A Move and a Sudden Change of Plans

I realized I never told you last night about my writers’ meeting. Instead of the usual workshop or lecture, it was one of those “murder mystery” dinners where various people were playing the five suspects in the dastardly murder of a Boston socialite on her way to marry a Texas rancher. It was a lot of fun. We were split up into groups and allowed to interview each of the suspects. My group did not guess who the killer was—but we still had fun.

The meeting broke up rather suddenly when it started sleeting outside. I drove home carefully and was glad to get here.

This morning I slept in before getting up to do some work in the kitchen. My husband took off once again to work on the green van—the one he’s trying to get operational for when the gray one bites the dust.

I texted Spencer near noon to ask if Jade had arrived safely, because I knew she was coming in for the weekend. He said no. She left via Greyhound early this morning, but her bus was late and Spencer was afraid she’d miss her connection in Dallas. I told him I’d be willing to go get her if she missed her bus, because Spencer had to work today and I knew if she had to wait for him to come get her, it would be late evening before he could be there.

Sure enough, at about 1:30 I got a call from Jade saying she’d missed her connection and was stranded at the bus station in Dallas. So all my plans went out the window and a few minutes later I was on the road headed toward Dallas.

The weather was ghastly. Cold, rainy, overcast, with a few areas of sleet. I was held up several times because of accidents on the highway. I’ve got to admit, I was not thrilled about having to drive into downtown Dallas. It was a stressful drive, but eventually I made it to the bus station and picked up Jade.

There were more traffic holdups on the way home due to accidents, so my GPS routed me a totally different way. We didn’t run into any traffic jams at all, and we made it home just in time for the dinner which Lina had to make because I hadn’t been here to do it!

Spencer got off work and was able to join us while we were still sitting at the table. When he has to work Saturday, he gets Monday off, so his weekend will be starting tomorrow.

Meanwhile, 900 miles away in Colorado Springs, Flynn and Tiffany moved into their new home today after closing on it yesterday! Flynn sent me a picture as confirmation that they honored our family’s tradition of always having hot dogs for the first meal in a new home. I’m sure there is plenty more work to do, but I am so happy that they have their own place now.

My Review of the Sash Bag

I freely admit I have a thing for bags. I have a lot of them. I use them all at least occasionally. But I have been frustrated in my quest for the perfect everyday handbag (purse). I no longer need the massive “mom purse” I carried when my children were young, and which saved my sanity on many occasions. Now I mostly just need a way to carry my wallet, my keys, my phone, and some tissues and lip balm.

For the last several months, I’ve been using this little tote bag that looks like something a five-year-old would have:

?

Not because it is such a great bag, but because it was about the right size and most of my other handbags are too big (or too small) for my everyday needs. I dreamed about designing and making the perfect bag for myself—and I probably will at some point make a bag to take to conferences and meetings—but then again, I now have a backpack that is really nice . . .

So anyway, I started getting a lot of ads in my Facebook newsfeed for the “Sash” bag. It has 10 pockets and the ads made it look so enticing and easy to carry. When I received my class fees for this semester, most of the money had to go toward our taxes, but I did splurge on getting a Sash bag—by the far the most I have EVER spent on a handbag! (It’s made from leather and lined with RFID-blocking fabric.) There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

The cross-body bag is U-shaped, with two separate halves divided by a seam so you can NOT put anything in the middle. This is to keep the profile slim so it will conform to the curve of your hip.

?

The pockets are all small, but will hold credit cards, lip balm, and similar small items. No room for a checkbook or a notebook of any kind, but I do have a pen and a couple of folded 3×5 note cards in there for taking notes. The long strap comes unattached and is adjustable in length via a series of very strong snaps. This is a great feature if you are taller/larger or shorter/smaller than average.

Drawbacks:

—The biggest drawback for me is that you can’t set this bag down like you would any other handbag. It doesn’t “stand” at all. I fold it in half, and then fold the strap down over it, but it still takes up a lot of real estate and the contents are difficult to get at if you’re not wearing it.

?

I had my husband install a hook for me to hang it on at home so I have a place to put it without having to lay it down somewhere.

