I often astound myself with my own stupidity, but every now and then I am even more surprised to realize that I’ve had a really good idea.

Take today, for instance. Today was my monthly foray into the world of watercolor, at which I never get any better. (You will see proof of this below.) But anyway, there I was with a bunch of rowdy middle-aged ladies and one very sweet young girl. And as I climbed the stairs to our meeting room, I felt guilty, asI always do, that I hadn’t bought a drink.

Our group meets in one of the upstairs rooms in a combination used bookstore/coffeeshop, and usually some of the other ladies get fancy coffee drinks to sip on while we paint. Since we get to meet there for free, I always feel guilty about not supporting the place by getting coffee—but I just can’t. We meet onTuesdays, and for the last several months and for the foreseeable future, Tuesdays are fast days for me. In fact, Tuesdays are “dry” fasting days for me, meaning I neither eat nor drink anything at all until late afternoon or evening.

So even though the coffee shop does offer tea that I don’t mind drinking, I can’t have it on Tuesdays, which is when I’m most likely to be there. You see my problem.

Today, while I waited for everyone else to arrive for the painting group, I browsed the bookshelves in the upstairs hallway. There are two very dangerous shelves up there—the poetry shelf and the art shelf. Sure enough, I found a book that caught my fancy. It’s a picture book full of fabulous photos of houses by the sea. As I reluctantly put the book back on the shelf, my brilliant idea came to me, and after the painting group, I acted on it.

I went back to the art shelf and picked up that book. Then I went down to the coffeeshop and bought it from Vangie, the barista (who was also manning the store for the afternoon). Here’s what struck me like a thunderbolt: The book cost about what a fancy coffee drink would cost. Buying it was my way of supporting a store that I like very much. It will bring me much more enjoyment than a cup of coffee would. When I have drooled over every single photo and read every line of text, I will have gotten much more than my money’s worth from this book—and I can still sell it back or pass it on to someone else who might enjoy it.

So, new strategy. Every time I go to an event at that bookstore on a day that I’m not drinking, I will find and buy a book of similar value as a cup of coffee, and thus increase my quality of life while supporting the store at the same time. See? Brilliant.

In other news, I had to ask my autoharp teacher (whom I haven’t seen since January) to help me with a Christmas carol I’m supposed to play on Saturday. I couldn’t get the chords to come out right on one of the lines. I felt so stupid. Turns out the song changes key in the middle of the line and then changes back to the original key! So, I feel a little better about my failure now. More practicing coming up.

I had a writers’ meeting this evening, and I had to borrow Mercy and Daniel’s car to go since we still only have one vehicle. The van should be fixed tomorrow, and we’ll be in debt for a few months paying it off. This is a terrible time to need an expensive repair—right before an expensive trip to Colorado for our son’s wedding!

Lucy is recovering well, by the way. She went to classes yesterday and today, and today she started her new job at the library! Thank you for all your prayers for her recovery.

Parting Shot:

A very amateurish Christmas tree I did this afternoon


Yesterday I had a chance to make someone smile. Our small group was meeting in the evening, and we were supposed to bring Thanksgiving leftovers—and I did. I made some turkey curry to take. But it occurred to me that our hostess might like some comfort food from her home country of Brazil, so I also made a Brazilian treat and some Brazilian cheese bread, which is naturally gluten free (we had it on Thanksgiving too).

Our hostess and her daughter were so thrilled! The daughter noticed the brigadeiros first, and ran to ask her mom if she could have one before dinner. (No.) Then she grabbed some cheese bread, not realizing what it was until she bit into it. She was so excited! She ran back to her mom and made her taste the bread so she could see what it was. Their delight made my evening.

This morning, I had more baking to do before my class, because it was our turn to provide snacks. I had already made a pan of gluten-free brownies, so this morning I only had to make the gluten-free cinnamon rolls. (I have a student who is gluten free.)

It was a fun class because this morning we got to watch a movie of the Shakespeare play we had just finished reading. I think everyone enjoyed it.

Our van is back in the shop and having to share a vehicle is getting pretty old. I really hope we can get it back on the road without too much more expense.

Lucy got a job at the university today, working over the break. This is great as she needs some income. Now I will have two daughters working at two different libraries!

And yes, I have been practicing the Christmas carols I’m supposed to play on Saturday.

Angels From the Realms of Glory

Getting a head start on Christmas carols this year . . .


Angels From the Realms of Glory

James Montgomery

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant Light;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great desire of nations,
Ye have seen His natal star;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

A Musical Day

I admit I may be panicking a tiny little bit. When I agreed to play Christmas carols in a parade a week from today, I thought I already had arranged most of the songs for autoharp. All I would have to do was practice.

