Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Writing Brain: Lab Results

I've been contemplating doing a series called "The Writing Brain" on my blog for a long time. As mental illness (and its often accompanying brilliance) runs on my mother's side of the family, the health and longterm productivity of the brain has long been an obsession of mine. When my paternal grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson's in the eighties, my obsession turned to research into diet and lifestyle. It's been quite a journey. I've probably tried almost every "healthful diet" out there from being a raw vegan to consuming high protein. (Ugh!) In the past year, my husband's mother passed away. That loss triggered another round of research and recommitment to the practical application of what I've learned over the past thirty years.

As a result, I made some significant dietary changes in March of 2014. I've just received the lab results from blood taken this Monday (January 12, 2015) and since it seems I'm still "healthy" I feel comfortable sharing more on this subject I remain so passionate about.

The results of the dietary changes I've made over the past ten months in terms of some numbers: my Fasting Blood Glucose dropped from 91 to 77, my Blood Pressure remained low: 100/62, but my cholesterol has shot up from Total Cholesterol of 246 to 282! The good news is that my ratio of HDL to Total Cholesterol remains below 4.0 (3.71) which is an indicator that it's not yet time to freak out about my "high cholesterol" since my HDLs are also high. Looking over my cholesterol numbers for the past seven to eight years, they've been gradually increasing, so I'm not surprised by the lab results. Especially considering the changes that I've made to my diet, which I'll get into in another post.

I'm sharing these numbers as a concrete way to describe the overall health of my body, which I've long believed affects the strength and health of my mind plus my all-important mood. The two tweaks I plan to make based on my recent lab results are to add some cardio back to my exercise routine. (I confess I haven't been doing any cardio for several years...) For the past four months I've been doing mostly just Pilates, which I love. I may also experiment with having a couple vegetarian nights a week, centered around the humble avocado (which I also love!) and a variety of nuts. BTW the one thing I really miss since we've left Southern California is the awesome Reed Avocados I've only ever been able to find there!


I'll have my blood re-checked in about six months to see if this has changed anything. In the meantime, I'll be blogging about my journey, my research, and what it takes to maintain the health of our brains—thus not squandering the hard-won experience gained through living—in my new series "The Writing Brain."

*I'm not a medical professional. "The Writing Brain" posts are based solely on my individual experience and cannot replace professional medical guidance.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bye Bye, Facebook!

I'm officially off Facebook today. Once you delete your page and/or account they give you two weeks to think about it. I confess, I didn't think too much about it after I did the deleting a couple of weeks ago.

I don't hate Facebook. I just don't really get it. I'm super private. You probably think I'm not, because of various and sundry details I divulge here and there;) But I rarely share things when I'm "in the midst". I just can't. I'm incapable. When I'm deep in the throes of something, anything, good and/or bad, I don't really want to discuss it, post it, update it. I WANT EXPERIENCE IT. Half the time I don't even know I'm "going through something" or "what I think about what I'm going through" until I'm out on the other side!

What would have to tell?!?!?! BwbwuBwbwuBwbwu! Boy, that would make for an exciting post:D

So, when I say I don't get Facebook, I'm just confessing that I don't get how to use it. I've never felt comfortable there. That's why I finally decided to leave. Although, EVERYONE has told me that as an author: YOU MUST HAVE A FACEBOOK PRESENCE!

Oh well.

I DO, however, want to say THANK YOU to all the Facebook users who supported my page and showed up as I bumbled along there for almost two years! THANK YOU!!!!!


If you want to keep up with me, I'm hoping to blog more in 2015, send out at least one newsletter a month, and I love Pinterest! I'm also the moderator of Fairy Tales Eclectic on Goodreads, so you can catch up with me there too!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Some of My Favorite Reads in 2014

Favorite Love Story: Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

Gosh, it's been years since I've read anything by Stephen King other than On Writing. However, I came across a link to his Rolling Stone interview, and read this:

If you had to pick your best book, what would it be?
Lisey's Story. That one felt like an important book to me because it was about marriage, and I'd never written about that. I wanted to talk about two things: One is the secret world that people build inside a marriage, and the other was that even in that intimate world, there's still things that we don't know about each other.

