Archive | Christmas/New Year’s/Holiday Meditations RSS feed for this section

Cheesecake Day!

29 Nov


This delicious cheesecake is sold at the bakery across from Carnegie Hall in New York City; it is Carnegie Deli cheesecake. The only place to buy it locally (fresh, never frozen) is at Route 58 Deli in Virginia Beach, our most famous Jewish deli.

I went there for a piece of this cheesecake once a month while losing my weight in 2012. I now go once every three weeks. It is my reward for staying on plan. I usually eat it in place of lunch, as it is immense.

And, yes, I count the points in my Weight Watchers tracker.

Today was fun as yesterday was not only Thanksgiving but the first day of Chanukah . . . It felt festive to be in a Jewish deli today!

I will follow this with a post on how my husband and I ate fruits and veggies for Thanksgiving yesterday and left Weight Watcher points on the table at day’s end . . .


Thanksgiving and Losing My Job!

28 Nov

Thanksgiving and Losing My Job!

Is Thanksgiving a sacrament? Is it still a sacrament when it falls on November 28 and you know that, on November 30, you will be losing your job?

Set out with me on this journey, as I have just undertaken it, never having done it before!

The contract I worked on for the Navy was rebid and, after much rather suspicious interplay between six or seven bidders, a new company got the contract, then promptly rehired mostly the members of a rival team we have worked with over the past four or five months. Our military commands merged over the summer, so they suddenly had duplicates for almost every civilian position on our contract. I can’t say I blame the new person in charge (from the rival company) for keeping his own people and letting us go . . . tribalism usually trumps just about everything else.

The reason I can say that and not grow bitter is not because the behavior of these companies was ethical. It certainly doesn’t pass the “smell test,” although I have nothing tangible to prove that it crossed any lines. Since the contract was subsequently contested, we will see whether the government comes up with anything tangible to prove unethical behavior. This is far beyond my paygrade at the moment!

No, the reason I can say that I am able to move on is because I serve a great God who has never let me down yet. He knew this was going to turn out this way and He let it. Since I am only 55 and at the peak of my health, ever, I know He still has some things for me to accomplish in this life. So it is up to me to find that next “something.” I am encouraged . . .

Meanwhile, I am seeing sacraments everywhere. I looked up the definition of “sacrament” and also read why denominations like Baptists (my own) do not use that word about ceremonies that occur in a church setting. Episcopalians have “sacraments” at church; we have “ordinances.”

That does not mean that Baptists don’t acknowledge the existence of sacraments. We just define them as things God does, while ordinances are things man does.

See the fine point of difference? And see why I can say my life is full of sacraments right now? God has done so much for me. God is doing so much for me. Often in the stillness, often in the silence, but I know His love and it surrounds me, always.

One sacrament is the very great blessing of being able to turn to cooking. In our land of abundance, even the very poorest can afford low cost raw ingredients to turn into wonderful, nutritious meals.

It is a blessing to live in the midst of abundance, to be able to afford that abundance, and to be able to turn that abundance into feasts.

This week alone I have built three feasts from scratch, two prior to Thanksgiving. Some people call that “clean eating” (the absence of prepackaged foods). I call it a sacrament and a delight.

It is warmth. It is creativity. It is beauty, visually, and in the tastes that emanate from my cooking.

I love it. And, in a world that may seem a bit out of control right now, that centers me.

Bless the Lord!

Enjoy the recipe for cornbread dressing, above. I changed it so much (because I had vastly different ingredients) that I will have to try it another time to see what it is really like!


A Change of Pace–Sharing a Paella Recipe!

25 Nov

A Change of Pace–Sharing a Paella Recipe!

Someone asked where I found my latest, most updated, best paella recipe so I promised to share this one I found on

Paella is of Spanish origin; I first ate it in Spain in 1982. My current recipe includes a good number of red pepper flakes in the rice, which makes it somewhat more Mexican (hot) in taste than the classic Spain version, which is “zesty” but with lighter spices and very little “heat.”

