Friday, January 29, 2010

Carlos Whittaker

Three songs I just downloaded to my iPod. Wow!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Confessions of a health nut

OK, so I have a confession to make. I have an addiction (just one?).

Let's just say, I have a certain addiction that I'm going to talk about here.

I am addicted to exercise. There. I said it. Oh, wait. "My name is Julie, and I'm a exercise-holic."

Health and fitness are extremely important to me. I think I've been interested in both for years, and my interest and level of commitment to them have grown over time.

I had been lifting weights on my own for several years, and then, two years ago, I signed on for the personal trainer program at my workplace. She was a little bouncy and dogmatic for me, but she certainly knew her stuff. She quickly showed me, to my chagrin, that I'd been doing the home exercise program with less than proper form, leading to less than optimal results. I hadn't been squatting nearly far enough for my squats, wasn't protecting my back fully (chin-up, chest-out, weights close to the body), and so on.

I have a weak back, and it had been getting stiff every morning, before I started doing weekly (or twice-weekly) exercises to strengthen it. There were whole categories of exercises to strengthen the back that I knew nothing about. My back is so much stronger that I think weightlifting with a coach is the best solution to most back problems, and anyone who is able to start a strengthening program should do so.

Two years later, I'm up to squatting about half my body weight. Hooray! That probably does not sound impressive to hard-core lifters, but considering my age and the fact that I'm a woman of rather slender build, I think it's great. I work out with weights twice a week, usually.

Now that I've been lifting seriously for 2 years, I look at my body in the mirror sometimes, and I say: Who is that awesome-looking chick? She's so built! (Maybe a bit on the skinny side, though.) Don't get me wrong -- I'm no female Arnie, and I have absolutely no desire to be.

I have also always loved walking. Last year, about in January, I decided to start jogging again, for the first time since I was a teenager. I was inspired by talking with a half-marathoner. I guess I made about every beginner's mistake there was -- ramping up the training too quickly and pushing too hard, leading to injury and a layoff for a while.

Now I'm back in the game and loving it! This is thanks to a sports doctor, who told me my hip problem was causing my knee problem. He gave me exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip, and 6 weeks later, I had significant improvement. I'm now on a maintenance schedule, doing these exercises about once a week.

Let me explain -- I'm not a marathoner nor triathlete, nothing that intense. My current regimen is 3 days a week of jogging, consisting of 15 hard-pushing minutes, 20 easy, and 30 easy. "Easy" means a comfortable pace for me; it's still work! I am adding 5 minutes a week to my longest weekly run in preparation for a local 5K Power of Pink walk/run in Floresville in March. I'm probably doing about 11-1/2 minute miles (very slow, in other words). I'm just glad my knees are holding out so well, with minimal pain and swelling so far.

Maybe when I get really good, I'll switch from timed running to distance. I'm a lot more patient with myself now. I'm just thrilled that I can keep jogging for up to 30 minutes, whatever the pace. It's a great feeling.

So, I've found that I can combine activities in one day. I can walk a mile, plus do a tough weights workout. I can run 20 minutes, then later mop the floor. Or 20 minutes and then wash the car. Today I walked 30 minutes, then later ran 15 hard ones. (Hard for me, probably up to about 10-1/2 minute mile.) Now I like to do at least something every day; 15 minutes of walking or on the exercise bike, at least.

I recently read in the Express-News (I think) that more exercise is better. And more. And more. That means that folks like marathoners are, by far, the healthiest people on the planet. That's fine with me -- I'm not going to start training for any marathons. I say this just in case you think I'm a health fanatic, or anything along that line. No, there are plenty of real nuts out there. I saw a whole bunch of them, thousands, at the Rock-n-Roll marathon last fall, where Austin & I were waterboys. Most people who are runners would think the amount of running I do is quite minimal.

As far as nutrition goes, I am much more conscious of what I put in my mouth, since now I regard food as fuel, not just fulfillment. Not that I've overcome my sweet tooth! But I have added quite a bit more non-meat protein to my diet, and lots of fruit and vegetables. I still can put away amazing quantities of popcorn, whether it's Target, movie theater (horrors!), or home-popped.

It's difficult because my husband loves the things I tend to avoid, meat and potatoes. I suspect that when the kids are no longer eating at home, we'll be preparing separate meals. We already are on that track now -- while the kids and my husband put away a steak, I am chowing down on salmon.

