Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bunny Lane by Adam Kalkin

I've mentioned it before, but if I had been smarter during my brief college stint, I would have majored in architecture instead of starting down the whole psychology path. I had forgotten my first childhood passion, although I guess you could call psychology a passion from my teen years. The truth is, dwellings fascinate me. I'm not interested in building office buildings or skyscrapers, but pushing the boundaries on how homes can be constructed and lived in is something for which I'd be willing to pay thousands of dollars in order to get a thorough education. I don't just want to look at pretty pictures, either. I want to know how to build these dwellings myself.

Years ago, I saw a magazine article about this fantastic house. I fell in love with it immediately, but eventually, I forgot the name of the architect and what the house was called. But I've found it again! It's called Bunny Lane, and it was created by artist/architect Adam Kalkin.

What Kalkin did was to surround an original white clapboard farmhouse on Bunny Lane with an airport hangar. At the other end of the hangar, Kalkin built square, stacked cinder block cubes to create more rooms. In the middle of the hangar, he placed a large, comfortable seating arrangement. Quirky rolling doors on the sides of the hangar allow it to be opened to the breezes in good weather.

I adore the fact that the traditional farmhouse is encased in this modern behemoth. It looks so cozy and warm inside the large space. And yet, you step out the door and enjoy hundreds of square feet more of modern/industrial living space. The whole thing makes me giddy.

View the Architectural Digest video tour of Bunny Lane here.

Read an article and look at pictures of Bunny Lane here.

Alternative building materials excite me. Shipping containers are one of those building materials that, I think, have finally come into their own. A DIY enthusiast could conceivably build a home for thousands less than the cost of timber-frame construction for the same square footage. Plus, storage containers are so incredibly sturdy that they would last generations (provided they are protected against rust, of course).

Anyway, I was so excited about finding Bunny Lane that I had to share.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lingering in the Depths of Chopin

I hit the music jackpot at the thrift store yesterday. Elannah needed some jeans, so we started the shopping trip at the thrift store because if I can spend less than retail and still keep the girl happy, I am good with that.

I headed to the book section while she sorted through the racks. There's always the chance that some life-changing book is sitting on the shelf waiting for me to take it home, and I wasn't disappointed this time. An entire bottom shelf had been devoted to music books (the pickings are usually slim to none), so I plopped myself right down on the carpet and started sorting. Pretty soon, I had a tall stack picked out: two thick jazz piano books, an album of easy classics that I thought Sophia would enjoy, several thinner piano books, and the rest of the series of cello+piano books that I didn't have--all in extremely good condition.

When Elannah came looking for me, having found a great pair of jeans and a t-shirt, I showed her my treasures. I must have been waxing rhapsodic because she laughed and said, "Mom, are you going to cry?" I very nearly was. The entire stack cost me $16, which was less than the retail price of just one of the jazz books alone, but the best part was having new music.

I enjoy playing jazz, and I spent far too much time yesterday going through the three or four jazz books I'd picked up. But the life-changer was the book of Chopin. I didn't already have any of the pieces included in the book I bought yesterday, so when I pulled out that book towards evening, I was enchanted. I played through the entire thing in between ferrying children to varying destinations from 3 in the afternoon until 8:30 at night. We ate a little late because I was being completely irresponsible with my piano playing.

This morning, after I'd taken Sian to the bus stop, I glanced at the piano and was so tempted that I sat down to play Chopin before 7 a.m. rather than going back to bed. I played with the headphones on (this is the reason an electric piano is sometimes very desirable) until both Gabrielle and Husband had left for school and work respectively, and then I took the headphones off and played quietly into the room.

Little Gary was sitting on the couch.

"Mom, that music makes me want to cry," he said.

Welcome to the world of Chopin, Son. It's a beautiful, heart-wrenching world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Libertarians Are the Only People Who Want to Take over the World in Order to Leave You Alone

I have found that my political views are far more radical than that of those around me, so that's one more reason that I keep my mouth shut, literally and figuratively speaking, when it comes to general discussions, my blog (for the most part) and on Facebook (on which I have not posted one political comment in months because I don't post anything anymore).

I think you could pretty much call me a small "l" libertarian. You could also call me a classical liberal, which is vastly different than the current sort of liberal--in fact, there is a 180 degree difference. I am conservative in the sense that I believe in the values and traditions that support and sustain strong nuclear families in a civil society, but I don't completely identify with Conservatives, who seem to worship the military and love the idea of being the country that spreads democracy. There are so many things wrong with worshiping the military and wanting to spread a demonically tyrannical system of government to those who never asked for it that I can't even begin to list them in this post. We were formed as a Constitutional Republic, not as a democracy, though most of us seem to have forgotten that critical tidbit of history. Democracy is evil. You have probably heard before that a democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what's for dinner, and that's exactly what pure democracy is. (And before anyone accuses me of hating military people, I have friends who are or have been military, and many of them are not at all pleased with the way the military is used. There's a difference between despising the people, which I do not, and despising the system, which I heartily do.)

In a nutshell, a good start to getting back to being free is forcing the federal government to get out of everything except what the American Constitution assigns to it, even if the Constitution is not a perfect document. However, I'm leaning more heavily these days toward anarcho-libertarianism simply because all governments of men will eventually end up bloated and tyrannical. No one should be able to violently encroach on anyone else's property or person, including any government (we can discuss the nuances of "violently" in this context at another time). Government produces nothing and can only be a parasite on the people. Even a "good" government must be a parasite on the people because that is the nature of government. Government attracts the sociopaths. Eventually, the sociopaths control the government, and they create a system whereby the power-hungry sociopaths cannot be ousted even as they fool the teeming masses into thinking they have a say in who is and is not leading. Once the sociopaths control everything, they take everything they can and lead the people into decadent decay and ruin unless the non-sociopathic people foment a rebellion and succeed in a revolution, after which the process starts all over again. Give me one good example of any civilization or society wherein this has not eventually happened--aside from the City of Enoch-- and I'll change my viewpoint.

Just call me Ron Swanson. I'm almost that adorably ridiculous.

And having said that, I also acknowledge that my views are not perfect and I'm always refining them as I gain new information and insight. But by now, I'm thoroughly convinced that, all things being equal, the natural tendency of human beings in a society is consistently toward passiveness, decadence, and eventual destruction. Government by imperfect human beings over imperfect human beings always hastens that ruin.

I have no fool-proof solutions, either, so don't be thinking that I think I know what should be done. No earthly type or style of government will ever remain just and true over the long run. I don't even think we could maintain a sort of anarchic system where everyone agrees not to harm anyone else's person or property for more than a few years or decades. Well, we couldn't maintain such a system until the glorious Millenium, of course, which will be a very interesting contrast to what's going on now.

Since I find all news is now biased, I completely ignore mainstream news outlets (I NEVER watch televised newscasts these days) and focus on some of my favorite alternative news sites where at least I can get a bias that feels less government propaganda and more independent. I love lewrockwell.com for their thoughtful collection of insightful essays. I also really enjoy Joel Skousen's World Affairs Brief. Each week, Skousen (who is a nephew of W. Cleon Skousen (one of my favorite authors) and a seasoned political analyst) puts out a newsletter covering some of the top national and global stories and discussing their impact on our freedoms. I so much look forward to reading that newsletter that it's like getting a new Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. The anticipation is heady.

Also good are the Mises.org/blog for good, solid Austrian economics and zerohedge.com.

There are other sites: drudgereport.com and breitbart.com are both good. I read others, as well, but this is a good start.

Now you know. Let's just leave it at that. If you have a question about where I stand, you can generally assume I'm going to take the position that government intervention slows down progress, always costs more than it's worth, and will inevitably erode our freedoms and liberties. If you disagree with me, let's celebrate the fact that at least we can disagree with each other because we are free-thinking adults and have the right to our opinions. Just don't try to force me to think your way. I guarantee that I'll leave you alone if you leave me alone.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Five Nights at Freddy's: a Noble Fail

We've been having an argument with our son, Joseph, who is 10. He and one of his friends, who is a similarly-aged girl growing up in this neighborhood full of boys and who, as a result, is a bit of a tomboy, want to buy a computer game. They want to buy the game on Husband's account with Joseph's friend's money. The idea is either that the friend a) will be given access to Husband's Steam account so she can play the game at her house, or b) will come to our house to play it. Why this girl can't use her money to buy the game at her house on her computer has not been satisfactorily explained.

