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Dec 12, 2013

Life Balance, Top 10 Practices

What are your Top 10 Life Balance Practices?  Here's a listing of mine, revealed as though David Letterman was reading them in The Late Show.

10. Resting, you know, recognizing when your body is tired and needs to sleep, or at least lay down.  Sometimes being in a quiet and dark room for 10 - 15 minutes can revive me more than a cup of coffee.  Other times, I need to take a 4 hour nap during the afternoon.  Life is what it is.

9. Writing, I think through getting my thoughts out of my head and into the world, silently, on paper or a screen.  Writing gives me a chance to get some perspective from the topics before going crazy from trying to keep from bursting out on to the world, while also allowing me to process what's been going on.

8. Doing the basics good enough, shelving perfectionism.  If I can get things done good enough, they don't have to be perfect, besides maintaining perfect is exhausting and impossible.  Good enough is enough.

7. Talking with friends and family about stuff.  After I've written or rehearsed in my head a conversation, it is easier to start a difficult conversation with folks.  Even if I've not rehearsed how I'm going to introduce topic x, chatting about stuff helps me know I'm normaler than I thought I was and that I'm not alone.

6. Music, either listening to it, or making some, even dancing to it, is a good way to maintain a life balance.  I like listening to country music playing softly on the radio when I'm home alone.  Sometimes, though, I get tired of that and change to the college station, the rap/hip hop station, or the heavy metal/classic rock station.  If I'm going to be doing a mess of cleaning, oldies from the 50s to 70s help me to get moving and grooving.

5. Hot Baths/Showers, the hot water relaxing the tight muscles in my body, easing the tension.  The scents of the soaps, shampoos, and conditioners, providing an aromatherapy for my soul.  The stretching during a shower, with the hot water streaming over my muscles, unties some of the knots in my body.  Occasionally, I get emotional release and even cry.  This usually surprises me.  Though by now I should be used to it, I carry so much pain and tension in my body.

4. Reading, sometimes during a hot bath with bath salts scenting the air and coloring the water, gives respite from the daily grind, either in a tome about some serious thing, or an escape into fantasy land.  Sometimes, I'm reading bits of 5+ books at a time; other times, I find it more conducive to read just the one all the way through and be able to understand its themes and important parts better that way.

3. Knitting, fiber crafting, crocheting, spinning on a spinning wheel and on a spindle, helps me to distract from the pain, focus on one thing at a time, and slow my breathing and heart rate by just paying attention to the work I am crafting.  The creative process is amazing to me and includes not just creating from the ideas of others' patterns, but creating from my own head, and sharing that with others.  I love sharing with others, the give and take of discussion, and finding out what motivates a person.  Crafting helps me do this without seeming obtrusive.

2. Stretching, I don't call it yoga, as I'm not doing specific poses with the names known for the most part.  I just move my head in such a way as to stretch part of my neck or back, or move my arms/ankles/legs/wrists to make circles both forwards and backwards, keeping the joints from closing up on me.  My ankles get really tight all the time. I try to focus on just one side at a time, making the rest of my being soft and relaxed, dropping my shoulders, flattening my feet, sitting more on the fullness of my bottom and not the hind points, if you know what I mean.

1. Prayer, while stretching, I take time to pray, giving thanks for a working, for the most part, body, in good general health, though the migraines do exhaust me and the pain causes my body to tense.  I also pray that others have good days, no matter their current situations; that prisoners repent of their crimes and become rehabilitated if possible; that the fatherless and motherless have good substitutes in their lives; and, that folks love each other as themselves.  That will be what ends wars: loving the other as myself.

So, anyways, these are the Top 10 Practices I do to maintain my life balance.  What do you do for your life balance?

Dec 11, 2013

Community Wins: 21 Thoughts on Building a Thriving Online Tribe, A Review

I just finished Bryan Allain's ebook, Community Wins: 21 Thoughts on Building a Thriving Online Tribe, and if you like thought provoking questions along with action items for the thoughts, then this is a book for you.  I got it because I'm interested in blogging better, connecting with you my readers, and creating a community of folks who can chat about various topics.

This book has great questions to prompt your own growth, and words of wisdom on how to avoid some pitfalls.  My favorite question was, "where do you want to be in three years?"  This kind of question has always made me squeamish in the past, as my life was too chaotic to give an answer I felt confident in.  Now, however, I am confident in saying, that I'd like to be at peace with my disability, helping others get through the trials of learning a new normal after debilitating illness, and possibly, though I am rather shy, publicly speaking about meningitis fall out and the importance of early testing, vaccination, and aftercare.  So, that's where I'm going in the future, and I hope you can come along for the fantastic ride.  Some words of wisdom that Allain shared was to give yourself deadlines.

Deadlines help you to avoid the I can do this tomorrow trap and the perfectionism trap. Both of those traps hinder me a lot!  I have been caught by the tomorrow trap since August, well, September on some paperwork I need to write and send off by February at the very latest.  I need to give myself an earlier deadline than the end of the year, my current deadline, if I'm to break free of this hamstrung trap.  So, I promise that I will finish the paperwork by Monday, December 16, 2013.  Today is Wednesday, December 11, so that gives me the weekend and a few days to make it so, as my favorite Star Trek captain used to say.

As for a rating for this book, I gave it a 4/5 stars.  It's a great book, wonderful even, but like the author wrote, perfectionism is a trap, and so I would feel like I was entrapping Allain by giving his book a 5/5 stars.

Please enjoy this book and share your favorite questions, comments, and bits of the book in the comments section.  Thank you for reading!  Jen

Oct 9, 2013

The Field Guide to Fleece, A Review

In The Field Guide to Fleece: 100 Sheep Breeds and How to Use Their Fibers, authors Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius give in depth reviews of a variety of wools, discussing the amount of crimp, natural area of the breed, breeding changes throughout history, and what the wool is best used for, along with dye effects, fiber diameters and staple lengths, as well as fleece weight and natural colors.

If you are looking to expand your knowledge base in spinning from a variety of sheep, for different effects, this would be a great and handy resource to have with you.  The Kindle version, even in black and white, was easy to read and the pictures were clear.  The book itself is about 7x5 inches for the cover and only about half an inch thick, for over 200 pages, that's a great size, easy to slip into your spinning bag for retreats or spindling in the park and the inevitable questions from passersby as to what type of sheep you are spinning.  Or, maybe that's just me? ;)

The pictures are lovely in this one too!  I love the various backgrounds and seeing the sheep up close and personal.  It was a new experience for me.  I have yet to handle a sheep's fleece, but when I do, I will be sure to look it up in this book.

I gave this book 5/5 stars because I strongly think every spinner should own it at some point in the spinning career.  You should get to know the sheep and wools very well, and this book will take you a long ways down that path.

My copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Storey Publishing, LLC, through the NetGalley Reviewer Program for free.  That said I was under no obligation to give any kind of review, glowing or otherwise.

Oct 3, 2013

Vest or Waistcoat for 18" Dolls

Because folks seem to really like the Mermaid Tail for 18" Doll pattern I posted a while ago, I decided to share my pattern for what we in the USA call a vest and what the British world calls a waistcoat for the same kinds of dolls.


Worsted weight yarn, I used acrylic and got 2 from a 3 ounce skein, about 85 grams

US size 4 or 3.5 mm knitting needle

Directions are available through the Ravelry page or you can buy now by clicking the Buy Now button below.

Feel free to pm me on Ravelry with any questions or comments, MKmaineknitter!

Sep 30, 2013

24 months post BM, and I don't mean bowel movement, thank goodness!

I rushed going back to work before I was ready. That's the one thing I do regret, not getting to know my beast as others have called it. I worked for exactly 2 months, and haven't been able to tolerate going back since. That was 2 years ago November. I advise not driving when you are going from fine to tired and weak. And, definitely get in touch with a neurologist if you can, as they are trained to deal with changes to the physical structure of the brain, which is what has happened.

