Toward the end of 2013, I was doing terribly. I spent the night in the emergency room due to an extreme experience with then-undiagnosed PVCs (which ended up being entirely benign). I started using a CPAP, and though I slept better than I had in my entire adult life, I dealt with a range of odd side effects caused by the fact that I was no longer thrashing around as I struggled to breath while asleep. Lots of joint pain, trouble training my body to a new sleep position, etc.
Then my left leg swelled up and I was off to the emergency room again with concerns of a clot. I was tested in every way, and they found nothing. It reminded me of that scene in The Meaning of Life (“Get the EEG, the BP monitor, and the AVV.” “And get the machine that goes ‘ping!’.” “And get the most expensive machine – in case the Administrator comes.”). My leg kept swelling daily, and I started having severe pain in my left ankle.
Have I mentioned weight gain? I packed on almost 15 to 20 pounds in a three month period while all the rest was going on, in spite of having a relatively stable weight the previous 12 years after all my reconstructive foot surgeries. What about arthritis? I was suddenly having trouble, and significant pain, with the fingers in my right hand, and my left hand was gradually becoming more tender.
In mid-March I finally started to figure things out, though none of the many doctors I had seen offered more than another test and another prescription (or, in one case, a walking boot for 6 weeks). I don’t mean to diss any specific doctor. This was a complex situation. As far as I could tell, I was having a severe reaction to omeprazole, which I had started taking in September of 2013 based on the recommendation of my gastroenterologist. The timing fit, and if it was causing inflammation, it could connect the dots to many of my problems.
If I was swelling in my gut, and I was now lying perfectly still at night on my left side due to the CPAP, perhaps that was why my left leg kept swelling. I had watched that leg for a couple months, and become convinced the swelling was starting at the top and working its way down to the ankle. When I had finally shifted my sleep position to my back, I was sometimes experiencing swelling in both ankles.
The weight gain, the feeling like I was TIGHT in my abdomen, the sense that I couldn’t take a deep breath due to pressure on my diaphragm, the inflammation leading to arthritic symptoms… perhaps it was all connected.
I took action. I dropped the medication, significantly simplified my diet, and started exercising as best I could, given I can’t run or jump due to my many foot surgeries.
First, the diet. Tricia and I had a sort of running joke. She’d say something like, “But you can eat such-and-such. It is allowed on the South beach diet.” And I’d say, “But not on Jay’s beach.” I did adopt for a time a diet that resembles south beach, or paleo, or whatever, but I kept it super simple, and ultimately fairly satisfying to me. I limited my consumption to 5 categories:
1) Water (and lots of it)
2) Dairy (full fat, no reduced fat anything)
3) Meat (I love healthy meats, but that wasn’t the point… meat of most any type was allowed)
4) Non-starchy vegetables
5) Liquor (and occasional red wine)
I tried to totally avoid ANY added sweetener of ANY kind to ANYTHING. I avoided foods with super-complex ingredients as much as possible. I generally avoided substitute pretend food items (no pancakes made out of bacon, no kale made to taste like a cinnamon bun)… I wanted to take the food on its own terms. I ate no fruit, no sweet potato, not carrot, no corn, no bread, no pasta, no chips (can I tell you how hard that was here in Texas?), no desserts, no soda, no smoothies… you get the idea.
The exceptions. I drank coffee (lots of cream, no sweetener), ate the super-dark chocolate on occasion (the entire bar had to have 12 grams of sugar or less… think 88% cacao and up), and ate whatever I was served in small portions if I was a guest and served the food. I am truly opposed to being an ungracious guest except out of dire medical necessity.
I held this diet for two months, and then began softening it a bit. I’ve softened it by simply taking an occasional break from it, not by modifying it. By “taking a break”, I mean for a single meal (like the fried oysters I ate this weekend), or a single dessert. In a sense, doing something like this cold-turkey is easier than allowing exceptions, so I’m trying to toughen up my will power to allow for those exceptions.
