Archive for October, 2010

On Viewing Life in Technicolor: You learn something every day, it is said. Sometimes it’s a bit of trivia; sometimes it’s a philosophy-altering revelation.

When Dan and Jodi Kuball walk down the street these days, acquaintances pass right by without a nod.  Nobody is snubbing them, it’s just hard to recognize the pair following a weight loss of 148 pounds for Dan and 105 for Jodi.  The transformation is a source of amazement for friends and neighbors, and for loved ones, a cause for celebration.  

I am a friend and a neighbor.  I am also a constructor of pedestals, and this bright, accomplished, conscientious, kind, family-oriented couple had earned one of my loftier perches.  So when I approached them about writing an inspirational piece on the secrets of their weight loss success, I was sucker punched speechless by Jodi’s announcement that she and Dan had both undergone gastric bypass surgery – a method that scared me silly. 

My fear and distrust was based not only on the horror stories the press likes to spotlight but also on a documentary I once saw featuring a twenty-nine year old bypass patient who now ate only a half a jelly on white bread sandwich, and half a snack-size bag of Cheetos, and a half a Hostess Twinkie for her lunch.  For me, her example condemned the procedure as a forced weight-loss involving no substantial change in health habits and no sense of personal responsibility. 

Then there was the member of my church family who recently lost a sister to complications from bypass surgery, and whose R.N. friend had responded to that news by  saying, “Oh, I wish she had asked me about it first.  We’re killing people with this method.”  Pretty dramatic arguments against what seemed like a physically traumatic resolution to a behavioral problem. 

“What do I do now?” I thought when I realized my moral dilemma.  “Just follow through with the interview and keep an open mind,” I heard myself answer. 

Some things are black and white.  The bible is one example; this, believers know.  From that foundation there arises a long list of things that are concretely good or bad; evil or benevolent; right or wrong; God-pleasing or capable of breaking God’s heart. 

But in living our lives in a God-pleasing way, some decisions aren’t as clear-cut as they first seem.  Dan and Jodi’s experience raises the question, is gastric bypass for weight loss a social issue with a static negative or positive value, or is it one of many possible solutions to a multifaceted problem?  Tracing the path to their decision should help answer that question. (more…)

October 30, 2010 at 7:30 pm 1 comment

Balance: It’s Not Just a Clever Name for Margarine

Courtesy of

An aesthetically pleasing integration of elements.”  That’s Merriam Webster’s Definition Number Six-A for the term “balance.”  Number Five-B reads, “Equipoise between contrasting, opposing, or interacting elements.”  As I take my midday walk, I ponder how God’s nature offers up stunning examples of both definitions:  the nip of the chill autumn air against my cheek vs. the rich warmth of the seasonal colors enveloping me;  the bright pumpkin orange that pops up in farm fields, on doorsteps, and in countless harvest-time displays, countering the beige blandness of spent garden foliage. 

And then there is the more practical definition Number Three, “A counterbalancing force or influence,” as in the invigorating effect of fall crispness that causes us to step livelier, to really throw ourselves into those raking and bagging chores, but which also blesses us with the perfect conditions for a good, sound sleep at the end of our day’s efforts. 

This thought trail leads me to the deduction that good health is one of the natural world’s most profound examples of physical equilibrium, and that maintaining it presents some special challenges as the air turns cold and allergens like ragweed, mold, and dust mites join forces with flu and cold germs to begin their annual assault on our immune systems. 

Apples, oranges, pears; fiber-rich oatmeal, barley, and beans; yogurt, tea, pumpkin seeds; beef, selenium-rich pork, sweet potatoes; a 45-minute walk, a positive outlook, and that good night’s sleep.  These are all helpful wellness-promoting weapons to stow in your personal immunity-boosting arsenal.

As far as diet goes, a little research brought up some enticing cool-weather combinations to make stoking the immune system’s engine seem more like comfort than cure.  Some people tweet, I tweak – recipes, that is, to suit my goals of low-fat, high fiber, nutritionally dense fare, which I now offer to you.  May you find each to be “an aesthetically pleasing integration of elements.” 

For starters, Sweet Potato Soup With Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and a warm loaf of Date-Studded Honey Oat Quick Bread.   For the main course, Ginger and Orange Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Warm Apple and Lentil Salad.  And with so many naturally sweet ingredients worked into the menu, no dessert required.  Just a cup of steaming hot green tea to lock up that immune-defense storehouse of yours.  (more…)

October 21, 2010 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment

Momisms and Popisms: Stuff Other People’s Parents Told Them

   A few weeks ago I posted a sampling of quotes I recall from growing up with a dad who was full of good information, and I asked for feedback from others who remember tidbits from their own childhoods.  I am enough of an inveterate divulger to remain astonished that not everyone leaps to share their personal experiences with the world at large.  But the smattering of responses I got, while small in number, were gems with no need of polishing.  Some are telling anecdotes that encapsulate a general philosophy and others, small snippets that might be stitched onto cloth and hung on the wall.

