Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 5: An Inch Off!

Yes--a whole inch is gone from the old belly! Though I can't say it is all from the result of adding safflower oil to my diet--I have been eating a LOT of salads, too--I'm pleased. I can't wait to see how much more change at the end of these 14 days. It's really TOO easy to do this, so what's stopping us all from trying this? I have had no trouble incorporating this oil into my diet. The amount is minimal and it is relatively inexpensive--and the it doesn't taste bad either!

So, day 5 is showing a little progress--hoping I will have more good news to report in the next few days! But for tonight, it is New Year's Eve and we'll be celebrating in our family with a quiet night at home. We'll play games, eat some good food, and watch the ball drop at Times Square at the appropriate moment.

My prayer for all of you is to have a blessed and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Onward with the Experiment--and Other Things

Day 3 was pretty much the same as day 2 and day 1: nothing new to report. Day 4 is turning out the same, too, and so far, I'm not seeing any loss of inches around my belly. I'm SO impatient!

One good side effect though: I'm eating more salads now--mostly because I fell in love with the lime vinaigrette that I made with the safflower oil. Yum. It has that sour/tangy/salty kind of taste that I often crave through the day, and since I discovered boxed spring mix lettuces don't have that icky "plastic bag" taste, it's easy to mix a salad up and put it in the fridge.

I also found out that being on the treadmill with music going helps me stay on it and actually work harder as I groove to the music. (Well, "groove" is a relative word when used with me--I mean that I kind of move better and faster.)

Anyway, I' listening to old Christian rock bands and it is FUN. I love Greg X. Volz's music and his "The River is Rising" CD is AWESOME to listen to as I walk.

So though I'm not really seeing any results from the safflower oil yet, I'm doing better with eating and exercising. The key will be to see how long I can keep it up. A week is about all I usually can stand of "healthy" living before I slowly revert back to old habits. In the mean time, I am having a little more fun with watching our for my health. That's go t to be a good thing, right?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 2: Great Safflower Experiment

Well, so far, it hasn't been difficult at all to incorporate the safflower oil into my diet. And the best part is that it doesn't have a flavor, so anything I put it in tastes "normal".

Last night, I made pasta salad and added 2 teaspoons of oil to the cooked pasta before mixing in the other ingredients. There was no oily taste--2 teaspoons is so small. This morning, I had my usual one egg omelet, and used 1/2 teaspoon of oil for the pan. Again, no problems. At lunch, I had a sandwich (no oil), and for dinner I made spaghetti. I added one teaspoon of oil to the sauce and brushed a little on the rolls before adding seasonings. I made a citrus vinaigrette using an orange and 1 1/2 teaspoons of safflower oil to use on my salad. Yum.

I think it's too early to measure anything, but I can't wait to see results. (Typical Dee response to any weight/inches loss plan!)

The funny thing is that just trying something is making me feel better and also giving me incentive to tame the Beast (aka--TREADMILL). We'll see how long that lasts.

So that's the report for day 2. Signing off until tomorrow!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Great Safflower Experiment--Belly Fat Be Gone!

I read results from a recent experiment at Ohio State University in which safflower oil was seen to reduce belly fat among women with type 2 diabetes. According to the report, the women added close to 2 tsp. of safflower oil per day to their diet. The oil seemed to help their bodies target the belly fat to be burned first, thus reducing the inches of fat on their tummies. This also helped to control their blood sugars.

I'm thinking as I read this: "Are you kidding me? For less than $6 I can try something that has been shown to work in a research project?" Yes. So today I bought myself a bottle of safflower oil and added 2 teaspoons to my pasta salad. I decided to create a ticker to keep track of how many days I'll be trying this experiment. I'm not going to tell you how many inches I'm starting with, but I WILL post any lost inches on here.

