Welcome to Half & Double

0905161335One weekend my husband and I went on a road trip to a couple state parks. Lots of food and snacks and hiking. Well, some hiking. When we returned I made the huge mistake of stepping on the scale. The number that blinked up at me was not a welcome sight. Not. At. All. How can it be that I was eight pounds heavier than when I was at full term with my first child? That can’t be. I gained forty pounds during that pregnancy. The number glaring at me was absurd. I got off the scale, gave it a good shake, and got back on. Got back off, changed the battery. Got back on.

Same blasted number. Honestly, I was tempted to throw the crazy thing out the bathroom window. I just stared at it. If looks could melt metal, plastic, and glass, that thing would have burst into flames and burned through the floor all the way down to the crawl space. I took a moment to visualize that. It would make a lovely fire. Toasty. Perfect for marshmallow roasting. Marshmallows! That vision made me smile and hungry.roasting-marshmallows

Then I had to turn to the mirror and confront the reality that was an ever-expanding me. I could live with it or do something about it. Two simple choices. I decided to do something.  I’ve done enough diet and exercise plans in my life to know that I’ve lost the sort of discipline where I can drink vinegar, honey, and peppercorn shakes three times a day and act like it’s tolerable. Bleh. That’s so 2010. But I had heard of people who divide all their meals into two equal parts and save half for another meal or share it with a friend. I can cut a hamburger in half. Surely. Or eat half a piece of pie. Or drink my tea half sweet/half unsweet. I can do that.

And to take it one step further, what if I also doubled the healthy eats or the exercise or the water drinking? Or all of that? Whoa! That seems like a Jedi mind trick to keep myself from feeling like I am completely giving up my favorite stuff. Half the chips; double the carrots. Half the donuts; double the oatmeal. Half the social media surfing; double the walking. Half the things that are taking me to the dark side; double the things can propel me toward liking the scale again.

Do this, I can. (Yes, I hear the Yoda voice in my head.) yoda-star-wars

How hard can it be? Simply eat half of my normal intake and double my exercise?  The food part could be tough—I like the food. A lot. Better than I like most people. But I probably eat twice as much as I need. Definitely. And the exercise part should be a piece of cake (oh, I wish—cake!). I don’t exercise now, so doubling it shouldn’t be too hard, right? Just double any activity I am doing. So when I walk to the bathroom, I will make the trip twice. When I go up the stairs at work, I will go up, down, then up again. When I forget my phone in the car in the parking garage, I will go to the garage and back, and to the garage and back again. (It would be too embarrassing to say how often this happens. But on the bright side, it may be enough to be considered a workout strategy.)

So that is how Half & Double began. Just a way to trick myself into taking better care of my health and making sure that I don’t end up having only one pair of yoga pants and an oversized shirt that fit. Because, unfortunately, that would not pass for dress code at the office.

And then I started thinking, why stop there? I can take this half and double idea to all areas of my life. Half the worry; double the prayer. Half the criticism; double the praise. Half the frustration; double the patience. Half the waiting for things to happen; double the making things happen. Half anything that is bad for or hurting me; double anything that is good for or helping me. Pardon me, but this is brilliant! Half and double. An incredible simply concept. Even I understand fractions and multiplication enough for this.

What would you like to half and double? What is stopping you? Join Yoda and me. Start a revolution, we can. Are you ready?

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Smell-a-rama

Today I am thankful for deodorant.

Plastic cosmetics bottles on white background

I was in very close proximity to several people who had worked a long, hard day or had some sort of sweat gland issue. No judgment. Maybe they ran out of deodorant this morning and had no time to buy more (but we were in Target). Maybe their dog ate their tube or their cat knocked it off the bathroom window ledge and it fell into thorn bushes. Maybe they don’t believe in it or they are from a country where deodorant isn’t used or they are one of those interesting people who can’t smell anything (anosmiac). Wouldn’t that be awful?

Whatever the case, I was thanking my lucky stars for my deodorant today. No one needed my smell added to the cacophony of body aroma this fine March afternoon. Or any day for that matter.

Smells are so much a part of our lives. The good, the bad, the delightful, and the gross. I don’t think we take full advantage of our olfactory sense. We rely on our other senses so much we neglect using our noses. It is a sense of smell that calls forth the deepest buried memories, alerts us to danger often before our other senses detect it, and helps us woo the opposite sex.

