should.

Their headlong escape from Quilp and London is the nightmare we have all experienced; the threat is not clearly defined or understood, and there is no safe haven, but flight is infinitely preferable to confrontation. The phantasms of the nightmare are the distorted figures of a dreamscape. Codlin and Short arise from among the graves, with the dismembered Punch leering over the top of a tombstone. The Jolly Sandboys Inn, which seems to offer refuge from the storm, is filled with threatening, or at least grotesque, characters such as week-kneed giants, dwarfs, gypsies, and dogs who wear clothes and walk on their hind legs. Mrs. Jarley offers respite from the wearying road, but Nell's nights among the waxwork figures are waking nightmares:

Quilp indeed was a perpetual nightmare to the child, who was constantly haunted by a vision of his ugly face and stunted figure"... Then there were so many of the [the waxworks] with their great glassy eyes--.. .they looked so like Living creatures, and yet so unlike, in their grim stillness and silence, that she had a kind of terror of them for their own sakes.. until she was obliged to rise and light a candle..." (Penguin 289)

Dick Swiveller's story is a parallel fairy tale in which the orphaned "Marchioness", like Cinderella, lives in a cellar, starved, mistreated, virtually a slave to Sally Brass, "a female dragon" (Penguin330). Dick is unconsciously a prince in disguise, who educates, then marries the waif, and redeems Kit's good character. Kit, Nell's faithful servant, marries his sweetheart and lives happily ever after, in service with the Garlands.

The single gentleman, Nell's would-be fairy godfather, arrives too late to save her, but is reconciled with the grandfather at last. Nell is not the traditional fairy-tale heroine who lives happily ever after; her story is more like the Victorian morality stories in which the wicked are punished, but the extremely virtuous, too good for this wicked world, are taken home to heaven lest they be corrupted by maturity. In Kit's children are reborn namesakes of many of the characters, but Nell is unique, the mortal girl who becomes, if not a fairy, then an angel.