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A wise man loses nothing if he but saves himself. Michel de Motaigne

Life lessons often arrive when we least expect them. Read to find out the life lessons I learned while losing weight.

I have recently lost 44 pounds. This is an exciting and thrilling event for me as I have struggled for many years trying to lose weight. Between medications and self-defeating beliefs, I was unsuccessful until September of last year. I’m not sure what changed internally, or why I was suddenly able to start dropping the pounds. However, I am sure that I have learned two very valuable life lessons through this experience.

First, I have learned that I can do anything if I set my mind to it. Even something seemingly impossible. You see, my bipolar meds cause weight gain. There is nothing I can do about that, short of discontinuing the meds, which I am unwilling to risk. But I can change my diet and activity level so that my body changes. That is what I did. I changed what and how much I was eating, and increased my activity. The pounds started coming off and continue to fall away. I’ve hit two plateaus in the past year. But I never stopped doing what I was doing, which is eating right and exercising.

Which leads me to the second thing I have learned. Just because the path forward is not visible does not mean it doesn’t exist. If I take just one more step, more of the way forward opens up before me. So, the trick is to keep moving forward. One step after another. This is all I can do – step out in faith that the path will appear as I do. So far, it has not failed me. The pounds continue melting off of my body, and I continue to feel better and better about myself. Not just for losing weight, but for growing in faith.

If you are struggling with a path that seems to be invisible, whether something to do with your health, or your job, or a relationship, focus your intention and energy on taking just one more step. Give yourself a little time to catch your breath, then lift that “foot” to take another step. In my experience, the path will manifest in front of your eyes as you do.

Don’t worry about the steps after the next one. Don’t worry about the ones behind. Just focus on taking one step forward at a time. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised to find that the worry and anxiety you are carrying about this step will disappear as you step forward into the present. And really, this is all we can do. We can’t necessarily change the path – we can only change our response to it. By embracing the next step, you release the tension that exists between you and it.

I encourage you to step out in faith. And let me know if you discover a life lesson for yourself in the process. I care very deeply about you and your life. I want to see you shine!

Love,

Mary

 

My Daddy Gave Me Music

My Daddy was a long-haul truck driver. He traveled the entire country in the course of moving his loads and getting them to their delivery ports. He wasn’t home every day. But when he was home, we watched the Lawrence Welk Show on T.V. together. Joanne Castle was the pianist – ragtime was her style. Daddy loved to watch her play. So did I. I don’t remember him asking me if I wanted a piano, but I do remember the results.

On his next trip out, Daddy searched everywhere for a used piano that we could afford. He found one in a barn in Kentucky. It was old and worn but still had a good tone. Daddy bought it for $75 and put it in the trailer of his truck. He tied it down so it would travel safely. He and Momma kept it a surprise.

When Daddy got home, he unloaded the piano and put it in the family room. It needed quite a bit of work, but he was confident he could do it. In fact, he ordered a correspondence course called Rebuilding and Tuning the Upright Grand Piano (or something very close to it). He bought strings and felts, hammers and keys. He spent every spare moment working on it.

I watched him work. He was very careful as he removed the strings, hammers and felts. It took months to restring and replace the hammers and felts. Of course, I was only five at the time, so my attention span was short. I checked in with him countless times, asking, “Is it ready?” He always said, “Not yet; soon,” and returned to his task as I returned to mine.

Finally, the day came that the piano was ready to play. Daddy sat down and played a few chords. His mother, my grandmother, was a pianist. He must have learned what little he knew by listening to her play. He only sat there for a moment before he sat me on the piano bench he had made. I touched the new ivories with awe. I wanted to play the piano more than anything else in the world.

Daddy and Momma knew a lady who taught piano lessons. Her name was Maureen Ricks Moore. I started lessons when I started first grade, at age six. Momma cleaned Mrs. Moore’s home to pay for my lessons. I loved playing from the start. I had lessons twice a week. Mrs. Moore placed a gold star on the page of each song I played correctly from memory. When I finished with Teaching Little Fingers to Play, she moved me into the John Thompson series of books. The piano became my best friend.

Mrs. Moore entered her students into the National Fraternity of Student Musicians. We played in annual Piano Auditions, where we received grades for our piano performance as well as testing on an understanding of music theory. I advanced along a trajectory designed to prepare me for a piano major in college.

