Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hello, all.

I thought I'd take a break from my glamorous job as a writer to say hi. Oh, what am I wearing as a glamorous writer? you ask. Ha ha. I don't like to brag, but I'm wearing my writing costume. Picture this: comfortable old t-shirt, denim jeans, and no makeup. I'm not even sure I managed a shower this morning, but I am wearing a bra, so that's good. Let me tell you that I look pretty darn stunning.

In this photo, I am actually wearing some makeup, but note that the writing costume is intact. Elannah wanted to see if my hair is long enough yet to do a French braid. (Answer: only for about 10 minutes before it falls out. I like layers.)

My manager and I were lamenting about this problem during one of our phone meetings. On the one hand, working from home means never having to stress about business attire and wardrobe flexibility. On the other hand, yikes. It isn't that I don't want to look nice and wear deodorant; the problem lies more with the fact that I still haven't figured out my priorities.

As any working-from-home mother knows, there are plenty of competing needs, almost all of which seem to be urgent and important: personal hygiene vs. eating breakfast vs. personal scripture study vs. making sure the kids are fed vs. meeting work deadlines vs. cooking something nutritious at least once per day for the welfare of my family vs. keeping the boys entertained vs. kicking kids out of my office because I just have to concentrate vs. listening to them talk vs. getting after the kids to do their chores vs. wanting to lock my door and watch movies all day vs. the yard. Oh, the yard. It has almost as many needs as the children.

As this is not a problem unique to myself, I won't belabor the point. You don't have to be working from home as a parent to wonder how to order your priorities, but thanks for listening to me vent for just a moment.

BUT, I do have an office now! With all these kids, every bedroom in this house is taken, including the family room. I hated having the office be in my bedroom because it was like I never left the room, and when I went to bed at night, my work was still there, staring me in the face. Shudder.

So Husband and I came up with a clever solution: an office alcove.

We have a large master bedroom. It's the same size as the double garage directly beneath it, so there was plenty of room to create an office alcove and still have a decently sized bedroom area. I sold Husband on the idea (excited hand gestures and animated talking points) and he made it happen with some research and a trip to IKEA. Here is a picture of our office alcove with Little Gary hanging out and reading a book. I'm standing in the doorway of the room to take the photo.

First, we bought three Billy bookcases. Then, after a trip to the As-Is section, we scored an orphan countertop for about $10. It's a little over five feet long, so it's perfect for two people to work at. IKEA sells table legs, so Husband attached six legs to the countertop and voila! we had a new desk, which we set against the wall by the entry into the bedroom.

The tricky part was getting the inexpensive and cheaply made Billy bookcases to be stable enough to act as a barrier wall. We played with various options, but Husband eventually rigged up a very nice system: he used sturdy metal brackets to attach the bookcases to each other at the top. A wooden bench I had been planning to repaint ended up getting its seat repurposed into a footer that attached the base of the bookcases to the base of the wooden headboard of our bed, which is now directly on the other side of the bookcase wall. Now the bookcases are attached to each other and to the headboard, which makes it a very stable partition that doesn't threaten to fall over at the slightest bump (we also loaded our books onto the bottom shelves first to further stabilize the bookcases).

There is a doorway opening on either side of the partition wall, so we can comfortably enter the bedroom to either side of the bed. I will be buying some fabric to attach to the back side of the bookcases, which are somewhat unsightly.

Now I don't have to see my work when I am going to sleep or reading in bed. Also, I can get up and work early without disturbing Husband (which, okay, never happens because I chronically stay up too late, but the option is there if I ever magically change into a morning person).

In my next post, I'll ruminate on how to get my manager on board with the Results-Only work system that the CEO and president of the company fully embrace and endorse. K, my manager, has been working in the industry for nearly 20 years--mostly in corporate settings--so she's still kind of stuck on a traditional work day. I, on the other hand, have only worked in the industry as a contractor until now, which means that I'm very comfortable with setting my own hours and only worrying about delivering quality work on time, not clocking how long I have my behind in my chair or that I'm sitting in it during traditional work hours. If you're interested in learning more about Results-Only environments, read Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: the Results-Only Revolution by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. I've also recently read Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, by Jeff Sutherland. That is your homework, if you're at all interested in reading that kind of thing (personally, I really want to go and play the piano right now. I'm kind of done with words).