The name of the game is "Five Nights at Freddy's," which tells the tale of the gamer being assigned as a night security guard in a children's restaurant for five nights. Inside the restaurant, the gamer must avoid the animatronics, which come alive and view the gamer as a damaged animatronic and will attempt to fix him by putting him back into an animatronic costume. Unfortunately, the fix is deadly for a human. The game is incredibly stressful. Though there is no blood and gore, there is a lot of the thriller factor, which is sufficient to induce nightmares in, say, a certain seven-year-old boy who also lives in this house.

I know about this game thanks to Gabrielle, who is currently taking (and excelling in) a college-level game design class. I cannot thank her enough for introducing it to my boys. Thanks, Gabrielle. Thanks so much.

Anyway, Husband KO'd the plan right off for obvious reasons. I heard the conversation even though I was in another room, so I knew the score (ha ha! See what I did there?). Later, Joseph came to me with the same arguments while Husband was at work.

I told him he was talking to the wrong parent, because not only am I completely immune to the desire to play video games, I have absolutely zero desire for Joseph to have any more access to games than he already does. Besides, I told him, I had overheard his original argument to his dad, and I opposed the game for all the same reasons. Then I called him out for coming to me when he already had an answer from his other parent.

Today, frustrated by our close-mindedness, Joseph wrote up a little persuasive essay, printed it out, and slid it under the door while I was briefly using the bathroom (because why should the bathroom be the one place I can be alone for a moment or two?). I'm not persuaded, but I was pretty impressed with his writing skills and his desire to lay out what, to him, is a logical, rational argument in his favor.

Here is the text of his essay, unedited (though my editing fingers did itch just a little):

Five Nights at Freddy's
 I have many reasons that have many things to back them up, so just hear me out. You may say "It will give you nightmares!" Which leads to my first reason, many therapists say that the best way to get rid of fears is to confront them, so you want me so every time I think of it I get really scared? No.
You may think that "you will get even more scared if you play it too much." Don't worry I have more reasons to back this one up. It's a human urge to do what we are told not to, if you say "Don't do this!" than [editor's note: argh!] we want to do just that. It's actually proven that no smoking signs make you want to smoke more. If you constantly guard us and protect us from doing that then we will get overwhelmed with want that we will be grumpy. If we learn that it IS scary.
If WE get it with out OWN money then we have the right to play it, scary or not. I may be going on and on and on but we can both agree that I have good reasons. I hope you can agree, if not I will write another. (ha ha just kidding) only not really. Please agree THE END 
Well, kudos for trying, son. The answer's still no. Hopefully, telling you "no" will not overwhelm you with the grumpiness of want and force you to take up smoking near no-smoking signs, but that's a chance I'm willing to take. Plus, you're frequently grumpy enough that I think I've already got the practice I need to deal with it.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Say Hello to My Inner Mad Scientist

My mother sent over a box of apples from her tree. These apples are perfect for eating out of hand or baking into a pie.

Mmmmm, pie. I still love pie with a fervent depth of passion.

So perhaps there will be a pie for dessert tonight--that is, there might be if by this evening I haven't decided that I'm too tired to be bothered whipping up a pie crust, the making of which remains my biggest cooking pet peeve of all time. Ugh, I hate making pie crusts. I have literally thrown a temper tantrum making pie crusts. It's sad but true. Husband doesn't throw temper tantrums whilst whipping up pie crusts, so maybe I'll hand that duty over to him and I'll be happy to peel, core, and slice the apples and mix the filling.

What I'm also hoping to whip up is some high-dose liposomal Vitamin C in the next little while. I have the ultrasonic cleaner, thanks to the in-laws, who got a good tip from Husband about what I wanted for my birthday, and they bought it even though it seemed like an incredibly odd gift. I ordered the sunflower lecithin yesterday (thanks to a gift card from one of my awesome brothers), and it will arrive tomorrow. The freeze-dried, powdered acerola cherries (a birthday gift from Sian) will take a little longer to ship, and this is where my patience will be put to the test.

At this point, I usually launch into some long lecture about the benefits of whatever experiment I'm trying now. This time, however, I'll leave it up to you to do the research. Suffice to say, I feel my family needs this desperately, and I'm very interested to see what happens.

(Well, "interested" is a bit of an understatement. Picture a mad scientist rubbing her hands together and cackling in nerdy glee. That's more like it.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I'm No Good at Teasers

Why are the forbidden books the sweetest?


I'm back.


I haven't decided yet, really, but I'm feeling more extroverted these days. These things go in waves and cycles. I remember at college or on my mission, when I was constantly surrounded by other human beings with little or no time alone, that I'd occasionally go off into a sort of mental fog. I'd feel disconnected from those around me, unable to really be part of the moment for a couple days at a time, even if I was in their company. It wasn't like I was thinking about something else in specific, it was more like my unconscious needed some meditation time without me present, like dreaming while awake (without any frightening hallucinations, thankfully). After a couple days, I'd snap back all of a sudden, ready to be social and present again. Weird.

So, what's new? you ask, sitting on the edge of your chair, breath caught in your throat as the sense of anticipation builds to a trembling crescendo.

Gosh, I hate to leave you hanging like that, but I'm just not going to tell you. Let's just move on, and you'll pick it up as we go.

Here's a teaser, though: I've read lots of books lately. Gobs. Stacks. Entire shelves. Husband had to buy yet another book case so I could deal with the increasingly dangerous pile of books next to my side of the bed as they spilled out of my nightstand and onto the floor.

When Husband got Jonathan Stroud's newest addition to the Lockwood & Company series, The Whispering Skull, he said very firmly, "I want to finally read a book before you do. Leave this one alone until I finish, please." But it wasn't my fault that he was gone to work all day and the book just sat there appealingly alone on his nightstand. I was very good for a few days, but finally I broke down and read it while he was gone. It was excellent. It was delicious, as all of Jonathan Stroud's books tend to be. And I didn't admit to anything until Husband came home and noticed his bookmark was in the wrong place because it had accidentally fallen out during my forbidden reading and I couldn't remember exactly which page it was supposed to mark. Then he forced me to admit I'd read the book before him, after which he tut-tutted at me for several evenings.

I'm afraid that I felt little guilt. I mean, I didn't tell him anything about the ending, did I? And I promise that I never steal his Jack Reacher novels, mainly because I feel like if I've read one, I've kind of read them all.

So it should be fairly obvious to you that some things haven't changed much. And that wasn't much of a teaser, either, was it? Again, not much has changed.

Here's a real teaser, though: why did my in-laws buy me an ultrasonic cleaner for my birthday this year? Oooh! Can't wait to tell you!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

All I Want to Be is the Healed Leper Who Turned Back to Thank the Lord

Here's a question: 

When Jesus healed the blind man so he could see or caused the lame man to walk, what happened to them in the days following their transformation? 

Imagine if you'd been blind since birth and suddenly you had vision. Suddenly, you are inundated with color and movement and shapes, and you have no idea what any of this crazy new sensory overload is. How could you tell what a ball is just by looking at it, much less identify its color? How could you get the hang of visual depth perception if, before, your only sense of your environment was through touch, taste, and sound? 

Likewise, if you had been lame since birth and had never learned to walk, would being healed suddenly give you the ability to know which muscles to flex and how to balance on one foot at a time?

I thought about this a lot before. I've also thought about it a lot since my own healing. I know I haven't mentioned much about it since that post, but that's only because I don't have the words, not because it hasn't been utterly profound for me. On a daily basis I continue to be utterly amazed and grateful for what I have been given.

Before, I often wondered if those whom Christ healed were also given new mental abilities, if their perceptions and thought processes were healed along with their physical bodies. I think I can tell you now that not only is that possible (when all things are possible with God) but very likely.

I wouldn't have imagined before that having fears removed from my heart through what can only be described as a spiritually surgical process could also fundamentally transform the way I think, that habits could be erased and replaced in one sudden, glorious moment. When you can't remember a specific fear, the habit of a thought spiral is also gone. I will have a thought and then brace myself for the inevitable spiraling cascade only to be pleasantly surprised that there is no need to brace. The fear is gone, and, therefore, the cascade of other thoughts are also gone. In their place is only peace.

Could I have removed those fears on my own? Probably not. I tried. Oh, I tried. But if the removal is beyond your ability to achieve, no amount of trying will force you to succeed. Until they were gone, I honestly had no idea how deeply they were ingrained, and that has been another startling revelation.

But in the end, it wasn't the removal of those fears that was most important. What is most important is the fact that I had to humble myself and exercise my faith when the moment seemed too grim to endure. Only when I completely surrendered myself to God's mercy was I healed, and that healing was complete and perfect. While I remain imperfect as a human being, I know with absolutely certainty that when Jesus Christ implores us to lay our burdens at his feet so they will become light, He means it in a way I still can't quiet comprehend. It's a promise that is both literal and figurative, and it's beyond human imagining. It is sublime. And it is very, very real.

