July 30, 2016

Stormy Night, But No Rain

Monsoon 2016 raged into Phoenix last night, but it didn't do anything but bring cloudy skies to our neck of the woods. Reports came in to our local news of downed trees, power lines, and power outages beginning around 8 p.m. last night. We had some wind and dust, but nothing else. The radar was bright green with large spots of reds and oranges, but the storms seemed to go right around our little corner of North Phoenix. The good news is that the temperature is cooler today, somewhere in the low 80s. Our highs this entire week are well under 100 for a change. In all, even though we didn't get any rain here at my house, the change in scenery has been a blessing, a real blessing.

Despite the storms last night, I slept well. I am tired today, but only because Winston decided to wake me up at 4 a.m. with his insistent and persistent cries of "Mom!" Yes, I swear he was meowing, "Mom!" for about a half-hour! I got up after I couldn't take it anymore and fed him and Ike. I guess that did the trick because I slept in until 8 a.m. without stirring once. I am a bit sleepy still, and even though it is 9:00 a.m., I am slowing waking up. My first cup of coffee has hit the spot, so hopefully once the caffeine kicks in, I will be wide awake and ready to tackle my day.

Atkins and Low-Carb Update

Well, yesterday was a good day for me, weight wise. I weighed in and the scale showed a nice 1.2 pound drop. That means that since July 11, I have lost a total of 4 pounds. Of course, I blew my carb control plan for yesterday, but only because I was celebrating my love's success on his math test (yes, he passed!). God is good, so very good. And, with that joy recorded, I was ready for something other than eggs and salad. My parents and I went to lunch at our local diner and I shared a sandwich with my Dad. Bad idea, really. I had a BLT on white toast (my dad's favorite), and I was sick the entire day with nausea, cramps, and bloating. I was miserable. I am not sure it was the bacon, rather I think it was the white bread. Sigh! I didn't have dinner, other than some broth, which helped. Later, I indulged in an Atkins bar for dessert. Overall, my carbs were well over the 20g that is stated on induction. I gave into the guilt feelings for a while, then I decided to up my carb intake and follow the Atkins 40 plan rather than stick to Atkins 20, which is a strict induction plan. I must be in ketosis as I can feel it still (I am feeling better, clear headed, but I can tell I am peeing ketones). I mean, my body feels different to me. I digress. I decided to switch to Atkins 40, where you can eat up to 40g of carbs per day. I think this plan is more doable, and I will have less chance of falling off the wagon, so to speak. I want to make this program work, and I want to continue to lose weight. I want to feel better, etc., etc., etc. Yes, I need to figure out how to do a low-carb lifestyle.

So before I switched plans yesterday afternoon, I did a little research on the Internet to see if there is such a thing as carbohydrate resistance or intolerance. And, lo, and behold, there is. I've always thought I was lactose intolerant, but now I think I simply struggle to process carbs efficiently. The number one symptom of carb intolerance is gas and bloating. I have had symptoms of IBS for years, and I was told that this is what I suffered from as a result of my PTSD. But, I never really had those same symptoms, and I didn't have them all the time. Instead, I had lots of gas, bloating, and spasms mostly as a direct result of my food choices. I also would suffer from diarrhea and constipation, alternating bouts with periods of normal elimination in between (I know, gross! Sorry for the TMI!) Now, though, what I notice or have noticed the past couple years is that when I follow a low-carb diet, all those icky symptoms (except for the constipation) seem to disappear. They simply go away. I mean like AWAY. After two or three days on Atkins, I have no bloat. I have no gas. I have this calm feeling in my gut. I feel so much better. But, as soon as I eat carbs again, the gas, the grumbling comes back. Right now, I have just had coffee and guess what is rumbling? My tummy. I have this bloated feeling, and I simply feel icky. It seems that when I eat low-carb, and stay away from high carbs, I feel so much better, leaner, cleaner. I know, again, gross. It is just something I have noticed as a pattern, and whenever I see a pattern, I typically pay heed. It is the way my brain is wired, I guess.