Monday, March 16, 2015

Celebrate with Me!

Who's the girl who never managed to finish college?

This girl!

Who's the girl who just got hired as the Senior Copywriter for a fast-growing digital marketing company (which has tripled its growth in the last seven months alone!)?

This girl!

Who's the girl who is now making enough to double our income?

This girl!

Today was my first official day as an employee with my new company. Last week I was a contract writer. This week, I can't invoice for every single piece of work I do, but I am part of a team at a company whose philosophy is one for which I can stand up and cheer. Plus, the numbers added up, which is always crucial, don't you think? I'm not mercenary, but I did want to make sure it made sense to walk away from being a contract writer and tie myself down to one company. I think there's plenty of room to grow here, though.

I just attended my first company-wide call. I was asked to introduce myself as one of the two new team members whose official start date is today, and I managed not to make an utter and complete fool of myself, which is always nice.

I've only met one person at this company in real life. The Senior Content Manager, who is my direct manager, is also stationed in Utah, and she's not so far away that a couple meetings a month aren't doable. We had lunch last week, which was the first time I've ever met her in person after knowing her for four years. At the end of this month I'll be meeting the president and one of the directors when they come up to give us some training. All twelve of us employees are scattered throughout the United States and Hong Kong, and we all work remotely. There are clusters of people, like most of the marketing division in Chicago and the design division up in Seattle. A few live in Phoenix. Several are in Hong Kong, including the CEO, who has to get up at something like 4:00 in the morning his time to attend the Monday meetings.

So what do I do? I am part of the Content Team. We write the stuff that goes on website pages, in clients' blogs, and manage the social media campaigns. The sales team is doing such an excellent job bringing new clients on board that we are kept very busy. Except for the meetings I now have to attend, I don't know that I'll be any more busy than I was working as a contract writer for this company, and I was really busy then, too. If we get much busier, we'll have to hire more writers.

Anyway, thanks for celebrating with me. I'm very excited for this new opportunity, and I'm so grateful to God for being aware of my family's needs. I can still work at home and be my kids' mom during the day while bringing in a paycheck that makes me finally have hope that I'll be able to put together a strong food storage and keep my family from starving when California runs out of water/the apocalypse happens/WWIII finally explodes. Whichever comes first. :)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Vaccination Solution

I've been watching this vaccine debate get heated and ugly. It disturbs me when people I know who are intelligent and educated start calling people who are wary of vaccines nasty names or jumping on the bandwagon for mandatory vaccine legislation. I also don't appreciate the anti-vaxxers calling people names, either, but I've seen far, far more of the first issue and far less of the second. Anti-vaxxers know they are in for it. Pro-vaxxers, however, feel free to shout loud because they are supported by a majority of people they know.

My first problem with mandatory vaccine legislation is that I trust the government as much as I trust a deadly, poisonous snake which you are poking with a stick. That's the libertarian in me. Seriously, when, when has the government ever made anything more efficient, better, cheaper, or safer than the private sector (which, admittedly, isn't perfect either, but at least the private sector is accountable to its customers and the government always evades accountability)? How objective is our government, when many of the elected individuals in it are tied by money interests to pharmaceutical companies and other industries that consequently receive special treatment through legislation? How fair is a government that can rule through regulation, with thousands and thousands of unelected (and publicly unaccountable) bureaucrats effectively making laws that reach far outside the purview of the Constitution? And when has the government ever relinquished any power once it gets it but, instead, seeks yet more? These questions alone should make every person think very, very carefully before blithely calling on government to force people to buy health insurance or vaccinate their children, for instance.

My second problem with all the pro-vaccination self-righteous squawkery is that the jury is still out on whether vaccines are absolutely safe. I'm not kidding. Read the warnings for any vaccination, which admit that sufficient scientific studies have not been conducted to prove the safety of said vaccine for various segments of the population (including infants and pregnant women), and then watch doctors and vaccine experts go around telling pregnant women and infants to get vaccinated. That alone is a huge red flag to me. It would make me skeptical of vaccines (and medical doctors) even if I didn't also know that vaccines contain Thimerosal (mercury), formaldehyde, aluminum, bovine cow serum, phenoxyethanol, and other nasty things that can cause serious health issues in humans when injected directly into the blood stream.