I was lucky that the hospital assigned a neurologist in the hospital and that I've been able to continue with him. Though, I feel like more should have been done sooner, in my care, then my after effects wouldn't be so bad. But, tis what it is, and can't be changed.

As for the migraines that come after BM, they are different because not only is it a migraine, but the part of your brain that has headaches/migraines has been damaged by the infection and has to heal. It takes 18-24 months for complete healing, though you're most of the way there by month 12. All headaches occur in the meninges, where meningitis caused inflammation and swelling. That swelling takes a year or so to heal fully, though most of the healing is in the first 6 months. 

This pushes your baseline for triggering a headache/migraine up a few notches, or in my case a lot of notches. This also changes the severity, intensity, length of the migraines. Before BM, my migraines were a few hours and gone with home care in the next morning. Now, it's a beast, migraine prophylactic and abortive medications to prevent and stop migraines, three of those, and that doesn't always cut it. Sometimes I've had to go to the ER for them to give me IV drugs to cut the pain. That doesn't always cut it, and I get admitted to the hospital for the migraine. My longest migraine was 45 days, with no break, two admissions, two trials of steroids, two trials of DHE45-protocol (supped up NSAID), and lots of time in the dark with nothing going on. I was bored and hurting. The second run of DHE45 finally had some effect and it started to break up the constant, unforgiving migraine. That was this January and February. Before that, my record had been 15-days. Now, if it stays under 20 I'm happy.

I'm not trying to scare you. Just sharing that this is a beast unlike any we've been on before. And, it changes as time goes on. I'm at 24 months post BM and I know that unless there's a miracle drug, which would require much better understanding of neuroanatomy than we have now, I'm not going to get much better. I'm at the best I can be with this. From here on out it's an attitude game. And, sisters, that's the hardest game out there, but the easiest to win too.

Sep 21, 2013

Lace One-Skein Wonders, A Review

I met one of the designers whom has a pattern in Lace One-Skein Wonders, by Judith Durant. The designer I met at my local knit night was the one who designed the choker and bracelet set with the Majohng tiles as focal points.  This book provides 101 patterns of knits and crochet projects for accessories, babies, scarves, shawls, children and the home.  The photography is beautiful.  The descriptions had me wanting to break out my needles and hooks and some fun yarns. 

I really wanted to get started on at least five of the scarves and shawls.  I just made a bunch of sweaters for a new nephew, but I wanted to make one for him from this book.  There were items for the bath and kitchen that I could see being great holiday gifts. 

There’s also any number of items that can be gifts for those who have a new home, a new job, a new baby, a holiday, a birthday, or any other happy celebration.  There’s also some very practical items that will make sock knitters like me very happy. 

If you like the "One Skein Wonders" series of books, working with lace stitches or lace weight yarn, or you just like looking through the newest yarn books, then is a great book for you.

I give it 5/5 stars.

I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley program in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Blessings of the Migraines

It may seem weird to say I feel blessed to have the migraines, but hear me out.  I am alive, so feeling pain is proof off being alive.  But, it goes deeper than that.  When I suffer from a migraine, I feel like God is taking suffering from others to make theirs less harsh.  By having me experience this little pain, though large feeling to me, it makes another person's experience better, much like Jesus and the Cross does for Christians.

Just as Jesus prayed to God in the garden of Gethsemane to not have this cup, but not his will, but God the Father's will, I pray not to have the migraines, but not my will, but God's will and if God's will please use it to lessen the suffering of others in ravaged parts of the world.  I feel like this is the right way to be with the migraines at this time.  Maybe things will be revealed in the future to change that, but this is where I am for now.

One thing that was revealed, though, was not just to relieve the suffering of the victims, but also of the persecutors.  If the persecutors are forgiven and loved, they will eventually stop giving in to the persecutorial acts being asked of them.  I don't know if that is true, but it feels true.

Anyways, I started praying for the victims in Syria, especially the young girls and boys kidnapped for their desire for education and freedom.  Then, I heard a small, still voice asking about whether I could forgive the Syrian attackers, I was beyond shocked at the question.  Forgive those animals!  Did God know what they did to those children? To those innocent children? 

Of course he did.  He had died on the cross for the souls of all men, women, and children.  So, he must have died for these violators of others' being too, right?  It was hard to wrap my head around praying for the kidnappers and attackers to be forgiven and to have a better life than they have now.  But, what God wanted me to do.  It was easy to pray for the victims.  It was not easy to pray for the violators and mean it.

I learned that God does have a small still voice, that he really wants us to love our enemies as we love ourselves, and that what Jesus did with the cross is more intense than I had already figured out.  Jesus didn't just do die on the cross for my sins, or the sins of anyone I know, but for the sins of the attackers, the people we like to say are truly evil so we feel like we will never be in that place too, those are also the people Jesus died on the cross for.  He died for Andrew Jackson, whom signed off on the Trail of Tears, Hitler, Khan, Alexander the Great, the Vikings, the ones who attacked anyone all throughout our world's history, even back through the ancestry to the first human, many millennium ago.

And, did Jesus die on the cross just for homo sapiens or for all the human species?  My mind is blown just thinking about homo sapiens applications, though God and Jesus are so big that there is no limit to their love and power.  If he wanted to, he could have died for all of humanity from austrolipithcus and on up, at least I think that is the grouping Lucy was in.   I am just amazed at God's power and love.

Sep 6, 2013

What is beauty? A message for my nieces and all other folks constrained by society's definition of beauty

Dear nieces, sweet and lovely women and girls that you are,

I want to share a secret with you, you won't read about it in Vogue or Cosmo, friends won't whisper it behind their hands held up to their faces, but it is a precious secret, and one you need to know.

I can look in the mirror and see all the imperfections that magazines, tv, and society want me to see.  Too round of a cheek, darkness under my eyes, heavy eye lids, and a nose I took a long time to realize was pretty and beautiful, as I'd seen it on my father's face, and while handsome, he wasn't exactly pretty or beautious.  Looking in my cousin's faces, I see my dad's nose, looking at his lovely sisters, I see my dad's nose.  It's a DeLay nose, big, wide, unashamed and does exactly what a nose is supposed to do. Oh, and those heavy eyelids and the darkness under my eyelids, that is the result of sleepless nights from just not being able to turn the tired feeling, they are battle scars from the fight with the fall out from meningitis a while ago, a fight I'm still able to fight.  The round cheek that's me showing that I am blessed with food and not lacking in needs that way.  All together, these mars to perfection are marks of strength, endurance, and blessings, and that my nieces, that is the secret.

It's not in the what of how you look, but the how of what you look.  Let me give an example, seeing my skin change color and texture because of the medications I take for the migraines is a what.  If I were focused on the what of how I look, those changes would make me feel like a pariah, untouchable, ugly, diseased, sickly.  Now, change to the how of what I look like.  I'm reminded of how strong I am by seeing the parts of my skin that have changed and reminded of how blessed I am to have walked out of the hospital in 2011 by the changes in my skin.  Just by changing how you tell the story of the how you are affected by something, you change the reality of how you deal with things.

This works with all sorts of things.  I experience great pain, yet, I rarely cry about it, and not just because crying makes the pain worse.  I've prayed to God for acceptance of the pain, and miraculously, he is giving me the gift of being able to live alongside the pain.  I was getting a massage last night, and the masseuse was working on a knot in my neck.  All of a sudden, I started having a dull with sharp edges pain in the middle of my back on the opposite side of my body.  I didn't expect that, and it was weird, but also kinda neat to just be there with that pain and notice it, but not get emotional about it.  Just be with it.  I was floating in the pain and the reverberating chimes of the soothing music, and not fighting the pain, just noticing it.  It was weird but good.  I've never experienced that before.  If I can do that, with God's help, then you can choose to kick the messages of beauty being skin deep or hair dependent or the curve of your lips dependent or what have you, you're beautiful just the way you are because you are human and you are. You exist and creation isn't ugly.

