7 Quick Takes (Vol. 15) Antarctica Edition


I went to Antarctica for a month. Stayed a bit longer than I planned (weather delays), but hey, now my Book is just about ready to be launched.


I went to the place my husband has gone 9 out of the last 14 Thanksgivings. I didn’t think I’d come, except, last November (when I was smoking NaNo with my delicious Sherlock romance/mystery and fostering a 2-month-old while Jay was gone for a month), Jay asked if I wanted to come this year, and I said no-the-kids-aren’t-old-enough-here-all-ask-them-and-prove-it, and they all shouted that YES! they’d love to spend a month with their Grandmas.

Sooo they did.

And I had Thanksgiving in McMurdo, Antarctica. And learned that apparently it is a thing to bring wine. That was interesting.

Also, had the *best* GF sweet potato cheesecake with pecan crust and pralines on top. Good. stuff.


Did my first winter camping here, after almost 30 years in Alaska, and all I can say: I wasn’t missing much.

We had good gear, and it was rated for the temperatures we were at, but I swear, if it was up to me alone to heat that sleeping bag (and eventually the tent) through the night, I would be hypothermic.

I know this, because I tried to sleep alone in my prescribed mummy bag the first night in field camp. I even closed the hood around my head and breathed all my “hot air” back into the bag (despite Jay’s admonition to keep “just my nose” sticking out in the cold to ensure I’d breathe fresh air).

The two nights I followed his advice, that is, the two nights I covered everything but my nose because it was so cold I didn’t want any more hanging out? My nose went numb. I had to hold my hand over it to warm it back up.

Then there was the day I got a stupid steam burn making dinner, cooled two of the three fingers by keeping them on snow for an hour, and that last finger just wouldn’t stop burning after five hours of melting snow in a little cup.

I left that hand out of the bag, and I didn’t need snow anymore.

After that first night, even though we didn’t have zip-together sleeping bags, we made it work to share heat. The best arrangement for us had the closed foot of one bag inside the closed foot of the other, then the two bags off-set a bit from each other, one past-center on the bottom, and one past-center over the top, so there was a bit of overlap on both sides.

On the colder nights we added our down coats on top, and kept our fleece jackets/long johns  on if we needed them.

What’s amazing to me is that my body really did adjust (it put on some weight, and maybe that had something to do with it). I actually stopped being cold all the time, and that was very impressive.


We woke up every morning, and worked every day, under a smoking volcano. There’s something very cool-sounding about that.


There was this awesome thing with the clouds the first few weeks we were here: they were low enough at times to see both the top and bottom simultaneously. The sunshine turned it gold on top, like a never-ending sunset, and the underside (because the light got to it indirectly) was like bleached cotton.  Coolest thing a camera could never capture.


Actually, that’s one of the main elements of Antarctica: the uselessness of cameras to convey the essence of the space. Because space is the essence.

One of the times we were out at one of the sensor sites where I was being Jay’s extra hands, and when we got to the “wait” part of the exercise, I returned to the snow machine, lay on my back the seat and looked up at the sky.

It was probably the same distance to the clouds as it was to the mountains, but because of the absence of anything that might be used to indicate scale, everything always looked “just a bit further” no matter how far we went.


The snow was the most mind-numbing exercise of all (and not in the ice cream headache/brain freeze way).

Our group’s first task once we got to camp was to pull and dig up all the equipment from a year’s accumulation of snow.

This was work, but it was measurable and finite with an established, working system and a fairly low learning curve.

What really got to me was starting out on pristine (far as the eye can see, diamond-shine) snow, digging down to the base of “the vault” (eight of these), being literally up to my eyeballs in a snowy pit, and thinking how the depth we’re all standing on was surface level just a year ago.

We walk around, pulling up equipment pipes and marking flags that are maybe two or three feet above ground, and reset them in the current snowpack, so they’re taller than me, and I stand behind the un-snowed vault (because there is literally no earth– to say we unearthed them– on the Ross Ice Shelf), head swimming at the understanding that I am walking on snow, sinking 2-6 inches in the fresh stuff, that will be five or six feet under the new top when next winter’s crew arrives to do it all again.

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 14) Oh the things I can’t say…


Pastors is interesting folks.

So is Doctors.

Image courtesy of Joseph Mankin via stock.xchng

Seems to me that they are trained (by their experience?) to question the motive and perceptions of anyone who comes to them.

I happen to have a very good track record and set of references that affirm my reliability as a narrator and communicator, but talking with a new doctor or a new pastor always leaves me shaken, because I have only met two (maaaybe three) in the last few years who treat me as though I know what I’m talking about.

