Pope Francis - 8 Things You Probably Don't Know About Him

If you've been living in a cave this week, you might not know Pope Francis is in the U.S. for a few days. He's speaking to Congress as I write this.

Even non-Catholics seem to like him.  He's humble and welcoming.  He's not going to change Catholic doctrine, but he extends genuine love and compassion to all.  Here are some facts about him you might not know.

www.nbcnews.com 4B9064227-130919-pope-francis-1205p 

1.  As a young man, he had part of one lung removed due to an infection.

2.  While in college, he worked as a bouncer in a bar to pay for his studies.  This makes me chuckle.

3.  He has a Master's degree in Chemistry. Our daughter has a degree in Chemistry too, so she says this kind of makes them buds.

4.  He was given a Harley-Davidson motorcycle after blessing bike riders in St. Peter's square.  He sold it at an auction that benefited the homeless. Very cool.

5.  As an Archbishop, he washed and kissed the feet of AIDS patients in an Argentine hospice.

6.  He loves soccer, the tango, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

7.  He speaks four languages and understands eight.  Whoa!

8.  He's a cute little guy.  That's just my opinion.


Giving Up Carbs: Why It's a Grieving Process

In general, I gave up eating carbs in January of this year. I fought it for a long time. How can a Krispy Kreme doughnut be that harmful? The thing melts in your mouth and is down the hatch in less than two minutes.

Then I developed joint issues and muscle issues and weight issues, and my nutritionist said, "It's time. Carbs are not your friend. They convert to sugar, which is not your friend either." I have to admit, I had come to a place in my life where I was miserable enough to change my diet. That seems to be the only way we Americans do it. We have to suffer before we change.

So, I ditched bread and crackers and rice and pasta. And then most desserts (because most of them are carb-y: cakes, pie, cookies.) Then I got depressed. What the heck am I going to EAT?!?!??!

My nutritionist knew. She directed me to the produce section of the grocery store. Hmmm. I wasn't totally unfamiliar with it. I liked salads. But, given the choice of a salad, or a sandwich - with bread - well, you can imagine.

For about two months, I was sad about this sacrifice, and I didn't really know why. It's all just food. It wasn't like I was starving. But, the deprivation...it felt like I was in mourning. Which seemed a bit dramatic for just a diet change, but it eventually came to me.

There are emotions and memories attached to food.

Oprah has talked about her own struggle with this, but I never experienced it until I gave up carbs. It's not only the doughnut I'm missing, it's the fun/love/surprise/excitement/community attachment to the doughnut. Think about this:

1. The first hard, crunchy thing many of us eat is a
Cheerio. We start out with a gloppy form of rice cereal, then usually a banana. But, the Cheerio is a giant leap into things we're going to chew. Even with no teeth.  Not only is it tasty, it's fun to play with. It rolls around, and it sticks to a moist little finger. Once we can handle Cheerios, they become our traveling companions. Mom packs 'em up for every outing. I occasionally find a stray Cheerio in a pew at church.

2. Before too long, Gold Fish crackers enter the scene. Yummy little carbs with tiny smiles on their orange faces. They become a regular staple as well.

3. Next, the carb star that enters our lives forever: Macaroni and cheese! What human on the planet did not grow up with mac and cheese?! My mom made it from scratch, but my kids grew up with Kraft in the blue box. Paula Deen has a gourmet version, as does Ina Garten. Once we discover mac and cheese, carbs our part of our DNA.

4. Which brings us to pasta. The first semi-fancy restaurant I fell in love with was Olive Garden. First dates, homecoming, prom. Fettuccine Alfredo, rotini, cavatappi, bow ties, even wagon wheels. Spaghetti, of course, but all those fun shapes! I had to try them all to see if they tasted different. Pasta satisfies like nothing else. And if that's not enough...bread sticks!!! Painted with garlic butter. Carb coma.

5. Pizza. If it hasn't passed our lips by the time we're five, we must be living in a third world country. Pizza is always the quick go-to with company, youth group, or birthdays. For several years, when our three kids were young, we had pizza every Tuesday night simply because Little Caesar's had a deal on Tuesdays - buy one, get one free. Pizza, pizza.

6. Cake. Throughout our entire lives, cakes carry celebratory significance. They mark many milestones: birthdays, the end of Little League/Soccer/Pee Wee basketball seasons, graduations, anniversaries, promotions, and farewells. Wedding cakes are so big they have to be carried by two people or rolled in on a table. Across the nation, cakes are a part of church suppers, bake sales, and are frequent gifts for a new neighbor or an ailing one. Bundt cakes, Upside Down cakes, layer cakes, Dump cakes. So many memories.

7. Homemade bread. For those who enjoyed baking, making bread from scratch made a comeback in the 70's. With the invention of counter top bread machines, non-bakers joined this carb overload movement. We discovered new recipes using earthy grains like quinoa, rolled oats, oat bran, and buckwheat. Our family favorite is whole wheat dinner rolls, painted with honey butter. Our daughter is the master at making these.