All my children are vaccinated, and I'm not sure I'm completely happy about that. The more I learn about health and nutrition, the more I am concerned that I have allowed my children's immune systems to be compromised. I have two asthmatics, one of whom also suffers from serious eczema and hay fever. The other one has nut allergies. Both of these issues, I'm convinced now, arise from inadequate nutrient absorption and leaky guts brought on by overgrowth of pathogenic microbes in the intestines. This happened because of my own poor diet while pregnant (and I have to remind myself that guilt is not a helpful emotion here unless it spurs me to find a solution) and continued overgrowth of pathogenic microbes through unhealthy diet and rounds of antibiotics and steroids (to control asthma attacks). In fact, I'm pretty convinced that I, my husband, and all of my children--even those who don't exhibit severe symptoms of asthma and eczema--are suffering from gut dysbiosis. Given our health situation, I'm convinced that vaccines have only exacerbated the problem.

I've been wary of vaccines for years now. I have read a lot about them on both sides of the argument. I have little respect for authority anyway, but the more shrill the argument and the more authorities try to force me to do a thing, the less respect I have. I'd rather think a little more critically, and that is what I've been trying to do. My kids' doctor is a lovely woman who is intelligent, kind, compassionate, and always trying to help. But she tends to want to write a prescription for everything, and that makes me question the truth of the education she received in medical school because medical school is now essentially run by the pharmaceutical industry. I don't want to be cynical, I just want to be informed. How can pharmaceuticals always be better than good diet and nutrition?

I just read the best and most logical solution to the vaccine argument I have ever read before. It's truly well thought out by an educated, experienced doctor. Her name is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, MMedSci (neurology), MMedSci (nutrition), and she has practiced in the pediatric field in Great Britian for years.

Dr. Campbell-McBride works with children who have autism, schizophrenia, dyslexia, dispraxia, depression, ADD, ADHD, epilepsy, asthma, learning disorders, and other conditions. The common connection between all these patients is gut dysbiosis. She argues that when pathogenic microbes like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa overwhelm the beneficial flora in the gut, all kinds of physical and psychiatric weirdness begins to happen. As every person has a unique gut makeup and because every person reacts differently to gut dysbiosis, children and adults present with different symptoms. Some will succumb to autism, some to asthma, some to epilepsy, and so forth.

She talks about what causes gut dysbiosis--including the specific ways antiobiotics, steroids, other medications, and poor diet wreck beneficial gut flora--and then talks about how to cure it. As she has worked to cure and heal the gut and restore the correct balance between beneficial and pathogenic microbes, almost every single patient she has ever seen has shown remarkably reduced or eliminated symptoms of autism, schizophrenia, learning disabilities, etc., including her own child with learning disabilities.

In regards to vaccines, she posits that vaccinations are meant for healthy children, and that healthy guts can usually successfully overcome the bad things in vaccines. However, given our propensity to poor eating habits and taking medications, most of us suffer from gut dysbiosis, whether or not we are autistic or have other serious physical and/or psychiatric illnesses. When a vaccine is introduced (or multiple vaccines in one dose), the body, already compromised, cannot successfully handle it. That vaccine can be the straw that broke the camel's back, triggering an onslaught of symptoms of various diseases and conditions or making them worse.

Her solution: test every child before giving vaccinations to see what condition their gut is in, and test them every time. For healthy children who do not suffer from gut dysbiosis and do not have the markers in the blood or stool that would indicate this health issue, give them the vaccinations because they will probably be helpful. For those who are not perfectly healthy, either work to correct the situation and delay the vaccination until the situation is corrected or, in severe cases, put off the vaccination indefinitely. It strikes me as a far better balance between the "Force All Parents to Vaccinate Their Children" camp and the "Never Vaccinate Your Children for Any Reason" camp. (But just for the record, I would not put the government in charge of deciding who is and who is not ready for vaccinations.)

