Saturday, July 19, 2014

Truth in Advertising: Healthy Eating

Having to watch your sugar, cholesterol, and/or sodium intake is rather enlightening. You begin looking at labels—I mean really looking. You start wondering just how much of the “food” you are eating is actual food, and how much is filler or preservatives.

Now, I’m not a nutritionist, nor am I a vegan, vegetarian, or Paleo eater. At least not yet on the latter, and I will nvever be a vegan. I like meat too much—get you mind out of the gutter, y’all! But it’s true—fish, chicken, pork, steak—I like ‘em all.

I also don’t really care for too many veggies, and rarely do I like them unadorned. But I’m working on that one. One thing I am becoming attuned to is fresh vs frozen vs canned or jarred.

Of course, fresh is best, with frozen is a close second for healthy eating with convenience. Canned and jarred you have to really watch---not only for the measurements of the ingredients, but for the serving size as well. This label warning goes for anything packaged.

For example, two different brands of honey. One has only 15 calories, the other 60. If that was all you looked at, it would be a no-brainer. But, the first one’s serving size is a teaspoon (tsp), and the second one is a tablespoon (Tbsp). Now, you have to be able to convert, and do the math. For those who cannot, I’ll do this one for you. One tablespoon equals three teaspoons, so take the 15 calories from the first honey, and multiply by three, to get 45 calories. So, the first honey is still better, calorie-wise, than the second, but not by as much as a first viewing would have you believe.

Another thing I began to pay attention to is the actual list of ingredients. If they were messing with us on serving sizes, what else were they misleading us on? For example, a box of broccoli au gratin rice should be rice, broccoli, and cheese, shouldn’t it? Well, if that’s what you thought, you’d be wrong, as I was. There are enough preservatives, chemicals, and colors to make your head spin. Now, I’m not blaming the folks who make this boxed “food”, because without preservatives, they would not be able to sell their product in such large quantities, and the shelf life would be minimal. However, I can realize that this is not the natural food that I am looking to put into my body.

With this in mind, I have recently switched back to actual butter, after reading numerous articles warning that margarine was more closely related to plastic than to milk. That article was bullshit according to Snopes, but margarine does contain poly- and monounsaturated fats, which are shown to be far more unhealthy than regular saturated fats. Besides, butter is cream. Period. Maybe a bit of sea salt. Look at a list of the ingredients in margarine and you will find quite a few more than that.

Same with cheese—we have recently switched to real cheese from so-called “cheese product”. Cheese product is not even close to natural. It’s more convenient to eat than pure cheese, as it comes in those little individually wrapped packages, but real cheese tastes SO much better.

The local farmer’s market in my new home town apparently has fresh eggs. I’ve been reading that the eggs you buy at the grocery store can be around thirty days old by the time we buy them. I’m looking forward to tasting some farm-fresh eggs.

Little by little, I am becoming more informed about my food, in an effort to live a healthier and, barring accident or unforeseeable illness, longer life. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Medieval Herbal Medicine and the Treatment of Wounds.

“No, ’tis not so deep as a well nor so wide as a church-door, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve. Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” Every time I think of sword wounds, this famous line, spoken by Mercutio in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, comes to mind. Honestly, I do not believe that Mercutio could have been saved, even in these modern times, his wound was so severe. However, such was not the case with every swordsman in every fight. Some survived, at times with the loss of a limb to show for their troubles; other times with little more than a really cool scar. With that in mind, and the fact that I am writing a scene of a sword wound and the treatment of the same right now, I decided to do a little research.

We all know that Medieval medicine has gotten a bad rap, and that reputation is not based on fantasy. Leeches, bleeding, branding, urine, filth—all things that we associate with doctors of that era, and things that are not necessarily untrue. But there were other options besides dying from infection and/or losing limbs. Healers, often wise-women, used herbs and cleanliness to heal. This was not all the time, of course, but in the country, and where doctors were not readily available (for example, among the poorer classes), the local wise woman was the only choice, and as often as not, the better one.

Now if you were lucky, you got the wise woman who did not believe that clean was a four-letter word; since I am writing a romance, it would not do to have some superstitious, filthy hag treating the injured man. Bear in mind, that I am not a physician in any way at all, and that all the information I write here is general, and gleaned from internet sources, either through websites, or internet friends who are members of SCA. But let’s face it, they likely get their knowledge the same way I did, for if they ever truly get hurt, most of them would be at the E.R., toot-de-suite.

