Better

Hugh Laurie – Dr Gregory House by xjorieke | DeviantArt.com

I went to see my naturopath last night. He said there’s a particularly nasty strain of stomach flu that hit our area last fall, and it sounds like I’ve caught the tail end of it. Unlike the 24 or 48-hour flu, this one likes to stick around until you fight back. He gave me a homeopathic detox remedy, a high-quality probiotic, and said to eat nothing but specifically white jasmine rice, baked or boiled chicken, and canned (not fresh) peaches, pears, and apricots for the next few days. In 15 years of practicing natural medicine, he said this homeopathic detox has never failed to cure the flu. No antibiotics? Needless to say I was skeptical, but by the time I went to bed last night I felt better.

Today marks three weeks since this bug first attacked me. Tonight I feel better still! Thank God! I even went to the store after work today. I’ve barely lifted a finger since I’ve been sick. It’s made me feel so useless and bored! I only picked up a few things, but it was nice to take care of something for the house.

I don’t know why I keep giving my “regular” doctor the chance to disappoint me. At this point, unless I need a limb re-attached, I’ve mostly given up all hope that U.S. medicine can effectively treat anything. Emergency medicine and surgery: unbelievable capabilities. Treating every-day health concerns: “Let’s cut something off, and pump you full of side-effect-causing drugs!”

“No, U.S. Medicine, you need to calm down!”

“But I went to school for 10 years and I’m in crippling debt! I need to blow this out of proportion, or else I need to not treat you at all, so there’s more time for the cases that can pay the bills.”

Am I wrong?

Debtor’s Dreaming

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Afloat.”

It must be eight years since I first picked up Dave Ramsey’s book: Total Money Makeover. It was apparent to me that I knew almost nothing about how to successfully manage my money. At 23, I was paying my bills, but I had debt and nothing saved for retirement. I read through Dave’s book, started listening to the Podcast of his radio show, and I started dreaming of what it would be like to be one of those people who screamed “Debt Free!” on Fridays.

A lot can happen in eight years. I wish I could say I met my debt-free goal in my 20s, but I’m actually staring down more debt in my near future. Not much has changed, except that now I have something saved for retirement. Dave wouldn’t approve. “Debt-free before retirement saving!” he preaches. I’m not following the plan, so I shouldn’t be entirely surprised that I haven’t met the goal.

One out of three people working in the US makes more money than I do. In fact, that third of the population is taking home 70% of the total US wages. I’m not exactly unhappy about it. It doesn’t cause me stress or anxiety. On the contrary, I feel abundantly blessed to have my bills paid and money in the bank! I even take two-day vacations occasionally.

But it would be nice to be more than just “Afloat.”

In Need of Defibrillation

Stick Mustache by juliagarriott | DeviantArt.com

I’m unfocused. I don’t really know how else to describe it. I have a hundred things I need and want to do and I can’t decide what the priority should be. So like any reasonable human being, I’m not going to do a thing.

Continue reading In Need of Defibrillation

Celebration of Life, Not Death

Warning: If you prefer to continue celebrating Easter as you always have, DO NOT READ THIS. I’m serious. This may completely ruin your day, especially if you’re a Christian. Read at your own risk of messing with your current paradigm.

I’ve been a Christian for 25 years. I grew up in the church, but I firmly established my own faith in God at a very young age. I heard a parable this past year that’s completely destroyed the idea of an “Easter Celebration.” I may not be telling it exactly as I originally heard it, but it goes something like this:

Imagine a family at home playing games when suddenly their home is invaded my a sadistic monster. He’s there to kill everyone, but the father somehow convinces the sociopath to leave his family alone. While the family watches, the father is tortured to within an inch of his life. To make it worse, the asshole tapes the whole thing and posts it on the internet. The father eventually recovers, but the video goes viral.

Now imagine this. To remind his family of how he sacrificed himself to save them, the family watches that viral video every year. And every year the father proudly stands by while they all weep and thank him for his benevolent endurance.

Now who’s the asshole?

Ever since I heard this, I’ve been completely horrified at the idea of attending an Easter service or, God forbid, an Easter production where they reenact the crucifixion. Ugh… and then to listen to someone say, “With every head bowed and every eye closed, is there anyone that wants to ask Jesus to come into your life?” My stomach is in knots just thinking of it. I think I’m going to be sick.

It’s the most twisted, manipulative, cruel and unusual way to “honor God” I can think of.

