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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Author Ideas Notebook

Okay, so it's not just a notebook. It has a related box of files too. But overall I've got stuff sorted into separate folders. "Stuff" here means pages I've ripped from my old magazines or catalogs, where the people are so striking, hitting a chord with me.

When I don't have a fix on my lead character in my newest book, I can look through my Characters manila file folder and search out the ones who seem to want to tell their story at this moment. Then, where before I had no one visualized to populate my story, now I have more than enough vying to be the main character. A nice problem to have.

Same thing goes for other authorial topics. Here's my list of things I collect, set aside, waiting for an opportune moment to be put to use:
  1. Characters - See above discussion. If you just throw out magazines and catalogs, and aren't the pack-rat saver I am, then visit Pinterest. It hypnotizes me for days. I have to limit my visits for that very reason. I have one obit (somewhere) that reads like a Hollywood movie. That person really knew how to live each day. Inspires me in my real life as well as in my writing life.
  2. Character Names - I've bought like four baby name books that I need to completely go through and compile my list of favorite boy and girl names. I've also saved an old Louisiana telephone book to get some great Cajun names from. 
  3. Places - this can be a magazine travel article about a geographic location on a map or a photo of a house that strikes my fancy.
  4. Careers - give your readers a tale about someone with an interesting career.
  5. Great First Lines - I love these, amassed from my own reading or via an Internet search for same. Sometimes they can be inspirational. Sometimes they make me feel insecure as an author. Ha!
  6. Plots - Whether you subscribe to the one-plot theory or the thirty-seven plots or the seven or whatever, it doesn't hurt to have them somewhere handy to jog your brain. Try melding two. Try "upgrading" one with a new and different twist.
  7. Clothes - sometimes an outfit can spur me on when developing a certain character.
  8. Words - I'm a certified geek. I subscribe to two word-of-the-day offerings, plus I'm a copy editor with a daily relationship with Webster's. What can I say? Words speak to me. Single words even. So I keep three Brainstorming files. One is an email folder. One is a Word document. One is a physical file, in case the electricity or the Internet is down. These word entries can describe a person, a place, a mood, be used as a stand-alone title or part of a multiple-word title, not to mention in the blurbs and descriptions of my ebooks.  Have you ever played that game with your writing buddies where you each pick one word, then all the selected words are to be used in one 250-word piece, written on the spot in the next five minutes? It's totally fun. And so illuminating. Each short-short will be unique. Because each author is unique.
  9. Cars - I love cars of all vintages. So I save clippings of some. One, a picture of a Jeep, reminds me of this girl who drove past the DART bus I was riding to work. I don't have a picture to memorialize that, of course, but the Jeep does that for me. Even if I don't mention the vehicle in my latest novel, it helps me visualize the girl driving it. So I'm using it for characterization more than as a mode of transportation for my imaginary friends.
  10. Themes - I gravitate toward the emotional resonance of a theme. So I love to find these to help me nail them in my own writing.
  11. Emotions - I have a book regarding emotions and how to show them, plus lists of gradations of them, like anger, from miffed to murderous. Helps me to broaden my range of emotions expressed.
  12. Scenes - If I happen to overhear a wonderful conversation, I get it down. For later.
  13. Relationships - I save magazine articles touting relationships. I do have to weed through some cheesy ones to get to those that work for me.
  14. Psychology - I happen to like the psychological aspect of things, so I've saved my son's psychology textbook for my writing applications.
  15. Taglines - I save great ones to help me formulate one for each of my books.
  16. Favorite Movies - I have a growing list, but I have yet to see a pattern as to why I like these movies. You know, something the author/screenwriter did to engage me, which I should be able to reproduce in my own works. To me, they are all different and special in their own way, so I get lost in the magic and can't seem to work on a formula that defines my particular viewing pleasure (other than generics, like a happy ending, some humor, some romance, some action, some intrigue, yet something that won't leave me in bed that night with the lights still on).
  17. Favorite Books - Same thing here. I've been trying to find out the authors' magic touches in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and in Nora Roberts's First Impressions and The Fall of Shane MacKade. Again I get lost in the weave of the storytelling web ... which says something in and of itself.
