Friday, May 29, 2015

My Time Don't Fly

Yesterday was our last teacher workday. My school year is officially over. For the last couple weeks, I've been hearing all sorts of students and parents and staff members saying things like, "Can you believe the year is over already? It went so fast! It feels like just yesterday was September. Doesn't it feel like just yesterday was September?"

And I have to say -- no. Not at all.

I don't often have that sensation that so many people speak of that time is passing so quickly. And I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

I can't say that it seems like yesterday when my kids were tiny. No, it seems like ten or fifteen years ago -- which it was.

I don't honestly feel like I should be twenty-five years old. Or thirty. No, I feel like I should be about forty-six -- which I am. Now, I don't feel like I should be as fat and tired as I am at forty-six, but that's a different issue. I DO feel like I should be as old as I am. I've done a lot of living. (And I hope I have a lot more living to do.)

I believe I commented last year on my 25th wedding anniversary that I feel like I've been married 25 years. A full 25. No more, no less. (Well, by now it's almost 26.)

And I don't think this school year has gone by quickly. It feels like it took about nine months. Just right.

I suppose I should feel grateful that it doesn't seems like the year took a decade. Or should I? That remark would have the connotation that it dragged . . . that it was boring, or miserable, or difficult . . . but it doesn't necessarily have to mean that, does it? We say, "This was a long day," and we are usually implying that it was a difficult one as well. But I've had many "long days" that were actually quite enjoyable. And shouldn't I be grateful for God packing as much joy and experience into a day as possible? Or into a school year? Or a lifetime?

When I have friends lamenting how fast time is going, or how quickly their kids are growing up, or how they can't be as old as they really are, part of me feels sad for them. I mean, truth is, a lot of people just say that as small talk; it's kind of The Thing To Say in certain situations. But if they really feel like the time has passed that quickly, that's a shame. It almost seems to imply to me that they haven't really savored it as they experienced it.

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I got when my girls were babies was to enjoy the moment. "Don't spend all your time thinking that you can't wait until they're sleeping through the night -- or until they're out of diapers -- or until they're in school -- or until this or that. There are challenges at every age and in every developmental stage, but there are also wonderful blessings. If you waste your time longing for the blessings of the next stage, you miss all the blessings of this one."

I think I have followed that advice, for the most part. I'm sure there were days when the girls were tiny that I forgot to look for the blessings (mothering, honestly, doesn't come naturally to me, I don't think; I struggled a lot in those younger years). But I feel like I lived every year of my life and experienced everything God put in my path to experience. I don't want to go back. I want to go forward.

And speaking of going forward, I'm already planning lessons for next year in my head at night. I'm a freak like that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

On Prescriptions and Chocolate and Quinoa

Part of the problem with being sick . . . (and for those who have been following this, yes, I'm feeling a little better, but I'm still coughing more than I should. The allergist said I tested negative for all local allergens. He also said that he and many people he's been seeing in his office for the last month have had this kind of bronchitis that lasts for weeks and won't go away. The fact that this is how I always react to a cold he, like me, suspects might be related to my sleep issues -- which I'm taking up with my doctor in my general check-up sometime soon. Nevertheless . . . )

Part of the problem with being sick is that I end up spending a lot of time at Target waiting for prescriptions to be filled for me. (I still haven't figured out why it takes them quite so long to fill a prescription. When I give them the little piece of paper, they immediately go to their drug stash and find the big bottle of that substance to make sure they have it, and it's in their hand when they tell me, "It'll be about twenty minutes, okay?" How can it take them twenty minutes to move pills from one bottle to another, print a label, and tape it on? Whatever . . . )

The reason it's a problem is because my wandering the aisles of Target to kill time is a bad idea. Particularly because the pharmacy is right next to the extensive candy section. (Who planned that? Seriously. We'll put all the stuff we sell to make you healthy right next to the stuff we sell that is the biggest culprit in making you so sick. If I was inclined to such thinking, I'd see a conspiracy lurking in there . . . )

This is even more of a problem when I am sick with a cough, because for the bulk of this illness, the only time I didn't cough or have the powerful urge to cough was when I was sleeping or eating -- which meant I wanted to sleep and eat all day long. (Again, this is improving. Thank you for your concern.)

So, I would turn around from the pharmacy counter, trying valiantly to stifle my never-ending cough, with a monumental urge to EAT SOMETHING because it would calm my throat and lungs for just a little bit and give me a break . . . and there in front of me are the dark-chocolate-covered blueberries that are downright irresistible to me even in a healthy state. And I have nothing to do for twenty minutes.