I don't enjoy eating red meat the way I once did, and I suspect it makes me sluggish. Plus, it's just so terrible for the environment, in addition to being bad for my health. I guess I don't worry about my kids too much because I ate whatever as a kid, with no regard to fat content and the like, and I had no lasting ill effects from it. Actually, when I graduated from high school, I weighed about 10 pounds more than I do now, and I think I put on another 5 in college.

I'm more concerned with whether my kids are interested in sports and exercise, which they are. I think the healthy-eating bug can strike at any time; for me, it came rather late. So I'm modeling a lifestyle that my kids may someday choose to emulate, especially when they see their waistlines expanding from that good ole American lifestyle.

Truthfully, I could probably write something different about exercising every day, much the way I exercise pretty much every day. I'm finding some really great blogs about health that I listen to on my easy jogging days. (On hard-push days, I require inspiring music to keep me going.) They are NPR: Your Health, and iExercise, also from NPR. Will they squeeze out my beloved Zencasts? They haven't yet!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Austin's sermon

Without further ado, here is Austin's sermon. Reprinted with permission.


So my sermon is more of a man sermon than Katies. There are so many interesting things about the bible and i could probably talk for days about all of them so i am choosing some of the most interesting ones.

Bargaining with god- Have you ever tried to bargain with god? Did it work? Probably not right? Well in the bible there are more than one occasion where people have tried bargaining with the master of the universe, and have actually succedded! Jacob fought with the angel of the Lord, and as the day was breaking the angel wanted to leave. However, Jacob kept clinging unto him and telling him that he will not release him until he gives him a blessing. Finally, the angel agreed and in the process of agreement hit Jacob so hard that for the rest of his life he walked with a limp. But he was blessed! King Hezekiah received word from the Lord that he should prepare his house for he would die. Hezekiah prayed and sent for the prophet. God listened to his supplication and granted him 15 more years of life. It is true that during this time he made some blunders and God was not completely pleased with his behavior, yet 15 additional years were a pretty good bargain! Christ has indeed invited us to come with boldness before the throne of grace and ask. James gives us one reason for what is happening when we are denied: “You ask and do not receive….When you ask you do not receive, because you ask for the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3)

Other Religions- So this part isnt so much about the bible as it is with other religions, but i think that it is interesting enough to be included in this sermon. So i was actually talking to my mom about this the other day, and she made a good point. God knows that every single one of us is different and that we con never get along, so why would he try to make us worship him the exact same way? Every person has their own interpretation of what god wants us to do, and we would never be able to work together between such narrow lines. Every country is so different and every part in each country is so different. I cant imagine everyone in the world who are all so different in their little ways trying to worship god exactly the same way. We can't even agree on how to work things within our own church much less the whole world! Some people believe that their ideas are the only correct way to worship god! I dont think it matters how you find him as long as you do find him.

God can be Cruel!- There are times in the bible where God can seem very cruel and ruthless. There's the one about Moses asking Pharoah to let the Israelites go. Pharoah was willing to but GOD HARDENED HIS HEART...so that god could show his glory and punish the egyptians. God then proceded to rain down plague after plague...each time hardening pharoah's heart, until finally god killed all the first born in the land. Yes many of them were babies. So poor Pharoah had no choice or free will. God made him say no. Nice huh? There are some other verses where god commands the people to cause great destruction and death in his name such as: 1 Samuel 15:1-3 "Now listen to what the Lord Almighty says, .... Go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Don't leave a thing; kill all the men, women, and children, and babies; the cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys."and Judges 20:23 and 48 "Then the Israelites went to the place of worship and mourned in the presence of the Lord until evening. They asked him, 'Should we go again against our brothers the Benjaminites?' The Lord answered, 'Yes.'"The Israelites turned back against the rest of the Benjaminites and killed them all, men, women and children, and animals as well. They burned every town in the area."