Alright, this doctor thinks carb intolerance is the likely culprit of my woes. This means that for all these years I have craved the very thing that made me ill. Not shocking really. When my niece was a baby she had these terrible food allergies. She would cry and scream while she was eating bananas. My SIL put her on a rotation diet to find the cause of her food allergies, and bam! All that bloat (it was awful), dark eyes, and crying over cravings just disappeared. It took time, of course, but eventually she recovered by being on a very strict diet.

Now, I am wondering if this is a family thing, you know, like something inherited. My Mom suffers from horrible gas too, as did my grandmother. We joke with her because she rumbles throughout the house. My grandmother used to say "Those darn squeaky floors," whenever she would pass gas. My Mom just lets it fly and then she says there is nothing she can do about it. She blames her gallbladder surgery. I think it is her diet. She eats lots of carbs, and mostly foods that are rich and creamy. We've said it must be lactose, but now I am thinking she is carb intolerant too. Moreover, this pattern suggests to me that the carb intolerance runs in my side of the family.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I craved the foods that bothered my stomach. I would then eat them and suffer the consequences. Now that I am more aware, and after using Atkins twice with good success, I understand that a low-carb lifestyle is the one that will make me feel my best. I don't think I need to be super strict, but I need to identify which carbs trigger my symptoms. To do this, I am going to start monitoring my food intake to see what foods cause no issues for me. Then as I introduce carbs into my system again, I will note how I feel after eating them.

More so, there are a number of low-carb diets that moderate your intake long-term. My goal is to remain on induction for the next week or so. This means consuming less than 25g (up from the recommended 20g) per day. After that time, I will stay to a diet that consumes less than 50g (net carbs) per day. This will allow me to eat some fruit, some whole grains (in moderation), but keep me mostly dependent on lean meat and lots of leafy vegetables. There are a number of vegetables, like potatoes, carrots, and corn, that produce high volumes of gas. Yesterday, I had home made french fries with my 1/2 sandwich. I think the potatoes did me in along with the white bread. Sigh!

It will be hard for me to give up bread. But, I think I can substitute breads that are dense grain for what I normally consume. Furthermore, I am looking to use nut flours to make grain alternative treats. I think I can give myself enough "treat" in pastas (like those made with spinach) and whole wheat alternatives so that I don't feel deprived. I really think it is just a matter of substituting ingredients so that I can still have tasty and satisfying foods without causing my digestive system to go haywire all the time.

I was reading an article on carb intolerance and the doctors suggested a two-week test to determine if carbs are to blame. Basically, you go no carb for two weeks. Your body needs carbs, so really they are saying no carbs from obvious foods, and low carb from natural foods like vegetables, etc. I am not sure I can do that, but I am willing to try it. The plan says that you must eliminate all carbs for two weeks, then you introduce them back and see if your symptoms return. Supposedly by dumping carbs out, your gut will heal, your system will reset, and then you should be able to eat them without problems. I am not sure if this is the case or not, but I do know that when I go off them, I feel better. I am thinking the best approach is moderation. I can never do anything full-bore and stick to it. But, a moderate plan seems doable to me. I've been thinking about this for a long time, how I would like to switch my diet to all natural, like all-natural. I would like to make my own breads, pastas, cereals, etc. I would like to eat whole grains, and simply consume no processed foods for a while. I think I could do it, but it would require a complete life style shift for me. I would have to put my energies into baking and cooking because introducing quick foods, items from the store or take-out, would sabotage my efforts. Yes, I would need a controlled environment whereby I could be in charge of everything consumed. It is hard for me to do that now since I live with my parents, but in time, I could do it. So for now, I need to moderate what I can, and hopefully by taking control of my diet, my body will recover and I will feel better. Selah!

