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Off The Shelf-V3

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an Off the Shelf book review for Beacon Hill Press.  Today I am happy to be sharing The Relationship Project by Bill Strom with you.  As always, my views are my own, and the only compensation I received was the book itself!

When this book arrived, I was intrigued right away.  I love the subtitle: Moving from “You and Me” to We.  I enjoy books that offer insights on marriage, especially from a Christian worldview.  And I like books that are interactive, which including “project” in the title seemed to imply.

I was imagining that this would be a book to read with my husband, something we could work on together.  We both agree that a good relationship takes work and we are committed to working on ours!  But here’s where the book was different from what I was expecting.  And I learned that pretty quickly, in the preface in fact:  ” . . . if you picked up this book to figure out how you can save your relationship, or fix a friend, put it down . . . the more important goal is to understand that we have our own heart work to do, our own self project.”    That’s not to say that you couldn’t read this in tandem with a spouse, but the point–and it’s a good point in general, is it not?–is that you are to work on yourself,  not on your partner!

That’s just the start of how this book is different from other relationship books you may have read, particularly if you’ve been reading mainly secular books.  In those books, you’ll learn about contracts and commitments–and those are discussed in this book too–but the focus here is on covenant relationships, which are “motivated by unconditional love and grace . . . not driven by the pursuit of personal happiness.”  It’s vocabulary I’d heard before, but here it is explained well and illustrated by clear examples.

The author shares from his own marriage, and the tone of the book is informal, making reading it a bit like listening to the good advice of a friend.  The Relationship Project is full of examples–stories of real people, their relationships and struggles.  There are illustrative quotations–and relationship stories–from Scripture as well.  There are several self-assessments along the way–I love those!  And there are questions for reflection.  In short, this is a book that asks you not just to read it, but to engage with it.

 

I’m linking up with This That and the Other Thing for Sunday Snippets, a weekly round up for Catholic Bloggers.

This week’s question:  Name and link to two Catholic blogs you really enjoy. If the bloggers don’t participate in Sunday Snippets, invite them to join us!

I don’t read a lot of blogs regularly, even though there are many that I like.  I just don’t have time any more.  These are a couple I stumbled across and like so much that I included them on my blogroll, even though I don’t visit every day.  You should check out Invisible Woman and Everything to Someone.

Now here’s the part where I am supposed to list my posts for the week.  But since this is the week in which I had jury duty and my son had unexpected surgery (among other things, as always), this list is short:

Walking in West Knoxville:  The Jean Teague Greenway

See you next week!

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A couple of weekend ago, Emily and I got a late start on Saturday morning.  And there are times when South Knoxville feels far far away.  Plus walking in the Urban Wilderness can take you deep into the woods, with no quick way to get back into civilization.  In short, sometimes you want a walk, not a hike.

So we opted to head to West Hills and the Jean Teague Greenway, a walk that I imagine almost all West Knoxvillians are familiar with.

We were sneaky and parked at the church at the west end of the greenway instead of in the YMCA parking lot.  Unless it’s Sunday, no one is parked there!  The first part of this walk runs behind a neighborhood, and I always think how nice it would be to live in a house with a greenway in the backyard!  This part has wildflowers and ornamental trees that have been planted there just to decorate the greenway.

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Walk a little farther and you will cross a street and enter West Hills Park.  This part of the greenway has a loop, so you could increase the length of your walk if you want by looping as many times as you like!  The right hand loop is shaded with trees.

Jean Teague 1

Midway around the loop you take an extension that goes past West Hills Elementary and, if it’s a school day, a playground full of staring children.  This part ends at Vanosdale Road.  You can then turn around and come back and take the other side of the loop, which is more open and goes past some playground areas.

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The playgrounds are nice if you’ve brought kids along.  You can leave them there while you walk the loop if you aren’t afraid of the other parents who may call DCS on you if you dare to let your children swing at a well-populated park outside of your direct supervision.

This is a crowded park, with lots of people walking dogs, strolling babies, and having birthday parties.

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It’s not a wilderness hike, but it’s a nice, reliable place to exercise when you are short on time but would rather enjoy the fall weather than run on a treadmill!

