Friday, December 29, 2006

Body for Life

My husband and I decided to accept the Body-for-LIFE challenge on December 1st. We are near to completing our first month and I feel safely in stride and ready to post about our experience thus far. For those not familiar with Body-for-LIFE, feel free to check out the website here for more information.

The author Bill Phillips has developed an organized, detailed fitness/nutrition guide broken down into specific workouts/meals over a 12- week "challenge" period. My husband and I have both read his book and refer to the website almost daily. We appreciate the simplicity of the plan: eat more often (small, nutritious portions) and exercise daily. He encourages 6 small meals a day with portions no bigger than the palm of your hand. At each of the 6 meals, you should have a balance of protein, healthy (low glycemic index) carb, and fruit or veggie. We work out 6 days a week, resting on the 7th and alternating between aerobic and weight training days.

I am feeling really good this week. The first three weeks left me sore as anything and more tired than before. My body ached all over after every workout. But this week, the 4th, I feel stronger, more alert, energetic and with a more elevated mood. I have gone down two jean sizes and tonight when I stepped on the scale at the gym, I was 6 pounds lighter. The fun thing about the program is that it is about converting fat to muscle. It's not based around weight loss so much as healthy body mass. Muscle takes up less room than fat, but is heavier. So even at the beginning when I had gone down a jean size (in inches) I hadn't lost more than 2 pounds. It's strange how the body works. I recently learned that it takes 3 calories to feed fat, but 25 to feed muscle. So just by replacing fat with muscle, my body will use more energy and burn more fat. I also just learned that women tend to see the most dramatic results around week 7. All the ground-laying, muscle-building work starts to pay off and maintainable body changes are more evident.

It definitely helps to be working at this challenge together. We have had a couple of "I just don't wanna" days. And it's been great to have close-proximity moral support and to laugh at eachother when we hobble around with sore muscles after a workout. So far, we haven't missed a day yet!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


The bustling feverishness of preparation is over. And I am resting here, in my living room with the tree still lit, the candles flickering, coffee with a hint of eggnog. Christmas day itself has passed, but the spirit and warmth of love-tinged memories lingers in my home and heart today.

We felt blessed to have so much family near this Christmas. My husband's parents and brothers live in our town (his parents just across the street and one brother in our suite) and his Grandmother (from California) and Aunt ( From Florida) flew up to spend the week.

Old traditions were honoured and new traditions were made. Our Tomale Feast and church pageant on Christmas Eve, early morning present-opening, brunch, more present-opening, hearty meal on Christmas Day and a cuddly family viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life."

We learned a lesson this year: make every effort to STILL have our 3 year old nap, even on Christmas! We decided to let her live it up and skip a nap and we paid royally for this mistake when evening hit!

Besides the deafening protests of a preschooler who thinks she should stay up even though she's stumbling and going cross-eyed from tiredness, it was a peaceful day.

And we are thankful for many things. Thankful to have family nearby. Thankful to be together and to enjoy the light and innocence of our children's enjoyment. Thankful for the chance to celebrate Advent, to welcome the Light of Christ once again.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Homemade Christmas

Villagers all, this
frosty tide,
Let your doors
swing open wide,
Though wind
may follow, and
snow beside,
Yet draw us in
by your fire to bide;
Joy shall be yours
in the morning.

(Kenneth Grahame)

We are trying to make most of our Christmas gifts this year. In the past, we have given a mix of homemade and thriftily bought gifts, and in someways that is what we are doing again, with the balance tipped slightly more toward the "homemade" side. We are seeking to simplify our life and stretch our financial resources, and we see this (carving out time to make instead of buy) as a step toward choosing a parred-down lifestyle. It is also an opportunity to walk more slowly and to allow time to imagine and create. I have realized that it takes more time and planning to make homemade gifts; it's not just a matter of scurrying to the store and slapping money on a counter. It is a struggle to balance my time between projects and focused interaction with my children. I try to include my Pre-schooler in what I am doing, which is why I ended up with sparkly glue and purple stamped snowflakes on my dining room table yesterday. Yes, clean-up takes a little longer when she is involved...