My birthday is exactly 14 days from today so I figure that will be a good time to report my own results. If it works, what an awesome b-day present I'll be giving myself! Stay tuned--I'll blog about any results--good or bad--that comes from this not-so-very scientific, but oh-so-fun experiment!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rattling On

Here's an observation that struck me tonight as I was looking through the book of Job: Job and his friends (if that's what you can call them) rattled on for THIRTY-EIGHT chapters about Job and his troubles! They were questioning and complaining...analyzing and exhorting...and God didn't stop them. On and on and on they rattled.

It made me think: I do that. I moan and complain and rattle on and on sometimes, and God doesn't stop me. But, when He does step in and take on a conversation with me, His words are ALWAYS right to the point and there's NO hiding from His truth.

I love this part when God begins His conversation with Job (chapter 38, verse 3): "Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me."

And then God proceeds to do just that (verses 12-13, 16-21):

"Have you ever given orders to the morning,or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?"

Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?

Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?

Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?

Tell me, if you know all this.

What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside?

Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings?

Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!

Oh boy. It's the Creator of the universe asking Job these things! Wow.

I imagine that Job shrank to his puny human form. When I'm reminded of Who God is, I do, too. When I read God's conversation with Job, I tremble at God's power. His words remind me that God is not about to be put in a box, or delivered up for inspection. Instead, I need to back down and relinquish the right to rattle on when it overtakes me.

But there is also a sense of relief in realizing once again that it is not all up to me. The power and glory of God is revealed all around me--at all times--and, even in the worst of times. I can "stand down" and let Him guide my life, and know that He has it all under control--and without my puny human help!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Fiction: Christmas Miting

© By Dee Yoder

The early morning frost coats the branches of the pines surrounding them like thick sparkling sugar. Every now and then, a horse trots past their car, the ringing hooves against the blacktopped road announcing it long before they can see it. Each buggy is examined, and each time she sighs when the Old Order Amish family inside is not her own.

“How long do you want to stay?” he asks softly.

“Do you mind if we wait a bit longer?”

“We need to be at the Stevenson’s by noon, Honey.”

“I know…I was just hoping that this year…” her voice trails off as they hear another horse-drawn buggy approaching. She leans forward and presses her forehead against the windshield of their car. She watches closely as the buggy nears their parking spot at the side of the road. He wonders how many more Christmas mornings in the future they’ll be doing this same thing, but when he glances at his wife’s eager face, his bristling heart gentles.

“Not Daet and Maem, I’m afraid.” She eases back against the seat and looks down at her joined hands in her lap. She sighs again. “I need to see them on Christmas morning…just once more, Jacob. I know last year, it was hard, too…but after this, I promise, no more.”

He leans over and takes her left hand in his, wrapping it in loving comfort. “I know. I don’t mind waiting just a little longer. Bishoff Miller is very punctual with the start of church, so they should be coming along any time now, Leah.”

She reaches to click on the radio. “Let’s see what kind of Christmas music is on, Ok?” she asks brightly. The sound of a church organ permeates the quiet atmosphere of the car, and they both smile as they lean their heads back to listen. Leah sings along.

“O, come all ye faithful…joyful and triumphant…*” she breaks off as another buggy catches them unaware.

Leah immediately recognizes Sparky’s manner and she wonders how she could have thought that any of the other horses she’d been watching that morning were him: the way he trots...the way he lets the collar ride his broad shoulders…and the spark of excitement he shows in his prancing legs and bobbing head. Her hands ache to pat him and groom him. Then her eyes move quickly from the horse to the buggy. There’s Daet!

His beard is still nicely shaped—not jagged in its natural curve as some Amishmen’s are, though he never dares to trim it…against the Ordnung to trim his beard. His white eyebrows rise above his blue eyes like winged birds, and the soft expression on his face surprises Leah. She hasn’t seen that look in a long time. The shunning that she and Jacob received two years ago after they’d claimed to be “born again” had brought nothing but censured, reproach-filled looks from her Daet. But this Christmas morning, his face looks kind and gentle.

She swiftly scans Maem’s face. Tears form at the corners of Leah’s eyes as she takes in the graying hair and rosy cheeks of her Maem. It’s shocking how much older she seems, Leah thinks…have I caused that? “Oh, Maem…” she moans aloud. Jacob, still holding Leah’s hand in his, squeezes it hard.

