Vitamins, minerals (and how mostly they suck)

Ever since we started taking our high-quality supplements last year, I’ve gotten used to feeling healthy. No allergies, few colds. The only thing I get now are the big nasty bugs during flu season.

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The Legend of Biff

The thing about good health is that you take it for granted. You get up and go about your day, you eat what you like (within reason–avoid gluten and sugar like the plague). You go to bed at night and sleep like a baby. The health part of your life works like a well-oiled machine, and you don’t think about it.

Like the doctrine of grace, life is a list of Dos. Do your chores, do the things that need to be done, do enjoy your life, do have fun, do smile a lot.

Then one day, you run out of supplements.

I ordered more, but I’m cheap and use standard shipping, which takes a week.

You know why people think vitamins and minerals don’t work? Because the stuff you get at the drugstore does NOTHING. Our medicine cabinet is stuffed with multivitamins–men’s, women’s, prenatals, weird samples the doctor gave me, and so on.

Investigation of the labels reveals tiny doses of about twelve vitamins and minerals. A good one might have twenty.

You know how many vitamins and minerals the human body needs?

Ninety. 9-0. That’s the correct ratios of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, plus trace minerals that act as co-factors. For instance, vitamin C does nothing without calcium. Iron does nothing without copper. Plus you gotta have the Omega oils, which work in concert with the vits and minerals.

So I’m popping double doses of everything in the cabinet. Absolutely nothing happens. I suspect that they’re such low-quality pills that they go straight through.

My health begins to deteriorate. First is fatigue and brain fog. I walk around like a zombie.

Next is allergies. Then indigestion. I can’t eat a darn thing without my stomach reacting violently. Only vegetables seem to tame the beast a little. And remember, this is mostly gluten and sugar free! If I touch either of those, pick a symptom from The Wheel of Suck. Actually, pick five.

Next comes the canker sores in my mouth. Because those are always fun.

My chronic anemia returns. I can’t draw a full breath, and my legs twitch badly at night in that creepy leg moving syndrome.

Then comes my old friend, the urinary tract infection. It stays for days and weeks. I take cranberry pills. I drink lemon juice. I sit on hot water bottles. I really don’t want to go on antibiotics, but after days of suffering, it looks pretty attractive.

The list of things I can eat and do begins to shrink. This is Law–a list of don’ts. It gets longer and longer. Don’t eat sugar, honey, tea, any fruit, most meat, any grains whatsoever, slightly breaded chicken … it all causes headaches, stomach aches, and other awful things.

Then … Cue the angelic choir … My good supplements arrive.

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Serra Angel by Kaiz0

Within two days the brain fog and fatigue are gone. Within three days the urinary tract infection is gone. Within four days the allergies, stomach problems, and canker sores are gone. The anemia and leg twitches vanish.

My hormones calm down–PMS disappears. My mood defaults to Cheerful because I feel so darn good. I go back to eating all the foods I couldn’t eat (except gluten and sugar). Grace rules once more.

I’ve talked about this supplement before and why it’s so good. I now understand why nobody believes me. Did you know that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements? In fact, nobody regulates them. That’s why most of them suck. Having spent a week mixing and matching our inferior drugstore brands and getting zero benefit, I feel desperately sorry for everyone around me.

My cockatiel is old and sick. He had stopped chirping or moving very much. I got him a bottle of liquid supplements, and he cheered right up. Guess what! There’s more vitamins and minerals in the bird drops than in ANY of my multivitamins. Only my really good supplement has more.

Law and grace–do and don’t. Good health and bad. It’s so weird to see a spiritual doctrine so closely paralleled in the health sphere. The law can’t save, no matter how strictly we follow it. Only grace saves. And there are so many counterfeits–its hard to tell the fakes from the real thing.

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Storing Force: The Power of Habit

When I was on vacation last week, my mom gave me a stack of stuff to read. One of them was a book of articles (blog posts from before blogging).

One was a fascinating article from the 1800s about habit. This doctor had observed how the more often a person does something, the easier it becomes to do again. Science has recently discovered this very thing in our neurons.