  18. Quotes - I'm a quotaholic. I have my own ebook compilations of quotes (Volume Four coming soon). Each are about ninety or so pages long with maybe ten quotes per MSWord page, so I've gathered nine hundred pithy sayings within each offering, times the four volumes to date, or a total of 3,600 aphorisms that are all my favorites. I also subscribe to a couple daily quote emails too. I love quotes. They can summarize a life's philosophy or a theme or a plot-in-the-making or a conflict with just a handful of words.
  19. Archetypes - This list of various types also helps with character development.
  20. Enneagrams - Ditto.
  21. Astrology - Ditto. Plus gets into financial and social atmospheres too.
  22. My Happy Places - These are good for inserting into random scenes, like an overpass interchange, a movie theater, a farmer's market, etc. I just keep a running list in my physical Brainstorming notebook.
  23. Push My Buttons - This list is my particular collection of nemeses who I've had the misfortune to run across in my lifetime, such as manipulators, liars, con artists, bullies, coattailers (my own word to describe slackers who want to ride on the accomplishments of my hard work), scammers, judgmental people, yada, yada. Good for conflict ideas in the sagging middle parts of books.
  24. List of Interests - I have myriad curiosities, so my list of things that interest me continues on. I find it helpful in career hunting for my characters.
  25. Branding - Knowing about this helps with creating covers. I'm not a marketing guru, but I keep a few articles handy that help me out with this.
  26. Cover Art - I love the Amazon emails that depict covers. Some I like. Some I don't. I keep a folder on each to help me sort out what to use for my own book covers.
  27. The Best of the Best - I keep good notes of each writing book I've read and am compiling a Plotting Checklist for my own use, but I also plan to upload same to Amazon too. This won't encompass all the tips I've read and collected, but it will cover the ones most useful in plotting. Especially for someone like me. I'm actually a hybrid. I'm a pantster who, in general, has at least three or four of the seven main plot points figured out before I start writing a new book. Still, I've read enough about plotting versus writing by the seat of my pants to realize the final edit will be less onerous if I plot beforehand. Sold!
  28. Marketing - Again, not my expertise, but I save other authors' emails promoting their work. They all have their unique points, but they all also promote their work via emails. Good stuff to know.
  29. Formatting - I have a fellow author buddy who is no longer local and is (was?) a professional formatter, and she was kind enough to tell me that my layperson's formatting of my ebooks looked pretty good. She actually shared her time and expertise to walk a couple of us through her formatting process. Let me tell you, that is a tedious feat and involves downloading two (free) software programs. I'd have to relearn it all over again each season as I upload a new ebook. For my purposes, I'll stick with MSWord Styles and autogenerating tables of contents. When money is no object, I'll hire my friend (or someone she recommends).
  30. Bios/Blurbs/Descriptions - I've saved some tips on each of these, mainly dealing with SEO, that I've run across over the years. More updated info is probably on the Net. I'd suggest you search there for help.
  31. Hobbies - Make a list of those you enjoy or those you want to do more of or find out everything about. These are good to slip into a scene to add detail. They can even serve as your main character's occupation or for a secondary cast member's day job.
  32. Music - Songs can be so helpful to inspire a mood or even a whole book.
  33. Art - One writing class I took years ago had us searching the Net for artwork we loved that spawned a story to be told. Very appealing to me. I have an artwork folder that never ceases to invigorate me.
  34. Poetry - I'm a wordy novelist, so I'm amazed and stunned that poets can relay so much with so few words. But, there again, those are well-chosen words. Something we authors can make use of too. Of course, the two artistic expressions are different as well. While poetry can be all about the flowery prose and euphemisms and ethereal communication, that doesn't work so well in a fiction piece. In little smatterings here and there of five words or less, maybe ... But we live in the seven-seconds-of-attention generation. Readers can lose interest fast if explosions, murder, sex, etc., are not happening on each page.
  35. Cooking - I love to cook, especially when I have the time and the money. But we authors can parlay those things we love into our writing too. First it adds a layer of detail to our scenes. Second it nicely works into our writing the two oft-overlooked senses of smell and taste. I love Robert B. Parker's Spenser series anyway, but the nice touch that Spenser cooks is much appreciated and enjoyed.
  36. Voice - I'm currently reading a book released in 2003 entitled Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing by Les Edgerton, which I am enthralled with. I'm savoring every page, and so it's taking me longer to read this one as I learn, get inspired and take note of the homework assignments that I'll do when I reread the portions I highlighted. And there are many of those. Exciting stuff here. Makes me happy to be an author.
I hope I've encouraged you to create your own stash of go-to ideas. Want to share some of yours?

