Saturday, January 27, 2018

Technological Parameters

The past month has been a whirlwind, and now that things are slowing down, I'm taking a hard look at how my real life and my technological life intersect. 

No matter how "aware" I think I am of my device-use, the truth is, it's a vortex that's easy to fall into....have you ever checked your phone for a recipe, but seen that you have a new text message, so you read that, then you respond, then you see an email, then you decide you need to check Facebook to see if your friend answered the question you asked her there....and 20 minutes later your daughter is plucking at your sleeve asking you to play with her, you still haven't written down that recipe, and you've somehow landed on the Instagram page of someone you've never met and are scrolling through an entire lifetime of their photos?

Please tell me I'm not the only one.

Anyhow, I strongly feel that it's time to draw some firmer boundaries between the internet and me. 

The first thing I did was decide to check for text messages once a day.  This works for me because my children are still little (ie, they're not driving around, possibly needing me!).  It also works for me because my husband does not use a cell phone, so we do not communicate via texting. 

I haven't decided if it would be best to check first thing in the morning or last thing at night, though.  I want to check them all at once and respond, then turn the phone off.  I sent a warning email out to the few people I text the most, letting them know that I'll respond, but not immediately, to texts...and if they need me immediately, call the house!

The second thing I'm going to do is check email only once a day, at the same time I check texts.  I'll file, respond, or delete all the emails I get at once, and then not check again until the next day.  This seems more efficient than checking a million times a day when I see the little envelope icon on my phone......

The third thing I'm still sorting out is how to deal with all other internet use.  I do have a Facebook account (no app on my phone, though). I do read a handful of blogs.  I do "research" on the internet. I sometimes check the news.  I scroll through Instagram. It's just hard to keep a handle on all of it. 

 A couple of years ago our modem died and the week I spent without internet access at home was one of the best weeks of my adult life!  I asked my husband if we could just not replace it, but he didn't think that was practical (and he was right, I'm sure).  But I loved having to leave the house to use the internet--it made my online time much more focused and streamlined.  So I am considering assigning 2-3 days a week for going through a list of things to read, check, and research, and sticking to a time limit (30 minutes?) each time.  (I guess that's when I'd write my blog posts, too.)

Is it possible, in this day and age, to step back from technology like this?  

I'm going to give it my best effort. I long for a less distracted frame of mind.  The internet has many benefits, but it's so very distracting, and I fear it is robbing me of too much of my time. 

I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Slow Pace of Healing

The pace of our life has slowed way, way, way down.  

Part of this is a natural slowing after surgery.  Part of it is by design (I decided to cut out the children's art classes this winter and spring, so that we have more margin....we're still keeping piano, ballet, and co-op, but having all that plus art, and all on different days?!, was making me feel pinched). Part of it is because a virus hit and first Annie was sick with a fever and cough for three days, and now Finn and I are tired and battling it.  Fortunately we don't seem to have as severe an illness....I'm just sleeping *a lot*, coughing a little, and consuming copious amounts of fresh juice and raw vegetables. And so far, other than the exhaustion and a sore throat, I'm doing alright.

I'm playing violin most days (unless sore throat-exhaustion preclude it).  It's good therapy and I dearly, truly, genuinely love it.  (And this is my beautiful and wonderful new violin, a Christmas gift from Mr. P! Everyone say hi to Andre!)

One morning I woke up and couldn't find my husband.  I looked outside and there he was, three days after surgery, hiking the farm.

So much juicing happening......

I'm knitting a scarf for a dear friend who is going through chemo.  I sat at Finn's piano lesson Monday and worked on this.  And I realized then that we're all healing from the past month.  My husband was diagnosed December 18, and surgery was January 16.  In the course of that month we had multiple doctor's visits, tests, phone calls, research, Christmas, travel to Charleston, Annie's birthday, surgery......we are all needing some healing, physically *and* emotionally.

I didn't complain at all when our co-op was cancelled yesterday.  And Annie was too ill to go to ballet on Wednesday.  We're staying home, slowly getting healthier.  We are getting a bit of fresh air, cooking soups (Mr. P is still on a liquid diet), taking naps. 

Healing is a slow process.  I just finished an old book where the heroine was sent to the seaside to heal.  Back in the old days I think they took healing much more seriously than we do now, and they knew it took time. They also connected the mind and body much more than we do these days, too.

So we're treating healing like serious business right now: time to rest and drink juice and play music and look outside at the valley and get some sunshine. And time to think.  And pray.

Perhaps a few weeks of "healing" every year is good for everyone. I know it is good for the soul. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Nutrition on a Liquid Diet

My husband has been on a liquid diet since Tuesday, and will likely be on it through the next week or so.  I was horrified (but not surprised) by the breakfast tray the hospital sent to him:

milk....Ensure*...chocolate jell-o pudding cup (!!) oatmeal so sweet that the smell of it nauseasted us.....grape (I drank this out of desperation...he's not a coffee drinker)....