The Genesis verse- In Genesis 3:15 God is talking to Adam, Eve, and the Snake in anger. He starts with the snake and tells it "And I will put enmity between you and the woman,and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel." Lets review that verse real quick and i will point something out. (REPEAT VERSE) Did you see it?? where did that he come from?? He named no person in the sentence before. God threw us a curveball there. Who is He? If we look at the King James version of that verse And I will put enmity(1) between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head(2), and thou shalt bruise his heel. We notice that they say her seed. In the bible, they say seed to represent offspring. Now, it is my understanding that the man gives the seed to the woman. So who do we know that is the offspring of a woman. Just a woman. So now that we have deduced that we are indeed talking about jesus christ, we know that he will crush the serpents head and the serpent will strike his heel. The serpent in that verse is most likely satan and humanities sins. When Jesus died on the cross, he was the sacrifice that destroyed satan. He died so that we might live again in heaven. He forgave all of our sins and gave us the chance to fix the wrong that adam and eve committed by committing the first sin. He in essence, crushed satans head by destroying his hold on us. Before his death though, Jesus was tortured and hurt beyond our imaginations. He went throught so much pain and suffering on our behalf. Sure sounds like satan struck his heel to me. The thing is, that getting struck in the heel is a minor injury while getting your head cruched seems more dangerous and lasting. So whos side do we want to choose? the side of sin and the doomed satan with his crushed head? Or the eternal Christ who will lead us into heaven and clean our bodies of sin?

Let us pray- Dear heavenly father, we pray that we might find better understanding of your word and your meaning through a closer relationship with you, and we pray that you will give us the strength to overcome the snakes in our life and let our lord and savior jesus christ crush their heads and free us from their grips. It is in your name we pray, amen

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Teenage angst and the earthquake

In this farewell
There's no blood
There's no alibi
Cause I've drawn regret
From the truth
Of a thousand lies

So let mercy come
And wash away

What I've done
I'll face myself
To cross out what I've become
Erase myself
And let go of what I've done

Put to rest
What you thought of me
While I clean this slate
With the hands
Of uncertainty

...

For what I've done
I start again
And whatever pain may come
Today this ends
I'm forgiving what I've done
...
What I've done
Forgiving what I've done

"What I've Done," Linkin Park
Julie's iPod, 2010

This song captures teenage angst better than I could. I remember being a teenager and feeling the heights and depths of such strong emotions. So many things were a matter of life or death back then. Falling in love, breaking up, a bad grade, a worse day.Sadly, we have teenagers who need extra help in our midst. Do we see them? Do we recognize how precious and important these young lives are, and how much is at risk?

The saddest thing is that life and death decisions are so easy to make and implement; they can be done quickly, impulsively. They cannot be undone.

When a disaster happens, in one life or in hundreds of thousands, the shock waves ripple out and get bigger and stronger, and change people's lives forever. Yesterday, our small community experienced another such tragedy, when an 18-year-old senior at Floresville High School ended his life.

...and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.
Mark 14:33-35
----
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" -- which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:34

It's important to note that the Gospels offer differing accounts of that last night with his disciples. John offers up a night spent in continual prayer: Jesus prays for himself, Jesus prays for his disciples, Jesus prays for all believers.

Could these moments have been Jesus at his most human? His long, sleepless night, and the moment of his greatest suffering, when he is separated from a loving God. These are the only two times recorded where Jesus is anguished not for others, but for himself. He sounds like the loneliest person on earth. He could not have known how it would all turn out.

I have to add one more thing, one more word, one more heartfelt prayer: Haiti.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Joy, light, love

Did I mention in the last post that being joyful is so difficult? Such a pain in the ass, often. And maybe that posting took place during a brief manic cycle, because I felt really down yesterday afternoon & evening.

Being joyful in all circumstances (for the perfectly enlightened), most circumstances (the rest of us), is possible. But it requires resilience and effort. I was sitting in meditation this evening because I needed a quiet place to go for a few minutes, and the image of a punching bag came to mind. That kid's blow-up bag weighed down with sand on the bottom that you could hit, and they'd tip over and then pop right back up again. What were those things called? My family is unanimous: "punching bag." (How would my kids know?) Anyhow, they are one of the many simpler, non-gadgety toys that seem to no longer exist!

So, that is what it takes to be joyful. Just keep popping back up when life smacks you another one. Do it with a silly grin painted on your face, and you'll really give people something to wonder about.

I've noticed it is always easier to be joyful around acquaintances than people who know you well, like family. Besides, your family is the most likely to give you a reason not to be joyful!

