August 11, 2017

I Need Recipes

Every success story I've seen so far feature whole menus of what people ate for a month. I've never really done that. For the most part, we figure out and fix what we want to eat maybe an hour or so ahead of time - giving us just enough time to cook it and eat it. 

Plans succeed when you know your schedule. So I thought - well, at least I can plan around my work schedule. I drafted up a simple weekly plan and set it beside the schedule I had just gotten from work to see what I was up against.

It didn't look good. One day I didn't know when I'd be working, I had a closing shift followed by an opening shift - so no involved cooking on those occasions, and I had just two days off where I could be called in - I'd have to cross my fingers and set aside one of those days as meal prep days. So I'd need to make a meal that I could stand eat for three or four meals in a row and cross my fingers and hope that I don't get burnt out in the process.

But what will I make? I know how to boil water for tea - you stick it in a pan and wait for it to whistle. Simmering and boiling water - are just different. I'll have to learn to cook as I go - I just don't know where to start.Stuff I do know how to make really just don't make the meal plan.

So far, I have Egg Drop Soup - I made some the other day. It was really easy that there's no way I could mess it up. Heat up chicken broth, scramble an egg, pour the egg slowly into the hot chicken broth so that it forms gentle ribbons. Now ideally, they'd want you to make the chicken broth from scratch so that you can be sure it's compliant from start to finish. Right now that's on my to-do list: learn how to make chicken broth.

If I'm to succeed, then I'm going to have to build up a library of recipes that I can cook and can't possibly mess up. I just have to figure out what they are - and how to make them.

August 10, 2017

A Tradition of Tea

Part of my sugar addiction problem is tea. I used to drink a gallon a day - easily. It was only reluctantly that I tapered it down to a half-gallon, but the upside was that I'd be more likely to drink it hot than cold and therefore more of it sooner than later. I'll always consider tea to be special.

Growing up, my extended family made a point of meeting together. At one point my aunt decided that I was big enough to help out - and she taught me how to make tea. It was a simple formula: Boil a gallon water, steep four big Lousianne tea bag for about a half hour. Pull out the tea bags and use 3/4 cups of sugar to sweeten it. This necar was on our table every Sunday, every Easter, every Thanksgiving, and every Christmas.

Once I learned how to make it - I made it all the time. I couldn't fathom how many gallons of tea I have drunk by now - but "Lots!" is a safe guestimate.

So it'll be a big challenge going without for so long. I need an alternative. So I'm giving infused water a try. I took a few sprigs of my Grapefruit Mint and sliced up a few strawberries and put it in cold water. I've been letting time do it's thing ... and so far it's promising; though I'm hoping that by tomorrow morning it'll be something amazing and wonderful.

August 9, 2017

Natural Goodness

I'm a creature of habit. I tend to eat my food just one way - the same way - every time. So it is with my strawberries - I always eat them with a few teaspoons of sugar. So it blew my mind just now to actually enjoy plain strawberries. Why was I covering up this tangy goodness? Perhaps I had become so accustomed to sweetness that I couldn't fathom that I'd like tangy or tart or sour or savory flavors.

I have to re-think food. Breakfast doesn't have to be bacon and pancakes with maple syrup and orange juice. Lunch doesn't have to be a ham or turkey sandwich. Tea and lemonade don't have to be my go-to drinks. I have to learn how to be creative.

It almost goes against my nature as a creature of habit, but this is about breaking bad habits before they're a big problem. But for all the worry that new things and frustration from failed experimentation brings - every now and then you stumble on something great.

And I'm lucky. Right outside my window is a garden of fresh vegetables that mean that there's a whole new world of fresh foods to enjoy - perhaps a little salt can bring out the flavor of my tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers - but not much needs to be done to them. Sadly, the season is fading and I'm not very up on how to do winter gardening ... yet.

August 8, 2017

Some Considerations

I have some challenges that make Whole30 a bit of a bear. The speck of a town that I live in has no grocery stores. The nearest store to me that sells food doesn't have a produce section - it has just about all the cheap shelf-stable junk food you could ever want, it has some pastas, rices, beans, and that sort of thing. Pretty much all of the fruit and veggies they sell come in cans. The nearest store that sells actual fruit and produce is twenty-minute drive through a long, winding country road occasionally agonizingly tedious by being stuck behind a tractor almost the whole way. The produce in those stores aren't likely to be high-quality, organic, or clean; but they will be as expensive as if they were because that's the price you pay for convenience - if not for these stores, there would hardly be any fresh produce in the region at all.