That’s the diet… I call it the Jay Beach diet. When I give the list to someone, they often raise their eyebrows at #5 (liquor), and I joke that liquor may not be on the south beach, but it is on Jay’s beach. I don’t drink beer, and I rarely drink wine, but I’ve found liquor (served neat, e.g. straight from the bottle to a glass with nothing added) is both enjoyable, and helps suppress any cravings for sweets I might have. In the end, I don’t consume much liquor, and the amount I consume is far less caloric than the food items I’m craving. Honestly, if I let myself go I can eat half a carton of ice cream, which, if we are talking Blue Bell (and we are), is 136 grams of sugar, and 1440 calories in total. Suddenly that 96 calories in a serving of whiskey seems pretty modest.
About those cravings. The first two weeks were TOUGH. My body used hunger pangs to try to force me to eat sweetened food. Continuously. I could eat four pounds of meat and vegetables, and my body would signal that I was about to starve. It still happens occasionally, but has largely stopped. My pallet changed during this time, too. Green beans steamed with butter taste sweet to me now. Very sweet.
One last point on the diet. Contrary to my Blue Bell example above, I don’t pay attention to calories. I don’t even track how much food I’m consuming, let alone the calories in the food. I just stick to my list.
Now exercise. This one is really easy. I started swimming. For a couple months I would swim as many laps as possible in a 30 minute period, three times a week, then I shifted to swimming a mile as fast as possible. My first swim was 34 25m laps in 30 minutes. This past Monday I swam 64 laps (a mile) in 36 minutes, so there has been a ton of improvement. I also do a lot of pushups, mainly from my knees since it hurts my post-surgery toes to do a full pushup. I use one of the ab roller wheels several times a week. I do an exercise I call “doing pull-up.” Maybe one day I’ll do pull-ups… okay, I actually broke in to the multiples a few weeks ago. And I walk up the 122 steps to my office when at work.
That’s about it for the exercise.
I dropped the over-the-counter medicine omeprazole, changed my diet, and started exercising. The results? In a word, it was transformative.
First, though, here’s what it wasn’t. It didn’t turn my body into some ridiculous 20-something lean, mean fighting machine. I’m 43. That ship has sailed, and I have no regrets, and am not looking for eternal youth. It also didn’t heal my every hurt, increase my IQ by 20 points, or cause me to love my children better.
The first surprise, though, was how much muscle mass I put on in a very short time. Again, I’m not a 23 year old body builder. I didn’t put on 30 pounds of muscle. But with relatively little exercise, I did see significant gains in muscle mass across my entire upper body. It turns out when you consume a ton of protein as a major component of your diet, start swimming, and sleep well (thank you, CPAP), your body responds. Pretty cool.
The swelling in my legs went away. Just gone, after months of struggling with it and seeing several doctors. My aches and pains of sleeping with the CPAP gradually lessened and went away as well. The tightness in my abdomen faded away. And the arthritis was greatly reduced. I regained full motion in all but one finger.
My energy level started to increase, and my waist dropped 2 inches in under 3 months, almost down to where it was coming out of college. And I shed all the weight I had gained, in spite of gaining muscle mass. My acid reflux (the reason I had started taking omeprazole) didn’t go away, but it was so reduced I can now manage it with Tums and an occasional ranitidine.
In short, I’m experiencing less pain and discomfort than any other time in recent years, and have more vitality. I’m a fan of the transformation. Your mileage may vary.
I almost never blog anymore. But last night’s potato dish which I adapted from several different online recipes was so tasty that I had to write it down so I can cook it again and again. It was simple and delicious and a little different from the way we normally eat this humble fruit of the earth.
Note: You will want SMALL potatoes for this recipe to work best.
Also note: I’m not great with exact units of measure, so play with this recipe a bit to suit your own taste. You can’t ruin it. And I think you will find the flavor is fabulous!!
Roasted Smashed Potatoes
a bunch of baby red potatoes (mine fit into a 9 x 13 pan with space left over)
1 cup chicken broth
garlic/parsely/thyme (other herbs if you like)
Choose a pan for cooking the potatoes which allows them to fit in a single layer with room to spare – you will want “elbow room” because they will expand during the smashing step. Coat pan with some nonstick olive oil spray. Lay potatoes in pan, pour chicken broth over potatoes, and roast at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes. I covered them with aluminum foil about halfway through cooking, but you could cover for the entire time. Potatoes are done when fork easily pierces the potato.