Dwaine and I picked up the kids together today. This never happens, but it happened today because our car suddenly developed a major oil leak and will require major, expensive surgery. The boys piled in, and their attitude quickly became clear. What's for dinner? I'm thirsty! Is there any water in here? Oh my GOD, please don't stop there (at an errand)! Can we just go home?

Dwaine was amazed; I was not. He stopped upon hearing Austin's whiny protest and said, "OK, that's how I am going to act toward you when you expect me to drive you everywhere. Pick you up after the movies end at 10:30? Oh, GOD, no!"

That message did sink in, because after we returned from picking up a quickie dinner at HEB, Austin apologized, and asked (practically begged) Dad to go run the errand after all. Loss of transportation -- that's a serious threat.

For some bizarre reason, Austin told his youth leaders at church that he'd like to give a sermon sometime, and now he has been signed up to give one at church on Saturday. This is while our pastor visits Antarctica. I think it will go fine, but Austin likes to procrastinate. The more pressure, the better and harder he works. But, this is the thing about having a 15-year-old, he's got to do it himself now. I don't want to give any major assistance. But it is interesting to speculate on what he will come up with. What kind of sermon will a 15-year-old boy give, anyhow? I really haven't a clue. Guess I'll find out.

Friday, January 8, 2010

No self Buddhist precept and physics

I have a few beefs about my blog. My time setting on postings is totally wrong, for one thing. So if I say I'm going to bed and the time posts as 7:10, don't worry about me. It reminds me of the bank sign down the road from us. The time was always off by 15 minutes or more, and the temperature would be displayed as something like 115 degrees many summer afternoons. I always thought, why would you want a sign that displayed information that was so embarrassingly wrong? They finally fixed it: they just turned it off. I guess it was too complicated to fix!

Second blog complaint: my profile used to keep track of how many page visits my blog received, but it got stuck at 120 awhile back. So what's the point of having a page-visit tracker if it does not work? Hey, what am I paying for, anyway? Actually, it's all free.

I went to a lovely birthday dinner (celebrating my birthday, about a week later) with Susan tonight. We were briefly talking about my new flame, Buddhism, as it relates to the suffering in the world -- how to help without getting overwhelmed, or drowned by the seemingly insurmountable problems of so many suffering people who need help. I was telling her one of the many Buddhist precepts is to let go of the need to see particular results from the work we do. I couldn't remember which precept this comes from -- no self (anaka?) or no clinging.

Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I have realized that the world desperately needs more joy, more good cheer, more hope! My Secret Santa at work gave me a handworked metal ornament that was a word: Hope. I hung it up where it could be within my sight throughout the day. Hope!

Offering joy is an area that has been a blind spot of mine historically, old grumpy-me. I even used to think, why bother to pretend I'm cheery all the time? I'm not. Get over it! And look around -- what's to be so happy about? I was a militant grump. Maybe I'd seen too many cheery people who seemed over the top and forced. But something has changed, and it's no longer a heavy load for me to try to be cheerful. Maybe it's because I have been practicing it for a while. Being intentional about being a positive person has helped a lot.

Realizing the precept that there is no self -- no me, no you, no us or them -- just everyone, in one big ocean together -- is the beginning of understanding why it's so important to help others. The people who are suffering so desperately are dragging down this ocean of consciousness, and they are consuming precious energy in a negative way. When one suffers, we all suffer.

Also, when one person attains enlightenment, we all get closer to it. People who are more enlightened are therefore charged with injecting positive energy, light, love, into the world. I happily embrace this responsibility! And perhaps doing so then leads even further along the path of enlightenment.

I embrace the mystical aspects of Buddhism, and Christianity, because I believe that science bears them out. The most extravagantly mystical science is physics. Can we possibly view ourselves as separate beings when viewed at the atomic level? It becomes a ridiculous falsehood. What about at the cosmic level? We're all here on the earth together, and our fates are completely intertwined. We are all in this solar system, and we are all made of the same materials obtained from the same universe.

When we subdivide into the false notion of ourselves and "our own" problems, we quickly begin to circle the wagons around our own heart to protect and shield it from hurt. In so doing, we miss out on the wonderful revelations of life, and we limit our capacity to love. When Jesus was born, there literally was no room for him in the inn of many people's hearts, because they were so intent on their own little circumstances and problems. It seems not much has changed. Trust me, I'm still working on letting go of my little problems and issues.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Buddhism meeting

I attended the Dharma meeting tonight. There were three other people there, including one of Diane's sons (her youngest, of course). It was frigid (no heat), but luckily I was well-layered, and once I sat down on the cushy sofa, I felt sufficiently insulated above and below. We had a pleasant Q&A, with me doing all the Qs, and Jon doing the As with some assists from his brother and Diane. Small group, but good start.