For more West Knoxville walks, see below:

Walking in West Knoxville

A May Stroll You Must Take

Short West Knoxville Walks

 

 

 

It’s Sunday and time to link up with RAnn of This, That, and the Other Thing for Sunday Snippets.  This is a great opportunity for you to find some new Catholic Bloggers and to catch up with what I’ve posted this week.

Question of the week:  What is your favorite formal (memorized) prayer?

That would be the Prayer to St. Jude.  Maybe it’s overkill to pray to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases as often as I do!  But I say this prayer often.  I got the prayer card in high school–I can’t remember why or from whom–and said it so many times in college (to have me say it before exams was a ritual with some of my friends!) that I soon had it memorized.  There are other prayers that are more beautiful, but none that I say so frequently.  Here is the version I know:

Most holy apostle, Saint Jude, the Church honors and invokes you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone. Make use I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you, to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the help of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly – (here make your request). I promise, O blessed Saint Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my particular and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you.  Amen.

And now for the round up!  I started the week off strong with a post on short walks in West Knoxville.  I posted again on the very same day!  This time I wrote about some unexpected benefits of homeschooling.  Finally, I shared the story of the new way I have been eating, which has brought me good health and much weight loss!

That’s all, folks!  Be sure to check out some of the other Carnival bloggers at the above link.

Low Carb Love Affair

A few weeks ago I shared the story of my lifetime of dieting, and I promised to write about the healthy changes I’ve made.  Since this morning I visited the wellness nurse and can now report I have lost 45 lbs. since taking charge of my health at the end of March, it seems like a good time to fulfill that promise!

After years of looking askance at the claims of low-carb enthusiasts, and being absolutely sure that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, I am now a convert.  I won’t bore you with the latest science because you can google as well as I can.  Let’s just say it makes sense to me, and that the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the lack thereof.

Like I wrote before, I am a diet expert, and this is the easiest diet I have ever been on.  If you want to get healthy, and lose weight, and feel good, and never be hungry, this is the diet for you.

I had to make a couple of major changes that were very difficult for me.  The first one was giving up cereal.  I loved cereal, and I not only ate it for breakfast every morning, I also had a bowl right before bed every night.  When I first decided to make healthy changes, but before I met with the wellness nurse, I went out and bought a lot of very healthy whole grain cereals, only to find out at my first appointment that pretty much all cereal is too high in carbohydrates for it to work in a low carb diet.  I was EXTREMELY attached to that evening bowl of cereal and it was hard to get past that but I did.

The other super hard thing was coffee.  Coffee is fine on a low carb diet, but not when it’s full of sugar.  So I started by cutting the number of cups per day rather than cutting the sugar!  Slowly (one week at a time) I cut the sugar by .5 tsp until I could drink it with nothing but cream.  This was huge!

I now cook exclusively with butter, olive oil, and coconut oil.  Remember when coconut oil was bad and canola oil was good?  Well, forget that.  I don’t even use Pam (or the generic equivalent) anymore.

Giving up bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice is not hard in the sense that I crave and want those things and feel sad about them but rather in the sense that they are ubiquitous and seem almost necessary!  So I have a few substitutes:  low carb bread that you can get at Kroger for an occasional sandwich (about twice a week); low carb wraps (also from Kroger) that can be used in lieu of hot dog buns, or to make burritos; low carb sandwich thins for hamburgers or black bean burgers; and mashed cauliflower with cheese instead of mashed potatoes.  I’ve heard of some pasta and rice substitutes that I haven’t tried yet, but mostly I just have given those up for now.

Someone asked me the other day if I still go out to eat and the answer is yes, absolutely!  Eating out is easy on this diet.  At American restaurants order steak, chicken, or fish and substitute broccoli for the customary baked potato and take the complimentary bread home to your kids.  At Asian restaurants get meat and veggies and just eat a couple of bites of the rice.  If you must go to Italian restaurants, get a non-pasta entree.  At Panera Bread or the like, get salad and soup instead of the sandwich.

It can be a little daunting to remember what is low carb and what is not, but if you have an iPhone you are in luck!  Yes, Siri can count your carbs for you.  And of course before long you will more or less know, just like you know how many calories or points or fat grams are in things after awhile when you follow those kinds of diets.

