Archive | February, 2012

A sad day…

29 Feb

And then there were two…

This is Meg. She was an English Setter, a sweet, sweet girl. She would have been 13 this summer. She has been in increasing pain from degeneration in her spine and hips, and today, very very sadly, she was in such pain that we had to make the very difficult decision to put her down. I hate it, but I’m glad she’s not in pain anymore. She was such a sweet girl that she almost never complained, so when she did… well, we knew.

Our cat, Emmy, and our lab, Thyme, know everyone is upset. Thyme had really been doting on Meg the last couple of weeks, going to her every time she moved. She knew she was going downhill, and she’s a bit agitated. Well, we’re all a bit agitated, I guess.

We miss you, Meggie. You were a good, good dog.

oops, not supposed to be on the bed, huh?

Hard life...

Zeke says goodbye. ūüė¶

Update on “vegan around the edges”

26 Feb

In one of those “this was really helpful in a really not-fun way” moments, our experiment with being vegetarians with “vegan around the edges” ended up with me finding out I have pretty severe iron deficiency anemia. Now, I’m not saying that caused it. Looking back, it was probably a 16 month progression, almost a comedy of errors. But the vegetarian/vegan diet pushed me completely over the edge, so that I finally quit blaming my symptoms on a variety of other things (“I’m getting sick;” “I’ve just been sick;” “I’m 46;” etc) and took myself to two doctors demanding some explanation for why I was exhausted all the time.

I looked a lot like Thyme, except I didn't sleep on my shoe

When I say exhausted, I no longer mean what I used to mean, which was basically, “Wow, I’m tired, think I’ll go to bed early, and get back at it tomorrow.” ¬†What I now know as exhaustion is my eyes tearing up when I’m in the middle of Costco because I am so completely exhausted that I honestly can’t see how I’m going to get out of the store without collapsing. When going up the stairs makes my heart pound. When going to a couple of stores in the morning, back to back, puts me completely out of commission, mentally and physically, for the rest of the day. And it’s why I haven’t posted much in the last few weeks.

So I had a complete blood panel, and everything was fine. I went to my lady doctor next, and said, “You’ve got to do/find something!” She sent me for a vitamin D and B12 check, and at the last minute checked “anemia.” Which was kind of weird (in a God way) because my hemoglobin and hematocrit from the finger prick were ok. Low normal, but normal. And lo and behold, the next day (Friday before last), she tells me my ferritin level — the level of iron your body has stored — is way low.

Really delicious beans... just not enough iron

Now, in a weird way, this was a relief. First of all, I would have gone on blaming it on other things had we not done our veg experiment. Second, it’s treatable. My son had the same thing after a prolonged bout of pneumonia several years ago. Third, it meant I wasn’t doomed to feel like that in perpetuity, which brought in the most important element – hope. I hadn’t realized I’d lost hope, but I had.

I’ve been taking a prescription iron called Irospan, and I am feeling¬†much better. I overdid last Wednesday, because I actually felt normal for the first time in months, and as a consequence didn’t have good days on Thursday and Friday. But yesterday was pretty good, and I’m hopeful for today. I’m taking it easy, being thankful that my brain seems to be working (and my son won’t keep saying, “Mom, you told me that already!” all the time!).

Of course, I’m back on meat. Which I love, so that’s not exactly a hardship! ¬†My husband is too, although I think he’s mostly doing vegetarian for breakfast and lunch (although not vegan). He was feeling pretty low on energy too, and eating too many carbs to try to compensate, so he decided it just wasn’t sustainable. My son is overjoyed!

Our traditional Christmas Eve beef wellington... yum!!

This is not an indictment of the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. If it works for you, there’s a lot of enjoyable things about it. But the best thing about it for us was that I have been diagnosed and am being treated, and life is getting back to normal. Which is a huge blessing, even if it seems in a round about way. I guess God does work in mysterious ways, after all!

Only God is limitless

23 Feb

As I was strolling today (and yes, “strolling” is the appropriate word, as I was only recently released by my physical therapist to do any walking at all, especially in our hilly neighborhood), I was enjoying the mid-70s air, the sunshine, just being able to¬†walk, however slowly I was going. I wasn’t “working out.” I wasn’t even trying to “work out.” I was just free to do a very basic thing – walk.

How I like to spend the days...

Anyway…. As I was walking, I was thinking about the last 2 years and I realized something. In the last 104 weeks, I have been sick or injured for about 70 of them. Yep, 70. That does not include the 16 months that I was developing iron deficiency anemia, which overlaid good and bad weeks. Now, this is¬†not a blog about me feeling sorry for myself, because I don’t, not even a little. In fact, I was pretty shocked when I added it up, because overall it has been a great couple of years, and I don’t look back and feel infirmed.

Because I started having these thoughts at the beginning of my walk, I started pondering it, trying to see what was going on from God’s point of view. Some of you know that my grandmother is 98, still lives alone, drives, walks her dog, cooks, is always dressed to the nines with her hair perfectly coifed and her nails done. My mom is 70, my aunt is 68, and neither seem anywhere close to that. I’m almost 47, and don’t consider myself “middle aged” except in the most literal sense of 47 being about halfway through my life. But since I try to see what God’s teaching me – and I’d say 2 years of almost constant physical difficulty constitutes a clue that He’s trying to get my attention – I tried to shift my gaze.