Fight those surface only definitions of yourself.  Don't limit yourself with the language you use.  I believe that the time is now to stand up and be counted among the proud and strong and beautiful, just for being you and getting through the day without killing anyone else.  If not now, when?  If not today, when?  The time is now.

Tell yourself, "I am.  I am beautiful.  I am strong.  I am good. I am good enough." Tell yourself whatever you need to tell yourself.  You know what your inner critic is lying to you about, just dump him/her out with the garbage and tell yourself, verbally, out loud, everyday, every hour if need be, the exact opposite of what that mean inner critic was saying.  And, yes, we all have an inner critic, some of us can tell that jerk to take a flying leap off a short pier and actually lose the jerk for a while.  But, until you do more work than I've done, the critic always slinks back into your psyche and haunts you.

My inner critic was telling me junk yesterday before I went to the massage studio.  It told me I'd feel better by eating an additional cup of rice after supper.  Now, I started to listen, and actually ate half of it before I got angry and told myself that I was poisoning myself.  I was acting in opposition to my own best interests, desires, and health by eating another whole cup making it two whole cups, when a serving size is 1/3 of one cup.  That would have been 6 servings, not 1, I actually had about 4-5 servings, but I threw away the last of it because it was just too much and was going to poison me as surely as cyanide would.

I'm sharing that to illustrate that no matter how enlightened you are, or think you are, that inner critic is insidious and slinks in without notice.  A little bite will taste good and satisfy my craving for more, oh it's all sticking together so more ended up on the plate than I wanted, I'll just eat it anyways because it is there.  That's not treating myself as beautiful and worthy of being treated to optimal feed for optimal health.  I don't care about getting skinny, I just care about getting healthy.  And, health is one of the strongest aphrodisiacs any wheres.

So, dear sweet nieces, and all the other folks out there who feel constrained by society's definition of beauty, remember that you get to make your own definition.  And, you get to rewrite the story if it doesn't work right the first time. Remember the secret and use it today, now. 

Aug 26, 2013

Great Little Gifts to Knit: 30 Quick and Colorful Patterns, A Review

Jean Moss has brought together 30 fun projects for gift giving, whether for babies, ladies, gents, or the home.

After looking through the book, I would love to make and receive some of these.  There are shawls, tea pot cozies that can double as extra cool hats, and lots of other awesome presents to make. I may have to rethink my Holiday gift giving plans.  

If you like to see projects worked in bright colors, or you like reading the stories behind the patterns in a book, then this is a book for your enjoyment.  There are some projects that show ways to redo them to make them gender neutral.

I gave this book a 5/5 because of the beautiful photography, the fun stories, and the awesome projects.

I received my copy of the book from the publisher through the NetGalley review program in exchange for my honest feedback and review.

Knit Christmas Stockings, 2nd Edition, A Review

Gwen W. Steege has brought together nineteen fabulous patterns for Christmas time in her book Knit Christmas Stockings, 2nd Edition.  These are as simple as a Rustic Lodge and as classic as the cabled Reindeer and Bells.

I especially enjoyed the ornaments.  There are mini socks, sweaters, and mittens to make.  As well as hearts, stars, and trees to decorate with.  There's enough ideas to kit out a family, including puppy and kitty.

I gave the book 5/5 stars because there are so many cute projects that I can't wait to get started making.

I received my copy of the book through the NetGalley review program in exchange for my honest opinion.  I am under no obligation to render a positive review.

Jul 30, 2013

Chivalry, A Review

Zach Hunter wrote Chivalry to remind his generation that we are called to live a chivalrous life with others and ourselves, whether male or female, straight or homosexual, black or white, or something in between.  He used little stories to introduce each of ten principles from the code of honor by which the knights of old used to live.  He believes that his generation will be known as a generation of action, especially in the realm of social justice.

Chilvary is not "being nice" or polite or something along those lines.  It is doing the right things because they need to be done and you are there to do them.  To paraphrase Zach's thoughts, chivalry is about the internal change from self centered to open our lives to the loving guidance of our amazing, awe inspiring God.  This internal change shows itself in our behavior that is much more long lasting and higher than anything we can do on our own without God.

This book was important to me because I am trying to live the best life I can.  With the migraines and disability I have, I am focusing more on what I can do, which is things like how I approach others and God.  I cannot control the pain or the migraines or any of that stuff.  I can only do my best, which does vary day by day.  That's all we can all do.

This book would be important for you to read because it will help you think about things beyond your own circumstances in a way that may spur you to action or at least to a new way of interacting with others.  It can also open your mind to new ways of thinking about life and the things beyond this world.  So, check it out and see what you think about it.

Comments would be awesome!  I love to know what others think about books we've both read and how we are the same and different.

I gave this book 4/5 stars because it made me think differently and that was a good thing.

I received my copy of this book from the publisher, Tyndale, through the NetGalley review program for free in exchange for my honest opinion.

Jul 26, 2013

Faith of a Mustard Seed

Earlier this summer, Karen and I had gone to a wedding with Casper.  I ended up getting a migraine from the lights.  The loud music helped to make me nauseous.  I let Karen know I was going to the car to take my medicine and rest my head, and that I'd like to talk with her there if she was okay with going outside for a while.

Thankfully, she came out to the car.  We had been talking with someone earlier in the evening and I couldn't hear what had been shared exactly because of the music.  Karen shared the story that had been shared with us.  After that, I initiated praying for those that had been shared about. Immediately after saying, "Amen," I got a stupendous insight.

I saw the mountain and a pail taking one pailful of dirt at a time and building a mountain in a different spot.  I had always thought of Jesus' statement, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains," as being in the background.  I had never given a lot of thought to this principle. It had always been believed but in the background, like wallpaper, the wall is there, but you don't really think about them.

I realized all of a sudden that the faith of a mustard seed doesn't mean magically levitating the mountain from point A to point B, but rather, that it is the faith that with concerted effort over time, the mountain will be moved with the filling of a pail of dirt, walking over to point B, emptying the pail, and repeating the process over and over until the mountain has been moved.  In that one second of of saying, "Amen," I went from a wallpaper understanding to totally understanding that thought fully.  I was so amazed that I said, "Wow!!"

Karen asked, "What?" So, I explained the insight to her.  It took a good five to ten minutes to get all of the words out.  I was so excited, but my head was hurting so we went home for the night.

Jul 17, 2013

Time To Get Honest About .... WIPs, A Confession

I was looking at my projects list and thought I had three WIPs.  I even said I had to finish only three projects before I could cast on a brand new project.  Then, I figured out how to put Ravelry Member and Ravelry Designer buttons in my sidebar.

I saw someone had a list of their WIPs in their sidebar too.  I wanted that!

But, it would mean coming out about something.  I have more WIPs than three.  I have more than five, or seven, or ten, or even fifteen.

I have seventeen WIPS.  If you count the projects in the sidebar, you will get to nineteen.  The discrepancy is because one project is a placeholder project for four other projects as one project and one project that has yet to be started.

The Muggle Studies OWL is a placeholder for the information related to my OWL exam for the Harry Potter Knitting/Crochet House Cup group on Ravelry.  The OWL is comprised of four sweaters I'm making to enable a baby wizard to blend in with the Muggles he will most certainly encounter through out his infancy.

