Speeding up your metabolism

I’m getting over a stretch of illness and the first thing I want is some pecan pie. It’s my own. It’s good (thank you Southern Living) and it’s been patiently waiting in the fridge for me. Beyond telling me I was as crazy as a loon in winter, my ever watchful husband says,

salad“So what does it take to be pre-diabetes?” How’s that for  a desert buzz kill. Personally, I think he just wants me to be well enough to swing from the rafters, but that’s just a hypothesis.

“Don’t know,” I respond, glumly lifting my hand above the pecan pie and to the (only slightly) less toxic giblet bread stuffing I made. (The backstory is that on Wed, 2 days ago, I made a traditional Christmas dinner, complete w/4 pies, the bird, stuffing and lots-o-sides, including my buttermilk biscuits. Since we’d been gone and I was sick, I was annoyed I’d enter 2012 w/out my happy-time meal).

His question made me think about our guests on Wednesday, one that is on the line to pre-diabetes (so says his heart doctor) and his wife, who just sent an email out to her two grown children and husband that they all need to lose 30 pounds. As it’s Friday, and that means it’s a license to eat your heart out (even in South Africa, hi new readers!) here goes the results of my research on accelerating your metabolism and what it means to be pre-diabetes, (plus a bit of my own experience thrown in).

Pre-diabetes 
1. Being overweight. Solution: Drop 10 lbs. According to sources from Prevention Mag, even extremely overweight people were 70% less inclined to get diabetes if they lost 5% of their weight. For a 175 pound person, that’s only 9 pounds.
2. High blood glucose levels. According to Diabetes.org, 79 million people have high blood sugar levels. Solution. Take your hand and make a fist. That’s roughly how big your stomach is/should be (unless your stretched it to the size of an elephant). When you eat, put that much food on your plate. Try to be healthy about it, but let’s not split hairs. Just eating the size of your stomach is a major stat.
3. Mood swings. You’re not on your man-period (I’m convinced they have one just as we gals do), and you can’t figure it out, you may be pre-diabetic. Solution: take the three diabetes tests.

  • The A1C test
  • The fasting plasma glucose test (FPG)
  • or the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).

Remember host/hostess, always ask your guests a few days prior about food preferences. If someone comes back with a list of lean meats and good carbs (vegies vs breads), be aware.

Now on to speeding up the metabolism. I must say that my Swedish Grandma wasn’t merely ahead of her time, I think she was mother-time. She always had 2 tablespoons of vinegar “with the mother” in the morning, along with her chamomile tea with cayanne She swore the former sped up her metabolism while the latter increased the blood flow and circulation in her limbs.

Guess what? Both are heralded for those exact benefits.

Speeding up your metabolism
1. Drink 2 tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar ‘with the mother’ in the morning. jumps starts the system. My choice is Braggs. Boy, will it wake you up.
2. Eat breakfast. It gets metabolism going + people who eat bfast are 4.5 times less likely to be obese.
3. Drink six cups of cold water a day. It burns 50 calories a day
4. Eat fiber. Women who eat fiber gain the least amount of weight over time.
5. Always eat meat. Studies show that eating meat during a meal increases post-meal calorie burn 35%. (Vegans will just have to make a bee-line for the treadmill).

With this good information in mind, go throw back a few chugs of vinegar, chase it with some cold water and eat protein.

2,000 Days to live

True love is defined as your spouse taking the children on a Saturday, braving the crowds at the supermarket so you don’t have to. Typically, the two hours of pain (one of shopping, the other of feeding the kids a noxious meal of processed pizza) is followed by grumpiness as the bags are being unloaded. Not on the 28th of December, 2011. This was when I was greeted by a husband who walked in, came right in and held me tight. The don’t-ever-let-me-go kind of tight I associate with near death experiences and giving birth. I was about to make a quip when I saw his eyes (misty) and his stance (still hugging me).

I waited.

“I had an interesting experience today,” he began. I guess so. The last time he said this, it was December 3rd, and he’d told me about his ‘visit with Rockey the driver,’ who had chauffered him home from the car dealership. During that 50 minute space, Rockey told Rog about his life. Wife left him, taking the two kids and the money. He lost it all. His job. His joy. “But then something happened,” he went on to tell Rog, who was as speechless as when Rockey began his tale. “I found I could be happy when I wasn’t a workaholic jerk.” The man had found peace with his lot in life: being the “driving ambassador for the owner of the dealership,’ and enjoying every day he lives. After this first incident, Rog was a kinder, mellower human being. For about five days.

I reminded Roger when he’d invoked these words last and he nodded. “Someone is sending me a message.” For him to make this statement is akin to Moses admitting he dropped the third set of plates instead of God retracting them outtright.

“There we were, standing in line as usual and Porsche sees the black man with the mask.” This man, a tall, thin individual that Rog and I have hypothesized is between 25-30, is a checker at a local Costco. We’ve been seeing him for about the last year. He is memorable for the fact that he wears a mask over his mouth and nose that is attached to a tank on his back, similar to a diving tank. Roger continued to tell me about our 6 yr olds undying curiousity about it (remember the incident with the amputated foot?). In any case, Rog doesn’t hold her back, and she asks the man about it. Just like Rockey, he opens up.

“I had a double lung transplant,” he told her without the least bit of discomfort.

“Did it hurt?” she asked.

He shook his no and told her about going under. He then proceeded to answer her questions about getting with this statement.

“No, I won’t get better. I’m going to die pretty soon.”

Rog was shocked but told me he maintained his composure. Porsche on the other hand was vitally interested and asked. Again, he answered.

“The doctors told me I had five years to live, or about 2,000 days, give or take.” Rog had done the math, (an economist will do that on the fly), and it was only 1,825 days. The man was rounding up. We’d seen him with the breathing aparatus for a year. That’s less than 1,500. Four Christmas’s and New Years left. Four birthdays. Or, as Rog pointed out to me during the retelling– “it’s like looking at your mortality hourglass every day of the year.”

Porsche treated it like he did: a normal and natural occurance, asking him what he does and how he feels. Rog described his attitude and responses as “remarkable. He was happy to be alive. That’s what he said. “I’m just happy every day to be alive.” Alive, living with a mask, working at Costco, checking bags.

Rog finished telling me the story by giving me another embrace, apologizing for being so…well, so himself. He asked if I could join him in trying to be kinder to one another in 2012. Happier. More at peace. More patient. Easier to let past issues be forgotten. All very non-Rog kind of things. I agreed, with one exception.

“If you a have a third and final visitation, I think it’s going to be a ghost,” I deadpanned. Immediately catching on that I was making a reference to A Christmas Carol, he reached for my ribs and began his torture payback. Sassiness has gotten me this far. It may be needed in the future of sun and happiness to carry me a bit further.

Getting over a breakup

It’s Thursday. If you are going to break up with someone in your life, do it today. In five minutes even. It’s the nice thing to do. You know why? It gives the break-ee a chance to emotionally or financially get it together before the weekend. If you are inhabiting the same domicile as your soon to be gone ex, that person will need the weekend to pack and get out (or for you to leave). Date nights also take planning.

Don’t forget to be as considerate to yourself as to your future ex. Get better. Improve what ails you. Figure out why the relationship broke in the first place. Or, as my dear friend told me, take some classes at The Break up Club and heal thyself.

facebook-break-up.jpg
Even people who breakup with Facebook need this kind of therapy.

“What?! Are you serious,” I retorted, completely stomping all over my friend’s feelings. She’d recently dumped a guy (and I do mean, hardcore dumping. Just stopped returning his calls. Left her things at his pad. But then again, he yelled at her dog one to many times and that was that). The guy prior to that was a hot young thing, with more working gears in his car than his head (I think that was the problem). Regardless, she told me she found the site and it works.

“I thought it was crazy myself, but I sat in on a few classes and it had some good advice.” I love the tagline. Use your ex love to get your next love. Only two girlfriends and some marketing margaritas can come up with that type of tag. I must say, it doesn’t hurt that at least one of them has been published in the subject area and is a step away from her psychotherapist status.

“They give homework assignments that are really getting to the heart of some of my issues.” I am still dying to know “the issues” but figured it wasn’t my business. I wasn’t the one she dumped.

Since this blog is all about juicy tidbits, I’ll tell you a long-kept secret that will be a secret no more once I type it down (see, this is my own personal version of a therapist. And it’s free. To me. You, the poor reader, probably needs therapy after reading the words written here. Certainly my long-suffering Swedish mother does).

My secret is this. Some weird, wacked out part of me always broke up with my significant other prior to major holidays or weekends. Just prior to Valentine’s, Christmas, my birthday. I’ve had many a girlfriend tell me to do the opposite, “must it out until right after. Take the gift!” Even as a teen, I thought this was the definition of pure evil. I’d feel as guilty as all-get-out, knowing I wasn’t in love, and then have to return whatever it was (no woman of fine moral upbringing as I would keep a gift under such circumstances). The result? I was unduly accused by said ex boyfriends as being cruel. How ironic is that? I was saving the money darn it.

But I digress, as usual. If, heaven forbid, I decide to break up with my spouse, I might spend time on this site. Well, I sort of liked what I saw, and I’m not even considering breaking up with him (aren’t you relieved to hear that?). I guess that goes to show I can use relationship improvement advice no matter what stage of love I’m in.

6.5 tips to sleeping better

Who among us is not sleep deprived? That’s the question. As I regained my eyesite over holiday, I started with the Dec issue of Yoga Journal and have summarized to extensive articles on the subject. Thanks to yogajournal (which can’t be blamed for my ‘slight’ editorializing!

According to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institues of Health, between 30-40 percent of adults have symptoms of insomnia. Nice. They include…weight gain, itchy, red, puffy eyes, irritability, lack of concentration, and the ever important…lack of libido. Who wants that? Besides the obvious solutions, which include avoiding all caffeine comsumption for 6-8 before going to bed (mom, that means you and your chocolate, but I’ll never tell), here are a few others.

  1. Turning off the tv and cell phone for at least thirty minutes prior to hitting the sack.
  2. Stopping reading your email at least that far in advance. Of course, this is hard for me personally, but I still stry. The worst is getting an email that fires me up and spins me in to a mental tailspin. The only way to stop that type of this is…well…crashing.
  3. Don’t read email at all after work, or on weekends. This is an impossibility for me, but my friend, a school teacher for 4th grades, says she has to ‘unplug,’ since random, angry emails from parents “destroy my home life.”
  4. Eat good snacks that make you fall asleep.
    1. Dairy products, lentils, nuts and seeds and low-fat cheese are rich in trypophan, a natural sleep inducer.
    2. combine whole grain crackers with natural peanut butter, whole grain cereal with milk or soy milk
  5. Stock up on hormone producers. Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by the body and regulates sleep patterns. Tart cherries, grapes and walnuts contain melatonin.
  6. Hit the herbs. Certain herbs have been shown to produce a calming effect and therefore help with insomnia. I’m a big believer in taking baths with lavender oil right before bed. It takes it (my energy, moods etc) out of me. Valerian is a liquid extract of a sedative herb that can be taken internally, but you need to wait a few weeks for it to have an impact. Passionflower can be found in lots of things, from bath and body wash, drinks as well as tea. Nighty Night by Traditional Medicines includes passionflower.

6.5 My husband recommends wild, passionate….anything….right before bed. “That’s a guaranteed winner.” Ever the pragmatist.

PS– did you know that coffee has 100-150 MG per eight ounce cup, chocolate has 12-25 MG and energy drinks are a bountiful 60-140 MG? That information will keep me awake.

**References–thanks to the December issue of Yoga journal for providing some of these great facts–

Selling your books to Schools- otherwise known as Cracking the School Market

Attention all writers (and more importantly–wanna be published writers)….So many self-published authors I know have tried and failed to get their books into the school market, and even some authors with books published by the majors have had difficulties. When I started out, I couldn’t find published resources on how to get my book looked at, so I did what I advocate—I cold-called the front desk.

 
 
Inside five minutes, I learned two things. One, front desk receptionists are trained at the district level to flat-out ignore, turn away and turn down cold calls. Two, that most (all?) decisions made for public school libraries are done at the district level, and that in the best case, one should expect a referral to the district office. (I didn’t bother with private schools. Small, not that many books. Very few chains).
The rejection wasn’t so bad, since I actually learned a few things.
Learning point one: “authors charge so much” for coming into speak at schools
Learning point two: “we don’t have a budget” for buying books
Learning point three: “district leaders make the decisions” for what books to buy
Learning point four: “we buy our books at the book fair” in the (spring/fall etc)
Wow. I could write a complete article on each one of these learning points. But let’s face it. I’m a fiction writer and at best, and adequate blogger. Articles aren’t my strength, so I’ll try and keep this short (also not a strong point).
 
 
Learning point one: “authors charge so much” for coming into speak at schools
Did you know authors charge for school events? At the time, I had no idea. When John Grisham retold his story of pushing his first book, he put ads in the paper to draw people to the public library and also he brought donuts and coffee. “Five people showed up,” he said, and he considered himself lucky. By the same token, I would have been happy to show up for free to an interested audience, and that was the way I approached the schools. Only later was I told the average author charges between $500-700 per event. In my area of Seattle, $600 is the average library budget for the entire year. If a librarian really, really wants to bring in an author, the librarian either applies for a grant, or a special fund expenditure, or calls upon the PTA. (do you know any PTA presidents? Hint: look on the website, contact the PTA president directly. The info is almost always listed).

 

Learning point two: “we don’t have a budget” for buying books
The book budget of every library I visited in one year (52) in five months faced a reduction in the book-buying budget. This left the librarians literally starving for interesting books for their students.
Learning point three: “district leaders make the decisions” for what books to buy
The  “librarian hierarchy” was heretofore, an unknown phrase. Thus, the existence of a district leader was a revelation. When I started this adventure, I limited my cold calling to the cities that I could reach in one hour, or roughly fifty miles.  Thanks to the Internet, I tallied over 750 schools within this radius, going city-by-city, district-by-district. However, the district leaders were not listed on a single site, though the librarian for each school was. Once I started asked for the district leader, I discovered the power of the district leader. One made decisions for 24 schools, and another for nearly 50. The district librarians are the aggregators, or the point from which all other decisions are impacted.
Learning point four: “we buy our books at the book fair” in the (spring/fall etc)
Scholastic seems to have a lock on book selling to librarians, at least in this part of the US. The reason is not necessarily the love of the book selection, and saying that might preclude me from ever getting a deal from the firm. But that was straight from the librarians’ mouth. It comes down to simple economics. For every book purchased, 15% at least goes directly back to the school. So parents are “getting a good deal” by purchasing from the Scholastic fair (and bus when it shows up) while the school also profits. Even the well-funded schools appreciate the Scholastic program; who doesn’t need more cash for books?
The second call
Needless to say, for my second round of calls, I decided to take a different approach. First, I started by saying I was a local author and immediately followed this up by saying I had a program to provide 2 free books to each library in my district and a free author event. Of course, by this time, I had two reviews from teachers and librarians, so I was able to reference these individuals and schools by names.Addressing the author event fee and providing 2 free books got me past the receptionist and directly to the librarian. And in a few cases, the receptionist was kind enough to tell me district leaders name.
When leaving a voice mail, I kept it short and sweet, repeating my pitch—I’m a local author, am offering two books to local school libraries and have great peer reviews. I closed by leaving my phone and email, along with my web site. I received 100% callbacks or emails! In 100% of the situations, the librarian had checked out my site and in many cases, had read the first five chapters before they contacted me.

 

Now, I didn’t call all 750. I called about one hundred and fifty schools, and very quickly had to stop. Typically, within two-to-five days, I’d receive a response and a request to receive the books. The librarian took another one to two weeks to read the book and ensure it matched the direction of the school curriculum, and frankly, the tastes of the librarian. This cycle averaged two-three weeks. Once the librarian approved the book, she/he would make a recommendation if it were appropriate for the entire school, or specific grades. Then the librarian validated this with the teacher(s). At this point, an event would be scheduled.
 
 
Timing
Scheduling proved to be the major challenge. The librarian has control over the library and gym, not the student schedule. Some librarians included the entire elementary grades 1-6 or middle school 7-8 or 9, while other schools limited the event to specific grades. In my case, I was very very very (did I say ‘very’ enough?) lucky to learn that my book matched the curriculum for subjects taught in grades four, five and six, depending on the school district. This was completely by accident, I assure you, and was a major blessing. According to librarian feedback, this wasn’t a deciding factor for bringing me in, yet it was an added benefit.
Side note here: if your book includes historical fiction, geology, social studies or another school subject, you might have an advantage. Check into this for your pitch. In my case, Native American history is taught in fourth and fifth, while geology ranges from third to fifth.
 
 
Schedule
I started contacting librarians the middle of January. It took me until the middle of February before the first events were confirmed. But then the floodgates opened. Librarians began confirming dates so quickly and often, I had to limit my events to one a day for four days a week. Further, I hadn’t accounted for the fact that I had such a limited time frame; while the school year until mid-June, the last month was reserved for testing, field trips and other activities planned months in advance. That meant I had a three month window. Between March and May, I visited fifty-two schools, speaking to a total of @16,000 students. I started out with the districts closest to my home, and worked my way out.
 
 
Be Prepared
As I mentioned, I’d received two reviews from librarian-teachers and had set aside 200 books from my first allotment to distribute. I recognize this isn’t feasible for everyone. One option is to start out with a smaller run. Word of mouth might spread enough to cover the costs of a larger run. Or, if you are working with a publish-on-demand group then it’s a non-issue.
Advance Sales of Books
Now this final part will strike the experienced authors as oh-so-naïve, but I was what I was, as I like to say. And I was naïve when it came to pre-selling books. I had no idea this opportunity even existed, until a kind librarian asked me to give her a one-paragraph write-up on the book so she could send a note home with the students for pre-orders. The librarian would then ask me if I “worked with” a particular bookstore so they could purchase it directly. At that point, I had enough common sense to ask “what bookstore” they used and I’d get back to them.
Where do bookstores fit in the mix?
 
 
I couldn’t get a return phone call from a bookstore to save my life when the message was “Hi, I’m a local author with a book…” before getting the shut down. Yet, when I called with the message going something like “Hi, I’m a local author and I have a school wanting to purchase 83 books on Friday from you, would you mind if I brought the books by so you could sell them…” the response was quite a bit different. During this process, learned that many of the librarian’s had/have preferences about what bookstores they use. The secondary blessing was that this enabled me to develop relationships with bookstore owners, an impossibility without the endorsement and pull-through from the librarians. Two years later, it was these very bookstore owners who took the time to read the manuscript and provide me reviews. This was an incredible boost that most definitely contributed to accelerated adoption of what later became a YA series.
Quick Recap
  1. Identify the reading level of your book
  2. Create a list of the schools in your area
  3. Contact a couple of school librarians and/or teachers and request a read and review
  4. If you don’t have children, talk to your neighbor’s childen, get the name of the teacher or have the neighbor provide your book to the teacher or librarian. (Of course, it would help if the neighbor’s child(s) read and loved your book!)
  5. Get the reviews in writing along with the approval to use them on your site and in your marketing efforts
  6. Create your pitch for the receptionists and start-cold calling
  7. Be prepared to send your book(s) to the librarians (make sure to gain their email)
  8. Wait one to two weeks before placing follow-up phone calls
  9. Schedule the event, be prepared to provide pre-order information
  10. Ask the librarian for their preferred bookstore, contact the bookstore with the estimated order from the school

24 hr fix to Pink Eye

As I cuddle with daughter, in bed, watching the elephants march in the ever-loved Jungle Book, it is not with a sense of glee. No, not on this, the 3rd day of 2012. It is because my 2 yr old has double pink eye.
Day 3 of badness (I can barely open my eyes)
If you read my yr end summary, you’ll note that this is the third round of double pink eye for the third girl in our family. It started with me in Mexico, hit my daughter on the plane ride home and bam. Now my youngest.
Let the sympathy flow.
If you are unduly suffering, here’s your remedy. I learned a lot about pink eye. First, it doesn’t always mean you have red, pink or green goop coming from the eyes. According to Swami, over 1,000 mutations of this lovely, contagious affliction. Second, not all eyes are pink. Some are red, like the vampire-blood-God we remember from Blade. Finally, an extreme aversion to light is common. Any light. Oh, and shall I say single versus double pink eye. Just means both eyes are afflicted instead of one.
It went down like this. Day one in Mexico, we arrive, hit the pool about 4:15, have a great time. It’s a bit windy though, and around 5, my two-year old is a bit chilled, despite the 80 degree temp (us Washingtonians aren’t used to water and warmth in the dead of winter). By dinner, she’s hot and by 8 she’s feverish, sweating and unhappy. Suffice it to say, I’m up all night with a sweating, crying child, but at 3 am, I line up my containers of emergency homeopathic remedies I take on trips, say a prayer of desperation (since I can’t call my swami) and get the feeling to give her Mercurius. 15 min later, the fever breaks. The following morning, (Day 2) I lose my mind an accidentally give her Arsenicum (usually taken for food poisoning). Sure enough, after we eat breakfast, around 10 am, we are preparing for the pool and said daughter groans, pauses, then projectile-vomits all over me before turning to the bed. Invoking the speed and agility of Neo, I lurch forward, putting myself between me and the mattress, a flash of Santa’s appreciation for sparing the hotel clean-up staff’s a nausea-inducing mess.
I was successful.
The spray on me continued, then finally ended with one final, gasping ‘splat.” Rog and my 6 yr old looked at me with horror, the equivalent of watching a wreck in slow motion. Rog did offer to help, but the reluctant arm, outstretched as far as his body would allow without touching me was enough. “I got it,” I mumbled.
Fast forward. Gave daughter another hit of Mercurius and she was fine. Gah! The family gets ready to leave for the pool, I take a nap and wake up 3 hours later ready to get wet.
Day 5. I can open, but need to use shades. (and what’s up
with those Barron Harkonen eyebrows. yikes!)
I go down. I get wet. I go under the water. At approximately 3:15 pm, both eyes start stinging. Bad. The stinging began with the familiar feeling of tired, dry eyes. It digressed from there. By 5 pm, I could barely keep them open to see the light, but the sun was going down, so I figured I’d just deal with it. Before dinner, I removed my contacts, flushed my eyes, applied make-up and went to eat. As the night wore on, the stinging grew worse. It hurt to have my eyes open, but it was twenty times more painful when I shut my eyes.
I kept my mouth shut and eyes open…all night. At seven am, day 3, I called Swami. I get half-way through the first sentence and he announces I have pink eye.
“But that can’t be right,” I contend. “My eyes aren’t— ”
“Are they pink or red?” He interrupts. Red. “Running fluid?” Yes. “You have pink eye.” He then informs me of the three points above, tells me to stop interrupting and start taking Aconitum. “Do you have any?” I brought 4 vials. Another example of divine inspiration (or pragmatism, if you listen to Rog). “Take it every two hours, or more frequent if you don’t see improvement.”
Thus, I start taking Aconitum. The pain started to alleviate around noon, but it didn’t matter. It was physically impossible to open my eyes due to light sensitivity. I was in the room, blinds drawn, not even able to turn on the tv, use the phone, my computer—nada. It was excrutiating. Furthermore, it was still too painful to close my eyes, and they remained open for another four hours. So I sat, in the dark, contemplating my navel, for six hours. (for my non-American readers, the phrase ‘contemplating my navel’ is akin to ‘watching the grass grow’ but a bit more…American). Just about the time the troops returned from the pool, it was getting dark and they were famished. I did what all non-celebrities with pink-eye in Mexico do. I donned my darkest shades and was off, squinting like weasel in heat, unable to walk w/out holding on to Rog’s arm or read the menu.
Thus it continued for days 4, 5, 6 and 7. The majority of the pain went away before my tolerance to light improved. Day 8, I was able to go to the beach for the second time. I still had on glasses, the light still hurt, but at least I got some vitamin D.
While down at the hot tub (this is what families do at 9 in the morning. All the adults plow in to the hot tub as the kids are frolicking in the massive pool), I learn from one man that he and his daughter got pink eye the prior month. His lasted for three weeks. Another woman joined in the conversation, telling us her nephew got it the week prior. None were surprised by my experience, the transference from the water (and appreciation I wasn’t dipping my head under the surface).
Just a note on the water. Swami is convinced I got it from the water. I won’t describe the hotel, but it’s a high end hotel in Puerto Vallarta. It uses a saltwater/mild chlorine mix. I guess it was just my turn to get it.
Wait, there’s more. We left on Day 10. At the airport, my daughter’s eyes started running (both of them), she started complaining they were stinging. She’d been living in the pool (I’d made sure not to touch her or the others at all, since it only takes a contact to transfer pink eye). I immediately pulled out a vial, dropped a magical white bead in her mouth and did so, every half hour, for the entire flight. Though her eyes continued to run, she was eventually able to shut her eyes, and pass out.
We were lucky. I caught it early with her. It never evolved to the full-blown horrible state that I encountered. We got home, enjoyed Christmas in Idaho, snow skiing during the day and going to the indoor waterpark at night. We returned yesterday and last night, guess what. My 2 yr old got that glassy eyed look, started moaning “owwiieee” and rubbing both eyes.
Not again. Last night, I started the Aconitum. I’m on my last vial.  She woke up this morning with one eye hardened shut from the goop that ran out her eye last night. Using a warm, wet washcloth, I carefully removed it. Thus, three pages of writing and one Polar Express movie later, you have the story.
The epilogue….though water transferrance happens, Swami says it happens all the time. “It’s not just by hands and fingers pink-eye is transferred.” I guess not. I had to take a break, run to the store and return. My daughter is now 14 hrs in, her eyes have stopped running and her happy mood has returned. Next time someone wants to run you, your kid or friend to the doctor for some antibiotics for pink eye, go to PCC or a healthfood store instead. Go natural and be done w/it in 24 hrs.

A summary from the Main Tent

It seems as though the reach of this blog is increasing as the actual numbers of followers on Facebook goes down. It can’t figure that one out. 58 countries plus the US (I was over 15,000 visitors but I pulled the plug on the Counter at 9K then reinstated it. Now its showing about 4,500, but really, it’s roughly 20K). A palty figure by Lady Gaga’s standards–well, actually, even by nearly anyone’s standards, but whatev. I have cool, loyal and enlightened readers. A discriminating bunch that comes back time and again to learn about the crazy antics of a woman stuck in Maple Valley.

So here’s the pre-New Year’s Eve blog update from the Main Tent (see point five). I’ll try and invoke She and keep it short (for the new readers  in Brunei, She is a real person, my alter being who can be bold, funny and go where no woman dares to go in her honest input relative to my life and all things therein.

1. I updated the 4 hr cure for food poisoning. This is one of my most read blogs of all time. I updated it a few days ago with some important tips for identifying, relieving and ensuring food poisoning doesn’t return.

2. I’ve gotten seriously lax on putting up good music. I’m continually suffering the angst of putting up music I fear no one will like. I know this is lame, but can’t help it. Thus, I’m going to push through this bout of insecurity and admit to the world…I love Christmas music year round. It makes me happy. I can write my novels to the Carols by Clare. It drives my husband nuts. I don’t dare put it up on my playlist, but may, at some point, write a blog about it. (I should, since I have a non-practicing, non-believing, athiest-Jewish male friend who adores Christmas music year round as well, so I can’t be the only crazed one).

3. She has been dinging me about not giving the update on Chambers and the other books I’ve been writing. Again, I don’t want to bore anyone…on the other hand, I have this quasi-Enquirer-Daily News-type of fascination with the lives of other people striving to attain their dream, so why should my readers be any different (so said She, ever-so-wisely). To be honest, I want the dirt. The pain. The struggles. It helps appreciate the accomplishments much more. After all the deals are done, I may write a longer blog, but for now, I’ve just posted the update on the above link.

4. I went blind for 4 days over the Christmas break. In Mexico, got crud in my eyes and BAM. Got double pink eye!! Turns out I had a strain that made both feel (and appear) as though acid had been poured on my eyes. I could neither open or shut without extreme pain. Suffice it to say that after I went blind but before I spoke with my doctor, I was having serious conversations with my maker. As I later recounted to my mother, God knew I needed to get smashed around a bit to face a few inner demons, make amends and get a grip. (Oh, and did I mention that while I was blind and unable to do a darn thing, my husband and daughter decided my blond hair was “scraggily,” hauled me off to a Mexican hair stylist who promptly chopped off 6 inches of scraggle, and dyed my hair brown. Call me Sarah-Barbie. Just pull my hair and out pops a different color.

5. The ‘main tent.’ Have you ever heard of this? The proper usage would be thus:
Husband: “are we going to go to the main tent when the kids are in bed?”
Wife: (appropriate response, not the one I gave) Of course darling!  I can’t wait.

Until yesterday, driving to Idaho, I had never, ever heard this phrase as a euphamism for the horizontal mambo. The frolic in the woods. Intercourse. EEE. Actually, it’s much better than any of those, don’t you think? It’s great code that adults can say in front of the kids. (How much I learn at 43).

Since I’m not going to include an image of the antics that take place in the ‘main tent’, I’ll leave you with an image of my new powder skis. They are awesome, and I’m not sure I do the graphics justice. TOPBASE

Complaint (and complainer) Etiquette

Not one of AnnaLynn’s finer retail moments

Standing in line. Sore feet. Shuffling from one cheek to another, counting the heads in front of me until I finally arrive. It’s my turn. I’m going to be fulfilled, my transaction completed fast, with an efficiency to make a supercomputer envious. Instead, the clerk takes a phone call, then another person behind her who is perhaps a bit louder (or just bigger) than me until finally, she turns to me, listens, then with more than a hint of irritation, informs me I need to go to another line. Before I can ask why, since this was the department where I purchased the item, she tells me it’s because all returns are being handled at a central location.

I’m fuming. Thirty minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Knowing I have zero recourse, I exit stage left, unwilling to place my bad attitude of life on another human. I figure that’s the nice thing to do. When I arrive home, I vent to Rog, the poor, suffering soul of bad retail interactions himself and he suggests the obvious.

“Why didn’t you complain to the manager?” as though this would solve all the problems. The manager, I told him, would only tell me what I already knew: he/she was sorry. They changed the system. “It’s bad service. They probably lost your business.” Maybe not, but I wasn’t excited to spend more time or money in the store.

Since it’s post-Christmas frenzy, and thousands–nee–millions of people around the world are experiencing gift-return+additional product purchases with employees, I thought about the whole issue of complaining. Has anyone other than me noticed this disturbing propensity to take a grievance public, yelling to the world via the Internet about a person, place or thing? A disgruntled waitress is called fat and she goes on the Internet, blasting the wrong person for leaving her no tip, and she got the wrong man. She slaughters the poor guy to the world and then didn’t have the decency to give a good apology. wow. We have sites like Angie’s list that were originally meant to rate businesses, but it’s digressed in to a complaint fest. Even sites like Linked In, once a wonderful source of business networking, has becoming a site for former employees, angry co-workers or spurned lovers to completely lambast another person.

Imagine you are the waitress who was working a long shift, the joint was short-staffed and didn’t provide the best service. Wouldn’t it be better to walk up to the manager, describe your experience and get an apology in person, a reason for the poor service and give the place another chance? It’s a bit more humane than causing a massive dip in revenues to a restaurant in the middle of a holiday season (whilst in a recession no less). The visual of the distressed worker behind the encounter was probably no different that what I just described. The woman had been dealing with hundreds of folks, perhaps half us in the wrong line. She was tired. Unhappy. I’m sure some folks hadn’t held back their feelings.

Some alternative etiquette to abusing person/place/thing on the Internet (also see retail manners)
1. talk to the server/individual directly, if that’s too confrontational….
2. talk to the department manager. if he/she isn’t around…
3. talk to the store manager. if he/she isn’t around…
4. write a letter to store manager…or district manager…or regional manager…etc etc.
5. wait 30 days. See what happens. Do you know that every time I’ve written a letter of complaint, I’ve almost always (as in, I can’t remember a single time where I’ve NOT gotten a response, but I am always reluctant to using words like always or never)….received a letter of apology, along with a freebie. In one case, Alaska sent me a free drink card (2), I’ve also received gift certificates, discount cards etc. Do you remember when the whole Michael Vick-dog story broke? My family was infuriated the Nike refused to pull its support. So instead of blasting Nike on-line, we wrote a family letter to Nike. (Not kidding you. This is what we do in Maple Valley). Within 15 days, we’d received a personal letter, acknowledging our comments, position etc. It was great. We felt so much better I can’t tell you–particularly when Nike suspended its work with Vick as he did his time).
6. Give the person/place/thing another chance. Life is made up of second chances. We all need can use even a third or fourth.

I worked in retail for a stint in high school. It’s a tough job, and I admire people with the stamina to hang in there. Same with the food and beverage industry. Not all service is going to be great and of course I’ll be going back to the retail store I mentioned above. Someday I made be the person needed a second chance.

  

Spiritual Fitness

Today, whilst I was running on the treadmill, contemplating what topic to write about for ‘workout Wednesdays’ it struck me that I have thus far focused only on the physical aspect of health. That’s only half the equation, for what is the body without the spirit? (so said the Mrs. Steve Jobs in the bio I read over vaca). What indeed?

I’m no swami, but have a strong faith that serves to carry me forward through dark times, enlightens my mind and keeps me focused on family. I was taught at an early age that the spirit, and all aspects therein, must be exercised or else it grows weak, just like the flesh. Over the holiday, I read the Jobs bio on my Kindle (it was darn depressing, I tell you), yet it had a few redeeming qualities. One being the eternal search Jobs had on the Zen part of his existence, searching, striving, and seeking more. Of course, searching is not enough. One must apply what one learns. Through the school of hard knocks (e.g. choice and consequence), I’ve developed a few daily exercises or I grow weak spiritually–my energy ebbs, my outlook on life is grey rather than blue, I’m not listening (or receiving) promptings to help others etc.

1. daily prayer. Obvious, I know, but when I say daily, what I’m really saying is ‘meaningful’ in a way that requires me to verbalize my thoughts outloud. As a writer, I find it interesting that concocting words in my head is one thing. To say them outloud is another. Any good writer (and all books on becoming a better writer) council to speak the written word outloud. It’s requires thought. It carries meaning. The clarity quotient skyrockets.

Daily also means ‘whenever I want’, not just in the morning at night or at mealtimes. It means before a big meeting or presentation. I was seriously praying (silently however) backstage before I was to go on live TV with a movie producer from LA during the launch of my book last year. (I ramble, I get confused. I just asked for calm, peace and the ability the articulate my thoughts). My prayers were answered. My responses were short and concise (a miracle in itself). I smiled. I was calm.

2. Study-not just read-the scriptures. It’s strange. Sometimes I get nothing from reading the scriptures and other times I get a lot. Know the difference? Reading is just that–a straight through reading while on the treadmill or couch that I do. This is good (how can this activity ever be bad?), but not the best. About 2 years ago, I found my ability to truly learn and grow in the experience was found by following a 5-step process.
1) pray before hand that your mind will be enlightened while reading.
2) plan a specific time every day. Dedicate this time and have a routine.
3)have a pad of paper and pen to take notes, write down questions (therein is the studying part)
4) search/answer above questions. It doens’t have to be more than a verse (I used to set goals for reading–five chapters or 15 minutes type of a thing). Searching and answering can be much more or less.
5) pray upon completion that the words read (messages, meaning, understanding) can be remembered and applied.