I'd packed lots of organic juices and things, but out of that meal he drank the milk--which is not our first choice, but at least it's natural--and the grape juice, which was 100% juice with no added sugar. I supplemented with juices from home.

His lunch tray was no better:

apple juice....vanilla pudding cup (for variety?!)....mystery broth..... orange sherbert....ultra-sweet iced tea......

Out of that meal, he had the apple juice.  We were both unsure of the mystery broth, and everything else was so sugar-laden that I wouldn't serve it under the best of circumstances, much less serving it to a man healing from cancer. 

Life at home is much easier.  Here are the things he's consuming to provide nutrition and calories:

*occasional fruit juices: a few pre-made, no-sugar added organic juices, and also freshly-squeezed orange-lemon-apple juice every so often

* daily green vegetable juice: primarily a greens-lemon-apple combo, but also a celery-cucumber-lime-parsley-tart apple-greens concoction

*milk--yes, a concession from his commitment to avoiding animal products, but one cup of milk does provide some protein and fat that he needs at this time

*green smoothie: frozen banana + chopped date + unsweetened, non-soy vegan protein powder + spinach + unsweetened almond milk + 2 T. flaxmeal + 1 T. manuka honey 

*berry smoothie: frozen berries + frozen banana + unsweetened almond milk + 2 T. flaxmeal = 1 T. manuka honey + spinach 

*peanut butter-protein smoothie: frozen banana + 2 T. flaxmeal + unsweetened almond milk + vegan protein powder + 2 T. peanut butter + 1 T. cocoa powder + 1 T. manuka honey 

*soups blended to perfect smoothness in the blender: red lentil-carrot-curry (a family staple) bean.....broccoli-potato.....and  I think I'll try a root vegetable soup next......

I plan to buy some plain Greek yogurt tomorrow to include in smoothies for an extra protein boost. I'm also going to create a couple more smoothie recipes and think up a new soup recipe as well.  

And that's how we're fueling his recovery!

(*Did you know the second ingredient in Ensure is corn syrup??!!)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Surgery is Done

And we came home to beautiful snow.

Image may contain: sky, snow, outdoor and nature

My husband's surgery was supposed to take 3-4 hours on Tuesday morning, but it took six.  (The last two hours felt very long indeed for me.) His tumor was deeper than anticipated, and the surgeon had a lot of work to do to get the clean, cancer-free margins that he wanted around the cancerous area. 

In spite of having three wound sites (tongue, neck, thigh) and an neck incision with a drain, he's in no pain.  I was prepared yet unprepared for his appearance after surgery: his neck scar looked so severe; it's so large. He can't speak properly and he is on a total liquid diet, but we were prepared for that.  I am so grateful that he's not in pain (yet?).  That was his greatest fear, having never had surgery before.

He has his drain removed today and we were sitting in the exam room laughing to each other when the doctor came in.  He commented on how infrequently post-op patients are laughing and took it as a good sign for quick healing.  If so, he should be healed up in no time, since we laugh all the time at our millions of little inside jokes. 

We are back at the surgeon's on Monday for more post-op work and, we hope, pathology results. 

Yesterday I played violin for an hour and walked the snowy farm for a good forty-five minutes.  My husband is drinking blended soups and having healthy smoothies.  Our children are perfectly fine.  

There's a lot to be grateful for in our valley these days.

Friday, January 12, 2018

New Year's Goals

I am starting to think about my goals and what I'd like to do this year.  

Here's what I came up with last year: read through the Bible, keep my house uncluttered, lose 10-20 pounds, and enjoy my family.

Well, that last goal is easy for me! I love my family!  I enjoy my children immensely and my husband is wonderful.  We live in a harmonious home. It's such a blessing.  I know very well that harmony at home is not a given and so I never take this for granted.  I did over-schedule our fall, and I'm working on dealing with that now.  I want our children to have a lot of margin in their days.

I did not read through the entire Bible.  I wish I had!  I will say that I read progressively, but not at a pace that took me through it all in one year. I'll just keep on reading.  Maybe I'm on the three-year plan. :) 

My house is getting easier and easier to keep uncluttered.  I have purged and streamlined.  It is not perfect and obviously there's always a bit here or there that needs attention, but in general I think this year I did fairly well with that goal.

I lost more than 10 pounds, but I'm not sure how much. I don't weigh myself often because I used to have an unhealthy attachment to the scale.  But I *do* know I lost at least ten pounds, maybe twelve?   I didn't do it through counting calories, as I thought I would. I just ate less. I exercised a lot in the summer because I love exercise.  And in the past month a few more have fallen off simply from stress and a dietary change. 