On a typical day I eat two scrambled eggs and coffee for breakfast.  I have hummus with vegetables, or apple slices with peanut butter, or handfuls of nuts for snacks most of the time.  And you are encouraged to have two or three snacks (and lots of water) each day, to keep your metabolism moving.  For lunch I try to go heavy on vegetables.  For supper I focus more on the meat.  I am eating all the things I have avoided my entire dieting life, and it turns out that these are the things that make you feel full and satisfied.  I AM NEVER HUNGRY.

Now that I basically know how many carbs most things have in them, I don’t really count them.  Supposedly I’m allowed to have about 40 a day, but my philosophy is just to try to avoid them as much as possible so that if I need to go over ever (this happens sometimes when we are eating out at a church function or some other place where the menu is not under my control) it will sort of even itself out.  So unlike other diets, there is nothing to count or write down (although that might be useful if you are having problems staying on track) and no meal plans to follow.  THIS IS EASY.

Will I eat this way forever?  Not exactly, but probably in a modified way.  For example, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that whole grains and beans are bad.  So when all my numbers are below where they should be, and I have lost all the weight I want to, I will likely reintroduce these items occasionally.  I do still eat small amounts of beans and brown rice even now.

Below are some examples of easy, delicious, and lower carb meals I have been enjoying.

Tuna salad made with actual mayonnaise, pickles, onions, cucumbers, celery, and tomato:

Food Tuna Salad

Tomatoes, black olives, olive oil, and brown rice:

Food brown rice olives feta

Tomato, fresh basil, and mozzarella:

food tomato basil mozzarella salad

 

Salad with artisan lettuce mix, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese, and Green Goddess dressing:

salad

Have you ever tried low carb eating?  Any other life-change success stories to share with us in the comments?

 

When I told everyone I wanted to homeschool Lorelei this year, they said, “How will you possibly find the time to do that?”

See, even though I am at home, I am not strictly what the internets call a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom), terminology which implies that I don’t work.  (LOL.  No one works harder than a stay-at-home-mom.)  I am a WAHM (work-at-home-mom) only since what I do is act as my husband’s legal assistant/secretary/office manager, I don’t even get paid!

Over the past four years, what started out as me answering the phone while I went about my usual business has morphed into a job that keeps me at my desk from 8:30 to 1:30 or so most days, and let’s not even discuss nights and weekends.  I’m not complaining about this sweet deal which allows me to pretty much structure my own time and take care of my family the way I want to, but I guess it was reasonable for people to wonder how I was going to fit teaching school into that.

But it hasn’t been difficult at all, really.  We start by reading about the saint of the day and saying a prayer around 8:30, and then I get her started on her first assignment and I start on my work.  When she finishes we take a minute to talk about the next thing she’s doing, and then we both return to our solitary labors.  She sits right in the office with me at John’s desk, since he’s usually at court.  By 1:30 p.m., she’s done.

Instead of making my life harder, homeschooling has made it easier.  Last year, I had to get up around 6:00 a.m., wake up two kids, fix two breakfasts and two lunches, and make sure two kids were dressed and ready to leave the house on time.  This year, I get to sleep until 7:00 a.m., probably what John and I would both agree is the number one best change homeschooling has occasioned.  It is daylight when we wake up and getting out of bed is easy.  No more that awful first-day-of-school feeling where you think, “Oh my God, do I really have to do this every day for the next nine months?”  And the effects last all day–I rarely feel like I need to nap in the afternoon, and I always felt that way last year whether there was time to do so or not.

Last year, I had to get dressed every morning and drive William to school while John took Lorelei.  This year, I can stay in my pajamas all day if I want, because John takes William and Lorelei stays right here.

Last year, I had to stop working no later than 2:00 p.m. to shower and dress for the school pick up odyssey, which started with the 20-minute drive to Sacred Heart, followed by the drive back to Cedar Bluff to get William.  With one thing or another, I was in the car for about 1.5 hours, and I was usually struggling to stay awake.  It was miserable, and I dreaded it.  This year, we pop out at 3:30 p.m. to get William from school five minutes down the road.  Lorelei doesn’t even have to come along if she doesn’t want to.  And there have been many days when pickup time coincides with John’s return from court, so I don’t have to leave the house all day!