More Thoughts on Work and Life

Yesterday, was a surprise to me. I mean, never did I think I would be asked to interview for our local state university. ASU is a major research university with a student population upwards of 70K. The school has multiple campuses now, and the one where this job is offered is located in central Phoenix. It is the Polytechnic campus, and the degrees offered there are science, math, and technology. They do have general liberal studies programs too, so the need for English teachers is high. The job I applied for is online, praise be to God. I am hoping that I read the job description correctly, but at this time, I would be willing to teach on campus, if I had to do so for a year. The pay, salary and benefits, would help me be settled and would prepare me for the move I believe the Lord has in mind for me next year. Between then and now, I feel strongly that the Lord intends to provide resources to me that will put me in the shape I need so that I can relocate. I've been praying about His provision, and I have blogged about how difficult it will be to move to another state with debt and little to no resources. I think the Lord is helping me get on my feet financially, helping me to come out of the "doctoral student" mode and back into the "professional mode" way of life. I am ready, mind you. I am so ready to have flexible income again. I am ready to get out of credit card debt, and to be free from all those chains that bind.

My goal is to own my own place soon, to have a place to call my own that can be paid for over time, but that is not going to cost me an arm or a leg (LOL!) I also want to be self-sufficient, and that means to have a way to earn income, to live off the land, yet be able to live in rural place where I can have a good quality of life. The more I think about this way of life, the more I desire it. At first, the thought of having a mini-farm scared me. I thought, "I cannot do this on my own." I cannot live in the middle of nowhere and take care of animals and land without help. My son will be off on his own, and except for a place to lay his head, he pretty much is not interested in farming along side his Mom. This means that I will have to bear the lion share of the work. I can do it, of course. I just worry about my back, my weak areas, and whether I can tolerate the changing climate. But, like I said, the more I think about it, the more I want it. Perhaps this is the Lord's will for my life. I don't know, I just don't know.

I've blogged a lot about what I like and don't like when it comes to houses, homes, and lifestyles. The problem has been that for so many years, I gave up my own likes for those of others. I was a people-pleaser so that meant if my husband didn't like something, I gave way. I let him have his way all the time. After awhile, I would come to resent him for always wanting and getting his way. He never bent back toward me, never gave into my way. Thus, I felt abused and cheated because I was the one who was always compromising. I realize now that I could have stood my ground early on and said "no." Oh, the magic and power of that word. I mean, NO, can be liberating. It can bring freedom. It can be such a good, good thing. Yet, I was afraid of saying no to the man I loved, and I thought if I did, he would stop loving me. Yes, it was true. I was afraid to tell him no -- ever.

Now that I am single, however, I am still giving way to other people. I am afraid of having things my way for fear that I will upset my family. Why is this so? I think it is conditioning, and I think it is the way I was raised. I am 53, almost 54, and I am still not living my life as I want to live it. Oh, the truth hurts. It burns, and frankly, it is seriously complicated. In fact, I am living my life as He desires it, and for the most part, my life has become so much better, so much more pleasant than it was before. But, I still struggle with knowing whether what I want is my desire or His desire. I want His desire always, but there is this little part of me that wants it to be my way too.

I surrender my will to His daily. I give in to Him because He is God, and as God, well, He is responsible for my life and the outcomes of my life. Yet, I want to be sure that what I want is His will. I want to know that everything I am doing, the way in which I am living, walking, seeking, ministering, etc., is all bound up in His will. I think it is, but I still have some doubts about it. I still wonder about it.

One thing I know is that the choice of life for me is rural and not urban. I've thought a lot about this and I have come to terms with the fact that I do not want to live in city. I have lived in the city my entire life, and I am ready to live in the country. I know that means wet, mud, and snow -- but I want to give it a good try. I want to live some place where I can walk out my door and not see my neighbors. I want to be free to walk my property without fear of being attacked. I want to have animals, ducks, geese, etc., and generally be able to walk, to sit, to dig, to live unencumbered from the hustle of daily life.

I also know that I want to work from home. This has been a hard thing for me to accept, and for a time, I refused the idea. I mean, I had worked in a home-based business for 15 years, but under my ex-husband's headship, I felt more like a slave than a co-owner. I wanted to work for someone else, but live and be at home. Now, I can do that with teaching, and that excites me. I don't have to sell anything. I don't have to keep appointments. I can come and go as I please, and I can still earn a decent income. One of my good friends was telling me how she plans to move to LA soon. She needs the LA lifestyle, and this is what she wants to do once she finishes her PhD. We were chatting about it, and she was all into making money so she could live out there. I commended her ideas and efforts, and of course, I support her in what she wants. However, I thought to myself, I don't want any of that sort of life. I want peace, quiet, and freedom. I want to live simply, honestly, and without stress or pressure. I just want to live under the radar, not really being in the limelight, and generally, living a quiet existence whereby I can do the Lord's work without any fanfare. Yes, I want a modest life.