The book is GAPS: Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (I make no money on book sales and am not affiliated with Dr. Campbell-McBride in any way). It's absolutely fantastic, and I could not put it down until I'd finished it entirely. The point about vaccinations is not at all her main point. What she tries to do is help parents and caretakers of GAPS children and adults (and we're far more common that you might think) heal through diet and nutrition. Dr. Campbell-McBride refined the GAPS diet, which helps heal the gut, restore the correct balance of beneficial to pathogenic flora, and reduce or eliminate symptoms of diseases and conditions that are growing to epidemic levels. The answers have been around for decades, but this book reminds us of what doctors knew before Big Pharma started making tidy profits by pushing their wares on anyone and everyone and before modern food manufacturing had begun to crank out the false and harmful "food" that it now does: inadequate nutrient intake and absorption both causes and is exacerbated by gut dysbiosis, and this is what is causing autism, schizophrenia, asthma, and other serious problems among our children and ourselves.

Even if you violently disagree with me about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, this book is something you'll want to read. I promise the vaccine debate is not even a factor in it, but you'll find a wealth of good, solid information about the importance of diet to our health.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Good Distractions

I keep writing a new post and then getting distracted and not finishing. But there are good reasons for my distraction.

First, my oldest daughter, Sian, finished her nine weeks of intensive scriptural and Russian language training in the LDS Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah. Early Monday morning, she began her long airplane journey to Ukraine, where she will spend the rest of her 18-month mission helping Ukrainians develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. She's safely there now, and I've had pictures to prove it. (Sian, who is third from the left, is obviously dead tired and hasn't had much time to do her hair, but here she is with her mission president and his wife and her new companion, who is at the far right.)

I don't cry often, but sometimes I really miss her enough to cry. Like right now, when she's thousands of miles away on the other side of the world. The good thing is that I'm so proud of her, and I feel strongly that angels are guarding her with each step she takes. She'll be an excellent missionary, and I know she'll love her mission and grow so much from it.

The other distraction I have is my new, awesome job. Long story short: just as I was preparing my resume for job hunting, one of my former editors emailed me out of the blue and offered me a contract position with her current company, where she is the senior content manager. It has been an excellent fit for me and for them, and to make things even sweeter, I get paid four times what I was paid before. I still get to work at home and make my own hours (as long as I meet the deadlines, of course), so I feel very, very blessed. In fact, I know this very needed job is a direct blessing of Sian choosing to go on a mission.

Another great thing is that I have learned to make magnesium oil, and using it seems to be having a remarkable effect on my ability to sleep soundly and well and have energy during the day. More on that in another post.

That is all for now.

Monday, January 12, 2015


I have been having a love affair. Sshhhh!

His name is Johann. He's German. He's a composer. When I listen to his music, I can't creatively write at all, but I can edit complex text like a boss. If I want to write creatively to music, I have to listen to someone more romantic and emotive--like Frederic or Claude--but Johann and I, we are partners in bringing my logical left brain to the fore. Maybe it's the harpsichord.

I knew about this guy for a long time, but you know how sometimes you have to revisit something to really and truly learn to cherish it? I caught up with him through some music books written for low voices (that's me!), and I've been his devotee ever since. Johann doesn't know I'm alive (he's kind of dead to the world), but I sometimes pull out his fugues and pound them out on the organ setting of my electric piano just to show my devotion. Other times, I sing his sacred music to myself when the kids are at school. Just now, I've been listening to some of his concertos and thinking fondly of him.

Okay, I must admit I'm also seeing Frederic and Claude on the side. Also a guy named Leroy Anderson. There are others, too, some more jazzy, some with a more classical mein, some who are more free-spirited and winsome, some who are part of that exciting group you would label as Latin lovers--they're just so flirtatious and saucy, how can I resist? Whatever. Call me names if you want, but I regret nothing.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Resistance to the Invitation of The Cult of Personality

One of my daughters told me about an experience she had a while ago. She was at a get-together with some of her friends, and they were all sitting around watching YouTube videos and laughing. The conversation came around to a discussion of The Hunger Games, where Gale and Peeta were compared for their relative merits as Katniss's romantic interest.

