Friday, November 8, 2013

Battles

A few days ago I posted a beautiful talk by Jeffrey R. Holland. If you haven't read or watched it you should go now. It is so worth you time.  I've been thinking a lot about mental illness lately because of family things as well as my own struggles. I've gone back on medication for the first time in years.

If only I could but a castle to keep the monsters out.

It is funny (in the ironic, laugh at yourself way) how disappointed I feel. I have been fighting this my entire adult life and it is something that never leaves entirely. Every time it lightens I am amazed at what I can accomplish. When it bears down again I don't think I will ever have clean house or organized life again. I run from one crisis to the next.

I am working on some of my medical issues. I desperately hope that finding some answers will help lift this round of trouble. Perhaps it will.


This is how my heart feels. The video is silly, but the music sings to my soul.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How I feel when I don't get enough sleep (bad words)

Journey Of Self-Discovery Leads Man To Realization He Doesn't Care http://www.theonion.com/articles/journey-of-selfdiscovery-leads-man-to-realization,19100/
  
I don't usually read The Onion, but this made me laugh. My husband thinks I've lost my mind.

I tried posting this from my phone and it didn't work. I will actually have to pry the computer away from my children to write anything.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Benefits of vegetables

The picture that I hope is attached is a tomato and feta quiche that I managed to make out of stuff already in my kitchen.
I've always enjoyed trying new recipes. When you cook for eight people everyday it can get boring. So I try new things. But new things are often expensive. Hooray for bountiful baskets. Yes, I talk about it a lot. Feeding my family takes a huge part of my time and energy and money. Anything that lightens this responsibility is welcome.
And there is the thing that we aren't an active family. We try, but athletics just don't come easily to any of us. If I can't get my kids (or myself) to work up a good sweat, at least I can serve lots of veggies and low fat items at dinner. Someday I even expect my youngest daughter to try some of them.

A Broken Vessel

"The Broken Vessel" by Phil Thompson IPA
If you, or someone you know, deals with a mental illness, you should take ten minutes to listen to this talk. It gives hope and comfort as well as encouragement.

One of the things I liked best about this was to rebuke those who feel that you should just get over it as well as encouraging those who thought they could pray their way out to get medical help. It is balanced and beautiful.

This is the post from yesterday. I can post from my phone, but it is stupid, so I didn't.








Saturday, November 2, 2013

Second day, still going

So, I have managed to go two days in a row. Yay me for that.  I was going to post pics from Halloween but my camera has run off. I suspect the small blond child but he isn't very reliable on remembering what he does with stuff.
Today I managed a Bountiful Basket collection site, folded 10 loads of laundry, spent an awful lot of money at the grocery store and took a wonderfully long nap.

I wish I had more interesting things to write about but I feel awful and still need to fold a ten gallon bucket of socks. I will point you toward an informative web site on endometriosis, if you are interested.  I also find the bountiful baskets website to be very helpful.

Might not post tomorrow, no computers allowed on Sunday. If I can post from my phone I will.

Have a good Sunday.

more like this here.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoRiMo

No, this is not an announcement that I am going to write a novel, though I am going to use this writing challenge. I am going to write a blog post every day. I think that writing is helpful to get all the information in my head out.
I am an information junkie and sometimes I get overloaded by everything coming in. Time to do some uploading instead of downloading.
That's it for today. Have a picture.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Alternate Endings

I am a plot junkie. I readily admit it. That is why I go for genre fiction mostly. The regular stuff is heavy on symbolism and characters and emotions, but so often not a lot happens. This is boring. If I want drama with no movement I can go on Facebook.

I recently read two books, both fantasy (though one is urban fantasy), both by women, yet the plotting could not have been more different. Because I read one right after the other I was struck by how different the endings were. So spoilers ahead for Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb and The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle. Neither are recent books, so I don't think I am ruining it for anyone by discussing the endings.



To be fair, these are very different books, the few similarities I pointed out above notwithstanding. Robin Hobb's book is the final book of a trilogy. It is epic fantasy, which tends to go for length and sweeping, world-wide plotlines. In fact this is the second of four different series all set in the same world.  There are dragons, pirates, prophecy and earth-shattering natural disasters. Enough plot for even a junkie like me. That is not to say the other things necessary for a good book are not there. The characters were well developed and the writing is quite nice, but I am focusing on a certain thing here.

The ending just didn't do it for me though. It felt like the end of the Return of the King movie. Each scene of the last half hour faded to black and seemed like the end, but no, look, something else comes up. In trying to give a satisfying ending to each character in the book Hobb carried the end past the point I wanted to read. Chapter after chapter continued the book past the logical conclusion to a feeling of compulsive tidying up. It was nice to see what everyone got up to the main conflicts were resolved, but I didn't learn anything new about the characters.  It was elaboration of already explained resolutions.