Who can blame me for buying the chocolate blueberries and devouring the whole bag before I get my prescription? Nobody. Don't even try. Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.

However, on my last trip, I sucked it up and determined that if I was buying food, it was going to be something healthy. It was right before noon, so I looked for something I could take home and eat for lunch. (As I said, the cough's getting a little better, so the urge to eat IMMEDIATELY wasn't as strong.)

So, I wandered over to the frozen food section and found this meal: Amy's Light and Lean Quinoa and Black Beans with Butternut Squash and Chard. Hmm. I tried some quinoa once. It was okay. Black beans are okay. I like squash generally. Chard I've never had. I have no idea what drew me to this meal -- maybe the attractive photo on the box. (Having a husband in the food industry, I know the work that goes into those photos. Crazy.)

I bought the quinoa. I had it for lunch. Surprisingly tasty. I'm not sure if it was genuinely really good or if I had such low expectations that it didn't have far to rise to meet them. In any case, I bought another box the other day. We'll see if it satisfies again on my second try.

Because, as you'll recall, I'm trying to get rid of the white stuff. And apparently, quinoa doesn't count as white stuff. Boo yah. Go, Amy.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Old-Time Pentecostal Power

For all my Baptist and/or Evangelical friends, let me fill you in. Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. And last Sunday was Ascension Sunday. Yeah, that never meant much to me either.

And for my non-Christian friends, you may not realize the differences between the Christian denominations and how we practice our faith on Sundays. I grew up Southern Baptist. That means that a lot of the traditions that you may hear about from your Christian friends -- Advent, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Mardi Gras, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Christening, Confirmation -- never did those. Didn't even know what some of them were about for a long time.

But I'm now attending a Baptist church where the pastors wear robes and they follow the liturgical calendar. That means they have been wearing white . . . what do you call those things? stoles? . . . since Easter because it's been Eastertide (another new term for me) and yesterday they flipped those over to the red side in honor of the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost and birth of the Church (birth of the Church? I never thought of it that way, but yeah, I suppose it was).

The Lutheran Church we met in for our homeschool drama program in Sioux City did the color thing -- they had banners that they changed for the different "seasons" of the liturgical year (our church here does that, too). I merely found that interesting at the time. I'm now finding it more meaningful.

I decided I like the idea of having a Sunday set aside every year to remember the coming of the Holy Spirit. It's an important event. I mean, not as important as Jesus's birth (Christmas) and resurrection (Easter). But still worth pausing to celebrate.

I found myself wanting to sing an old song from my Baptist Hymnal I grew up with:

Lord, send the old time power -- 
The Pentecostal power!
That sinners be converted
And thy name glorified!

And then I found myself rankling at the term "converted." Some older Christian writers I've been reading use that term often, too, and I always rankle at it then, too. I'm not quite sure why. To talk about converting someone almost sounds offensive -- although it shouldn't, I'm sure. "Conversion" is what you do with measurements; you convert from miles to kilometers, from pounds to kilograms. It's changing from one thing to another. So, in our modern minds, conversion implies talking someone into changing from their religious beliefs to my religious beliefs. Proselytizing.

I don't know why we find that offensive these days. We have no problem trying to convert people's beliefs about a political party, or economic policy, or exercise habits, or purchasing choices . . . but religion is off-limits. We're not allowed to tell anyone that we think what they think about God is off-base. Forget that what they think about God is of much greater consequence than any other of their "thinks." Don't touch my religion.

But I think I don't like the term because it doesn't seem quite accurate. I mean, yes, the change I seek in people involves a change in beliefs. But more primarily, it involves a new relationship. It's about becoming acquainted with God. Once you're acquainted with Him, your beliefs about Him will necessarily change (just like we'd all -- Republican and Democrat alike -- think differently about Obama if we suddenly became personally and intimately acquainted with him). But the important thing is not thinking differently . . . or even behaving differently . . . it's relating differently.

And it's the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that allows us the opportunity to know God personally and intimately. So, yes, the event is worth celebrating once a year. The idea of being indwelled by the Spirit of God is another one that I didn't learn much about growing up. Praise God, I know about it now!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Death Is Where We Are Now

Someone posted this awesome article on Facebook this week, which I encourage you to click on and read here. But I want to summarize for you the points he made that really hit home with me.

See, we tend to think of death (and conversely, life) in a time perspective. We are living now; someday, death will happen to us; and then, if we're saved, we get "eternal life."

