Break

Keep calm and wait … what?

If you hadn’t noticed, things have been quiet around here lately. I didn’t plan to take a break from blogging, but it happened anyway.

And that’s okay.

We need breaks from time to time. We need to relax, to take some deep breaths, and to recharge. We need to try new things, and experience new experiences.

Above all, we need to live.

It’s so easy to get lock into writing. To focus on word counts and deadlines. It’a even easier to get caught up in the business of writing. To spend more time on social media trying to be heard above the din of voices.

We spend so much time on output, we forget about input. Reading a book, taking a walk, singing, or  playing a musical instrument. Talking to our friends, engaging with our partners, or playing with our kids. And then we wonder why the output stops.

No input, no output.

No living, no life.

That’s why we have to take breaks, and that’s why the blog has slowed down and why it will pick up again once I am filled.

Five Minute Friday

And this week, a two-for one (to catch up with both online communities):

Cheerleaders of Faith

Guest Post: “For Anna”

It’s been a year now since Julia and I decided to make a major change in our lifestyle. I share the story today on the blog Alise . . . Write!:

A year ago today, Julia, Anna, and I were enjoying the dollar ride day at the Lane County Fair. As we stood on the Midway, amidst the crowd of families, deciding where we wanted to go next, Anna caught sight of the roller coaster.

“I want to go on that!”

Anna was only four, but she’s tall for her age. She was tall enough to go on the ride but she needed an adult to go with her.

“I’ll take you,” I said. “I love roller coasters.”

“Yay!” She jumped up and down the whole time we were waiting in line. Finally, we made to the front. Anna climbed into the car and I squeezed in next to her. I sucked in my gut and lowered the bar. Good thing I hadn’t eaten in a few hours.

Every time we hit a turn I thought I would squish Anna, but she didn’t seem to mind. She was having too much fun.

“Weee!!!”

We got off the ride–she was excited and ready for more, while I was just grateful I hadn’t thrown up. We took Anna to more rides–ones she could go on by herself–and I couldn’t help but notice that Julia seemed sad. We talked about it the next day.

“I want to take her on the roller coaster,” she said, “but I can’t. Not like this anyway.”

You see, Julia and I had both let ourselves go over the last several years.  Busy lives, sedentary jobs, and poor eating choices had left us both severely overweight. But men’s and women’s bodies are different. I could still manage to get on the roller coaster–all I had to do was suck it in and try not to breathe too deep until the ride was over. Julia couldn’t suck in her hips, and she couldn’t go on a roller coaster.

We made the decision that day to change our lifestyle choices and get healthy again. Neither of us were interested in dieting or in gimmicks–they never work. Instead, we focused on common sense changes, like smaller portions and better choices. We cut out junk food and sodas, cut back drastically on fast food and sweets, and cooked at home almost every day. On our rare trips out to eat, we looked up nutritional information and planned our orders ahead of time.

The weight loss came slowly at first, until October when Julia starting tracking calories, then the pounds cascaded away. By April, we had lost a combined total of 110 lbs.

Then we hit a snag. Like many Catholics, we gave up candy for Lent, which wasn’t a big sacrifice as we’d already limited ourselves to no more than a serving of dark chocolate per day. But when Easter hit, we both gave in an had a creme egg. It’s been a battle since then, but the scales are still moving in the right direction.

So where are we now? One year later, we have lost a total of 160 lbs and we are hoping to hit the 200 lb mark by the end of the year. My doctor lowered my dose of blood pressure medication in March and hopes to have me completely off meds by December. I’ve extended my life expectancy and, God willing, I will get to see Anna grow up, graduate from college, get married, and have kids of her own.

Now when I see pictures of myself from last year, when I was around my peak weight, I wonder why I didn’t start sooner. It hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. Then I stop myself and remember that I can’t change the past, but I can keep doing the right thing in the present and the future.

We both can. For Anna.

Back on the Bicycle

When I first moved to Eugene almost sixteen years ago, I rode my bike everywhere. Through the winter of 1996, one of the wettest winters ever, I rode the two-and-a-half miles to and from campus everyday.

But after a few years, I found myself driving more, taking the bus more, and riding my bike less and less. Eventually I stopped altogether, and without the exercise to balance out my usually sedentary work, I gained weight and got out of shape.

Why do I mention this? Because today I rode my bike to church. For the first time in at least ten years I rode a bike for transportation. About the same distance I used to ride to campus: two-and-a-half miles each way. It wasn’t easy. Not only was I out of practice, but I’m also a lot older than I was when I first moved up here. It wore me out, but I did it.

I’m not planning on riding my bike to church every week. I specifically went to 7:30 a.m. Mass today so I wouldn’t get overheated in the midday sun—most Sundays I go to 11 a.m. instead. But I will be taking the bike out on the local trails a couple of mornings a week, and each week it will get a little bit easier.

After all, I live in one of the most bike-friendly towns in the country. I might as well take advantage.

Learning to Cook

One of the benefits of healthy living is eating at home more, and one of the benefits of eating at home more is learning to cook.

I’ve always managed to throw something together for dinner, even if it came out of a box, but now that I’ve forsaken the “Helpers” and the “Ronis” and the ubiquitous Mac and Cheese, I’m having a lot more fun cooking.

Maybe because I actually am cooking. For example:

1) I’m learning to make omelets. Not scrambled eggs, actual omelets. It took a few tries, but my latest came out perfect, like an egg pancake. I was tempted to flip it in the air, but I just used a turner.

2) I’ve found a great trick to make tasty burgers: A1. Mix about 1/3 of a cup per pound of ground beef then make a cook the patties as usual. Tastes great, and works for turkey burgers too.

3) Our griddle is getting more use in the last two months than in the previous five years we owned it. We cook pancakes, bacon, grilled cheese sandwiches, steaks, chicken, mushrooms, etc.

4) Speaking of chicken, we’ve been making Malibu Chicken on our griddle. A chicken breast (cut in half), cooked on the griddle, and topped with three slices of deli ham and a slice of Tillamook Colby Jack cheese. Yum.

5) I’ve also been stir frying. The key here is “hot wok, cold oil.” Set the skillet on the stove top, on high heat, and drip water into the pan to check. Once the water forms a drop and skitters around the pan, it’s hot enough. Oh, and only add a tablespoon of oil—too much and it spatters everywhere.

6) And my latest adventure? Teriyaki sauce. We’re almost through the two bottles we bought from Shoji’s before they closed here in Eugene, and I’m hoping, through trial and error, to make my own. It won’t be the same, but if I can get it close it will be worth the effort.

The one thing I haven’t used at all so far is the oven. I do almost all my cooking on the stovetop or the griddle or in our Crockpot. Julia is the baker in the family and, for now anyway, the oven is all hers.