To try and give you an example of what I am experiencing, I'll use my issue with my physical looks. I don't know why, but it's always been impossible for me to separate my self-worth from my physical appearance. I know it's irrational, illogical, and harmful to think I'm only worth something if I am reasonably attractive in appearance, but no matter how much I read or thought or released emotion or reasoned with myself, that fear stubbornly remained like a big, ugly toad squatting on a bed of pearls and refusing to be budged. Now the toad is gone and all that remains are the pearls. I literally do not care if others perceive me to be more or less worthy based solely on my physical appearance. But that doesn't mean I don't care about my body, either. The outcome is that I want to take care of my body because I am grateful for it, not because I see in its imperfections that I am unworthy of any love or respect or that carrying extra weight turns me into a life failure. There is this confidence brimming inside that I can achieve the goals for health that I am setting, even if it's difficult. And I am gentle with myself. That's very new. Where, before, I tried to think this way, tried to convince myself that this was how I operated, now it's real.

It's a pathetic example because I can't really communicate everything in my heart, but it's an example that a lot of people can relate to. 

I don't know that I need this blog anymore. The need to write this blog seems to have stemmed somehow from holding onto fear. I've enjoyed writing it sometimes, and it's been kind of therapeutic for me. But now it's seems superfluous. I tried to keep it up, but my interest in it is non-existent. I have other things I want to do. So maybe I'll come back, and maybe I won't. For those who have read these ramblings, thank you for sharing my journey with me. 

For now, I'm going to enjoy learning to use a new sense. And every day I'm going to thank God for the miracle of my life.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fulfilling My English Bakery Fantasies One Loaf at a Time

Bread may be the staff of life, but it sure does require some commitment to bake. Normally when I make bread, I'll do enough for four loaves at once and be done. Lately, however, that recipe just hasn't appealed. I want European bread: crusty, chewy, and with no sweetener in the recipe. I have these memories of the English bakeries with their racks of bloomer and cob and farmer loaves piled high behind the counter, while under the glass you can droolingly survey the assortment of pastries both sweet and savory.

Mmmm. I could kill for a hearty Cornish pasty right now...

So I was looking online for inspiration, and I found this blog post that contained a simple European-style bread recipe and instructions. I've messed around with clay ovens and baking stones before, and I've had some good--but inconsistent--results. With this recipe, however, I'm baking up consistently amazing bread. It's substantial, it has a crusty exterior, and the crumb is dense, chewy, and not in the least glue-y. I baked loaves to bring to both of my recent choir performances, and I haven't had to bring home any leftovers. Plus, my family absolutely loves it for bread-and-jam and sandwiches.

(This is where I start daydreaming about having a double oven or building my own cob wood burning oven in my backyard.)

Simple European-Style Bread

(This recipe is in the blog post I linked to above, so I'm copying it here but adding my own observations. The author of the blog also includes a very handy video to demonstrate the method.)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour (I have been using unbleached white flour)
2 tsp salt (I use unrefined sea salt for the best flavor)
2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cup very warm water

a pizza stone, large unglazed terra cotta tile, a stone 9x13 casserole dish (this is what I have), or other stone large enough to hold a loaf of bread
pie pan filled with very hot or boiling water

Mix all the ingredients at once in the bowl of a mixer with a bread hook or by hand. Begin sprinkling in more flour a little at a time until you get a shaggy dough that is still sticky.

Pour the dough onto a floured surface and knead for at least 5 minutes. You can't really over-knead this bread dough, so don't worry if you aren't sure when the dough is ready. Sprinkle small amounts of additional flour over the dough to keep the dough from being too sticky to knead, but be conservative with the flour. Allow the dough to remain somewhat sticky.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl (use extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil), turning the dough to coat it in oil on all sides. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place a clean dish towel over the top. Allow to rise for 1 hour.

When the hour is up, carefully and gently release the risen dough from the sides of the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. You don't want to punch this dough down. The key is to keep as much of the gas inside the dough as possible.

With lightly floured hands, tuck and shape the dough into a tight ball (this is where watching the video is a really good idea so you can see how it's done). Slash the top of the dough a couple times with a very sharp knife to allow for it to rise while in the oven. You can shape the dough into a ball (cob) or into a longer French-style loaf. I find a cob shape works the best.

Spread a little bit of extra-virgin olive oil on the top of the dough and cover it with plastic wrap and a dish towel. Let rise for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 500 deg. F. If you have a really hot oven, like I do, preheat it to 475 deg. F instead. Put the pizza stone, tile, or stone casserole dish into the oven to heat after sprinkling on a couple teaspoons of corn meal. The corn meal will keep the dough from sticking to the pan. You could also set the dough on parchment paper for its final rise and for easy transport to the oven, but I prefer corn meal and using my hands to move the dough into the oven.

After the 20 minutes' rising time is up, and when the oven is pre-heated, open the oven and quickly set the dough onto the hot stone. Slide the pie pan full of very hot or boiling water onto the rack under the stone or on the floor of the oven. Set the timer for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 350 deg. F and set the timer for 25 minutes. Remove the bread and let cool completely on a cookie rack before slicing. Yes, wait until it's completely cooled. Be patient.

The reason I use a pan of water is to create some steam. Professional bakeries use steam injection ovens to create that lovely, crusty exterior, but a pan of hot water does a really good job in a kitchen oven. Just don't open the oven once you put the bread in or you will lose all your steam.

When I'm making multiple loaves, I'm kind of married to my kitchen for the day because it's crucial to be really close on the rising times in order for the bread to turn out really, really well. There's only one level in my oven at which to bake the bread, so using two racks at once is out of the question: one loaf would be burnt on top, and one loaf would be burnt on the bottom. Plus, I only have the one stone casserole dish, and I don't want to load two loaves in it or they will touch each other.

Therefore, I start another batch of dough when the first dough is on its second rise. If you don't have anywhere to be, it's a good way to make some incredibly delicious bread while doing other things around the house. Once the first batch is done, you can have a lunch of fresh bread, a hunk of cheese, and some salad. What's better than that?

After you've done this recipe a couple times, you won't even need to refer to the recipe at all. It's so simple and easy.

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Little Venting

I haven't been on Facebook for over two weeks now. I'm very proud of myself. But sometimes I just want to share something with others and I have no way to do that.

This article talks about health issues that I think are relevant to every single American. I was shouting out loud the more I read, and what I was shouting was not anything complimentary about how our government has facilitated and even forced the rise of autism and the incredible rise of many horribly diseases by pushing more and more vaccinations containing thimerosal (mercury) and aluminum as preservatives (and which heavy metals have been proven to have horribly adverse effects on the brain and body), accepting bribes from Monsanto and other big companies that genetically modify crops, and calling people who disagree with the government-sanctioned rape of our health "radical," "extremists," and "terrorists."

Thanks for letting me vent.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Book Report

Here are my favorite shoes, as promised:

It's a little hard to tell from the picture, but these classy Misbehave heels feature black needlework on white "leather" (all parts are man made). They remind me of Spanish blackwork, which is a style of needlework that, were I to ever pick up a needle and thread, I would very much like to try. They're comfortable, easy to wear, and always make a statement.

And now I'm bored with shoes. I want to tell you about two books which you might be interested to read. The first book is called The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised As Freedom, written by David Kupelian. I don't know anything about the author other than through this book, but it is obvious that he identifies himself as a Christian who believes in right and wrong. Either you find that blatant bias annoying or refreshing. Personally, I don't have an issue with it at all, being a believing Christian myself who goes to church every Sunday and tries to live her religion every day of the week. Kupelian goes through ten areas in politics and society where concerted marketing efforts have been made to turn what was once unacceptable into something to be tolerated and celebrated. There were people who are the "they" to whom we like to refer, and Kupelian points out who they are and quotes them directly. "They" did actually plan and execute campaigns to change the American mindset about things like homosexuality, what teens should worship to be cool, the importance of marriage and nuclear families, abortion, public education, and more.

I couldn't read half the chapter on abortion. I just couldn't stomach it after a while. The rest of the book was truly disturbing as well, but the lies that were told to the public in an effort to make abortion legal and the description of ripping a baby apart while it is still in the womb made me so sick I had to skip to the next chapter. But even if you also can't read that entire chapter without wanting to cry your eyes out and call upon God to blast our world into oblivion for our sins against innocents, I would encourage you to pick this book up and make yourself that much more immune to the seductive pull of carefully planned marketing campaigns that call evil good and good evil.