While I’m ruining Easter for you, let’s clarify a few things. The invader is not Satan. He has no power over God.  He is not God’s antithesis. He is a created being. He tempted Christ to sin, but that’s all he could do. God does not have an exact opposite. He is perfect Light, and there is no such thing as perfect Dark. Dark does not have qualities that are all its own. It is only the absence of Light.

Sin is the enemy: Any act of free will that violates the will of God… the will of Love. It separates us from God because God is perfect Love and cannot be in the presence of imperfect Love without obliterating it. The only way for God to defeat this enemy was to “become sin” – to exist in a world where sin separated the creation from the Creator and to die as a sinner would… but without ever having sinned.

This is the “Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time” C. S. Lewis illustrated so poetically in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

…when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.

The Table – the Stone Table in the story – represents the Law: The rules God explained to Moses so He, the Creator, could have relationship with his creation. When Christ died without sin, He defeated death and was resurrected. All that separated us from God was destroyed. No sin can keep Us apart. We are Whole again. We are Reconciled to the Creator.

But the world is fallen. Although sin is defeated, it still exists and all of creation is degraded by it. Until Christ returns to create a New Heaven and a New Earth, the Reconciled will have trouble. “But take heart,” Christ says, “I have overcome the world.”

I simply cannot liken this belief in God to the one of the benevolent asshole. They are so wholly different, that Easter has become a sickening reminder of how sadly we have chosen to show His creation how much He loves them.

So I’m having an Easter egg hunt with the kids today. Because it’s fun. I’m not going to stretch the truth and tell them we have eggs because it’s a symbol of the trinity. The plain and obvious truth is that eggs and rabbits are symbols of fertility, just like Christmas wreaths, and I like those too. I didn’t wake them up at five o’clock in the morning to attend a Sunrise Service, as if we’re worshipers of Ēostre – the goddess of the dawn.

I’m not going to celebrate Easter it by glorifying the crucifixion and telling people they should be grateful for it. Not any more. Easter is a celebration of fertility, not morbidity; it’s a celebration of Life, not Death.

A New Romance

I finished The Scarlet Thread yesterday. Spike came in while I was on the last few pages. “You don’t look like you love that book,” he smiled. I didn’t realize I was actually scowling. “It’s high fructose corn syrup Christianity,” I said, surprised at my own precisely accurate description. “It’s sickeningly sweet. And fake.”

I’ve already ranted about my issues with this book, but I can’t leave it alone. It isn’t in me to complain about the way things are without offering a solution.

I love classic romances. Wuthering Heights was actually the first novel I ever read, and I was hooked. I read a lot of Jannette Oke books when I was in junior high and high school too. I wonder if I would still love them, or if I would sense the same HFCS Christianity overtones now. Of course my romance reading had a heaping side helping of Disney princess movies. My mother was once warned not to let me watch Sleeping Beauty so much because it would warp my sense of true love. Luckily for me it came from her mother-in-law, whose advice she never took, so I continued to dress up and lie on top of my toy box, waiting for Prince Phillip. (He never came of course, but I loved to pretend.)

I’m still drawn to romances as an adult, but more in the form of TV shows and movies. Downton Abbey is my most recent favorite. It’s the perfect mix of romance and my other favorite genre: historical fiction. I’ve watched every movie and TV series I can get my hands on that’s based on a Jane Austen novel.

Is there a way to present romance that doesn’t send people screaming or set their eyes rolling? Could I write a better romance? I’m fairly certain I’m at least living a better romance than the one I just read, so that’s a start. I could tell my story. It’s full of heartache and tears and miracles. Would anyone read it? I know I would, which is really the most important part of writing anyway. I would have a lot of help from that bookshelf full of journals.

Culinary Ownership


I’ve had it pretty good the last few years. During our pre-marital counseling, Spike agreed to do all the grocery shopping and all the cooking. Nice, right? In exchange, I agreed to do all the cleaning and bookkeeping. It’s been a dream arrangement. I hate hated the grocery store and I can’t couldn’t stand cooking. The frustration of not being able to find things in the grocery store – no more. The hangry cleaning of the kitchen after work so I can cook dinner – never again!

I am grateful for the blessings of this arrangement. It’s worked seamlessly for many years now. My husband and I have lived up to our agreements. We’ve [actually] never fought over who should do the cooking, the cleaning, the grocery shopping, or the bookkeeping. We haven’t suffered any undercutting comments from each other about the lack of upkeep. We have been blissfully, happily married.