During the conversation, which heavily favored Gale, one of the girls got upset. When my daughter and the others asked what was wrong, this girl confessed that she felt like the rest were attacking her because they knew she liked Peeta. Confused, my daughter asked her how they were attacking her, as they had only been discussing the characters of the book and hadn't said anything personal about the people in the group. The girl said that because she favored Peeta and the others didn't, she felt like it was a personal attack on her.

The party broke up soon thereafter. I mean, how can you argue with a logical temper tantrum like that?

I've always been fascinated with why people identify so much with an idea or person or group of people that they can confuse their own identity with that of the adored one. I'm sure you've seen it: people who are such fans of a celebrity or group that they brook no criticism of him/her/it whatsoever and are likely to launch into a personal attack on you should you dare to criticize that person or group. I believe these symptoms can generally classify a sufferer as being a member of The Cult of Personality (whichever personality it happens to be).

It's tempting to join the cult sometimes, though. You get so fired up about something you believe in, and then when you find someone with authority or someone who is more culturally visible than you are who exemplifies what it is you value, you might want to allow yourself to identify so closely with them that you take criticism of them as criticism of yourself. You see it all the time in politics and religion, for instance. And it's become an epidemic in social media. Just try publicly stating an opinion on just about anything at all and see who gets seriously offended with you and feels him/herself to have been personally attacked by you for having stated your obtuse and obviously wrong opinion.

I've been close to being in the cult myself a time or two, but upon reflection, I realized that the temptation stems from fear. You choose something in which or in whom you believe, and the fact that someone might try to poke holes in your choice would possibly uncover your (perceived) lack of intelligence or your inability to make good choices. We want to hold onto our good feelings about our opinions, even to the point of lashing out if someone disagrees with us. It's one thing to honestly discuss a difference of opinions; it's entirely another if someone else's different opinion threatens your very identity. If your identity and sense of self are threatened, then you have allowed the fear of being wrong (and, therefore, somehow proving that you are a bad or stupid person) to overwhelm your ability to exist as an individual with thoughts and opinions that may or may not need upgrading as you gain new information.

The girl in my story is very young and is therefore entitled to be silly. We were all silly at that age, to one degree or another. We still are mostly silly as adults. But one of the best things I think any person determined to grow can do is to learn not to be afraid to gain new information, process its value, and then make decisions to change or not change her opinions based on that information. You will feel a lot more free when you can divorce your personal worth from how others view the ideas and people you admire.

Just musing. Really. It's nice to have a thought in my head once in a while. I probably just wanted to prove that it happens occasionally.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bunny Lane by Adam Kalkin

I've mentioned it before, but if I had been smarter during my brief college stint, I would have majored in architecture instead of starting down the whole psychology path. I had forgotten my first childhood passion, although I guess you could call psychology a passion from my teen years. The truth is, dwellings fascinate me. I'm not interested in building office buildings or skyscrapers, but pushing the boundaries on how homes can be constructed and lived in is something for which I'd be willing to pay thousands of dollars in order to get a thorough education. I don't just want to look at pretty pictures, either. I want to know how to build these dwellings myself.

Years ago, I saw a magazine article about this fantastic house. I fell in love with it immediately, but eventually, I forgot the name of the architect and what the house was called. But I've found it again! It's called Bunny Lane, and it was created by artist/architect Adam Kalkin.

What Kalkin did was to surround an original white clapboard farmhouse on Bunny Lane with an airport hangar. At the other end of the hangar, Kalkin built square, stacked cinder block cubes to create more rooms. In the middle of the hangar, he placed a large, comfortable seating arrangement. Quirky rolling doors on the sides of the hangar allow it to be opened to the breezes in good weather.

I adore the fact that the traditional farmhouse is encased in this modern behemoth. It looks so cozy and warm inside the large space. And yet, you step out the door and enjoy hundreds of square feet more of modern/industrial living space. The whole thing makes me giddy.

View the Architectural Digest video tour of Bunny Lane here.

Read an article and look at pictures of Bunny Lane here.

Alternative building materials excite me. Shipping containers are one of those building materials that, I think, have finally come into their own. A DIY enthusiast could conceivably build a home for thousands less than the cost of timber-frame construction for the same square footage. Plus, storage containers are so incredibly sturdy that they would last generations (provided they are protected against rust, of course).

Anyway, I was so excited about finding Bunny Lane that I had to share.