Oh they’ll listen, they’ve all been decent at their core job (knowing what they’ve studied), but if I treated my interview sources the way these culturally respected individuals treat me… I don’t think anybody with decent self-esteem would give me a second interview.


We’re all special, unique snowflakes — just like everybody else.

Sure you think you’re the exception, but everyone does, so how do you know you really are if *everybody* thinks they’re the special one?

Well, study and statistics help a bit. That way when peeple sez you don’t know whatcher talkin about, you know you do. It doesn’t mean they’ll let you educate them, but it means they can’t un-educate you.

Which I’ve found is worth a surprising-lot.

It also helps to know what you expect (or want, or need) as the result of this specialness.

  • To be noticed?
    • Weeeelll, I think you’re still going to go out and do something cool.
  • To find extra help or understanding?
    • This is where it can get tricky, and all I can suggest to you is ask for it, and if that person acts like you’re too big for your britches, or you’re not worth their time (even if they’re a doctor or pastor), ask someone else.

And keep asking.


A: If you’re a jerk and don’t know it, things are always going to be hard for you (but harder for those around you).

B: If you’re not a jerk, you might still get treated like one for having different needs than the people around you want to meet, but you have every right to seek legitimate ways to meet your needs.


From Shiftless (not the best werewolf book I’ve ever read, but this got a reaction from me):

I’d spent the morning helping my stepmother prepare the day’s bread…. Later we hung sheets out on the line to dry… each task provided immediate gratification that had been lacking in my previous life. Now a traitorous part of my mind told me that perhaps my father had my best interests at heart all along – maybe this simple women’s work was what I’d been born for…

Which reminded me of the very worst part of my voluntary incarceration. I was beginning to understand how to be content here…

My hands went cold when I read that bit. It felt scary and familiar, and not because I don’t think bread-making a worthy art.

It was disturbing because I heard a similar message for a long time, that this small sphere of action and love should be enough to satisfy me. If it didn’t feel like enough, that proved some defect of character in me. A flaw in my spirituality. A misunderstanding of my identity.

Image courtesy of Cris Watk via stock.xchng

I would get tired, often, of the unending nature of treading water, trying to rise above or “escape” its confinement.

Occasionally I would surrender, hold my breath, and just let the water, this limited world, cradle me – I could feel the relief of rest, believe for a time that there was nothing else I was made for.

It was peaceful.

So peaceful.

But I am a creature of air and of light. Though I can paddle when I must, I was not made to live underwater.

A huge part of my growth and peace has come from finding different times and places and ways to meet my needs along with my family’s. And to trust that sick feeling that warns me I’ve swallowed too much seawater.


Years ago I attended a seminar that was aimed largely at “middle class” folks who wanted to help people “stuck in poverty.” Part of the presentation included examples of how different classes responded to common experiences.

For example, food. Each class has a question about food that is either irrelevant or secondary to the others:

  • The poor: “Is there enough?”
  • Middle class: “Does it taste good?”
  • The rich: “Is it pretty?”

The presenter gave six or eight sets of examples before someone asked, “Why are you bringing in ‘rich people’? None of us here is rich.”

She smiled like she’d been waiting for the question and said, “The way you feel about that ‘rich’ category, that their assumptions are unnecessary – and maybe even a little ridiculous – that is the extravagance of the middle class to the truly poor. You have to understand this gap in mindset and definitions of a good life if you are really going to reach them.”

I don’t know about anybody else, but (while I have a heart that burns when I look at the effects of poverty and racism) I seem to have such a hard time finding and figuring out my culture, I’m terrified at trying to “reach out” to those unlike me.

This is not about “comfort zone.” I am uncomfortable all. the. time.

This is me recognizing I’m clueless, and have no point of reference to turn around (as with an understanding of grammar when learning a new language) and have a framework to start from.

Maybe that is an unwarranted fear. Maybe “I don’t need anything but love,” but since even love takes different forms, I’m thinking, no.  I don’t know what it is, but I need some kind of starting place.


Most people are not logical.

This is why logic is something that actually needs to be taught.

But most people think they are logical.

It’s rather like “specialness” that way.

In the 1970s (according to the book Thinking Fast and Slow) researcher-types based their hypotheses on the assumption that human beings are fundamentally logical in their thinking and behavior.

After a few decades of studies, researchers don’t think that way anymore.

To say someone is not logical comes across as an insult, but really, it’s a bit like belittling a horse by saying it has no opposable thumbs.

It is a pejorative statement, but it references an inherent limitation that can (in theory) be worked with, or got around.