—It really does have ten pockets, but they are tiny. There are several card slots you can use to eliminate your wallet (on both sides of this divided bag). There are two “cash pockets” behind the card slots, but they are very hard to access. I held up the line in Walmart the other day trying to get money out of my cash pocket. Most of the time I keep a change purse in the “main’ compartment and put both bills and coins in it. On the back of each half, there is a zippered pocket that is billed as being perfect for your passport, which is one reason I got the bag (because I still dream that I’ll get to travel again someday). It took many, many tries, but I did eventually shoehorn my passport into there. Maybe if I do it a bunch more times, it will get easier. It’s a very tight fit. The two open pockets on the front for your phone and keys are better, although I still really struggle with getting my keys in and out of such a tight space.

—Because the pockets are intended to eliminate the need for a wallet, it’s a bit of a project to switch over to a different bag if you want something different for a specific occasion.

Advantages:

—My top drawback was that this bag is “unputdownable.”  But that is also one of its greatest assets. You don’t really need to put it down even while driving, if you don’t want to. It’s by far the most comfortable bag to carry I’ve ever had. I actually used to get a shopping cart even if I was only getting a couple of things, because I hated carrying my purse around and trying to wrangle purchases at the same time. With the Sash bag, my hands are free and I don’t feel burdened. I can skip getting a cart at least some of the time.

—If you have to use a public restroom, you don’t have to worry about setting your bag down somewhere disgusting or even hanging it on a hook where it might be accessible to a thief. You can just keep it on.

—Despite being made of leather, which is often heavy, this bag is so light that you can wear it for hours without stressing your shoulder or making you want to set it down. In fact, because the capacity is so small, I think it would be impossible to load this bag down enough to make it uncomfortably heavy. There just isn’t enough room, unless maybe you’re lugging gold or lead bars in there!

—Because it’s a cross-body bag, it won’t slip or slide off your shoulder. Yay. You don’t have to constantly adjust it.

—Both sides of the bag zip both up and down. I thought it would be really annoying to have to zip the bag open every time I needed something, but it actually hasn’t bothered me at all. You get to choose if you like to have the zipper pulls at the top or bottom of the bag—or even in the middle.

—It’s a great “diet” bag. It is too small to carry snacks in!

Takeaway: If you like to carry your checkbook/hair brush/makeup/library with you at all times, this is not the bag for you. If you like to have a book/knitting/project with you, you will have to bring a separate bag for that. I actually don’t mind that. When I’m out shopping or running errands, I don’t expect to have time to knit or read, so the Sash bag is fine by itself. If I’m going to an appointment when I might have to wait, I throw my Kindle in my knitting bag and take it along separately. After all, when I’m wearing the Sash, I have both hands free.

I know it sounds like it has a lot of drawbacks—and it does. My free trial month is just about up, but I won’t be sending it back. The comfort and ease of carrying it outweigh most of the negatives I’ve mentioned. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than anything else I’ve tried in the last several years. I have stopped my search for a new, practical, everyday handbag.

?

My Diabetes Miracle #22: The Two-Year Mark

Today is the two-year anniversary of the day I started my radical “pancreas rescue plan.” Has my pancreas been rescued? Evidence would seem to say yes—as long as I continue to stick to my plan, and of course, I will. I no longer need any kind of medication. I never want to see a “3” as the first number on my scale again—or even a “2!” I am so much healthier now, and able to do so many more things than I could before. I love being able to buy “normal” clothes sizes. I just realized the other day that if I ever get to fly again, I won’t have to ask for a seatbelt extender, which I always found so humiliating.

So I thought I’d take a moment here to go over my most important rules as I’ve progressed on this journey.

Rule #1: Do whatever it takes for as long as it takes. It has taken a level of commitment and sacrifice that I couldn’t foresee at the beginning of my journey—but it has been worth it. One day at a time, I’ve learned to do what must be done. Just a few months in, I realized that this wasn’t a quick fix. I estimated it would take me a full three years to reach the weight and level of health I hope to achieve. I still think that is a realistic estimate, so I’ve got another year before I might find out what “maintenance” will look like. Meanwhile, I’ve proven I can maintain my current weight, and that’s very reassuring. If you want numbers, I lost 65 pounds in the first year and 55 pounds in the second year. This year my goal is 20-30 pounds, at which point I will be a “normal” weight.