The other project is my OWL reward project.  Hoxton Handmade's podcast host released her first pattern on Ravelry, Black Death!  I will make it in Malabrigo Rios in purple, which I got through the For Trade/Sale section of the Yarn Stash listings in Ravelry, for less than from the regular sources (even with postage!).   Black Death is a simple triangular shawl with eyelets in rows and columns, but the pattern was devised when Hoxton had an infection so there's all sorts of references to pestilence and death in the pattern, playing with that idea.

I am going to make this project to celebrate my survival from Bacterial Meningitis.  The references to Black Death in the pattern will just make the Bacterial Meningitis be even more put in its place. I will conquer it by doing this project.  Not literally, but even doing it figuratively will give me strength and power to continue through the hard days and the horrid migraines.

I'm calling my Black Death by the name Not A Black, Black Death.  This represents not only my survival through near death experience, but also the actual color is not black, so literally not a black Black Death.

I cannot wait to cast on.  I have to so I'll just have to knit fast.  I think I can do that. ;)

Curvy Girl Crochet, A Review

Mary Beth Temple has brought together twenty five awesome patterns in her book Curvy Girl Crochet.  There are sweaters, tunics, shawls, bags, scarves, and lots of fun projects!  I can't wait to get started on the Orange Marmalade and maybe one or two more, but I must finish some WIPs first.

I loved the pictures of the sweaters as they were all of models who have larger bodies than most models we see in magazines.  I still remember a talk I listened to where the speaker showed the subtle changes to Betty Boop's shape over time to coincide with what society thought was pretty and in vogue.  I was enraged by the messages we are given without even realizing we have been told anything.  It is refreshing to see models that reflect my reality. 

I also liked the colors used.  The projects weren't all in one color palette, nor were they monotonous.  I liked the variety because it let you think about the projects as fitting into more than just the colors presented in the book.  If you are into neutrals or brights or blues, inspiration was available to get your creative juices going.

I gave this book 5/5 stars because I really liked the use of regular sized models and the colors used.

I received my copy through the NetGalley review program in exchange for my honest review.

Jul 8, 2013

North of Hope, A Review

In North of Hope: A Daughter's Arctic Journey, Shannon Huffman Polson writes about the aftermath of losing her father and stepmother in a grizzly attack on a secluded river in Alaska's Northern Slope.  Polson embarks on the same journey her dad and his wife were taking when they lost their lives.  With her are her brother and his friend, it is not safe to travel the arctic alone, even in summer.

I was drawn to this story because I loved living in Alaska as a preteen many moons ago.  I was transported back to the land of my dreams in this memoir, and I was not dissatisfied with the journey.

Part of the journey through grief Polson took, mimics my own journey through grief.  I've already shared her description of being glomped by grief and getting up but still having grief as a walking companion in an earlier post and my response to same passage.  Seeing Polson's growth through grief has helped me to understand that it is okay to feel how I feel about the hard things in life.

I really liked the descriptions of the natural world, as savage creature and flowing river and serene sunlight.  I learned more about Alaska ecology and how interconnected life is on the Northern Slope.  I got to revisit a favorite state.

I gave the book 5/5 stars for being such a good read, for soul, mind, and health.

I received my copy of the book from the BookSneeze review program on behalf of Zondervan, the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Jul 6, 2013

Becoming Indigo, A Review

Tara Taylor and Lorna Schultz Nicholson, authors, have written an intriguing story in Becoming Indigo.  A coming of age story of Indigo who is a young lady with growing psychic abilities and who lives in the Glebe, a bohemian neighborhood of Ottawa, Canada, with her friends from high school.  Everyone else seems to be getting ready for college or the real world, except Indigo.

I liked the way the authors describe the characters.  The way they developed Indigo's character, as well as the others.  And, how they

My friend also read this book. She really liked how the story flowed.  The authors made you feel you were a part of Indigo's growth as a woman and her special abilities.  The authors also gave life to the other characters not just Indigo.

One time I was being a negative Nancy, and my friend told me about a time from the story when Indigo was going through something similar.  One of Indigo's older friends tells her, "There are voices in our heads. One's positive and one's negative.  And, you can tell the negative one to go away.  You don't have to listen to her."  That's my paraphrase there, by the way.

I really liked this idea because the Inner Critic was being particularly loud that day.  It needed to be told to go away and leave me alone.  So, I told my inner critic to go away, and the funny thing is, it did. :)

You know how you read things and you think oh, that's a great idea, but you don't implement it in your life?  That's what I had done with that bit of the story.  It took my friend seeing my attitude, having read the story, and being able to pull the right bit out of the story at the right time.

I gave this book 5/5 stars as it does have lots of real world application bits like what I've described here, the story is great, and I wanted to continue the story beyond the book.

I received my copy of the book through the NetGalley review program from the publisher, Hay House, in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Best-Dressed Bears, A Review

Emma King created many outfits, costumes, and accessories for teddy bears in her The Best-Dressed Bears.  She provides instructions for teddy bears in various sizes and with and without jointed limbs as well.  For each size of bear, Ms. King provides various clothing options. 

I really liked the beautiful and whimsical outfits.  The attention to details is fabulous.  The use of color palette is sublime.  This is a cute book.

I found the instructions easy to follow, simple, and direct.  The word pictures were easy to figure out.  The words seemed to flow from Ms. King's mind through the page and into mine.

I gave this book 4/5 stars because I was enchanted with the photos, wanted to cast on a project immediately, and could see making some of these for gifts for Christmas this fall.

I received my copy through the NetGalley review program on behalf of the publisher, Anova Books, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Eyes of the Heart, A Review

Christine Valters Painter in her book, Eyes of the Heart: Photograhy as Christian Contemplative Practice, is a photographic journey into visio divina, sacred seeing, using the camera to focus attention and heart on the beauty of God's presence around us in the everyday life.  Visio divina is based on lectio divina, sacred reading, which is a way of coming to the text of the Bible with the intent to commune with the Living God through His Living Words by seeing Jesus in each reading through the four steps of reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating/reflecting on Jesus.  Christine Valters Painter is a spiritual director and Benedictine oblate whom uses six themes to connect the art of photography and Christian spirituality.  The camera takes pictures, but the human receives the images and through visio divina is able to see with "the eyes of the heart" as it says in Ephesians 1,18.

I really liked Christine's photography scattered throughout the book.  It brought the words to life, and opened my mind and heart.  I also liked the adaptation of the lectio divina to a visual medium, not just a verbal one.  We are visual creatures and are stunned by images of breathtaking vistas.  I can see myself taking my smartphone on my next walk, snapping a few images of beauty that I pass by in a blur most days, and feel the slowness and stillness of God in my heart and soul.

This was a spectacular introduction to lectio/visio divina and to photography as a method to slow down and come into a stillness within your soul.

I gave this book 5/5 stars for the wonderful images, insights, and inspiration.

I received my copy of this book through the NetGalley Review Program from the publisher Ave Maria Press in exchange for my honest opinion.

I Am: Renewal From Within the Garden, A Review

In her book, I Am: Renewal From Within the Garden, Dr. Lucie K. Lewis pontificates on the importance of spiritual motherhood and the fourteen "I Am" statements made by Jesus Christ, most of which can be found in the Gospel of John.  Through her story she takes us through the journey of coming into a mature understanding of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit by trying to emulate her dear family friend and godmother, Marion Steel Coles.  Dr. Lewis does a masterful job in her writing of making clear points and backing them up with experiential and scriptural references.

I really liked how she grew in her spirituality through the course of the book.  By beginning with the second hand God of her spiritual mother and moving into her own relationship with God in all his persons, she goes through tremendous growth and changes.  It was exciting to see those changes happen. 

I also enjoyed learning more about the various "I Am" statements about Jesus.  I like learning more about Jesus from the Bible, and Dr. Lewis' book led me to do my own reading of the Gospel of John.  I am finding more than I realized was in there.  I had read through the Bible many years ago and my eyes were not opened like they are after reading Dr. Lewis' book and my life experiences.