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Stress Relievers

This post is as much for me as for y'all—although my stress levels are way down, now that I work for myself at home and no longer work as a legal assistant in downtown Dallas. Loved it for a time, then took the leap of faith and became an entrepreneur. Still, I need this reminder list some days too.

Some common physical symptoms of stress include a racing heart, headaches, rashes/itching/hives, heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, change in bowel habits. If they persist, go see the professional of your choice.

I'm not a health professional, just a layperson who collects data/info. That means, instead of collecting owl figurines or antique letter openers (nothing wrong with either), I collect what I find interesting (usually health or writing related) along with cookbooks and published fiction and nonfiction.

So I found a bunch of loose sheets dealing with stress. I have more on this subject somewhere else, in another box I've yet to sort through, because I had this humorous list of about thirty items on how to deal with stress. However, the only one I remember, without benefit of said list, is something about seeing how many minimarshmallows you can stuff up your nose. Not that I'd advocate that, but the thought makes me smile. So here are my current findings, which are on a more serious note. I'll share the funny ones later, when I find them.

  1. Get more financially organized. Put your bills to be paid next to your computer. Or, even better, go ahead and set them up for payment online, with the date to be paid selected as needed. Have your important papers gathered in one spot: your Last Will and Testament, your medical powers of attorney, your general power of attorney, your car titles, your banking info, your life insurance policy, etc. Tell your executor where to find this.
  2. Stop procrastinating. If you are scared to make that doctor's appointment, just do it. You are more than likely worrying needlessly. Or you can worry less if you catch "something" sooner rather than later.
  3. Reach out and touch something soft: a beloved pet, satin sheets, an angora sweater, your baby's soft skin, even your hubby's rough hands.
  4. Watch a favorite movie for the tenth time.
  5. Water! Drink it. Bathe in it. Seek its source. Watch the ocean. Swim in a lake. Magic!
  6. Smell something good. Bake fresh bread at home. Put on a pot of simmering cinnamon sticks and orange rinds. Buy yourself some flowers (or just visit a florist and inhale).
  7. Exercise.
  8. Play the piano.
  9. Listen to music. Dance to music. Sing to music. Your choice.
  10. If the budget allows, go have lunch with the girls/guys.
  11. People who work hard at satisfying jobs, and who have rich family and personal lives, are usually the happiest. So if you spend most of your waking hours at a job you hate, where you are not appreciated, get one better suited for you.
  12. Play hard.
  13. Hike. Research your town's/city's hiking trails. Go explore.
  14. Go biking.
  15. Practice yoga or other stretching exercises.
  16. Remember, feeling as if you have too little control over your life can cause stress. Seek to resolve that.
  17. Also too little to do can cause stress. Find a hobby. Go volunteer and help others.
  18. Scented candles can be soothing. Go for beeswax candles that don't put toxins in your environment.
  19. Figure out your particular stressor(s) and take steps to remedy them.
  20. Remember that worry cuts into your productivity. You are punishing yourself. Stop that now. Realizing you are doing this is the first step to recovery.
  21. High-pressure jobs (a lot to do) with low control (little say so on your part) are the most stressful. Maybe stop to evaluate your position in a new light. Check out the current job market. Wouldn't it be great to find a job closer to home, that pays you more, with better benefits? Go find one now.
  22. Working where you don't feel meaningful causes stress. Move toward your goals instead of someone else's goals.
  23. Get your house more organized. Per FLYLady.net, the cheapest remodel is to declutter your house. Won't that make you smile?
  24. Be decisive. Quit waffling about that decision on your mind, taking up hours and hours of your day and leading to nothing productive. Make a decision. Now. Flip a coin if you have to. If the first decision turns out to be wrong, correct course and make another decision.
  25. Worrying is your first red flag to get some good advice, to act, to do something instead.
  26. Make a list of what stresses you and divide it into two columns: that which you can control and that which you can't. Then have a trusted friend or your spouse look over your "can't control" list to offer any insight that you may not be seeing.
  27. Figure out what are your "hot buttons." Find a way to avoid them (or avoid that person most likely to push all of them!).
  28. Make a realistic budget for now and revise it for later when things are not so tight financially. It has to be doable or you'll feel stress in not making it work.
  29. Create a mission statement for your life. List all goals, like write that novel, return to college, take a cooking class or a language class or whatever. Read this first thing every morning and last thing at night. Keep your mind aware of your bigger goals. You should start seeing opportunities regarding these, now that you've alerted your subconscious mind that these are important to you.
  30. Now act on one of your goals. When you do something you really love, you won't need so many stress relievers, as you've focused on correcting the cause, not the effect.
  31. Don't contaminate the good times. Stop feeling guilty when you do splurge and eat that Death by Chocolate dessert. Enjoy it. Savor it. Then eat salads tomorrow. And enjoy them, savor them too.