Maem suddenly turns her head toward the spot on the side of the road where Leah and Jacob are sitting in their car. Leah sees her eyes recognize her daughter’s face. Maem’s calm expression suddenly changes as a look of longing passes rapidly over it. Leah raises her right hand in greeting…but Maem breaks the bond and looks away. The buggy passes by.

Leah begins to cry, her heart breaking anew over the harshness of the miting that she and Jacob are under. No contact…no simple greeting…no “Merry Christmas” from her family again this year. She watches the buggy until it disappears around a corner far down the road.

Jacob reaches across to her and pulls her tight against his chest. She can hear his heartbeat and its familiar sound eases the pain in Leah’s own heart. They lean against one another for several minutes while the music of “Joy to the World”** flows from the radio.

“Let every heart prepare Him room.” Leah sings it as a prayer. She wipes her eyes, and looks up at Jacob with a watery smile. “Let’s go now. We don’t want to keep our adopted family waiting…it is Christmas day, after all.”

Daet= Dad
Maem= Mom
Ordnung= letter of strict rules which govern each local church and the lives of the Old Order Amish. The rules may be added to or deleted from the Ordnung by each presiding bishop.
Bishoff= bishop or presiding church leader

*”O, Come All Ye Faithful” words and music by John Wade, 1743
** “Joy to the World” words by Isaac Watts, 1719; music by Lowell Mason, 1836

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Fiction: Walnut Fudge and Christmas Secrets

© By Dee Yoder

Mama and Daddy took the Studebaker into town this evening as soon as Daddy came home from the mine. Mama’s eyes held Christmas secrets, and Daddy laughed and kissed her cheek when she whispered what she wanted to get.

“Grandma said she had some pennies saved back, Daddy,” I told him before they left. “She wants you to get a peppermint stick for each of the little kids.”

“Ok, Son. Go get it from her and then we’ll be going.”

We waved them off, five pairs of eyes watching out the kitchen window as the old car lumbered its way through the heavy snow toward town.

“Well, let’s get cracking, Kids!” laughed Grandma as soon as the car disappeared from view.

Jason and me and Mary Anne went out to the barn and hauled the canvas sack of black walnuts out from the space under the loft. We’d collected them in the fall and hidden them away just for this night. The chores we’d done had earned us the money to buy extra sugar and all the fixings to make black walnut fudge. With the Depression dragging on, Mama had told us sadly that she couldn’t afford to make the traditional pans of fudge for Christmas Eve, but we were giddy with excitement to think of the surprise she and Daddy would have when they got home that night, and the sweet treat from our shared efforts was just the thing to make our Christmas complete.

Grandma and Susie had the milk scalding on the cook stove, while Tara buttered the pans and measured out the precious sugar. Grandma had fiddled with the Crosley radio while we were outside, and now the sounds of the Andrews Sisters and Perry Como cheered the warm kitchen with a happy rendition of “Winter Wonderland.”*

We poured the walnuts out on the hearth and started cracking the hard shells. By the time we were done, we had black hands and a few cups of shelled walnuts.

“Ok, Kids, the milk’s ready and the bowls are set out here on the table. C’mon around and lets get this fudge stirred up,” called Grandma. We gathered close and formed an assembly line. Grandma poured the hot milk, I added the sugar, and the little ones dumped in the walnuts.

Before long, the sticky sweet fudge filled the pans and the air with chocolately, walnutty flavors and smells. We sighed as we set the last pan on the windowsill to chill. Grandma went to her room and got her Bible, and we sat in a circle at her feet as she read the Christmas story.

“And it came to pass that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed…”** she read. We smiled as the familiar words filled our imaginations with scenes from long ago.

It was close to bedtime before Mama and Daddy came home. Their cheeks were rosy, and they brought a crisp snowy scent in with them as they unwrapped their mufflers and peeled off their gloves.