It's no wonder we are attached to carbs. They (not cotton) are the fabric of our lives. Carbs are woven into our first crunchy bite, early road trips, family dinners, sleepovers, copious high school adventures, romantic adolescent exposure to fine dining, and every celebration of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Never, for any celebration, have I ever heard, "Let's all share a cabbage."

No wonder veggies are not our first choice. No wonder we have to learn to choose them. All the fun, exciting, adventurous things in life are linked with bread and cake. The inhumanity of it all.

So...many of us find ourselves (often in mid-life) having to retrain the tummy and the brain, but most of all, the heart. Because we love our carbs, we love what they have meant to us, where they have taken us, this life-long journey hand in hand with dough. We're leaving a relationship, and it's heart-breaking.

Once I understood it, I had to grieve a bit. Over time, it got easier to walk away, because the carbs had become abusive. They were turning on me, making my joints swell, my fat fatter and my bloat bloatier. I decided I wanted better health over carbs. It's a choice I have to made daily.

I still have a cupcake on occasion, or a dinner roll at Thanksgiving, but the bulk of my diet is now produce. I've learned to love bok choy, butternut squash, roasted beets, and kale chips. I'm in a new relationship, with the produce aisle, and it's quite satisfying.

If you've discovered carbs are not your friend either, you're not alone. Be gentle with yourself while you break up with the bread sticks. Shed a few tears, and then walk away with your head held high.

And don't look back. There's probably a Krispy Kreme shop in the rear view mirror.

Follow my journey with fibro/RA and how I got better here: 






Why Moms Can't be Sick on Picture Day

In the fall of 1988, I had a terrible case of strep throat. Besides the razor blade sore throat, I had a fever and a headache that kept me in bed for a few days. I wanted to die. If not for Alexander Fleming and his penicillin discovery, I think I might have.

I vividly remember this week because it was picture day at school for our fourth grade daughter, and I had to pass off the morning "getting her ready" duties to my husband, who was scooting to work the minute she was on her way to school.

Let me just say up front, my husband's a good guy. That needs to be clear. Because when you see the harvest from picture day, you'll think he walks through life with half a brain cell.

I have to back track a bit...the previous year, for Halloween, our daughter was a skeleton. You'll see why I share this with you in a moment. I painted all the bones in black onto a white sweat shirt and sweat pants. It was a cute get-up, and our girl loved it. In fact, over time, this costume became her P.J.s because the sweats were soft and cozy as the weather turned chilly.

More back info...our daughter often had a single French braid because yours truly loved braiding her thick auburn hair. Our girl could not have cared less what her hair looked like. She favored a quick pony tail; anything to get it out of her way so she could climb trees and tear around with her brothers. But, if mom wanted to braid her hair, fine. Whatever. (To this day, our girl allows me to play with her hair. She's cool that way.) If she slept in her braid, we had a fuzzy mess in the morning, but no biggie, we'd undo the braid, wash it or wet it, comb it out and start over. More fun playing with hair.

Back to picture day.

I can't begin to tell you.

Just see for yourself.

Clearly, yesterday was braid day, and somebody didn't notice the child was heading off to school in her P.J.s. 

I can only imagine what the photographer was thinking: Is this kid homeless? Does she not own a comb? What's with all the bones? 

Did not one teacher (at the time, all women) take this child aside and brush her hair out? Did they really think this was the look we wanted on picture day? Thank God I spelled 'clavicle' correctly. It will be forever immortalized in this picture.

Twenty-seven years later, I can only laugh (howl, really) at this photograph. It's representative of a phase in our life when we had three kids that were in too many activities, and Dad didn't notice his beautiful daughter, on that morning, resembled a scarecrow.

Grade school pictures are often, years later, good for a chuckle, but this one...when I came across it yesterday, I laughed until tears were running down my face. 

Across the nation, school pictures will be taken soon. Let this be a cautionary tale to moms everywhere.


Dear Grandson, Meet Cal Ripken, Jr.

We recently learned our preborn, first grandchild is a boy! It was hard to tell in his first photograph. He just looked like a tornado.

But, now we know. So, we're thinking blue and Tonka trucks and Spiderman underwear. Who-hoo!

That tiny tornado of energy is now about the size of an apple. Or maybe a baseball. I could hold him in one hand, if he was here already, which I'm glad he's not, because he still has growing to do. So, I'll wait. In the meantime, I'll write him a letter:

Dearest grandson!  

I wanted you to know I'm making you a quilt. Something to keep you warm and cozy on chilly nights and something soft to lay on once you begin to rest on your tummy and practice lifting your head, which will feel like a bowling ball when you first start. You'll bang your nose against the floor while you're getting the hang of it, so you need a soft quilt under you.