It turns out my memory is a big fat liar. When I started actually pulling up the files, I discovered that most of them didn’t exist. Out of eleven carols we are supposed to sing, I think I only had four or five of them done. So guess who has spent all day working on music?

I got most of it done, but there are two songs with sections that have defeated me, and I am either going to have to sit them out or get help from an expert. At least now I’ve got them mostly into useable form and can start practicing them in order. My fingers are going to be sore all week!

Today was Mary and Jordan’s last with us for this visit. Mary was such a trooper. She worked on putting lights on the tree all morning and into the early afternoon. She got the job done!

After lunch, we had a family group video chat, with Lina in Africa, Flynn and Tiffany in Colorado, and Mercy and Daniel in South Carolina. Spencer was here with us for at least part of it. It was so good to see everyone’s faces. Lina only has about a week left in Africa!

Mary and Jordan left at about 3:00 this afternoon and are already safely home. It is so nice to have them closer.

I got some knitting done during the chat and also a little bit this evening when I took a break from music to watch a video with my husband and Lucy. Otherwise, it’s been a mostly music day.


I hope you’ll forgive me for not posting on Thanksgiving. It was a very full day!

We have a family tradition of having a brunch together on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had assembled regular and gluten-free casseroles the night before, but I still had to do some preparation before getting them in the oven.

Spencer and his girlfriend Jade arrived just in time to join us for brunch. It was a boisterous meal, as it usually is when we have that much of the family together. It was actually a small holiday for us—only eight people at the table!
For most of the rest of the day, I was cooking, with Mary as my very efficient helper. I put out snacks in the afternoon to tide everyone over until dinner. There was no excuse for anyone going hungry!

We also had our annual Thanksgiving paper airplane races. Since Lucy is still recovering from her surgery, she sat on the steps and photographed the festivities for us. The prize for distance went to Mary. The “airtime” prize went to Jasper, whose plane flew in the opposite direction from the one he threw it, but it stayed up a long time! And the “artistic merit” prize went to my husband, who had recreated an elegant design he learned as a boy in Germany.

The meal itself was a success, with everyone remarking on how good the turkey was this year. It should be—I brined that bird for five days! We watched a movie after dinner and then finished off with dessert. We made something new this year—a cranberry curd tart that apparently is quite delicious. I daresay we will make it again sometime. (There was also pumpkin cheesecake and a chocolate layered dessert.)

We all slept in this morning and I was so thankful that I don’t “do” Black Friday. By the time I had to go out to buy cat food this afternoon, the frenzy was over.

The kids all went out for coffee this morning—including Lucy. Less than 48 hours after her surgery, and she was already up to hanging out at a coffee shop with her siblings.
This evening after eating some leftovers, Mary and Jordan put up our Christmas tree, in hopes that Mary will have time to put the lights on for me in the morning. Lucy certainly isn’t up to it, and if Mary isn’t able to do it, we will have to wait until we get back from Flynn’s wedding next month when Lina will be here. I am so thankful for helpful kids.


Parting Shot:

11-22-18 planes in air

Paper airplanes in flight!

In and Out of the Hospital

First, the important facts about today:
Mercy and Daniel made it safely to South Carolina.
Lucy made it safely through gallbladder surgery and is now back home.
The van made it safely back into our driveway but is far from “fixed.”
Mary, Jordan, and Jasper made it safely from Memphis to our house!

It’s been quite a day. I was up early, picking up some last-minute items at Walmart and putting gas in the car after yesterday’s excursion to Dallas. Then I came home and made up the bed in the guest room for Mary and Jordan and tried to make the room as welcoming as I could.

Then it was time to head to the hospital. It was a pretty painless process getting checked in (the pain will come later with the bills!). After a reasonable wait, Lucy was moved to a prep room where they took her vitals and put in her I.V. line and made her change into the abominable hospital gown. Then we went upstairs to the surgical floor and waited some more. The surgeon checked in on us, and the anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist came and introduced themselves.

Then it was time for surgery and I had to go back down to the waiting room and sit in front of a TV playing one sappy Hallmark Christmas movie after another. I drank my tea (I brought a thermos) and knitted and read (and prayed) while I waited. Finally I got a call from the surgeon saying that everything had gone really well and she was in recovery.

After half an hour or so, they moved her back downstairs and I was allowed to go be with her. Here’s what was amazing to me. She got out of surgery at I think about 2:30. We were in the car on our way home by 4:30!