More of King's Interview 

I just had to read the book. It's a voluble work. In an Author's Note, King says "yes, this book was edited". But I want to know: Was 10% cut? (His rule of thumb for whittling a manuscript down.) On the other hand, much of the architecture of the secret world of Lisey's and Scott's marriage is verbal so perhaps that's the point of the wordy repetitiveness. I don't know. But I was a big fan of King when he wrote: Salem's Lot, The (Edited Version) Stand, The Dead Zone, Pet Sematary... I began losing faith after Cujo and Christine (Apparently an English version of the book is no longer available!). But what I always loved about King was his ability to capture the inner thoughts of the common man. The Day We Planted Gage. So Louis Creed silently names the registry of his son's funeral as he slides it onto the top shelf of a closet. Wicked accuracy. Because those are the kind of sardonic things we're apt to say in an effort to cope.

King captures the inner workings of a devoted marriage so well in Lisey's Story it's almost creepy! The ways we navigate, negotiate, share, and look the other way when necessary. Although very much there, the lacing of horror is almost secondary. The most gripping aspect in that regard being the dark but ingenious: blood bools...

My Goodreads Review of Lisey's Story

Favorite Fairy Tale Retold: Charming/Cindermaid by Laura Briggs

Written in old-fashioned prose, this is one long read. Although sold as two books, it's definitely one story. I've read several "Cinderella" retellings; this is by far the most intricate and the most amazing. If you're into fairy tale retellings you must read this. But pick it up when you have some time, and you don't need to be rushed. Every detail of Prince Charming's and Cinderella's history is imagined to a completely satisfying culmination.

My Goodreads Review of Charming
My Goodreads Review of Cindermaid

 Favorite Fairy Tale Re-envisioned: The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

When I got this home from the library, I kind of groaned: it's a retelling set in World War II. I just wasn't in the mood for a story about The Holocaust! Sorry! But this re-envisioning of Hansel and Gretel, Crones and Stepmothers, Bread Crumb Trails and Ovens, won me over rather quickly. Set in the Bialoweiza forest of Poland this is a profound fairy tale retelling not to be missed.

My Goodreads Review of the Real Story of Hansel and Gretel

Favorite Original Fairy Tale: Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez

Although not billed as a fairy tale, it is... a variation on Rapunzel and her long hair.

The surprise lay on the third niche of the high altar, the side where the Gospels were kept. The stone shattered at the first blow of the pickax, and a stream of living hair the intense color of copper spilled out of the crypt. The foreman, with the help of the laborers, attempted to uncover all the hair, and the more of it they brought out, the longer and more abundant it seemed, until at last the final strands appeared still attached to the skull of a young girl. Nothing else remained in the niche except a few small scattered bones, and on the dress eaten away by saltpeter only a given name with no surbames was legible: SIERVA MARÍA DE TODO LOS ÁNGELES. Spread out on the floor, the splendid hair measured twenty-two meters, eleven centimeters.



And so the story begins... Although there is no Happily Ever After, the love story is tender and the journey is an amazing one—told in only the way that Gabriela García Márquez could tell it.

My Goodreads Review of Of Love and Other Demons

Favorite Book on Aging: Memories of my Melancholy Whores by Gabriela García Márquez

I thought I would hate this. García Márquez, being Colombian, is not exempt from the... um... prejudices towards the fairer sex that are... um... often inherent in that culture. I feel comfortable saying that because I was raised in a bicultural, bilingual household. As I grow older, it becomes more clear how I am not distinctly American nor Spanish... although my skin color is white, my mind is a mix. There is so much I love about the Latin culture: the musicality of the language, the vibrancy, the passion, the drama;) When I hear the language in any of it's variations it feels like home. However, every culture has its dark and light sides. Perhaps the light and dark of American is: the bright light of freedom afforded the individual; the dark being a will to inflict our way of life/"achievements" upon all we come into contact with! And the light of the Latin might be: a gifted metaphysical and organic way of viewing life and the world, with the dark being rigid gender stereotyping that is wholly synthetic. So... certain words make me cringe: Bitch, Whore, Cunt. I just don't like them. Especially, oh especially, when they are gratuitous.  So... the word "Whores" in the title didn't do much for me. But I am a rabid García Márquez fan. Despite the chauvinism inherent in every story he tells, at least, he doesn't lie about the frailties of being of man. And in Memories of Melancholy Whores he does this most eloquently and heartbreakingly. It's just a wonderful counterpoint of truth and acceptance, sorrow and hope.

