'Tis Not Long Before Christmas and I'm Going Insane

'Tis not long before Christmas, and I'm going insane,
With thousands of to-do lists going all through my brain.
There’s the shopping and the wrapping while the kids are at school,
And I musn’t forget to make dinner; that wouldn’t be cool.

Then there’s housework and homework and service for neighbors,
Programs and projects and festive favors,
Cards and gifts and another trip to the store,
New callings and teaching and oh, so much more!

And what about writing, editing, and my blog for today?
How can I make time to even think what to say?
And what of those voices of characters in my head,
Reminding me that I’m neglecting them! That fills me with dread.

Then out of the blue enters a thought crystal clear,
“Remember the importance of why you are here.
Is it not to be a daughter, a wife, and a mother?
Your role in the family can be filled by no other.

“So smile and hug; there’s no need to hurry,
Do the best that you can and the rest just don’t worry.
This is the reason Jesus was sent from above,
To do what we can’t, because of His great love.”

So with this advice, I feel the insanity leave,
All I really need to do is my best and believe.
As far as writing, I can jot down my thoughts,
While running errands or scrubbing out pots.

With everything else, I’ll just do my best,
And remember to eat, exercise, and get plenty of rest.
Well, that about wraps up all I have to say,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good day!

What I Have In Common With a Bedpost

The other day, I bought a used headboard for my girls' bedroom. Since it was used, there were some nicks and dings in the wood, and the stain was old. In my mind's eye, I could see the potential it had for looking so much better than it did when I bought it, so I decided to refinish it.

I started by taking it apart, spray-painting the metal parts, and repairing and sanding the wooden posts. Sanding was harder work than I realized it would be, (my arms are still sore), but it was fun smoothing out some of the rough parts and removing the worn and outdated stain.

When I finished sanding and repairing, I wiped down the posts, propped them up, and began applying the stain. I was amazed at the transformation that took place when the stain seeped into the crevices, and even the imperfections, adding depth and character to the wood.

Right then, a thought came to mind. I imagined what it would be like to be the poor post, being sanded and scraped, glued and pounded, then wiped with a cold damp cloth and rubbed with something toxic and sticky. It might be thinking, "What in the world are you doing to me? Just leave me alone and let me do my job of...whatever it is that bedposts do."

But from my perspective, I had seen the potential the wood had, and I was pleased with the transformation. I just kept thinking over and over how beautiful the wood truly was, it had just been hidden under all that old stain. Even all the imperfections I had once viewed as flaws became a unique part of the finished product. The outcome was worth the sanding, the scraping, the pounding, and the gluing.

I could even see how I apply this technique to my writing through editing. Sanding, pounding, applying finish, all make the final product shine as it should, because, a rough draft is really just that. Rough.

Then another thought came to my mind.

"You are like this post," the thought said.

"Me? No I'm not. Bedposts are stiff and rigid and straight, and they just stand there doing nothing all day. I'm more soft and flexible, and if you're implying that I do nothing all day, then-"

"I'm talking about the sanding."

"Oh, the sanding." Sometimes I feel like life is sanding me. Those are the times I cry in pain.

"Do you see where I'm coming from?" the thought said. "I so wish for you to see yourself and your potential as I see you, from My perspective."

"Whoa. Okay, I'll do my best."

And so I am.

Yes, sometimes life can be a bit scratchy, but how do I know that it isn't just a way of removing old worn out layers so that I can grow into my potential? Perhaps if I can just take a step back and view each scratchy situation as a work in progress, I can relax and allow the transformation to happen and be grateful for the process.

Good "Taste"

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake from The Diet Rebel's Cookbook: Eating Clean and Green by Jillayne Clements and Michelle Stewart

One of the things I enjoy doing in life is creating yummy whole food recipes. Of course, my favorite recipes to make are healthy desserts. When I say healthy desserts, sometimes people look at me funny because to them, "healthy" means low fat, aspartame sweetened food that's supposed to resemble the desserts they're used to.

But when I say healthy, I mean food that's nutrient dense because it's made with whole food ingredients--such as natural sugars with all their micronutrients intact (including those that help with blood sugar stabilization), whole grains that have been prepared in a way to increase vitamin content and create vitamin C (something that regular whole grain doesn't have, and something that refined grain flour definitely doesn't have), and fat from the right sources (because fat is essential for healthy brains and warmth and fat soluble vitamin absorption, and also helps to slow the absorption of sugar into the blood stream, so in essence, "low fat" or "fat free" does not equal healthy.)