When they are done roasting, most of the chicken broth should be absorbed. If there is a bit left in the pan it will serve to flavor the potatoes during the next part of the cooking process. Using a spatula or bottom of a glass, smash each potato till they are about 3/8-1/2″ tall.
Into a microwave safe small dish pour some olive oil, and add a couple tablespoons of butter and some garlic powder/parsley/thyme. (You could also heat olive oil and butter in a small saucepan/skillet and add fresh minced garlic and cook for a few minutes. But the microwave and garlic powder method was delicious and much simpler.) Drizzle the olive oil/butter mixture atop the smashed potatoes and then sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Return the potatoes to the oven for 10-15 minutes till they are a bit browned. Enjoy!!
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
It struck me yesterday that there may be an implied continuation of this conversation that points to Jesus. You can almost hear the natural progression.
Abraham: “Let me ask but one more time. Suppose five are found there.”
The Lord: “For the sake of five I will not destroy it.”
Abraham: “And if only One is found?”
The Lord: “For the sake of One righteous man I will not destroy it.”
But Jesus wasn’t there during that original dialog, nor were ten other righteous men found, and the valley burned. Yet in the fullness of time, he came (Galatians 4:4). Reading the gospels, you can envision the whole earth going up in smoke with the piled up sins of God’s people (not to mention the Gentile nations) displayed before God.
But this time one righteous man was found. And this time it wasn’t about a city, but the whole cosmos.
Sometimes, the best ideas are not ones we create ourselves, but ones we steal (or borrow, if you will) from others. We are grateful to our good friends, the Clemmies, for sharing with us their pretty fabulous way of celebrating a child reaching the rather momentous milestone of becoming a teenager. And so I give you…
13 DAYS OF AWESOME!!
13 Days of Awesome refers to 13 events scheduled at various times on the calendar leading up to the 13th birthday of the child whom is being celebrated. They could be consecutive days leading up to and ending with the actual birthday of the child, but in our case we’ve chosen to stretch it all out a bit given that we are about to enter the holiday season. Admittedly, we did not grab ahold of this tradition when Abigail became a teen (and yes, this oversight has already been expressed to me by my dear daughter) but I always say better late than never.
And so tonight we kicked off our 13 days of celebration for Mr. Jonathan, who, in late December will officially become a teenager!!
Now….those of you young folks who are hard at work calculating when best to try for a baby, come close while I whisper a special secret in your ear, ok?? Listen carefully to what I have to tell you: The most inconvenient week in all the calendar year to celebrate a birthday is the week between Christmas and New Years. Since no one thought to share this little tidbit with us back when we were doing our family planning, our firstborn son’s birthday falls smack dab in between these two wildly popular holidays. Our hope this year is to wrap up this boy’s birthday revelry a full two weeks before the date of his birthday…with the intent that our celebration of Jonathan will hopefully feel a bit more purposeful than it’s ever felt before.
Earlier this evening, we took a family trip out to the Ballpark in Arlington where we were treated to a wonderful concert by Switchfoot. Wow, what a great show, and what a cool band. It was one of the more fun concerts I’ve ever been to — fabulous music, and lots of singing from everyone (including the audience!). My kids love Switchfoot, and I have always been ok with their music, but (for me, at least) there is something hugely significant about seeing someone perform in person as opposed to listening to their music on the radio. That, and the fact that lead singer Jon Foreman shared perhaps my all-time favorite quote ever (by CS Lewis) early in the show, and I was hooked.
Concerts don’t make for amazing photo-opps, but here are a few pics just the same. Per his wishes, I don’t take too many photos these days of my almost-teen, so I was glad he willingly posed for a few this evening.
Pre-concert stop at Steak and Shake to fuel up:
Gratuitous and fuzzy concert pic:
Oh, and a really cute brunch date, too!!
It’s been three years.