My fondest memories are twofold. First, my Daddy worked shift work at a copper mine outside Tucson. He would come home from graveyard shift at about 8:00 in the morning. He always asked me to play the piano for him so he could go to sleep. I played Shubert’s Serenade, Indian Love Call, Stardust, Deep Purple, and a host of classical pieces I had learned for the Auditions. He always slept best after I played.

Second, Daddy formed a country-western band when I was in grammar school. I played the piano to the guitar, bass, and accordion he recruited. Friends, we played every weekend at our home. The chords and riffs I learned there would form the basis of my playing for years to come.

I still remember playing Daddy to sleep. The memories are solace now that he’s gone home to be with his Maker. I play today with other musicians who enjoy playing music that brings comfort to our listeners. My early training developed an instinctual sensitivity to the emotions that music impacts. I love it when listeners tell me my music calms them.

Thanks, Daddy. For the piano, for the lessons, for your love.

 

 

 

 

The Love of God…

I read your post with a heavy heart this morning because of the way we Christians fall into behaviors that do not honor our God. How easily we are caught up in the rhetoric of the day. How willingly we jump on that bandwagon and serve another master – all the while thinking that we are serving God.

 

My reading this morning:

Jesus said to His disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on the one who wants to borrow.”

 

This giving of the whole self is what our God wants. He wants us to trust Him fully to accomplish His will in us and on Earth. We so often think that we are giving our whole self when in truth, we are following our own desires and thoughts. I am inspired to renew my walk daily when I realize the Love He bears for us. I am inspired to love others as He loves us. I pray that each believer will awaken to the truth of God’s love and embrace His path as the path to eternal life.

 

I pray that we believers will offer the world’s people love for reproach, peace for anger, and compassion for need.

Grant, Father, that we will walk Your path instead of our own. Fill us anew with Your Holy Spirit that we may see the Love You bear for all Your creation. Be glorified in our lives and bodies, that others may see the Way You have made for our and their salvation. Amen.

 

Peace be with you as you go about your day. May the Word of God shine brightly in you today and always.

Free Will

If I have free will, I can elect whom I love. If I do not have free will, I have no say. The matter is not important to me except as it impacts my relationship with God.
 
If I believe the Bible is true and trustworthy, then I understand that God made “man” because He was lonely. Loneliness is a terrible feeling – empty and dark. The only cure for loneliness is companionship. But if God wants companionship, I suspect He wants to be companions with someone who can choose to love Him back.
 
If I have free will, I can elect to love God, with all my heart and soul and body and mind. If I do not have free will, I cannot give Him anything – He must place whatever I feel within me. But if I have free will, the feelings I have are native to my being.
 
I submit that God doesn’t want a companion who cannot offer Him full and free love. He wants a companion who struggles and triumphs and follows Him. He wants a companion who loves Him. A companion without free will is an automaton, not a true companion.
 
I am not an automaton – I know because I have questions. If I were an automaton, controlled by God, then I would have no questions. I would do as told. But I am not an automaton. Each question, each decision requires careful thought and consideration of the consequences.
 
If I were an automaton, I would be helpless to question the God who created me. But I am not helpless. I question. My thoughts and heart question. I know that I am His child, yet I question Him when I am in my darkness.
 
There is no peace in being an automaton, because God can no more love an automaton than I can love a rock. He cares for and protects and guides the automaton, but He feels nothing for it because it is not a being.
 
I am convinced that God reserves Love for beings. I am also convinced that I am a being. I am convinced because I have experienced the Love of God. This is not something I could imagine. I will tell you the story of my knowing that God Loves me.
 
 
I was 17 when I married and began trying to become pregnant. At first I thought that my timing was off. Every month I would get my period and every month I would cry. I wanted a child, but I feared that God would never bless me with a child because I wasn’t “good enough” to be a mother.
 
Mind you, I had helped raise my siblings, had babysat for many children, and knew exactly how to care for a child. Still, when my period came every month, I knew that I wasn’t blessed. There is a stigma that attaches to infertility. A reputation of sorrow. It is well earned.
 
Many years passed without my becoming a mother. My friends had children. I was the one who couldn’t conceive. I was cast in the Christmas Pageant as the Virgin Mary, because I was without a child. I passed 20, 25, 30 years of age. No children. Not even a hope of conceiving.
 