For example, don’t create a situation where you need a horse to peel an orange.

(Okay, that implies people can’t even learn to be logical, which isn’t my ultimate point– but it still makes me laugh after a dozen passes, so I’m keeping the image.)

I wish someone had told me this sooner. I might not have lost so much time trying to understand how complementarians and bible literalists can display more conviction than their reasoning supports.

I really used to think I was missing something.


Maybe because I am personally safe from the dangers connected with poverty and racism, this is what threatens me the most:

Religious people of influence who claim both to offer women freedom in the church (involvement opportunities, leadership responsibilities, and “we’ll listen to you” responses, so your run away as fast as you can radar doesn’t go off) but restrict women from the highest roles that would include teaching men because, OBVZ: the Bible says no right here!

This actually scares me, because it tends to come from people who highly value the Word of God, and yet contains inconsistencies.  “Plain reading” of scripture also has women wearing headcoverings as a sign of their godliness, women being fully silent in church, and women not communicating with any male she’s not related to. Stuff these generous people don’t emphasize.

I have asked multiple conservative Christian leaders:

What safeguards are in place to prevent bible-lovers from becoming more restrictive in their application of plain scripture?!

This is a question that has literally kept me awake at night when trying to navigate new church environments, and it is the major element that turned me away from the complementarian view I embraced most of my life, practically pushing me into being egalitarian instead.


1 Timothy 2:12 is the main verse used in opposition to the idea of women in all levels of leadership, and I love what this guy points out:

“This one verse is the lynchpin in the entire complementarian argument, [but] it is an important principle of interpretation that we NOT build entire systems of theology upon a single verse.”

(He addresses another biggie from 1 Corinthians, too.)

Image courtesy of Piotr Bizior via stock.xchng

And for the people who say (as has been said to my face) that “plain-scripture” is what we should live by, and if you need to “interpret” a passage to get to your meaning, that invalidates the argument (makes the explainer not worth listening to) — please read 1 Peter 3:21.

I’ll remove the suspense: it plainly says that baptism saves us, which protestants don’t believe because we give more emphasis to other passages of scripture.

This is the way of all Christians — including those who will or won’t affirm women at all levels of church leadership: we have a gut sense of right and wrong, we take it to the bible, and let that sense be informed and deepened (and I hope corrected) by what we read and study.

There are still a whole lotta Catholics, many who are really neat people and I’m thankful to know them. In the same way I expect there will always be people who (in good conscience) never accept women as affirmed by God to lead.

I continue to pray my daughters won’t marry one of them, and my son never becomes one. This because the attitude that allows you to look at gender before spiritual gifting is an invitation to quench the Spirit of God at work in an individual.

I don’t question that we are all believers (till someone crosses the line that excuses abuse).

I do think that Catholics are Christian, too, but I can’t make the full leap, “convert,” and be one of them. They believe/emphasize certain things that I cannot affirm, and that would actually undermine my faith and practice if I were to embrace them.

This same awareness is why I am (and teach my children to be) egalitarian, and, in a nutshell, that’s why I left my old church.

Busy Mind, Busy Life (Reading Notes)

Image courtesy of Timo Balk via stock.xchng

Jay got home Friday after a month away.

I’m starting to feel re-stablized, and ready to pick up whole books again. But this has been an interesting month of idea collecting (along with overwhelm…).

Every now-and-then I think I might start an INFJ blog, but then I do a bit of Googling and see there’s scads out there, and they make me notice more of my ENTP side, so I refrain from publicly claiming a “type” anymore.

For the most part.

But, for all you intuitive types who find yourself stuck between the “real world” of details and the “more equal” world of your thoughts and discoveries I will give you a peek into some of what my month of (blogging) silence has been steeped in.

It always seems like a crazy-huge variety while I’m reading and collecting, but sitting down in the (relative) peace and quiet of a school-isn’t-started-yet morning, I find a few broad headings can umbrella the frequent settings of my thoughts.

Even so, rabbit-trail chasers: you’ve been warned.

Body Thoughts

Writing Thoughts

Thoughts on Story/telling

Thoughts on Being/Belief/Behavior

From Sarah Bessey: We use words like “true” and “real” in reference to womanhood or motherhood or marriage, and I think it’s wrong to do this.

We use these words like they are freeing or universal or helpful, but they are forging new chains for a new law.  There is no such thing as “real” woman or a “real” man. If you are a man, you are a real man. If you are a woman, you are a real woman.

In an Unspoken Voice is based on the idea that trauma is neither a disease nor a disorder, but rather an injury caused by fright, helplessness and loss that can be healed by engaging our innate capacity to self-regulate high states of arousal and intense emotions.

Such an encouraging, hope-offering thought.

Thoughts on Book-Reading

I’ve signed up for Net Galley‘s reading & reviewing program, so I’m excited to make Reading Notes a more consistent feature here at Untangling Tales. My favorite non-fiction titles are about mental and physical health, and how they intersect with every-day life. The fact that these books are being written, and that they’re available to me = lots of warm-fuzzies.

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 13): Life is working. Even though it’s Work.

So, to follow-up after that peaceful, grateful post about Rest, I realized it’s been a long time since I made a list of the stuff I’m engaged in. When it turned out to be seven distinct items, and I realized it was Friday, I knew I needed to jump back to Jen’s 7 Quick Takes Friday this week.

Here’s my “life activity list” the list in roughly the order of time consumed:

~ 1 ~

Managing the food.

It still feels weird to say this takes the most time.

I think this is because– judging by our stories: novels, movies, anecdotes among friends– food is invisible.  It just happens. I wish I lived in that sort of house/body. But I don’t.)

~ 2 ~

Managing the household and extras

Technically this ties back into the food, since food makes dishes.

Basically anything I have to wash clean or put away, along with the animals and outdoor work.

Now that the snow’s melted I am discovering all sorts of new work…

And honestly, it’s a toss-up about whether #1 or #2 takes more time.

~ 3 ~

Teaching the kids.

Reading, writing and arithmetic are the emphasis, but we also read novels along with books of science, history and whatever else strikes our fancy.

As I have more energy I also hope to do more management-training (items from the previous categories).  Currently I do most of that stuff because the *extra* required to get someone else into doing certain jobs is the extra I don’t have.

~ 4 ~

On-line Stuff.

Reading and writing and listening to music on-line (YouTube). Keeping up with some TV shows on Hulu (Castle, Bones, and Body of Proof).

~ 5 ~

Off-Line Stuff

Reading and writing and listening to music not-on-line.

My current goal is to swap these last two categories in terms of time.

I’ve had a surge of progress on my 2010 NaNo novel, and taken on a reading challenge that has forced me to look hard at what and why I read. I hope it will inform what I write.

~ 6 ~

Fiber work

On the edges of my life (and usually away from home).

I have the knitting I do a couple hours every Sunday morning (during the sermon and Sunday school), and the hand-spinning I do when I’m going to be semi-on-display. Continue reading »

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 12)

Pockets of things to say, and hey it’s Friday. Thanks Jen!


My last 7QT on Untangling Tales was over a year ago. And yeah, a lot’s changed.  But that’s not what today is about.


The snow has officially melted here at our new house, and we’re finding all sorts of new work along with the expected stuff.

  • Expected stuff:
    • Maintaining house
    • Teaching children
    • preparing food for daily living
    • unpacking shed so we can make it into a garage for this winter
  • Discovered stuff
    • Painting cabin interior
    • building shelves for cabin
    • digging a run-off channel to divert seasonal flooding*
    • Cleaning out the junk yard behind the shed
    • building some sort of fox-proof duck run outdoors

* designates DS actually completed

Continue reading »

7 Quick-Takes (Vol. 10)

Another brain-dump thanks to Jenn’s lovely idea at Conversion Diary.

Enough on my mind I did two this week (another one at Family News)

~ ~ 1 ~ ~

The novel.  I am closer and closer.  It’s constantly on my mind– almost like nesting.  Which I hate, in theory.

~ ~ 2 ~ ~

Someday I want to write down what I’ve been describing as the “math” of the story.  This is composed of several elements, but math just seems like the best word so far:

  • The way each event after the inciting event needs to be precipitated by something that came before (nothing is random in a well-done story)
  • The weaving of view points, physical (story) location, and story lines to maintain or increase tension
  • The awareness of time and space as part of the storylogic.

~ ~ 3 ~ ~

Love it and can’t use it–So onto the blog it goes.

This moment takes place before the scene (in the final version) actually starts– so it won’t appear in the novel.

Kennett felt the blood stop flowing to his hand as they saw a silhouette rise between them and the fire. Torbjorn had clasped his arm, for the figure approaching was obviously female. And unaccompanied.

It’s the moment the brothers have been hunkered down and waiting for– thinking they’ll collect more information about the kidnapped wife, and now it appears she herself is being sent toward their hiding place.

It doesn’t really work as a scene any more, because it was written in the traditional light/darkness cycle farther from the arctic circle, and I’m telling you no one is walking about in the dark of June.  Especially since the closest you find is going to be between 1 and 3 a.m.

~ ~ 4 ~ ~

I have a bunch of cassettes I’ve been picking up from thrift stores and I’m working at “digitizing” them now– recording them onto the computer so that I can snip them into individual songs and have (legal) digital copies to mix and make playlists on my iPod.

Cassettes are 50-cents, so buying one for a single song is much better than a $4 CD (For that I’ll buy by the song alone) and *fabulous* when I like multiple songs.

(I’ve mentioned before I create playlists that capture a character’s personality throughout its evolution.  Usually on YouTube, because it’s free, but lately– especially as the songs most important to me have become unavailable– I’ve begun buying them.)

~ ~ 5 ~ ~

Picked up the 10th Anniversary “special edition” Pride and Predudice BBC production + how-we-did-it book for $5.50 Tuesday.  Watched my favorite scenes from the 2005 version to compare styles.

There’s a point when Darcy comes to visit Elizabeth and makes a comment about some women liking to be farther away from home/their mothers once they’re married.

“You for example, wouldn’t mind being so far from [home].”

And I couldn’t tell if it were a question or an observation, but I whooped, calling Jay over to listen to the line.

Before we were engaged (sometime in April, I believe) Jay asked me if I thought I could be happy anywhere but Fairbanks.  I went to my mom that same night and told her (in high anxiety) I expected a proposal soon. (“Are you sure you’re not just borrowing trouble?” she asked, and I told her his question.)


The funny part is that Jay was trying to feel me out for a proposal, but thought he was being so subtle and clever, trying to go under my radar.

Anyway, because of that event there was no subtle or casual way for me to read that observation of Darcy’s.

~ ~ 6 ~ ~

Trying to determine the level of PDA for my novel has been an interesting exercise.

Back when I was firmly resisting any idea of “seriousness” in my relationship with Jay, I always wondered if my parents cuddled more right before my visits with him in order to make me more wistful and willing to be snugly myself.

Because if that was their goal it worked.

~ ~ 7 ~ ~

Came across a new way of writing a teaser, and based on that (“First 25-pages”) model, this is what mine looks like (Sorry Becky for sending it to you already– I forgot I had 7QTF to set this out for.)

For my almost-finished (again) work, The Sarsé’s Lindorm:

When Linnea faces the grey-skinned man unearthing her father’s coffin, she has no idea it is about a knife. When Tykone uses that knife to attack a dragon-like snake, the lindorm, he has no idea he’s wounding a missing prince. And the perfect Prince Torbjorn, who believes he is to inherit the throne, has no idea when he dutifully goes off to wed his arranged bride that she might have to train Linnea to be queen in her place. The grey-skinned stranger guesses, only he has come North to leave behind the world of magic in the hot lands.

But evil magic has followed him—and under the unsetting sun of summer it will seek new entertainment. And revenge.

Naturally the reason I give it is for suggestions/feedback, so feel free to share your wisdom (or opinions, if that’s all you have to offer ;) ).

I really hate the word “revenge”.  I know it is a real and frequent motivator, but any time a read a description like the one I just gave you, I roll my eyes (feel free to tell me you didn’t).

Blessings on your day!

For more 7 Quick Takes visit Jen’s Conversion Diary

Other 7 Quick Takes on Untangling Tales

7 Quick-Takes (Vol. 9)

~ ~ 1 ~ ~

Last time I “taked” I felt wobbly about specializing.

This week  I embraced the gift it is.

All my life I’ve felt pulled between all the things I love and all the things I do well, and it was only recently I released most of them to consciously focus on writing as my first (extra-curricular) priority.

On Tuesday I lived a day that reminded me of the turmoil I used to live in my trying to do everything.  It was energizing and exciting… and nothing got done in my home.  My children played more with other people than with me.  Okay for a day, but I wouldn’t want to live this way.


I am so thankful for the opportunity God provided to let the other things go.

~ ~ 2 ~ ~

Fertility in fiction.  You ever wonder why there isn’t any?

I played with the idea of a closer-to-natural fertility in my novel.

That is, I sat down with my time line and two major families then calculated how many children they ought to have with normal health in a pre-birth-control era.  This quickly became overwhelming by sheer numbers and I turned evil-god and gave one family a bad marriage and the other miscarriages.

They still ended up with 5 and 7 births, respectively, but it was good practice in understanding why so many stories center around 1- and 2- children families.  I no longer am certain those choices strictly reflect a lower view of large families.  Rather, I see it as an example of something most novelists wrestle with–simplicity enough not to drown.

~ ~ 3 ~ ~

Does anybody here remember Colby? This is the sort of music I grew up on.