I finally made an Advent wreath this year. We have mostly focused on Sunday readings with a few special prayers sprinkled in. It has been significant for our daughter to have the consistency of lighting each purple candle as we draw nearer to lighting the pink and white ones. The cycle of Liturgical tradition has always been a great solace to me. My faith has felt uplifted and carried along with the rhythm of the church calendar. When I don't have my own words or expressions, I can rest in what spiritual men and women I admire have prayed and written, and I can settle into the truth until it seeps more completely into my internal landscape. And this year, the candle lightings and Advent readings have been an element of this "seeping" for me.

This past Sunday, the third in Advent, I went to an open house at
The Mark Centre, an urban retreat centre that invites individuals or groups to come aside from the busyness of life to enjoy solitude in a beautiful setting. The couple who envisioned and created it have become a blessing in my life and it was a joy for me to see them again and celebrate Advent at their table.

With the help of a passionate group of leaders, musicians and artists, they transformed the 4-story chalet into various "stations" with each room crafted into a palette for creative spiritual experience. For example, each room has a symbolic name: extravagance, abundance, and solitude, to name a few. We were encouraged to walk slowly and in silence through each room.

Extravagance had a gorgeous nativity set up, small white candles flickering, richly-coloured artwork on the walls and a woman sitting in a chair reading the Christmas story aloud.

Abundance was warmly lit with different-sized candles. A sheepskin-covered kneeling pillow rested in front of a small table that held a framed poem and portion of scripture .

Each room created a different atmosphere in which to reflect on aspects of God's character, enfleshed in the Christ of the Nativity. After I walked through each room, I ended at the Rooftop Chapel and listened to Cathy Hardy and Karin Dart play songs from their Taize CD called
I was comforted by the care with which homemade Chai, Christmas cookies, hazelnut cake and spiced cider were given with ease and sincerity. It was exactly what I needed to open my awareness of Advent as I cling to the wonder of the Christchild. I am grateful for the gift of that night.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


December is upon us in all it's glory. We have experienced a drastic change in weather over the last week.

My last post was about our eventful "vacation" in Arizona, and the rays of sun we soaked in over the course of 8 days. The final day of our visit, my Dad treated us all(my family, my brother, his wife and 4 kids) to a day at the Desert Museum. I was sweating in a tank top, jeans and sandals and I consumed more prickly pear cactus iced tea than any woman in her right mind should, especially a postpartum woman with a weak bladder. eek!

The next day when we de-planed in Seattle, freezing snow-tipped air whipped our hair in frenetic motion. We were suddenly very cold. Frozen white flurries continued during our entire drive North, across the border, and until we reached the front door of our welcoming home. It definitely felt like Christmas was coming. Our little girl had fallen asleep in the car, but I knew she would be excited when she saw the snow the next day. We settled the kids and then lit a fire in the wood stove and bundled up for the night.

When we awoke the next morning, the world outside our window was a blinding white. Nearly a foot of snow lay silently on the remnants of our garden, the rails of our rickety fence, the edges of our roof and gutters. It was breathtaking. The roads were silent, schools were cancelled and no one seemed on their way to work.

That first week back, my husband stayed home two days out of necessity. It simply wasn't safe to venture out without 4 wheel drive. The first two days were too cold to play in the snow and the powdery texture was too cold and dry to stick together for a snowman. By the third day, we were able to brave the chill. We dressed warmly, built snowmen and enjoyed an intense snowball fight with my husband and I, Alley and uncle Jack.

The pipes in our garage, connected to the laundry, froze solid and we were without a washing machine for a few days. I was grateful to my mother-in-law for allowing me to cart over a few buckets of smelly cloth diapers to be washed as we worked at de-thawing.

It felt bizzare to go straight from sun to snow, as though we slept through autumn. But the drama of the weather change has propelled us into the festive spirit of Christmas, of beginning to remember, of celebrating Advent.

I hope each of you in your corners have a chance to be quiet, to sit still, and to remember Bethlehem during this season of Christmas.