Three years ago today, after much soul-searching and prayer, much talking to and gleaning advice from others who have traveled the road to adoption, Jay and I sent in our first $50 payment and “pre-application” to Gladney to officially begin the adoption process. I think it’s safe to say that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! Well, maybe some idea…but the year and half long process we, and all the other families who applied with us anticipated (with good reason – because at that time 18 months was the outer edge of how long the process took) has come and gone. Twice.
So far, it’s been a three year pregnancy. A very unpredictable, emotional three year pregnancy. Admittedly, there have been and still are days when we wonder if, at the end of it all, there will be a little one. The ups and downs of international adoption, and Ethiopian adoption in particular these last few years have been many.
Shortly after we began the adoption process, Jay shared a poignant post on our family blog. I loved what he had to say – he has a gift for words, and he eloquently and earnestly shared our heart as we began our adoption journey. Remembering the way God so clearly and kindly laid a desire for a little girl we’d never met on both our hearts at the same time has been something that has sustained and encouraged us during these past three years. The only thing I’d change today about Jay’s wording is that we are now fairly certain that at the time he wrote this entry, our daughter-to-be was not yet born, as we’d assumed.
May God watch over and protect all the little ones around the world who wait for families to call their own.
Expecting (originally posted May 10, 2010)
Tricia and I are expecting. We are expecting a child to be part of our family soon, a little girl who is already born, whom we don’t know yet and is living a world away. We are expecting God to provide us the means to wrap our crazy family life around this little girl and surround her with love. We are expecting God to provide us with the finances necessary to make it all happen. We’re expecting a whole lot.
I don’t think we are presuming, in the pejorative sense of making demands of God, that he would align his will with ours. More on that in a moment.
In the fall of 2009, as I soaked up portions of Isaiah over and over, I came to an overwhelming conviction that I was to become a father to someone fatherless. This built up over months, and I did what any normal guy would do who has four children and a hectic life: I kept my mouth shut and hoped the building pressure of conviction would go away. It didn’t.
It turns out Tricia was experiencing her own version of this same conviction. For her, the sense of calling began building several months before I experienced it, but she too kept quiet, rightfully believing I would think she was crazy if she brought it up with me. A few days after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, as we contemplated the carnage and our family prayed nightly for the Haitians, we finally broke our silence.
It was a bizarre conversation. “I feel like I should tell you something.” “Well, I need to tell you something as well.” “Oh, you go first.” “No, you.” “I have this crazy idea that…” “Wait, for real?!? That’s what I was going to say!” “You’re kidding!” (Long, quiet pause.) ”Huh. Does that mean we actually have to do it?”
Jesus commands us to seek first his kingdom and leave the minor stuff like food, clothing, and shelter to him. As we came face to face with a call to adopt, we discovered we don’t have a clue what its like to actually trust Jesus and obey him in this way. There is so much wisdom that says we should count the cost, be a good steward, etc. Yet we realized that in the face of a clear calling, all of that stuff was simply applied to how we obeyed, not if we obeyed.
We wanted to make the cost (financial and emotional) the criteria by which we decided if we would adopt. But how can one claim to seek first the kingdom, if concerns about food, clothing, and shelter (and college, and retirement, and comfort, and vacations, and…) are the reason you don’t obey the call of God? We’ve had offers of advice regarding the pros versus the cons of adoption, but we honestly don’t need help in that regard. We can easily make a spreadsheet that has a far larger “cons” column. But none of the items in that overwhelming list are the kingdom of God. It gets hidden behind the noise of our concerns and comfort.
We have decided to try to obey, plain and simple. It has been a staggering effort, yet we are already seeing the fruit of God blessing us. For myself, I have seen my own heart change from simply desiring to have a heart like God’s that cares for orphans in their distress, to feeling like my family has a hole in it, waiting to be filled by my daughter who is not yet with us. I did not expect this… it has blown me away. I’m the guy who was content with three children, who deals with lots of chronic pain and fatigue, and who wasn’t looking for more complexity in life. Somehow the Lord is taking that weak vessel and filling it with love for a child I don’t even know yet.