My schedule is random and not something I have any control over whatsoever. Occasionally, I'm lucky to have an evening shift, followed by a morning shift - there's no way I'm getting in a solid eight hours of sleep on those nights. I also never know what one week will look like from the next so meal preparation won't be easy. Particularly because my cooking skills are rusty and I'm at a beginner level. So I'd be learning the basics as I go and have to work my way up to more complex cooking skills. Work doesn't provide an easy setting to eat - just a less than clean microwave, a half-hour window with which to eat, and not a lot of sound choices. That and a lot of people won't get it - "But you're not fat!" It's not about my weight - it's about learning how to be conscientious about what I eat and having power over my food choices.

I do have a few boons that make Whole30 a bit easier. I come from a family with a tradition of gardening and have access to real home-grown tomatoes, peppers, onions, squash, and cucumbers. We also have a few blackberry bushes that just don't quit (which I don't like to eat because they get stuck in my teeth.) We generally tend to a protein with lots of delicious roasted veggies. Farmers in this area are known to sell what they grow - like watermelon; though odds are they are not organic, were fertilized, and pest control chemicals were used.

I don't really drink that much pop, and since I have long known I have lactose issues, I don't generally eat any form of dairy. I'm doing better about tea - I used to drink a whole gallon a day and have been drinking just a half-gallon for some time now. Today, I've even drank a few herbal teas without sugar whatsoever and I didn't keel over. Who knew you could actually drink tea without sugar?

I've also made myself some guacamole, egg drop soup, and hard-boiled eggs today - my supportive relatives are all for doing what they can to make it easier on my - some by sacrificing themselves and eating the sugar-laden food I choose not to eat, some by being knowledgeable having dealt with gluten sensitivity and believing in me. I even have a dog willing to do quality control on all the meaty goodness.

 It's not going to be easy - but few good things are.

My Reason Why

It hadn't even been a full week since I had managed to eat an entire package of Mint Oreos by myself within 72 hours. Yesterday was a Monday. I drank a half gallon of tea all day long. I ate at least four chocolate oatmeal cookies, I ate countless dark chocolate nuggets with almonds inside of them, I had a chocolate brownie fiber bar, I ate a mug full of cinnamon coffee cake and probably lots more sugary goodness. It wasn't all at once, but throughout the day. So much so that I felt strange towards the end of the day. Like I had too much saliva in my mouth and kept on wanting to burp. I could tell my body was not happy.

I'm not obese by any measurement - my BMI is smack dab in the middle of "normal" and I look great. But my sugar addiction needs to be nipped in the bud before it leads me down a path that's really, really hard to come back from.

So while I was surfing WordPress, I came across a user giving their Whole30 testimony. I don't know - something clicked and I just felt it was the right thing to do. So I've begun to do some research - and while I'm researching, I'm working on tapering down my sugar addiction and learning more about nutrition along the way. I picked up a Composition Book and began taking notes. I learned thirty ingredient names that are forms of sugar and have found then in just about everywhere.

Ultimately, this will be an elimination diet to try to hit the reset - to starve my sugar addiction and to learn how to make better choices. In fact, this principle will guide the Whole30 participant all month long: "Everything I eat will be the product of a conscious, deliberate decision."

It's not about going a diet to lose weight, it's about thinking about what you eat and being in charge of your food - not the other way around. I've already begun to to consider my weaknesses. When I'm done with a busy shift - all I want to do is to eat whatever is handy. The other day, I ended up buying two bags of potato chips, two packages of M&Ms, a bar of dark chocolate, and a package of dark chocolate-covered peanut butter bites.

"But it'll be free ... and I can get a rebate - and I really do like eating of all of these things." I told myself. But I haven't eaten them yet. Perhaps that's because I was eating other junk food - but even now they're sitting there and I haven't torn into them. Maybe I do have self-control after all; and if I have self-control, then just maybe I can conquer my sugar addiction.