  32. Kick bad habits: smoking, drinking to excess, sugarholicism, etc.
  33. Make a To Do list. Be realistic. Affix a timeline for how long it would take you to do it all. You may be surprised how little time is involved. Plus remember that procrastinating about doing these jobs is truly wasted time. Prove it to yourself by choosing the "quickest" item on your list. Time yourself. Did it take all of fifteen minutes? Surprised you, didn't it? Well, keep at it.
  34. Say no.
  35. Give yourself at least fifteen minutes of "you" time each day. You deserve more than that, but this will suffice for now.
  36. Breathe deeply, slowly.
  37. Think of the best sex you ever had.
  38. Play a computer game.
  39. Read!
  40. If the budget allows, take vacations, meet friends for lunch/dinner, romance your hubby with a candlelight dinner at home or out somewhere special.
  41. Keep things in perspective. Be grateful for health and home and love. For most of us here in the States, our "problems" are probably first-world "problems."
  42. Take a weekend to prepare forty freezer meals. I haven't yet done this (my freezer is packed), so I can't recommend any one plan to you, but I did find two or three websites with free instructions on this. Check them out and let me know how they worked for you. See https://newleafwellness.biz/2015/02/17/17-freezer-meal-prep-sessions-that-will-change-your-life/ and http://foodwineandpoopydiapers.com/2014/03/23/how-i-feed-my-whole-family-for-about-60-a-week/ and http://www.aturtleslifeforme.com/2011/06/freezer-meals-on-cheap.html. If your budget allows, you can buy freezer menu mailers from Leeann Ely at savingdinner.com. If money is truly no object, you can go with the paid meal deliveries of fresh food that you cook yourself. Research the Internet for these companies.
  43. Initiate date night with your special honey, whether it's once a week or once a month. Have fun!
  44. If a traditional vacay is not in the cards for you, take a day trip. Drive to a nearby town and walk the square and check out antiques or watch the hot air balloon celebration or visit an upcoming festival.
  45. In that vein, go to the library, the bookstore for a day of browsing and adding to your wish list, and/or Starbucks (but sit outside this time, weather permitting).
  46. Stop focusing on yourself and your problems. I bet there are plenty of people with much worse ordeals to survive.
  47. Empty a drawer! The universe likes to fill vacuums.
  48. For the ladies, give yourself a mani-pedi.
  49. Have a full spa day at home.
  50. Buy yourself flowers.
  51. Keep things around you that make you smile.
  52. Declutter!
  53. Draw. Paint. Use charcoal, pen and ink, pastels, oils, etc.
  54. Use white noise to calm you.
  55. Recover from the drain of negative emotions by trying this: with mouth closed, tap your tongue against the ridge behind your upper front teeth. Do for three to four minutes. Let me know if this works for you.
  56. Interrupt bad thoughts that are on a vicious loop in your head. Simply change the state of your mind. Use a positive mantra word. Repeat it. Passively disregard other thoughts.
  57. Take a break hourly to stretch whatever body part is the tensest.
  58. Remember that fretting is not productive. Fretting is just delaying solving the problem.
  59. Do like Scarlett O'Hara did. Worry about it tomorrow (which then turns into "today"). But set about solving it today.
  60. Ask yourself when your worries actual came to fruition. See? Waste of time ...
  61. Gather info that either solves your problem or dismisses the worry associated therewith.
  62. Visualize good outcomes.
  63. Savor the moment. Be more present.
  64. Remember to take care of yourself. That replenishes the courage you need to go on.
  65. Caring for yourself tells you that you are worth the effort.
  66. Caring for yourself tells the world that you are worth it.
  67. Create a sense of possibility, which raises your spirits and your energy levels.
  68. Remind yourself that taking care of your family, your home, yourself, is a privilege, not a chore.
  69. Treat yourself well. With respect. With the utmost care. People will begin to treat you in the same manner too.
  70. HALT: Ask yourself if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired? Fix the underlying problem. Either eat something healthy, confront the anger, go hug someone, take a nap.
  71. If angry, remember that you can't control others. You can control your responses to them though. You can avoid them as well. Plus look for the faulty "should" talk that appears in your angry-mode thinking. "They shouldn't treat me like this. They should know better. They should apologize ..."
  72. Forgive. Holding a grudge takes mental, emotional and physical energy. Not worth it. Say a prayer for those people and move on, doing what you can about it. NEVER stay in an abusive relationship.
  73. There's a strong connection between anger and health problems, such as chronic stomach upsets, heart problems and skin conditions. Get healthier by addressing the root of the anger.
  74. Forgiveness releases enormous energy. So does acting on that procrastination.
  75. Forgiveness works whether you speak to that person face-to-face or just forgive them in your mind.
  76. Forgiving someone DOES NOT MEAN you trust them. They have to earn that. Again.
  77. Speak up when someone wrongs you. Don't let their wrong and your silence both fester inside you. Plus some people need to be told what bothers you and why. Establish those boundaries early on. And it could be simply a failure to communicate. Correct it. Immediately.
  78. Get professional help if needed.
Wow. I had no idea I had collected so many. As always, use what resonates with you and dismiss the rest.