However, this doctor took the concept of habit in an interesting direction: that of force. I believe that she was talking about energy–you get up in the morning, and spend your force, or energy, over the course of the day.

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Now, if your life has a series of good habits in it, this saves you a lot of energy. Things like getting up, showering, brushing your teeth, cooking meals at certain times, cleaning house–all these are good habits. They expend force. However, a person who has never consigned these menial tasks to habits must exert more force in order to accomplish them. They reach the end of the day with nothing left over.

The article then went on to talk about storing force. You store force by enjoying the moment, and by sitting and thinking, by having times of rest throughout your day. This is when you convert your force to a higher form, and it is used to bless and enrich those around you.

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Crater Lake from Interfacelift

This really spoke to me. While I try to leverage habit or routine, I never, ever sit and store up force. I rarely take time to rest and think. If I have a quiet moment, out comes the device, and on goes the Internet. More energy is siphoned away by Facebook than anything else.

This week, I’ve tried to keep the household running on a routine, and have rest periods without Internet. And do you know, it’s been really pleasant. I had gotten frantic and angry, and wasted my force chasing the kids around, and lugging around the baby. This week it occurred to me that if the baby is old enough to scoot on her tummy and work on crawling, she’s old enough for an enforced nap time. Suddenly she’s much happier. I have more free time. I’m calmer. Habit wins the day again!

I find that writing works best if automated by habit. If I make it a habit to write or edit for an hour every night after the kids are in bed, it adds up. I can finish three books a year that way. The best thing is, if I have those few hours of quiet, I can store up force better. It helps me to think, and refreshes me with a better mood the next day.

Have you ever heard of “force” as applies to your energy level and exertion? Have you leveraged the power of habit to help run your life more smoothly?

A birthday hotdog roast

We went to California last week for my daughter’s 7th birthday. All of my extended family lives out there, so CA is where we go when it’s time to party. Lots of pictures (and captions) following!

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The long drive through the desert. Such a pretty day! And the desert was so green!
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Grandma making friends with the 2-year-old.
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Everybody roasting hotdogs. There were many, many wiener jokes.
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“Why are these taking so long to cook?”
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The kid table, filled with hungry kiddos.
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Ahh, the typical American family–all sitting with their devices. Note the cunning use of umbrellas in the background.
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Lighting the candles on the ice cream cake.
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Dramatic action shot of birthday candle ownage!
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After dinner, the kids played Detective with an obliging uncle.
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My sis-in-law Makenzie is a professional photographer, and took a lot of these pictures. Like this one.
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Family photo–silly faces edition!
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Driving home was smooth sailing until we entered Arizona. There a giant storm awaited us. This is us driving into it. I didn’t take pictures of the hail and lightning because I was afraid we’d die if I took my eyes off the road.
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The dust was blowing like crazy here. Not sure if the camera captured it.

And that’s a brief photographic summary of our trip. It was so much fun! Big families are the best.

Three things werewolves can teach us about romance

From the Middle Ages and earlier, wolves were feared as man-eating monsters that killed people and livestock alike. Thus when people wanted a villain for a story, wolves were the first monsters that came to mind (the Big Bad Wolf, for example). A man who could turn into a wolf became a great metaphor for a human giving in to his base nature and feeding upon his own kind.

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Archer vs werewolves by HenriqueErias

Then came modern science, and people who studied these hated creatures. Wolves were on the verge of being wiped out due to ignorance and fear. Intrepid scientists risked everything to go camp out in the wilds and observe wolf packs, gambling that the animals weren’t the monsters they’ve been made out to be.
And hey! It turns out that wolves actually live in family units, care for their young, have elaborate social etiquette, and don’t really like eating humans. Wolves went from being hated and feared to being embraced as a sort of woodland fairy. They’re not nasty–they’re FLUFFY.