The most important things with wound treatment are cleanliness and immediate treatment. If a wound could be treated quickly, cleaned, and kept clean, the patient stood a much better chance of survival. Castles and cottages were often cold, drafty, damp places. Keeping the patient warm and dry was vitally important. Once the patient’s wound was clean and cleared of all debris, treatment could really begin.

Yarrow was frequently used to stop bleeding. Also called devil’s nettle, thousand leaf, and soldier’s woundwort, this herb has many medicinal uses. First of all, it slows bleeding; the leaves would have been useful in a poultice to this end.  Boil the leaves and drink it in a tea to bring down fever and relieve pain, adding honey for sweetener and also for its antibacterial qualities.  

For broken bones, comfrey leaves could be crushed into a poultice. Comfrey, like many herbs, should be used with caution, and only by a qualified herbalist. I have read many articles, usually on “modern” medical websites, that point to the fact that comfrey can cause liver damage and even death, but then, an overdose of cough medicine can also cause death if left untreated. However, comfrey is also very good at knitting bones and closing wounds due to the fact that it stimulates cell division and reproduction.

One other very important factor in healing is rest. If one cannot sleep, one’s body is taxed even further than by the injury alone. In this instance, chamomile or lavender would probably be used. Both are popular relaxants, allowing the body to drift off to sleep.

I would imagine that most healers would use various herbs in various forms, just as doctors today do not use only one medicine or method necessarily to treat a major wound. Again, I am not a physician, nor a time traveler, just a person who enjoys research. For further information, please speak with your local herbalist. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three About Me

Borrowing from my friend, Charlene Newcomb.

Three things about yourself:

1. Born in New Hampshire
2. Love horses
3. Once studied space science in college

Three things that scare you:

1. Spiders/bugs
2. My children being hurt
3. Being broke/unable to pay my bills

Three of your everyday essesntials:

1. Coffee
2. Laptop/internet
3. A book to read

Three of your favorite hobbies:

1. Reading
2. Hiking
3. Exploring new places/things

Three careers you're considering/have considered:

1. Editor
2. Astronaut
3. Horse trainer

Three books you have recently read/are reading:

1. Time and Chance--Sharon Kay Penman (current)
2. When Christ and His Saints Slept--Sharon Kay Penman
3. Copyediting & proofreading for Dummies--Suzanne Gilad (current)

Three things you are working on, writing-wise:

1. Writing and researching my Robin Hood era novel for Camp NaNoWriMo
2. This blog
3. Consolidating all of my poetry into one or two compilations for publication

Three things you want to do before you die:

1. Become a published author
2. Visit Italy and Greece
3. See every state in the United States (unless this is one of those things where your death is contingent upon reaching the goal first, in which case, I'd like to live on a terra-formed planet in the Horsehead Nebula)

Three places you want to go on vacation:

1. Bar Harbor, ME
2. Boulder, CO
3. Smokey Mountains

Three favorite vacation spots:

1. Bar Harbor, ME
2. Ireland
3. Boston, MA

Three celeb idols (or crushes):

1. Channing Tatum (well, duh!)
2. Joe Manganiello (the inspiration for the hero of my current WIP)
3. Jensen Ackles (the inspiration for the hero of the sequel to my WIP)

Three quotes:

1. "Do you want clever, or really clever?" -- Joe Armstrong as my favorite character, Allan A'Dale, in Robin Hood, BBC
2. "You're never too old to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot
3. "I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, 'I drank what?'" -- Val Kilmer as Chris Knight in Real Genius

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Blood sugar was a whopping 132 this morning. This is 33 points over where the doctor would like to have my levels and comes as no surprise. This is what happens when you eat pasta and cookies all day long, ending the night with a big bowl of ice cream and two cups of tea with sugar. This is what happens after a whole week of bad eating. This needs to be my wake-up call.

Mom is dead. Her services are this week-end. While this sounds callous, there is nothing I can do for her. Time to get back to treating her daughter right. Mom would want me to take care of myself. Today, I am going to make a real effort to choose my foods more wisely, to keep the carbs to a minimum, and make them healthy when I do have them.