Here's to happier people all around ...

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Friday, October 2, 2015

I Loved Aldi's Before and Now I Love Them Even More

I love my local Aldi's. First, no pesky annual fees are involved. That would negate me from ever being a customer, as I am currently in the broke-but-happier season of my life ever since starting my freelancing career. Second, I save money, even compared to Walmart.

But now I have an additional reason. Aldi's announced yesterday, October 1, 2015, how it will remove all partially hydrogenated oils, certified synthetic colors and added MSG from its "exclusive brand food products."

All are steps in the right direction. Thank you, Aldi's!

To see the whole press release, go here: https://corporate.aldi.us/fileadmin/fm-dam/news_and_awards/Press_Release_2015/Product_Reformulation_Press_Release_FINAL.pdf

Be healthy. Live well. Go for that dream of yours. 

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Prefix and Suffix Hyphenation Tip

As a professional copy editor of more than seven years now, I see lots of manuscripts. As a longtime lover of reading, I read a lot of books. And hyphenation problems abound in both (yes, traditionally published as well as Indie pubbed).

For instance, I'm reading a 2003 nonfiction paperback right now, a how-to guide directed at authors, by a well-known traditional publisher (which I will not name here) and already have multiple marginalia concerning misspellings (dealing with unneeded hyphens), and I'm only on page 34 of 241 total pages. Sad but true. And this publisher should be using the same American book guidelines as I do (16CMS and Web11, defined below). I usually contact the publisher with these finds for correction in the next reprint, as I will for this one.

Anyway ...

So here's your quick overall tip regarding hyphenation when affixing prefixes and suffixes to a word:




Yes. You read that right. And you will be correct more times than not if you DO NOT hyphenate when adding prefixes and suffixes to other words. There are exceptions of course, but for general purposes DO NOT hyphenate when adding prefixes/suffixes.

Want examples?

Here are some: prenuptial agreement, postpartum depression, preschool, antebellum, midday, nonfiction (this one is a particular pet peeve of mine, especially when misspelled as "non-fiction" by authors, authors of nonfiction!), etc.

