Saturday, November 27, 2010

Perceptual Vigilance

When I was pregnant and Joel and I were shopping for strollers, all of a sudden, there seemed to be way more women pushing strollers on the streets of St. Catharines than ever before.

A lot of people like to create a sentence to help them remember the four letters in their license plate. For example, say your license plate started with ABCD, it could stand for "All Babies Cry Definitively" or something. As soon as Joel came up with a sentence for his license plate, I was seeing it EVERYWHERE. Every time I drove anywhere, I saw at least one vehicle with the same letters on its license plate as Joel's.

This is perceptual vigilance: notice something somewhere only to subsequently notice it everywhere. I have wondered about perceptual vigilance for years, and only today did I discover the term for this phenomenon.

This is so interesting. The topic of perceptual vigilance makes me wonder if I should manipulate it by going around trying to find nice, beautiful things or words or whatever, and notice them; make a really clear mental picture of them - talk about them - in the hopes of seeing more of these beautiful things or making more of these beautiful things happen. Perhaps that would make life a little sweeter?

When I was looking into this topic (I haven't done very much research yet; just enough to figure out the term and get a little background), I first stumbled upon a lot of web sites about these two, let's say, interesting ideas:

1) sites about happening upon sequences of numbers everywhere, and what it means (think of The Number 23 with Jim Carrey).
2) sites offering motivational self-help regarding the Law of Attraction (like The Secret by Rhonda Byrne). (Basically, the Law of Attraction states that you attract what you think about, so you should deliberately think about positive things and push negative thoughts out of your mind.)

So, does this mean that we can either accidentally or deliberately see or think about things and then see or get more of the same?

You might ask, "What about environment?"  I suppose a person's environment plays a huge role in this concept because if you are surrounded by great things, noticing and thinking about great things (and thus being positively influenced by them) should be easier. (This must be why Dale Carnegie encouraged people to surround themselves with successful people.) Similarly, those who live surrounded by poverty must find it harder to notice beautiful things. However, we all know that you can still think positive even when life dumps negativity on you (it's just way more challenging). Maybe that's the point. Perceptual vigilance will just happen, whether you try or not - whether it's intentional or unintentional. Maybe it's that simple? I wonder.

There's a lot more to be discussed about this - such as how God is reflected in this idea...which will have to wait for another blog post. Let me know your ideas and thoughts!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gluten Freedom

Hi. My name is Christina Durksen, and I'm a celiac.

OK. That sounds way worse than it actually is! I was inspired to write today about being gluten free because several people over the past few months have talked to me about taking gluten out of their houses, or have suspected people they know to be celiac. I thought I'd share my story and offer some encouragement.

To have celiac disease means that you cannot eat gluten (or else you could suffer quite the array of consequences...both immediate and eventual). It's an auto-immune disease, not an allergy. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and oats...although oats is a controversial one. This means you can't eat a lot of things.

I remember when I had the scope of my stomach/small intestine about four years ago, and then I was told by my gastroenterologist that I had to stop eating gluten. Even though my mom, sister and brother had been on a gluten-free diet for at least a year by that time, I was crushed.

I spent one last week binging on my favourite celiac nightmares: McChicken sandwich from McDonald's, chicken pitas from Pita Pit, Cheese Cappelletti from East Side Mario's, Cold Cut Trio from Subway...and then that was it. During my first shopping trip for gluten free foods, I almost cried in the grocery store. I remember violently throwing cans of soup back on the shelf because EVERY SINGLE ONE had some variation of wheat in it. The first loaf of gluten-free bread I bought tasted (and smelled) like Play Dough.

After a few little meltdowns that first week, I realized that my sister Danielle, who had been gluten-free well before me, had never complained about it. Well, if she could do this, then so could I.

Any time someone learns that I can't eat gluten, he or she says, "Oh my goodness. That sucks. I would never be able to do it. There are just way too many foods that I'd have to stop eating. Oh, man that sucks" or something like that.

OK. It kind of sucks. Danielle and I sometimes fantasize about what we'd eat if we could cheat on our diet. If Joel and I are out to eat, and he gets some kind of mouth-watering, warm baked bread, I smell it. OK, no, I inhale it. Believe it or not, just smelling something that has gluten in it is pretty satisfying. Pathetic, perhaps, but definitely satisfying. I can still remember what warm baked bread tastes like, and just the memory ignites a little euphoria in me.

Nevertheless, I haven't really found it too difficult to be gluten free. Every few months there seems to be something new out there that we discover we can eat. When Pizza Pizza came out with the gluten free crust, we were singing, "Hallelujah." When I realized we can eat the cheese sauce mix from Kraft Dinner boxes, just replacing the wheat noodles with rice ones, I Hoovered a huge bowlful down while still standing up in the kitchen (couldn't waste time walking to the table and sitting down.) One of my mothers-in-law bakes absolutely delectable gluten free food for me, like oatmeal chocolate cookies and lemon coconut squares. My other mother-in-law supplied me with THREE kinds of gluten-free pies for Thanksgiving this year (THREE!!!). Getting your hands on gluten free baking isn't as easy as running out to any given grocery store and getting an inexpensive box of cookies, so I don't eat a lot of it. Now: if you only eat cake maybe five or six times a year, you really appreciate that cake.

Life is pretty good. I don't feel robbed of any of life's enjoyments just because I can't eat gluten. We have ways. We know which stores carry the best gluten-free bread. We know where to get the best soup (yes, there is gluten-free tomato soup out there!). We know what brands of what things we can eat now, so shopping is a breeze. At weddings, instead of eating the pasta course, I drink another glass of wine. That's not so bad.