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I read a study once where new moms were separated from their babies and could only use their sense of smell to identify them. Researches had babies wear T-shirts for several hours and then took them off the babies. They blindfolded the moms and gave them each of the T-shirts to see if the mom would be able to identify the one worn by her child. If I remember correctly, the moms selected their baby’s T-shirt more than 90 percent of the time. The sense of smell is amazing. Although the longer you have those babies, the more you wish you did indeed have anosmia.

I, personally, have issues with smells. Certain chemical smells, including some perfumes and all bleach-enhanced cleaners, have the power to knock me out or give me a powerful headache. I can smell a match when it is struck three stories below me—which came in handy while raising two fire-loving sons. So when I’m in a foreign country (or a Target) where deodorant isn’t in use, my nose knows. And I am grateful that I am the smeller not the one who is emitting the smells.

 

 

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Sunset Hills

I live in Sunset Hills. It is aptly named. I am thankful for such a beautiful place to live and for the amazing sunsets we see when we drive home from work on days like today. Isn’t this awesome?

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His Spirit made the heavens beautiful.
Job 26: 13 NLT

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The heavens are beautiful. But on a regular basis I am so caught up in my life that I don’t stop and appreciate them. The colors: pinks, blues, oranges, purples. The clouds: dark, puffy, angry, skittering. The silhouette of the trees against the majesty of God’s masterpiece….it all adds up to a spectacular view just waiting for me to discover it.

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What else am I missing?

Tonight, on this sixth day of Lent, I took the time to stop, breathe, and look around. I noticed my husband’s gorgeous head of silver gray hair (young ladies these days pay big bucks for what he has naturally). There was my son’s beautiful, crooked smile. And the way my soon-to-be daughter-in-law looked at my son like she is the luckiest girl on earth even though he was snorting down a taco like a pig that hasn’t eaten in a month. Love is also beautiful…and possibly quite blind.

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I am a blessed woman. I am a grateful woman. I get to live in Sunset Hills with some of the best people on the planet.

Sunset

The day is done, the sun has set,
Yet light still tints the sky;
My heart stands still
In reverence,
For God is passing by.
–Ruth Alla Wager

 

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I Don’t Want to Get Up

On day four of Gratitude for Lent, I am thankful for high thread-count sheets. The are soft and cozy and feel so great on my skin…that I don’t want to leave them this morning. It is cold outside but warm and comfy under these sweet threads of Egyptian cotton. Temptresses! If I am late, the blame is on them!

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Day Three: Water

Today, I am grateful for clean, plentiful water.

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I have always been a water person. I love to swim, walk in the rain, go to the beach, and I have my white noise machines set to play the sound of waves, rain, or fountains. Sometimes I boil water while I cook just to hear water moving. I have been accused of regularly spending hours in a jetted tub with a good book (which I won’t bother denying).

In that tub, I usually have a tall class of sweet tea. I love fresh iced tea. (My favorite is made with water from the crystal clear, pure water found in Black, Missouri.) Since iced tea is made fresh daily with local water, the better the water, the better the tea. Water makes all the difference. If you are ever in a place where the water smells like sulfur, forgo the fresh tea and get something bottled.

In many areas of the world there is very little clean water. They don’t have the option to have tea or bathe regularly. Their water is muddy, carries disease, or is located miles away from where people live. Millions of women, men, and children walk miles every day to bring a container of water back to their homes. According to statistics, more than 780 million people in the world do not have access to clean water. And here I sit in about sixty gallons of fresh water listening to an audiobook drinking sweet tea made from fresh, clean water. I feel like I need to give more money to clean water ministries! I want to share this amazing gift.

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I met with a ministry several years ago that financed trips to dig wells that provided clean drinking water to people in remote South American villages. I loved the mission of the ministry and the hearts and the genuine compassion displayed by the men on the board. During the first meeting I called the ministry Aqua Viva. Continually. It is in fact Agua Viva. Life water not blue water. And they never corrected me. (We won’t go into how I messed up my words when I met with Fuzzy Duck Media.) My mix up did not damage our working relationship. It really was a honor to work with that ministry. It made me appreciate water even more.