Important things (Thing 1 and Thing 2)

What I know is that God is limitless. And God alone. I have really learned the lessons of living in freedom, really¬†living my life, in the last five years, and I know there is so much more to learn. And I think, aside from the “slow down” lesson, which I have totally embraced, the other lesson is this:¬†I am not limitless. My body is not limitless. My goal needs to be – and stay – being healthy and strong to go where He sends me. Any other goal… and the real danger is pride.

On Pinterest, many of the pins are photos of women without an ounce of fat, killer exercise routines, and comments from women who want nothing more to look like that. OK, sure, most of them look great. I’m not super keen on the ones that you kind of have to study to determine whether it’s male or female, and I think curves are sexy. But yeah, they look great. They’ve worked hard. Here’s what I know, though, from the times in my life when I’ve looked closest to that: ¬†My body was my primary focus. To look like that, you have to watch everything you eat. You have to schedule your life around exercise. You have to get “in the zone” to be able to push yourself to the limits day after day. It takes over. And it’s completely self-focused… At least for me. I know that I cannot do it without that kind of focus, because I have done it a few times.

And now, at almost-47, I know this, too. While I may feel, in so very many ways, in my twenties or thirties, I’m just not. Focusing on looking like a 22 year old fitness model… It’s just not what God’s calling me to. ¬†Focusing on health, on living…¬†This is what God’s called me to. And if the next 104 weeks are mostly sick or injured, I’m ok with that. Because I’m still able to do what He wants, when He wants, and honestly, that’s enough. Let me repeat that: THAT. IS. ENOUGH.

As long as I'm strong enough for this, I'm strong enough!

When books become movies

10 Feb

I dragged my teenage son to the theater last night to see One for the Money, which is based on the first in series of Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. I had seen the trailer and thought that it didn’t look very well done, and read a review on Big Hollywood that agreed… But a friend of mine who has read the books saw it and liked it so I thought, “what the heck?” Sadly, it was a waste of $20. My first thought was that Janet Evanovich should be pretty displeased with the way her characters were portrayed. Then I heard that she was “pleased.” So… I find that weird.

In the books, Stephanie Plum is incompetent but lucky, klutzy but sexy. The secondary characters, of which there are many, are hilarious. I mean, laugh out loud funny. HILAROUS.¬†The first book probably wasn’t the best to make into a movie for the secondary characters anyway, but there is exactly one funny moment in the entire movie, and I don’t even think that character is in the book. Stephanie is just not very appealing somehow, although I can’t put my finger on why exactly.

I realize that changes have to be made to make books into movies. My general rule of thumb is that, if it doesn’t fundamentally change point of the story or a person’s character (meaning the qualities of their character), I’m ok with that. A good example of when it does and doesn’t work for me is in the movies Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

In Prince Caspian, we have a whole scene not in the book – the storming of Miraz’s castle – which is just terrible. We have a fundamental shift in the nature of both Prince Caspian and Peter, both towards each other and towards leadership. I think the movie is mediocre at best, and so did movie-going audiences. That director was out for Dawn Treader. Now, in Dawn Treader, they changed the story some – the order with which they visited the islands, the thing with the mist and the sacrifices. They really had to do it, or the movie would have been way too long, and have boring parts. But they did not change anyone’s character. Eustice was still a total pain – and plaid to perfection by the young actor, I might add. All the principle characters were who CS Lewis created them to be.

In the The Lord of the Rings movies, looking at all three of them, there are only two things that bothered me. (Which is amazing in about 12 hours of film!) One is that Faramir’s character is fundamentally changed by the writers making him desire the Ring. What makes Faramir remarkable in the books is that he truly does not desire to possess it, come what may. The other is that Frodo doubts Sam, and finally sends him away. One of the most enduring, endearing friendships in all of literature is Frodo and Sam… That still, after seeing the movies a dozen times, really bothers me.

In general, books don’t seem to translate well to film. I’m not sure if it’s because screenwriters, directors and producers feel the need to put their own stamp on it, and misunderstand the basic things that made the book popular to begin with, or if it’s just the difference between the written and the visual media. I’m not sure fan fiction ever produces great writing, either, so it’s probably a combination of the two. It’s disappointing, because there are so many great books, and many fewer great movies (especially these days).

At any rate, skip One For the Money. Or wait for it to be in a RedBox or on Netflix. It wasn’t worth $20, anyway, and we didn’t even buy popcorn… sigh.

The month of writing dangerously… Or something like that

7 Feb

The February/March writing challenge has begun. It’s a bunch of NaNoWriMo participants who miss the hectic pace getting “together” on the forums and writing 60,000 words in 60 days. A lot of the people are counting all writing, like blog posts and journals. And true, writing is writing. But for me, this is a 60 day challenge to write a second novel, and I’m actually aiming for around 90,000 words (or to the end). I crossed the 10,000 word mark last night, so I’m 1,000 words in the black so far. That’s always good… You never know when you’ll have a day where you don’t/can’t write anything.