The unforeseen consequence of this arrangement is that I have completely relinquished all responsibility for what I consume. If Spike doesn’t cook, we eat out. I don’t care what I eat. I’m entitled to my mashed potatoes. I deserve my brownies. I needs the cheesy garlic breads. When your serotonin is at a level to barely keep you functional, carbohydrates are the savior you clamor for.

But I am happily changed, and I have taken ownership of what I consume. I am more aware of what I eat. I am selective. I have [some] self-control. And I want to cook. God help me. I want to cook.

Spike started school in January. Since then our meals have taken an understandable hit. We’ve eaten out a lot more often. Although I’ve gotten better about the food I order when I go out, it still isn’t great. Although my serotonin-boosting “brain pills” (as I call them) are helping, I still need some help in eating healthy.

I discovered emeals.com many years ago. Seriously, for five dollars a month, I don’t know why everyone and their mother isn’t subscribed to this site. It offers a wide range of meal plans as PDFs that come out every week (which I saved when I was subscribed to the site). It gives you recipes and a shopping list for a week’s worth of meals. For all the planning and brain power it saves, I don’t know how I would manage to takeover meal planning without it.

This morning I went to the grocery store for the first time in [actual] years. I spent two hours making sure everything on my list was carefully selected. I purchased and bagged my items and I brought home my kill with all the pride of a successful hunter.

I prepped a spicy beef flank steak this afternoon (which Spike grilled this evening) and a side of radish slaw. We “beefed up” the slaw with some fresh Red Russian Kale, arugula, mache, and curly endive clippings from Spike’s aquaponics garden. It was delicious. The steak was more spicy than I expected, but it was still fantastic!

emeals.com
emeals.com
Also, I might be cartoon-drunk now [read: literally hiccuping and drunk] from celebrating my success. We bought a growler of award-winning, amazing beer on our wine road trip, and I may or may not have tried to finish it off single-handedly after the girls went to bed. Single… glassedly? I don’t know. Hope you enjoyed this. Mrs. Spike needs her bed now.

Idiot Frankenstein

So I’m in a bad mood lately. You know when someone quits their job but keeps showing up? That’s how I’m feeling this week. I’ve had too many knock-downs to have any motivation or inspiration to continue to do my job well. I’m operating on bare-minimum effort, which honestly makes me ill. It’s not who I am, but it seems to be how my company prefers their employees to be: sedated by frustration to the point of pure apathy. What the hell am I doing there? It’s sucking my soul dry.

Not always. After four years, though, you would think my days of pulling teeth to push an inspiring notion would be over. You would think they would just go with it!

Young Frankenstein (1974)

I feel like Dr. Frankenstein, electrifying a corpse and then, like an idiot, believing it’s alive! But the damn thing keeps dying and my resources are burnt-out and all I have to show for my efforts is the smell of fried, putrefied flesh.

That was graphic. I guess I finally have an accurate description of how I feel about corporate America.

$18

I really didn’t think I was the kind of person that would chase a goal only to find myself unfulfilled with attaining it. I’ve advised many people to be content with what they have, because if they’re not, they’ll never be content with more. How very very lame that I’ve failed to take my own advice. 

For most of my adult life I have told myself that I would be content and wouldn’t seek after anything more than $18 an hour. That’s it. I would pay for a comfortable lifestyle at that rate and I would be happy and content. It won’t come as any surprise to anyone but me that I now make $19 an hour and I’m not as happy as I thought I would be.

I’m ashamed. It’s not that I want more money. It’s that the life I have isn’t producing the happiness I expected. Of course, like most people, I guess I don’t really know what I expected; which is the product of vague planning, I’m sure.

A life coach (if I had one) would probably assign me the chore of writing down what my “happy life” looks like, then work backwards through the steps that will take me there. My counselor (if I asked her) would say, “Start with what you know, and work your way toward a goal.” Honestly, that all sounds rather exhausting to someone who’s generally unimpressed with life.

I need inspiration; a role model. I need to talk to someone who’s living a life I want to live; not a celebrity or a historical figure. Someone with a heartbeat and a story and time to talk to me.

How Much Stuff?

The hu’band turned me on to Tiny House culture awhile back and my sister recently reintroduced it to me. Given the way my blog is trending and my reaction to the Tiny House, I think I’m getting sick of having too much stuff in my life. Watching this video made me want to pack a bag and move in tomorrow!

Couple Builds Own Tiny House

Seriously, sign me up!

Then I watched this video from a “professional organizer” about managing clutter and it made me cringe:

Organization Tips

Both individuals are incredibly organized, but I’m much more drawn to one over the other.