“What’s that lovely smell?’ Mama asked suddenly. Her eyes darted to the windows and she spotted the pans of fudge cooling on the outside sills. She and Daddy exchanged a glance and then laughed.

“So much for our surprise, right, Honey?” Daddy smiled. Mama brought the wrapped package they’d brought from town to the table. The brown paper crinkled as she unfolded it, revealing a small pan of Black Walnut fudge.

“Daddy did some work for Miss Pringle last week and she paid us in fudge!” Mama exclaimed. “But the joke’s on us--now we have fudge coming out our ears--think we can eat it all?”

To show her proof that we could indeed eat it all, we cut the fudge into large pieces and gobbled down the small pan full of chocolaty, nutty candy in no time flat.

“Time for bed, Little Ones,” Mama prompted.

Later, as the snow fell softly outside and the radio played merrily in the background, Grandma, Mama, Daddy, and me sat around the fire. I watched lazily as Mama filled the stockings with oranges, peppermint sticks, and pencils. Then smiling broadly, she dropped a few walnuts into the stockings and their familiar shapes made lumps in the rounded toes.

Daddy grabbed her and pulled her onto his lap. “I think I could stand another piece of that fudge, honey,” he laughed. “Somehow it tastes better this year than ever before.”

*Winter Wonderland: Music by Felix Bernard and Lyrics by Richard B. Smith, 1934
**Luke 2:1, The Holy Bible, King James Version

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Madison Community Christmas Concert--I Made It!

Tonight was the Community Choir Christmas concert that I've been practicing for since November 1. I wasn't sure if I could handle it--NaNoWriMo was starting, and more importantly, the health problems I've been dealing with since October of 2007 made me feel very unsure of being able to stand and sing for a length of time without struggling with low blood sugar and dizziness. But, I've missed music in my life for SO long, and I wanted to give it a shot.

So I went to my first practice and it was WEIRD. Not because of the people or the director, but because of the location: my old high school music room. I hadn't walked in that school room for 35 years! Yet, within minutes, it all came back--sight-reading new music, learning my part (second soprano--or "slacker soprano" as one of my tenor friends calls it), and the art of blending my voice with others. Our choir was a mixture of folks older, and much younger, than me, but I loved it right from the get-go.

I didn't miss a single practice, learned my music, and struggled week to week to control the health issues that threatened my resolve. But finally--FINALLY--the night of the concert came and I was as ready as I could be! In my right pocket: glucose tablets to get me through the performance--and in my left pocket: Kleenex and lip balm. I planned my doses of quick sugar: one after the second after the fourth...and one at the end...and a left-over tab--just in case.

Well, I used them all, but I made it through! If you've ever experienced serious health problems, then you can understand my feeling of victory tonight--I did something NORMAL! And not just normal, but soul-feeding. I took back a part of myself that had been missing for, oh, so long. I knew my Jewelly sisters were praying, and I knew my family (who was in the audience) were rooting for me, and I knew God was saying, "I know you can do it--I'll be right there with you. Let's go!"

I've posted a link to photobucket of one song loaded from our camera video (the real video camera stopped working, of course). The song is called, "Unto to Us", and the picture is a bit shaky because my poor son had to hold the camera up through the entire performance, but here's the video. (Click the link to hear the song.) I hope you enjoy it! By the way, if you look in the second row, middle, just beneath the choir director's arm, you can see me--once in a while-LOL)

Community Choir

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fiction Friday: A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Christmas

Welcome to Fiction Friday! I decided to post this Challenge entry story (the topic was Home for the Holidays) just for laughs. Most of the "adventures" really happened to me, but not all at once, thankfully. This story proves that getting there really is half the fun--Ok--whatever. Anyway, enjoy this seasonal salute to travel, and for more great fiction, check out Karlene's Homespun Expressions.

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Christmas
© By Dee Yoder

My plane landed at JFK international airport at 11:30 PM. My inland flight to Columbus left at 11:55 PM...from LaGuardia…across town…in New York City…on Christmas Eve…and it was snowing. Right.