So I wondered about this: Why was I so crushed when I found out I had to stop eating gluten? Because when I stopped eating gluten, it wasn't that bad. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

I think that decisions and restrictions are much easier to deal with when you have no choice in the matter. In order to deal with the more obvious, sensory, physical temptations and difficulties of a decision/restriction/change, you have to reconcile your choice mentally first. If you tell yourself that you absolutely cannot change your mind - put up a wall instead of allowing yourself to rationalize excuses - then you can accept having made a tough choice. Ironically, there is a sort of freedom in having no choice. Then the blissful aroma of freshly-baked apple crisp is totally manageable. In fact, it's enjoyable.

If you would like to know more about celiac disease, is a great starting point. Link below.

Also, if you would like to know all the good places to go for gluten free food, message me through Facebook or e-mail me at

Friday, November 12, 2010

Serenity Now

God, grant me the serenity 
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

OK. Most people are aware of this famous prayer. I have been thinking lately about this...serenity. What to change, what not to change.... I have wondered often throughout my life about this.

I'm going to discuss personality traits here, although this obviously applies to circumstances and events, too. That would be a whole other blog post.

We all have personality characteristics that are what make us, us. I understand that to change your inherent self is counter-productive; to fight something that cannot change is like pounding your fist into a boulder and expecting it to crack open. I get that. In my case, I'm quite inquisitive, and a real talker. I'm always the last person to finish a meal because I'm talking more than eating. When I was a kid, my parents had to establish a rule when we were watching TV: "No questions until commercials". I don't think I could become really shy and also stop asking questions because I would be denying myself expression - how would I perpetuate? Everyone has traits like this; ones that ought not to change. They must be accepted.

I also understand that there are things that can, and in some cases, ought to change - for example, I tend to worry, and I know that worrying is counter-productive to a healthy self. Thus, I ought to change that.

However: sometimes there are traits and tendencies whose places in your life are difficult to judge. The line is too fine. What to change, what not to change...

How do you know the difference? How do you get the wisdom to know the difference?

OK - let me think of an example here. I'll use one of my own traits again.

What about...what about my need for order? When my house is neat and clean and free of clutter, I feel relaxed. When my house is not, I feel stressed. So the questions is: is that an okay thing? No need to change it? Or is that counter-productive to a healthy self - the whole getting stressed when things are cluttered? Is that really a cause for stress? Come on; there are a lot of other problems in life that are more worthy of stress than a house that needs dusting. So is this a negative or a positive trait? It seems that it could be either.

What if...what if, in some cases, it's not the trait itself that is something positive or negative to self, but how the trait is exercised? I mean, in the case of being a neat freak: sure, it's good to have a house in order, but to get stressed out about a few things lying around the living room (including a ton of baby things!) is kind of silly. If I were able to discipline myself to exercise this trait to my self's advantage: would that be serenity? I mean, a house free of clutter and no stress...equals a win/win? A state of repose?

Can there be variations within the things we ought to change/ought to keep the same so that wisdom is required to figure out how to modify the traits so that they inherently stay the same but don't become negative?

Hmmm....I wonder. Maybe.

P.S. See - a lot of questions :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Wonder of the Working Mother

I'm on month #7 of my maternity leave. I have 5 months to go. Yes, that's still a while, but I can't help but think a little, here and there, about going back to work.

By the time I go back to work, Emmett will be about 11 months old. What if he's not walking yet? What if I miss his first steps? What else will I miss? Right now, if I am away from Emmett even for a couple of hours, I miss him. What's it going to be like when I'm away from him for a whole day? Four or five days out of every seven? My heart sinks--a lot--when I think about that.

Anxiety started creeping into my gut as I started wondering how in the world would I be able to get enough quality time in with Emmett after work and on weekends, spend time with Joel, keep my house clean, get enough rest myself and have some time, here and there, to think/reset/recharge/destress. How? Is this even possible?

My thoughts then spread out to all of the wonderful women who I know that work and have children. You know who you are! There are varying degrees of this phenomenon, whether you work from home or out of the home, whether you work part time or full time, but either way, I can only imagine how challenging the life of a working mother must be. How? Is this even possible?

Here's a shout out to all of those wonderful working mothers. Don't be surprised if I call or message you about how you do it, how you get through the days, when I go back to work. I don't quite understand how someone can really do all of these things without frustration, stress, being tired, wishing that the eighth day of the week would please appear already, and then trying desperately to fit everything that would fit so much more comfortably in eight days, into the ritual seven that we were given. How? Is this even possible?

It's a wonder: the working mother. Working a full-time job, maintaining relationships and keeping a home is a challenge. Raising children, loving them, being there for them, protecting them, teaching them, training them, providing for them and fostering their passions is also a challenge. To put them together sticks a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye for the women who do this, a wave of emotion through my chest and the desperate clicking away of my brain to calculate a plan of how. How. How can I make this possible?

So far, from the perspective of a not-quite-working-mother-yet, I've come up with one solution. Through all of this I am reminded by a still, small voice that God is faithful. Always faithful. He gives us "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow." I can't help but choose to look forward to the next several years of my life as awesome years; probably very busy years, very tiring years, but awesome years nonetheless.

Both now and continually through the coming years, I wish all of you working mothers the BEST:

May God's faithfulness be your rock
The only rock that will never roll
May He lead you to green pastures and still waters
May He restore your soul
May His own dear presence cheer and guide you
Build up your self-control
Provide you with patience
For all the hard days
Remind you of His faithfulness
In all His loving ways.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness