Archive for September, 2011

In the post I wrote the other day I think I frustrated some of my Christian friends by appearing to not advocate the teaching of abstinence. And now, in some other conversations about politician David Fowler I find myself again realising that perhaps a key component of Christian Libertarianism hasn’t made itself prominently enough proclaimed to stick in the forefront of people’s minds.

I am a very conservative person morality-wise. I believe wholeheartedly in the moral codes of the Scripture.

But those moral codes are FOR US. For those who have signed on to Christ’s decrees. The only way any of US can even attempt to live up to those moral codes is to rely on the Holy Spirit.

It is completely and utterly ridiculous (not to mention sacrilegious) to expect other people without Christ to follow those teachings. Making the Christian lifestyle into the law of the land makes a mockery of Christianity and creates enemies of the Gospel where we should be creating friends.

Should we teach abstinence to our own kids? If they’re Christians, yes. If they have not yet submitted to Christ then maybe you should start there and then move on to sex.

Should we teach submission and Covenant marriage? If both spouses are Christians, yes. If they aren’t it just flat-out is not going to work. Period. End of story. Those things only work when faith and the Holy Spirit are part of the picture.

Should we teach modesty? See above. Temperance? See Above. And so forth.

As a Christian libertarian I believe that we need basic codes of behaviour (don’t murder, steal, etc.) making it punishable by law when you curtail the free exercise of another citizen. Beyond that we cannot codify our beliefs within the law of the land. No nation is a Christian.

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Works In Progress

Figured I’d take an inventory of the various projects I have at various stages of completion.

Infinite Jess
This was originally a NaNoWriMo novella (55,000 words), but I liked the characters so well that I’ve decided to bring them back in a fully-fleshed out novel and a series of short stories. The main character, Jess, is the daughter of a father who didn’t want her, a mother who did and is herself the mother of a child born out of wedlock. It started out as a suspense story but has morphed into a Bildungsroman, themed around familes; the ones we are born with and the ones we choose.

Pow Wow*
Young Amish girl decides to leave the faith and her family to practice medicine. I originally conceived of this story when I was 15–well in advance of the current spate of Amish fiction–when my aunt and uncle (a doctor) hired Amish girls to clean their house. In this book it is while cleaning the home of a doctor that the girl is exposed to the world of science. The main conflict in this book is faith V. science.

*I do not love this title. At all. It’ll most likely be changed. But Powwow is a type of folk medicine/faith healing practiced by certain segments of Amish society and figures largely in the first half of the story.

The Physicians Of Myddfai

Another book with another title to be changed. This book starts off with a longer retelling of the Myddfai (Moth-vey) legend about the origins of Welsh herbal pharmacology and is similar in structure to Sarum or The Red Violin as it follows the herbal compendium through several generations of Welsh and Welsh-Americans. Since it’s structured as a series of short stories I aim to submit these to various magazines as well as publishers. This is probably my favourite book to work on; most of my current writing is in reworking the legend chapter.

I realise that doctors play roles large and small in all of my work. I come from a large family of doctors, nurses and lawyers and personally find the practice of medicine fascinating. It makes for great conflict on several levels and also allows characters to be more fluid in social structures. Physicians are one of the few characters who are needed by rich and poor alike, whose career can take them from the palace to the ghetto to the battlefield and even to space. I like writing doctors and doctors’ families.

And of course there’s that old anecdote about the three types of books that sell being those about doctors, dogs or Abraham Lincoln.

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Two years behind the curve, I’m watching the first season of 16 & Pregnant via Hulu+. My initial impulse behind watching the show was to help inform one of my novels/stories, which involves an unexpected teen pregnancy. Since I’ve never carried a pregnancy to term at any age I figured I’d like a bit of versimilitude.

Three hours later I’m about choking on versimilitude.

First off, let me say that I admire–in an odd way–each of those young women for meeting an obvious challenge in a head-on fashion. It takes a lot to admit that you’re scared, ignorant, unprepared…and still go through with it. That is the textbook definition of courage.

But let’s be honest. None of the young women and men we’ve been shown in these shows are in any way ready for parenthood. I wish we had more detail about what kind of sex education they had prior to their situations–other than the requisite scene with the disgruntled grandparents-to-be acting shocked because “we talked about sex!”

And I’ll be honest. I think those of us who are pro-full-term-pregnancy have done a huge disservice to this generation. It seems most of us have forgotten what it was like to be a kid with hormones in overdrive, a sense of invincibility and an overall ignorance of long-term consequences. It’s easy to look back now and say “just don’t have sex” when most of us are too tired, too stressed about the long-term consequences WE’VE gotten ourselves into, to be indulging in much spontaneous sex. Yes, abstinence is a fairly fool-proof way to prevent teen pregnancy but it isn’t easy and, quite frankly, isn’t always realistic.

Look at the home lives of some of these young women and you’ll see what I mean. In nearly every case they crave either unconditional love or a measure of self-determination. (In the case of that hideous brat Farrah it’s both.) I will swear to my dying day that teen pregnancy may be a consequence of sex, but is in actuality a side-effect of unempowered young women.

Sure, I favour birth control education. I’m not sure where I stand on accessability, and change my thinking on that often. But what I really wish we had were classes where girls were told they didn’t have to date idiots to feel loved and they didn’t have to feel loved to be worthy of love. That they can stand on their own, and that they are special and capable and don’t have to prove that by offering their vagina in trade for some second-class attention from a boy with a car.

I had good parents and good adult mentors at school, at church, in the Three Rivers Science Fiction Club, in the Role-Playing groups. I was geeky and awkward but NEVER felt that sex would do anything more than complicate my life and shortchange me from opportunities. It makes me sad that these young women–who have so much going for them–don’t understand that. “Put on a condom” and “don’t have sex” aren’t what we need to tell them. “Value yourself”, “safeguard your future”, “contemplate your own strength”….that’s what we really need to be saying.

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I’ve fallen in love again.

This time with The Brooklyn Bridge.

Did you know that the chief engineer of the bridge, Washington Roebling was crippled by a bad case of the bends while working on the bridge in its early stages, living the rest of his life as an invalid? That his incapacitation meant that most of the legwork in supervising the construction of the bridge was actually undertaken by his wife, Emily?

The bridge is a purposeful piece of art that stands as a memorial to a million stories. Lives large and small were lived in the birth of the bridge and are lived every day moving to and fro across it.

There was a quote from Roebling in the Ken Burns documentary I watched that gave me this bridge fever. I can’t recall it exactly and haven’t been able to find it anywhere in a cursory online search. But the gist of the quote was that even though his crippled body was incapable of doing much, Roebling’s mind was able to dream up marvels that could keep thousands busy and change the course of the world. It sort of hit me where I live in this place I was whining about on Friday.

That bridge is a piece of ordinary magic that we don’t see much of anymore. It was born out of a need to get people from one side of the water to the other. That’s a common need, ages old and continuously met time and again with the most pedestrian (heh) of forms. But this one time a man decided that instead of just doing the job he would do it both well and beautifully. John Roebling, Washington’s father, designed a temple to the joining of people, to the coming and going, to the art of commerce and journeying. It is a temple open seven days a week, open to all comers. A cathedral that does not discriminate against creed or colour or circumstance.

It is determination, grace, substance and utility. The best parts of America and the best parts of Americans.

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Chances are you have not read The Long Ships. It has been out of print here in the U.S. for several decades, and although it is a huge classic in Scandinavia it never had that big of a following here. Maybe because the old cover art was terrible.

Seriously. This cover would make me drop this book faster than a copy of Advanced Trigonometry For Dam Builders

Maybe also, like me, you are not a Viking person. There are cultures and eras that captivate me; heretofore none of them have had anything to do with Vikings. I hate the cold and I hate boat travel and I do not love three letter names, especially when one or more of the letters is G. So the whole romance of the Vikings is not my cup of tea.

But when pretty much every conversation about George R.R. Martin’s books last year included at least one person saying that The Long Ships is a must-read for anyone who likes historical fiction I figured I could at least give it a try. It took me awhile after buying it to be fully in the mood, but when I did dive in I plunged immediately into a warm, gurgly pool of five-star loveliness.

What is it? Well, it is about Vikings–kind of. The best way I can describe it is to say that it is a combination of Ben Hur, The Thousand Nights and the One Night, and Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles (which I didn’t enjoy so much but do cover the same time period), all told with the same type of wry humour that makes Twain and Kipling hands-down classics.

It’s a story that you can picture a traveling bard relating to you as you curl up next to the fire with a cup of hot chocolate. It’s epic and focused at the same time.

Huh. Now that I think about it, it does remind me–oddly enough–of Mama’s Bank Account, which is a favourite of mine. It has the same sort of patchwork design in that it tells a sweeping story by telling several smaller stories that build upon the characters and place like bricks in an edifice. Both are by Scandinavian authors and I suppose, at their root, both owe a structural debt to the Norse Eddas.

All of that lit-major prattle aside, I assure that this is a wonderful book. It’s back in print and it’s also in e-book form and I think it would give you one delightful reading experience. Plus, the new version has a much better cover.

Yes, it's a lot of red. But at least it doesn't look like a thirteen year old boy drew it in art class

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I’ve always been very suspicious of the food cures out there. I hear a lot of them and after awhile it gets frustrating. I know that people like the idea of being able to ingest a basic food item to cure ailments; it has a stronger appeal than schlepping to through the medical-industrial complex and grocery stores don’t have complicated co-pays and billing structures.

But to the seriously ill, be it acute (like cancer) or chronic (like Inflammatory Arthritis), the thought that this crippling, life-altering dis-ease can be done away with by a simple fruit or vegetable is kind of insulting. Especially when, like most of us, you’ve gone through batteries of tests and a panoply of doctors.

That’s why I didn’t want to believe myself when I started feeling better after I had one of my absolute favourite drinks. I’ve been drinking Boylan’s Black Cherry soda as a treat for a decade now. They’re all-natural, made with Cane Sugar and real fruit juice, so they cost twice as much as a standard Coke or Pepsi type soda. So clearly one doesn’t drink them in the same fashion as those other drinks. In my non-alcoholic world I treat a bottle of these the way drinkers treat a glass of wine–to sip along with a couple of pieces of cheese as a dessert in the evenings.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I began to have a glass in the afternoon as part of my daily routine, and also noticed that my arthritis aches were quite diminished. I didn’t say anything because it seemed crazy. Then this week I found that my evening glass was effectively killing my murderous headaches. So I looked it up and what do you know.

Black or Sour Cherry Juice is an old-fashioned anti-inflammatory.

The tart variety of cherry has been a subject of many researches executed by scientists and medical universities for its possible effect in relieving joint pain associated with arthritis. Some of these studies have revealed that tart cherry has anti-inflammatory properties and is a rich source of phytochemicals like anthocyanins, which impart the ruby red color to this fruit. There are more than 350 types of anthocyanins and tart cherry offers a unique blend of several of them.

And I’m here to testify that it does work for me. (I can’t promise, though, that it will work for everyone.)

Of course I’m still taking all the other stuff. The methotrexate, the plaquenil, the tramadol. But with the cherry juice on top of those others my daily average pain level drops another degree. And those “expensive” sodas are looking cheap at twice the price.

It’s nice how you sometimes get a tic in the Win Column.

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Last night I was in the middle of reading the best book most people have never read (The Long Ships by Frans Benggtson) when Facebook pinged me with a message. It seems as though it is time, once again, for more idiotic “games” that are somehow, some way, supposed to raise Breast Cancer Awareness. Nevermind that the games never mention breast cancer and that we are meant to keep the code secret from the men. (“Just us girls!”) As though Breast Cancer doesn’t affect men.

Tell that to the fellows who’ve had to bury their wives, mothers, daughters.

Tell that to the fellows who’ve themselves been stricken with the disease.

I have no idea why we have to always approach breast cancer with this giggling juvenility. And, yes, I write this post every year–usually on October first. But on Monday my sandwich came in a pink wrapper and now this. October seems to be starting very very early this year.

Right now at this moment in time I’m having a really hard time with my own illness. The one that doesn’t kill you (that’s the upside) but also can’t be cured. The one that I have to live with for however long I’m here. I’m looking around at the things I’m too tired, too sick to tackle and feeling defeated by the basics. The laundry is laughing at me, the dust on the sconces is mocking me and the bags of yarn on the kitchen table are especially cruel in their teasing. I can’t keep up with the basics and that frightens me. I’m losing touch with friends, with family. I’m watching my self die while my body continues on in some sort of zombie state.

Disease isn’t funny. It isn’t handled by passing laughing coded messages about where you put your purse, when you take off your bra or what kind of candy you like.

I don’t want to play either game anymore.

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