Along with saffron rice, paella has chicken, shrimp, and chorizo sausage; it sometimes has clams, in the shell, also.

My husband usually picks up French or New Orleans andouille sausage if he can’t find chorizo, which is the usual story in our nearby military commissary. It works just as well.

Now, for those who don’t like spicy food (usually half of every crowd invited over . . .) . . . that handy trend of “deconstructing” food works well here. I make one crockpot full of the full spice pepper flake paella, but I also deconstruct my paella into several other dishes as I cook it.

After I stir fry the chicken in onion and red pepper, I pull out a small bowl of chicken. Then I do the sausage and the shrimp the same way, pulling out small bowls of sausage and shrimp to the side.

I found a great use for those small fondue pots that sometimes come free with a crockpot purchase–I put some of the rice into a fondue pot before I add the red pepper flakes into the main crockpot.

Voila! The non-spice eating friend now has rice, three meats, and a bowl of peas (which are not called for in this particular paella recipe, but which I make separately, as I got used to eating peas with paella in Spain). She can build a non-spiced paella on her own plate.

I also serve a fruit platter, a salad (with nuts and croutons to the side to be added, as desired), and a plate of Jacobs cream crackers (British) with cheddar cheese slices to round out this meal.

And flan for dessert (with icecream for the kiddoes). But that will be a separate post . . .

Lockerbie and Me!

21 Oct

On 21 December, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland due to a bomb placed onboard which turned out to be of Libyan origin.  The bomb had been placed in Frankfort, Germany, where the flight originated, but did not blow up until the plane had landed in London and then had departed for New York City.  Everyone on the plane and eleven additional people on the ground died.  

On 22 December, 1988, I flew from Stuttgart, Germany to Birmingham, England, to visit my (then) fiance and his parents for Christmas.  

As I departed that morning, investigators were still combing through wreckage in Lockerbie, trying to determine what had happened to that flight.  They suspected terrorism, but were not sure.   

I was pretty scared.  I self-talked into a state of relative calmness by saying that terrorists probably would not hit two Germany to England flights two days in a row.  Or would they?  It was all very confusing and frightening.

As I was in the air on my flight, a change came over me.  The more I heard about the carnage on the ground in Scotland, the sicker I felt.  There were no cell phones back then, so I had to await television and the newspapers on the ground, but it soon became apparent that body parts from people on that flight were spread over about a 20-mile square area in Scotland.  I think some parts were never found.

I got a huge lump in my throat that lasted six months.  I could not even think of eating meat without feeling a gag reflex start to happen.  And so . . . I gave up meat for almost a year (Noel and I got married the following May and I may have eaten a small bit of meat at our rehearsal dinner–I think I never got food at the wedding reception at all as we were too busy talking to friends I had not seen in years).  

That was my sole venture into vegetarianism and I would say I did not choose it, it chose me.

It worked pretty well, especially as I had hired a friend’s mom to cook for me in Germany those last few months that I was single.  She did some tremendous vegetarian dishes. 

Now, in my 50’s, I am toying with the idea of intentionally going vegetarian.  It will be interesting to see how different it is now.  I predict it will be much easier now to find fruits, veggies, and grains that work together well without meat.

Actually, it is kind of an exciting adventure now.

That was never the case when contemplating the immensity of the loss at Lockerbie.  God help us!  

Our “Groupies”

20 Jan

Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Earlier this week, I jokingly called a group of friends who asked for a picture of me in a new dress to be posted on Facebook my “groupies.”

I hope these ladies (and some men) know how special they are and have been to me!  During the entire year of 2012, as I lost 100 pounds, these friends stood on the sidelines (or virtual sidelines on Facebook), cheering me on.

I know that I would have no life without my Lord Jesus Christ; I also realize that life is to be lived in community on this earth.

I have felt the palpable support of these cheerleader friends as I have walked the Weight Watchers path for the past 13 months.  Would I have been able to do it without them?  Possibly, but I wouldn’t have wanted to try it that way!