The other book is more cheerful. I had seen it referenced in an article I recently read, and when I was at the library yesterday wandering through the non-fiction section, I noticed its sunny yellow cover at the end of a stack. Happily, I picked it up and started reading it as soon as I got home. I'm only two-thirds of the way through, so I haven't quite finished it, but it's a tremendously fun and interesting read. It's called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg.

I've read quite a number of books on habits, but this is one of the best that I've read. I love books that explore the whys and wherefores instead of just telling me what to do. Duhigg, whose writing is engaging and informative, divides his book into three parts: the first part explores "the neurology of habit formation" and goes into depth on how Pepsodent toothpaste and the marketers of Febreze were able to turn what looked like total product failures into national obsessions through the science of appealing to how Americans create habits. Part 2 delves into the habits of corporations and organizations, showing how changing the habits of the individuals in just one aspect of an organization can create a ripple effect of changes in other, unrelated aspects. Duhigg uses the story of Paul O'Neill (former treasury secretary) and what he did to turn struggling Alcoa, an aluminum company, into one of the largest companies in the world (hint: he used heightened safety standards). And finally, the third part looks into the habits of societies.

If I've made it sound dry and boring, let me assure you that it is most definitely not. In fact, I'm ending this blog post just so I can go and read it some more. Don't call, don't come over until I'm done.

Monday, May 5, 2014

"Give a Girl the Right Shoes, and She Can Conquer the World." ~Marilyn Monroe

After the experience I wrote about in my last post, which was fairly life changing, I updated my Facebook status to "Taking a break from Facebook in order to make more time for Korean period dramas." I didn't actually mean that literally, of course (well, mostly), but I've had some interesting questions due to peoples' misinterpretations of what, exactly, I did mean by that. My mother called to ask me what I was doing with the Koreans, as someone at church had seen my status and was wishing me well (through my mother) in my new and exciting endeavor. I never discourage people from thinking that being a writer is anything but glamorous and adventurous, and if they think that my career naturally includes having something to do with Korean television in a capacity other than sitting around like a slug with my eyes glued to subtitles, who am I to argue?

And just to be clear: I watched a Bollywood film over the weekend to keep my horizons broad. One cannot live by Korean period dramas alone, after all, because if nothing else, one's children tease one mercilessly.

But as exciting as my "new endeavor" into Korean television is, I've had a bit of writer's block. Today, I decided to take pictures of the dress shoes in my closet and post them here in an effort to break the block. If I attempt to write about anything more serious, nothing happens. So, let's keep it shallow, shall we?

Torture Devices Masquerading as Footwear 

I love boldly colored shoes as much as I love chunky jewelry. Unfortunately, you can't really tell how painful a pair of shoes is until you've walked a mile in them, literally. I once walked a mile in these unpadded red Vanity pumps because I attended a conference in downtown Big City, and after the conference, the ladies I was with wanted to hit the mall and check out the Disney store. While I consider it irrational behavior to step into a Disney store for any reason other than that you are being held at gunpoint, I can't really point fingers in this case. As they cooed about cute overpriced crap, I sat quietly in the corner with a tear in my eye, surreptitiously massaging the aching balls of my feet. Even walking a few minutes in these shoes is enough to make me limp. And yet I still have these shoes in my closet because they are red.

When I spotted these Chinese Laundry beauties, I had to have them. It doesn't bother me that I'm over six feet tall when I wear them (Husband can handle it. He's tall.). What bothers me are the bleeding toe cuticles after the toe straps have rubbed them raw.

What was I thinking when I bought strappy little sandals? Obviously, I was thinking I am a foot model who has toe cuticles of steel.

I'm not and I don't.

I do own a pair of incredibly comfortable Aerosoles slingback heels. You'd think I'd wear these shoes every time I dress up, but I'm not that smart. If they were a brighter color, I probably would.

Take pink, for instance. Nice, feminine color on these Gianni Bini heels, but you've got a bit of edgy metal zipper up the back and some modern straps to cut the sweetness. These shoes get noticed.

Bootie-style shoes were a fad, but I've got two pairs of them and I wear these Madden Girl booties a lot because they go with anything and they stay on even if you're wearing slippery tights.

The purple suede Steve Madden booties don't get as much wear, however. I'm still wary of pairing booties like this with a skirt. That's a lot of horizontal lines chopping you up into sections. The only way they'd really work with a skirt is if I was wearing monochrome purple, including tights, and I don't own that much purple. Being a big girl, I'd probably just look like a grape. I'll hang onto them until I find great trousers to wear with them, and once in a while, I'll just go in my closet and stroke their soft suede-iness when I'm hiding from the children.

I own a lot of black, blue, and green clothing. Periwinkle shoes like these Fioni sort-of-bootie-style shoes fit right in.

As you can see, I am not a slave to fashion. There are no Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks anywhere on my horizon. I find shoes at thrift stores, and my criteria for buying a dress show is that it has to seriously catch my eye, have a rounded toe (the pink Gianni Binis are an exception), and not be black, as I have enough black shoes to last the rest of my life. Comfort isn't an issue, apparently, or I'd never put on anything except flats. Husband just laughs at me.

Tomorrow, I'll show you a picture of my favorite pair.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Measure of Grace

This is a very personal post, and because of that, it's kind of hard to write. The reason I'm sharing it is for two reasons: I think my experience can help others realize the awesome power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to heal all wounds; and I don't want to forget what happened to me.

As preface to my story, let me say that I have been thinking a great deal lately about my testimony of Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. When the LDS church began acknowledging historical documents that may cause some people to question their faith in specific people, events, or doctrines of the early restored Church, I started contemplating what, exactly, makes up my testimony. My conclusion is that my testimony and my faith are centered in Jesus Christ, and everything else is merely an adjunct to that testimony. I know He lives--not because I've seen Him with my own eyes but because I have felt the Spirit too many times as it testifies to His divinity. I've felt the power in my heart. It is a power that does not and cannot deceive.

Anyway, this was going through my head even as I once again fell into a mind trap and began feeling very depressed and self-loathing. Old habits die hard, I guess. For several days, I couldn't look in the mirror without turning away in disgust not just at my physical appearance but at the remarkable feat of my having survived 42 years on this earth without managing to accomplish one good thing or develop one good talent. It's ridiculous that I could think that way, of course, but I couldn't "logic" myself out of this thought pattern. The dark cloud of pain kept growing and growing, the pain getting more and more intense.

Finally, on a recent Friday morning, I awoke in the wee hours with this heartache piercing me to the core. Husband was peacefully asleep, so I slid out of bed to keep from waking him with my restlessness and tears. Kneeling on the floor, I began pouring my heart out in prayer, desperate for the pain to stop. For 45 minutes, I knelt, begging for healing. I listed all my fears and doubts as they tore through me. It felt like I was ripping apart.

Finally, exhausted, I slid back into bed. That's when the miracle happened. My body relaxed immediately, and my storm of emotions calmed. As if someone was reading them off of a list, all the fears I had been fighting against suddenly began running through my mind, perfectly articulated. But instead of the dread and pain I had felt before, the Spirit infused me completely, and I was at peace. Every time I questioned the peaceful feeling, the words "Be still!" echoed in my mind and I relaxed again.

I don't know how to describe what happened except that it was like having poison sucked out of me. That's how it felt. Once the well-articulated list of my doubts and fears was completed, the fear left. It just disappeared out of my mind. I felt nothing but love and peace and a sense that I was surrounded by beings of light who loved me. I was so relaxed and warm that I fell asleep and did not wake up until the alarm went off.

To this day, there is a sort of buzzing feeling where those fears once were. I can't remember them. I can't remember what, exactly, they were. I suppose that if I really wanted to, I could dig deep and pull them all back up, but I have no desire to do that. I had spiritual surgery, and I'm healed. I know I can return to old thought patterns and habits and have the same issues again, but I don't want to.

The power of Christ's Atonement was not only that He paid for the sins we all commit, but that He also dove deep below all the pain and anguish any one of us would ever feel. The Atonement literally heals, as is evidenced by my experience. I am still in awe that I would receive such a powerful answer to my prayers, and I am eternally grateful for the new insights I now have. Grace will save us if we allow it to. There is no person on the planet for whom Christ's Atonement is not in effect, for whom it cannot provide healing. No one is too bad or wrong or broken to be the exception; all are welcomed. Every single person is loved beyond his or her capacity to understand.

I'll need the Atonement's power in my life again and again, and I know it will always be there when I reach for Christ's healing love.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Playlist Report

So what can I tell you? I haven't been inspired to write anything in particular lately, and I'm not sure I have anything interesting to say now.

I'm writing a book. For the moment, I'm just vomiting words to see what happens.