After I read Ship of Destiny I started on The Mysteries. It is completely different, set in modern times and only marginally fantasy. It is a stand-alone novel, much shorter and no dragons at all. The main character is a detective who finds lost people. There are vignettes between the main plotline chapters about mysterious disappearances through the years. He is hired to find a woman who has vanished. We begin to see the connection to a case he had years ago and the current one, as well as to the historical disappearances.



I liked the parallel between the otherworldly cases he is working on and the completely prosaic disappearances of his father and girlfriend, who both left to live other lives. The contrast between people taken and held by the fairies and people who just wanted to leave is interesting.

But then we come to the ending. The girl is saved, all is well, I suppose. Instead of tying off all the ends neatly, in the last chapter the author introduces more ambiguity. The girlfriend renews contact, the client shows some romantic interest, and a girl previous lost returns to show the mystery of the fairies isn't completely solved.  It isn't a cliff-hanger, I don't think there is a sequel. It didn't feel like that kind of ending, "Tune in next week to see what happens to the hapless baby!" But I do think it was a dirty trick kind of ending. Leaving the reader wanting more is great, but adding that extra just at the end was weird.

So here are two book with unsatisfying endings, one gave too much closure, one too much left open. Endings are tricky things. I don't know how many books and movies have been great up to that last twenty minutes. The worst example I can think of was a science fiction book that had the aliens completely conquering the earth until the last minute intervention of the vampires (not mentioned earlier in the book at all) saved the day.  That was silly. These books just tried too hard for a certain kind of end, and missed.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Placebo effect?

Recently I was introduced to the world of essential oils. It was a little scary at first. People get into these types of things and become all evangelical about them.  They say silly things like, "Its all natural and comes from plants so it can't have any side effects!" That makes me want to ask them if poison ivy rash counts as an intended outcome and if death isn't a side effect because it stops whatever conditions you might have?

I have been wondering about them a lot lately anyway so when some people I know got into one of the MLMs that sell the things I was interested enough to go to the parties. Those were difficult to sit through, though I think most of the misinformation comes from an excess of enthusiasm and a lack of science education.

Was probably this stuff, smells like cloves
Despite my misgivings, I know that these oils can help some things. When I was so sick in the winter a very nice woman at Bountiful Baskets rubbed some clove smelling stuff on me and I could suddenly talk and breathe like a regular person.


So I have bought a few. One works wonders to clear your head.  Much better results than any decongestant I have tried.  My two kids who need such things don't even complain about the smell that much, because they know it works.
We also have a relaxation, sleep aid one that my oldest loves.  He has always had a hard time sleeping and this stuff seems to calm him down enough he can fall asleep.  With that and melatonin he can actually rest.

And I like the orange oil. It gives you a bit of a pleasant jolt and wakes me up a bit in the morning.

But then I tried the recommended solutions when the youngest had a fever for several days and got no noticeable relief.  The OTC stuff didn't help either. We just sat in Mommy's chair and watched Voltron (over and over and over and over).

Peppermint for my headache didn't do much either.

I am looking into another place, that has similar prices to Doterra's "wholesale" prices. I just received their lavender. It smells noticeably different, more like plants, and then the strong weed smell fades and it is the normal lavender, almost soapy smell. Because of my strong dislike for MLM marketing in anything I think I will stay with the Native American Nutritionals for now.
My first purchase from Native American
I struggle with this because I know some things will work, but I know some don't and I want a better way to figure it out than experimenting on my family or trusting the internet. It gives me conniptions that I can't research it adequately.

There are so many I want to try and they are too expensive to buy, just to play pharmacist. It is so frustrating.

Hey, at least we will smell nice.

OK, one more thing that bugs me just because of who I am. So take it with a grain of salt. DoTerra's book of how to use their oils is the worst edited thing I have ever seen. It is disorganized and confusing.  Obviously just a cut and paste job by someone who didn't know what they were doing. Misspelled words and erratic grouping make it look so unprofessional. The sleek design of their products is completely at odds with the shoddy work of their book and pamphlet.  It seems odd to me that they didn't put more effort into it.







Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ideas

My mind has been going crazy lately. Lots of interesting ideas, things I want to think deeply about, blog about, have conversations about. Yes when I sit down to the computer to put everything together my brain turns to mush and I ramble for paragraphs until I quit.

I seem to need quit and space to think clearly right now and I don't have much of either.