My Goodreads Review of Memories of My Melancholy Whores

Favorite Book on Why Sugar is Truly Evil: Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

Long have I battled with sugar! Really. As more and more information is revealed about the "health evils" (Visit Sugarscience.org for a rundown!) of that offending white substance I am left both validated and frustrated. Frustrated that I was right, and didn't heed my own knowledge to the degree that I could have and should have; and validated that yes: Sugar is a health disaster, and we, modern society, are only half-living in the wake of the tsunami of the white crystals that we have ingested. (In moderation, of course!)

Island Beneath the Sea is not a happy story, but it is a lovely one. It is enough to make you abstain from sugar for moral and ethical reasons, if not for health, as the roots of the industrial production of sugar are told primarily through the eyes of a Haitian slave, Zarité. Pretty Powerful Stuff.

Love fairy tales and their retellings? Join Fairy Tales Eclectic!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pretty Creepy Stuff

After reading The Executioner's Song, I felt restless. I walked around my house and thought about it. That's kind of what I do when I'm obsessing about something. Feed the cats, water the plants, stare out the window at the fallen snow, while something tickles my brain. The book raised so many questions, and answered so few. Perhaps, that was it's purpose. Probably.

With so many loose ends, my mind was left with a craving for resolution, a need to make sense out of the senseless; I couldn't leave it alone. Besides, as inspiration/research for Umbra, I was left empty handed. Mailer wrote The Executioner's Song in a Hemingway-esque style. Lots of cutting. What happened before, what came after, is told through the hazy filter of statements of the involved parties, accepted as fact.

And that felt unsatisfying. So, I searched for more thorough answers and found: Shot In the Heart. It's a book written by Gary Gilmore's youngest brother. About ten pages in, I felt Mailer had robbed us of vital truth by excising the nine months of Gary's life from the bulk of the 34 plus years before. The severing of present from past created a story with little intrinsic meaning. No matter how fashionable it might be to focus upon surface details and statements alone, emotionally and psychologically, perhaps even spiritually, it's the equivalent of literary junk food. There's no meaning and thus no nourishment. That's fine, but at a more fundamental level it's a lie.

I have to say, if you've read The Executioner's Song, then Shot In the Heart should be read as a companion. The Executioner's Song is the husk, Shot In the Heart is the seed. The Gilmore family life was horrific. Gary Gilmore was a devastating intersection of nature vs. nurture. To the worst qualities of both his parents, he added a few of his own.

It made me think of two things: We're all tips of an iceberg, our personal histories, and our family legacies buoyant beneath the surface. And yet, there is a line we each must cross to become individuals, and that is the line where we assimilate our family legacies, the riches and shameful qualities, and move into taking responsibility for our own actions.

The other thing is this: Every family has its dark aspect. Since the past can never be undone, simple acceptance seems to be the only real avenue to moving forward. But the journey to bedrock acceptance is fraught. Along the way religions, psychologists, social workers, politicians, and well-meaning others insert their philosophies.


The dark aspects of Gilmore's family were ferocious. Gary Gilmore's mother was Mormon. Polygamy and Blood Atonement, early precepts of the Mormon Church, infiltrated his family. Although his father wasn't Mormon, for practical purposes he practiced polygamy. Gary's mother and her four sons were the last in a long line of many wives and families that Frank Gilmore left scattered across the country. As for Gary's insistence that he be executed by firing squad, it fulfilled the Mormon ideal of Blood Atonement. Pretty creepy stuff.

Love fairy tales and their retellings? Join Fairy Tales Eclectic!