I now have the opportunity to coach several of them who began Weight Watchers this New Year’s Day.  I am having a blast being a cheerleader/coach and answering questions the best I can!

Everyone needs to belong to a community; everyone needs to feel she makes a difference, that her life is not lived in a vacuum nor lived in vain.

Thanks, my “groupies,” my cheerleaders.  You are precious to me!Image


100 Pounds in 2012!!!

12 Jan

100 Pounds in 2012!!!

This photograph shows my husband Noel and me on New Year’s Eve, 2013, following my 100 pound weight loss in 2012.

What follows is the text of my speech for the Weight Watchers openhouse on January 12, 2013:

Last year, by the grace of God and by the science of Weight Watchers, I lost 100 pounds. I am going to tell you a bit about me, then a bit about how I did it.

I am Mary Martin. I was a career naval officer for 27 years, first active duty, then reserve. I retired in 2009. In the later years, I started to put on some weight and always had to be “taped” as we called it (measured with a tape measure) rather than weighed when we did the semi-annual Physical Readiness Test.

Then the Navy tapped me in early 2008 to go to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for a year. As I was getting ready to deploy, I had a mammogram and we discovered early stage breast cancer. Needless to say, my deployment was cancelled. I spent 2008 going through surgery, then chemotherapy, then radiation for that cancer. My oncologist told me I would gain 20 pounds from the steroids she was giving me for nausea and, indeed, that was the case. After my year of treatment, I gained an additional 20 pounds after retirement.

And so it was that I started 2012 at right around 260 pounds. Here is my picture. I purposely brought this one as my before picture because Noel and I got it taken in December 2011 on the beach, knowing that I intended to lose weight in 2012. It was an intentional before picture.

I want to point out that I had on my red shoes and my pearls and that, standing next to my handsome husband, I was a beautiful woman, even at that weight. I say that because far too many of us will lose weight or quit smoking or stop drinking to excess and then we will turn on the person that we were in the past and act as though that person was not us. This woman in the picture was me. And it could be me again if I don’t stay on Weight Watchers for the rest of my life.

I want every woman in here who is starting her weight loss journey to look at this ordinary woman who was 260 pounds just over a year ago and know that you can do the same thing she did. Also, know that you are already beautiful, as I was. You will get healthier when you lose weight, as I did. But you will remain beautiful, for you are already beautiful.

Now a few words about how I lost the weight.

1) First, you won’t be surprised to hear that I have tracked everything that has gone in my mouth for the past year. I use, and love, the online tracker. And I make no exceptions to tracking except for beverages because I don’t drink any calories. Only water and black coffee.

There are some other things I have done that have been helpful to me. We are all different so I only share these as one woman’s story.

2) One is that I didn’t choose to use my weekly points until about halfway through the year. I wanted to jumpstart my weight loss so I didn’t use weekly points at all in the beginning. I lost 20 pounds last January and 10 pounds a month for several months after that. That would be about 2.5 pounds a week.

In all, I have lost weight every week of the past year except for about four weeks where I stayed the same and two weeks where I registered a slight gain of less than a pound. So my loss was a very steady one.

3) I have learned to eat tons of fruits and veggies. I always loved vegetables but I have learned to love fruit, especially as a dessert. There are two ways we can control calories and I have used both. I have exercised portion control, but even more I have exercised control of the types of foods that go in my mouth. Since I am a foodie, I will never be one of those people who just eats little bits of food. I like a full plate.

An example is from the other night. My son wanted to go to Kelly’s Tavern after Bible study at 9:00 at night. Yikes! Since we planned the trip in advance, I looked up a lean burger and found that a quarter pounder patty would run me eight points. I ordered it wrapped in lettuce with tomatoes, pickles, and spicy mustard. So that delicious burger remained eight points. Pretty good, eh? I love it.

4) I also have restricted myself to one dessert a month. My WW class, the 7:00 class on Saturday morning, teases me about this. But it works for me. Once a month I go to the Route 58 Deli and order the biggest piece of milehigh cheesecake they have, imported from the cheesecake place across from Carnegie Hall in NYC. And I count the points! Most varieties are between 18 and 24 points. It is just what I do. I would prefer that to eating small amounts of dessert every day or to making desserts with artificial sweeteners. That is just me.