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Wolves by PanDaemonEon1

Cue the rise of the werewolf romance. Gone is the debased monster. A person who turns into a wolf is now a loveable, fluffy creature. Oh, sure, they may have some nasty habits, like killing people and eating them raw, but that’s not REALLY what werewolves are about. They’re about tapping into NAY-CHURE, maaaaaaaan.

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Hidden Harvest by Nambroth


If you go to Amazon and type in “werewolf romance”, you’ll find a plethora of romances, ranging from sweet to spicy, of hawt women who swoon for a smoking hot werewolf dude with perfect abs. Twilight brought the werewolf romance genre into the limelight. Writers like Patricia Briggs invented this nutty pack structure where the Alpha exerts a psychic dominance over his pack, and being his mate is basically psychic arranged marriage.

So, what can this crazy genre teach us about romance?

1. The Mask

Most people have layers to their personality. They have their true self (the essence) and the Mask, or Identity–the self that they present to the world. This can be a false confidence, or the face of an attention-seeker, or a delicate needy person who needs to be taken care of. Sometimes this is the opposite of their true self.
With werewolves, this is the human self: the face that blends with the crowd. Nobody knows about the beast inside them. Outwardly they’ve got it together.

I played with this a lot in my first werewolf romance, Turned. A Victorian-ish gentleman and lady marry to combine their fortunes. Outwardly they give a show of happiness, but they don’t like each other, and lead almost entirely separate lives. While lonely, neither of them knows how to penetrate the mask of the other.

2. The essence (or identity)

This is the true self, the actual emotions, insecurities, warts, and all. This is where a person’s wounds are, their secrets, all the nasty things they’d rather not present to the world. This is also what makes a character in a book the most interesting.

The wolf part of a werewolf is a personification of this true self. This is where the monster comes into the open–claws, teeth, fur, stink, everything. People can see what’s been inside them all this time, and it’s torches-and-pitchforks time.

In romance, however, when two people see the essence of the other, and fall in love with that damaged, sinful person–that is real love.

In Turned, the estranged lord and lady are bitten, and fall under the werewolf curse. They’re forced to flee into the wilds, where they face hunger, cold, and other problems presented by the elements. Being stuck in animal form, they each see what the other is truly like. First they begin to sympathize with each other, then begin to love.

The werewolf form becomes a metaphor for mask and essence. Like all good fantasy, it takes a complex topic and gives it a form that we can ponder.

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Moon’s Gift by Goldenwolf

3. Love triangles

This is a necessary part of romance–when two guys are interested in the same girl. Two girls can also be interested in the same guy (although this isn’t as common, for some reason). We’ve all read this in books or seen it on TV: one guy will be perfect for the girl, while the other will be less perfect. This is where shipping wars start (remember Team Edward and Team Jacob?).

Again, it comes down to essence and identity. One guy will see her essence and love her for who she is, while the other will only love her mask. This is like a guy loving the girl even though she’s a werewolf, while the other guy loves her as a human with no idea about her werewolf half.

Vampires can also work this way–or any monster that looks human half the time. This is the lure of paranormal romance, because it takes romance, which is such a sticky, uncomfortable thing, and turns it into tidy black and white.

For more reading, check out Jami Gold’s romance beat sheet, and Michael Hauge’s lectures on mask and essence.

Five things fanfiction can teach you about writing

Being a teenager is hard. You don’t fit in with kids anymore, but you’re not quite an adult. When I turned 13, I felt like I was too old to play with toys anymore. That was when I started writing–because I could have any toy I wanted, in my head.

What I wrote was Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction.

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Sonic fanfic. It’s seriously epic.

I wrote it madly for the rest of my teen years and into my 20s. I built a website around it, and hosted other kids’ stories and art. We had a fantastic community, all because I was trying to find my niche.

While writing epic adventure after epic adventure, and reading copious amounts of fanfiction, I learned quite a lot about writing a story. I also ingested anything on writing I could find–curriculum, The Elements of Style, Stephen King’s On Writing.