Rule #2: Don’t do anything you’re not willing to do for the rest of your life. This is why I’ve never committed to a time-consuming exercise regimen. I’ve proven conclusively that exercise does not help me lose weight, and I certainly don’t have time to spend a couple of hours a day working out. I exercise to maintain my mobility and quality of life, and for that purpose a brisk forty-minute walk with some light weight lifting has been just fine. Fasting is something I’ve incorporated into my lifestyle and I know I’ll be doing it regularly for the rest of my life. I don’t plan to ever eat sugar again. Everything I’ve done, I’ve done with the realization that I may well be doing it for the rest of my life, and that’s okay.

I do want to address one issue that has come up occasionally, and that is the implication that I am “starving” myself. This always makes me laugh, because after all, I am still overweight! So maybe we should define terms here. “Starvation” is when you need food but have no access to it. I have never starved in my entire life.

Fasting, on the other hand, is a millennia-old practice used for both spiritual and physical healing. Honestly, keto and fasting have been very therapeutic for me—and I have yet to even fast half as long as Jesus did (forty days).The drastic measures that I’ve had to take are not necessary for everyone. Probably not for most people. Believe me, I tried all the other things. All. Of. Them. (Except surgery. Never gonna go there.) So rather than complain that I am “starving,” I am ecstatic that after 35 years, I have finally found something that actually works. As counterintuitive as it may seem to those who have never been morbidly obese and addicted to food, fasting is much easier than restricting your eating when you’re a food addict. I find it much easier to not eat than to eat just a tiny portion of a food I like.

So yeah—fasting will continue to be a big part of my life, however much longer that might be. The food I do eat is good food. No sodas, no sugar, no junk food, no starches. I am almost unbelievably healthier now than I was two years ago. I’m not starved. I’m well-nourished. I like feeling this way.

A Rainy Rescue & Banana Bread Baking

Today got off to a pretty exciting start. We’ve had several days of very warm, humid weather (by warm I mean as high as the low 80s!). Last night it was supposed to rain, but it didn’t. When I looked at the weather map this morning, there didn’t seem to be any rain in the offing. So my husband went to work on his bicycle as usual. And Jasper got up excited about his bicycle excursion to a donut shop on a highway over three miles from here (the one in walking distance has closed). He was going there to meet up with the new leader of his youth group. (Second new guy in less than a year.)

I made sure he had his phone so he could call me if he needed help. I resisted the urge to follow him in the car because that’s creepy and after all, he’s almost eighteen! So he set off and then ten minutes later it started raining—hard. I received a text from Jasper saying he needed to be picked up. I was still in my pajamas, so I threw some clothes on and drove off in the pouring rain to look for him. I received a second text telling me where he was. He was on the side of the highway where the side street he’d been on intersected with it.

Poor guy. Standing there in the pouring rain, drenched to the skin. He hadn’t called because he was wet. He had called because his bike chain broke when he tried to cross the highway! I thought maybe we could fit the bike in the trunk, but no. He tossed the useless chain into the car and then said he’d continue on to the donut shop, using his bike as a scooter since the pedals were useless.

Meanwhile, I returned home, parked the car, and got the van keys. I don’t enjoy driving that beast anymore, but this time it was necessary. I drove to the donut shop, where I found my sopping son already there and waiting under an overhang for his youth leader. With some effort, he got his bike into the van. His youth leader showed up, also on a bike, and was very impressed with Jasper’s dedication.

I waited in the van for over an hour while they had their breakfast. It seemed silly to drive all the way home and then turn around and drive back again to get Jasper. Then I received a text from my husband asking me to bring his raincoat and umbrella. He had gone to work not thinking he would need them.

So I told Jasper we had to leave, and he was actually relieved to get into the warm van I think. He was quite chilled from sitting in wet clothes all that time. I dropped him off at home, picked up my husband’s coat and umbrella, and drove them over to his office. I had a few minutes at home before driving back to campus to take Lucy the donuts I’d bought her. The temperature had dropped more than twenty degrees and I got cold walking from the car to the student center!

Lina had an opportunity come up suddenly to get paid to do some cleaning, so she was away all afternoon doing that. I, on the other hand, had a lot of baking to do. The rugby team had a bake sale today, but Lucy has a very busy class schedule on Thursdays so I knew all the baking would be my responsibility.

I made forty-eight banana-nut muffins with streusel on top. Jasper helped me package them all. Then I made 24 “kolaches.” I put that in quotes because it’s a cheater way to make them, but they’re really good! I drove Lucy over to campus with the goodies in boxes and the bake sale went well. Meanwhile, I made a big ol’ stir-fry for the family for supper, to use up as much stuff in the fridge as possible before I go shopping at Aldi tomorrow.

So today was a day when I didn’t really get to do anything that I’d planned or wanted! But that’s okay. I’m glad I was able to help my family out.

I’m also glad to be wearing a sweater again. It was 73 degrees when I got up this morning. Now it’s 32 and feels like 23! Winter’s back.

I’d like to ask you all to pray for Lina tomorrow (Friday). She has another job interview. The last place she interviewed strung her along for a month before telling her they’d decided not to fill the position. This month is the last month she’ll receive any “support” from her mission. She is eager to get started on her new life and find a job so she can get her own place. Because of her tendonitis, she can’t have a job where she’d be on her feet a lot. Pray that she finds something soon! I think having some time off has been good for her, but she is ready to have something to do.

Anniversaries

Sorry about my silence yesterday. I was up until well after midnight trying to finish my editing job. It was a very frustrating evening. I had a formatting issue I couldn’t resolve. I finally went to bed after I figured out a formal solution—but I still had hours of work to do on it today. I sent it back to the author with one issue still pending. More research ahead!

Even while I was beating my brains for solutions to the format issues, I was aware all day yesterday that it would have been my friend Matt’s sixty-fifth birthday, and the sense of grief and loss added to my distress.

Today, I slept in a little after my late night, but of course I had to get up and prepare for my Wednesday student. I think she was sleepier than I was this morning!

This afternoon I took Jasper to Walmart and then went back to work on the editing. What a relief it was to send that manuscript off! I took Jasper to youth group and had a great walk and even got some much-needed work done in my kitchen today. Now maybe I can get back to some of my own writing.

And finally, while yesterday was the anniversary of a late friend’s birth, today was an anniversary of another kind. It was two years ago today that I had the doctor’s appointment that changed my life—the one where I was told that my pancreas was “wearing out.” I didn’t start my “pancreas rescue plan” until two days later—but the appointment on February 6, 2017, was what started this journey that I’ve been on ever since.

Those of you who’ve been with me since then may remember that I was able to get completely off of insulin in just three weeks! But other victories came much more slowly and with much more effort. I’ll write more about this on Friday, the anniversary of the day I started actually taking action, but I wanted to at least remark on the significance of this day in my life.

Discouraged

Today I taught my class even though three students were out sick. Other than that, I’ve mostly been working on my editing job, trying to finish it up so I can get paid. Right now, I’m almost in tears. I do not know enough about the finer details of editing citations and I think I just lost several hours’ worth of work. Maybe I should get some rest! I will try again tomorrow . . .

Only Believe

Only Believe

Paul Rader

Fear not, little flock, from the cross to the throne,
From death into life He went for His own;
All power in earth, all power above,
Is given to Him for the flock of His love.

Refrain

Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe,
Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe.

Fear not, little flock, He goeth ahead,
Your shepherd selecteth the path you must tread;
The waters of Marah He’ll sweeten for thee,
He drank all the bitter in Gethsemane.

Refrain

Fear not, little flock, whatever your lot,
He enters all rooms, the doors being shut,
He never forsakes; He never is gone,
So count on His presence in darkness and dawn.

Refrain

Groundhog Day

On this Groundhog Day, I was up early and making tea to drink before Lina and I headed to Dallas. My friend Joanna was hosting a “Galentines” Party to benefit a women’s shelter. We all brought feminine hygiene products to be donated.

Mercy also came (only a half-hour drive for her) so I had two of my daughters with me. It was a fun day. There was a lovely brunch buffet with plenty of choices that I could eat, in addition to waffles and other goodies.

I also got to visit a little with Joanna’s younger sister, whom I hadn’t seen since she was a very young girl. We stayed for a little while after others had left so we’d have a longer visit before driving home.