So have some pictures of my girls with their creations at the district art show instead.





Monday, April 8, 2013

Comforting Reads

In December I was very ill. The kind that hits you like a truck and then you lay in bed for days either wishing for good meds or looking at the interesting patterns on the ceiling after you take the good meds.  When I was able to want to read I grabbed my Kindle and looked around the cheap/free reads section. All I had loaded on it was the scriptures, Les Miserables and The Count of Monte Cristo. Not what you want to read with reduced brain capacity.


I like urban fantasy. I enjoy the mix of magic and city life. I enjoy having the lightness of topic that most of them present. I like the humor. So when I saw A Modern Witch by Debra Geary I took the offer of a free book. I like urban fantasy, it seemed like a good choice.

But the problem was, I read through it in short order and there were more. I guiltily bought several that weekend. Her books are on the Prime lending on Amazon, so each month I get one more. (Except for the month I got The Worst Hard Time.) But I never wanted to admit to loving them. They are urban fantasy, but there is a good dose of romance in them too, and that didn't sit well with my public persona.


But here goes, I, Katherine D. Ward, LOVE these books. They calm my soul and make me happy in ways other light reading just doesn't. Here's why:

1. They are happy books. No murders, no crime, no gritty urban life. There isn't really an antagonist. The conflict necessary to a book arises from the common issues of life. How often do  you have an antagonist? I personally never have.

2. They have families. I have often pondered what I would write if I ever went into fiction. I've long thought about books with real families, not ones who send their children away so the writer doesn't have to deal with the details of a true family. Ms. Geary has kids completely integrated into her character's lives. They worry about colic and babysitting and what to do with a troublesome child.

3. They are all perfect parents. OK, I admit, this bugs me sometimes too, but having happy families around in fiction is so important, I will gladly put up with it. The incredible amount of patience displayed by the parents in these books puts any family you have ever heard of to shame. But it is nice to see that instead of the much more common list of horrible things parents do to their children.



4. They are well written.  I have an obsessive mind. When I am not feeling well and read a lot I will often get a stack of books by a new author and plow through all of them. A few books in I could catalog the structure of each book, predict how each new one will go and list the verbal ticks and favorite phrases of the author. Reading the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich was particularly bad. Though there are so many of them I overdosed.

The structure of these novels feels less rigid to me because of the lack of a protagonist/antagonist struggle. There definitely is conflict in each novel, at least the ones I have read so far, based in the personal changes of the new witch introduced each novel and her attempts to find her place. In each successive book the previous witch somehow shares her growth with the new person to come in.

5. As I just implied, these books are about community. Each of us longs to be part of a community, to have that sitcom type life where people just drop in and visit all the time. Not very many of us have it. As an active member of the LDS church I have a stronger community than most and I am so grateful. These books feel familiar to me as they reflect the bonds I have and show how strengthening them can only strengthen me and my family.

6. OK, I admit it, the romance bits are nice too. Especially because there isn't much sex. I like sex, you don't get 6 kids without enjoying physical contact, but I don't like reading about it. Someone else's erotic scene feels like mechanics to me. Leaving it out is lovely.

7. They make me happy. Most books leave some kind of lingering feeling, the buzzing of new ideas trying to combine with old thoughts (At Home); the uncomfortable itchiness of death and evil ideas (sorry G.R.R. Martin, looking at you) or even the coziness of old friends (Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter). When I read a Witch book by Debra Geary, I feel happy. Happy that another family is happy, even if they are fictional.

So go out and read them, give yourself time to have a sweet guilty pleasure. Only on Amazon right now though.


A Modern Witch. Debra Geary. Fireweed Publishing. 2011

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

30-Day Challenge

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen a picture of me taken in the last 14 years that I have some weight issues. I also have some health issues that are complicated by this (not caused by though, just to be clear).

Through good genes I have managed to avoid any pre-diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol which enabled me to excuse away my bad habits. And I had 6 kids and 9 pregnancies in 11 years. That will do a number on your health anyway.

My youngest just turned 3. I have been feeling that changes that come when you aren't pregnant or nursing for a while. In some ways I am feeling better. But the fatigue and joint pain make it very difficult to follow through on all the goals I made when I was deep in babies and toddlers.

So I told my husband, but now I announce it to the world! I am going off sugar for the month of April. I need more accountability. My three-yr old is still too small to rat me out if I cheat during the day.

I know that a good part of the extra weight I carry is labelled "Dr. Pepper." I am pretty sure that much of the fatigue is from bad eating habits. While adding more vegetables is a good thing, I need to eliminate the bad as well.