So, what are my goals this year?  

First, my primary goal is to do everything within my own power to get my husband back onto the path of healing.  His surgery is a few days away.  I am focusing on healthful foods, a peaceful home, a good plan for recovery, and helping him in any way I can.  We will be in the hospital for 2-4 days, then he'll be unable to talk or eat for at least a week, and then he'll be home for a month.

During that month, once he's able to speak and eat, and feels a little better, I hope we will have a couple of weeks of cozy family time: watching movies, reading books, playing games, just enjoying being together.  Everything takes a backseat to this!

All other goals pale in comparison to my goal of helping my husband, but I've thought of a few more things.....

Second, another goal--which is going to span the length of the year, I am sure--is to streamline our lives.  What does this mean?  I mean simplifying routines, chores, school, commitments.  Because I've decided that a streamlined life gives us the room we all need to grow as humans and to build relationships with others.  My husband's diagnosis jump-started this process: I am cutting formal schoolwork down to the barest essentials for the next month or so. Then I'll decide what to add back in as spring approaches. I cut out an extra-curricular activity and have purged my house of a *lot* of stuff over the past few weeks.  

Third, I want to continue to learn the violin. It's a great joy in my life right now.  I love it!

Fourth, I want to be sure I get enough rest, exercise, vegetables, and fresh air.  I need exercise  in particular very badly because without it I live with chronic pain from my scoliosis.  I'm at the point in life when I can acknowledge this instead of ignoring it--which is what I've done for a long, long time.  My reality is that I *must* exercise--it's not optional! 

Fifth, less time online, and more time in books! 

I think that's lofty enough for 2018. I'm so grateful for a new year of life with my family. And if you think of it next Tuesday, please say a prayer for my husband! 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Living is So Dear: Thinking about a Word of the Year

Sometimes in the New Year people make resolutions and goals, and some people choose a word of the year to reflect upon as the year progresses.  I haven't considered any goals or resolutions yet, but I do keep coming back to a word.  So perhaps I will have a word of the year for 2018?

December 18 changed things.  Not to overstate or overdramatize the point, but it's so true that a diagnosis of cancer suddenly shone a laserlike light on our lives and almost imperceptibly made my mind start separating the wheat from the chaff. I thought I did this already! Even a "minor" cancer (which is fixed by what feels like a not-so-minor surgery, sigh) makes you stop and think.

Suddenly all sorts of things needed to be streamlined and simplified.  I'm thinking about our physical environment and our mental environment, too!  I'm thinking about routines, schoolwork, chores. I'm thinking about bedtimes and my own needs as well. I'm thinking about online time, too.

I had two days after Christmas before the onslaught of doctor's appointments and travel, and I spent those days working on our physical environment: a major restructuring of Annie's room (and purging), and a major purging in the sewing room.  Today I plan to work in the schoolroom.  I hope to tackle the kitchen tomorrow.  The truth is, I'm something of a purger by nature, so I don't have a lot of excess stuff to begin with, but things to creep in, and I have a deep desire to pare down, down, down.

When I was sixteen I read these words, and they've never left me.  They resonate even more with me now.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest [Polly's note: simplest] terms...."  (H.D. Thoreau, Walden)

I've been thinking about reducing life to its simplest terms.  My life's simplest terms are far different from Thoreau's, since I am a mother of two children in the twenty-first century; but the key is reducing it to its simplest terms given the life I am leading.

So the word that continues to loom in my mind is one that is very nearly a cliche, but does resonate with me: simplify.  I have a talent for overcomplicating my life, so thinking about simplification of the entire thing--not just the easy part, the house!--is a genuine challenge, but one that I believe is worth my time and energy.

If you have simplified your life substantially in any area (possessions, routines, schedule, schoolwork, online, etc.) and want to share, please do.  I'm up for learning from others' wisdom as I embark upon this process!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 Reading List

We rolled home tonight after spending the New Year in Charleston, South Carolina, with my paternal family.  I love Charleston: I love the Spanish moss, the camellias in bloom, the pluff mud. I love running outside at the stroke of midnight and listening to the barges on the Cooper River blow their horns to welcome in the new year. I love starting the new year with a brisk walk....although yesterday it was thirty-nine degrees.  (That is *not* normal.)  I love seeing so many friends and relatives at the two parties my parents throw, back-to-back, each year. 

But even better? Coming home.  Coming home has always been my favorite part of any trip.  I love walking back into my house and looking around: hello dishes! hello sofa! hello, you comfortable bed! hello, lamps! hello, books! As soon as we turned onto our gravel lane this evening, I told my children this is the moment I've been waiting for all day long.  Even better, we drove down the lane as a gorgeous full moon rose over the valley.  What could be better?