September 13, 2016

Multiverse: One-Faith World

Out of a pool of light, they came - some call them the angels, for showing us the way. Others call them demons for destroying what was. Perhaps "messengers" is closer to the mark. Before the messengers appeared out of nowhere, we lived in harmony. All of us adhering to the teachings of the book. There was no question on what those teachings were, how they ought to be understood, how they applied. Everyone did what they were supposed to do - we all lived by the book. There was cohesion in our lives - a strong bond of unity. We were content with the way things were.

So when the messengers first appeared, we were startled to meet anyone who had not heard of The Book and as a result did not live lives according to the Book. We did know anyone could live that way. How could one lead a happy, moral life apart from the Book? So we decided to share with them The Book, we gave each of them a copy and invited them to join us so that they might learn the interpretation and application of the text and live as we do.

Before they arrived, gatherings were simple. We came together, the Book was read, we were told what it meant and how to apply it. At the first meeting, the messengers did nothing but disrupt the gathering. One asked: "Is this passage a metaphor or absurd exaggeration to make a point?" Another spoke up: "Could this be interpreted the other way around, as well?" The third pondered: "Is this the original language or an interpretation?"  And the fourth concluded: "It seems to me that the application could be just as valid if lived out this way, rather than that way." Since these were all legitimate ideas, meant in a good-spirited curiosity, we called upon the leaders of the gathering to answer them - as the rest of us were unprepared for such inquiries - not having had any disagreement on the Book as far back as the oldest of us could recall. The leaders decided to spend the evening consulting each other on the matter, studying the official commentaries, and would get back to us in a special gathering once they were ready to answer the questions.

But that would take time, and the impressionable youth were awe-struck  by these messengers who had a new way, a different perspective of looking at things, owing to their upbringings without the guidance of The Book. The idea they latched onto was the messengers concept of love. The messengers came from a place where there wasn't just one book, but there were many. Not all of them believed in the same book and the ones who did have the same book had different interpretations of it. In their book, there was a story about a being who made the rules, but his love for the human beings he made could not be denied. He broke the rules and found a way to save human beings in the process. Obeying rules is a kind of love, but sometimes loving people means breaking the rules. There was one story, about a woman who was caught breaking the rules. Their teacher said that whomever hadn't broken a rule ever may be the one to punish her. But everyone there had broken the rules except for the teacher. When he looked around and saw that the people who wanted to punish her were gone, he had no desire to harm her and let her go. It was the teacher's love that broke the rule that rule-breakers must be punished.

In the hours between the disrupted gathering and the elder's special gathering, this idea of breaking the rules for the ones you love began to spread like wildfire. The messengers had fully read The Book and had different ideas about interpretation and application and meaning and significance.

In the hours between the disrupted gathering and the elder's special gathering, the adults watched nervously as the youth were being swept up into something new and dangerous. They were falling away from the one interpretation of the book and choosing to believe in different interpretations. They talked about this love that breaks the rules and asked: "If you love me, you would break the rules to release me from punishment, right?" The adults had no idea what to make of these strange ideas.

By the time the special gathering had been called, the elders were faced with an entirely new problem. This fusion of new and different ideas had eroded the system - it destroyed centuries and decades worth of compliance and brought discord and dissension. Their answers were all but ignored - "The Book is to be understood in the manner in which it is read." "There is one interpretation of the Book." "The language of the Book is that in which it is written." "There is one application of the Book and that is according to the one interpretation of the Book." All seemed irrelevant in light of the question on love. To them, the loving thing to do was to obey; was it not written: "Obedience is love and to love is to comply with the authorities over you."?

Towards the end of the meeting, the messengers were called away - as suddenly and strangely as they had appeared - in like manner they left.

"This will all blow away," One leader remarked, "So long as we adhere to the Book, then we will live in an order of peace and harmony, as we were before, so shall we be again."
"It's all too true, my friend, the youth often brim with excitement over every new thing, but new things eventually become old and tired. They will lose interest soon enough." Another agreed.
"Change is dangerous. Better to stay the course. Section three, chapter nine, verse sixteen." One stated. They all nodded in agreement. Now was not the time to break with tradition.