When I get back home, I am going to get back to setting my alarm clock, getting up, and drinking hot lemon water before going for a walk or doing calisthenics. I am going to get back to healthy dinners, with most carbs early in the day. I am going to get my sugar and my weight under control again. I am also going to get back to logging my foods on My Fitness Pal, so as to keep better track.

For now, today, I am going to finish my coffee, then have a little oatmeal and some orange juice. Then, if the rain has stopped, I’m going for my walk. Baby steps, one day at a time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Research, and Other Four Letter Words

Research. To some, it’s the bane of their writerly life. I love to research, but recently had a problem where a lack on my part would have made a very serious faux-pas in my work. The novel is historical fiction, about a mythical set of people who may or may not have existed, as well as some of my own made-up characters, but all of them are interacting in very real events, with very real people. I was about to send my champion into a war that was not going on at the time. Whoops!

And so, I went back to my handy-dandy Google and searched. I found one skirmish that might have worked, but the time frame of when my hero would be there would have to be changed. I continued to search, and found a possible invasion that could work. Nice thing is (not for the people who lived through it, but for an author looking for such things), this era was fraught with wars, skirmishes, battles, and invasions.

When I research, I tend to head to the Google-foo, and I often begin with Wikipedia. Yeah, I know--*shudder*. But, it is a good place to start, to find basic information that can later be validated on other websites. Whatever the research, I try to find at least three sources that say the same thing, often using books or experts when and where possible.

I also try to write a little about what I’ve discovered. Reading more than one source, and writing a short paper on the subject, help me to learn more about it. Immersing myself in the subject is also quite helpful. Sometimes, I even make up flash cards, and I’m thinking of making up little quizzes for myself. Yeah, I know—GEEK!

Sometimes, research can be extremely fun, though. Researching what my male characters look like can turn into an afternoon of having to wear a bib so as to avoid drooling on the keyboard, thus shorting out the laptop. Exploring the many adjectives and turns of phrase used in romantic scenes can require Depends Adult Diapers from the laugh factor.

Then, there are other times when the research is downright boring. Timelines. Who did what when. And while herbs interest me, studying all of their uses in their various forms can be tedious.

But whether the research is boring or fun, it is necessary. At least, it is if you plan on writing an accurate story. My plan is always to write a story that is as accurate as possible. And so, I am off to Google again.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Back in the Saddle

I used to ride horses a lot when I was younger, and one thing I learned early on was that if a horse threw you, the first thing you had to do (after getting back up and trying to look like you let the horse throw you) was to get back up into that saddle. Persistence is apparently something that is valued in many aspects of life, most notably in riding and writing for me.

Last month, I decided to try out Camp NaNoWriMo. The nice thing with Camp is that you can set your own goals, so the 50K of the November Insanity is not everyone's goal. It’s been so long since I’ve written that I gave myself a goal of only 15K words, which works out to 500 words per day. So far, I am ahead of schedule, which is good, since my mother’s memorial service is in just over a week, her burial two days later. The day after she is interred, I will be driving home, an all-day affair by the time traffic gets factored in. On those days, little to no writing will be accomplished.

If I sound callous about my mother’s death, I do not mean to. Mom was in the process of dying for so many years that the reality only hits at random moments; thus, I can write this with hardly a tear shed, at least so far. But on to the book, as I know Mom would be sitting here, quizzing me about it, her pretty blue eyes alight with interest, her chin on her up-tilted palm, supported by her elbow on the table.

Mom was always amazed and proud of my writing “ability”. I remember once she helped me type a term paper for college, when the sheer number that I had to write for finals was over-taxing my wrists. I “read” the paper to her and she typed. At one point, when I paused for a bit, she asked me for my rough draft, saying she could just type it from that. The look on her face when I told her that I had no draft, was creating this all in my head from a few notes, is one I will never forget.

And so, Mom, and anyone else who is interested in reading this, I will tell you about the novel. Some of you might have heard of my fan fiction novel, The Thief, written in the Robin Hood, BBC fandom. It’s gotten a few hits and a couple of reviews, despite the fact that it was written in the infancy of my return to writing. It amazes and humbles me that it still gets hits, favorited, and reviews to this day. Because of that, and my interest in the Robin Hood legend (one that goes back to the days when, as a small child, I watched Errol Flynn traipsing around the greenwood, fighting the evil bad guys with flair and ease), I have decided to do a rewrite of that novel.