When I was 34, a friend asked my husband and me to adopt a child. I was too afraid to say yes, afraid that disappointment and a broken heart would follow. But somehow, I found the courage to say yes. I didn’t know that I would live in fear of a change of heart on the birth parents’ part for the next six months.
I attended LaMaze Classes with the birth mother. I took her to lunch and bought her gifts. We became friends. I decorated a nursery. These were the days before an unborn child’s sex was known, so I chose rainbow colors.
I’ll never forget the day our son was born and came into our family. The birth parents invited us to be present for the birth. The call came while I was at work. The birth mother was in labor; the nurse instructed us to make our way to the birthing center.
 
We experienced the birth of our firstborn with a mixture of joy and fear. When he was born, the birth father cried, “It’s a boy!” My heart sank, because I recognized love and excitement in the birth father’s voice. I was sure he would change his mind about giving his child up for adoption.
 
Soon after, the birth mother asked us to leave the room. She and the baby’s birth father wanted to be alone with their child. The nurse escorted us to a private room and left without any explanation. What seemed like hours of waiting was in reality only 35 minutes, but we died a thousand deaths in that half-hour.
 
Finally, the nurse came for us and said that the birth parents wanted to see us. I expected them to tell us that they had changed their minds. I braced my heart for the despair I knew was waiting. The nurse opened the door to the birthing room. The birth father stepped forward with his son in his arms, and said, “Meet your son!”
 
My heart flooded with joy. He placed Tommy in my arms and I was in love. The nurse showed me how to swaddle him, and said, “You may take him home now.” She stunned me! He was barely an hour old! She laughed and handed me a clean diaper.
 
We placed him in his brand-new car seat and buckled the straps. I could not believe we were taking a newborn baby home! The drive seemed perilous, with every approaching car a threat. Of course, the trip was uneventful.
 
In less than ninety minutes after his birth, I was sitting in my new rocking chair, rocking my new son. I sat there marveling at his tiny features, his exquisite hands and fingers. And then, God overcame me with the knowledge that the only reason I was holding this tiny being was because He loved me.
I wept. And I rejoiced. And I have never forgotten the assurance I received from God that day – He indeed loved me. Loves me. Because His love has never diminished, but has grown and nurtured me. As a mother, as a woman, and as a being. He loves me with His whole heart and soul and mind. As I love Him.
I am convinced that the love of God is a free gift given to each of us, as He wants our love to be for Him. He longs for a relationship with each of us. We must choose to love Him. He is a perfect gentleman and never intrudes where He is not welcome.
 
When it is my time to die, I know that the love of God will encompass and surround me. I am encompassed and surrounded by God’s love now and know that He will never leave me nor forsake me. He has proven His love. His compassion. His mercy. And I love Him with my whole heart and mind and soul and body.
 
 
 
 
 

What it’s like to feel unstable…

One day I feel great, at peace and calm, completely relaxed, emotionally stable. The next day I feel as though I am sliding down a slippery slope of emotion. This is what it’s like for me to become emotionally unstable. I don’t have a breakdown – I simply can’t get control of my emotions. I don’t sleep well and end up feeling tired during the day. The smallest things make me cry. I’m irritable about almost everything. I imagine that others don’t like me. It’s not a pretty sight.

So what causes the change in my emotional state? Pretty much nothing, if I”m able to get my medications. However, that’s a big “if.” If I can get in to see my psychiatrist (that means paying cash since I’m uninsured at the moment). If I can afford to fill the prescription (that means finding a coupon). Either of these can cause me difficulty.

I haven’t seen my psychiatrist in more than six months. Having said that, I’ve been buying my prescriptions from India. But either the medication is less potent, or my prescription needs have changed. I’m confident I”m not in any danger at the moment. But I do feel that I could easily slip off the tightrope I know I’m walking.

I’ve been fortunate since my diagnosis. With a few rare exceptions, I have had access to my medications on time every month. I wonder about the other people I know who struggle with getting their medications. People who have fallen through the holes in the current healthcare program. People who need medical attention but can’t afford insurance.

I know so many who fall into this category. The numbers of people who are uninsured must be huge. I spend a part of each day thinking about and praying for protection from accidents and the like.  For myself and for others who are uninsured.

Because, one accident can cause so much distress. I fell in November, dislocating and spraining my right thumb. The trip to the Emergency Room cost over $3,000. Then there were the X-ray physician, the physician who examined me, and the tech who wrapped my thumb to immobilize it. Nearly $5,000 in all and my thumb is still not right.

