Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Checking In

Two weeks into the period of Lent and I'm delighted to report that I am managing just fine with my fast from all alcoholic beverages.  Yes, there have been a few times when I've missed it, but mostly I've not had any problem at all.  

Although I did enter into this in the spirit of Lent, I've several non-religious yet still positive observations to date:

1.  As I mentioned last, I'm able to stay up later, which has resulted in more nightly reading and working of crossword puzzles.

2.  Sadly (or maybe gladly, depending on your perspective), I still feel quite groggy at times in the morning.  Given the time of year, I'm putting this down to allergies.  And why is this positive?  Because I can stop worrying that it was booze making me groggy.

3.  I keep daily track of my calories, and, as a result of not having several hundred of the same hogged up by alcohol, I am routinely ending the day with quite a surplus of calories.  Which means...

4.  I've safely lost two pounds in the last two weeks with pretty much zero effort (well, other than the whole not drinking thing!)  Since at the same time I'm continuing to tone muscles at the gym, I'm not sure how much weight I'll lose (since muscle weighs more than fat) but I'm guessing my clothes will continue to feel as though they fit better.  Who knows; maybe I'll be able to slide myself into my Girl Scout Jeans.

5.  Between my giving up all alcohol and Mr. B giving up his (Gin) martinis), we've saved quite a sum of money; I anticipate it'll add up to a nice bundle by the end of Lent.

6.  I feel better.  It's true, I really do.  I am encouraged by this, and, in turn, I strongly encourage anyone who may wonder at their own ability to give up booze to give abstinence a whirl, if only for a few days or a week.  What you discover will provide answers.

Mrs. B

Monday, February 18, 2013

No Boozie

I recently returned to the church (I dislike the term "born again") and elected to participate in the fasting aspect of Lent.  Actually, I did so last year as well.  

Without getting overly complicated, the idea behind Lent  is to first give up something for forty-six days  that will be a sacrifice and/or difficult for you; this to be in solidarity with Jesus as he wandered around 40 days fasting, and, when he was at his weakest, managed to overcome the temptations Satan was throwing at him left and right (well, three to be exact).  So, yes, it is supposed to be tough.  

In the years between my youth (when I was asked to give up things such as candy, watching T.V. or going to the mall) and now, I've run into adults participating in this fasting aspect of Lent who have given up everything from red meat, sweets, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes/cigars, watching T.V., buying anything not deemed necessary to getting up an hour earlier each morning, not playing video/computer/phone games, staying off Facebook -- well, the list goes on and on and is limited only by folks' weak spots (or creative manipulation).

Last year, I gave up Facebook.  I took some crap for that from a few people, both on the "That's not a true sacrifice!" side and the group that proclaimed they couldn't stand not seeing my brilliant posts every day and please don't ever do that again.  Well, maybe it wasn't what some would consider a true sacrifice, but, since it's how I tend to communicate with roughly 75% of the people I know plus how I entertain myself, it really was tough.  But, more to the point, it played well with the other aspect of giving something up, which is, you are supposed to replace that activity (or vice) with something, well, good.  For example, if one gives up an hour of sleep, they should spend that hour in prayer or reading the Bible or doing something for someone else.  If someone eliminates their daily latte at Starbucks, they should give the money they would have spent to a worthy charity.  

If you're interested in my last year's Lenten experience and what I learned, you can read my Blog entry by clicking HERE.

The bottom line is, I survived the no Facebook thing fairly easily and I did manage to spend a lot of that time doing much more productive things.  Around December, I began thinking about giving up booze for Lent this year.  Honestly, there were several reasons for this but not the least (and the most important) being, I knew it would be tough because, not only is it an embedded habit (hat tip to my Father for pointing that out) in my pretty much daily routine, it's also something I enjoy; not because I want to get pie-eyed (oh those days are long gone) but because I truly prefer alcoholic drinks taste wise to just about anything else (with coffee running a close second).  Also, drinking is a very social activity; my husband and I have a cocktail just about every night around 6 (later during tax season) and discuss the events of the day and many other things.  We might share a nice bottle of wine with a good meal (and, c'mon folks, who doesn't have a grand time sipping on a glass of wine while preparing dinner?)  Then there's the lunches with my mom where we gab over a glass of wine.  Or, beers with my Father sitting out on the lanai solving all the problems of the world. Or dinner out with  friends.  Etc.  You get the drift, I hope; I knew that I would really be giving up something that I enjoy in many, many ways.  

And, yes, maybe I enjoy it just a bit too much.  There's that aspect of it as well.  I recall a conversation I had with a doctor friend of mine once when he told me that, technically speaking, a person cannot be considered sober if they've had even one drink a day.  He asked me then, "When was the last time you were sober?"  Given those parameters, it'd been some time.  Oops.  I asked myself that same question last December and came up with the same "oops".  So, I suppose my rationale for selecting abstinence from alcohol is spiritually, emotionally and physically oriented (as a side-benefit, I can't help losing some weight).

So, long story short, I'm on day six of the forty-six and so far it hasn't been too bad.  It is because I began mentally preparing back in December?  It it because I told a lot of people I planned on doing this so I wouldn't back out?  It is because it's tax season and I'm fairly busy doing other things?  Is it  because I can see how many calories I'm saving every day by not drinking anything?    It is because there is an end in sight (honestly, though, I would like to see myself come out of this with better habits going forward)? Is it because I've made this commitment to God and I don't want to fail him?  Or, is it because God is helping me out by easing the temptation? 