When I post anything else here I will mention how it is going, again, because I need more accountability. My sweet husband is so forgiving, just telling him isn't enough.

Hopefully I will be healthier soon.

Oh, and I found a great video about doing these types of things, though his 30-day challenges are more fun than mine. TED talks are great, have a look.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Journey Home

I love Edward Abbey. I feel the heat and solitude of the desert soaking into my skin as I read his words. I savor the sun on my face and hear the wind pulling my hair. Listen as he describes Death Valley in summertime:

The glare is stunning. Yet also exciting, even exhilarating--a world of light. The air seems not clear like glass but colored, a transparent, tinted medium, golden toward the sun, smoke-blue in the shadows. The colors come, it appears, not simply from the background, but are actually present in the air itself--a vigintillion microscopic particles of dust reflecting the sky, the sand, the iron hills.



While my politics are a bit more moderate than his, I actually like people for example, I also can understand his call to wilderness, not just in the desert, but in our daily lives. He reminds us that the Parks are not parks, they should be an enter at your own risk place. Life is a grand chaotic mess and glorious in that mess. The part of me that chafes at the rules and laws that proliferate in a large state (I've lived in Texas and California, they are both trying to control their populations, just pretending to have different motives.) loves this paragraph:

The permissive society? What else? I love America because it is a confused chaotic mess--and I hope we can keep it this way for at least another thousand years.  The permissive society is the free society, the open society. Who gave us permission to live this way? Nobody did. We did. And that's the way it should be--only more so. The best cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy. (Italics in the original)

We shouldn't always have to ask permission. Yes, I understand why we have licenses and taxes and admission fees and no trespassing signs, yet so much of our life is asking permission for things that are regulated just for the sake of someone in government having a job and some trace of power.

No entrance fee here, just beauty.

Anyway.  Moving on to the real reason I love Abbey. This is how he feels about the mountains:

A taste of mountains. I could not say I had come to know them in any significant way.  All I had learned was something about myself. I had discovered that I am the kind of person who cannot live comfortably, tolerably, on all-flat terrain. For the sake of inner equilibrium there has to be at least one mountain range on at least one of the four quarters of my horizon--not more than a day's walk away.
The view from my front window in Moab

A few more quotes:
From these rocks struck once by lightening gushed springs that turned to blood, flesh,life. Impossible miracle. And I am struck once again by the unutterable beauty, terror, and strangeness of everything we think we know.

Near the summit I found an arrow sign, three feet long, formed of stones and pointing off into the north toward those same old purple vistas, so grand, immense, and mysterious, of more canyons, more mesas and plateaus, more mountains, more cloud-dappled sun-spangled leagues of desert sand and desert rock, under the same old wide and aching sky.

I could never express it so well. That is why I read Edward Abbey.

The Journey Home. Edward Abbey. 1977. Dutton Press.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Calico Chili

I have written about my love for Bountiful Baskets before. I haven't written about my love for vegetables because I am still working on that, not sure it will ever come.  But I do have a few recipes that make me feel like super-awesome healthy mom. This calico chili recipe is one of them. I made it tonight and my 6 yr old asked for more, both my teenagers said how good it was and everyone finished their dinner. I win!

Mine doesn't look like this. Close enough.
Calico Chili

1 can chick-peas
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1/3 cup water
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 large onions, chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes (I left these out this time because I didn't have any, it tasted fine)
1 cup chopped red cabbage
1 cup chopped regular cabbage
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms, or one can
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
6 cups chicken broth
1 small can tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp chili powder (I just use a sprinkle because my children are wimps)
1/4 cup diced green chili peppers (optional, see above)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Pour water, oil and vinegar in a large pot.  Add onions and saute until soft, about 8 minutes. Add all the veggies and saute a few minutes more. Add everything else, let simmer for an hour.
 

I got the original recipe from Prevention's Low-Fat, Low-Cost Cookbook, 1997, Rodale Press. I have no idea if this is still available anywhere, I got it from a used book store more than ten years ago. It is a great book.  I did take some liberties with the recipe, for example, using canned beans instead of dried. I also use tomato sauce instead of paste and add more water.

So I also made breadsticks to go with our healthy dinner. It did knock the healthy quotient down a bit, but they were yummy.

My fridge is very bare, I am glad the Bountiful Baskets pick up is tomorrow. Then I can plan a new round of yummy dinners.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Memory of Light

I started reading this series of books in a difficult point in my life.  I had quit working because of an illness that turned out to be severe depression. I couldn't work, I spent most of the day in bed. After being introduced to therapy and prozac I felt much better, but had a hard time finding a new job.  While I was trying to find things for my newly energized self to do, a friend gave me the first four books of the Wheel of Time series. I blazed through them in three days, then went to the library to get the next two. According to Goodreads that is 4864 pages.  I read them in a week. 