Having gone through meningitis and chronic, debilitating migraines, I know how precious life is and how excruciating pain can feel.  I have often prayed for God to take my migraines away, but not my will but his, as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I figure if my having the migraine spares someone else something worse somehow, then despite the great pain, it is worth it.  Like Jesus felt when thinking of taking our sins on himself to spare us from eternal separation from God.

I give this book 5/5 stars because I liked the story and the insights I gained from reading the book.

Be sure to check out my initial reaction to this book, here.

I received my copy from the NetGalley Reviewer Program in exchange for my honest review.

The Women's Bible Commentary, A Review

In their book, Women's Bible Commentary, 3rd Edition, Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley, editors, have compiled many articles about each book of the Bible including the Apocrypha/Dueterocanonical books as well as a few articles about women's roles and lifestyles in the times that the Bible was written.  They used the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and referred to renditions of "LORD" as "YHWH" or "Yahweh."  They included the Catholic, Protestant, and Hebrew Bible books to be as wide reaching as possible.  The authors of the articles come from a lot of different perspectives, but have one thing in common.  They all read the Bible books self-consciously as women of North America well versed in ancient Greek and Aramaic.

I read the articles on Ruth and Proverbs as well as the preface and introduction.  They were both very informative, opened my eyes about confusing parts of the books, and gave me insights I never had before. 

One thing I had always been confused about was why did Naomi have Ruth uncover Boaz's feet.  Now, I know.  Ask in the comments, and I'll tell you why. 

I also had been confused by bits of Proverbs speaking about Wisdom as a subcreation of God, almost, or as the feminine side of God.  I couldn't quite word it the way that made sense to me.  Now, that I've been through the Tolkien class on Middle Earth, I have the understanding of subcreation and that explains it better.

I give it 5/5 stars for ease of reading and insights gained from reading it.

I received my copy for free in exchange for my honest opinion in a review through the NetGalley Review Program.

Jun 29, 2013

10 Ways to Strengthening Relationships in My Family

What can I do to strengthen the relationships in my family?

There's three generations of women in that picture, my grandma, two of her daughters, and me in the green hat and dress.  My mom is in the red hat beside me.  I'm actually wearing one of her hats.  Her oldest sister is in the straw hat with the peach ribbon.  And, grandma is in the blue with the blue hat.

I have good relationships with my mom and grandma, and an okay one with my aunt.  We all get busy with our lives.  I live out here in Maine, and they all live in Colorado.  So, how to strengthen relationships?

  1. Call weekly.  With grandma, I have to speak a little slower and louder, but I also speak fast, so that's doable, especially as she's close to 88 now.
  2. Write letters just because.  Grandma writes to her family, extended including cousins and their children, I think, often.  She thinks she doesn't write often enough, but I always tell her she writes more often than anyone else I know.
  3. Connect through FaceBook or some other social networking site.  My mom and I share Ravelry.  My aunt and I connect only through FaceBook, except when I visit.  Grandma was on FaceBook, but she has computer issues, so isn't now. A cousin and I connect through Twitter.
  4. Skype.  It's free, video chatting, phone calls.  You just need to set up an account.  I use it to connect with my friends in distant places.  We don't always use the video function.  You have the option of whether to use it or not.
  5. Email.  It's quick, simple and you can write and rewrite without using a lot of paper.  You can also keep a record of your emails if you wish.  
  6. Blog.  A blog is a great way to update an entire extended family all at once about the comings and goings in your life.  Blogger, the program I use to blog this through, is super easy to get started with and free, so is is not a free version, but you get to use your own domain name, like, instead of
  7. Hang out together.  Whether it's family game night, or just watching movies together, time spent together is good.
  8. Date nights.  These are great with your spouse or significant other, but don't just have to be with them.  Take your mom on a date.  Where would she like to go for dinner or lunch with her child?  Special one on one time with the folks important to you is key to good relationships too.
  9. Reunions.  Family reunions are a great way to catch up with family you don't normally see or interact with except in the cyber world.  What's great aunt Josephine doing now? That sort of thing.
  10. Tell the folks you care for how you feel about them.  Don't assume they know, sometimes they won't know without being told.  Great providers are giving acts of service as their love language, but the people they are trying to show love to may not have acts of service as a need and so don't feel the love.  K has acts of service as a love language, while I have gifts/physical touch as a love language.  When we figured out our different love languages and had the vocabulary to talk about it, we had a much easier time of feeling the love we were getting.  
That last bit is from the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  If you are interested in reading more, check out the Wikipedia article.

Jun 17, 2013

God Hearts Me: A Devotional Journal for Girls, A Review

God Hearts Me: A Devotional Journal for Girls is a great resource for a variety of Bible verses on various subjects from a bunch of Bible versions and translations.  The richness of sources of Bible verses gives this journal the feeling of being a bunch of friends sharing their favorite verses from their own Bibles.

There are short devotions showing God's love for each of us through His making us, knowing us, listening to us, protecting us, comforting us, giving us what we need, keeping His promises, giving us joy, giving us hope, giving us strength, forgiving us, and having a plan for us. Each devotion is followed by verses about that topic from the various versions and translations of the Bible.  Then, there is space for you to write about how you feel about God and life and that devotion's topic.

I fell in love with this book because I had one place where I could find Bible verses from almost all my favorite editions of the Bible.  There were neither any verses from the New American Bible or the New Revised Standard Version, nor any verses from the books of Tobit, Judith, or Maccabees, as found in Catholic Bibles. 

The book of Tobit is a great encouragement when I have been very sad and mad at the world.  The book of Judith shows the strength and power of a woman who loved God and trusted in His helping her and her people.  Maccabees is a history tale of rebellion of the Hebrew people against others in the land God promised Abraham.  All of these books provide verses that can encourage and strengthen the faith of all of God's children, no matter their age.

Even though I'm an adult and the book is styled for girls, I found it useful to think through the situations presented and what my answers would be.  Instead of bullying in school there's gossip in work places, or strife in families.  I can see this book applying beyond the age and gender assigned by the cover.

Despite the last few paragraphs, I gave the book 4/5 stars because of the good that it does provide for readers.  I really liked the variety of Bible editions sourced for the verses.  I also really liked the devotions and the questions for application asked.  The various Bible verses would be good for memorization to keep God's words of love and encouragement in your heart through the difficult times in life when you don't have your journal handy.

I received an advance copy of this book to review through the NetGalley program in exchange for my honest opinion.

Born to Blog: Building Your Blog for Personal and Business Success One Post at a Time, A Review

Mark Schaefer and Stanford Smith wrote very well in their book, Born to Blog: Building Your Blog for Personal and Business Success One Post at a Time.  I have a personal blog and learned a lot about how to manage the blog and about how to continue to grow it successfully.  I learned of the importance of dreaming in blogging.

I'm much more of a teaching and storyteller blogger, so using my blog to dream is a new concept for me.  I dream a lot of the time.  I just don't publish them for the world to see. 

Schaefer and Smith give little snippets of their own experiences throughout the book.  They also provide concise "Take Action" sections to apply what the chapter has been written about.  One of the "Take Actions" that I intend to do is to write everyday, even if I'm publishing less frequently.

I've read a lot of how to blog books.  This is the most comprehensive one I've read.  There's chapters on all sorts of interesting bits of blogging, mostly related to corporate blogging.  That information is still useful to the personal bloggers like me, though.

I gave the book 5/5 stars because I really thought it was awesome.  I looked forward to reading it, and I didn't want it to end.

I received a free copy of the book from the publisher through the NetGalley review program in exchange for my honest opinion.

Jun 15, 2013

O God, Your Faithfulness Is Beyond Measure

O God, Your faithfulness is beyond measure,
You have comforted me during my trying times, 
You have been my Rock, my Comfort, my Refuge.
You are the Holy One.