At my mom’s yesterday I played the record for my kids.  The “computer” elements have not aged well, but the music and the clear communication of foundational messages is still *solid*.  The music caught my emotional memory in ways I never expected, and reminded me of how much I wished I could play piano– I can’t think of another way one person can teach two-part harmony.

The sweet two-part harmonies are the exact thing I want to teach my kids and their Sunday school class.  If you ever hear of this being re-issued on CD, let me know.  I have some scruples about giving away copies of recordings, so I haven’t done that, but I wish I could get “Make a joyful noise” into every home in our little church.

~ ~ 4 ~ ~

Tonight I’ll be going to a “ladies’ retreat.”  I’ll be overnight away from home, sans kids, husband and novel.

*What* am I going to do with myself???

Is it too much to hope that I’ll get good sleep?

~ ~ 5 ~ ~

I’m considering joining Weight Watchers.  I have several friends who’ve spoken well of it and the structure it provides.

My resistance comes from the cost and the reality that I– in theory at least– already know what to do, so paying someone to *watch* me do it seems weird.  It makes me think of what my mom says about those who have that gastric-bypass surgery: “If they can change the way they eat afterward, why not before?” (I’ve been told reasons, but they’re pretty gross)

~ ~ 6 ~ ~

I haven’t been reading much since I started this last revision, but on one level I see this as a basic defense.  For me, reading (beyond the recreation and enjoyment of it) is to gather input and ideas for my own work.  At this exact moment I am not in a conscious idea-gathering stage and don’t want to be distracted from the “basic clean-up” I’m working on completing.

Honestly, if there is some huge structural flaw, or major twist or revision that needs to be worked in, I am not in a mental/emotional state to apply it, so I’d rather not increase my awareness just now.  I’ll re-engage after I send this out.

~ ~ 7 ~ ~

I have a stack of “animal-transformation” novels I’m working my way through (in the not-this-minute sense).  Also found an interesting book  called The Beast and the Blond with a chapter about animal transformations and the difference between males and females with the affliction.

All sorts of assumptions and discussions about the differences between male and female troubles and attitudes.

Fascinating stuff this.  To me.

For more 7 Quick Takes visit Jen’s Conversion Diary

Other 7 Quick Takes on Untangling Tales

7 Quick-Takes (Vol. 8)

~ ~ 1 ~ ~

I’ve specialized.

It is a recent realization, and just now that feels a great deal like saying I’ve “settled.”

I’m beginning to understand that 50-, or 70- or 80- year old who says they still feel like they’re 20 (or 40).  I feel like I know things.  And on some level I always will.  But I’ve got to realize I’ve gotten beyond being equally wonderful at everything I do.

On one level that should be a good thing– because it illustrates that I have committed to and developed something, that I’m no longer a “jack (Jane) of all trades master of none.”

I see I have a distinct edge in writing over all these other areas, and the (should be) obvious result means I need to expect not to be as good everywhere as I am in my best subject.

But I still feel like that 50-something guy who, from his 45-degree angle of pain, was advising my 30-something husband: “Once you hit 50– don’t try to keep doing it all.”

And I keep thinking, I ought to be able to do all this.

Sorry, Mike, if you’re reading this.  That low-ceilinged room with its mediocre florescent lighting *really* sapped my confidence when it comes to being a good photographer.  I can’t help thinking if I did pictures like I do writing I would have figured out some solution.

~ ~ 2 ~ ~

Finished an absolutely perfect-for-now book this week: The Healer’s Keep.  The reasons I liked it are listed on my reading page.  (If you’re not following the progress of my novel those specific details probably won’t interest you.

I’ll take no offense ;) .

~ ~ 3 ~ ~

We are looking at a record-breaking snowfall in the last 24/36 hours.

I know 9-inches isn’t much compared to what has been happening elsewhere, but Fairbanks is essentially a semi-desert in terms of precipitation, so this is unique for here.

And maybe it counts as unique that there’s no such thing as a “snow day”  here; no days off of school or work because of the snow, even today.   (Though we have had ice days in the past.)

~ ~ 4 ~ ~

I got to hold a little baby last Sunday.

I wondered if I’d get “baby fever” or feel sated in some way, but neither happened.  I got to enjoy a little person, give Mama’s arms a break and was ready to return him when Daddy came to collect.

I was surprised to think it was the first baby I’ve held for long since Elisha was born, and this sort of makes sense; I would have been holding (or resting from holding) him up till now.

~ ~ 5~ ~

My novel wants to grow again, but I’m trying to be very selective about how much I allow.