Only that's not quite right. I love the way this writer, J.D. Walt, puts it:

You see, death is not something that happens to us when we die. It’s something we carry around in our bodies that finally takes us down. Death is the disease we are born with and the one that will eventually kill us. 

Did you get that? We carry around death all the time. We are "in death" right now. It's not that we are going to die someday -- it's that we are in the process of dying from the moment we were born.

And it's that this is not how God made humanity in the first place. Do you remember what God told Adam and Eve about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? "When you eat from it, you will certainly die." Now, I've heard people make a big deal out of the fact that they didn't fall down dead the minute they chomped the fruit. That's not the point. Eating from that tree brought on the disease of death -- a disease that we all inherited from them. We will die. Before that, we apparently wouldn't have.

More than that, it's not even that we will physically die at some future point in time -- again, it's not a time thing. It's that we are not really "living" now.

Again, I love what Walt says about eternal life:

Eternal Life is not that portion of life that begins after we die. No, Eternal Life is the Person of Jesus Christ. Eternal Life means the restoration of human beings to God’s original intentions—i.e. like Jesus Christ. Eternal Life is a qualitative change, one dimension of which is the end of thinking about time as a quantitative reality. Eternal Life is the infusion of the very life of God into a human person. It has a durable nature of an unending quality. 

Eternal life is not about quantity of years; it's something qualitatively different from what we have now. It's something akin to what Adam and Eve had before the fall. It's what Jesus had after his resurrection. And it's not something we have to wait for until after we die. It's something Christ will start creating in us right now.

This is deep stuff. This is stuff that will roll around in my brain for months as it meshes with the other info in my brain and scripture I read and teaching I hear and life I live. When stuff like this jumps out at me, I get really excited to see what difference it's going to make in my life this time next year -- when I really understand it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

History Objectives -- Because They MATTER

Next year, I'm in charge of my daughter's history instruction. I could just buy a curriculum, but I know myself: I would get annoyed at what I don't like about it and only end up using about half of it, doing the rest myself anyway. I'm too frugal to spend my money on something I'm not going to use well.

Thus, my inclination is to come up with something myself. Cuz I'm one of those arrogant teaching types who always thinks she can do it better and that's just what I do.

So, as I'm considering next year, I'm doing the Good Teacher thing and starting with my objectives. What are the specific things I want my daughter to come out of her history class knowing and doing? (And may I pause and mention that the Good Teacher thing of establishing and teaching to OBJECTIVES is something that more teachers need to do? But I digress.)

And this is the rub for history, because there is so darn much to know!! I mean, history, people. It's been going on for a long, long time. A lot of stuff has happened. I can't expect her to learn it all! So, how do I narrow down to what, specifically, she needs to know to get "credit" for a "World History II" class at a high school level?

Well, for me, one of the first objectives would be that she can place major historical events on a general timeline. The industrial revolution happened in the 19th century (not in the Middle Ages). The Civil War happened in the 1860s (not in the 1680s, before the U.S. was even a country). World War 2 happened after World War 1 and the Great Depression and before the Cold War, and they all happened in the 20th century. That right there would put her ahead of much of the general population.

Secondly, I want her to be able to give a good general description of what those major historical events were about. Not every detail -- not a bunch of names and dates, necessarily -- but a decent-sized essay's worth of information explaining the important things about that event. Enough that, if the topic were to come up in conversation, she would be able to follow what someone is saying. Or if a show comes on TV about the event, she knows enough to be able to understand what's going on and fit new information from the show into the paradigm she already has.

Third, I want her to know the relationships between events. What connections might there have been between the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression? How were World War 1 and World War 2 similar and different? These discussions are important because this is where we learn the lessons from history that we need to apply to what's happening in the world today. (This is also where I feel the least knowledgeable, unfortunately . . . )

But the fourth goal is more elusive, at least for me. Actually, it's more time-consuming, mainly. You see, history is a story. When you read a good book about the real story of a historical event or historical figure -- or when you hear a great teacher who loves her subject telling the stories of a time period -- it comes ALIVE. It becomes fascinating! And I want my daughter to be fascinated by history. But as much as I enjoy history, I am not informed enough to be that great teacher, and while we will read books, I don't know if we will have time to read enough to really light that spark.

I'm thinking I will require her to pick at least two topics to really dig deep on. Get to know all the major characters. Look at all the details. She read Bill O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln this semester for her independent reading selection in English, and she said it was probably the best book she's ever read. I know that's because it met this fourth objective.