Those of you who know me well, however, know that nothing in my life or my writing is ever quite so straight-forward. I love characters and am always fascinated by what makes them tick. I had a deep interest in Guy and Allan not just because they were hot, but because their characters intrigued me. Why was Guy so cruel? What made Allan turn on Robin and the gang? But Keith Allen’s portrayal of the sarcastic sheriff also intrigued me. I began to wonder about the bad guys, and the (to me) skewed idea that bad guys were bad because they were bad, and good guys were all good. Black and white faded to gray, a color I just had to see through to get to the hows and whys.

And so, to my rewrite. It began as a simple retelling of The Thief, one that was not fandom based, so that I could publish. What happened when I put fingers to keyboard to write some background info was entirely different. I have woven a whole new history for my characters, and my Robin Hood story does not even have Robin Hood in it. Yet. First, I am figuring out what exactly made the Sheriff of Nottingham into the Evil Bad Guy.

Obviously, I do not want to give the whole plot away, and since I am still in the writing stages and my characters tend to be ornery, I couldn’t tell you the whole story if I wanted to. I can tell you he does not start out as a bad man (although, his father, at this point, is a bit of a jerk). I am doing a lot of research, some of it reminders to myself, some of it new information, and I will share some of that with you in coming posts.

I am not going to promise a schedule of Monday/Wednesday/Friday posting, nor will every post be about the novel, but if you are interested, please click on the “follow me” button or the “subscribe” button, both found on the left-hand column of my page. I will also continue to post about my weight loss and how it affects my health, as well as posting about general health-related stories.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Life Catch Up

HOLY CATS! I can’t believe it’s been a year since last I posted. So much happened this past year that I was unsure at times that I would survive. There is no real place to start, except at the beginning, and I shall give you a synopsis, ere this turns into a novel.

Last July, my husband was offered, and accepted, a promotion and transfer with his job. He was also given a slight raise in pay, but one that barely rises to the occasion of our new home’s expenses.

Our oldest son was a senior in high school, and so hubby and I decided that hubby would move to the new job location in Maryland, while I would stay with the boys in Florida. In retrospect, this is not a mistake we would ever make again.

My father, as part of a spend-down to get my mom into a home, had been unable to give my son his old car, a car which was in good shape. He had to sell the vehicle and claim the money as income; we did not have the money to buy the car. If I had it to do over again, I’d take a loan and get the money, especially as once Mom was in the home, Dad would be able to pay it off for us had he wanted to. But, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So, when he came to bring my younger son home from his summer visit in August, my dad went out and bought my older son a vehicle with the money he had gotten from the sale of his car. We thought it was a good truck, and it wasn’t bad, but it was not in the same shape that my father’s car had been in. Over the months, it became a real money pit, needing new tires, new brakes, a new clutch, and sucking down gas the way a drunken hooker sucks down booze.

Hubby’s job put him up in temporary quarters in a hotel, but that would run out at the end of September, after which, we would be paying two rents, two cable bills, and two electric bills, all off of basically one income. The oldest boy started a job in September, working in a hotel as basically a runner for the maids. Also in September, I started a part-time job at my friend’s store, covering for here assistant manager until that girl returned from maternity leave. When the girl returned, another girl had to take some family leave time, and so I covered for her. By the time she returned, Christmas season was upon us and I was able to stay for the holiday selling period. By Christmas, my son had had enough of his job—he would have to come in early, stay late, could never make plans to see his girl on the weekend, and all for the same rate of pay as the folks who were never there and did not work as hard as he did. The final straw came when he was falsely accused by his manager of stealing; in fact, it turned out the manager had been the thief, but by then it was too late—he was once more unemployed.

Also in September, I began the arduous task of preparing our recently purchased, barely moved into house for sale. We would have to divest ourselves of it anyway, as even if we managed to make it through the year with the two sets of bills, we would not be able to manage to do that for long once we were all together again. And so, while playing single mom to two boys who are highly intelligent but would make a sloth exclaim, “Man! That dude is laaaa-zy.” (at least when it came to their studies), I set about fixing and cleaning and moving things to a storage unit to make the house look less cluttered. Mind, I was working 20 hours or so at the store, as well as working my business still.