There's a theme with this quilt, as you can see. Someone who is already smitten with you (your dad) loves baseball, so I suspect you will hear a lot about it as you grow up. See this fabric here, with the blue baseball gloves? I made a quilt for your dad with some of that same fabric, so you will have matching quilts, kind of. His is worn out because he likes it so much and has used it a lot. I hope you like yours too. If not, your dad may snag it. 

In the many tales of baseball you will hear from your dad growing up, one will be about a very honorable player named Cal Ripken, Jr. He played 2,632 baseball games in a row. He never missed a game during 16 seasons of major league baseball. This broke a record in baseball, because the last number of games a player had played in a row (his name was Lou) was 2,131. So, Cal was celebrated and highly praised for coming to work every day and working hard to play 2,632 games of baseball in a row. Your dad will undoubtedly tell you about Cal Ripken, Jr. (Click here for video of Ripken's record breaking moment: RIPKEN'S 2131)

I'm telling you a bit about Cal, because how he played baseball taught us all some lessons about life. Sometimes it's very tempting not to work hard, even though you have promised to do so. You will meet people in life who will look for an easy way around work. You will meet people who will say they are going to do something, and then they don't. Cal didn't do that. He was a man of his word. He showed up at the ball field every work day and did was he was expected to do. 

Cal Jr. got a lot of attention for playing 2,632 games of baseball in row, but when he was asked about it, he always responded that he was just doing his job. He didn't think going to his job every day and working hard was anything exceptional. He was humble about his dedication and his commitment. He was a responsible, honorable ball player. And many young kids (and grown ups too) really admired him. He showed us all what a good man looks like.

I know your mom and dad will teach you how to be an honorable boy/young man, too. They will help you learn how to work hard, how to do things you don't want to do, and keep the promises you make. They are good at doing those things themselves, so you are blessed to have good examples.

But, in case you don't pay attention...Cal Ripken, Jr. is a good guy to read about and learn some life lessons from. You might pick up a few tips about baseball, too. 

Waiting in the dugout to meet you.

Love, Granny/Nana/Lulu/Mimi/Maybe-I'll-let-you-name-me.

Earlier letters to the babe:
Letter #2 
Letter #1


We Have a Warrior God

I saw "War Room" this past weekend with friends, and it inspired me to become more disciplined about praying for loved ones. Here's my review.

This movie is produced by the Kendrick brothers, the writers who gave us "Facing the Giants," "Fireproof," and "Courage." I've seen all these movies, and the messages are always good and on target. However, the actors (not well-knowns, other than Kirk Cameron) have not been stellar, and this always trips me up a bit.

I understand that Affirm Pictures (the Kendrick brothers company) is a small outfit. (Hollywood doesn't, in general, produce movies with a Christian message.) But, I support them. I'm going to see every movie they produce, because that's how they will grow and bring in revenue and at some point draw the bigger names. I get that making movies is about money. I hate it, but I get it.

Having said that, I loved "War Room." It's the best yet from the Kendrick brothers. The actress who plays the leading character, Elizabeth, is very good and the 10-year old daughter, Danielle, is played by the most beautiful child I think I've ever seen on screen. Miss Clara, the elderly star (although the actress who plays her is much younger) is a firecracker of fun. Good role models, all these female characters.

The 'war room' is a closet in Miss Clara's house where she prays - and fights for - her loved ones. The ones who aren't interested in God, the ones who openly mock Him, the ones who don't know they need Him, the ones who don't want to need Him, and the ones who love Him and try to serve Him, but keep messing up. Don't we all fall into one of those categories? The 'war room' is where Miss Clara, on her knees, cries out to God to fight for her loved ones.

It's a beautiful premise, God fighting for us. Fighting for us in this dirty world where we are so easily swayed by beauty and money and pleasure and power. We are like sheep, blindly following what the world offers, thinking we must get our share. We then cling to it like it's going to last - which it isn't.

We can be so deceived.

The husband in "War Room" is Tony, a successful business man, who gets everything he wants professionally. But, then, due to worldly temptations, he loses it all. He gets too big for his britches (scripture calls that pride) and soon all he has are a praying wife and a sweet daughter, who then teaches him how to double-dutch jump rope because he has nothing else to do.

Seeing the guy humbled and on his knees before God....whew...it's a powerful scene. (And very attractive. If men understood how attractive a praying man is, they would seek God and get His guidance every day. Women want Godly men.)

The movie has a satisfying ending, not perfect, but satisfying. Like life - we don't get everything we want, but we get enough.

The message of the movie is that God is a warrior on our behalf. He will fight our battles, if we ask him to. He is bigger than our self-reliance and our fear. He's bigger than our weaknesses and our addictions and our vices. He is paramount to healthy relationships (we really don't know how to love one another without His influence.) With a mighty sword, He will fight on our behalf.

He can slay all our dragons, if we ask Him to. And then get out of the way. Because things are going to fall.

Check out "War Room" and see if you aren't inspired to call on God as a warrior in your life.

(p.s. This post is not sponsored by the Kendrick brothers. They don't even know I exist.)