Tag Archives: Holidays

BitterSweet

As mid-June approaches my thoughts inevitably waver between memories charged with happiness, mourning, and a sense of gratefulness.  This is the time of year to celebrate fathers, and I had the wonderful gift of knowing my father for fourteen years.  You see, I can’t help but smile at the image of him conjured up in my mind; yet, I catch a slight frown at the feeling of his absence.   The loss of a parent, or someone dear, I believe is never entirely healed.  I wish he had lived longer.  How I would love just one more conversation!  I wish he could see me now.  I wish I could hug him.  I wonder what he would look like today as a man in his 70s.  It’s been over twenty years since he died and I still miss him terribly.

But this is not meant to be a “woe is me” sort of post.  I mentioned that I experience happiness and gratefulness as well during this season of Father’s Day.  His love established a strong foundation for me to journey through this crazy thing called life. A voracious reader, he impressed the habit onto me from my early years.  In the evening we would sit in the living room each holding a copy of the same novel and take turns reading it out loud.  Our first book together was Treasure Island.  We moved on to Wuthering Heights, and War of the Worlds. Even as I type this I grin at the vivid recollection.  I remember that his nightstand teetered precariously with the weight of books, and as I glance at my own nightstand cluttered with fiction and philosophy I see (with delight) that I am without question my father’s daughter.

As an adult I recognize a lot of his habits, interests, and even appearance echoed in my existence.  I gravitate towards the humanities and dabble in a bit of science.  He earned two undergraduate degrees: English and History with a minor in German, and then went on to graduate studies in History. My nose has a wee bit of a bend like his.  Indeed, every time I catch my reflection in the mirror at my unruly eyebrows, dark hair, and Polish features, I understand that I am not at all without him.

Recognizing his influence, be it in manners or genetics, pushes me in the direction of happiness and the realization that our brief time together was an absolute treasure.  This conclusion did not come easily.  In a recent talk at my alma mater high school for a scholarship dinner, I told the audience that scholarship is about falling in love with the world and it is also about rebellion.  For example, the thinker Mary Wollstonecraft argued for women’s education: it was evidence of a love of the world, and a rebellion against the prevailing opinion.

However, in order to fall in love with the world support is essential.  When my father died I exhibited anger at the world.  I retreated.  I did not want to participate.  What did it matter?  Fortunately, my teachers pulled me out of that dark disposition, and they exercised an incredible amount of patience.  My grades plummeted for a good couple of years.  Eventually, with their encouragement, I found a way to fall in love with the world and embrace education.  This transition required me to view the beauty of my relationship with my father instead of harboring a resentment over his unexpected passing.

Let me end with this: I think it is okay to be sad and to even be angry for a while about loss.  I think it would be bizarre and unhealthy to seek out a quick solution, after all, I’m still quite attuned to the loss even though it has been over two decades.  But, despite this, the sentiment comes because love is so powerful.  That is, it is because of the relationship nurtured by my father, this good man, that the loss felt so cutting.  I don’t know how else to describe it. I do know that I can’t be angry.

Thus, in the spirit of celebrating fathers, I do join in and cheer!  He is present in my memory, in my way of doings things, and in the way I participate in the world.  He was a gift.  That is the joy and the reason for me to celebrate.

One of my favorite photos of us.

One of my favorite photos of us.


How to Keep Your Mind Sharp Between Academic Terms

Your term papers, projects, and final exams are complete!  It is time to relax, catch up with friends, and spend time with family over the break.  But, just as an athlete in off-season continues to train, you too can find ways to keep your mind sharp between academic terms.  Have fun and stay engaged in thinking.  I am not suggesting strenuous activity because you will need time to re-boot your brain; however, do consider small ways to use what you have learned and do something interesting to reinforce/ practice your studies.

Here are some suggestions:

1. If you are studying a second language try renting a film in that language.

2. Purchase a booklet of logic puzzles.

3. Visit some cultural hot spots such as museums or arboretums in your area.  In Southern California, for example, you could take a day to explore The Griffith Observatory, The Getty Museum, LACMA, Balboa Park.

4. And last but not least, pick up a book!  Here are some non-fiction recommendations:

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

(For the math majors) The Man Who Loved Only Numbers. The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth by Paul Hoffman.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

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Holiday Health Tips: How to Keep Your Fat Jeans in the Closet

*This is a guest blog by Elizabeth McQuitty. 

Elizabeth McQuitty is from Dallas and currently lives in Southern California. Her undergraduate degree is in Kinesiology from Texas A&M. She is a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness.  (I highly recommend her.  She tortured trained me 🙂  Elizabeth knows how to create a workout plan to inspire you, keep you healthy, and on track towards your fitness goals.)  

Elizabeth is also graduating from Fuller Theological Seminary in June 2013 with a Master of Divinity.    


Holiday Health Tips:

You might be feeling like staving off unwanted weight gain is a lost cause because between the Halloween candy and the Thanksgiving 4500[1], you have already pulled out your fat jeans for the season.  You have concluded that you might as well let loose and be happy because come January 1, the elliptical at the gym is going to slap you in the not-so-jolly-anymore-gut when you begin your New Year’s resolution to be slim enough to shelve your fat jeans until the next holiday season.

But what if you could avoid such unpleasantries?  The reality: Christmas is four weeks away and a lot more damage can be done.   So why not do what you can to stay in the jeans you actually like and enjoy the season as it comes?  Here are a few things you can do:

1.  Be strategic.  Magical holiday foods served at a plethora of the season’s parties become our temptress.  Especially the cookies!  Oh, those scrumptious, devilish little cookies!  Before you go to a party, make sure to eat a snack so that you are less likely to eat everything in sight when you get there.

Some snack ideas pre-party: shoot for about 200 calories, and choose foods that have a high volume for the fewest calories such as carrots, tomatoes, celery dipped in hummus, 1/2 serving of nuts with a piece of fruit, apple with 1tbsp of peanut butter, 100 calorie bag of popcorn, protein bar.

Also, do not hang out by the food table at the party.  If you do, you will graze, and grazing will force me to have to coin the term “the Holiday Party 4500.”  Don’t make me do that.

2.  Stay active.  Even if you can’t make it to the gym, know that shopping, cleaning, cooking, and a host of other holiday related tasks actually burn calories.  Think of those calories when you sit down to eat.  Just like a work out, you don’t want to off set your hard work by over consuming at mealtime.  So don’t let all of those hard burned calories from vacuuming and running up and down the aisles at target go to waist (pun intended) either.  If this doesn’t apply to you because you aren’t active in the first place, see number three.

3.  Get active.  Moving is a good thing! Try parking in the far lot at the mall, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, doing lunges in your living room during commercial breaks, or taking a walk on your lunch break at work.   Be creative in finding ways to get active.  Your waistline will thank you later.

4.  Get in the mental game.  Studies show that most people only gain about 1 pound during the holidays, as opposed to the 7-10 pounds we have been hearing in years past.  Therefore, you have no excuse to gain a ton of weight during the holidays because you think, “that’s just what people do.”  No.  In fact, people don’t do that, and neither should you.

5.  Enjoy yourself.  The holidays are often stressful and induce sleepless nights.  This kind of stress also promotes weight gain.  If you let yourself enjoy the food (in moderation), stay active, and do your best to get enough sleep and enjoy the people you are (theoretically) excited to be with this Christmas season, that elliptical might not be so evil come 2013 after all.


[1] I once heard that Americans consume an average of 4500 calories on Thanksgiving Day.  That’s right, 4500.  I didn’t bother to fact check that, but let’s be honest, we all know most of us over eat on Thanksgiving to some degree.



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