It’s a terrible choice to have to make – to pay for medical insurance or home and food. Yet that’s the choice many of us are still making every month. That means people are going without basic preventive care, such as vaccinations and physicals. I know I put off my physical this year due to the cost.

The prospects of finding affordable coverage for the next year are not good. I”m hoping I’m very careful for the next 12 months until Medicare kicks in. I sure hope it’s still available when I turn 65.

Of course, stress adds to the feelings of emotional instability. Argh!

 

 

 

 

 

Be Gentle with Yourself on Your Weight Loss Journey, Part 2

Well, I’m finally below 200 pounds, for the first time in quite a few years. I achieved this status in March but wanted to see if I could maintain for a while before crowing. Well, I’m crowing! I’m at 193.6 this morning.

It seems that my weight loss goes in spurts. I will lose 5-10 pounds and then sit at that weight for a while. This has happened several times now, so I guess it’s the way my body adapts to 1200 calories a day.

I know, right? Doesn’t that seem like too little food?

Here’s the kicker – I am satisfied with 1200 calories a day. I have caught myself eating more (at holiday dinners) and felt over-full. I’m full on fewer calories per meal.

So, what does 1200 calories a day look like? Well, here’s my menu from yesterday.

Breakfast:

½ cup of plain whole milk yogurt, a slice of multi-grain bread, 1 TBSP of honey, sweet mini peppers, fresh berries, coffee with Bailey’s creamer

 Snack:

Fresh fruit and a few mixed nuts

 Lunch:

Half a sandwich (multi-grain bread, deli turkey, swiss cheese), raw carrots and celery, fresh fruit

 Snack:

3 cups of plain popped popcorn, unsweetened iced tea

 Dinner:

Two ounces of beef, 2 cups tossed green salad with lightly spritzed olive oil, ½ cup of au gratin potatoes, a fuji apple and 2 squares of 74% cacao dark chocolate

I’ve lost over 30 pounds and am continuing to lose. The trick is to be gentle with yourself. You need a plan to work. My goal is to lose 1-1.5 pounds a week until I’ve reached my goal of 140 pounds. At my current rate of loss, I should reach my goal in another year or so. I used to become frustrated by the slow rate of loss, but now I realize that slower weight loss is more effective. It gives your body time to adjust to the changes you’re incorporating into your diet and lifestyle.

One other tip – I’m exercising five days a week. My husband, Keith, and I ride our bikes early every morning during the week. We’re up to 6.5 miles and working toward 10. Exercising daily requires discipline. We chose an activity we enjoy doing. The fact that we’re doing it together is motivation to keep going. Some days I don’t feel like it – but I ride anyway if it’s a weekday. I end up feeling virtuous, which is a good feeling.

The most important key is understanding you. I know that I need interim rewards as I progress. New clothes work. An outing works, if not for food. I’ve had to adjust my habits to eat smaller meals more often so I don’t get too hungry. Otherwise, I end up indulging in some sweet gooey thing that tastes great – until I’m finished and realize what I’ve done!

Not to fear. I have a solution for overeating or overindulging. I forgive myself for the backslide and start again where I left off. These episodes have become much less frequent. That’s because I can see the difference in my appearance since I’ve lost 30 pounds. It keeps me motivated to keep going.

It might be that you need a cheerleader, or a coach, or an accountability buddy. Whatever motivates you and keeps you moving forward is what you need to make allowance for in your life. Often, we downplay our own needs so we can evoke a feeling of virtuousness. Better to feel virtuous for doing something healthy. For example, I feel virtuous after a bike ride. That stokes my inner fire for the rest of the day. I find that I’m better able to stick to my food plan when I experience those good feelings.

Still, down days happen. Be of the mindset that the blues seldom last long. Plan your next exercise activity. If you’re sick, allow your body time to recover. Then get back to it. We all encounter illness, injuries and other upsets. These are part of the human experience. Keep your mind focused on your goal. That will help you get past these difficulties, without losing your forward momentum.

I practice mindfulness meditation and yoga to help myself focus better. The meditation is teaching me to flow with my thought patterns instead of fight against them. Yoga calms and centers me, body and spirit. I’m finding peace in accepting my new retired life. All is well! For the moment, anyway 😊

Warm regards,

Mary Hansen