Of course, I still have 40 days to go so I'm not resting on my laurels but I'm feeling pretty good about this.  In addition to the (hopeful) weight loss, here are some additional benefits I've noticed:

1.  I can actually stay awake long enough to read at night and I am 
     sleeping better.
2.  I don't have to wash out the martini glasses every night (Mr. B
     gave up his nightly martini).
3.  We're saving money (and, yes, I will do a calculation at the end
     of Lent to determine how much and will donate it to church or 
     a charity).
4.  I can happily and gladly serve as a D.D.
5.  I feel justified in indulging in a bit of chocolate every night.
6.  I'm having fun coming up with interesting non-alcoholic 
     drink concoctions. 
7.  I'm realizing I don't really need it; which is freeing.  There is
     certainly a big difference between having to have something
     and being able to walk away from it without too much trouble.

In all honesty, I think giving up coffee may have been harder.  Hmmm....maybe that's what's in store for 2014.

Mrs. B

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Still Me. Only (Hopefully!) Better.

It used to be that I'd fill up a journal (usually a spiral bound notebook) in a few months.  That was a lot of writing, but it seemed I always had something to say about what was going on in my life and sometimes I'd say it over and over and over again (e.g., if I was bemoaning about some guy that wasn't paying sufficient attention to me).  And this just wasn't when I was in high school or college!  I could pull out journals from my late 30s and wonder if that chick had learned anything or not in the ensuing years!

I also used to read much more than I seem to be doing now.  Newspapers, magazines, novels.  Anyone who has followed my Blog for any number of years might recall that, around January, I'd post reviews of all the books I'd read the previous year (I have to admit I got this idea from my beloved Margot).  One year, I topped out at 62.  Sixty-two!  Holy moly, I must have been doing nothing but reading!  What was last year's count?  30.  Where am I at as of February 7th?  TWO!  

And, regarding THIS Blog, well, it's definitely gone by the wayside.  I think about posting various things all of the time, but then life gets in the way and I don't get around to it.  I told myself this morning that I would post something today; if only to communicate why it is that I've been so busy.  As an aside, I know this Blog is always here, like an old friend; and, whenever I come back to it, it's easy to pick right back up where I left off.

About a year ago, I started to read the Bible.  Other than the various scriptures that I had to read while going through Confirmation classes thirty-plus years ago, I'd never really read it.  I initially thought it might be cool to start at the beginning and read it all the way through.  Well, I got through about half of Genesis and found myself thinking it was so totally ridiculous that I just couldn't continue.   My advice to anyone picking up the Bible for the first time is don't kid yourselves into thinking you can understand it without instruction!  

So, not wanting to give up, I moved on to reading a daily devotional, "The Upper Room", which our church provides to those who are so inclined.  Each day, there is a suggested scripture reading, followed by a message, or devotional.  These are written, by the way, by regular people all over the world, so, one day, there may be a writing from a lady in Russia, the next, a retiree in Florida.   I found this daily practice much more agreeable, and eventually found myself wanting to know more. So, I joined a women's group at my church that meets every Tuesday morning for several hours.  Every two months or so, there is a different study.  The first one I attended was "Too Busy Not To Pray".   Committing to this group and study meant homework (reading and reflection) throughout the week and then attending every Tuesday morning.  Which, frankly, turned out to be a lot of fun.  One of the ladies I met in my small group introduced me to another devotional, "Jesus Calling", which I promptly added to my morning routine.  Like "The Upper Room", there is a message with accompanying scripture verses.

One Sunday this past June, several members of congregation stood up and gave testimony about an intense Bible study they'd recently completed called "Disciple".  Intense, no kidding!  It's a thirty-four week commitment in which you read about 80% of the Bible and meet weekly to discuss that week's lesson (and then some).  Each person stated that going through this changed their lives.  Remember my earlier statement about my inability to get through even Genesis?  Well, I started thinking that this might be a good experience for me; reading the Bible with guidance, discussion, and interaction.  Not to mention, I had a lot of questions about a lot of things relating to God, Jesus, Christianity, religion in general, heaven, hell; well, I'm not saying I needed to be convinced, but, well, yeah, I guess I did.

Quite separately from my musings, my husband was, apparently, wondering the same thing, especially after one of the Pastors approached him and told him she thought we should attend the class.  Long story short, we signed up and began this past September.  We're now a bit more than half-way through and I'm delighted to report I made it through Genesis!  Seriously, we covered a goodly portion of the Old Testament and are now (to most of our relief) in the New Testament.  I'm sure I'll write more about this experience later.

I skipped Tuesday Live last session because I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to do all of the reading required by both classes.  However, now that I'm in the swing of things with "Disciple", I decided to rejoin Tuesday Live (I really missed the friends I'd made).  So, here I am now also participating in Tuesday Live.  As it happens, this is one of the more intense studies, requiring daily reading and homework.  I'm finding, though, that a lot of the material dove tails nicely into what I'm already reading AND it's been beneficial being able to bring what I'm learning from one group into the other.

This is a long way of saying that, because of my Bible studies, my time is limited for the other activities I was spending so much time on before.  Additionally, thanks to my cousin Tim, I've discovered and have been, slowly, building my humongous family tree.  When I'm not reading or sitting in front of the computer, I'm at the gym in my attempt to Rock 50.  

Oh, there's still time for light-hearted activities;  there is Pinterest!  My step daughter introduced me to this when she was here in January.  I have a great time pining stuff to my various boards. And, yeah, there is still Facebook (although I'm not on it as much these days) and fun little phone app games like Draw Something, Words with Friends and Song Pop.  All of these are my "fill in activities"; literally, I can pick any one of them to occupy me for five minutes here and there.  Perfect for those times I'm waiting in line somewhere.

And, lest I forget, there is also this thing called BUSY SEASON that our little tax and accounting firm has entered into full swing.  

Looking back now on that  woman, that other me, who had all the time in the world to write (about herself), read (some things that weren't worth reading) and Blog; well, that was ok for then.  But, now it's a new era.  And that's more than ok.

Mrs. B