The Platinum Rule

Everybody’s heard of “The Golden Rule:”

Image courtesy of Sebile Akcan via Stock.xchng

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

It is a concept that has existed forever, but I read somewhere that it was Jesus who turned it on this positive angle. Everybody else– Confucius, the Greek philosophers– couched it in opposite terms:

Don’t treat anyone the way you don’t want to be treated.

It was “the law of reciprocity” and contained a rude (underdeveloped) sort of empathy. Sort of like another admonition I read on a twitter profile:

Be gentle with others. Everyone is fighting a secret battle.

All of these build on the idea that we know our own needs and that there is a commonality to our race (we’re all human) that allows us to recognize (from our own experience) what others would value and/or fear.

The frustrating thing about conclusions is that they are fully dependent on the assumptions that lead to them.

Even the Golden Rule.

I have been told more than once that I’m not like most people, and Jay had that great line last week, “You are a square in a world of circles. You come at things from such a *completely* different angle nobody else sees.”

The man wasn’t being critical or complementary. I think bewildered is the best word. It’s nice not to be the only confused one. And nice to be accepted, even “off center.”

So when I assume that others are like me, that they value and desire the same things– I can get in trouble.

For one thing, other people “golden-ruling” me really are trying hard, and I shouldn’t get offended when it doesn’t fit, and what I give other people (because it’s what I would have wanted) can land completely wrong.

So I think the level-to-aspire-to is The Platinum Rule:

Treat others the way they want to be treated.

Image courtesy of Sara Haj-Hassan via stock.xchng

By necessity this requires knowing the other person well enough to make a reasonable guess, but it also requires the presence of mind to apply what you know.

Many people I know (and I include myself in this category) are just plain-nice people. They’re not in the habit of doing unkind things, and I can’t think of situations where they would be deliberately hurtful to anyone.

But some of these people have hurt me.

And I have hurt some of them.

Here’s one specific example, going both ways– it relates (as I see it) to the way we process information differently. Continue reading »

Weight Therapy #8: Motivation

There is a joke (that I don’t agree with) that goes like this:

Heart Attack on a Plate!
(Image courtesy of arrowp via stock.xchng)

Did you laugh? Yeah. I don’t think it’s funny either.

Here’s another not-funny one:

Depression in a Box!
(Image courtesy of allergyfre via stock.xchg)

Thing is, even if you’re not ready to accept the growing link between sugar/grains and mental disturbance, I have noticed readable changes in moods after eating stuff like that.  So I don’t play with fire.

I was depressed for two years. I’ve only been back to “normal” for a few months, and I’m still learning what normal means after two years of ‘not being myself’. If I can keep that scarey stuff at arm’s length by paying attention to my food?

I’m motivated.

Continue reading »

Weight Therapy #7: Engage Your Imagination

I think imagination is perhaps the most under-used tool in the modern world.

I have a few ways I try to engage the power of imagination in training my habits.


Image courtesy of Byron Solomon via stock.xchng

This may be less effective for those of you who love all foods and they all love you back, but most people I know have foods they return to even though they aren’t satisfying or actually are negative.

I’ll actually play a whole memory in my head: yes I love the texture, the warmth, the flavor; I may even get a bit of enjoyment out of the memory, but then I’ve got the conclusion of that lump of cornbread hanging out in my belly way. too. long.

Sorry if that’s too weird for you, but the point is your body has a very good memory, and you can use that to your benefit.

Play Pretend

Try these on for size: Picky Toddler and Bank Teller 

Picky Toddler

Most of you reading this have children, and those who don’t have doubtless seen that “comedy” staple where a hapless parent (or other caregiver) is pitted against a resolute toddler whose compressed lips clearly communicate You shall not pass.

When I think of how I went a long. time. as a child without eating lunch (because I wouldn’t eat peanut butter or tuna fish), when I see those little lips pressed together, I’m reminded that I am the only person who decides what goes between my lips.

And that hunger hasn’t killed anybody I know.

If this is all you have the strength for: just avoid the first bite.

I don’t know about you, but I do much better with absolutes. If I’m having no. grains. at. all., saying no to the GF brownies is a lot easier.  If I can justify one bite, I can justify a whole brownie, and I’m so logical I can move from a single brownie to more than that.

