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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.