Is it weird that I love having these conversations with myself? What are my objectives . . . how will I meet them . . . man, I eat this stuff up.

Monday, May 18, 2015

My Grammar Curriculum . . . the One I Should Write

I shared a video on Facebook yesterday about a school in Atlanta called Ron Clark Academy. In the video, teachers are leading their students to sing and dance through their lessons . . . walking on the tables . . . stuff like that.

If I really felt the freedom to do it, that's how I would teach. Especially when I teach stuff I love, like grammar. I taught a K-2 grammar class in our co-op where we sang and did hand rhymes and played games. Those games and songs are why my daughters are grammar gurus like me -- why my eldest used to re-explain the grammar lessons to her classmates in high school who weren't getting it from the teachers' instruction.

I LOVE TEACHING GRAMMAR. That apparently makes me some kind of freak; it seems very few people like grammar. I love it. I love the labeling, the analyzing -- I love that there are right answers and I can figure it out. It appeals to many aspects of my personality as well as to my love of words.

I just recently had a conversation with our school's new principal and new academic dean about how I would change the teaching of grammar at my school. And it led me to come home and type up my ideas to give them. Because there are SO MANY THINGS I would change about how grammar is taught -- not just at our school, but pretty much everywhere.

Teach grammar through games. There are so many games -- like "The Minister's Cat" -- that are fun just in themselves but help a kid develop an inner sense of how language works. There are certain words you can use to describe the cat (those are adjectives), and there are other words that don't work. You have to understand in your gut the jobs that words are doing in a sentence before you can label them or analyze them.

Teach grammar through songs. And hand rhymes and chants. Anything rhythmic and easy to memorize. This year, I taught my 7th graders songs to remember the definitions of adjectives and adverbs ("Adverbs tell us how, where, when, or to what extent . . . "). When they needed to remember, I saw them mouthing the words to the song. If they had learned a song like that in 2nd grade, they wouldn't still be needing to mouth the words to themselves -- they would just know it.

Teach grammar through colors. In homeschool, we assigned certain marker colors to certain parts of speech and the girls wrote sentences on the whiteboard with different colors for every word. A visual aid to solidify in their minds what the words are doing in the sentence.

And teach grammar through other visual aids. I told my classes this year that modifiers (adjective, adverbs, prepositional phrases) are like sprinkles. Nouns and verbs are like ice cream and cones -- you have to have ice cream and a cone to make an ice cream cone. Sprinkles, on the other hand, are not required, but they add sparkle and flavor to the cone. You can sprinkle as many as you want on wherever you want them.

I want to write a grammar curriculum. Grammar is so easy to understand if it is taught well. Someday, when I have a reason to . . .

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hard Eucharisteo

I missed two days of blogging this week. That's because on those two days, I was sleeping in. I'm still sick. The only time I am not coughing (or fighting the urge to cough) is lying in bed in the morning, so it's very hard for me now to get up and do something and lose that precious time. I almost cried when I had to get up this morning to go teach. Fortunately, it's "finals week," and all I really have to do is sit and watch my students take tests. (Nice for me -- not as nice for them.)

To catch you up, I went back to the doctor yesterday. She gave me a prescription for Symbicort, another prescription for Singulair, and referred me to an allergist who can't see me until next Thursday afternoon. A lot of people have suggested this might be allergy related, so I guess that's the next step. But that doesn't ring true to me. This doesn't feel like allergies. I'm not optimistic.

I'm tired. I'm grumpy. I'm disappointed in myself for being such a wimp about this. On my last post, a friend whose child has Cystic Fibrosis commented, and I was reminded again what a wimp I am. Really, I would suck as a chronically-ill person. You know, those people who live with general pain and suffering daily and never complain and accomplish amazing things and you admire them and they show you the power of God through their lives? That would so NOT be me.

Lately, in my time sitting and talking to God, He seems to be trying to teach me about eucharisteo, a term I read about in Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. It basically means "giving thanks" -- but it's a way of living, a way of being. Not just praying over your meal, but walking through life seeing everything around you as a gift of love from a loving God.

For me, I'm realizing that eucharisteo also requires mindfulness, a rather "new-agey" term that has made me raise my eyebrows in the past. Basically, that means living in the moment, being right where you are. I tend to live in my brain almost more than I live in my body. I often have to force myself to stop and pay attention -- REAL attention -- to what is happening right around me. but when I do, I'm always more content with life.