This was just another in a long line of travel mishaps for me that Christmas. It had begun in Bonn. I’d left my hotel in plenty of time to get to the airport, but when I’d arrived, I’d discovered that the Lufthansa flight was canceled due to a mechanical problem. Ok. I’d rather not be on that plane anyway. We passengers were directed to a waiting area and put on stand-by until the next available flight. “Stand by.” They really mean that.

I’d hustled to find a seat when someone got up to use the restroom. It was fair play, but the lone traveler like me was at a disadvantage. I’d waited until I thought my bladder would explode, but you know…there’s only so long. I’d hauled my luggage with me because, of course, without a plane, my bags were homeless. And when I’d come out from the restroom, my seat was taken. (If it hadn’t been, I’d have looked to see if the rapture had occurred.)

Finally we’d “queued” up to board our flight, and let me tell you something about Germans…they aren’t British. They don’t “queue”. The whole group had stormed the ticket counter en masse, and I was left fighting to get within arm’s reach of an agent. But I’d soon discovered that an elbow is a useful body appendage.

After I’d gotten on the plane, I was seated in the smoking section. I get migraines from cigarette smoke…the kind that makes me puke, so all the way across the Atlantic, I’d heaved my guts out. At one point, the latrines were all full, and I’d been desperate enough to use “the bag.” Later an attendant gave me a bottle of soda water to “clean” my sweater. Right.

After living through the migraine sufferer’s flight from you-know-where, I was happy to land on U.S. soil. Once in the terminal though, and told the good news about La Guardia, the stampede was on for all of us to get a taxi…in New York City…on Christmas the snow. Right.

It happened that a priest, a rabbi, and I shared a taxi (Yes…we got one!) to LaGuardia. I was trying not to think about the fact that I smelled like…well, you know…and that we were crammed in this car with what luggage that wouldn’t fit in the trunk stuffed between us. The rabbi was sitting on the jump seat facing the priest and me and the pile of suitcases. We lucked out and got an aggressive (i.e. “crazy”) driver. He drove everywhere but on the road. At one point, while I was trying to convince myself that we weren’t REALLY riding on two wheels on the side of the highway divider, I glanced over and caught the priest crossing himself.

But we lived and made it to LaGuardia in time…we thought. We three struggled into the terminal, lugging our stuff, just in time to see our plane disappearing into the snowy sky toward the Midwest. It turns out the flight was overbooked (what else?), and we couldn’t get another one until morning. We were stranded in New York City…on Christmas Eve…whatever.

We decided to take turns watching each other’s stuff while we slept on the floor…oh man! And the cold bums off the streets that slept along beside us? Well, let’s put it this way…we napped with one eye open and our hands balled in fists.

Dawn came and we finally got on our flight to Columbus. We decided we might as well go the whole way together, but have I mentioned that priests and rabbis can be grouchy after sleeping on a floor all night? It didn’t help that the Santa we greeted when we got off our flight in Ohio growled at us and said, “What’s so merry about being in an airport at 9 AM on Christmas morning?” Right.

We three amigos said goodbye to one another at the door of the airport. The rabbi laughed and said he’d be able to tell “a-priest-a-rabbi-and-a-Pentecostal” jokes with impunity from then on, and the priest gave us each a blessing. I just said “Thanks for the memories” and got in my rental car.

Did I tell you that my family wanted to go cross-country skiing as soon as I hit the door? Right.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Quill Contest: Second Place!

I was honored to win second place in the Fall Short story contest for The Quill--a literary magazine that is distributed in the Toledo, Ohio area by Kevin Moore! I was very happy and excited to win! Today, I found out I also won a book for coming in second, "Writing Your First Novel" by Ann Rittenberg--glad to have it.

The story I entered has been posted in this blog twice--"Gonna Be a Mighty Fine Christmas". It was written to honor my dad and the kind of man he was--and the kind of boy he was, too. It's under Friday Fiction in my drop down menu above, if you'd like a chance to read it. I was SO happy that his story touched the judges enough to win second place. Thanks, judges and Kevin!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Blog Awards

I have two blog awards to post today. One came from my friend, Andrea, and one from my friend, Lee.