I finally burned a mixed CD again. I've been slowly collecting songs I want, and I finally had enough for a shorter CD. Rather than continue to collect more songs, however, I got impatient. I know CDs are so 1990s and first decade 2000s, but I don't have a smart phone that holds music, so listening to my faves in the van is only possible with a CD.

Wanna know what I collected? Of course you do!

  1. Black & Gold by Sam Sparro 
  2. Good Intent by Kimbra (This song is about a man being tempted to stray during his marriage, but it's so cleverly done.)
  3. Gal Mithi Mithi by Amit Trivedi & Tochi Raina (So, so danceable! And so, so Indian!)
  4. Don't Stop the Music by Jamie Cullum (this is a cover of Rihanna's club dance song, but while I don't much care for Rihanna's version, this one has such incredible jazz piano chords and is so sultry that I can't stop listening to it.)
  5. The Blower's Daughter by Damien Rice (If there's an overarching story behind this song, I don't know it. I just like its poignancy.)
  6. Eyes by Kaskade (featuring Mindy Gledhill) (I love Mindy Gledhill's voice. This is good dance music when you're putting on your makeup in the morning, although I encourage you to be careful while dancing and applying eyeliner. That's from personal experience.)
  7. One by The Bee Gees (I loved this one in the early 90s. It has good memories associated with it.)
  8. Happy by Pharrell Williams (This will be one of those horribly overplayed songs very quickly, but it really is a happy song. I don't clap along because I keep my hands at 10 and 2, but I'm happy like a room without a roof!)
  9. Hunting High & Low by A-Ha (Total throwback. There's nothing wrong with a shot of A-Ha.)
  10. Won't Stop by One Republic
  11. You Win Again by The Bee Gees (see my comments for One)
  12. Say Something by A Great Big World (This is not the single featuring Christina Aguilera because that version just doesn't make sense to me. I can see one person singing these lyrics, but two? That smacks of frustrating miscommunication in this particular song, and that makes me upset. So I prefer this version. The throbbing heartbeat of the piano, the driving insistence of the cello and strings, and the sad lyrics just get me every time.)
So now you know what I'm annoying the kids with while we drive. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

What's Better Than a Love Story?

How funny is it that I've gotten some of my girls hooked on a Korean soap opera?

It's a somewhat silly teenage series based on a Japanese manga, but it sucks you in and won't let you go. Love triangles make for great drama, and because they cast some of South Korea's finest looking specimens of humanity, it's fun to look at while you root for Team Goo Jun-pyo or Team Yoon Ji-hoo. You'll have to excuse the boys' hairstyles and just assume that is what passed for highly fashionable in 2009 South Korea.

Check it out on Netflix InstantWatch: Boys Over Flowers. It's fun. Just pace yourself or you'll never get anything done.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why Does It Still Seem a Little Obscene to Say You've Googled Yourself?

One of my best friends showed up unexpectedly at my door yesterday afternoon. She came in waving a piece of paper.

"Look at this!" she exclaimed incredulously. "I went to get a copy of my medical records from [a doctor], and a copy of this guy's driver's license was in the middle of my records, not once but twice!"

I looked at the paper she was holding. Sure enough, it was a copy of the front and back of some guy's driver's license. What's more, his last name wasn't even close to hers in the alphabet, so a misfiling by proximity seemed unlikely.

"My phone died, but I wanted to call him and tell him I have this copy," she went on. "Do you have a phone book?"

I looked around a bit helplessly. I remember seeing a phone book at some point, but I could not remember where I would have put it. Who uses phone books anymore?

"I'll just grab my laptop," I said, and scurried up the stairs to fetch it.

We sat down at the table and I typed the mans' name into a Google search. Several entries popped up immediately, and I clicked on one. It happened to be his voting information, which is something I've never seen before in an internet search. As we scrolled down the page, we found his full name, spouse's name, address, phone number, political affiliation, and the number of times he's voted. I was a little shocked with the amount of information I had in my hands.

My friend borrowed my phone and called him up to inform him that the doctor's office had inadvertently given her two copies of his driver's license. (When you understand that she is extremely angry with this particular doctor, you'll understand why she was so quick to make the call. I happen to know she is very justified in her anger, as I am a witness to how she was treated.)

The man was both confused and upset by her revelation, but what probably made him the most upset was the manner in which she found his phone number. She gave him her name in case he had any further questions, and when she hung up the phone, we kind of looked at each other.

"I can't believe I have his driver's license number and all this information about him on the internet. I should have gotten his Social Security number," she joked.

I asked her if she'd ever Googled herself. Incredibly, she never had, so I typed in her name to see what would come up. We started sifting through all the search listings as she got more and more horrified at how much information was out there about her. When we looked up images, she couldn't handle it anymore. She left, laughing that she would have to take care of this.

Well, I don't know. Remember that movie with Sandra Bullock, The Net, that seemed so futuristic in 1995? I remember being fascinated with the idea that you could order a pizza from your computer and never actually have any human contact (not that that idea was entirely attractive). Now public records and all kinds of bits and pieces of information are out there about you, never to disappear. Interesting world. And I have ordered a pizza from my computer, but I went and picked it up in person, just so people could say they had met me personally. You know, in case someone tried to scrub my identity or something...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why Arizona Should Pass That Legislation

Oh my! Such a can of worms has been opened in Arizona that even the Republican senators who originally backed the bill are trying to tell the cool kids that, hey! they're cool, too, and they didn't really mean to be uncool at all. I'm talking, of course, about the bill in Arizona's legislature that will allow private businesses to discriminate against any customer based on religious belief.

The horror! Oh, the humanity!

Twitter has overheated! Facebook rage runs rampant! Obviously, by passing such a law, Arizona is trying to stomp all over the LGBT community and promote hatred and hate-speech and hate-crimes and just a general overflowing of hatred all over the place. It must be the work of those nefarious and overreaching religious nut-jobs who hate blacks and gays and anyone who is different! People who proudly proclaim that they never go to church or practice any organized religion are declaring that they must know the Bible better than most schmucks who go to church, who are (to reiterate) the very clods who have brought such an awful bill to pass.

It's all very dramatic and very stupid.

So let's look beyond the merely superficial, hair-raising headlines, shall we? Let's get a bit of perspective into what is and is not freedom. Then let's talk about how so many tolerant and compassionate people are completely missing the mark.

First of all, a bill allowing private businesses to discriminate against any customer based on religious belief is not the end the of the world. Remember those "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" signs in the convenience store by the beach (or anywhere else)? Yeah, that's discrimination. Remember those "We reserve the right to refuse service to any customer for any reason" signs in restaurants and bars (not that I frequent bars, but I've been in enough to know they're there)? Yeah, that's also discrimination.

The problem is that people think "discrimination" is a bad word. If you're discriminating, you're obviously an intolerant, incompassionate, and wholly unfeeling lout. If you discriminate, it must mean you're some sort of bigot or homophobe (which is a world I detest, as it's so completely misused) and you should probably be shot at dawn in the main square after being forced to stand in the stocks overnight and be pelted with rotten vegetables and cow dung. And yet the same people who believe discrimination is evil also make choices about what brands to buy, which people to be friends with, what clothes to wear, what car to drive, and where they work. In short, everyone discriminates. To discriminate means to make a value judgement based on your beliefs, experience, perception, tastes, and understanding.

Of course, in this case, people are up in arms about the possibility that private business owners will be able to choose which customers to serve and which not to, and because the stories have made national headlines about gay couples suing private florists or bakers for not providing their services for a wedding to which the owners objected on religious grounds, discrimination for business owners must mean that business owners will now throw out the gays en masse.

Being of a libertarian mindset, I support the right of absolutely any private business to discriminate about whom they will and will not serve. Why? Not because I'm a heartless, bigoted homophobe. No, it's because I think we are all benefited by as much liberty in business as possible. I think it is absolutely immoral of the State to legislate that any private business owner must serve absolutely everyone who walks through their doors.

GASP! I can hear someone claiming that I would have supported segregation in the Old South! Maybe even slavery!

Let's be logical here. If a private business is free to discriminate, the market is much more free. Free, unfettered markets produce products and services that are based on what the public is willing to pay for. Jobs are created, creativity and ingenuity are rewarded, and people find new products they didn't know they needed before. Wealth is created this way, and anyone can get a share of that wealth by coming up with a popular product or service. Any attempt at forcing private businesses to serve one set of people or not serve another set of people gets in the way of this process. That, to me, creates more evil in the long run than allowing discrimination. Yes, evil. I said evil.

Once the State can tell you whom you must serve, they can also tell you whom you must not serve. Remember Hitler's Germany, where private businesses were penalized for serving Jews? What if much-maligned Christians in the U.S. became the new boogeyman, not to be treated as full citizens--or even as full humans? What if it were people with dark skin? Oh, wait, that's already happened. So don't tell me it can't happen here. And if you allow the modern State to tell private businesses whom they must serve, it's happened again.