I don't know if a quick glance at the dictionary is causing this problem or not. After all, there is a "post-" prefix entry and a "post" as a noun entry and a "post" entry as a verb, adverb, etc. The hyphen in the initial prefix entry just differentiates the bald, stand-alone prefix from the noun/verb/adverb entries.

NOTE: Just because there is a prefix entry (like "anti-") or a suffix entry (like "-ward") that INITIALLY shows the hyphen to connote its "fixability" (affixing to another word) DOES NOT MEAN THE HYPHEN STAYS WHEN JOINING IT TO A WORD. Read further in the dictionary's entries to see the actual uses of the prefix or suffix. You will most likely not see the hyphen in use there with the examples.

If you want to delve further into this, then look up each compound word in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (Web11) to confirm.

However, beware, because sometimes 16CMS 7.85 (The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition, rule 7.85) will override Web11, meaning 16CMS allows more hyphenless prefix/suffix combinations than Web11 shows, in keeping with 16CMS's "spare hyphenation" rule.

For a further level into this madness called the English language, I could tell you about the exceptions, then about the exceptions to the exceptions. I kid you not.

The basic hyphenation exception is that, if two of the same vowels end up together (like "anti-inflammatory" with its two Is), then you need the hyphen for added clarity. BUT that doesn't always work with two Es. For example, "pre-engineered" is hyphenated per Web11. Yet "preenrollment" is not, also per Web11. Go figure.

Hence my earlier statement regarding "exceptions to the exceptions."

So I suggest everyone wanting the easiest fix to just go with the basic rule discussed above: DON'T HYPHENATE WHEN AFFIXING PREFIXES AND SUFFIXES TO WORDS.

As a copy editor, I thank you. You authors who end up using my copyediting services have made my job so much easier and have made your manuscript so much "cleaner."

As a reader, I thank you. You authors not using me as a copy editor have made my reading pleasure so much more enjoyable as my copy editor side didn't kick in during my reading-for-fun time.

In case you are interested, I'll be doing more of these copyediting tip posts as my work allows. In other words, if I'm busy copyediting projects, you won't see many of these. If I'm not busy earning a living, then you'll see more posts like these.

Here's to happily reading more good books. There will never be a shortage of good books, so, authors, both traditionally and Indie published, keep on writing!

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Losing Weight with Bentonite Clay?

I've lost thirteen pounds in the last four to five weeks, plus am sleeping better this week, don't seem to have sugar cravings (and I'm addicted to sweets, so this is a biggie) and have no clue why I'm so blessed with improved health. Therefore, I'm racking my brain to pinpoint the cause so I can continue the effect. On purpose.

The only things that I've changed have been drinking less coffee (OMG, never thought I'd ever say that). Instead I'm drinking a ton of Tradewinds flavored unsweetened black teas and now homemade (unsweetened) green tea. I recently incorporated a homemade remineralizing toothpaste I found on the Net (recipe here: http://thepaleomama.com/2013/12/diy-remineralizing-toothpaste/). Oh, yeah. I'm also using helichrysum essential oil in my antiaging skin lotion (somewhat daily), as it is supposed to help dry skin, get rid of liver spots and be good for overall liver health.

The particular homemade toothpaste I chose uses bentonite clay. A quick Internet search did find hits for weight loss associated with bentonite clay as well as food grade diatomaceous earth. But the toothpaste is spit out, while the diatomaceous earth is dissolved in water or juice and to be consumed. Thus the "food grade" preference.

But I'm not swallowing my homemade toothpaste. Yet, if I brush for two minutes, I guess my mouth will absorb some of that through sublingual administration, right?

Anyway I also recently read a couple informative books by Dr. Sandra Cabot on liver health: The Liver Cleansing Diet and Fatty Liver: You Can Reverse It. I learned several things reading both, but the few that stand out the most are this:

  1. The liver is the only fat-flushing organ in our body.
  2. The liver is like the trash man. If no one comes to cart off your trash, diseases abound. So a damaged liver isn't capable of doing its job fully and opens us up to ill health (and weight gain or the inability to lose it).
  3. If you treat the body through the skin (like stop-smoking patches and hormonal creams), you actually bypass the liver, so you let it focus on other things.
  4. Fatty liver can, of course, be caused by too much drinking, but fatty liver can also be caused by too much sugar. Wow.
Dr. Cabot states that, if we focus on detoxing the liver, giving it a few weeks to purge itself of the fat-trapped toxins in that organ so it can then do its job better, afterward the weight will come off (or weight gain will ensue, as your particular body needs).