What is Modest?

I think about this often because modest is a subjective word. We use it today to mean simple or uncluttered, but really I mean not flashy or not pretentious. For me, modest is living simply off the land. It means living with what you need to get by, without living in poverty. It means having a comfortable home, good running transportation, and a viable living -- but -- not having all the bells and whistles that most people need to feel good about themselves. No, I don't need stainless steel in my kitchen or granite countertops. I don't need fancy TVs or other furniture. I don't need a big house with oodles of unused space. I just need a quiet contemplative space where I can do my work (teach), and live my life as I see fit, as I abide in life in Jesus. Yes, this is all I want. I don't need to travel, to sight see or to live "large." I just need to be able to sleep in, get up, do good practical work, and eat well (homemade, natural foods). I want to go to bed each night with complete freedom to rest. I don't want to be afraid, to live afraid, or to live unfilled. I want to be free. That is all, just free.

I know that may sound weird, but I think it is part and parcel to my personality. When I say "free," I mean without restriction or independent. As an INTJ personality type, I am fiercely independent. I tend to prefer to do things on my own, in my own way. I am not stubborn about it, hence the problem with people pleasing, but I am very capable of being self-motivated, self-directed, and for the most part, self-sufficient. I really prefer to be left alone.

This doesn't mean I want to live a solitary life, by no means, it just means that my freedom to choose, to decide, to say this or that, well, it matters to me. I spent the vast majority of my life compromising to other people who had authority or some means of control over me. I gave in because it was easier than fighting. I hated the way I felt, and I hated my life because it wasn't my life at all, it was someone else's idea of what my life should be like. Over the past years, the past 10 or so years, I have come back round to learning who I am, what I want, and how I want to live. I still have a tendency to defer to others, mostly in matters that are not super important to me. But, when it comes to quality of life, the way of life, etc., well I am not willing to compromise any more. I am a grown-up now, and that means that under the Lord's will and with His provision, I should be able to live in a way that pleases Him. My goal, my heart, and my mind is set on pleasing no man save my Lord. This is truth!

I know that God doesn't intend for His children to be alone (thus saith the Lord in Genesis), but I do long for alone time, for being alone, for living alone. I love my family, my son, my life -- but there are times when I just want to be alone, all alone. I want to experience true freedom, true freedom, at the least for a time.

My plan as of now is to wait upon the Lord as He prepares a way of life for me. I need work, either double-part time or full-time in order to live comfortably. I need to move to a place where I can be comfortable, and where I can live modestly. I need to have some measure of security, as in land or home, so I feel safe. I need to have a viable means of living (teaching online), and some other secondary source of income so I can build savings for my later years. In all, I think with a modest mindset, I can live very comfortably, very securely throughout my long life (as the Lord leads, guides and provides for me). Selah!

Today, I am where I am for a reason. I accept this fact. I am here in Phoenix, living with my parents because it was the Lord's provision for me. Next year, I will be free to go, free to move, free to relocate. He will provide for me then, and I will go where He leads me to go. I trust Him for His provision today and tomorrow, and I believe that the plans He has for me, well, they are really good. He is good to me, always so very good to me. Selah!

In Closing

As I close this blog post, I am back on track with Atkins. I had my eggs, cheese, and bacon fry up in butter (yum!). I am drinking my second cup of Donut Shop coffee, and I am starting to relax now. I am awake, and I am feeling better about my day. I trust the Lord today to provide good to me. Whatever comes my way, it will be good because His hand has provided it to me. I will rest in His sufficiency, and in His goodness. He is good, so very good, and I am in such a good, a happy, and a very secure place right now. Amen, so be it, thy will be done.

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

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