There are many excellent ministries dedicated to bringing fresh water to people in need, to building wells, refining water, or researching ways to help people find and store fresh water. Look them up when you have time and donate if you have the funds. Or think about going on a missions trip to help dig wells for people who need them. Water is precious.

The ministry I worked with and many others go beyond digging wells to introduce villagers to the Living Water—Jesus Christ. Water for the body, water for the soul. Maybe that is why I like water so much, it is a physical symbol of my dependence on God. He quenches my spiritual thirst and washes me clean. I was baptized in creek full of crystal clear water in Black, Missouri. Where the tea is excellent.

Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.
John 4:14 NLT

 

 

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Listen Up

On the second day of Lent I find myself grateful for audiobooks.

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I fell asleep last night listening to a novel set in WWII Berlin involving British spies, Churchill, the German resistance, and a whole host of Nazi bad guys. I love books of any kind—paperbacks, hardcovers, kindle editions, first round manuscripts. But with audiobooks, I can take a book to bed, turn on the sound and turn out the lights. The storytelling helps me escape the stress of an abundant life or sparks my curiosity or puts me to sleep. Sometimes the book runs all night. (Or until I determine that four hours of sleep is essential before editing can commence on the morrow, and turn it off.) The downside of letting it run unchecked is that I have to go backward in the audio the next day to find the last thing I remember. Bother!

My hubby is a quiet man. I just love road trips with him.
“Whatcha thinking about over there?”
“Nothing.”
“How are you doing, sweetie?”
“Fine.”
“What do you think about thermal nuclear fission?”
“Dangerous.”
“I’m thinking we should remodel the house, add a fireplace to the bedroom, update the bathroom, install a pool, maybe a sauna, and cover the deck. What do you think?”
“No.”
“Chimpanzees or orangutans? If we adopted one, which would you prefer? Both are apes. Both are smart. Both probably shed hair as bad as the cat. Chimps are smaller. But orangutans are funnier. We could makeover Jackie’s room when he gets married and make it a primate room. Wouldn’t that be fun? Do you think they use a toilet or wear diapers? That could be weird. If you were sitting down to breakfast and were going to share a banana with one, which would you prefer?”
“Orangutans.” *

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And so it went before we discovered audiobooks. Now I can borrow them from the library, download them to my kindle, plug in an adapter, and, voilà, instant conversation for the long trips to Missouri, Wisconsin, or Minnesota. It keeps him awake while he drives and keeps me entertained without having to dig words out of him.

The hard part is finding a book we both like to listen to. We like a little mystery, a bit of romance, a dose of intrigue, a villain to loathe, and, if possible, someone whose antics make us laugh. And if the person reading the book has an accent, all the better. We are very cosmopolitan after all. Surprisingly, we have found several that fit the bill. Road trips are now more exciting and go by faster than ever.

I am grateful for audiobooks. What are your favorites?

*Disclaimer: Actual road trip conversations vary and occasionally last long into the journey with both parties contributing exciting and relevant dialogue.

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Storm Shelters

For Lent I am adding the discipline of gratitude. Daily gratitude. And today I am thankful for storm shelters.

A storm barreled through our area this morning and the warning signals blared over our cell phones at 6:50 a.m., scaring the snot out of Jeff and Jackie. I was putting on makeup at the time and had one side of my face done. We turned on the TV to make sure the warning was real and heard that it looked like a tornado was hitting the area where my office is located.

(Here is video taken from my office building this morning.)

So we grabbed our things and ran to our crawl space. Don’t imagine us crawling on all fours into a damp, dark, muddy space under the house. (Or do. Your thought life is yours to control.) Our crawl space has a full size door and we can walk right in. It is more like an unfinished basement with a very slanted floor. It is a nice place to sit out a storm even if we have to go out into the rain to get to it.

I noticed that Jackie had time to grab his computer and guitar. Great. If we were going to be stuck down there for a while we had entertainment. I sat in my lounger and couldn’t help but think that if our house blew away, I would be left with a half done face. I could be interviewed in the aftermath with a sort of Jekyll and Hyde thing going on. If I turned to one side I would look fabulous with great eye shadow and liner. If I turned the other way, disaster. Nobody wants to see that. So I had a choice. Go back up and finish makeup before the storm got too bad or plan to only allow news cameras to film from my right side. It was really raining so I decided keeping my right side to the cameras sounded doable.