Bank Teller

No matter how poor an honest bank teller is, she doesn’t pocket the money she’s handling.

Why? It belongs to someone else. It’s not hers.

This is how we can prepare and share food that isn’t on our HEP (healthy eating plan) with minimal temptation to ourselves.

It requires a mental shift. A level of seriousness that means we’ve committed. We can know what’s not ours.

After my major, unignorable reaction to food at a birthday party last October, I decided I was done with gluten. The reaction was clearly not in my head. Living with gluten-intolerance wasn’t about other people’s comfort level anymore. It was about my safety, and now that was going to trump others’ discomfort.

I continued to buy store-bread and “convenience” food for my family, but no matter how many times I made them something, I never took a nibble.

Made experimenting with Atkins surprisingly easy, btw. Most of what we find “tempting” is highly processed things quickly available when we have a surge of hunger. Since there are fewer GF things that meet that description, I had an easier time managing my environment.


Ultimately this comes down to honesty.

Be honest with yourself. (And if something always makes you sick, your body could be trying to tell you something.)

Picture your goals.

This is kinda hard for a lot of us, because we’re afraid to aim to high, but try it any way. The original Protein Power book includes a mathematical formula for determining your (as in you, the person doing the math) lean body mass.

From there is is easy to extrapolate your own personal weight range, based on healthy body-fat levels for your age and gender.

This is freeing because it removes the super-unrealistic from play.

For example, I’m 5’4″. According to the BMI chart I could weigh 110-140 lbs and still be in the “normal” range. But my best (and temporarily successful) bid for a size-six body did not get me close to 110. And I haven’t been that small since I was 14.

Doing the math, I narrowed that range to 130-139 lbs.  Talk about freeing!

But it also allows me to be ambitious if I want to.  I have a range to work within for my goal, and it is a healthy choice, no self-abuse involved.

Having lived there three years ago, I know what I like about it. I have a favorite dress I’m looking forward to wearing again. And I use my imagination, my memory of the first time I tried it on and was thrilled about how it fit and how it looked.

How I looked.

I liked it. I’m looking forward to that.

Imagination is a tool. Learn how to use it.

Weight Therapy #3: Manage Your Environment: pick your battles

There are two main sides of this:

  • create distance between you and poor choices
  • make the right choices easier/more accessible

Thinking about those two options may give you your own ideas of what you need. (And here are my examples.)

I create my distance by closing doors.

Image courtesy of Nicolas Raymond via

It wasn’t till my first serious  effort to lose weight (summer of ’09) that I realized I have a very poor record when it comes to shutting things. Cupboard doors, chip bags, cracker boxes. And I made the corresponding observation that the easier it was to graze (take a bite here or there), the more I did it.

There were two ways I dealt with this back when I was a 30 and a normal American with Doritos on my shelves.

  • Closing things as soon as I was done with them (made it harder to lie to myself about it being “nothing.” You don’t open a bag for “nothing.”)
  • Pre-portioning a single serving for the week of anything I liked to graze, and taking it out of my HEP allotment before I even started the week
    • This way my “just one chip” a couple times a day was always legit.
      • And this may genuinely matter less to a taller person, but at a bit under 5’4″ I find precision is better than the opposite

Now that my HEP doesn’t allow for gluten-containing things like Doritos, I’ve learned that grazing is not a compulsion. I genuinely have no problem walking by the open bag of pretzels (Just don’t wave it. Please.). And the cool thing about learning this is how it can make saying no to other things seem more in reach.

That said, when simply feeling good about making good decisions ceases to be motivating I’ve still found the best thing I can do to reenforce my good intentions is to close doors.

Get things out of sight.

I made tater-tots for my kids. Trying to get a few of those “fun mom” points. Then the taters sat out to cool. And there were left-overs. And I ate a few, even though I don’t actually like potatoes that much.

They were out, crunchy, grabbable and I was reminded: Get it put away.

I refuse to label mis-eating as Sin. Some Christians do label. I think it’s one of the gray areas covered by grace and up to the individual’s conscience.

That said, I still think the Biblical admonition applies.  We are told to flee temptation.

I don’t think this means running out of the kitchen (necessarily), but I think it firmly presses home the fact that we aren’t required to keep things hard for ourselves, just to prove how tough we are.

Managing your environment means make it easy for yourself.

Especially if you’re the mom, you’re probably choosing what foods come into the house in the first place.

This is no kind of contest where the person who holds out the longest gets a free desert.

Allow your self-discipline training wheels at home.

This is a long ride. Try not to wear yourself out just as you’re getting started.

More Doesn’t Keep Being More

Image courtesy of Claudio Jule via stock.xchng

In contrast to the popular saying,

Money can’t buy happiness

there is this study that shows a fairly tight correlation between money and a lot of good things. (Here’s another eye-opening view, if you go in prepared for anger and crass language.)

I liked reading about this study when it came out, because I’d always thought along the lines that money has got to simplify a LOT of things and how most of the “simple freebies” that are cozy and fuzzy-edged in any story aren’t so accessible.

I mean, I do those things, and they’re not necessarily cheap and accessible.

  • Musical instruments you actually *want* to play are a pretty penny.
  • Pets/animals take work and money.
  • Craft supplies that are enjoyable to use usually can’t be found at the thrift store
  • Even simple “hanging out” with friends involves cost to someone– either in transportation, food, or entertainment.

Free is really less common than storytelling will admit.

It is this common sense awareness of increased money = improved life that gets us into trouble.

When we see, Oh, more money is better life, we don’t see that topping out– until it does.

This is why you don’t see movies about poor people realizing their two jobs plus night school are eating away at their family life and just. not. worth it.

It’s the rich executive or the workaholic mom who have to choose family over acquiring even-greater wealth.

~ ~ ~

All that to say that we educated types have the same relationship with information.

Continue reading »

Weight Therapy #1: Saying No to Self

G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, pointed out that sometimes the reason we don’t know where to start talking about a big subject is because it possible to start anywhere.

Sticking to a healthy lifestyle appears to be one of those topics.

Leaving aside what a Healthy Eating Plan looks like (for now), I want to talk about my first tools for maintaining that HEP.

*First of all, it’s best if you remove the word “cheat” from your vocabulary.* Even if your HEP of choice uses it.

I’m pretty open about how I see words affecting our thoughts and behavior, and if you are the sort to “cheat” a lot, you’ll eventually see yourself as  “cheater” and that just doesn’t help your persistence factor.

Instead, think of it as your level of “strictness” as you retrain your approach to food.

You’re not “cheating” when you sleep in on the weekend, you’re just being less-strict with yourself.

Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero via stock.xchng

Here’s something I just learned recently: our self-esteem, the way we see ourselves, is strengthened in proportion to the number of times we say no to ourselves.

Think about how you feel when you pass up the cake or ice cream at the birthday party. You feel good about yourself, don’t you? You feel relieved, maybe, and in-control.

Your self-esteem actually went up a notch.

Believe it or not, for the first two weeks back on my HEP that little up-tick was all I needed to stay focused. I still looked longingly at “the good stuff” and felt the urge to consume, but every time I said no to myself I was rewarded with this little surge of Yes! I am the boss of me!

The other thing that helped me say no to the birthday cake (because after all, yummy stuff feels pretty good, too) was asking, Is this [indulgence] worth waiting to reach my goal?

And very few birthday cakes are worth that, really.

I’m calling this series Weight Therapy , because it seems like everything I read about good choices or about motivation loops back around and applies again here.

Because this is where I’m living, and that’s the way my brain makes everything useful.

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 13): Life is working. Even though it’s Work.

So, to follow-up after that peaceful, grateful post about Rest, I realized it’s been a long time since I made a list of the stuff I’m engaged in. When it turned out to be seven distinct items, and I realized it was Friday, I knew I needed to jump back to Jen’s 7 Quick Takes Friday this week.

Here’s my “life activity list” the list in roughly the order of time consumed:

~ 1 ~

Managing the food.

It still feels weird to say this takes the most time.

I think this is because– judging by our stories: novels, movies, anecdotes among friends– food is invisible.  It just happens. I wish I lived in that sort of house/body. But I don’t.)

~ 2 ~

Managing the household and extras

Technically this ties back into the food, since food makes dishes.

Basically anything I have to wash clean or put away, along with the animals and outdoor work.