But what about the gay people who want cakes or flowers for their weddings? How fair is it that they can't get them from people who are religiously opposed to gay marriage?

I tell my children that I'm going to make them t-shirts with the words "It's not fair!" printed on the front. I hear that phrase so much, and it's something you expect from immature children, not from adults.

Okay, so what about dirty, stinking homeless people who regularly get thrown out of stores for being dirty, stinky, drunk, foul-mouthed, or annoying? What about people who don't get served because they aren't wearing shoes or a shirt? What about someone who walks into a store and begins to antagonize everyone in it with threats? Should you be forced to serve all of those people? Even if they hurt your business or threaten your other customers or you whole-heartedly disagree with their lifestyle?

Yes, it is the same thing.

So if this bill passes, what happens? It means that any private business owner remains in control of his or her business. It means he or she can discriminate about which customers to serve or not serve. And if a gay couple walks in and is rejected on religious grounds, the gay couple has the opportunity to find an establishment that would be more than happy to take their money for services they are willing to render.

The point is this: it doesn't matter if it's on religious grounds or political grounds or whatever grounds. Private business is PRIVATE and has the right to discriminate. This is the way the free market works. If you don't like a store for their discrimination policies, choose another store. Spend your money in establishments that want your money. Vote with your wallet. Tell your friends. This is how all of us participate in the free market. Those private businesses who make choices that are unpopular will feel the consequences in their bottom line. Maybe they change their policies, maybe they go bankrupt. But it's their choice because they are PRIVATE.

Emotions and hurt feelings do not enter into this conversation, which is often the currency of leftist policies. Free markets work best for everyone, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. When the State dictates to private business owners that they no longer have the right to discriminate for any reason that blows in on the political wind, there is no free market. Then we all suffer for someone's hurt feelings and downtrodden emotions. We all lose more liberty and freedom. We all take another step toward evil.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Quick Headshot

Here is my one of my beautiful and artistic daughters. I am putting her head shot here so she can link to it in an application.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Be Still

One of my friends has asked the desperate question: how do you tap-out? Between work, home, bill paying, the inability to sleep well, and all the responsibilities that come of taking care of a family and doing the right things, how do you relax? How do you give up the stress without piling on the guilt?

Did I mention that this friend is male? He's also Catholic. Between Mormons and Catholics, I think there is so much guilt being produced that it could probably compensate for all those who blithely and recklessly ruin their and other peoples' lives through careless or deliberate actions.

Is life really more complicated than it was when people spent most of their time on survival? Are we truly more busy and stressed? The answer is an unequivocal and resounding YES! Our lives do not reflect the same sort of stresses that once plagued our agricultural ancestors. While we have thousands of machines to do the heavy labor of life, we have also invented a million new ways to trigger the fight-or-flight syndrome. We are on 24-hour alert every single day of the year. It isn't a female thing. It isn't a male thing. It's a human thing.

To add insult to injury, if you abide by a religious or spiritual creed or belief, you are also attempting to live a good life and make good choices. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, as living a moral life of treating others as you would wish yourself to be treated is only going to make the world a better place. But when we start feeling horrible and crippling guilt for what we perceive are our failures and never give ourselves credit for the things we do right, something is very askew.

Another problem is that what is right is now a big question mark for much of society, and that question brings with it a whole new set of stresses and worries. Are you a failure if you don't recycle everything possible? Are you a horribly insensitive person if you don't agree with all the social progression that is constantly being flung at us? Are you teaching your children correctly if you aren't politically correct?

So where does it end? When does the enjoyment of life begin? When is it okay to tap-out? And how do you do it?

I have my days when worries and stresses and guilt almost overwhelm me. I allow that inner critical voice to say nasty things and call me names. I cry with the grief of being so incompetent and stupid and lazy that I can't do everything and be everything I know I should be. And then there are the days when I regain my eternal perspective and realize that most of what is considered important in this world is so much fluff. What is truly important is feeling the joy in the journey, in loving your family and sharing smiles and laughs and the freedom to share your feelings in a safe place. What's important is turning to God when the burden seems unbearable and laying that burden at his feet. What's important is realizing that you will never, ever do everything you could possibly do because you are human, flawed by your very nature. What's important is giving other people the benefit of the doubt and loving them, too, because they are on the same sort of journey you are on.

The scripture I repeat most often to myself is "be still and know that I am God." There are two important commandments in that scripture, both of which are hard to follow when you are swimming breathlessly in the panic of trying to keep your head above water. The first is to be still. The second is to know and recognize God's hand in all things. Be still. Be calm. Quiet your monkey-mind. Silence your doubts. Let the fear go. Take time for contemplation of the most beautiful things in the world. Kneel at the feet of the Savior and lay down your burden, handing it over to the shoulders that can and have borne all things. And then know that God's hand surrounds you, that you are precious to Him, and that He wants to hear every thought and feeling you have. Know that He is, that His name is I AM, Eternal, Endless, Love. There is nothing greater than God, not even the bills.

Then you learn to live with less: less stress, less worry, less fear. You learn to shrug your shoulders more and take joy in the happy moments. You learn that the kids are not going to be harmed by not having all the music or sports lessons that you can't afford. You learn that if you are consciously trying to make good decisions, you'll be led toward them and away from the most horrible ones. You learn that there are constant miracles whenever you look for them and have faith, even with money being too tight and time being so short, and days that are full of responsibility. And you learn that even when you make mistakes or suffer pain and anguish, that the lessons learned and the progress you make is a triumph over tragedy. I know--far more easily said than done! Why do you think I'm reminding myself of it yet again?

To my friend, Dave, who is stretched so tightly, you're in my prayers. You are a good, good man, and it shows in how you live your life and how you treat your family and friends. If we know people by the fruits they produce, I am honored to be friends with someone of your caliber. You are always trying to be consistent with what you know to be right and good. I hope you find your tap-out, but I think you're doing just fine. Maybe you can let go of some guilt and stress and enjoy the journey a bit more, which is darn good advice for all of us.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


What do you do when you seethe with emotions?

Some people go for a run or walk. Some people talk them out. Some people write them out. Some people don't do any of those things and just wait for the tidal wave to subside.

In this case, I think I will pound them out through music. Bach fugues on the organ first, and then some crazy Latin tangos on the piano. I'll finish with Kuhlau's finger-tricky piano exercises to force me to focus on the music alone and nothing else.

After, I might just stream a Bollywood flick while I walk on the treadmill. Or Doctor Who.

It's not that the seething emotions are all negative or all positive; it's a real mix today. The monkey-mind in my head is wildly active, which is due in part to my habit of thinking way too much and in part to the virtue of my being a woman. Or is that redundant?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Good Day Today

I had a really good day today. It was one of those days that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and even a little bit productive. First, I got to see an old mission buddy at the airport because he had a layover in The Big City during a business trip to California. Husband couldn't go this time because he had to work, so I went by myself, and Marco and I hung out in the baggage claim area for an hour, catching up, before he had to board his next flight.

Then, as I was already in The Big City, I visited my favorite grocery outlet store and was very pleased to find some excellent deals. My fridge and pantry are now stocked with a lot of good fruits and veggies, including two big bags of new Yukon gold and red potatoes. I love new potatoes boiled or steamed and tossed with butter, salt, pepper, and parsley, but new potatoes are usually cost-prohibitive. I walked out of there with an overflowing basket, having decreased my bank account by far, far less than all that stuff would have cost me at a regular store.

After I arrived home, my visiting teaching companion and I went and visited one of our neighbors. Both of those ladies are wonderful, and I had an excellent time talking with them.

Husband came home from work soon after. My favorite part of the day is seeing his face again and giving him a welcoming hug and lingering kiss.

Then, later in the evening, my brother, Aaron, called. We spent an hour trading news and talking about all the stuff we've learned lately. Eventually, we'll get our website actually going. We've talked about it forever and have the plan all worked out (Aaron even has the domain name and a skeleton site set up), but both of us have been so busy that it stays on the back burner. I love that this brother, who is 10 years younger than I, is one of my best friends. Well, I love all of my brothers, of course. And sisters. I'm a lucky girl to have such wonderful siblings.

It was a good day today.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Colloidal Silver Picture Pages

Here is where I post pictures with some explanations to go along with my last post about colloidal silver. I made up a new batch of colloidal silver today, so I thought I would document the process.

