Monday, January 31, 2011

"the real skinny on losing it" by michelle mckinney hammond

I'm fat. But it's not my fault, really. See, I have this thyroid problem. And I have bad genes; I'm pretty sure I'm predisposed to being fat. Plus, if you took away the pounds I carry in my chest, I'd be in another weight class entirely ... my chest really shouldn't count. And I've lost 20 pounds in the last year; I should just work on maintaining that loss, right?

I am a pro at rationalizing my weight. After all, I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. So I'm not sure what compelled me to agree to read a book about weight loss. Maybe it was the fact that I knew the author really struggled with her weight--she wasn't some "Skinny Minnie" who had no concept of what it's like to be overweight. Whatever my reasoning, I'm very glad I picked up this book.

In The Real Skinny on Losing It: True Confessions & Divine Revelations of a Former Yo-Yo Dieter, Michelle McKinney Hammond gets to the heart of most weight issues: the heart. It's not my head that tells me to eat that ice cream; it's my heart. It's not my head that tells me to continue shoveling the pasta into my mouth; it's my heart. Sure, I've made great strides in regard to eating in the last year, but my heart still wins out over my head far too often (like tonight, when my sister and I polished off that DiGiorno pizza). If I don't control my heart, I don't control my waistline.

Hammond brings generous doses of humor and solidarity to her "tell-it-like-it-is" memoir/self-help book. She doesn't say anything you haven't heard before if you're at all familiar with dieting, but the way she says it makes so much sense that you just might take note. For example, when she talks about eating slowly, she doesn't just say "Chew each bite 40 times" or whatever that ridiculous number is. Instead, she talks about savoring each bite and giving your stomach a chance to signal that it has had enough, rather than inhaling your food and eating until you're ready to burst. She also points out that many skinny people eat slowly and end up eating less ... perhaps because their stomachs tell them when to stop!

If I have one critique of the book, it's that the last few chapters, which introduce the reader to Hammond's "Diva Diet," get confusing and contradictory. But that's okay--the thrust of the book isn't about one way to lose weight; it's a needed kick in the pants to quit making excuses and start changing your life!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, January 24, 2011

"an amish love" by beth wiseman, kathleen fuller, and kelly long

An Amish Love is a collection of three romance novellas set in an Amish community in Pennsylvania.

A Marriage of the Heart by Kelly Long: Abigail sees marriage to Joseph as a way to escape her disapproving father. Joseph sees marriage to Abby as an entryway into the community his family abandoned years before. After they marry, they learn what it means to truly love someone.

What the Heart Sees by Kathleen Fuller: Five years ago, a tragic accident caused Ellie to lose her sight and Christopher to lose his fiancée. When Christopher returns to Pennsylvania, he finds himself drawn to Ellie. But will the truth about the accident keep them apart?

Healing Hearts by Beth Wiseman: Naaman left his wife and family to “find himself.” When he returns home, his wife Levina has a hard time trusting him. As Naaman seeks to reconcile with his wife and his community, a mysterious man threatens to destroy the progress Namaan has made.

Of the three stories, I expected Long’s to be my favorite (I am, after all, a sucker for the “first comes marriage, then comes love” plot line) and Wiseman’s to be my least favorite. I should quit making predictions because the reverse was true! Though I enjoyed Wiseman's the most (largely due to the mystery surrounding Naaman's return), all were well-written and entertaining. I read each novella in approximately one hour … a great way to unwind after a long day! If you like Amish romance, I'm sure you'll enjoy An Amish Love.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

o tannenbaum!

Today is Saturday, January 22, 2011. If you step into my living room, this is what you will see:

That's right, my Christmas tree is still up, nearly one month after Christmas. Why? Because I just can't bear to take it down. I love the ambiance it creates, the soft glow that lights a darkened room. And there's this:

I always struggle to find time to read the Bible. But the thought of lying on the floor, reading God's Word by the soft glow emanating from the tree beckons to me, and I end most of my evenings reading under the tree.

I know the tree will need to come down soon (a potential house buyer could come at any time), but I think I need to spend a few more evenings under the tree!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 retrospective

I realize I'm a little late on this (don't people usually do the look back at the year at the end of December?), but my two snow days are finally giving me a chance to catch up on some things!

2010: A year filled with high highs and low lows. Of my 29 years, 2010 was probably the hardest, yet I also learned so much through the challenges. Here's a look back at the events that impacted me the most throughout the year.

January: On January 1-2, I spent about 3 hours in the emergency room with abdominal pain. It definitely wasn't how I planned to begin my year, but something good came out of it. The ER doctor sent me home after ruling out appendicitis and kidney stones, but she suspected gall stones. While the ultrasound I had the next week didn't show any stones, my doctor suspected my gall bladder was "sluggish," and she suggested I drastically cut the fat in my diet. Wanting to avoid pain and more trips to the doctor, I did ... and in the process lost 25 pounds! Somewhere along the line, I picked five back up, so I'm starting 2011 twenty pounds lighter than I started 2010. I'm hoping to make it another 20 this year, but I know doing so will require a lot of discipline and hard work.