I will say that I was surprised on New Year’s Day to realize I had had only one order of French fries in 2012 and no orders of onion rings. I had one hot dog and about half a dozen burgers. I also had no candy, no donuts, and no cake. Yet I had cheesecake, pie, and about a dozen cookies in the entire year. I had no ice cream, which shocked me because it used to be my favorite food and I never noticed that I stopped eating it. I never missed it.

I have eaten very adventurously this year, probably more so than any other year of my life, including when I lived overseas. Noel and I have rediscovered Indian food and discovered Thai food. We have used many, many herbs and spices at home. We have discovered new recipes and had a blast sharing them together.

All in all, 2012 was a very good year.

Accepting God’s Grace . . . (A Simple Example)

5 Jan

Galatians 2:21, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

It is now January 5, just by less than half an hour, and I will be getting up in about five and a half hours to go to my first Weight Watchers meeting of the new year.

It is also the start of my Weight Watchers week.  How did I do with my resolution to work out three times a week this year?

Well, we walked on the beach for almost an hour on New Year’s Day as a family and I hit the elliptical at the gym today and . . .

Oops, that was only two times this week.  But the new year started on Tuesday.  So I have only had four days in 2013 so far, and have just rolled over to a new Weight Watchers week.

If I were the legalist I once was, I would now despair and give up on my resolution because I didn’t make my third weekly workout.

Or I would have forced myself to work out twice today, both before and after dinner.

I am glad I am becoming less the legalist.  It is really okay to not have made three workouts this week.  It would even be okay next week.  It is only a goal, after all.

I pray I will make my goal, but I am also learning that life intrudes and we need to be a little less legalistic sometimes, realizing that we have done the best we could!!!

God is merciful with us, after all.


The Martin Manifesto (30 day challenge)

4 Jan

Here is my story, as told on my friend Josh Savage’s blog. I have added some observations to my original list of rules for weight loss.

savage taste

The following is a post from a friend of mine that saw unreal success last year. We both did weight watchers, but our results couldn’t be more different. I ate whatever I wanted as long as I stayed within my daily/weekly points. She made a few additions that I believe made a real difference for her. I want to try her methods for thirty days and see how I do. If it gets easier after the thirty days, as many say it does, maybe I can go longer. In addition to what is listed below, I am giving up refined sugar. That is what my thirty day challenge was supposed to be in the first place, but after talking to her, I wanted to do what she did. I know that corn and potatoes process as sugars in our body, but I am not getting crazy. Basically, if there is…

View original post 1,442 more words


Fiscal Cliffs and the Plain Folks like Me!

2 Jan

Fiscal Cliffs and the Plain Folks like Me!

I pretty much hold everybody in Washington in my own personal contempt right now.

It is just so hard for them to rise above their partisan agendas and their desire to be re-elected and to do anything statesmanship-like, isn’t it?

And, I am sorry, but that is kind of what I expect from them. To be statesman-like. I guess I expect them to transcend human nature.

We pay them well and I sort of get disappointed by their inability to be anything other than pathetic little beings, transparently looking out for their own interests first.

In contrast, I remember when my husband was just starting out as a financial planner. I was an active duty naval officer, a lieutenant. The year was 1991.

Noel did well right off the bat as a financial advisor in the U.S. The British accent seemed to help make him unique and trustworthy.

At the same time, he was starting from scratch to build a clientele.

At one point, someone who was senior to him in his business (who shall remain nameless) counseled him to try to sell a product to an elderly couple that would maximize Noel’s commission. It was not a bad product and it would have helped the couple. It was just that Noel believed there was something better for them. And that product did not provide him with such a great commission.

He sold that product anyway. The one that only provided him a minimal commission. It was the right thing to do.