Below, you see my power source, a clean pickle jar I have rinsed with reverse-osmosis (RO) filtered water, and two .999+ fine silver bars. The cookies have nothing to do with making colloidal silver, but don't they look yummy? Sian wins the gold medal in chocolate chip cookie creation. Her secret is making her own brown sugar with molasses.

The power source we have is taken right out of a computer. A former neighbor basically added a plug, a switch, and a couple of Christmas light bulbs (those are inside the box) before drawing a high voltage warning on the top. He also attached two alligator clips.

I filled the jar with filtered water. It's a big jar, but I have a lot of voltage--around 120--so I can make larger amounts of colloidal silver more quickly than if I was using three or four 9-volt batteries hooked together. If I was using batteries, I would only put in 1 to 1 1/2 cups of distilled or RO filtered water. I clipped the silver bars about one inch apart and made sure that they were an inch into the water. I also made sure the alligator clips did not touch the water.

Sorry about the blurriness here. What I was attempting to show was that the bar clipped to the negative alligator clip on the right is turning black as the electric current runs through it. Totally normal. If you look really hard at the water, you can see the swirls of silver ions coming off the silver bar on the left.

While the colloidal silver is brewing, I thought I'd show you one of the neti pots I own and use all the time. You can get these at Walmart (which is where I got mine) or probably Walgreens or another drugstore. They aren't expensive, and they come with 50 premixed packets of the salt/baking soda mixture that keeps the water from burning your sinuses. That's very, very important. If you don't use those packets, it feels like you went to the pool and accidentally snorted a bunch of water up your nose and will spend the rest of the day feeling annoyed and slightly ill.

This is a different version of the neti pot that uses a squeeze bottle. While I much prefer the pot above, Husband and most of the kids like the squeeze bottle better.

You can see that the water has changed color significantly. This is after 30 minutes.

And here is is after a couple hours from starting time.

Here's the thing: my colloidal silver maker is not perfect. As I've discovered, a constant current without a stirring mechanism of some sort means that some of the silver particles will get pretty large as a particle attracts other particles. Stirring will disperse the tiny particles throughout the water and prevent this snowball effect. But if you let colloidal silver like this sit for a while, the larger particles will settle to the bottom where you can see them. You then have the choice of pouring the batch through a coffee filter to eliminate the larger particles or just being gentle when you pour your colloidal silver so you do not disturb the particles at the bottom.

I also notice when I use the colloidal silver in the neti pot that I get silver particles on the tissue when I blow my nose. Nothing to worry about, and I've seen immediate good results from using my colloidal silver as a sinus rinse. 

I'm done talking about his now. It's out of my system. Tomorrow, who knows what I'll feel the urge to write about? I'm all in a tizzy with the wonderment.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Almost Everything You Wanted to Know about Colloidal Silver and Why I Snort It up My Nose

"What is colloidal silver," you ask, "and why have you been snorting it up your nose??"

If I had a nickle for every time someone came to me with that question...

But I and my nickle are going to satisfy the burning curiosity of an inquisitive public today, right here and now. Then, after I finish this post, I will finally get myself ready for the day. Sometimes, the urge to write something overwhelms my urge to perform all the necessary daily tasks of physical hygiene, dress, and cosmetics application, and the only way to get on with it is to scratch the itch. I might as well combine the need to write something--anything--with my skills in cranking out informative articles for a heart-stopping showcase of what it is I do in front of my computer all day. Read on!

What is Colloidal Silver?

A simple definition of a colloid is a mixture that is made of particles of one substance evenly distributed and suspended in another substance. When I make colloidal silver, I am causing particles of silver to be suspended in distilled or reverse-osmosis water. The particles of silver are very, very small and cannot be removed from the water once the colloid is formed. Depending on how you make your colloidal silver, it will range anywhere from 1 to over 1000 ppm (parts per million). The higher the ppm, the stronger the colloidal silver. Different strengths can be used for different sorts of things and in different ways.

How do You Use Colloidal Silver?

Legal disclaimer: Now I run into potential problems with the FDA, but since I'm not offering to sell any colloidal silver products, I think I'm fairly safe. Remember, however, that I am not a doctor and am making no medical claims.

Silver has excellent antimicrobial properties and has been used for millenia in healing. The only real reason it lost favor was at the advent of antibiotic treatments in the early 20th century, but newly emerging superbugs have forced doctors and medical researchers to once again take a look at how silver can help. According to this article on the Bullion Street blog, silver seems to harm bacteria by sticking to the sulfur in each bacterium, which then interrupts the bacterium's ability to use iron effectively. Additionally, silver forces bacteria to produce extremely toxic substances that disrupt each cell's DNA enough to render it harmless to you. The idea, then, is to get silver to the site of a bacterial infection within the body, but it only works if the silver is in a colloidal mixture. Otherwise, the silver particles are too large to do good and could possibly harm you instead.

Colloidal silver can be taken internally or externally. People use it as a spray or gargle for a sore throat or sometimes drink it to resolve digestive problems. I'm not sure if colloidal silver is effective once it's passed through the stomach, so trying to resolve disorders lower in the intestines might be tricky. Externally, you can mix colloidal silver with a cream or gel and apply it to a wound, but you must bandage the wound because the silver will react with light and may cause your skin to turn a bit blue. There are many possible uses for colloidal silver which I am not going to list here. A little research will unearth plenty of ways that people use colloidal silver.

Is Colloidal Silver Safe to Use?

That's a great question, because if you do an internet search on colloidal silver, you'll probably turn up some pretty scary stuff. Many sites will warn you about potential risks such as kidney issues, possible seizures, and even death. Also mentioned a lot is argyria or argyrosis, along with references to a man whose skin turned blue after using colloidal silver. First of all, take a close look at what websites trumpet the most profound warnings and consider their funding sources. Websites that support allopathic medicine tend to poo-poo silver's efficacy while making you very nervous to try it at all. Why? Probably because easy, inexpensive natural remedies are always suspect from an allopathic point of view, which tends to rely almost solely on pharmaceuticals for healing (and for the very cynical among us, follow the money: where would Big Pharma be if they didn't have people slavering to buy their expensive pills and potions?).

I have absolutely nothing against doctors, having been very pleased with the help I and my family have received from intelligent, competent doctors, but I also believe that when used with solid knowledge and education, natural remedies like colloidal silver pose little risk. That blue guy, Paul Karason, used silver as a skin remedy on his face and hands as well as taking a LOT of silver internally for over a decade. When silver on the skin reacts with light, it turns your skin blue. A few doses of colloidal silver for a sore throat or sinus infection are not going to turn you blue and is highly, highly unlikely to do any damage whatsoever. In fact, you'll find many, many people who are so excited about how colloidal silver has helped them heal more quickly or overcome seemingly impossible infections that antibiotics couldn't touch that they can't help but crow loudly.

On the other hand, people who sell colloidal silver definitely want you to buy their product, so they'll be very enthusiastic about the benefits of colloidal silver. I don't know that it's a cure-all for absolutely every ailment known to man. I also wouldn't recommend taking it as daily maintenance unless you find that daily doses really do relieve your symptoms. Personally, I use it for specific things and for limited amounts of time.

How do You Make Your Own Colloidal Silver?

It's surprisingly easy to make your own colloidal silver and save yourself lots of money. Plus, by making it yourself, you can control the concentration of the parts per million. Weak colloidal silver looks like water, and the strong stuff gets darker and darker yellow, amber, and gray. You could, conceivably, make it so strong that it is pretty much a black goo.

What you'll need:

* a power source (easiest power source is four or five 9-volt batteries)
* two alligator clips, one red and one black
* a very clean glass jar
* two lengths of .999 pure silver wire or pure silver discs, ingots, or bars
* distilled water or water that has been through a reverse-osmosis filter
* dark brown glass bottle for storage, or find a dark cupboard where the colloidal silver will not be exposed to light

First, you'll need to make the power source. We had a neighbor make us a power source for this purpose years ago, so all we need to do is plug it into the wall socket and flip the switch. It has a pretty high voltage and makes a lot of colloidal silver very quickly, but 9-volt batteries will do just fine. Hook together four or five of the batteries by clicking the nubbins on top together, negative to positive.

Next, attach the wires of the red alligator clip to a positive nubbin on a battery and the black alligator clip to a negative nubbin, just like you would if your car battery died and you needed a jump.

Rinse your clean jar with distilled or reverse-osmosis water. You do not want any minerals from the tap water to interfere with the process.

Put 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the distilled or reverse-osmosis water in the jar. Clip the silver wires, discs, ingots, or bars to the side of the jar so that each piece of silver is about one inch away from the other but not touching. Both pieces of silver need to be immersed in the water at least 1/2 to 2 inches. Make sure that the alligator clips do not touch the water at all. People have rigged up all kinds of contraptions to do this, but using large alligator clips instead of tiny ones is probably the easiest fix for this step. I have silver bars, and the large alligator clips on my power source make clipping the bars to the side of the jar very simple and easy.