Two months later, we got a bite on the house that would pay off our loan and give us a small profit. We closed on December 23, but the new owners were kind enough to let us stay on (rent free) until the 2nd of January. Unfortunately, our apartment was not ready until the 3rd. So, everything went to another storage unit and on the 3rd, we brought in some friends and moved nearly everything out in one day, as hubby had to start driving back to Maryland on the 3rd, too.

Our rent went up by $200 per month from what I had originally been told (a total of $500 over what our mortgage was), but there was little I could do about it, having no place else to stay. I didn’t dare complain too much, as hubby had grown weary of the bachelor life and kept threatening to bring us all to Maryland; meanwhile the older boy was determined to stay in his school (or at least in Florida) come Hell or high water.

Sometime over the summer, the older boy had changed his mind about entering military service. Now, anyone who’s ever met him knows that this is a boy who is uniquely called to the military. He thrives on the discipline, and serving for a minimum of four years will help him mature and reach his overall goals. But, at any rate, the boy had decided to go to trade school, working full-time somewhere (no job at the time, just a nebulous “somewhere”) and get his mechanic’s license. Now, there is nothing wrong with this plan. IF he had a job. IF he had a place to stay once we left. IF he was any good with school when left to his own devices. IF. IF. IF.

As part of his rebellion while his father was gone, and seeing as he was now a “man” being all of 18 years old, he had gone out and gotten himself a tattoo in September; after his father left in January, he went out and got a lip piercing. I have nothing against tattoos or piercings, BUT if you’re trying to get a job, these things do limit your choices.

Long story short (I know, too late again), I finally went down and spoke to his recruiter, and between the two of us, we managed to get him to go down there and sign up for MEPS. Before MEPS, he was told to get rid of the piercing, that he could put it back afterwards. Luckily, the piercing closed during MEPS, and he was loath to have it re-done. Talking with his recruiter and going to MEPS rekindled his passion for the military, but nothing would get him to study and do well in school.

Right up until the last week of school, and in fact, the actual graduation itself, I worried that he wouldn’t graduate, but somehow, miraculously, and thanks to the patience and leniency of his teachers about handing in late work, he made it. I have never been so proud, happy, scared, sad, and relieved all at once in my life.

Now, during this time also, my dearest cousin, who had battled juvenile diabetes since she diagnosed herself (pre-internet, folks!) in her early teens, was found to have intestinal cancer. She had fought the diabetes so long, receiving a new spleen and even donating her eggs and her husband’s sperm so that they could raise two adorable children. We thought sure this was just another battle that General Jan would win. We were wrong. Two months ago, Jan passed away, fighting until the bitter end to remain with her family. Jan’s mother, one of my favorite two aunts, passed away only a year and a half ago.

Before and while this was going on with my cousin, my mother’s condition worsened. Alzheimer’s cannot be cured yet. She went from being able to walk to meals and take care of her own bathroom needs to sitting listlessly in a bed all day, having to be fed (liquids only, and not much of those, as she could not chew or swallow solids) and having someone change her like a baby. My poor Momma lost more than half of her weight in less than a year; she was so weak and fragile. Saturday morning, at 5:00, she won her battle with Alzheimer’s and crossed the veil to the other side.

Three months ago, I was also diagnosed with Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. No wonder, considering that all of these conditions can have stress as one of their root causes.

I am not one of those people who writes when the stress is on, particularly not given the incredibly over-the-top amount of stress I was going through (there were, as you can imagine, multiple arguments with the teen and his father). To some people’s way of thinking, that means I am not a writer. So be it. There are a lot of writers out there, who respond in different ways. There are a lot of people out there, who respond to stress in different ways. My way is to become almost manically physically active between bouts of depression that have me sleeping long hours. Creativity at such times seems somehow self-indulgent to me. Not that I begrudge it of others, just not my thing.

At any rate, with Mom no longer suffering and the rest of life settling in, I might be able to get back to blogging soon. Mom and Cousin Jan would want me to get back to writing. And I know--*snort* “synopsis”. But this “is” the short version.