She’s doing really well. She’s been camped out on the couch and has been able to drink and eat since coming home. Mary and Jordan and Jasper arrived this evening and that really perked Lucy up.

And since we came home so early, I had more time to cook and am doing really well on my Thanksgiving dinner prep. In fact, much better than I usually do when I don’t lose the two days before Thanksgiving!

Whispers in the Pews: Voices on Mental Illness in the Church by Chris Morris and others

My Review

I was interested in this book because I have met some of the people whose stories are told within, and I was curious. I was curious because mental illness has cut quite a swathe through my family and friends, and I wanted to know what others have experienced. The book is a compilation of personal stories about mental illness—and the church’s response to it.

Pain. If you want to know what this book is about in one word, it’s pain. Some of the pain is so raw that it can be hard to read. But you should read it. There is the pain of childhood trauma, that bears fruit in mental illness of various types. The pain of the illness itself. And most dismaying of all, the pain of rejection from the very people who should be first in line to offer comfort and acceptance—Christians.

I read some things that didn’t surprise me, but made me very sad. I have learned in the last couple of decades that there are many Christians who don’t believe mental illness exists. In their minds, it is always one of two things: sin (especially unconfessed sin), or lack of faith. Now I do believe in sin, and I also believe that sin can result in devastating physical, mental, and emotional illnesses—but to claim that explanation for every mental illness makes no sense.

Our world is broken, and many of the people in it are too. Some of these people turned to the church for help, for understanding, and for healing—and were turned away. Worse yet, they were blamed for their illness or forced to keep secrets to protect predators who were valued church members.

What do you do if you’re mentally ill, but you’ve been taught all your life that mental illness doesn’t exist except as a symptom of secret sin? You add a huge burden of guilt to your spirit, and you lie to everyone because you don’t want them to know that you’re a bad person, because if you’re struggling with mental health issues, you must be bad, right? And then you have more guilt about the deception.

What if you’re told that your illness is due to a lack of faith? If you would just love Jesus more and pray more and read the Bible more, you’d be fine—so what’s wrong with you? Some of those I know who struggle with mental illness are among the most devout people I’ve ever met. If being spiritual could cure them, they’d have been cured years ago.

The stories in this book run the gamut in terms of the responses that the writers encountered. Some of them were met with kindness, compassion, and help. Others, not at all. I wonder how many people have given up on church—or Christianity—entirely because of the way they were treated when they tried to get help.
This book is a way of starting a conversation that needs to happen. In fact, it’s long overdue.


I have four daughters. They are a big part of my life. Tomorrow will be about Lucy and her surgery, but today was about Mercy. In order to be available to her, I was up and very busy this morning. I made another shopping run to Aldi and then came home and cooked furiously until noon, trying to get as much stuff done ahead for Thursday as possible.

I even found enough time to make Mercy a special hot toasted sandwich using just-made low carb bread. Then I put the rest of her lunch together and drove to the library to pick her up from work, and we set off for Dallas while she ate her lunch in the car.

She had a job interview at a university library in Dallas today, so she asked me to drive her since she and Daniel are driving all night tonight to make it to his family’s place for Thanksgiving. The interview was at 4:00. The GPS said it would take two and a half hours to get there. Remember, we left at noon! So we had plenty of time . . . and we needed it.
Well before we hit the halfway mark, we found ourselves in a traffic jam that went on . . . and on . . . and on. Suddenly our huge time cushion disappeared. We ended up making it to the library at about 3:40, giving Mercy enough time to freshen up and get ready for her interview. I waited in the car and prayed!

The interview was short—less than half an hour—and she can’t really tell if it went well or not. We drove from there to a nearby coffee shop to meet up with Mercy’s friend Anne for a few minutes, before starting the drive home through heavy rush hour traffic. I finally dropped Mercy off at her apartment a little after 8:30 this evening. That was many hours of driving for a very short conversation.

Mercy and Daniel are on the road now, with a 900-mile trip ahead of them. I hope they are able to stay awake and alert. I would never drive through the night at my age . . .
We would appreciate your prayers tomorrow. Lucy and I will be getting her checked in at the hospital at 10:00 in the morning, and her surgery is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. She should be able to come home later that afternoon, and Mary, Jordan, and Jasper will be arriving in the evening.


So, the moribund van saga continues. My husband and his mechanic buddy couldn’t figure out the cause of the problem, so they towed it to a local mechanic shop. The pros at the shop couldn’t figure it out either! Yesterday afternoon, my husband and his friend got the van back onto campus and spent hours trying to track down the problem—without success. This evening they towed it to another mechanic shop. We really need to get that vehicle back on the road! Maybe this time the right person will look at it and figure out what is wrong.