Once the process has begun, you'll notice bubbles coming off the anode bar or wire. Over time, the anode will also become very dark and look tarnished. Don't worry, that's normal. Once you are done making the colloidal silver, just scrub the bar or wire with a non-metallic scrubby to remove the black stuff. You don't have to return it to pristine color condition to make it safe to use again.

I like my colloidal silver dark because I use it only rarely. Remember, the darker it is, the stronger it is. If you want to take maintenance doses or use it for long periods of time, stop the process when the water looks very slightly yellow. It's entirely up to you if you want to let it go longer and allow the water to get more amber-colored. The kind I make is nearly black, but I don't have my kids drink it--not that they will, anyway. It does taste a little metallic.

Finally, store your colloidal silver in a brown or amber glass bottle if at all possible. Otherwise, keep it stored away in a very dark place so it will not react to light.

Why Did You Snort Colloidal Silver up Your Nose?

What a great question! Where's my nickle?

But seriously, I had to admit to myself that I probably have a sinus infection. I hardly ever get sick, so that was difficult to admit, but symptoms suggested it strongly. Plus, my children have almost all suffered from sinus infections recently. So, willing to experiment on myself, I decided to combine the neti pot with the colloidal silver.

I heated up two doses of colloidal silver in a pan on the stove until it was just body temperature (I knew the dosage amount because I filled the neti pot twice with colloidal silver to the "fill" line and then poured the colloidal silver into the pan to heat). Once the colloidal silver was the right temperature, I poured the first dose back into the neti pot and stirred in the little sachet of baking soda and salt that keeps the water from stinging your sinuses. Then, standing over the sink, I poured colloidal silver up my nose. It went up one nostril and came out the other.

And you thought Disneyland was fun!

I did that twice, once into each nostril, blowing my nose gently after each application. I'm happy to say that my symptoms almost immediately abated. I haven't had the headache or overall yucky sick feeling since I used the colloidal silver. I'll probably use the neti pot and colloidal silver once today and once tomorrow and then stop using the colloidal silver and switch to just filtered water to keep my sinuses cleaned out.

If you want a link to a good video about making your own colloidal silver, click here. There are plenty of YouTube videos and articles on the subject, so you can start getting your education quickly.

Now I'm finally going to put myself together and get back to my real work, which, today, is editing a manuscript. I'm glad you stopped by. I'll update this post later with a photo of my colloidal silver maker in action.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Human Interaction in the Thrift Store, and Thoughts of Obscure but Lucrative Talents

"Hey!" I yelled up to Husband on my way out of the door to take Sophia to a friend's birthday party. "I need an obscure but potentially lucrative talent. Maybe fantastic things from working a wood lathe? Can you think of anything for me?"

"I thought we were going to refurbish thrift store furniture," he yelled back.

Oh, yeah. That's right. We did talk about that a couple days ago, and I like the idea, though it's hardly obscure. We're always scouting thrift stores anyway, so we might as well have some fun turning sad and lonely dinged up furniture with good bones into lovely, salable finished products. It certainly isn't sitting in front of a computer writing or editing, and that's the really great part. Writing and editing doesn't usually involve a lot of human interaction, and sometimes I wonder if I'm turning into a hermit. It's a lucky thing that I just look like a helpful sort of person, and when I go to the library or someplace like that, people frequently ask me for help (thinking I work there) or strike up a conversation (because I just look friendly, I guess).

In fact, a couple days ago, I was at the thrift store with Husband and MIL. Husband and MIL were looking at stuff, but I grabbed a home decorating book with nice pictures and wandered over to the furniture section to sit down and read it while I waited. I chose to sit in the one piece of furniture I thought was worth buying and fixing up: a wingback chair clad in an unfortunate choice of faded blue and green plaid fabric. It was comfortable, and the arms were ample enough to provide good elbow support. With a thoughtful upholstering job, it could be a great chair.

I had been sitting there for a good twenty minutes when a man walked up.

"Have you finished the book yet?" he asked. "You were reading it when I came in, so I figure you must be just about done with it now." He laughed.

I showed him the page I was on.

"It's mostly pictures," I said, smiling. "So, yeah, I'm managing to get through it."

He told me that he was looking for a loveseat and pointed to an awful example with a sagging seat and dirty, horribly patterned material. "That looks like just what I need," he said. I pointed to one further down the row that was the same size but in really good shape. "Or that one," I countered.

That started a conversation about the insane price the store was charging for downtrodden old dressers, and we shared our displeasure over it. I mentioned that the chair I was sitting in was something I would buy, so I stood up and we looked at it a bit, commenting on its qualities. One of the store workers wandered up and joined our conversation. She flipped over the price tag on the wingback, which said $25.

"Oh, I could probably get that marked down for you," she said, noticing that the code on the tag meant the chair had been sitting there for several days. She started looking around for the manager. "It depends on who's managing. Sometimes I can get things marked down for customers."

I thanked her but told her I wasn't ready to buy today. She told me to look for her whenever I wanted to see if she could get me a markdown. I assured her I would. She wandered off, as did the man I had been talking to.

I was done with the book, and it wasn't one I wanted to take home with me, so I went to put it back on the shelf. On my way, I ran across Husband and MIL, who were heading for the cash registers. I told them I'd catch up after I put the book back on the shelf. But just as I reached the shelves, another man stopped me.

"Are you putting that book back?" he asked. I nodded. "Can I have it?" he asked. I handed it to him and began to turn and walk away, but he stopped me again.

"Is this a good book?" he asked, thumbing through the pages. "I'm really into home decorating books. Well, by that, I mean that I own four books about home decorating, but I'm always on the lookout for more."

He handed a McDonald's french fry to his daughter, who looked like she was about two years old and was standing up and hanging onto the side of his shopping cart. She grinned and shoved the fry into her mouth with her chubby little fingers. "Fe fie," she said explanatorily. I smiled at her.

"It isn't a book I'd buy," I said to her dad. "It has some lovely pictures, but it doesn't have any good tips in the text. I like pictures along with good ideas in the text. Unfortunately, they've moved all their books around and they've got nothing good in right now." I pointed to the shelf for home improvement, which had a few tattered and outdated books on it but was otherwise empty.

"What's a good book, then? What do you recommend?" He was still flipping through the pictures in the book I gave him, stopping to inspect one or two more closely. His daughter finished the fry and reached out her hand for another one, her short blond hair floating around her little head. Her dad handed her another fry.

"She's never so good in the cart. These fries are working really well. I'll have to use them more often," he laughed.

"You're very, very cute," I said to the little girl. She smiled at me around her mouthful.

Meanwhile, I couldn't think of any particular titles, despite the fact that my personal library is bursting with decorating books I have deemed worthy enough to be bought and brought home. This was the reason I made such a terrible salesperson in the book store, as well. As soon as a customer would try to describe a book or ask me for an idea, my mind would immediately go completely and utterly blank. Very inconvenient for both me and the customer. But suddenly, I remembered that I get magazines in the mail, and I also managed to remember the titles of them.

"I guess it depends on what you like in a decorating book," I said, trying to sound somewhat knowledgeable and intelligent and not completely empty-headed. "You have to look at a lot of them to decide what your favorite styles of decorating are. I like magazines, too. I get Better Homes & Gardens and Metropolitan Home, and I like those because you could actually, conceivably copy some of the ideas in them. I get Architectural Digest, as well, and I love it, but mostly I have to ask myself who could afford that kind of stuff? I picked up a cheap subscription to Country Home last year, but that magazine is just disappointing."

The man nodded as I spoke, listening intently. He laid the book I had given him on top of other books on the shelves, leaving it behind as he started gently pushing his cart forward. His daughter jumped up and down with excitement, but she was so short that she wasn't in danger of falling out of the cart. I followed him to the end of the aisle so I could go to the front of the store and meet Husband and MIL at the cash registers.

"Thanks for your help," he said. "No problem," I answered. I waved goodbye to his little girl and then headed up to the front of the store.

"I thought you were just putting a book back on the shelf," said Husband, when I slid up to him in line.

"That thing that happens to me in libraries happened here," I told him. "Someone asked me for help. You know I can't walk away from someone asking me for advice on books."

Husband chuckled.

"You know that wingback chair I showed you?" I asked him. "We gotta come back and get that. It could be our first project. I think I have about four books on reupholstering in our library."

After I master refurbishing old furniture, though, I'm going to get a wood lathe and develop an obscure talent in that direction. It just sounds fun. Maybe even lucrative.