I told Jay I was uncomfortable with 87,200 jumping so quickly to 96,000 and he blandly observed that “It’s gotten long enough to be a real novel now.”


My background in journalism makes me inherently mistrustful of increasing word-counts.  So this has been an. . . interesting process

I cut more than 1,000 words last night, and felt relieved to do so.  It was growing too fast with all the storylines getting added back in.

That said, I’ve just remembered another section that will (in some form) get added back in.  A useful “misunderstanding” scene (in the RomCom tradition), that is resolved before the end of the scene but creates more problems even as it’ s resolved.

Worth keeping according to my math.

It’s funny, too (at least to me), and I should snatch up anything I can in that department.

~ ~ 6 ~ ~

My home has been maintained in remarkably good order for more than a week now, but I felt very tired yesterday and almost couldn’t do the upkeep.  My own desk area is totally trashed– books and papers piled everywhere– and I’m finding that very draining.

I like having books to hand (there’s a whole shelf six inches from my left elbow), and looking at a cover while I type about the book is only natural, but I have always derived a sense of calm from open spaces and my perfect nook begins to feel too small in this state.

~ ~ 7 ~ ~

This week I’ve talked with the kids about definitions.

  • Like the term help, as in, “Can I help, Mommy?”

We have completely different understandings of that word.

To them it means, What you’re doing looks like more fun than what I’m doing.  I want to do it too.

To me it means I expect to get something useful out of your action (Even if it’s simply a teaching opportunity).


So when they say “I want to help,” and I say, “Great, you can do X,” they might fall apart with, “But I want to do Y!

If it’s not time for Y, or Y is distinctly too complex for the askers, they’re not willing to hear it; and I won’t budge for whining.

  • All their lives I’ve used the phrase Low voice to convey what I want from them audibly.

That is, I don’t just want an “indoor voice,” I want to train them to speak also with a lower pitch.  Well, somewhere along the line our expectations have missed each other, and they’ve stopped hearing the bit about pitch.

And when I’d say quiet, they’d translate that as quiet*er*.  The whole thing was making me nuts, really.

I’m not on the phone much, so when I am, I expect the kids to let me talk and save their non-blood issues till I’m off.  I’ll say quiet, and while they’ll stop shouting at me, they’ll not quit talking.

So finally, today I lined them up, made them keep all eyes on me and I catechized them on the difference between Low voice and Quiet.

Haven’t had opportunity to test it yet (like I said, I’m not on the phone much) but I expect we’ll review today– along with pitch.

It is a bit embarrassing to be constantly reminded that, well, constant reminders are useful.

One theory I have on this is that every time something is repeated or reinforced, it’s digging that synaptic path a bit deeper into its groove, making more and more likely to stick.  I hear (read) this is what happens when a kid is learning to walk: they do the same thing over and over and over until the brain takes over and just does all the complex work so well  the walker no longer remembers how complex the process of upright movement really is.


I am really looking forward to the times when certain elements of behavior are blessedly thoughtless.

For me and the children.

For more 7 Quick Takes visit Jen’s Conversion Diary

Other 7 Quick Takes on Untangling Tales

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 7)

~ ~ 1 ~ ~

On Wednesday I was up early and knew I was close to finishing my story.  I felt as restless as a cat looking for a place to have her kittens.  I was agitated at not being able to finish what was so close, and ended up cleaning the whole house.

As in: the whole. house.

  • Both bathrooms
  • all the floors
  • playroom
  • bedrooms
  • laundry washed
  • 3 dishwashers run and emptied

I had called and griped to Jay earlier in the day: frustrated at having to wait, and very close to nagging at him to give me more time.  When he came home he was more than impressed.

He took the kids the rest of the evening and it was that night I reached my ending.

~ ~ 2 ~ ~

With a clean house I am a better mom.

Yesterday I let the kids paint until their projects filled the whole table with their drying.  Today I could say yes when they asked to use playdough.

When the house is cluttered (and stuff is dried on the table) I never let them use all the cool stuff I’ve collected for them to use.   So this has been fun.

I read aloud more when the house is clean, too.  I’ve just, well, like I said, been a better mom.

~ ~ 3 ~ ~

Jay and I give the children our one-sided pages for their artwork.  Yesterday on the back of their painting I found a page of my original-original novel (as in, I couldn’t find the passage until I went back to my roughest draft) that addresses an issue I’m working out now.

Namely, how to make the Hero more interesting than his foil.

It also brings in a secondary character who (I’d made a note about) needed to be introduced earlier for better context.  I read the back of the paper with great interest, making mental notes about where it belonged and what to change.