So maybe that's what I did with my half-gallon-a-day tea habit and my homemade toothpaste and adding helichrysum essential oil to my beauty ritual (such as it is)?

I am not following Dr. Cabot's eight-week program but am incorporating more liver-friendly foods, hopefully each day. And I'm not able to do organic either. That's why I'm surprised by the weight loss, because I really haven't done anything drastic with my eating habits.

The only exercise I get is cleaning the house and mowing the lawn.

Has anybody else found this link between bentonite clay (and/or helichrysum) and weight loss to be true? Don't tell me it's because I gave up coffee ... please! Ha! Although, after finding the Bulletproof coffee recipe earlier this year, I was drinking far less coffee a day anyway. But now I actually don't have coffee daily. That may change when winter sets in. Still, it's something to consider.

FYI: I'm not affiliated with any of the particular products noted herein and am not otherwise being paid to advertise them. I just list them here as something I've used which may (or may not) be the current cause of my weight loss.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Thursday, September 24, 2015

My 15 Healthy Food Tips for Broke People, Like Me

I read several health-related blogs/newsletters and totally understand that organic is the better way to go in the States, what with our comparatively lax standards here as compared to Europe, plus our depleted soils. But some of the people writing those blogs/newsletters, touting how going organic now should be viewed "in the long term" or for "just $5 a month ..." don't have a clue what it's like to be broke.

So, "long term" means leaving my $4.98 just sitting in my bank account, right? Not spending it? Got it.

Conversely, that "just $5 a month" in my world is not "just." It's my "only." Or, in the current matter of my $4.98 in my bank account, I find I'm two cents short. Such is my life. Usually it doesn't bother me, as I know another project will pop in my queue shortly. You've got to be able to roll with the punches when you work freelance.

But when I get to the point of $4.98 (or less) in my bank account while in a slow period and then read one-too-many emails pushing organic as the only healthy option, with the writers of those blogs/newsletters seemingly having no concept of people out there who do not have the money those blog writers obviously do ... Well, I hope I'm never like that when I'm monetarily rich. And from where I sit, there are many, many "rich" people when compared to me.

Yes, I understand how thinking long term is better than short term, whether speaking about relationships or finances. But when it comes to putting that theory into practice, I'd love to hear how to stretch an annual but varying shortfall overnight, not long term. Yes, I've gotten day jobs before and may have to again. Yes, I've worked three jobs simultaneously many times in my life and may have to again. Yes, I've cut my budget to what it takes to keep my house basically running (cheaper than the Dallas apartment I had over fifteen years ago!), plus that extravagant catchall expense of "food," which includes toilet tissue and dishwashing detergent and lightbulbs, as needed. I'm no slacker.

But I am a freelancer. I have unplanned slow periods, where I need a "day" job for a couple weeks or three months to tide me over, and then my 234 hours of work some months kick in (my hours are a reflection of the perfectionist I'm trying to be and have nothing to do with my income, as my main client pays me by the project, not by the time I invest in each project). Even my slow months in this profession are not always consistently slow from year to year. If you know any day-job employers seeking such off-again/on-again temporary employees, let me know.

Don't get me wrong. I love working for myself, even though I've never in my lifetime been so broke for so long (eight years and counting). Still I don't understand how few people truly understand "being broke." Surely most people have had a moment or two being broke, especially in this economy. If their memories fail them, can't they imagine what would happen if their four-figure (and beyond) paycheck was cut to three figures, sometimes two? And its payment was erratic to boot?