Obviously, the difference is simplicity. How much stuff does a person actually need to function? Does anyone actually need to cover an entire door with pocketed office supplies? I would take me a decade to use up that many office supplies, (which I’m allowed to say because office supplies are quite nearly my favorite thing in the world)!

That said, I should mention I’ve been functioning at work with a completely paperless system for over three years now. I don’t know how I ever managed to keep my stress from killing me when I was organizing a thousand pieces of paper. Now it’s all nice and neat and digital! It keeps me focused, on-task and hyper productive. Not to mention working from home one day a week is a snap. I’ve never worried that I wouldn’t have something to be able to do my work, because I can get to everything from anywhere that has internet access.

Here’s the part where I derail my own rant. While my workplace is a well-oiled machine of efficiency, organization, and productivity, my house is actually kind of a wreck most of the time. I can’t even blame it on the hu’band and the kids. I can be pretty lazy when it comes to keeping our house put-together. I guess that means I’m not a type-A, psycho, clean-freak all the time. Go me!

Still, we’ve only lived in our current house since for six months and I’m constantly getting after my family (and myself) to keep things clutter-free. The linen closet might be my biggest pet-peeve when it comes to staying organized; probably because it seems like it should be the easiest. I added some simple labels to the shelves over the weekend to give the kids some on-going direction, and so far so good!

The next thing I desperately want to do is go-paperless at home. I have an awesome filing system that I’ve managed to maintain for the last few years, but I’d really like it to be digital. Having paper around gives me anxiety now. Like there’s something I’m not doing. Also, my supply closet desperately needs an overhaul. It’s turned into the catch-all and after just six months, it’s completely packed! Maybe I’ll do some before and after shots.

I really like the idea of having room for more without actually wanting to get more. I think I could live in a Tiny House someday, but I don’t think it’s ever too soon to start adopting the Tiny House culture. Embrace empty space. Get rid of the things you don’t need (and don’t buy them in the first place). Fill your life with meaningful activity in the space you create. Fill your mind with peaceful thoughts with the time you save not cleaning and organizing.

Life is cluttered enough. We don’t really need to add more stuff to it.

Feature Creep

Does your life ever feel like it has too many conveniences, too much automation, too many apps to get your organized, too many reminders to get you in line, too many notes to push you in the right direction; too many updates to keep you in the loop? Does anyone wish we could just unplug from all of it? That’s a nice idea, isn’t it? Just quit. Walk out. Refuse to interact with the modern world. Yeah, go ahead.

How’s that working? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

So what do we do? Stay connected, stay organized, stay modern. Ugh. I should just throw my computer out on the curb, give my phone to a stranger, and go off the grid. But it’s supposed to be hot this week. Also, I would have to write checks or deal in cash. I’d be running all over the place just to pay my bills, and that doesn’t really go along with my shut-up-in-the-house routine. Okay, so I have to at least have internet connection; but do I need a desktop, a laptop, a cell phone, a tablet, and a Kindle? Well of course I don’t need them. I just have them now. “Waste not,” they say. I’m privileged to have this stuff, but I’m not grateful to have it. I’m not happy because I have it. And I don’t feel better for admitting it, so maybe I should just get rid of everything.

But no matter how many little odds and ends I give away, throw away, scale-back, and downsize, somehow I still have more than I need. Here’s the impossible part: I hate to shop! So were is all this stuff coming from?? I’ve reluctantly brought all of this stuff home, apparently, and now I’m spending all this time trying getting rid of it. That’s not just crazy, that’s some kind of sick.

I won’t bother forming some kind of policy about what I will and will not buy. I’ve already proved I lack the discipline for that approach.

Here’s a tangent: According to Wikipedia, “feature creep” is defined as the ongoing expansion or addition of new features in a product. Extra features go beyond the basic function of the product and so can result in over-complication rather than simple design. (Emphasis mine.)

I think I originally learned about it in microeconomics. It made enough sense when we were talking about digital cameras; but the application to the modern life, in general, has always stuck with me. Consumers of life are most happy with the product when it does what it was meant to do and doesn’t over-complicate things with additional features.

Without going into an existential rant, why don’t we just start with the basics? I need to eat. I need to sleep. I need to feel wanted. I need to contribute.

Here’s another tangent: I went to see The Hundred-Foot Journey yesterday. People’s passion for food and cooking is completely fascinating to me. It was a cute story, but when someone at the guy’s kitchen fed him a home-cooked snack and he started crying, remembering home, I lost it. From a simple gesture, the hero was taken back to his roots. Why was I such a sap watching people eat?

Maybe I need more roots and fewer flowers right now.