Now that the snow’s melted I am discovering all sorts of new work…

And honestly, it’s a toss-up about whether #1 or #2 takes more time.

~ 3 ~

Teaching the kids.

Reading, writing and arithmetic are the emphasis, but we also read novels along with books of science, history and whatever else strikes our fancy.

As I have more energy I also hope to do more management-training (items from the previous categories).  Currently I do most of that stuff because the *extra* required to get someone else into doing certain jobs is the extra I don’t have.

~ 4 ~

On-line Stuff.

Reading and writing and listening to music on-line (YouTube). Keeping up with some TV shows on Hulu (Castle, Bones, and Body of Proof).

~ 5 ~

Off-Line Stuff

Reading and writing and listening to music not-on-line.

My current goal is to swap these last two categories in terms of time.

I’ve had a surge of progress on my 2010 NaNo novel, and taken on a reading challenge that has forced me to look hard at what and why I read. I hope it will inform what I write.

~ 6 ~

Fiber work

On the edges of my life (and usually away from home).

I have the knitting I do a couple hours every Sunday morning (during the sermon and Sunday school), and the hand-spinning I do when I’m going to be semi-on-display. Continue reading »

Teaching Writing to Children

So I’ve had two moms in the last month ask me (as a homeschooling mom and a writer), how is it I teach my children to write.

I’ll get back to you on that in 15 years or so.  When I actually know how it is they learned.

In the meantime, I’ll share the philosophy and materials I work from.

Now, I am fairly fluent in writing.  But I never liked to write as a kid. (I hope that encourages anyone who is in despair over her child’s abhorrence.) My understanding of teaching writing was first influenced by Donald Davis’s book, Writing as a Second Language

I never finished it, but the title and what I did read set my mind in a direction it had never been before: to see writing as a completely different animal than speaking or reading. Which I believe it is.

This sense of something different was solidified and put into a usable/applicable for when I read the introduction to Susan Bauer’s Writing With Ease.  In that book she points out that when we teach writing we are expecting the student to learn, not one but, four separate skills.

  1. Generating ideas. Content that will be conveyed.
  2. Translating those ideas into words
  3. Holding those words in mind while they are transferred to print
  4. The physical act of writing them down.

When you have a child resistant to “writing,” a good first step is looking for where in this chain the process is breaking down.

The first book (Writing as a Second Language) encourages “rehearsing” stories in one’s “first” language (speech) before ever taking them to the paper.  In Classical learning this is referred to as narration.  In its simplest (and most accessible) form, narration is simply answering questions in complete sentences.

The words children create in response to questions (for example, about something they just heard read aloud) may not seem particularly original, but certainly at the beginning originality is not the teacher’s goal.  You are working specifically on the second part of the process: creating words that make sense.

This is why the “complete sentences” part is important.  The child is learning sentence structure by example.

Where did God place the man he created?

In the garden.

Can you say that in a complete sentence?  You can use the same words I did.

God placed the man he created in the garden.

In fact, by getting in the habit of using the words he hears to re-frame the answer, the student is practicing #3 along with #2.

With my girls I use the workbooks Bauer developed to accompany the text I read at first.

The workbooks are not essential, but they replace the planning that I would otherwise have to do myself, and so I find them *absolutely* worth the $20-30 they set me back. (Not forgetting that I can use them for each of my kids if I continue in this method.  Copyright permission clears each book for an entire (single) family’s use.)

The other resource I’ve found useful is the English worktext put out by the same publisher we buy our math curriculum from– BJU Press.  Natasha isn’t using it this year, but did last year, and I was impressed with how systematically it worked through the basics in her 2nd-grade text.

She wrote her first personal essay last year, following the step-by-step instructions as guided by the curriculum.  She couldn’t hardly get through a sentence without a giggly-happy squeal of “I’m writing!” Because it’s a big deal to her to be like Mama.

And there’s the motivating bit about enjoying writing, or words, or Story, yourself.

Kids learn what’s “normal” through observation.  If they regularly see you writing (or reading, or singing or dancing) and enjoying it, finding value in it, that will increase its value in their eyes.

My children may not see it (writing) as important as I do, but between reading and writing, I have what I want most for my kids at this stage in their learning: they are not afraid of language.