What is the result of eating desserts and other food made from whole food ingredients vs. food from refined? For starters, your body is being nourished and satisfied on less. Desserts made this way tend to have a lighter flavor, and they are not as addicting because they are gentler on the blood sugar levels. Refined foods can be addicting because even though the fullness is there, a lot of the nutrients (the real reason why we eat in the first place) are missing. This creates cravings and a desire to get those nutrients through other sources, even though we know we shouldn't be hungry.

I have heard many people say that they "feel good" after eating my dessert creations, and not in the I-just-ate-a-bunch-of-sugar-so-now-I-feel-like-giggling-until-the-high-wears-off-and-then-I-become-grouchy way. They mean it in the that-was-Divine-tasting-and-yet-I-feel-satisfied-and-nourished kind of a way.

It is possible to nourish and build up the body while at the same time keeping the taste buds happy.

The reason I mention all this is because I believe this ties into books as well. There have been books I have read over the years that were highly entertaining (delicious) and yet when I was done, I was left feeling empty or down. On the other hand, there have been books I have read that have left me with a feeling of satisfaction, edification, or a desire to live my life better. With all the junk in the entertainment field, I'm so thankful for authors and publishers who believe that books should not only be of good "taste" but that they edify and uplift as well.

This is what I strive for as an author and as a preparer of whole foods, and it is how I strive to live as a human being. I have created this "blogsite" (a blog that's set up like a website with different "pages") to incorporate this message. The content throughout the pages--which include writing tips, cooking tip/recipes, and wellness--is designed to uplift and encourage or nourish. Please feel free to visit and give feedback.

3D for Your Taste Buds

I have never quite seen any movie like Avatar in a movie theatre, in 3D. It was absolutely amazing. Part of it was because we were introduced to an amazing world that we didn't even know existed, and part of it was because of the 3D effect. I felt like I was actually on the planet Pandora, walking and running along branches that lit up every time I stepped, that the exotic plant and animals were real, that I was soaring on the back of one of the colorful, pre-historic-looking birds.

Just last night, my husband and I had the opportunity to see Avatar for the second time, only this time it was in 2D. Though it was still fun to watch, it just wasn't the same as the 3D version. The feeling that I was actually a living, breathing, active member of the movie was replaced by the feeling that I was merely observing the action on the screen. It's hard to return to watching regular movies now; it's almost like going backward. We didn't know what we were missing out on before, and now we do.

I have noticed a similar comparison with food. Whole food, in particular, is like 3D for the taste buds. And when I say whole food, I mean food that is as close to its original form as possible. Like whole, sprouted grain instead of refined, whole sugars instead of refined, dairy from healthy, grass fed animals vs. dairy from grain fed, crowded corral animals, whole, real salt instead of refined, organic, garden-fresh produce vs. the aging wax stuff in the stores.

Whole foods have a richer flavor than refined because, I believe, nutrients actually have flavor, and when they are removed from food, as in processed and refined foods, they actually lose flavor. And I'm not even going to go into the fact that you feel way better eating whole foods than refined so you feel more alive and energetic and happy and whole and healthy and on-top-of-the-world-good.

There is no other way to describe it unless you taste it and feel it and experience it for yourself. But in every sense, tasting and eating whole foods on a regular basis is like living and experiencing life on the planet Pandora in 3D. Once you've experienced it, you don't want to go back to the old stuff.

My Core is Sore

Yesterday, I did some P90X core strength training with my friends. Today, I'm feeling sore every time I move, twist, bend, or do any other kind of movement. Probably because I've never actually done this particular workout, which is more than just simple crunches and other exercises I'm used to doing.

But with that lovely soreness comes the knowledge that my core is getting a workout, and with repeated usage of these muscles they are becoming stronger. Maybe someday I'll even have the female version of a six-pack. Maybe.

So why even worry about working the core muscles of my body? Because strengthening the core, not just abs, brings better flexibility, better body posture, lessens back pain, and can even help diminish love handles. The important part here, though, is that it's not just abs I'm working, it's also the back and side abs that create a balance of strength in the core.