O God, Your holiness is beyond measure,
You have sanctified me during my weaker times,
You have been my Rock, my Comfort, my Rufuge.
You are the Holy One.

O God, Your wisdom is far beyond measure,
You have guided me during my unwitting times,
You have been my Rock, my Comfort, my Refuge.
You are the Holy One.

O God, Thank you for all you have done for me,
You have helped me learn your ways of holy wisdom.
You have been my Rock, my Comfort, my Refuge.
You are the Holy One.

Jun 13, 2013

Declutter Your Life, A Review from My Own Library

In her book, Declutter Your Life, Michelle Stewart shares advice on reducing clutter and stress to increase enjoyment of life and your ability to accomplish more. Stewart does an really good job with this task. She defines clutter and how it is different from dirt, hoarding, and collections.

I especially liked the chapter on the psychology of clutter. I have a bachelor degree in psychology, and like when books touch on the psychological impacts of various behaviors. All behaviors are communication, and clutter is a form of communication. You just need to figure out what it is saying for you. Then, how to fill that need in a different way that is less stressful for yourself and your housemates.

I would have liked more on the psychology of clutter, but Stewart chose to write more about the what and how than the why of clutter. That is her choice. I did not give it five stars because there was only one chapter on the psychology of clutter. I can think of at least two, possibly three.

I gave the book 4/5 stars because I really liked it.

This is a book from my own library.

The Annotated Hobbit, A Review From My Own Library

In this book, J R R Tolkien's The Hobbit is expanded with commentary, notes, poetry, and other interesting articles of Tolkien's by Douglas A. Anderson. This changes the size of the book from a regular paperback to a regular text book size. The additional information is awesome to know and sheds new light on the original text.

I especially liked the poetry that can only be found in this book, the Bimble Town poems. My favorite was "Glip" who is a scavenger foreshadow of Gollum in a way. I think his name comes from the sound of water dripping in a wet cave, drip, glip, drip.

I found myself reading the annotations purely for their own sake. They could have formed a whole other book and I think I would be happy. Did you know that Tolkien got the dwarves names and Gandalf's name from a list of dwarf names in a Norse poem? I didn't know Gandalf had been a dwarf in a prior life!

I gave the book 5/5 stars as it was so awesome!!

Jun 12, 2013

Desert of the Heart, A Review

In Desert of the Heart, Jane Rule wrote about one woman's quest for identity after sixteen years of marriage to the wrong man. The book is set in 1960s before Stonewall and the current LGBTQ openness. This gave the book a little bit more innocence for one in which the characters have lots of sex than it would have had it been set in the 2010s.

I liked the lack of graphic details about the physical relationships the women were involved in. It was refreshing to read about thinking women, whom have sex, like sex, and yet are still innocent about the subject. I've read erotica for women with women and while that has its place, this book could be read and not make one blush if interrupted during an interesting bit, if you know what I mean.

I liked the descriptions Ms. Rule used. She describes Diamond Lake by Reno, Nevada, as having a beach made up entirely of miniature snail shells bleached white by the sun and alkaline lake water. They are exquisite and easy to see in the story. This is just one example of the descriptive language in the book.

I would like to have had less of the author writing as the thoughts of a character while giving information. It seemed a little much at some points. I would have done a little less in my own writing. Though it would be hard to have the characters discuss some of the subjects they thought about.

I gave it 4/5 stars because I really liked the book and was able to read the book in a few days.

Jun 9, 2013

Top 10 Blessings from Meningitis Induced Migraines

  1. Time to pause and reflect on life while trying to distract from the pain.
  2. Compassion increased for others who go through invisible disabilities.
  3. Understanding of how the brain works increased.
  4. Forgiveness increased for others and self.
  5. Time to slow down and focus on relationships because work is out of the question with migraines 66% of the time.
  6. Spiritual insight and awareness has increased greatly, yet I still understand very little.
  7. Time to figure out my purpose and identity as an individual, not as a worker.
  8. Ability to help train puppy because I am home almost all the time.
  9. Blog more consistently.
  10. Time to write letters to grandma.
 There are other blessings meningitis and migraines have brought me, but these are the ones that are top in my mind.

Jun 7, 2013

Coping After Meningitis, A perspective

There is no test for migraines/headaches. Doctors have to rely on the patient or caregivers for this information. You have to advocate for a neurologist who is educated in meningitis.

I started with Imitrex as a migraine aborter. It helps, but sometimes the migraine is persistent. There are prednisone tapers that help with the migraines too. There are drugs that push the migraines further apart, amytriptyline and topomax. I also take zofran/onadesteron for nausea and flexeril for muscle relaxation when too tense and unable to unclench my muscles. Then there is the breakthrough pain med that is a narcotic. I take it when the others aren't working and it's before time to take the next dose.

Wearing sunglasses in bright light or florescent lights with a hat is an accommodation I've figured out. Florescent lights are a trigger for the migraines. The dark glasses keep the florescent light from going in my eyes. The hat keeps the florescent light from going over my glasses and into my eyes. I tend not to get a migraine on the times I wear both while under florescent lights.  Is it a perfect system, no, there are still times I get migraines even with the glasses and hat.

Strong smells, raw green pepper, and bright sunlight are also among my triggers. It is good to try to notice if there's a time of day, after a repeated activity, or some other pattern to the headaches. I also rate the headaches. 0-no headache, 1- mild take nothing headache, 2- medication for the headache, 3- knocked on my back, pausing life, headache. I typically have 2 and 3 level headaches.

I don't know if you've joined a depression support group, chronic headaches can be co-morbid/ co-occuring with depression. For that, zoloft is a good mood stabilizer, and amytriptyline will help to get to sleep at night helping to reduce the concurrent fatigue, while also pushing apart the headaches.

Teaching and learning about coping skills are a great thing to do. There's paying attention to what's in the room (how many tiles are in the ceiling, how many blue/ white/ purple things can you see, have the person feeling unsafe describe the room she's in) this is a good distraction technique. Also, deep breathing and yoga does wonders for the body and for being able to cope with pain and stress. Any kind of exercise does, but yoga because it focuses on the breath gets you remembering to breathe. When we get all tense, our breathing gets shallow, heart rate increases, and blood pressure skyrockets. By deep breathing, we initiate the relaxation response and tell our bodies that they are safe.

Learning how to instill a sense of safety is key to stopping the self harming. Even just repeating, "I am safe. Today is Monday. I have to go to school/event" can be enough to bring on a sense of safety.

Pain is not constant, and it is just a mental event. Think of when you stub your toe. You really move it suddenly, with lots of pressure and force. That is what the body notices. It sends those signals to the brain, where we interpret the messages as "Ouch!!!" This happens really fast. But, the pain doesn't happen until the signals are in the brain. Now, with a headache, the pressure/ tightness/ achy feeling are physically in the meninges. So, the signals have even less distance to go before being interpreted. My mantra during bad times, is "Pain is just a mental event."

All headaches occur in the meninges. In meningitis, the meninges are swollen and tender like a twisted ankle, just in the head. The meninges are also the shock absorbers of the brain and spine. They are just under the skull and cover the entire brain and spinal cord in a protective layer.

With the brain, injuries take a long time to heal. My neurologist said that the first 6 months there's lots of healing, the second 6 months still lots of healing going on, the third 6 months less so, and after that healing levels off.

I'm at 21 months. My meninges are paralyzed from the severity of bacterial meningitis when I was taken to the hospital. I almost died. There are cognitive, perceptual, physical, and behavioral changes associated with the meninges having been infected and possibly damaged.

A thing like cutting, or not taking showers, or other self harming behavior is your coping mechanism. And, self harming coping mechanisms show a need to learn new skills for coping. Anger is a valid emotional response to this, harming yourself is not. I am in that process too.