I realized I am in need of more meditation in my life. In the reading about Buddhism that was handed around, the word "madman" caught my eye -- how we run around, behaving like madmen, if we are not mindfully aware of reality! Yes, that's a radical word, but I immediately realized that it perfectly described me earlier today. I felt this great onrush of stress at work today, and my mind became so foggy, and I couldn't concentrate on anything and was snapping at other people. Yes, me, snapping! (That's really nothing special -- ask my kids, or my husband -- a daily occurrence!) So here is how Buddhism is so helpful for me: Buddhism's major focus is duka (?), or suffering, and the end of suffering, and one of the English translations of the term for suffering is "stress."

We did a 5-minute group meditation session tonight which felt incredibly short, and left me longing for more. Practicing meditation, in itself, could be a stressful proposition -- for example, with exercise, I get frantic if I can't fit it in pretty much every day, and resentful of the other things that consume my time.

So, how? How to have time for wonderful things like meditation and exercise, which also seem so completely selfish and self-centered? But it's not selfish to breathe, eat, and sleep, (read, write!), and these things are along the same line. I need them to be effective in every other part of my life. Meditation allows the mind to slow down enough to become creative, energetic, helpful, to see the possibilities and get rid of the mental blocks. And without daily practice, the mind just scurries around, trapped like a rodent running on its wheel endlessly.

At the meeting, Jon described something that sounded very advanced to me, channeling positive energy in the breath during meditation and then releasing it specifically to help with a particular need -- for example, someone with cancer, someone suffering in any other way. But that presumes that the person doing so has overcome their own energy-draining needs, and furthermore, that they can focus their mind and project their energy that way. I am certain that this happens with intense prayer, and with advanced meditation, all the time, and it makes a positive change in the world every time. I've actually felt it happen while in intense, focused prayer, and toward the end of meditation sessions -- but it's usually quite brief and hard to sustain. That whiff of energetic love, being released with a mission to heal, to help.

Here's a neat trick, too: feeling and demonstrating that much capacity for love with every person. Wow, that is a tall order. But you've met people who do that, who just radiate love and compassion, and I have too. An amazing number of people, actually. Even one is an amazing number, and I could probably name 10 or more I've met in my lifetime. Many of these people were members or leaders of a church, I'm happy to report. It is reassuring to know that churches attract the good and loving, as well as the evil, and the rest of us!

Good night! I wish for you happiness.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Zencasting

I think I got a little burned out on Zencast, my Zen Buddhist podcast, for a while. That, plus the latest installments are a woman who is teaching basic Buddhism, in about four parts, and I just don't dig her as much as I do Gil. Gil is the one who got me all fired up about Buddhism, and in some sort of spiritual transference, I kind of fell in love with him. It's a long-distance affair, and rather onesided, since he gets to talk to me, but I never talk back. Plus, he's never actually met me and is not specifically aware of my existence, in the physical sense. But then -- do I really exist, as I think I do? The deeper aspects of Buddhism seem to cast serious doubt on the whole concept of "self."

Buddhism gets so complicated when someone tries to explain it all!

I plan to attend the Floresville Buddhism meeting tomorrow evening, God willing. Is that an ironic statement, since Buddhists don't really embrace a deity? Anyhow, I feel like this is a wonderful way to start a new year, with a new adventure.

I mentioned my plans to my hubby, and he didn't give me any weird looks or crinkle his nose or anything. Which is just short of miraculous, since we're Christians and very involved in our church. I do hesitate to broadcast my interest in Buddhism to people at church. I'm not sure what kind of response I would get. Of course, it would be different depending on each person, but I know there are fears and misinformation out there. What was it Austin asked me? Whether I would be worshipping rocks! No, son, but I'll be performing a ritual dance naked, around a bonfire that our group will build near the peanut in downtown Floresville, and I've heard there might be live sacrifices. *Just kidding!*

Health is such a blessing. I say this after being hit by energy-sapping allergies this past week I feel nearly normal right now, and it's such a wonderful feeling.

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