August 4, 2016

Yesterday, Today, and Forever

A few years ago, 'A Knight's Tale' re-introduced the world to Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the great English writers of his day - in the 1400s. He invented words such as 'femininity' and 'womanhood' in his works such as 'The Canterbury Tales.' By the time he invented such words, the concept of 'manhood' had been in existence for only two hundred years. Women tended to live as either unmarried maidens, wives, or widows. Between 1200 and 1400, the Black Death swept through Europe - wiping out either one third or two thirds of its population. It happened in several waves - taking out a few hundred million people. That's a lot of men and women, fathers and mothers, workers and home-makers who were killed; creating two problems - lots of job vacancies and incomplete families. So women entered the workforce, primarily as textile workers and farmers. It took until the 1700s for the population to return to pre-plague levels. At any rate, for the first time we had a word for the collective experience of women.

So the word/concept of "womanhood" and "femininity" dates back to the 1400s. At that point in history, only Rome had been a democracy and it wasn't an egalitarian one. For the span of known history for almost the entire world, one word could describe the nature of the relationship between men and women: patriarchy. Exceptions were few and far in-between, and generally remembered as myths - such as that of the Amazons. Women were a second-class citizen, who didn't have nearly as many or the same rights as men; and most rights they did have were to a lesser degree than men. Most laws were written with men in mind; "If a man ..." "he may ..." Women could expect some legal protection if they went through their husbands and their husbands were so inclined. One book I read explained it like this: "Women were fenced in, or bordered. Men were the fences / borders that kept the women safe." Women who were single and without the protection of their fathers were like cities without walls - vulnerable and easy targets. As such, they were frequently exploited - usually by men.

Now Biblical Womanhood is a big teaching; but the Bible dates back to 1300 B.C. to 100 A.D. - it was written in a patriarchy that didn't have a concept of womanhood other than that women are to be wives and mothers. We can see from the stories of Leah and Rachel that the number of children women had affected their status. We can see from the stories of Rebekah and Jezebel that they had to manipulate people in order to achieve their goals. We can see from the stories of Sarah that she had little choice but to obey her husband even when it put her life at risk. We can see from the stories of Hagar, Bilhah, and Zilhah that being a second-class woman, a slave woman, meant that you were even more-so disadvantaged. By the time of the New Testament, women were only slightly better off - Lydia had her own business empire and household. But when Sapphira obeyed Ananias and followed his lead, they both were killed by the Holy Spirit. So it was a no-win situation for her. But it also limits God to specific time-frame, as if it were the Golden Age that we've slowly spiraled away from. If only we could return to the second-class status of women and the institution of slavery in a biblical, God-honoring way, then we will have been like the Ninehvites and repented from the error of our democratic, egalitarian ways.

But what if 'womanhood' isn't the same yesterday, today, and forever? What if it was meant to change and be shaped by various cultures over hundreds of years - what if 'womanhood' tomorrow could include all sorts of things that just wasn't possible yesterday? What if 'womanhood' is more than being a wife and a mother? That would be something, wouldn't it? In the last few decades, women have won rights that Biblical women could only have dreamed of - the protection of the law and not having to go through their fathers/husbands, ability to work outside of the home in a safe environment, becoming more equal with men every day. But there are still some places where change has been slow in coming; Christian circles are a strong-hold for some of them.

"Patriarchy is Biblical ..." They teach. And so is genocide and slavery. "God is sovereign, he has his reasons for ordering men in positions of authority and women to submit to them." God is a perfect creator, if he made some flaw in women that they can't preach or teach men without causing deception or being deceived then that mean's the problem's not in the product but in the manufacturer. Does this really mean that "as it was in the Bible ... so it is to be until the end of time"? No one - would want to live in that sort of world. For one, 2/3 of the world population was enslaved to another. There were different degrees of rights and protection and status for different classes of people. Old, wealthy, men, who were full citizens and were patrons would have as much power as was possible to make decisions and get things done. Young, poor, women who were partial citizens and clients had pretty much no say at all in anything. Humans have never existed in a pattern of authority/submission and not abused their power over others. People still do this day - it's only our rights that holds them accountable. Such rights didn't exist in the Bible.

In 1 Corinthians 6 - Paul says that: "... you yourselves cheat and do wrong, even against your own brothers!" Twice in Thessalonians, Paul warns the believers not to wrong one another or take revenge (which he says he had previously warned them about.) In Ephesians 4, he tells them that those who steal must stop stealing. In Titus 2 Paul instructs slaves not to steal from their masters. In order to have things as they were in the Bible, not only must we destroy the rights and freedoms generations of our ancestors fought and died in wars to gain; making them null and void - their deaths for nothing. But hey, being biblical is more important, right?