I’m also about 60 pages from the end of editing my NaNo novel, called Solomon’s Throne. I’m hoping to finish editing it this week (need to get a move on!), and start querying agents by February 15. There, I wrote that down for all to see, so there’s some pressure… Editing is way less fun than writing, and this is a really in depth edit, pondering each (almost) word, deciding if a better word would work, checking grammar, removing extraneous stuff and adding in some scenes that my beta readers wanted. I finished NaNoWriMo with 88,651 words, and the novel is at 91,782 right now. I have one more scene to write from scratch for sure, so I’m thinking it’ll be in the 94,000-95,000 range. Good for my genre (adventure).

The new novel is a sequel. I debated that… Some people’s advice on writing forums is not to bother with a sequel until you’ve sold the first one, because you might not, and then you’ve wasted your time. Well. Two things. One is, I feel good about being able to publish the first one, and have had really good feedback from non-relatives on it. And two, I just really wanted to write another book with my main characters. I like them. They’re fun, they’re smart, they work well together… I’m just not done with them, I guess. And to my way of thinking, no writing is wasted, even if it doesn’t sell. I’m learning craft, I’m learning persistence and (as my first real boss used to call it) stick-to-itiveness. I’m figuring out how to put a detailed plot together in a way that makes sense. And I’m really having a blast. So… Sequel. For the moment, it’s called The Hoard of the Doges.

What I haven’t learned is how to keep the laundry going and do all this. If you have any tips, just let me know! (In case you haven’t realized, sometimes when a post has no reason to have photos, I just have to add random ones. Because I’m a visual person… This last one is of possibly the world’s worst product.)

Adventures in vegetarianism. With “vegan around the edges”

4 Feb

Our family has had one of those really weird weeks. To give a short history, my husband is the 4th of 5 boys. His dad was one of 5 kids. And all of the people with their surname can EAT. And what they can especially eat is meat. Lots and lots of meat. Papa Jim, my father-in-law, once ate 5 chickens at an all day cookout. There were witnesses. (And, unfairly, he wasn’t overweight!) When the 5 boys got together, they could go through a bushel of oysters in a couple of hours. My husband has been known to complain if I serve 2 dishes in a week that don’t include lumps of protein (ground up protein doesn’t count). So.

On Monday, I made some black bean soup to freeze. I had done my week’s menu, since I was starting the new novel on Wednesday, and was making a tofu stir fry for lunch one day, and a soba salad for lunch one day. I typically eat that way for lunch, and then have meat with dinner. So my husband says, “Oh, is that for dinner?”

I say, “No, we’re having fish.” (My husband loves seafood.)

He says, “Well, can I have it for dinner, because I’m eating vegetarian.”

Big block of silence, while I find my voice. “Uhhhhhhh…what?”

He proceeds to tell me a long story about running into an old friend who ran into an old friend… blah blah… Long story short is, the friend has been eating what turns out to be vegan (no eggs or dairy) since the beginning of the year, 6 days a week (having steak and cheese on Sundays), and without giving up his scotch or adding exercise has lost like 12 lbs. So my carnivorous, meat loving, protein shake drinking husband has, in what can only be described as the shock of the decade, decided to do this, too.

Another block of silence. “Uhhhhhh…ok.” (Witty rejoinder, eh?)

At first he didn’t tell me about the eggs and dairy, and he did eat the seafood I’d already purchased the first 2 nights. Our kids have still not recovered from the shock – if there were 100 people in a line up and we had to pick one person who would go vegan, my husband/their father would be the 100th choice. Seriously.

Yesterday morning I said, “So how have your first 4 days as a vegan been?”

He said, “Since when did vegetarian become vegan?”

I said, “When you don’t have eggs and dairy, it’s vegan.”

He said, “Huh. Well, I’m vegetarian with vegan around the edges.”

So. That’s my life. Vegetarian with vegan around the edges. Can you hear the theme music of The Twilight Zone? I’m wondering when the aliens will bring my husband back…

 

Soul Train! and Breakdance Project Uganda

1 Feb

According to the press, Don Cornelius, the founder of Soul Train, died from apparent suicide today. That’s really sad… In reading the article, though, I watched this video which was embedded, and it took me back to the days of sitting on the bed, watching SOOOOOuuuuuul Train! on TV. Wasn’t it great? Way better than American Bandstand. Much cooler. Or so we thought. Check out the clothes and hair – my goodness! But also, notice how much of modern hip hop got its start from this era. And, of course, Earth Wind and Fire was just awesome, period.

Now a’days we don’t have quite so much… well, fun on tv. Just fun. It’s always got to be a competition, not just a performance. That takes some of the enjoyment out, I think. But click below, and see fun…

Life is too short not to enjoy it – so go out and dance. Or stay in and dance! Crank up ELO or Earth Wind and Fire, or Usher or even Lady Gaga (if you must!). Dance like no one’s watching!