It was a year when we were not, to say the least, rolling in dough. I was expecting our son, too. But my husband did the right thing and immediately increased my admiration for him 1000%.

So it is that I wonder, if we as a young couple who made less than $75,000 together that year, could decide to do things that were best for other people instead of ourselves, why can’t Congress?

We still have not had a year where we would have been taxed at the highest rate, even if the highest rate had been extended down to $250,000, as rumored, last night.

We are only humble ordinary Christian people who want to do the right thing. We make lots of mistakes in trying to do it.

Why are we, and so many other ordinary Americans, so different from those who represent us? Why are they so transparently into only their own self-interests? And why do we keep returning folks like this to Congress?

Hmmmmmmm . . .


As We Look Back . . . and Forward!

1 Jan

As We Look Back . . . and Forward!

Every time there is a mass shooting we vow to stay there a while and learn something from it. Then we move on without fulfilling our vow. As a person who probably would have been diagnosed with ADD as a child (and now) had I ever been examined for the condition, I understand our national lack of attentiveness.

I understand it, but I don’t condone it.

This psychological piece is a start to understanding the conditions that create a mass murderer. I don’t need to understand the landscape of his mind. In fact, I don’t want to do so.

But the points made about being raised in violence and trauma are telling. That does not imply that I blame Lanza’s mother. I don’t know enough to be able to do that. Only God does. Even if Lanza had extreme rage at his mother, that does not prove conclusively that she earned that rage. Misplaced rage is a universal danger.

This is a shiny, clean slate of a new year. But let’s not totally dismiss the sadness of the last year either. For we may learn from it and, by our knowledge, prevent more sadness this year.


A Beautiful Carol Came From the Civil War Conflict!

1 Jan

A Beautiful Carol Came From the Civil War Conflict!

To provide us with some hope and perspective on this New Year’s Day (at least we are almost not at war, for the first time in 12 years!!!).

Beauty from ashes!!! (sniff!)


Thoughts about a Sex Offender . . .

30 Dec

Thoughts about a Sex Offender . . .

Sex offenders are the most hated people on the planet, I believe.

I want to hate them as much as the next person. I mean, anyone who would harm a child . . .

But theologically God teaches that no one is beyond His grace. No one. Let’s wrap our minds around that for a minute.


Reblog Friday: Controversy Sells!

28 Dec

Controversy Sells!

I am, at heart, a lover of theology (theology=the study of God, straight from the Greek). But I must admit that for me, as a blogger, the human interest stories lead (weight loss, cancer survival). Since this is a big part of my personal story, I understand why that is the case. Following right after human interest stories have been my posts on controversial issues of our day.

Theology is just something I will always write about because it fascinates me. I understand there are real theologians out there to read and I can be but a faint glimmer of them. But I will continue to write on theology because . . . I can.

The joke about me is that I am the Baptist Yentl (if you recall the Barbra Streisand film in which she was an Orthodox Jewish girl who disguised herself as a boy in order to study the Torah!). Best everyone, Mary