Knowledge is power. Share this with the affected one and let her take it in slowly or voraciously as she is able.

It does get better. I had constant headaches at discharge in 2011. My present 66% is a 33% improvement. I have come a long way. I learned a lot about meningitis from WebMD and the Mayo clinic.  Both have good online resources. You can investigate the physical changes of meningitis in addition to looking up medications and a host of other things.

I just joined Daily Strength, an online support group forum, as there are no support groups for meningitis here in Maine that I could find.  I have been wanting to reach out and share with others like me.  I don't want to be alone, the only one I know with this disease, so I joined their support groups.

A great writer on grief, which is part of what we all go through with this diagnosis, is Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She wrote about the five stages of grief, but never meant for them to be understood linearly. Life, and grief, is messy. We have grief for what was compared to now, for what changes our life will have to go through, and for the drain on our persons from the debilitating effects of living after meningitis. Whether that grief is recognized or not, it is there. Her writings may prompt conversations with your friends and family members about what you grieve over from this incident in all of your lives. Wikipedia is a good place to get the basics of her views on grief, or her book On Death and Dying.

So, what are some ways you cope with things that feel out of your control?  How can you gain some tricks to distract yourself from the pain?

I know meningitis sucks, but without it, I wouldn't be here now, and here is pretty good when I can ignore the pain, migraines, and my other co-morbid issues.  I hope the same for you.

Animals can cause MRSA, meningitis or possibly the plague

True or false: Allowing your dog to sleep in your bed puts you at increased risk of contracting MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

This is true. Letting your pets sleep in your bed or excessively lick your face can lead to your contracting diseases such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), meningitis and possibly even the plague. These diseases are classified as Zoonoses, or diseases or infections transmitted from animals to humans.

Jun 4, 2013

Bible Study: A Student's Guide, A Review

This is a guide to various bits of theology on the Bible and its place in Christian thought as well as a guide to progressively more involved Bible study methods.  Nielson emphasizes that Bible study can be effective despite your age and background, if you are trained in the processes of leading Bible studies.

I liked that the book is not intended just for student leaders but for all members in the Bible study to get a better handle on what to expect and advocate for.  The book is geared to regular teens, but there's no reason that the methods couldn't be adapted to make them friendly to the special education program participants in a Christian high school.  Then again I usually think about how to apply things to the special education students, as I used to substitute with a group who have just graduated. Wow!

I had to take a few breaks with the theology bits.  The were greatly interesting, but with the meningitis left overs and the chronic migraines, breaks were needed.  By the time the migraines subsided, I realized I had also managed to read through to the end of the theology bits, interesting and very important to thoroughly understanding the Bible.

I copied out the methods for digging deeper into the Old and New Testament stories for my own use.  I can't wait to get started using them.

I liked it, so I gave it 3/5 stars.

I received my copy from the publisher through the NetGalley review program in exchange for my honest review.

God "Hearts" Me New Life Bible, Available July 1, 2013, A Review

I read the book of Ruth and part of the book of Romans.  Ruth is my favorite, and Romans is Paul's first letter in the cannon order.  I also read the preface and introductory comments to find out more about the New Life Bible specifically.
The language was easy to read, as intended by the translators.  The New Life Bible uses one word for the same word in Hebrew or Greek throughout all the occurrences of that particular word, and they only used 850 words for the entire vocabulary. 

So, if the word corn were in the Bible, then every place the original sources used corn in their language these translators would use corn.  I chose corn as it is a New World vegetable and not found originally in the Middle East. 

Also, the translators used a word for word method of translating, which gives a literal translation of each word, rather than a dynamic equivalency, which interprets the intended meaning of puns and other verbal tricks and gives the idea of the meaning rather than the exact word meanings.

By choosing the words as they did and limiting the vocabulary, they have made a Bible that would be great for new readers that are either children or adults whose original language is English, readers for whom English is a non original and new language, and in the mission field throughout the world where ever English would be taught. 

This all brought a freshness to the book of Ruth.  Even though I have read it many times, I found new questions to ponder just because of the different words used.  I prefer the word for word translation used because it allows the reader to figure out what is the meaning of the phrases and puns on their own.

I liked all that I read of the book.

I gave it 4/5 stars. :)

I got my copy from the publisher through the NetGalley review program in exchange for my honest opinion.

Jun 3, 2013

Knit Your Own Dog: The Second Litter, A Review

In their book Knit Your Own Dog: The Second Litter,Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne bring 25 fun patterns of dog breeds you can knit.  The book was published on February 5, 2013. 

The things I liked about the book were the variety of dogs represented, the styling of the dog figurines for the pictures, the little hints on how to personalize the dogs to look even more like your own Fido are awesome, and the hints on how to make the figurine look more like the breed of the dog you are actually knitting. 

There's also little snippets of education about the breeds.  As well as a variety of techniques used on small projects, so you don't have to knit a full size sweater to try fair isle or intarsia.  The authors are also consummate yarn connoisseurs as evident by their choices of yarns specifically for the artistic effect that looks like the dog's fur, a fluffy angora for a furry tail, a hairy yarn for the Carin Terrier, and so on.   

I cannot wait to get started on a white Carin Terrier to match my own little Casper. Of course, that means Casper is a Westie, but the only difference is coat color.

I give the book 3.5/5 stars.

I received my copy of the book from the publisher through the NetGalley review program in exchange for my honest opinion.

May 25, 2013

What sucks about living after meningitis?

Let's see, it's been 20 months since I contracted bacterial meningitis.  Did you know that 1 in 10 die from bacterial meningitis?  And, if not treated within the first seven days, completely fatal?  And, that those who live from it can have after effects such as deafness, acquired brain damage, personality changes, debilitating migraines, and more?

I had bacterial meningitis in September 2011. I lived, so that's good right?  I don't always feel it is good.

I deal with migraines 66% of the time, faithfully figuring the percentage of days lost to migraines monthly.  I also have acquired brain damage.  I have trouble remembering things, dates, times, meals, to take my medications, and other things.  I used to be great with my memory.  My attention is harder to shift than it used to be, so I get stuck on thinking the same thoughts for a while.

Nausea, headaches, confusion, and memory problems, are the after effects of acquired brain damage.  Since my meninges continue to stay inflamed, the entire brain is being squeezed causing these continuing symptoms.  I know I used to be better, but there was no definitive test needed before the meningitis hit.

According to WebMD, 15% of folks with mild brain injury have continuing problems.  I'm in that 15%, sucks to be me, huh?

The WebMD article, lists a variety of cognitive, physical, behavioral, and perceptual changes from the brain damage.

The cognitive ones I have are increased difficulty in expressing myself, processing information is slower, it's harder for me to understand others (especially when the migraines are really bad), and I know I've forgotten more than I should.

Physical changes I've gone through are the persistent migraines, mental fatigue sets in a lot faster, physical fatigue sets in a lot faster, sensitivity to bright sun light and florescent lights, and sleep disorder.

Perceptual changes I experience are a loss for the sense of time passing, disorders of smell, more sensitive to pain, and changes in my vision.

Behavioral changes I've experienced are irritiability and increased impatience, reduced tolerance for stress, sluggishness, and denial of disability.

I'm usually good about accepting what is and not being able to go back and change it.

We don't even know how I got so sick.  I had none of the five traditional causes, lyme disease, ticks, aids/hiv, iv drug use or anything else.  That's almost the most frustrating part of this.

Dealing with those changes listed above take a lot of work. Migraines 66% of the time prevent me from having a job outside the family.  I still get frustrated because I am still stuck with the thoughts that my identity is tied up in working and being a contributing member of society.