Andrea gave me this Circle of Friends award. I hope you will check out her blog.

For this award, I'm supposed to tell you five things that I love to do. Here goes:

1) Read a good mystery all night
2) Bake when the mood strikes
3) Watch old black and white movies
4) Drive around with my family to look at Christmas lights
5) Get packages in the mail

Thanks for passing this award to me, Andrea!

The second award comes from Lee:

Thanks for passing along the Superior Scribbler award, Lee.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Loose Threads

I woke up this morning and had strings of loose threads jumbling around in my mind. I have blog posts that I'd like to get written, a story sequel to write, more writing on my second novel, and revisions to be made on my first. And there is also the threads of the things having to do with Christmas...daily chores...cookies to bake and candies to make...people to contact and songs to be learned...the floating strings of thoughts in my mind are endless, it seems!

I can only take care of these kinds of strings by making lists. If I write them on a sticky note, and put them right on my laptop, then I find I can go down the lists, mark off what's finished, and empty my head of all those jumbled threads.

For instance, right now I'm thinking about the ex-Amish men that are downstairs with my husband and Joe Keim doing their Bible study. I'm thinking of how cool it is to look out my window and see their trucks--all lined up--construction gear loaded in the backs of their pick-ups, cars poised to take off and head out into the world on this cold Saturday morning...but first, they're filling their spiritual vessels with the Word. What an image: big tough workers...letting the Lord lead their lives and soften their hearts. That thought makes me smile, and also makes me glad I stayed up late to bake the guys a loaf of spicy pumpkin nut bread to go along with their coffee and the sweet Words of God.

Then my mind shifts to the writing projects that are drifting around waiting for me to make time to let their characters come back to life. I'm thinking of the tiny of island of Unst...and what will happen next to the widowed woman who is on Unst trying to discover what became of her did he disappear? What help or hindrance do the island people give her? She waits---just off stage--for her story to continue.

And what about Leah Raber, the MC in my Amish novel? Her story is finished, but she needs polishing, and I can imagine her standing off to the side, tapping her foot, impatiently waiting for her story to gel and shine.

And then, there is Annie...little Annie...the MC in my new novel. She is a child and has the enthusiasm and impatience of childhood oozing out of her pores...she wants to jump around and SHOUT her story...she's waited SO long for her tale to be told to the world--nearly a lifetime. She is anxious to pop out of my head and leap onto the page! She loves telling her story--just WHEN will she get to finish telling it? I mentally pat her head and tell her to be patient...I plan to return to her world soon...I hope.

Underneath all of these thoughts, as if that isn't enough, a song is rolling onward: "Sing! Sing joy to the world! Sing! Sing joy to the world!" This is the first line to one of the songs I'm going to be singing in the upcoming Christmas concert I'm doing with the community choir. It makes an interesting little under-note to all the other chaotic thoughts floating around in my head, don't you think?

If you're like me, thought-threads like these are never really gone, but are on the fringes of my mind every day. Taking care of each of them, one at a time, is an infinite chore because just as soon as one is finished and marked off the lists, another one pops alive to float and badger and add to the seeming chaos.

Whatever the many threads on my lists, I like to keep in mind that talking it all over with God should be my first priority every morning. I like what God is saying to me in this passage:

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth. Ephesians 1:6-8
When I read that, then I know that all the loose threads that make up my lists can be a part of God's plan for me. I just need to ask Him which thoughts are in line with His plan...which thoughts need to go on my to-do lists in order to fulfill those "long-range" plans He has for my life. That's exciting--the God of the universe will help me tame those loose threads into lists that go somewhere and mean something in His world!

What are you making mental lists of? Is it story lines? School work? Household chores? Christmas happenings? Let me know how you tame the loose threads that make up your to-do lists. And in the meant time, let's think about how much God wants to use our loose threads to weave our lives together...a beautiful mosaic of thoughts and deeds to His glory!