The thing is, when I feel this lousy, I don't want to be mindful. And I don't want to be thankful. Well, actually, deep down, I want to be both; it's just that the battle is ten times harder.

I have no idea why this stupid cough is hanging on so long. But in my gut, I have a feeling that God wants me to use this miserable time for my spiritual growth, rather than slouch through like a whiny child. It's easy to practice eucharisteo when life is good; this -- being thankful in ALL things, when life sucks and things are hard -- this is, as Voskamp calls it, the hard eucharisteo

And doing it when it's not easy is when you're really doing it. And I really want to do it. Lord, help me do it.

Friday, May 8, 2015

IMHO: The Biggest Fix for Education

My eldest just told me that on one of her college-associated tests (ACT? CLEP? She couldn’t remember which), she had to write on this question: should high school be extended to five years instead of four? Well, that led to a lively discussion on our part.
She could see pros and cons. On the one hand, some students need more time to learn what they need to learn in high school and to mature enough to be ready for what follows. On the other hand, she wasn’t confident that they would simply be allowed more time; she suspected the powers-that-be would just add more to the load of what they were expected to learn.
Here is the root of the problem with our society’s system of schooling, in my humble opinion: it is bound by time restraints. It is no secret to anyone – teachers, administrators, parents, students, psychologists, educational researchers and experts – that students learn at different rates. One student learns at a different rate than another student. A student learns one subject at a different rate than he learns a second subject. And a student may learn at one rate at one time of life or stage of development and at a very different rate at another time of life or stage of development.

The time involved to learn is a constantly changing variable. But our system of schooling does not allow for such a variable.
In order for a teacher to teach something to a group of students, all of the students have to be at about the same place academically, ready to absorb this particular new skill or information. If that teacher is going to teach that same group of students over a stretch of time, then over that stretch of time, the whole group of students needs to remain in about the same place academically.
So for one teacher to teach a class of twenty second graders seven hours a day for nine months, that means that all twenty of those students have to be at about the same place academically – in every subject – and progress at about the same pace – in every subject – for nine months.
What a ridiculous expectation! No wonder so many students struggle . . . and so many others are bored. And so many teachers burn out.
In a recent discussion about a math class at our school, I made the suggestion that the teacher could slow down the pace, since all the students are struggling at the moment. “But then they would be behind,” was the response I got.
Behind what, exactly? Behind the arbitrary point in the typical math curriculum that every student in the country of this age group is expected to be at by the middle of April? Should that really be our goal?
Maybe it's the homeschooler in me, but I so want to free all of our students from those time restraints. I want to tell them, "The goal is to learn Algebra -- the full content of it, and to learn it well. It isn't important how you learn it. It isn't important when you learn it. If you could do nothing but Algebra in an online course for six weeks and get it down pat, great. If you stretch it out over two years, sitting with a private tutor twice a week but get it down, awesome. The goal is mastery of the material, however and whenever that happens for you."
But people are so afraid of their kids being "behind" the rest of the kids their age. What if -- gasp! -- they don't finish high school in four years? Well, what if they don't? What if they are a year older and more mature when they start college? What if they actually have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college when they start rather than having to fake and float and eventually fail when you're paying thousands of dollars for the education? What if they come out of high school knowing that they know something and not just that they worked a system to get a signed document that everyone seems to think means something (but they know it doesn't)? 
What's wrong with taking more time in high school? 
Frankly, if we would have this mindset in the earlier years, it might prevent a lot of kids in high school from having to worry about "graduating late." I have all sorts of thoughts for how elementary school could be done differently. Not being an elementary teacher, I hesitate to promote my ideas much, but I still have them.
Can we just stop with the race to adulthood and give our kids some time? I'm sure they'd thank us for it, and I think we'd all enjoy life so much more.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Coughing Without Hope

I am reminded again of the importance of hope because I'm in a situation where I find myself with little of it.

I have a cold. As I've written before, colds are not a minor thing for me. The cough hangs on for weeks and absolutely exhausts me to tears. Last time, the doctor gave me two inhalers and a cough suppressant and said, "NEXT time, hit it with all this from the get-go. Let's try to keep your lungs from ever getting irritated and inflamed from the beginning."

So, when this cold started a week and a half ago, that's what I did. I was optimistic the first few days -- surely with all these meds, it will just run the course of a regular cold. By last Friday, I was telling them at work that if I still felt this lousy through the weekend, I'd call the doctor on Monday.