I learned:

1. It gets the cliches out of your system

We love cliches. That’s why we have archetypes (a fancy word for “stuff we tell stories about over and over”) and Hero’s Journey (farm boy goes on a quest and becomes a hero). But they’re called cliches for a reason–they’ve been done before.

As a new writer, you may not realize that what you’re writing is the same thing every new writer writes. All you know is that it rings your bell, and you write it like mad–nobody has ever seen this plot before!

Except that they have, over and over.

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It’s common when you’re starting out to retell your favorite stories in your own voice. No matter how well you tell it, it’s still the same story everybody tells (ex: epic fantasy, ragtag group of adventurers save the world). It’s hard to get published with these stories, because agents and readers go, “Ho hum, seen it.”

But with fanfiction, you can write the cliche, revel in it, get it out of your system, and move on. Once you’ve done that, you uncover the real golden ideas–the publishable ones.

2. It lets you experiment with self inserts

Self-inserts are a joke in the fanfiction community. They’re when the author write themselves into the story, usually as a perfect, wise, beautiful person whom all the characters love. They’re known as Mary Sues (or Gary Stu), because they usually have a humdrum name.

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I’ll bet you can’t guess what my self-insert was.

Self-inserts (“serts”) are another type of cliche that an author does well to get out of their system early. For one thing, perfect characters are boring. For another, savvy readers will sniff out a sert and call you on it. They’re the mark of a new writer.

3. You learn to finish

Finishing a book is a big deal. The Internet is littered with half-finished stories. Reading them is frustrating, because nobody knows the ending–not even the author. I’ve read some totally awesome stories, fanfic and original, that the author abandoned at the sticky midpoint.

You don’t get a fans if you never finish anything. Besides, endings are fun–they’re the payoff, the big confrontation, the place to have the big chase or the huge explosions.

You can’t get published if you never finish.

4. You learn to handle feedback

The lure of fanfic is the speedy feedback. You can have comments on a chapter a few hours after you post it–whereas on a published book, it takes weeks or months.

Quick feedback is fun–but it comes with a price. My dad always says, “Everyone is entitled to their own stupid opinion”, and boy, is that evident when writing stories. You’ll get good comments, and you get nasty ones, too. You get the guy who corrects your tiny mistakes, the fan girl who rages because she doesn’t ship your pairing, and people who just go, “Didn’t like it” without explaining why.

It can make you go bury your face in chocolate cake. But it toughens you up. The next time somebody leaves you a nasty review, you can paraphrase Tolkein and remark that you don’t like the kinds of book that they favor, so there.

5. You learn to write within the constraints of a world

Fanfiction and historical fiction have one thing in common: you have to write inside that world. You have to research the setting, learn the principal characters and their personalities and goals–then you have to write it well. A huge crime in fanfic is getting someone OOC–out of character. (There’s also PWP–plot what plot, but that’s a different problem.) This is something that people will gleefully tell you in reviews–you’re doing it wrong, lawl.

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You wouldn’t believe how gleefully people correct the “flaws” in this picture.

Writing within world constraints is a useful skill, even if the world is your own. The details have to ring true, whether you’re writing Regency romance or urban fantasy.

Does your Regency heroine carry a handgun? Muff pistols were a thing. They even had a sort of safety on them, so they almost wouldn’t blow your fingers off. How do I know this? Research.

Is your hero a private detective or a bounty hunter? Sometimes they do quite similar jobs. Again–research!

How is it possible that Sonic can run hundreds of miles per hour without burning off his own feet, or tearing a hole in his face when he hits leaves, bugs, dust, etc? The fans have some excellent quasi-scientific theories available to draw upon. All it takes is research.

In conclusion, fanfiction is an excellent place to exercise your writing muscles. A lot of what you learn there carry over into the big leagues of writing for publication. Some people convert fanfics straight to publication.

The Mortal Instruments? Harry Potter fanfic.

Fifty Shades? Twilight fanfic.

The Temeraire books? Master and Commander fanfic.

Sherlock? Well, that one is easy to guess.

Have you ever written fanfiction? Do you think it helped you learn to write?