I seem to remember reading one, straight through, sleeping, then starting the next one.  Food may have happened, but I can't really be sure. I started talking about the characters as if they were real (I still do sometimes). I dreamt about them. I couldn't stop thinking about these books. It was slightly scary. It was probably more scary for my roommates.



For our first Christmas together my sweet husband sold his soul (temporarily) to the Book of the Month club so he could get me the first seven books in hard cover. I still have all but one of them. For many years I would read all of them when a new book came out.



When the author announced that he was very ill with cardiac amyloidosis I began following a blog for the first time in my life. When he died I cried for a man I had never met and wouldn't know on the street.



Later it was announced that Brandon Sanderson, an author I had never heard of, would be writing the last book of the series. I immediately looked up what he had written and started in. He was LDS, teaching creative writing at my alma mater, BYU. I shared his Alcatraz series with my children. We own all of his books.



Through Sanderson's works, and his blog, I became aware of other writers: Dan Wells, Howard Taylor, Patrick RothfussMary Robinette Kowal and many others. I learned of Writing Excuses, which is the best podcast I've ever heard, as well as the best motivator to write. Even for slackers like me who really don't intend on writing fiction anytime soon.



I've shared all of these things with my husband, my children and anyone who will let me talk about books with them. My brain will forever be in debt to the man from Charleston, South Carolina.



That is my story of the series. The end was amazing.  The criticism of A Memory of Light was similar to that of The Hobbit movie; too long, too rambling, disjointed and blah blah blah. I don't care. I loved them both. I read this book in two days, while still managing to feed my family.  I bawled like a baby. It was a sweet farewell to something I have kept in my mind for  sixteen years.



With all of this background I am not sure I can give a real review. Every part relates back to the other books.  All of my memories are intertwined with my own experiences through them. I nursed babies, let toddlers climb on me, cooked dinner and talked with my husband while reading this series. They have probably influenced my opinions and thoughts on many subjects in ways I don't even realize.



But the one thing that I keep thinking about, more than two months after I finished is the solidarity of the characters of the books. In most epic fantasy, the hero goes off to save the world and does so alone. Sometimes there is a small team, or even an army, but what is the rest of the world doing? Do they even know that their existence is in danger?



That doesn't happen in this book. Everyone can see the signs, the world is coming apart in easily visible and understandable ways.  Food rots in the blink of an eye, ghosts wander and the world decays and no one can pretend or look away.



So the last battle isn't just the hero's battle. Everyone who can come is a part of it. In the beginning of previous books we see people leaving their homes, knowing that this is everyone's fight and they need to be a part of it.



The battle is most of the book. It truly is the Last Battle. In this fight of good vs. evil everyone has a stake in the game. There are small characters from the beginning of the series, fighting and dieing. Those sworn not to fight still care for the injured. Those who have no skill in fighting bring food and supplies, send messages, wash bandages. This is the world's fight and all who value good come to help.



That is not to say everyone is abandoning self-interest. There is still politics and maneuvering for power. There are still those who loot the bodies or go over to the other side. But the universality of the struggle was powerful in a completely unexpected way.

 

The themes of fantasy are ideas that many think of as old fashioned: good vs. evil, the hero fighting for right, courage and honor. When the only one fighting is a knight with a sword facing some black-robed sorcerer it is easy to dismiss these ideas.  When an author gives you the image of entire villages coming to fight, men, women and children. Of a woman leaving her best pots to a neighbor so she can go. Of farmers bringing every animal they have, because if the wool isn't needed, the meat will be. Regular people are easier to relate to than some fantastical hero. Or so we are told.



I could see our world, our fight of good vs. evil. Those who would destroy our world don't wear black or cackle.  They convince us we can't do anything. They tell us those with whom we disagree are bad and compromise is the last refuge of the coward. They tell us everything is fine. They convince us that only the heroes can help, so it is OK to watch evil and do nothing. They spread ignorance and complacency over our minds like a blanket. Then tie it tight with fear and violence.



But even as it is easy to see the cracks and decay in our own world it is easy to go out and fight. We don't have to leave everything behind and fight horrible monsters. Really all we need to do is expand our awareness a little. Volunteer -- anywhere -- if we all gave a few hours a month, so much good would happen.  Read something from the opposite political view. It might make you angry but it might make you think. Smile to others when you are in Walmart. Get outside yourself just a little and you are fighting the battle. No sword necessary.