(Sorry if the picture grosses you out
-- but it was so appropriate.)
I didn't make it to Monday. I got worse and worse on Saturday and was up much of the night coughing that night, so I went to Urgent Care on Sunday. They gave me two shots in the butt and a bottle of codeine. "That should do the trick. Call if it doesn't."

Nope. I nearly lost my voice yesterday trying to teach. I coughed so much through the faculty meeting after school yesterday, I had to leave twice. I'm exhausted. Lord knows, there are so many people in the world with so many worse health problems than this. I feel like a wimp complaining about a cough. But oh, my gosh . . . I'm so tired of coughing.

I made an appointment today at my primary doctor's office; he's not available, so I'm seeing his nurse practitioner. But I'm pessimistic now. I have little hope that they'll find anything to stop this cough.

That's almost the worst part of this: having no hope. I felt that many times when I was seeing doctor after doctor about my sleep problems -- nobody can help me. (My husband thinks, for the record, that my sleep problems may contribute to my long coughs. My sleep study a couple weeks ago said I didn't hardly get any stage 3 sleep, where your body regenerates itself.) Having trials and tribulations in your life is one thing; having trials and tribulations with no hope is quite another. That's the real rub. That's the end of it all.

Paul tells the Ephesians gentiles to remember that they were once "foreigners to the covenant of the promise, without hope and without God in the world." I'm coming to learn that hope is a tricky thing. "Hope" by itself is worthless . . . just like "faith." What makes hope potent is who or what you have hope in. It doesn't matter how much deep and optimistic hope for a solution to my illness I have if I have my hope in a preschooler with a toy doctor kit. It doesn't matter how tenacious my faith is if my faith is in my Self to get myself to heaven.

And thus my problem today. I don't have much faith or hope in this nurse practitioner. But I'm trying to have faith and hope in the Great Physician to give the guy some direction. And I keep praying that this trial won't be wasted. I assume there's a reason God allowed this -- He could easily have stopped it. Please don't let me have suffered through this miserable time without it having accomplished His purpose in my life, whatever that may be.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The White Stuff

One of the many perks of the great company my husband works for is the awesome health benefits. They pay for their higher-up executives to have this extensive, day-long medical examination, where they run all sorts of tests to assess their physical well-being. Last week, hubby had his meeting with the doctor to go over the results of all those tests, and they invited the spouse (that's me) to be there, too.

Among the things this doctor suggested for him -- and actually, US -- was, of course, changes in our diet. "Basically, you need to eliminate the white stuff: bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes. And of course, sugar. That goes without saying." Of course.

Eliminate the white stuff. Sounds easy, right? Just eliminate it. Eat something else.

Do you know how much of that "white stuff" we eat everyday?

Since that appointment last Wednesday, I've taken note. There is something from that category in every single meal we eat. Sometimes it is the primary item in that meal. We eat lots of pasta. Something bready is my usual breakfast. Rice, maybe not as much. But our dinner out last night at the eldest's workplace: burgers and fries. Bread and potatoes.

It is NOT that simple to just eliminate the white stuff from our diet.

And, of course, he talked about adding fruits and vegetables. "But not orange juice," he said. "That's practically just plain sugar."

Great. Orange juice is my COFFEE in the morning. How can you tell me to eliminate my orange juice?

I mean, eliminating the sugar is hard enough. I'm definitely a sugar and carb addict. I tried for a few months to limit myself to just eating sugary desserts on Saturdays. That way, I knew I was going to have one sometime, so when I said no, I wasn't saying no forever -- just until the end of the week. That worked pretty well for a while. But even that has been a failure lately. I just love sugar.

I KNOW I would feel better if I ate better. I KNOW I would feel better if I exercised regularly. Why don't I do it? Seriously -- why is it so hard for us to do the things we KNOW will make our lives better?

The comedian Brian Regan has a bit about the optometrist, and he talks about how great it is to see. "Why would 'immediately improve vision' not be on the top of our priority list?" he asks. Indeed -- why? Why would "increase energy level" not be there? Or "improve mood and attitude"? Why should "clean out the garage" and "pick up the dry cleaning" take priority to our daily well-being?

"For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do. . . I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do -- this I keep doing." Paul nailed us. Fallen humanity. And yet, we still live under the delusion that we're evolving . . . every day in every way we're getting better and better . . . the world is more just and righteous that it's ever been . . . we CAN pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and be a better us . . . we CAN be good enough to earn our way into heaven. Yes, we can!

Yeah, right. We can't even eliminate the white stuff.