I hate things like this.  But, today, I woke angry at the meningitis and ashamed at how much I've hidden from folks.  Pretending that I've got it all together when I really don't.  I just get through the hard times as best I can.

Life has to turn out better some how, some when, right?

May 22, 2013

Stress Reduction and Meditation

Here's what I'll be sharing with my TOPS group about Stress Reduction and Meditation.  Please remember that meditation doesn't have to have religious overtones, if you don't want it to. Also, I've gathered this info over many years, and I can't remember where the original sources are. I'm sorry, but in the interest of credit where credit is due, none of this is my own work.

50 Stress Reducers
1.    Forgive yourself for your mistakes
2.    Forgive others their mistakes
3.    Accept what you cannot change
4.    Take breaks, empty your mind, and deep breathe
5.    Focus on just one thing
6.    Act (Don’t overanalyze)
7.    Visualize/Imagine Happiness (how does it look, feel, smell, taste, and sound)
8.    Smile (even if you are alone)
9.    Accept others as they are
10. Say no, even if you can say yes
11. Meditate/pray/focus on some external spot
12. Sleep well
13. Have a cup of coffee or tea
14. Clean or organize something
15. Give up perfection
16. Hang out with folks that make you feel good.
17. Wear fun, nice, comfy clothes
18. Dim the lights, or turn on more lights, as needed
19. Eat healthy and drink plenty of water
20. Use candles for relaxation
21. Recognize that the stress is temporary
22. Plan ahead and arrive early
23. Spend less
24. Stretch before bed and after waking
25. Play games with others or by yourself
26. Focus on what is happening right now
27. Enjoy nature
28. Don’t worry about others judgments of you
29. Ask for help and reduce stress with others
30. Turn on music
31. Create an award system for yourself
32. Learn not to take things personally as things are never personal and always internal to the other person
33. Appreciate your connections ~ list them
34. Watch birds, play with pets
35. Take a shower or bath
36. Turn off the computer and cell phone for at least one hour each week
37. Ask, “will this matter in n time?”  n equaling a day, week, year or so
38. Think positive before speaking
39. Stop watching the news
40. Be patient
41. Learn from negative situations
42. Let gossip die
43. Talk with a professional counselor
44. Do a hobby or find one
45. Breathe
46. Avoid negative stories
47. Lighten up your work or material load
48. Stop complaining. What can you do?
49. Use positive words
50. Love Yourself

16 Tips for Moms to De-Stress
1.    Journal
2.    Walk with a friend
3.    Tea time
4.    Organize
5.    Write a thank you note or letter
6.    Dancing in the shower
7.    Prayer
8.    List worries
9.    Relax
10. Friends
11. Funny movies, comedy channel on radio
12. Eat some chocolate, in moderation
13. Talk with partner/spouse
14. Look at nature
15. Yoga
16. Light therapy ~ Nature’s Vitamin D

A List of Positive Words

Quick minded

Types of Journal Writing
1.    2-pages, or n-pages, journaling
a.    Write 2 or n pages daily on subject of your choosing
2.    “What do I mean by …?”
a.    Search root causes, patterns, universal experiences to connect to that which is beyond you (God, source, etc.)
b.    Pay attention to awareness and journal about mindfulness, transformative images, thoughts, feelings, symbols of your own
c.    Awe inspired mystical writing ~ what inspires a sense of awe in you?
3.    Inventions Journaling
a.    Follow your interests, observations, desires, paying attentions to what your mind brings to your awareness
b.    Try out ideas without pressure to produce or succeed
c.    Creative, inventive, fun, playing with ideas
4.    Autobiography journaling
a.    Revisit past events, validate who you are and where you came from
b.    Answer the questions, Who am I, and Why am I here?
5.    Memoir journaling
a.    Celebration of your life
b.    Lessons learned

Benefits of Meditation
·         Awaken spiritual awareness in you if you want
·         Mental organization of thoughts leads to calmness
·         Strengthens immune system through the physical exercises and slowing the body’s rhythms
·         Slows aging with long term practice because of the slowing of heart rate and blood pressure
·         Reduces stress by calming, deep breathing, and lowering blood pressure and heart rate
·         Engages body’s natural restorative healing
·         Clarity is increased, which dispels delusions and illusions
·         Appreciation for living can be enhanced
·         Creativity can be stimulated
What is a meditation practice?
·         Regular time of your choosing
·         Sit comfortably
·         Choose to keep eyes open or closed and do that
·         Decide on what you meditation will be like today
o   Empty mind
o   Word or thought focus
o   Visualization or imagination
o   A specific spot in the environment to look at, candle flame, etc.
·         Process that continues throughout the session
o   Breathe deep into your abdomen expanding it like a balloon
o   Exhale pushing out slowly for as long a count as you had breathed in
·         Focus on today’s meditation
o   When distractions occur and you notice you aren’t meditating, gently let go of the distraction and bring your focus back to the meditation
o   If useful, keep paper handy to jot down the distractions to deal with them after the meditation session.
·         As you continue to meditate on a regular basis, the distractions will reduce and your mind will settle into the meditation easier.
·         Regular meditation on a daily/weekly basis is what is called your practice

Techniques and Routines for Satisfying Results
1.    Relaxation Technique
a.    Set timer for 20 minutes, if desired.
b.    Sit and mentally listen to an agreeable word or word-phrase
                                          i.    Beginner ~ say the word over and over ill you are able to internalize hearing just the sound of the word, until you are still and rest till time to end session
                                        ii.    Common words/word-phrases (mantras) ~ light, love, peace, joy, I am light, I am love, I am peace
                                       iii.    Mantras are used only to focus the attention of the mind and not to change the thoughts of the meditation practitioner.  An affirmation is when you are trying to change your thoughts by repeating a word-phrase.  A mantra is using a word-phrase for the sound and focusing ability of the mind.
2.    Devotional Technique
a.    As the Relaxation Technique, but with a devotional intent.  Mantra is “God” or other word that connects to how you connect to God.  Mantra can be preceded by “Om” such that mantra becomes “Om God.”  More on “Om” in part 4.
3.    Sanskrit Mantras
a.    The first syllable floats into awareness on inhale and the second syllable on the exhale.  Feel the sounds emerge from the boundless field of pure consciousness until you go still.
b.    Hong sau (pronounced “hong-saw”) means wild gander, and no mater how far the wild gander flies away from home, at some point it remembers and comes back home always at the proper season.
c.    So ham (pronounced so-hum) means “Pure Consciousness – am I.” and is a way of identifying with the universe or ultimate reality.
4.    Om Mantra
a.    Om is the primordial energy-force from which all things come into expression.  As noted in the New Testament, John 1:1 and 3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was[is] God.  All things were made by it, and without it was not anything that was made.”
5.    Inner Light Technique
a.    Look within, feel that your awareness is not contained within your skull, that you exist in boundless space.  Do this when very calm, breathing slowly, thoughts minimal.  Observe and wait.
                                          i.    If you perceive light, merge with it, gently contemplate it’s origin and what’s behind it.
                                        ii.    This can just be stimulation of the optic nerves, so it isn’t necessarily supernatural.
                                       iii.    Transcend the light to experience pure being.
Factors that affect meditation
·         Environment: noise, heat, coldness, etc.
·         Lack of knowledge of process: techniques vary, bat all valid techniques can improve your concentration and nurture awakened spiritual consciousness, if you desire.
·         Physical discomfort: sitting upright, comfortably, yields an alert but relaxed posture
·         Emotional distress: practice can lead to being able to meditate despite emotional circumstances – do not use meditation time to self analyze – sometimes you have to pause meditation to regulate emotions.
·         Resistance to change: acquire a more complete understanding of the process leads to less resistance to change.
·         Preoccupation with Mental transformations – meditate when rested and alert

Helpful Places for More Information
An Easy Guide to Meditation by Roy Eugene Davis