April: My friend and former roommate Melissa married Ryan, and I was honored to be one of her bridesmaids. It was a wonderful (and short) celebration, and I loved seeing my friend so happy! Also, by that point in the year, I'd lost enough weight that my dress had to be taken in :-)
Melissa and me on her wedding day.

May: I started feeling sick again. Well, I really started feeling "off" in April, but I didn't actually see a doctor until May. My strange symptoms--lightheadness, headaches, racing heartbeat, no appetite, no energy--led to some expensive tests and no real answers. Finally in June, after a brain scan that showed nothing abnormal, I decided to go to the chiropractor. After he heard my symptoms, he immediately wanted to take an x-ray of my neck. I had several vertebrae out of place. He also suspected an iodine deficiency and started me on supplements. Within two weeks of treatments, most of my symptoms were gone, and within a month, I had my energy back! I still don't know if my neck sprain is the only thing that was wrong, but I don't care ... 'cause I feel good! I'm now a firm believer in chiropractic care!

June: One of my high school acquaintances started a women's Bible study. There are five of us who normally attend, and this has been a needed addition to my life. Now I have a group of women praying for me and keeping me accountable, and I eagerly anticipate each meeting. God brought this into my life just when I needed it!

July: July is a blur--I spent much of it away from home! At the beginning of July, Blendy and I drove to Indiana for my college roommate Jen's wedding. This wedding was a total celebration, and I had a blast! We arrived a couple of days before the wedding, and it was great to hang out with Jen and (hallmate) Sarah and get to know Jen's beloved a bit, as well! Then at the end of the month, Blendy and I took off on our great road trip adventure! We started in Michigan, spent a couple days in Pennsylvania, visited my college friend Holly near Cleveland, attended college roommate Jodi's wedding, and then stayed overnight at Jen & Josh's apartment before we returned home. It was such a fun trip!
Me and Sarah a couple days before Jen's wedding
The Hrens and me.
Me and Blendy on our fabulous road trip.
Me and Jodi.

August: While we were on our roadtrip adventure, I got a call from Val's landlord. Val and her roommate decided to move to Grand Island, and Larry wanted to know if I was interested in renting the house after they moved out in August. Because the house was going on the market, they were willing to rent for next to nothing ... so I decided to take a leap and move! I'm loving living in a house instead of an apartment ... and I'm really loving the garage!
My house (obviously not in August!)

November: I accompanied nearly 50 high school students on a trip to Washington, D.C. I had a blast (though I could happily live my life without spending another night on a bus!) and intended to blog about it when I got home. That didn't happen, but at least you can see some pictures here!

December: Two things consumed my December. The first was the Singing Christmas Tree. This was my fourth year as a choir member, and I had the most fun of any year--probably because I connected with other choir members better than I had before. As an added bonus, Blendy had a solo, and I overflowed with sisterly pride each time she sang.
Blendy singing her solo. Sorry it's so blurry!
The other thing consuming December wasn't so pleasant. My grandma's health was declining rapidly, and on December 20, she died. I woke up that morning feeling an urgency to see her, so I got everything in order at work and left for Kansas. My mom was already there--she had gone down the week before--and after I arrived, we spent a while with Grandma before leaving for supper. Then we returned and spent another hour or so with her before leaving for the night. While I was there, I said everything I wanted to say to Grandma, and though she wasn't really able to communicate, I will go to my grave believing she was trying to say "I love you." When we left that night, we had no idea she was so near to death, so it was quite a shock when the nursing home called us at 11 to say she had passed away. The next week was a whirlwind of activity--my mom's brother and sister both arrived the next day, and the funeral was set for the Monday after Christmas. Prior to Grandma's death, I worried that Christmas would be depressing and sad, and we all certainly faced moments of sadness, but overall the mood was happy. Grandma had been in severe pain, and I rejoice in knowing that she will never experience pain again!

Most memorable moment of the year: I had no idea this would turn out to be my most treasured memory of 2010 when it happened, but now I'm so thankful for the day in July when Mom and I took Grandma out for her birthday. It turned out to be my last meaningful time with Grandma. She had an absolute blast--we took her to Cracker Barrel for supper, then we returned to her house for pie and presents. I will never forget how happy she was, and I will always treasure that night.  

Grandma and Mom at Cracker Barrel.
She got a free sundae because it was her birthday. Hamming for the camera was rather uncharacteristic!
My last picture with my grandma. It's one I'll treasure.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

two snow days. whatever will i do???