Mason, a Dog Life Well-Lived

27 Dec

Mason, a Dog Life Well-Lived

From my sister-in-law and brother yesterday:
I just came inside from watching my husband Tom bury our 13 1/2–year-old dog Mason. He told me not to go outside. It was too cold and he didn’t want me to watch, but as I stood at the window and saw him lean over the hole – not moving – I couldn’t let him do this alone. So, I dressed warm and stood vigil as Tom placed Mason’s favorite bone and one of Tom’s gloves in the grave and then very carefully and slowly broke up the frozen clumps of clay and gently placed a shovelful at a time over the sheet that surrounded our sweet, lovable, loyal and compliant dog. Our friend. Tom’s constant companion.
It started on Sunday afternoon when Tom took Mason to the groomers. The lady had the store open on Sunday because of Christmas and gave us an appointment. Mason was like a puppy dancing around when Tom got down the leash. She knew it meant a walk or a ride in the car.
Mason was so old that she had difficulty getting into the car. He had to help her in. Mason was just fine when he left her at the groomers. Two hours later, he went to walk her across the street to the car and she wouldn’t move. He tried to take her to some grass, but she wouldn’t urinate. He had to carry her across the street. Immediately, she vomited in the car when he started to drive home.
Tom tried at home to get her to urinate, but she couldn’t/wouldn’t. He brought her inside and told me to look at Mason. We both knew something was terribly wrong. The store was closed, but I left a message for them to call me. All I could think of was that Mason got into chocolate or drank the shampoo water.
By nighttime, Mason had refused any food and whenever we could coax her outside, she would lie on her stomach in the snow and not urinate. Tom had to carry her inside each time. Mason wouldn’t lie on her side. She could only lay on her stomach with her back legs bent. Every time she tried to let her head drop, she’d pick it back up again. Tom slept on the couch and Mason never slept. He took her outside every few hours with no luck.
By 6:30 AM, Tom and I had to make a decision. After all, it was Christmas Eve and we weren’t even sure the vet would be open. He woke her up with a phone call and was told to bring Mason in when the office opened at 9:00. We tried to give her peanut butter on a bone and I squirted 2 teaspoons of water at a time down her throat every 10 minutes or so. She vomited it all up.
The vet found a mass in Mason’s stomach. She told us that if Mason couldn’t urinate, that her bladder would just burst and she would die. The mass must have stretched or torn when she went to the groomers or got in the car, because that is the only explanation for the sudden change.
We had to make the decision to put her down and I sat at her head talking to her while the vet did the job. Tom is not good with needles. (Anyone who remembers the story of my getting stitches and Tom fainting in the hospital will know that.) I told him not to watch, but he peeked. He then had to carry our dead friend to the car where I spread a tarp and covered her with a blanket. I went inside to pay. I was bawling and the people at the clinic were so wonderful about offering comfort through this whole process. I got back to the car to find Tom slumped over the whole front seat. He hadn’t passed out, but was close. I made him move over and drove home.
The groomer called me on Christmas Eve and I asked her if Mason acted any differently while there. She has been grooming our dog for 12 years in the winter and knows her well. She said the only difference was that she refused to walk up the steps to the wash basin. The steps, just like the car, were too much for her. Two people had to lift Mason in and out of the tub. The woman sobbed on the phone with me over the loss of Mason. She couldn’t believe what had happened. (We still can’t.) My friend Kathy Prokopy and my sister Joan also wept with me over the phone.
It is amazing how close people can get to their pets. Tom didn’t eat much of anything on Christmas Eve and he couldn’t eat Christmas dinner with our family. I think he ate 6 hours later. We had our friend and photographer Bob Prokopy coming over to take a family photograph. Luckily, Bob is a professional about getting people to smile or the picture would have been a very sad reminder of what we were going through.
At least I am able to grieve. Tom is struggling with that and I think that is why he insisted on digging the hole and burying her by himself. He doesn’t know what he is going to do when I go back to work after Christmas break and he spends his mornings alone before going to work at 2:00 PM. I know it may seem like a lot of fuss over a dog, but Mason was a much loved member of our family.


Michael and Abigail at our Wedding

26 Dec

Michael and Abigail at our Wedding

Ephesians 6:2, “Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)”

This Christmas was bittersweet for us as we lost Noel’s mother, Abigail Murphy Martin, last March.

She was born in Ireland, moved to Birmingham, England when she married, and remained in Birmingham throughout her days. She raised five children, including one set of twins.

She was a good mother-in-law who loved me because Noel loved me. I didn’t need to prove my worth to her ever. If her son loved me, that was good enough for her.

She made the best Christmas dinner ever. I was so fortunate to spend Christmas of 1986 with her and Michael, right after Noel and I got serious. We joined them again for Christmas of 1988 when Noel and I were engaged, and in 1989 and 1990 when Noel and I were first married.

When we came to the States in 1991, we spoke with Noel’s parents often, though he only made the two trips back for their funerals and I have not been back to Britain since 1991.

We miss you, Mom Martin!

%d bloggers like this: