Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Life Without Chocolate

There are two kinds of people in the world. There are the salt snackers and the sweet snackers. It's not really hard to figure out which one you are. If you're in the mood to munch, do you reach for potato chips or cake? Popcorn or candy? I'm a sweet snacker married to a salt snacker. For years when I thought munchies and snacks, I thought of M&M's and cakes and other various chocolate goodies. My husband thought in terms of potato chips and beef jerky. (That's a snack!?!) Something with chocolate in it would always hit the spot for me. Yeah, give me a chocolate chip cookie. Or a piece of cake. Or a candy bar.
But unfortunately, those days are over for me. I refused to admit it for a long time. I thought I could postpone the inevitable, but it's finally happened. I can no longer partake freely of the delights I once craved. (Who am I kidding? I still crave them.)And it's not just a case of it not being diet food. If you've ever seen me, you know that's not really an issue with me. Hey, I have my priorities straight! No, it's something worse than that. Something I can't ignore.
My name is Jill, and I'm a borderline diabetic. I had gestational diabetes with every one of my pregnancies, and that should have been the writing on the wall. I was warned by my doctors that I was a prime candidate for diabetes later on in life. It just shocked me to realize that "later on" is actually now. I can no longer eat sweets without it affecting my health.
I've known this for years, but I've not really acknowledged it before. Oh sure, I cut down on the amount of sweets I ate. But I knew that, as long as I didn't go overboard too much, I could have the occasional sweet. If I over-indulged, I'd usually pay for it with a sick headache, but that was about it. But I've discovered recently that I can no longer pretend to ignore the situation. Or maybe I've just matured enough to realize that, no matter how good it tastes, sweets are not worth the way they make me feel. Truthfully, as much as I still long for something sweet once in a while, I look at the forbidden item and I have to wonder if it's really worth it anymore. Do I want to give up my health--maybe even my life--for a bag of M&M's? I mean, come on. They're good, but not that good! What about quality of life? Diabetes comes with some pretty horrible side effects. How horrible would it be to lose my eyesight--or even a limb--because I couldn't control my own desires? That's just a little too pathetic for me.
So I'm off the sweets. Completely. No more assuring myself that one small piece won't matter. I went cold turkey. So far it's not been really difficult. I've been tempted, but thinking about how I feel after eating sugar is a pretty good deterrent to giving in.
I have no illusions about my ability to withstand temptation, though. I know there will come a time when the urge is overwhelming. But so far I'm taking it a day at a time. For today I won't eat sugar. I just wonder: do I get a thirty day pin if I hold out that long? Seems like I should get some kind of acknowledgement for this kind of sacrifice. Or at least a support group somewhere.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Gender Territory

In this advanced and progressive world we live in, it's not amazing at how gender lines have changed. Areas that used to be gender-specific, such as clothing, hobbies, etc., have now blurred to where it's hard to find where to draw the line. For instance, at one point, sports like hunting and fishing were predominantly male. If a woman found interest in those things, she kept it to herself and watched wistfully as the men went off to have their fun. Now most women think nothing of pursuing whatever hobby interests her. I know ladies that wouldn't miss out on hunting season each year. I also know some that enjoy fishing. I know some that enjoy golfing, and if that's not crossing the gender lines, I don't know what is. After all, I've heard that the term GOLF used to be an anagram for the statement: "Gentlemen only. Ladies forbidden." Try that term in today's politically correct society!
But this is not just a one way road. Men have crossed that line too. I know several men that actually enjoy cooking. Some are better at it than their wives are. It used to be the thinking, too, that playing the piano or organ was a feminine trait. But some of the best pianists I've ever heard were men. I've watched men dissect a dish of food while they were eating it, analyzing the ingredients, spices and seasonings used in its creation. Times have changed.
But there are some areas where gender territories are still following hard and fast lines. Places where specifically a man will not or cannot give up what he feels to be his God-given rights. One of these areas is the remote control. I think the very fact that this device has the word "control" in its title causes men to feel it's a tool that belongs to them. Even if they don't actively insist it be given to them, they get antsy if they're not the ones holding it. Eventually they find themselves walking away to putter around in the garage (or the kitchen) because they don't know what to do with themselves if they don't have possession of the remote. It's their territory and they cannot give it up.
The remote control is an obvious one, but there's another area where men continue to dominate, and they probably don't even realize they're doing it. I'm sure when I mention this particular area, though, most women will agree immediately that most men see it as their territory. The one area that men can't seem to give up is the armrest. This truth was brought home to me recently when I was flying home to Orlando from Minneapolis. Now, anyone who has flown recently can testify that the concept of personal space is completely foreign in the coach section of an airplane. I am continually amazed at how many seats they can cram in, and how close they can be to each other. When I boarded the plane and found my seat, in the bulkhead section (translation: I was facing a wall in front of me), I discovered I was in the center seat of an impossibly small row of three seats on our side of the aisle. The guy in the aisle seat was a big guy (I found out later he was a retired marine.) The guy by the window was--well-fed I guess would be the best way to describe him. And there I sat between them. Both men automatically rested their arms on our shared armrests, leaving me no place to put my own extremities. I crossed my arms into an awkward, pretzel-like stance in an effort to keep from actual physical contact. Both men were polite, but they seemed to take for granted that the armrests were theirs.
My connecting flight from Atlanta to Orlando was even worse. There I was in a window seat. The man next to me was smaller, but what he lacked in stature he tried to make up for in the amount of space he took up. He sprawled in his seat. He not only took the armrest, but his elbow dug into my ribs through most of the flight as well. His attitude was not so gentlemanly, and I got the distinct impression he was arrogantly trying to take up as much space as possible just to prove he could.
So I guess armrests and remote controls are still their areas. But we have ours too. We don't need sharp elbows to keep our places to ourselves. Just put out a bowl of potpourri or a scented candle. That marks your spot better than anything and the men won't go anywhere near it. There may be differences in the sexes, but I guess we have our own gentle way of digging our elbows into their ribs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Voices In My Head

I spent several days last week with people who have voices in their heads. It didn't worry me too much, though, because I have them too. Now before you log off my blog and start researching exorcists, let me assure you I'm completely sane. Well, mostly sane. I went to the American Christian Fiction Writers' Annual Conference in Minneapolis last week. Most writers will tell you that their characters occasionally talk to them. Usually when you're trying to get them to do something that's not true to their character or personality. Sometimes when you write the characters just seem to take over and go in directions you never planned.
Fiction writers tend to be a little odd. They like to eavesdrop and people-watch because it gives them fodder for their stories. They also like to brainstorm. There were some pretty interesting conversations to eavesdrop on this past week!
It was so much fun to be with people who don't think you're weird when you ask for a good resource for poisons. Not only do they not look at you in a funny way, but several will offer their favorite websites and/or books on the topic!
Of course, it's not all fun and games. I heard about one conference where writers were spinning a plot to kill off a husband. A maid overheard and thought they were talking about real life. She called the police and turned them in. Fortunately, the hotel staff last week seemed to get the "fiction" part of our conference.
I got a whole lot of good ideas from this conference, had a good meeting with an editor and an agent--the editor already has my manuscript, the agent asked for a proposal--and now I'm home, all fired up and read to write. Well, I will be as soon as I catch up with my kids ... and get around to unpacking ... and finish submitting my proposal ...
Anyway, I noticed something odd about the voices in my head. It's actually one voice, and it sounds annoyingly like my husband. See, I tend to be kind of quiet and shy at these types of things. I'd much rather hang back and quietly observe all that's going around me. But I can't. My family really sacrificed so that I could go and I need to make the most of every opportunity. So I constantly find the voice in my head prompting me to get out of my comfort zone and take advantage of the networking opportunities before me. It's always asking me, "Why didn't you follow up on that? Are you going to speak up here? Surely you're not heading back to your room yet." Yep. it's annoying and it sounds just like my husband. I hate it when he's in my head.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Great News!

Yes, once again I'm doing the Snoopy dance. Last week was a tough one, as you may be able to tell by the lack of blogging entries. But when we got back home, I checked email and then the dancing began. I heard from one of the editors that requested my manuscript. She just wanted to let me know that they are still considering my book for publication. They will make the final decision by the first week of October. I have not been offered a contract yet, but I haven't been rejected yet either. (So is this glass half full or half empty?) Anyway, I'm dancing on clouds for the next couple of weeks. Keep praying (I know I will) and hopefully early next month we'll all do the cyber Snoopy dance together!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Art of Conversation

Do you have trouble starting a conversation? Some people really struggle with not knowing what to say, while other people could cozy up to a barracuda. My husband is someone that can talk to anyone. I, on the other hand, really struggle with small talk. I've watched him for twenty-two years, and I'm still not sure how he does it. I've learned a few things, but I practice them with varying degrees of success. But for what it's worth, here are some of the conversation starter tips (Do's and Don'ts, if you will.)
First, use their name. It personalizes things and puts your attention on them, which is flattering to most people. Then ask them how they're doing. Sometimes that will elicit a little bit of conversation from them about what's going on in their lives. Of course, the down side of that is they could end up telling you more than you ever wanted to know about their gall bladder surgery.
If "How're you doing" only gets you a "fine" in response, you can always move on to current news. Tossing out a sports comment can be good, but if the person you're trying to engage in conversation doesn't follow sports, then they may not care that Lester "Bubba" Smith just won his fourth straight hog-calling championship in a killer final round that lasted three hours and sixteen minutes. There's nothing worse than a blank stare or a shrug, so be careful about the sports and entertainment comments unless you know some of their interests.
A comment on the current political climate can usually get the ball rolling. I've noticed lately that I can throw out, "So what do you think of the Republicans' choice for Vice President?" and that will start a conversation swirling around me in no time flat.
Sometimes, as hard as it is to start a conversation, it's even harder to get out of one. The sports comment can bring on the stats of every NFL player for the last fifteen years. The Vice Presidential question can bring on a political rant that will never end. So how do you stop the conversation?
Well, you can always pretend to spot someone across the room that you need to talk to. You look just past the shoulder of the person you're listening to. Nod and hold up your index finger as if to tell someone you'll be there in a minute. Then wait for the person to take a breath. When they do, you excuse yourself saying you have to get hold of so-and-so across the room.
You can always glance at your watch and be on your way. Of course, that's a problem if you just go there.
All in all, there's one surefire conversation stopper. It's embarrassing, and should only be used in desperate times, but here it is. Wait for an opening and then throw out the following line: "Man, you wouldn't believe the time I had yesterday at my proctologist appointment." That's when the other person suddenly spots someone across the room and hurries away. Works every time!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Needing Prayer

I will be on the road for the next few days, but it definitely isn't a pleasure trip. This is definitely going to be a difficult and trying week. I covet your prayers as I face some challenges that only God can handle. I'll be back Thursday, and for you conversationally challenged people, I'll have some great ideas for getting the conversational ball rolling. And a few that will stop the chitchat dead in it's tracks. See you Thursday!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Most Important

It's funny how important some things can be to a child. What really seems of little consequence to grown ups is incredibly important to children.
For instance, look at their toys. All children have certain toys that are important to them. These are the toys they sleep with, or the toys they drag around with them whenever they leave the house. In my family, the Toy Story characters have always been important to the boys. Toy Story came out shortly after Luke was born. He's fourteen now and has moved onto other favorites, but at the time, he couldn't get enough of Toy Story. As my other boys came along, each of them took a turn with Toy Story being their favorite. Now, my youngest is eight. While Toy Story is no longer his movie of choice, he still cherishes the Toy Story toys he's collected over the years. He has no fewer than five Woody and Buzz figures in various sizes. Some talk and some don't. Some stay on his bed, just like Andy kept them in the movie. I didn't realize how important each of them were until this week when the Toy Story Wars broke out in our house.
At some point as the boys were discussing toys, Paul, our eleven-year-old (twelve next month. Yikes!) mentioned that he'd never had a Toy Story toy. I'm not absolutely positive that's the case, as I've bought quite a few of them over the years, but he says he's never had one. Nicky generously offered to give his brother one of his own toys so that Paul could experience the joy that Woody and Buzz give to children. It was a very nice gesture, and appropriate, especially considering how many Toy Story toys Nicky owned anyway.
Well, within a day they were constantly arguing over the toy. Nicky finally came to me and asked if I would make Paul give back the Woody toy. I told Nicky that a gift was a gift, and you can't change your mind and take it back later. That wasn't fair or nice. Nicky actually got tears in his eyes, and with horror in his voice he told me that Paul hated Woody and was disrespecting him. (Yes, he actually used that word!) It seems that Paul lost no time in taking the belt and the vest off the Woody doll that he was given, leaving him with his boots, yellow plaid shirt and a pair of jeans. In Nicky's mind, the vest and belt were part of the essence of Woody, and when Paul took them off, he was showing his dislike of the Woody character. So in Nicky's mind, Paul was no longer deserving of a Toy Story toy.
To complicate matters further, Nicky supposedly told Paul he wanted the belt off the Woody toy that he kept. Paul tried to oblige him, but those belts aren't supposed to come off, and he tore a large hole in the front of the toy. Now Nicky especially feels that Paul owes him the Toy Story toy back.
So what am I going to do? Who's in the right here? I admit I'm a little torn over the circumstances, so when they brought the problem to me, I did what any good mother would do. I took both toys, set them aside, and promised to discuss it with their father this evening. Why should I always be the bad guy?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What's New?

You know, I'm all for the latest in technology. I just finished doing some research on the latest processors for computers, and what I've learned makes my five-year-old computer seem slower than ever! It's amazing the speed and capabilities that these machines have now!
I'm also fascinated by the iphone. Anyone seen one? Imagine having an entire computer on your cell phone. And all the music you like to listen to, and TV broadcasts and internet access and ... you get the idea.
I've heard that there's even a smart refrigerator now. When you take the last gallon of milk out of the fridge, it adds one to your grocery list, or it even orders the milk for you and your groceries arrive the next day. Who wouldn't love that? Although, I think the amount of groceries we buy for our five boys might be a little confusing to a computer.
I love technology, but I don't have a very good handle on it. For all the great things that today's computers can accomplish, I don't see myself moving much beyond my current applications. As much as I hate to face it, most computers are more than I need anyway.
And as much as I'm enthralled with the iphone, I doubt I'd ever get enough use out of it to justify the price. I mean, most phones have great capabilities in them, but I still just use mine as a phone.
Even though I'm not very technologically savvy, it's still fun to see and experience most of what modern science throws our way. But there's one area where I believe the old-fashioned way is better. It's not even a very advance technological thing as that goes. But here it is--my deep, dark confession. I like old-fashioned #2 pencils. There's something about writing with a freshly sharpened pencil that just inspires me. I work in an auditing office, and we do a lot of work in pencil. I'm the only one in the office that doesn't use a mechanical pencil. I hate them. The lead breaks too easily, and something about them just doesn't inspire me the way a wooden pencil does.
Our pencil sharpener in the office must be fifteen years old. It's electric, but you have to hold the pencil just right in order to get it sharpened. Even then, it only sharpens on one side. I complain every time I use it--which is often, because it doesn't get the pencils very sharp in the first place. Then everyone points out that I'm the only one using the pencil sharpener anyway. I'm sorry, but I'll never give in. I'm sticking with my #2. Sometimes advances in technology really aren't the best after all!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My Husband, My Hero

Forgive me, but there comes a time when you do need to brag on your spouse a little bit, and this is one of those times. I have an amazingly wonderful husband, and I just want to tell you about him.
I tell people that I am married to the original Indiana Jones. I say this because, not only is he good looking, but he has a great sense of adventure and a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have traveled much further from my home town, and I spent some time living on the other side of the world because I'm married to a man that loves adventure.
Terry is also supportive. Not everyone sees this side of him (mostly because he can also be a steam roller), but he is very supportive. My dream is to be a published writer, and he encourages that. He's cheered me on and even pushed me a little when I needed a bit of a shove. He's also tried to adapt to my needs. My husband doesn't like reading fiction, so he's never read my work. One time I desperately needed to bounce some ideas off of someone and do a little brainstorming. Terry read my first chapter and then helped me toss ideas back and forth. The finished product was a much stronger piece of work because he was willing to put aside his own likes and help me.
Just recently an opportunity came up for me to work in an office part time. We definitely needed the extra money, but Terry didn't demand that I take the job. He freely admitted it would be a help, but then left it up to me what I wanted to do. I told him I'd be glad to take the job, but that meant I would need help homeschooling our children. There was just no way to do both. Terry agreed to take over each day when I left for work. I admit, I was a little nervous about how this would go, but he's working hard at making sure the boys are doing all their work each day and that they're done on time too. Because his schedule varies some since he's a pastor, he also has them working ahead a little bit so that if he has to take off for something, the boys won't fall behind.
Not only that, but he also makes sure they all clean the house up every day while I'm gone. Admittedly, sometimes it's a guy's level of clean as opposed to mine, but still it helps. Today the boys told me their Dad was even folding laundry and putting it away. If you know my husband at all, you know that's a true act of love!
One night he even stepped in and helped me cook dinner. Then he helped the boys clean up the kitchen afterward so I could have some time to myself. Again, this is out of his normal realm, but he's doing his best to be a help. What more could any woman want?
For all this, I can put up with the fact that his dirty clothes never make it into the hamper. I can also handle the fishing poles or snorkeling gear that are occasionally left in the living room. And the fact that he sometimes loses his keys. Hey, if he kept up with all that, he'd be perfect. Who could stand living with something like that! So here's to you, Terry. Thanks for making our twenty-two years together so great. I love you, Sweetheart!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Woman in the White House?

So McCain picked his running mate. Did it surprise you? It shocked me to death. I'd never heard of Sarah Palin before Friday. They did a really good job of keeping this one under wraps, and the surprise value was immeasurable. The day after Obama's acceptance/what's wrong with America speech, no one was talking about it. Or the Democratic Convention. Or anything else for that matter, except for Sarah Palin. For the first time ever, the Republicans have a woman on the ticket. And what a woman! Reformer. Bucker--even against her own political party at times. Wife. Mother. (Of five!) Commercial fisherman (person). Governor. Life-time NRA member. Pro-life. Special needs child. There's just so much to cover!
I'm surprised at McCain's choice, but I definitely think she fits the criteria that most conservatives want. I like this option better than some that were rumored to be considered for the job. But this also brings up a question. It has been said that McCain will only run for one term. Of course, he'll be seventy-six when that term is up. That's getting on up in years for a President. But it's been said that he'll only do one term so that he's not beholden to the special interest groups. If he only runs one term, then the natural choice for the republican nomination in 2012 would be the vice president. And I think we all know that, if Obama loses in '08, Hilary will be back to campaign in 2012. We could conceivably have a woman on both sides of the party ticket campaigning for the top job in the country. It would definitely be a first in history, and it's almost too hard to get my mind wrapped around it. Just think of all the changes that would be going on in the White House. How many firsts in our country's history.
NOTE**From here on, this post is all tongue-in-cheek. Please don't write and tell me that I'm not taking this seriously. I do take it seriously, but if you can't laugh at something now and then, maybe you're a little too serious for your own good. At any rate, please take this in the light-hearted manner in which it was written.**END NOTE

1. For the first time ever, there could be potpourri in the Oval Office.

2. There might be ruffled curtains in the shots of the President sitting at her desk.

3. All Airforce One flights would be stocked with Dove chocolates or DeBrand truffles.

4. Aids would be required to carry emergency pantyhose for those last-minute runs.

5. The private residence of the Presidency would require the addition of larger closets in order to accommodate a larger variety of shoes.

6. The Presidential seal would be applied to a makeup case.

7. Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping would all run more articles on what to wear to a treaty-signing or a diplomatic luncheon.

8. There would be an official Presidential fragrance.

9. When the first female President retired, instead of a Presidential library, there might be a Presidential fashion line.

10. Comics across the country would get to use the First Husband jokes they've been honing for years.

I'm looking forward to watching as history unfolds.

Monday, September 1, 2008

How Do You Define Racism?

The subject has already been broached. Accusations have been made. The term "racist" has been bandied about, particularly towards people that are not voting for Obama. I even saw a headline the other day where a Newsweek reporter supposedly said that if Obama didn't win, that proved our country was still racist.
That comment does not make sense to me. There is no logic in it. In the first place, I don't think a reporter has any business publicly commenting on something like the Presidential race. Journalism is supposed to be fair and impartial, although that standard went out the window a long time ago. Unless I'm reading the editorial opinion page, I don't want to know where the reporter stands on an issue. I simply want the reporter to report the issue in a fair and balanced way.
I'm aware that I've actually used some of the trademark slogans of FOX news in the last paragraph. The words fair, balanced and impartial show up frequently in their advertising. That only means that they are aware of what the standard of journalism should be.
Journalism and the lack of objective reporting are not the subject of this post, however. The subject is racism. And I think it's extremely narrowed-minded and even a bit prejudiced to say that people would not vote for Obama because they are racist. I'm aware that there are some people in this country who still judge a person by the color of their skin. I've met a few of those people. They are wrong in the stance that they take. However, those people are in the minority. They do not set the tone for this country and they are not in a position to influence the path of a nation. In this enlightened day and age, I doubt the choice for President could be changed based on the color of a man's skin.
Actually, I want to take that last statement back. I am sincerely afraid that the choice for President will be influenced by skin color. I am a bit worried that there are eligible voters in this country who will vote for Obama because he is black. Sadly, that is the direction in which this politically correct landscape is headed.
It is deeply, undeniably wrong to vote against a man because of the color of his skin. Skin color has nothing to do with a man's qualifications or his ability to lead a nation. With that in mind, it is wrong to vote for a man because of the color of his skin. If the color of his skin does not mean he's disqualified for office, then it doesn't mean he's qualified either. This is just another form of racism, or rather, reverse racism, if you will. How hypocritical to cry racist at someone who votes against the black candidate because they have different ideals, different ideas of right and wrong, different opinions on the direction in which to head our country. And then to turn around and vote for a black candidate because he is black. Who is the racist now?
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