Some friends from our church home group moved to Ethiopia last year to manage the in-country side of Gladney adoptions, so we have decided to follow where the Lord has provided. We have initiated the process to adopt through Gladney from Ethiopia. We are in the very early stages, so it could be a year or more before we bring home the newest Horne.
So for the time being, we are expecting.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
~~ Isaiah 58:6-12
This past Saturday marked 27 months for us on the wait list for Little Sister.
I might, just MIGHT be struggling with a bit of a bad attitude over how freakishly LONG it is taking for us to get a referral. It occurred to me last week that even if we get a referral tomorrow, that due to waits for court and embassy, and the need to make two trips over to Ethiopia after we accept a referral, Little Sister would not likely be home before our oldest, Miss Abigail starts her freshman year of high school in August. And for some reason, that milestone is hitting me hard. Maybe because Abigail has been known to ask somewhat incredulously during these past almost 3 years of our adoption process, “Mom, my little sister IS going to be home before I’m in high school….right?” And I would laugh and say glibly, “Of course she’ll be home before then, Honey!”
Except now…she probably won’t be home before then. And I feel anything but glib about it.
But, before this post descends into a negative pity-party…I feel it bears announcing that some friends of ours are actually in Ethiopia right now to pick up and bring their precious girl home. Seeing them at Gladney with their daughter in their arms does my heart a world of good, and reminds me why we are waiting, and encourages me again to be patient in that wait.
God used a multitude of things to stir my heart and Jay’s heart to consider adoption, and one of them was my old college friend, Walker’s and his wife, Missy’s adoption journey. I invite you to enjoy a peek into their day with Bethie and I’ll leave you with this:
Often, in the course of homeschooling, I learn things I somehow missed (or possibly, forgot!) in my earlier life’s education. Sometimes it might be a historical fact here or there, a reminder of a math rule or formula which, frankly, I’d just as soon have forgotten, or perhaps an amazing new animal factoid.
Usually such discoveries accompany study with one of the older children. But today I was delighted with a fascinating new story from, of all humble places, my first grader’s latest reader:
Well, hey, I hate to steal the excitement away from anyone else!
It’s all about a Mexican farmer who is plowing in his cornfield one day when he just happens to witness the birth of a new volcano. This volcano came to be known as Paracutin and it’s inception in 1943 was a huge shock to firstly, this farmer (it sorta ended up destroying his cornfield if you hadn’t already guessed) and ultimately to the people of the two towns which it engulfed.
The event was momentous enough that Paracutin eventually became known as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but, it turns out (and I also learned this today) that periodically, the current wonders become old hat and are voted off the island, and new wonders are voted in.
Regardless, I was surprised I hadn’t heard this story before, and after we finished the book, Josiah and I spent some time together exploring the web for pictures and more information about Paracutin, of which there is plenty.
I suppose if I were a really fabulous homeschooling Mama, the art/science project which would naturally flow, heheheh, out of this little reading/history lesson would be a project where Josiah gets to research and build and then of course ERUPT his very own volcano.
Hmmm…must think on that.
In between nursing all our flu patients, we did enjoy some sweet moments this past holiday. Here is a little recap in photos.
To the delight of the children, we put up our first “real” Christmas tree in many, many years.
Despite two of them being down with the flu on Christmas morning, we got a picture of all four…plus one doggie who was willing to pose. Sasha still had her cone on from her recent surgery and refused to sit for a photo.
The snow on Christmas day was gorgeous, what a treat to have a White Christmas in Texas! Some of us got out to play in the cold stuff…Abigail and Josiah even built a little snowman, complete with baby carrot nose!
When we were well enough, we enjoyed time with some of our presents
(Thank you, Nana for the jingle bell collars!)
Do you remember making these potholders when we were kids? He was so proud!
After people recovered from the flu, there was much merry-making!
And even cake for the two birthday kids.
This random photo doesn’t really have a place in the Christmas story, but I thought Hare E Potter holding his own carrot was absolutely blog-entry worthy!!
By January 6th, Jay felt well enough to crawl to the table for a few minutes. We enjoyed our Christmas ham and accompanying feast on Epiphany this year, but it was nice to finally sit down at the supper table with everyone present.
From our family to yours…