This evening we carried out our annual tradition of watching the movie Groundhog Day. Then I remembered that I actually have a LOT of stuff left to do this weekend!

In case you hadn’t heard, the groundhog did NOT see his shadow, which means an early spring. Maybe.

Comfort Clothes

We’ve all heard of comfort food, right? The food we turn to when we’re tired, sad, angry, afraid, or lonely. I have had to turn my back on the concept of comfort food. Virtually none of my former comfort foods is still on my menu (at least I still have tea!). I am learning other ways to comfort myself, because I know I can’t ever go back to finding refuge in food.

Since my youth, however, I have had what I would call “comfort clothes”—items of clothing that I am sentimentally attached to for some reason, and that I wear when I need confidence or courage. It was less than five years ago that I finally got rid of the jacket I loved as a teenager, and that I knew I’d never wear again. I carefully cut the patches off it and still have them.

Today, I knew I’d be facing two social interactions that would be challenging for me (introvert problems!) so I wore comfort clothes: my favorite long black skirt, which will soon be too loose to stay up; a scarlet cashmere cardigan I recently inherited from my friend Connie, and which I associate so strongly with her; a necklace I made with a pendant depicting an African baobab tree; and an ivory bracelet I bought in Malawi as a teenager, long ago when elephants were plentiful and ivory was legal.

I walked over to the campus to attend this morning’s chapel service. The speaker was the woman I spoke of a couple days ago—with whom I had spent a summer in France so many years ago. By the time I walked over there, my slippery memory had finally latched on to her face as a college student—so pretty and enthusiastic.

My confusion stemmed from the fact that I hadn’t known she married someone I knew, a man my husband and I went to college with here in Texas. That summer of 1980, when Gina and I were on an evangelism team in France, her future husband Jerry was also on a mission team in Europe. At the end of the summer, when all the teams joined together for a tour and a few days of fellowship, the two of them ended up sitting together on the bus and that was the beginning of their relationship. However, I did not know that until this week.

What I did know was that almost six years ago, Jerry, who was a missionary pilot in West Africa, disappeared while flying a plane from South Africa up to Mali. Word spread to the alumni community, and ever since then, I’ve been following the efforts to find Jerry, never realizing that his wife Gina was the same Gina I knew in France.

Gina’s talk this morning was powerful. What a woman of God she has become! What a testimony to faith and faithfulness. She has credible evidence that Jerry is being held in Northern Africa, and still prays and hopes for his safe return. I am praying too!

After the meeting I had a chance to greet her and talk to her for a few minutes. I wish we had more time. So many decades have passed, and I would have loved to spend time getting caught up and learning more about her journey. But her time was already scheduled and she was leaving town in a couple of hours, so all I could do was hug her and let her know I’d been following her story all along and praying for Jerry.

Then this afternoon I had arranged to have a phone call with a young mother who is a professor and also a writer. I hope we can meet in person sometime, but meanwhile I was able to tell her of several local organizations and events that might be helpful to her. Phone calls are very anxiety-inducing for me but I survived it!

Afterward I finally had time to call and talk to my parents. The last couple of weeks have been so busy! And I postponed some editing work in order to catch up with my mom and dad. They are back home after several weeks of travel and I was glad to hear their voices.

We finished up the evening by watching The Eagle, the very poor adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff’s classic The Eagle of the Ninth, which my class recently finished reading. I wanted Jasper to see the movie, even though the book is so much better. So. Much. Better.

Music Time

This morning I practiced my autoharp and tuned my autoharp and did some editing before leaving for my lesson. It’s an hour-and-a-half drive, but I enjoy it as it’s mostly through beautiful countryside.

It was so good to see my teacher again after a full year! She was thrilled with my weight loss and we spent a little time catching up. She had some great suggestions for me and now my practicing will be more purposeful than it has been.

One of the things we talked about was the possible need for amplification if I play at the faire, which I’m hoping to do. She and her husband showed me several options and it’s not as intimidating as I thought it would be. Something to think about, at any rate.

On my way home I stopped at Aldi and did some grocery shopping as I have a schedule conflict tomorrow morning. And later this evening we had a video chat with Flynn and Tiffany and heard about their Europe trip. Sound like they had a lot of fun but were also very cold!