Pretty much everything in Central Nebraska came to a standstill Sunday night, thanks to a slow-moving snowstorm. We weren't going to have school on Monday anyway, thanks to our four-day school week, but we did have a staff in-service scheduled for Monday morning that got postponed. I decided to stay home for at least the morning (I normally work in the office on our day off), and it's a good thing I did--I couldn't have gone anywhere anyway, as I woke up to at least a foot of snow in my driveway! Monday night, I got winter's most anticipated call: the call letting me know we had a snow day on Tuesday! So how did I spend my time? Glad you asked :-)

  • Woke up at 7 to cancel the coffee order I'd placed for in-service. Our local coffee shop doesn't have an answering machine, and they closed on Sunday before I knew in-service had been postponed, so I needed to call before they started on it. After placing the call, I rolled over and went back to sleep until 10!
  • Read my book. I've had this book to review for Waterbrook Multnomah for far too long now. It's an interesting book, but it's not one of those "can't put it down" reads. Sadly, of the 150 pages left when I started reading, I only made it through 50.
  • Worked on my puzzles. Ever heard of nonograms? How about O'Ekaki? I think they go by other names, too. I first saw them in a sudoku book I had, and I'm currently obsessed. I just bought a book (if you click on O'Ekaki above, you'll see which one), and I spent about an hour doing them Sunday night ... and then proceeded to dream about them! One of the reason's I only made it through 50 pages of Flight of Shadows is that I kept going back to O'Ekaki.
  • Shoveled my driveway with Blendy ... well, we shoveled enough of the driveway to get my car out of the garage. The rest of the driveway we left, hoping that a nice man would come by and move the rest of the snow.
  • Guess what? A nice man did come move the snow! About an hour after we finished shoveling, my dad showed up with a tractor and blade. He cleared the rest of the driveway and the circle drive!
  • Played "Just Dance 2" with Blendy. Mom and Dad gave it to me for Christmas. I'm well aware that I look like a complete fool while playing, but I don't care--it's so much fun! (It's also making me sore--I think that's a good sign!)
  • Went to the chiropractor. Around 11:00 Monday morning, I suddenly thought, "I wonder when my next chiro appointment is?" I dug out the appointment card I carry in my wallet and saw my next appointment was at 4:15 that afternoon! I always feel so much better after seeing my doctor!
  • Decided to be responsible and work on speech. I started cutting a piece that my team could potentially start using this weekend. Then I received "the call" (the one letting me know school had been called off) and I ...
  • Decided to be irresponsible! I spent the evening with Mom and Blendy watching The Bachelor and Castle. If you recall, I do love me some Nathan Fillion!
  • Watched some What I Like About You while blogging. Season 4. Vic and Val. Why isn't this show on dvd? Someday my video tapes will wear out ...
  • Woke up at 9:30 and decided to spend the morning pampering myself and the afternoon being responsible. It didn't go quite as planned ... I decided to take a bath in the master bath. I never use that bathroom because it wasn't available when I moved in, and I just use the bathroom that's across the hall from my bedroom. But this bathtub has jets, and it's actually deep, so I thought I'd try it out. Yeah, that was a bit of a mistake. I ran the water, got in, sighed in relaxation, and turned on the jets. Soon I was sharing the water with hundreds of rust flecks! I'm guessing the jets hadn't been used at least since the owner moved out, and that was over a year ago ... and who knows if she even used them for a while before that! I immediately jumped out and drained the water. Ewwww!!!
  • Moved on to part two of the pampering process: facial and hand treatment! I dug out my paraffin bath (which I hadn't used since Christmas '09), put some goop on my face, and settled in for part two of Bleak House. (Thanks, Netflix streaming!)
  • Started being responsible by reading my book instead of watching part three of Bleak House. Finally finished said book and wrote the review. You can see it here. (If you do read the review, would you let me know if you can see the ranking button at the bottom of the post? It's not showing up for me, but I wonder if it's just my browser.)
  • Made flour tortillas for use in supper's quesadillas. Tortillas are surprisingly easy to make, and they taste so much better than the ones I usually buy at Walmart!
  • Decided to give the bath another go ... complete with the next part of Bleak House. (Have you gathered yet that I'm a period drama nut?) This time I waited until the very end of the bath to turn the jets on ... and sure enough, the same thing happened!
  • Watched Knight and Day with Blendy. Entertaining, but not a movie I'd want to see again and again.
All in all, I had a good two days off. Not sure I'm ready to hit the grind again, but I'm certainly a lot more rested than I was before ... and rest is a precious commodity during speech season!

"flight of shadows" by sigmund brouwer

 In the not-so-distant future, Caitlyn Brown is on the run. She has escaped Appalachia, a country run by religious zealots, but now she's being tracked by those who want to study her for her genetic mutations. Along the way, she meets a mysterious man named Razor who promises to help her. But can she really trust him?

I'll be honest: it took me forever to get into this book. First of all, I somehow missed that it's a sequel (to Broken Angel), and I spent the opening chapters thinking, "Who are these people?" After I got everyone straightened out (and there are many characters in this book), I just wasn't very interested in the story. I'd read a few pages here and there, but I never actually wanted to pick up the book. Finally, around page 200, something clicked, and I devoured the rest of the book in an hour. I have a feeling that if I'd first read Broken Angel, things would have snapped into place a lot sooner!

What I enjoyed most about this book was its realistic look into the future. Brouwer paints the future of America in a way that is both believable and scary. I closed Flight of Shadows with lots to ponder, and I do recommend reading this book ... but you should probably read Broken Angel first! (FYI, the Kindle edition of Broken Angel is currently $.89 on Amazon. I'm going to buy it.)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”