Last year, while fighting over homework with William, I also had to deal with Lorelei’s chronic homework stress.  I had to discipline her when she didn’t start her work until close to bedtime.  I had to help with awful torturous activities like constructing dioramas and making saints out of Pepsi bottles and styrofoam balls.  No more.  This year, I choose the school work around here, and there is no homework at all.

Last year, there were school meetings to attend, and folders to sign, and papers to review and return.  This year, we still have these things, but only for one child and one school.  We have more free time and more family time in the evenings.

Last year we were stressed out.  This year we are still stressed out, but not about school.  Lorelei is happy, and so am I.

All Saints 10

 

I spend a lot of time promoting South Knoxville trails on this blog, and rightly so, since South Knoxville to most Knoxvillians is the Undiscovered Country.  But the fact is, it isn’t the only place to walk in town.  And it’s a good thing, because I am exiled to Northwest Knox County and I don’t have time for a thirty minute drive every time I want to take a walk.  Nor do I enjoy the only safe non-driving option of walking up our very steep hill and around a couple of cul-de-sacs.  (Knox County motto:  We don’t need no stinkin’ sidewalks.)

Lucky for me, West Knoxville offers several greenways too, and I’ve written about some of them here and here.  However, some of our very nice greenways have a drawback:  they aren’t loops.  When you are in a hurry and want to do some exercise walking, loops are what you want.  I expect that’s why Lakeshore Park, with its 2.2 mile loop, is so popular.

I have found four loops trails within five minutes of my neighborhood.  Lorelei and I go walking every Wednesday–gym for her, fitness for me!  I walk with a friend every Friday.  Emily and I try to walk during the week as well as on Sunday (even though some times it’s just up that despised hill!).  And I do hope to start coaxing John on walks once it gets cooler.  Below are some of the places we go.

1.  Nicholas Ball Park

This is the closest park to our house.  It’s on Ball Camp Pike, which if I thought about it at all when I was a child I assumed referred to the fact that the nearest baseball field was located on that road.  You can read about the actual source of the name in the picture below:

photo credit: Donald Raby

As a park, this one is replete with every attribute:  a bathroom, a picnic shelter, baseball and soccer fields, a small playground, and trails.  There are two of these, one your basic loop around the soccer field, where people always seem to be having so much fun that I almost feel interested in soccer, and the other a short climb up and down a hill where you can see majestic cedar trees and a smattering on wildflowers.

Nicholas Ball

We usually do the hill trail, then do as many loops as we have time or energy for, then do the hill trail one more time.

2.  U.S. Cellular Trails

I hate to call them that, but anyway, if you park at the soccer field you can loop around the main trail and you can also shake it up by incorporating the sidewalks on the bisecting road to do some figure eights if you get bored.  And you could easily get bored if you don’t bring a friend along to talk to, because there’s not a whole lot to see!  I did catch some pretty sunset pictures there one evening:

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And got pretty close to a bunny:

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And then there’s this house which I have always loved and would pick up and move somewhere safe if I could.  I remember when Lovell Road was two lanes and this was nestled in the woods.  I dread the day when I drive by and it’s gone.

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3.  All Saints

As part of our religion curriculum, Lorelei and I attend Mass every Wednesday morning at All Saints Church, the closest Catholic church to our house, just three miles away.  Afterwards, we walk around the trails and then I let her play on the playground.  This trail offers special opportunities for prayer as well as exercise, as well as flowers and interesting trees.

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There’s a bench in the area below, where I usually take a break while Lorelei plays on the playground for a few minutes.

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One section has the Stations of the Cross, which we plan to come back to pray during Lent.

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The Marian Garden:

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4.  Fort Sanders West Trail

I don’t have any pictures of this one but want to mention it anyway.  It’s a big loop that runs around the campus of Fort Sanders West.  There’s plenty of parking, or course, and it’s ideal if you are feeling motivated to exercise after a visit to your doctor.

So there you have it!  If you live in West Knoxville and thought South Knoxville was too far, what’s your excuse for not walking now?

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