In the spirit of winter coziness and new year lists, I present: my reading list from 2017!  I hope to read a lot more this coming year.  These are the books that I read, not counting the Bible or any books I read to my children (there were lots of those, of course).  I also didn't count the many books I skimmed or read parts of throughout the year.  I don't always read every word of every book. :) In addition, I'm fairly sure I've forgotten a few books; if I see that I have, I'll add to the list later. 

My favorites from 2018: 

The Scent of Water, Elizabeth Goudge 

I had never read any of Goudge's books before, but my best friend Allison gave me this book as a gift, so I tried it out.  I love her writing! She's slow, deliberate, thoughtful.  There's nothing fast-paced here. But there's a richness to her fiction that I find nourishing and delightful. I plan to read more of her books. 

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

This book is tough love for anyone suffering from thwarted creativity.  I love his pithy voice.  I will say that he uses bad language, so read at your own risk.  If you can filter out or ignore the vulgar language, the content is inspiring. 

Native Guard, Natasha Trethewey

I had read these poems before, but this summer I took them to the pool and read them again.  I admit to having a deep personal bias here, but I think Natasha Trethewey completely deserved the Pulitzer Prize for this wonderful volume of poems.  They are haunting, beautiful, agonizing, profound, graceful.  It's a masterpiece.

The Seven Worst Things Good Parents Do, John C. Friel and Linda Friel

This married couple wrote a book I re-read nearly every year and when I saw that they wrote a parenting book, I had to read it. So much of this book is sheer common sense.  But if you weren't raised in a functional family home, it might be illuminating and useful to create a new paradigm.  And if you *were* raised in one, it will be a good reminder!

Nurtured by Love, by Shinichi Suzuki

I'd read this book before, more than once, but when I took up violin in October I pulled it out again and re-read it.  Suzuki had such a gentle, loving spirit, and it comes across in this book which is ostensibly about "talent education" (ie, music lessons) but in reality it's about parenting, and more than that, it's also simply about life: about doing the best you can do, about devotion to your goals, about becoming a noble person, about developing habits.  I wrote a bit about this book here.  I love it!

The Witness, by Grace Livingston Hill


I confess that this book was the big surprise of my year. I've read a dozen or more Grace Livingston Hill novels over the years, and I consider them delightful, wholesome, light, cozy books to enjoy, and I don't mind the dated feel of them one single bit (I realize some people would!). The Witness is all of those things, but it goes deeper than her other books.  The protagonist, after witnessing a college acquaintance die in a fire, embarks upon serious soul-searching.  He struggles with many of the questions that Christians have to wrestle with when we grow into our faith, and following his journey is kind of like following the development of a person from unbeliever into devoted Christian.  I really loved it...probably because I made that journey myself, and the questions, struggles, doubts, and fears are all so familiar to me.  An excellent book, and one that I hope to read with my children when they are teenagers. 

The full list (I marked with an asterisk those I especially recommend): 

1. The Christian Family: Home-Making, J.R. Miller
2. The Secret of Your Naturally Skinny Friends, Monica Swanson
3. The Seventh Hour, Grace Livingston Hill
4. Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families--John C. Friel & Linda D. Friel* (see my review of this book here)
5. The War of Art--Steven Pressfield* (recommended, but with reservations about language)
6. The Scent of Water --Elizabeth Goudge*
7.  Home by Choice--Brenda Hunter, PhD
8. Teaching a Stone to Talk--Annie Dillard (selected portions)
9. Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child--Anthony Esolen (I didn't finish it, but I will!)
10. Common Sense Christian Living--Edith Schaeffer*
11. Love Wins, Rob Bell
12. Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton
13. Pocketful of Pinecones-Karen Andreola*
15. Native Guard--Natasha Trethewey*
16. The Seven Worst Things Good Parents Do, John C. Friel & Linda D. Friel*
17.  Anne of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery
18.  Witness, Grace Livingston Hill*
19.  Nurtured by Love--Shinichi Suzuki*
20.  Different--Sally and Nathan Clarkson
21. Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne
22. Educating Children at Home, Alan Thomas (a dry but helpful look at how children learn best....often via conversations!)
23. Greater Health God's Way, Stormie Omartian
24. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Please pop over to check out Nancy Kelly's list this year.  She has some intriguing-looking books on her list--I especially like the looks of The Curve of Time

I am so excited about reading in this new year.  My best friend and I have decided to read Pride and Prejudice together...because guess what?  Although she has an English degree and I have an MA in English, neither of us have ever read Austen.  (I will say that I have memorized the BBC film version, so there's that.)  I'm excited to dip my toes into the land of Jane Austen.

My past reading lists are here:

Happy New Year, and happy reading!