Yesterday we had a little change in routine. My husband and I decided to go visit our “old old” church in the town of Henderson. It is a tiny congregation now and we love those people dearly. Visiting that church holds even greater appeal now because they still sing hymns there and our current church does not.

Our sweet friend Jean was sitting in her usual place and was so happy to see me. She is well into her 90s now and still going to work at her son’s gun shop every day. She has been sitting in the same spot at the back of the sanctuary for at least 20 years now. When Flynn was a kid, he used to sit with her until she took him out for children’s church.
It was so refreshing to see our old friends and have a chance to visit with them for a while. Every time we go, I wonder if it will be the last time we see one of them. Nobody is young!

We watched a movie with Mercy and Daniel after our family supper last night, and I got some knitting done.

This morning Lucy and I drove up to the hospital. We had been told that if she paid the surgeon’s fee today instead of after the surgery, it would be half price. So we paid today. A friend of Lucy’s actually provided the funds so that we could at least pay this part of the expense up front. Anything related to medical care is so discouragingly expensive.

I worked with my tutoring student this afternoon, did some laundry, and more Thanksgiving planning. Tomorrow is my last day to do anything “ahead,” and I’m going to be gone all afternoon! Somehow it will get done . . .

Parting Shot:

11-18-18 Jean & me

Me with Jean yesterday. Standing up is hard for her, so I didn’t ask her to.

My Diabetes Miracle #19: The Beast in the Bathroom

If you’re a woman, chances are good you have a love-hate relationship with a piece of technology that probably resides in your bathroom: the scale.

In all the posts I have done about my health journey, I have rarely mentioned the scale and the role it plays in my plan. In the beginning, my focus was totally on getting my diabetes under control and getting off my prescription meds, so I made a deliberate choice to downplay the weight-loss side of my journey—even though I fervently hoped I would lose weight!

For the whole first year, I only weighed myself once a month, on the first day of the month. I was afraid seeing the daily fluctuations would just be too depressing. Yet I felt I had to have the accountability of a monthly weigh-in. I have never subscribed to the idea that you should just ignore the scale and go by how you “feel.” Often when I “feel” lighter I have in fact gained weight—and vice versa.

Earlier this year I changed my approach. Once a month was no longer working for me. I wanted to see the effects my meals and activities had on a more immediate basis, so I began weighing myself every morning after getting up but before eating or drinking anything.

I have found it very helpful. The scale motivates me both ways. If my weight is higher than I hoped for, it strengthens my resolve to stay the course so that the number will drop. I might be tempted to indulge during the day, but I will remind myself that I can’t afford it, and knowing that makes it easier to resist.

If I have lost some weight, first of all it makes my day! Also, it motivates me to stick to my plan because I don’t want to mess up and do anything to invite those pounds to come back. Again, I find it easier to resist temptation because I don’t want to see the number go back up.

Note: when I refer to “temptation” I am not talking about indulging in sweets or starches. I’m talking about being tempted to eat perfectly “legal” food that I just hadn’t planned to eat that day.

I think this is going to continue to be vital to me if I ever achieve my goals and move into “maintenance” mode. I’ll be able to catch it when I gain a couple of pounds and go right back into fasting before it gets out of hand. I may not continue weighing every day—but certainly at least once or twice a week.

What about those times when the scale doesn’t move? When the number stays the same for a week—or a month? This is exactly why I only weighed once a month at first. I didn’t want to be discouraged. However, I have learned something in the last twenty-two months. If I remain faithful to my plan, my body will eventually “accept” my current weight and allow me to lose a little more. Yes, it’s agonizingly slow, at least for me. But I have enough experience now to be confident that the process is effective and that it will continue to work.

Why have I been thinking about my scale today? Because I recently celebrated another little victory. My scale informed me that I have now lost a total of 120 pounds. Two years ago I would not have believed it was possible. It has been a hard, hard journey to get here, but my perseverance has paid off.

If I lose another 10 pounds, I will be at the weight I considered to be a “realistic” goal when I started this journey.

If I lose another 20 pounds, I will be at the weight I consider to be a “challenge” goal, well within the “normal” weight range for my height.

If I lose another 30 pounds, I will be at what I consider to be my dream weight. I don’t know if it’s even possible—but my views on what is possible have been changing!
And even if, for some reason, I am unable to lose more weight—it sure is nice to be 120 pounds lighter than I used to be! I know I can stay here, but I sure hope I am able to keep going.