Once I employed the above guidelines, I found the effort of scripture study much more enjoyable (and yes, it is still an effort), but interestingly enough, I began to look forward to it instead of dreading it like an obligation (like the treadmill).

3. Open your heart to being a help to another. This element of spiritual health brings benefits to others as well as yourself. Have you ever been inspired to call someone and done so, finding that the call was ‘just what was needed,’ to the person on the other end? What about writing a note of thanks for a job well done, then later learning your hand-written card (or email) was much appreciated? These little promptings are called ‘tender mercies,’ but also fall in the category of running God’s errands. Opening your heart to the prompting is the first step, but acting on the prompting is the fulfillment for both you and the recipient. I’ve found that the more I act on these promptings, the more I hear.

As with my own physical health, my spiritual workouts are stronger some days than other. The key is to keep moving forward, even if a bit at a time, to be as strong spiritually as one is physically. Ironically, the body will get weaker over time. The same cannot be said for the spirit.

Being dumped from the Christmas card list

If love of the Gerdes family was measured in volume of Christmas cards received this year, it definitely went down. As Rog started singing, “someone ‘lost that lovin’ feelin,'” he did so with that bit of twang that only the 70’s slate of bad music can invoke. Even the letters we received were rarely even signed, making me feel like we got the letter itself from an automated service, (which in my book, is seriously bad etiquette, even though I know a number of card service providers are making a killing on this, and even some friends who admitted to using it. Alas, those two women left me off their list this year. Just as well). Seconds after I punched him in the arm and felt a bit of woes-me-I-may-cry-thing, he walked away. No love lost on his side apparently.

2011 Cards = 14 (plus one electronic)

Last night, it being the 26th of December, I went to the post office, picked up the mail that had gathered for the last two weeks and gleefully pulled out each one, read it to my family, we all gawked at the pictures, and then we carefully posted each one up on a new pole in our house. Given that I wrote a post this time last year about keeping up all my Christmas cards, I could very well see we were…well, dumped.

How does that feel? Crappy actually. Christmas parties? One this year (versus four last). “Been a hard year,” was what Rog said, the comment thrown over his shoulder as he concentrated on killing a few virtual badguys on the big screen, his mind and thumbs getting reaquainted with his handheld Xbox device.

That much is true. Several friends elected not to send physical cards, but ecards instead. Of these, I received one. Another major transition was change of schools for my daughter, which dropped off about a dozen friends who we no longer see. We all like one another (I think) but top of mind folks make the list. Added to this, I haven’t even sent out my cards yet, since we left before the cards returned from the printer. For the last two years, I was Johnny-on-the-spot, my cards done in November, patiently waiting to be sent out the first of December. Not this year. Rog and I kept battling over a photo (or rather, taking one at all) and this ‘discussion’ never got resolved. Thus, the 75 people on last years list are probably thinking I dumped them!

“It’s like our Christmas party,” he said to me withouth turning his head. “Did you ever send out the note telling people why we didn’t have it.” Uh-oh. At this point, I knew I was in deep-kimshee (name the movie). Here’s the deal-io. Every 2 years, we have a blowout Christmas party at my house, wherein I lose all sense of reason for 2 weeks as I cook, decorate and prepare to spoil all those we love, who are also brave enough to venture to our home. Due to the effort involved, and for the purposes of keeping my marriage intact, we do this every other yr. This year, however, we were gone on an early vacation. To move it up to November would have been blasphemous, and to have it post Christmas defied reason. Thus, no party.

“I–uh–didn’t get around to it,” I admitted.

“Your bad,” Rog said, zero sympathy in his voice.

Okay, so that justifies about half the folks who dropped us off the list, yet it doesn’t account for some of the others, like my dear aunt who puts together a great letter with pictures and details of her kids and gazillion grandkids. How else am I supposed to keep track of 7 families if I don’t get her letter? Worse, one letter that was signed, by a wonderful Uncle, was so darn depressing, I was sort-of sad after I read it. Unlike his notes of happier times, detailing his kids, grandkids, and travels, this one was full of reminiscing on health issues, retirement and the bad weather.

“Maybe he’s just being real after all these years of making up happy stories for the Christmas card letter,” said Rog afterI read him the letter. Maybe so. I could fill a book w/the bummer things that happen during the year, and frankly, the inner-evil part of me is tempted every year to do this, but I can never bring myself to that point of reality. I just do it here!

Now my big dilemna is whether or not to still send out a card at all, send out a New Year Card (still an option, albeit a lame one. We still have no photo) or do something completely strange and opt for a Valentine card. I proposed the latter to Rog, and you know what he said?

“You did mention a Valentine’s Day party to make up for the Christmas party.” He’s right. I had surfaced the option when I was up and happy, right before Thanksgiving. On the bright side, the list of invitees will be a lot smaller than originally anticipated. I’ll be sending out invites to all 14 people who sent me cards….

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