Yes, Natasha learned to read without really trying, but, as we guessed in that blog post, the “different minds working differently” means we weren’t surprised when our other two were (are) different in their learning to read.

The wonderful thing is that the younger two– for whom reading is a harder slog– are enough in love with Story that they are not driven away from all print by their hard road.  I’ve known kids (it made me sad) who had no interest in stories because they were too much of a reminder of their struggle.

Elisha and Melody are both so wired for story they’ve got steps #1 & #2 just *nailed.*  Even #3 isn’t that far away.  So, as a rule, I encourage storytelling, and have them practice their letters, either with tracers or copywork.  They get to advance (grow in strength) in all the steps, even if they aren’t doing them all self directed yet.

We have plenty of time.  And especially with their prolific storytelling and spontaneous narration, I expect a time will come when they’ll want to record their visions to hang on to.

At least, that’s what happened to me.

You know what’s delicious?

Going through a list of personal interests/roles/priorities (this resource was what prompted the inventory) and firming which ones are just for me.

All mine.

Only and completely for my own enjoyment of life, and nothing to do with what anybody else thinks.

This is a big deal because it means if I’m happy, the task is successfully completed.

For the first time I realized that for me this is guitar and piano.

Previously when I’d try and go through the process of making a schedule (Always beginning with a list of everything I’d like to fit into my life) I’d include the “good” stuff I knew a disciplined me would do everyday with intent. That meant music practice (along with bible-reading, prayer and cooking), and even writing it down would leave a sour taste in my mouth. The reminder of something else I must not want enough ’cause I can’t make it happen.

If I’m really going to go out of my way to do a creative something every. day. I want it to be writing!

What Amy (different Amy, not me) suggests instead is a step back, to first define the roles you have, and draw tasks from those roles.  It is, I suppose, a way of looking at priorities, but in a specific way.

For me, God, Jay, kids, house, is *way* too generic a list.

By saying the activities/jobs that are tagged under each role, I am able to break things into smaller chunks– but not so small that “musician” could make the list.  She limits you to seven roles (blanks on the worksheet, anyway) so *everything* isn’t included.

And I was able (because of her very specific insistence) to include self in those roles.  Once I saw music as an activity I did to become my best self, not a goal of it’s own, I felt instantly freer.  For the first time I saw that every time I dink around (and get a little better, and show my kids music is play and a delight), I’ve done enough.  With very. few. exceptions I have no need to perfect any one song for outside consumption.

Another bonus was seeing my list of “jobs” (what I want to do to become the best I can be) in my wife role, were basically covered by fulfilling a couple of the remaining roles on my list: home-managing and teaching the children.  These are the big things (I asked!) that make my husband feel loved and that he has a peaceful home/happy family.

So I’m recommending Amy’s (short!) book on time management.  Short reason: it’s about knowing where you want to go, and making small steps toward that every day.  It’s moving beyond wishing to living.

And that is delicious.

What if this isn’t something you get over?

What if this is something God’s giving you to wrestle with your whole life?

Here is, to me, the biggest part of Christian community: individuals who are safe (as opposed to, you know, unsafe.), and have earned the right to be heard. I know this woman loves me. She genuinely desires peace and good things for me.  So a hard suggestion like that is not painful.

In fact it was perfect, because whether or not it proves to be accurate it provided the necessary re-framing I needed to lighten up.

I’ve been treating my emotional health as something like a sprint: The goal’s not far away: the harder I push, the sooner I’ll reach it!

So I read, and think, and self-analyze, and look for the right book, or bible study, or counselor. And I see real improvement, and I can feel myself getting stronger and that just encourages me to dig in harder, I’m so close!

And then find new things I need to work on.


I don’t know if I’m going to fight this my whole life (naturally I hope not), but I can see the wisdom in in treating it as a marathon and not a sprint.

The most effective teaching seems to be about slowing down. And not just about but some reasonable suggestions how. That’s been my missing link.

Not only does the shift in perspective encourage a more-thoughtful approach to how I divide my time, it also lightens the pressure on each new thing I approach or try.  This does not have to fix everything. This can be appreciated for what it is, not just how far it advances my goals.

And doesn’t that sound more sane?