Jeff and I have always had a place to ride out storms. Mostly basements. From Missouri to Minnesota to Tennessee, we have hunkered down and prayed and in many a shelter. It is as good a place as any to start Lent in a grateful state of mind. We were dry, together, and protected.

I did not grow up observing the tradition of Lent. We never discussed Ash Wednesday or Maundy Thursday or fasting or anything but Easter, eggs, candy, and baby chicks (I loved the ones that were tinted green or pink or purple—do they still do that?). I had heard of Mardi Gras but had not made the connection between that sparkly, inappropriate parade and Easter. I still have problems with that actually.new-orleans-086_pe

But as an adult, I have been officially introduced to Lent. I know people who “kind of” observe it and others who walk around with ash crosses on their heads. Some embrace it as a sacred duty to sacrifice for six weeks and others see it as a reason to party hard on Fat Tuesday.

I’ve come to think of it as a beautiful time of the year where I can reflect on how unfathomable it was for Jesus to march toward His death…for ME. Can you imagine that? Knowing that on a certain day you are going to die an agonizing death, knowing the time and the place, and knowing you have to go through with it? That you want to go through it? That the hope of the world is on your shoulders? That the people you are doing it for will stuff themselves full of food and sin on Fat Tuesday and show their boobs for beads? And still want to go through with it? I’m flabbergasted and thankful and humbled.

Last night I was meeting with a woman who volunteers a lot of her time at a food pantry handing out food to immigrants and underserved people in our area. She gives her life for these people. Her health has deteriorated, her family life suffers, her business has had to hire more help to make up for her absence. But she sparkled when she talked about loving on these people. She stressed how imperative it is for them to get these boxes of food once a month. It is vital to their existence. Most of them don’t know her name or speak her language. But she sacrifices for them anyway. She gives them pieces of her life. She shows love in ways that many of us will never have to experience. She is their storm shelter.

I am grateful for storm shelters. May I always have one and be one.

But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O  Lord , a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat. For the oppressive acts of ruthless people are like a storm beating against a wall, or like the relentless heat of the desert.

Isaiah 25:4‭-‬5 NLT

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Round and Round We Go

merrygoroundI have lately felt like I’m on a merry-go-round that is going faster and faster. Life, family, work, church—it is all spinning. It seems everything is a blur. Sometimes I hang on, throw back my head, and laugh with joyful abandon. Sometimes I scream. It’s exciting. It keeps me feeling alive, young…and exhausted.

When we were kids, we clamored to get on the merry-go-round. We would hang on for dear life and giggle and let ourselves go—hair flying, friends screeching, begging for the thing to go faster. But even back then we had to get off after a few go arounds or risk losing our lunch on our teachers’ shoes.

Sunday afternoon I got off the ride. I stopped, napped, relaxed, and had a moment to think about how busy life has been. It has been fantastic. I have partied, feasted, worked, gone to concerts, packed, road tripped, shopped, cooked, cleaned, played, and loved on family and friends in the last few weeks.

I am a big believer in living a full-out life. “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, leaking oil, shouting GERONIMO!” That is exactly how I want to live.

And that is what I’ve been doing.

But sometimes full-out is too much. Things start spinning out of control. It is easy to get caught up in the blur with its flashes of light and distorted images. It’s a fascinating escape from a humdrum life. Too much of it though will make you sick. Remember that feeling when you were a kid? When you were ready to hurl and you begged the kids pushing the merry-go-round or the carousel operator to just stop already? When that happens, I have started paying more attention to the things that aren’t rushing by—the people on the ride with me and the thing that I cling to for safety. Family, friends, God.

merrygoround.jpgAll we had to do when we were children was turn our eyes back to the things right in front of us: the bar, the wood, the carousel horse, the person by our side. No matter how fast we were spinning, if we concentrated on them, we wouldn’t fly off the ride or toss up our cookies.

Maybe that is the answer for my adult life. I can enjoy the ride more if I don’t spend so much of the time caught up in what is going on around me. If I halve the time I spend concentrating on the flashes of light and blurry images and double the attention I give to those right beside me, maybe I will have a more fulfilling life without going faster and faster. All I have to do is pay attention to the right things. I can do that.

Geronimo. Let’s go!

I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live.
Luke 16:9

 

 

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