The invitation to contribute to this exchange still stands.  To grease the hinges on the vault door to your own memory archives, consider these offerings from fellow readers:

From my cousin … “Oooh, this advice [see 9/6/10 posting] sounds so familiar… possibly because my father was your father’s brother.  But also I love the way fathers give quintessentially practical advice, so precious for its sensible, unemotional quality.  It is their way of loving…and it truly helps you through life, for it stays with you.”

From a friend who knew me when … “For our 40th anniversary, our oldest son put together a DVD for us with pictures of my husband, Bobby, and me when we met, and of our early parenting years, along with recordings from old reel-to-reel tapes.  I cried happy tears as I heard my babies’ voices, plus those of my mom and dad, and even my beloved sheepdog, Pookie; voices gone from us for many years. 

“Two outstanding quotes from my mother were, ‘Did you learn to cook yet?’ and ‘You take care of Bobby and he’ll take care of you.’”

 From a fellow parishioner … “I recently found a card with this quote, in with a bunch of photos and such from my mother’s belongings.  I wish I had adopted this advice long ago but it has always been a weakness (part of the sin thing).  ‘The Art of Governing the Tongue, a quote from Benjamin Franklin:  The mouth of a wise man is in his heart.  The heart of a fool is in his mouth.’

“There are a lot of good things we could have learned from our parents, if we had only had our ears open and our mouths shut.”

And another jewel, from Ecclesiastes 7:5, on using discernment in who you listen to … “It is better to be criticized by a wise man than to be praised by a fool.” 

From a family friend whose father was in the Navy with my father … “Dad would say to me, ‘Well, I think we’ve learned something here, and nobody was killed!’, anytime a big lesson was learned or whenever some kind of momentous calamity occurred – and I caused more than my share. 

“For example, when I was around ten, I had a chemistry set and somewhere, I don’t remember where, I came up with the recipe for black (more…)

October 12, 2010 at 11:04 pm Leave a comment

Fall Reflections: Gratitude Revisited

   Walking in the park last weekend, I captured a sensory snapshot of a glorious fall scene: A burst of cranberry red and pear-gold tree tops creates a feathery mesh filter for marshmallow cream clouds, shrugging in slow motion across a backdrop of purest cerulean blue. And if that weren’t effusion enough, I look past the clouds to see a pale, ghostly white moon still haunting the late morning sky. Incredible. Makes one grateful to be a part of creation. 

I had been thinking about the topic of gratitude anyway, and how I wanted to address the subject this week. Although of all those who boast absolutely no justification for piety, chief among them would be me, I did recognize, even as a child, that I had much to be grateful for – from the abundance of super market offerings to laying down to sleep in a comfortable bed under a sound roof, with a father and mother just steps away for whom my welfare was a major concern. 

As an adult I have tried, with the faltering success of one who has never known hunger or hardship first-hand, to truly appreciate the privileged lifestyle to which we in this country have access. Just last week I had caught myself mentally grousing about some trifle, and consciously redirected my attention to the nicely warmed stream spurting out of the shower head at me. “Thank you, Lord, for clean, pure water,” I corrected myself. 

Then on Friday, as our Bosnian dinner guests share recollections of the loss and deprivation they have known, Mirsada coincidentally tells of offering up her gratitude for a recent shower because it reminded her of the days when violence and terror displaced her from her bomb-ravaged family home to a huge holding facility for war refugees, and baths and food were in meager supply. The substance of my own gratitude for a plenty I have always known deflates by comparison. 

But on this evening, we can share a bountiful meal and our combined thanks, so I pull out the Fiesta Ware and try to come up with a menu that this couples’ two thoroughly Western children will enjoy. Jenny, the oldest, is blessed to be immersed in her parents’ heritage, and her American-born younger brother will likely hear enough of their struggles to grow to understand the perspective that gives his parents a unique brand of gratefulness.

On this night, we are all grateful to to partake of the plenty which, by God’s grace, still exists in our society. A huge batch of homemade macaroni and cheese ( satisfies the youngsters. For everybody, Simplified Oven-Fried Chicken seems to appeal. And for a slightly more sophisticated take on things for the grown-ups, Whole-Wheat Linguine with Spinach and Fresh Tomatoes; Brussels Sprouts with Sausage, Craisins, and Pine Nuts, Baked Squash Gratin, Brandied Roasted Apple Slices, and a nice loaf of buttered, oven-warmed multi-grain bread. 

To cover all age-ranges, dessert is Chocolate Cupcakes Sandwiched with Butter Pecan Ice Cream and Smothered in Hot Fudge Sauce. Truly, gratitude comes naturally when the gifts of good food are wrapped in the company of good people. Do I hear an “Amen”? (more…)

October 6, 2010 at 10:51 pm 1 comment

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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© Sue Anne W. Kirkham and 2009-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Anne W. Kirkham and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.