Is there a core for writing? I believe, for me anyway, that following Gerald Lund's suggestions of the three E's, Edifying, Excellent, and Entertaining, is the core to good writing. If there's a core for writing, then there must be a way to exercise that core to make it stronger, and it comes with practice and learning.

But what happens if my writing is really edifying but not entertaining? Or what if the writing is excellent, but the flow of the book is just really boring and cheesy? Big problems arise when balance isn't achieved.

My first novel manuscript, which was thankfully never published, has a weak core, so unless I do some major revamping on it, it will likely stay on the shelf of my desk forever. My second novel, which did get published, has a stronger core, a better balance between these three things, but it's certainly not where I would like to be. I keep strengthening and practicing and using those core writing muscles so that each work I produce is hopefully better than the previous one. That is what strength training means to me.

The Diet Rebel's Cookbook: Eating Clean and Green

I am so excited! Michelle Stewart (my co-author)and I have been getting our cookbook ready to go to print, because it will be out in April. Today, it's difficult for me to think about anything else but recipes and the words that create them, because we've been going over the proof, so I'll just blog about it.

Michelle and I discovered how very much quality of food impacts health. (We found this out the hard way, after losing health for a time, then regaining it through proper food and lifestyle choices.) This information was gathered from dietary studies of the world’s healthiest and disease-resistant cultures throughout history. We wanted to know what they ate that contributed to their health, and as a result, we learned the cooking techniques they used to increase nutrition and create healthier bodies—information that is lost to us today—and quite by accident discovered that preparing food this way made it taste amazing.

"What are the forgotten and tasty traditions of our ancient ancestors? It’s no secret that a good diet was essential to their health and longevity. What did they eat, how did they prepare it, and how does this information affect the nutrition and flavor of the food we prepare today? How can applying this information help prevent disease and potentially reverse it?” - from The Diet Rebel's Cookbook

I would love to answer these questions right here and now, but for the sake of time and space on this blog, you'll have to read the book to find out the answers to these questions. :0) But don't worry, it will be out in April, and I'm looking forward to getting my recipes out of a cookbook instead of my four inch stack of recipes, where whatever it is I'm looking for is ALWAYS on the bottom.

Let the Son Shine

This morning when I looked outside, I saw this:

It's a picture of the sun trying to peek through the fog. And once it was finally able to, the fog cleared, and now it looks like this:

Sometimes my life gets a little foggy, whether it's related to illness, life events, or writer's block. Lately, it's just been my mind. Ever since Christmas, I just haven't had the same focus and creativity to write as efficiently in my book. Maybe it was holiday indulgence, stress, or whatever, but I've been struggling to keep my writing goals.

But something struck me a couple days ago, and that was that I needed to let the Son, my Savior, shine more in my life, mainly by trusting Him. And I found that when I focus on trusting Him, loving Him, and allowing myself to feel His love for me, the fog lifts, not only on my writing, but on every other aspect of my life.

What a blessing to know that He is there, shining for us, and lifting the fog from our lives if we allow Him. I am so grateful.

And now with this new-found peace and creativity, I'm off to write. :)

Character Arc

The character Mulan has to be one of my all time favorites, and the reason why is because of the transformation she goes through during the story. She begins the story unsure of who she really is inside, but through joining the Imperial Army under the pretenses of a man, she discovers her self worth.

The development Mulan undergoes is called a character arc. What weaknesses, imperfections, incorrect beliefs, or circumstances does the character possess or experience? How can the character overcome and learn from these weaknesses and imperfections, and experiences? Most stories or movies have characters who change or grow under certain circumstances, usually for the better, though sometimes they can become angry or bitter and wish to destroy the world.

In the novel I'm currently writing, my main character recognizes, through the development of special gifts, who she really is. This is achieved through the unusual and dangerous circumstances she finds herself in.

Sometimes, when I look at my own life either through willful analysis or experiences, I recognize my imperfections, weaknesses, and other things that I can improve upon. Recognition and willingness to change is good, because in a way, I'm developing my own personal character arc. How have I grown since I was an teenager? How has becoming a mother changed my outlook on life? How has coming to know Christ helped me to become a better person?

I hope by the time my life on earth is over, I can look back and see a character arc in which I can be proud.

Click here to listen to Reflection from Mulan.