I'm no food expert, just a layperson with a lust for knowledge about many topics, including cooking and health. I'm just another gal in the trenches with you. So decide for yourself which of these items in my list below will work for you:

1. Don't stress about it. The last thing you need is another stressor on top of being money-challenged. Watch the documentary, Fat Head, where Tom Naughton loses weight and improves his health (per blood tests) while eating at fast-food chains (which are not touted as organic food havens, as far as I know). As of this writing, you can watch it for free on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=fat+head+documentary. So there's hope for us to be somewhat healthy, even while not eating organic. And I'm not proposing eating mostly at drive-through establishments either, to be clear. In fact, with my budget, grabbing a meal to-go from the golden arches is considered "eating out" and is a rare "treat," in that I didn't have to prepare and cook it myself.
2. Eat whole foods. I believe that an intact apple contains a vital synergy of components, far exceeding whatever's in some mass-produced apple juice or jam/jelly on a shelf. 
3. Wash or soak your produce as needed. I happen to prefer a 50:50 mix of apple cider vinegar and water rather than to use white vinegar. In my mind, the white version is for household cleaning, not ingesting. 
4. Eat more beans, eggs, seafood. Did you know canned seafood (tuna, salmon) is most likely wild caught (or "organic," if you will). Who knew? 
5. If you eat cured bacon and cannot afford the uncured bacon price tag much less pure organic bacon, then eat citrus fruit with your bacon. I read somewhere the citrus will counteract the nitrates/nitrites. I keep a bag of cuties (clementines, etc.) in my fridge, whenever I can. They last a long time too, not going bad before the last one is eaten. NOTE: Add those washed citrus peels to your water and/or your tea for the day. It's amazing how they highly flavor your drink without squeezing, zesting.
6. Homemade is better than prepackaged, store-bought foods. If you are going to eat brownies, make them from scratch at home. That way you can avoid the high fructose corn syrup, the GMOs, the MSG, and whatever else lurks in our foods under the generic term natural flavorings.
7. Lessen the toxins you put in your body by sheer avoidance (like that aisle with all the cookies and candies down it, plus the soft drink lane). Eat fresh fruit for dessert instead and brew your own green tea at home. Even if sweetened, make it with Stevia or honey or a mix of both. 
8. Pick your poison. If you use cream or half-and-half in your coffee daily, but only eat beef three times a month, then I'd suggest you spend any of your dollars set aside for organic foods on purchasing those day-to-day routine items. 
9. Do the best you can with what you've got. Be happy. Be thankful. Pray over your food before eating it, as Dr. Christiane Northrup said in one PBS show from long ago. 
10. If a blog, newsletter does not qualify "if you can't afford to buy organic, don't," then maybe we should just unsubscribe from them. Remember that verse from the Bible about it's better to eat a dinner of herbs in peace than a fatted calf with strife? I just unsubscribed to two blogs/newsletters. Feel calmer already.
11. Stop microwaving. I did, some ten years or so ago. I'm afraid we'll learn that, in the long run, bad side effects are associated with this practice. I hope I'm wrong. 
12. Do some research on your own. Remember the source of your food can make a difference, both good and bad, so read up. Make notes. Plus determine what the first number(s) in bar codes mean as to the country of origin, in case you can't find it otherwise printed on your food packaging. Make a naughty and nice list for your grocery shopping trips. 
13. Be sure to check out ewg.org for their continually updated dirty dozen and clean foods list. 
14. Be more frugal, like our grandparents. Don't throw anything away without considering how it could still be useful. About to toss that hard-as-a-rock bread? The French make salads and soups with it. If it's too far gone for human consumption, toss it outside to feed the birds and the squirrels. You can still be a giver, even when broke. 
15. One more thing. "Rich" is not just about money. It is about quality of life. It is about happiness. Love. Making the world a better place. Fulfilling your purpose here. Keep that in mind too. So while I am rich in a lot of areas, I just happen to be broke as far as dollars go.

These items are a gross overview of course. For all our advanced learning in this the twenty-first century, I read somewhere how we still don't know 80% of the makeup of our unadulterated foods. So, keep on studying. Carry out your due diligence.

Hope this helps you on your road to better health.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Friday, September 4, 2015

Happy Labor Day!

Yes, we should celebrate having "labor" or a satisfying career that pays the bills. Beats unemployment. And to have a three-day weekend isn't bad either. So go forth and enjoy, both your career and your time off.

Denise Barker