When I came back out of my office/bedroom I saw Natasha turn over the painting and read the page.  I started loading the dishwasher and she looked up, startled.  “Is this from one of your stories?” she asked.

~ ~ 4 ~ ~

I’ve fallen off the wagon.

That is, I’m buying books again.

It started innocently enough, as it did last year: buying for the children’s schooling.  Then finding several $2 books that I really wanted for my reference shelf (analyzing folk and fairy tales) then picking up the used books that fit my collection, just because they were available and would cost twice as much new.

Once I’d gotten that far I just shrugged and figured I’d blown it.  So I’m back to normal.

And normal’s okay for me.  I guess that’s what makes it normal.

~ ~ 5 ~ ~

Having just returned a couple weeks ago from my uncle’s memorial service, I am thrown for another loop by the news of another man in his early 50s who died just last night.  One of the deacons in our little church.

We got a call as the hospital was doing CPR, and I was shaken by the horrid feeling that I was entering that new life-stage I had only vaguely been aware of 5 years ago, where you start watching friends die.

I remember being delighted with the awareness that I was so much in the “adult” group now that I was making friends with other adults– some old enough to be my parents.  Sure I’d been friendly with adults my whole life, but it was like they always knew they were doing me a favor (or that I was doing them one) because we weren’t of the same clan.

And now the down-side.  I get to outlive people I love.

Really stinks.

Then I have to wonder what it was like for my Grandpa living longer than many of his friends or, like I’m reading about just now in Numbers, the Israelites loosing a whole generation (a good million people I’ve heard it estimated) in 40 years, and that would be around 68 deaths a day.

So I get a little perspective (“Everybody dies,” my girls chirrup every time we watch Enchanted), and I’m not nearly as morose.  But I’m still sad, and I think that’s okay.

Paul said we need to know the truth about those who die, “so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.”  But I take that to mean not that we won’t grieve, but that we will grieve with hope.

We grieve for ourselves, and our loss– and while realizing that makes me feel incredibly selfish, it’s not really going to change my behavior much, other than I’m trying to shift my feelings to think more of the family and their loss: recognizing whatever I feel is nothing compared to them.

~ ~ 6 ~ ~

When my dad’s dad died I was 14.  The thing I remember most is watching my parents from the back seat– my mom’s hand on my dad’s leg as we drove the unfamiliar town my where my Papa had lived.  And the words my mom used to describe that time.

I don’t know when I actually heard them, but they’ve defined my feelings so many times:

You see that pain someone is feeling, and you start to put yourself there, wanting to share their loss, or understand what they’re feeling– but it’s too much.  It’s too painful, and you have to pull back.

~ ~ 7 ~ ~

I’ve been comparing European fairy tales and Greek myths this week (looking at episodes from The Storyteller series is what prompted this chain of thought).

And have you noticed none of the Greek myths really end well?  Really.  I can’t think of one that ends well (feel free to correct me).

I began thinking that this could have something to do with Christ.

The Greek stories all pre-date him, and center on a time when the best men could hope for or imagine was more powerful versions of themselves.  Humans felt knocked about by the world and never knew where or how they would land.  Human folly irreparably destroying lives.

The fairy tales, by contrast, have just as much folly and trial and tears, but rooted in a world where the Church had gained great influence there is always the founded hope that the end will come ’round right.

This relief of “happily ever after” (or at least, an ending moment of peace– which is more common if you actually run the numbers) is what ties me so tightly to the Tales I love.

To me it is a reflection of the hope and promise of heaven: that after enduring all trials, through obedience and because of a power beyond ourselves, we have the assurance that will never again be alone or in need.

It is a hope big enough to carry us through every pain and loss.

For more 7 Quick Takes visit Jen’s Conversion Diary

Other 7 Quick Takes on Untangling Tales

7 Quick Takes: Indoor Living Edition

Unlike many Alaskans I equate “wintertime” with “indoor time.”  So with that as a theme here’s a look at my extreme indoor week (season).  Figuring largely is the classic case of knowing what you ought to do, if not necessarily how.

~ ~ 1. Meals ~ ~

We’ve gone through 3 gallons of milk this week.  Jay told me that is normal, but this is the first time in recent memory it’s been three fresh gallons.  I hadn’t really noticed if this was our rate before.

I’ve been trying to use stuff off our shelves– canned, dried and frozen stuff– so meal-planning has taken longer.  I’ve twice this week fallen back to “stand-bys” like sandwiches and frozen foods.  Since these don’t have left-overs I used our huge supply of beans to make a chili for Jay’s lunches.

The bonus with this system is that I don’t have to eat beans– or make my kids eat something I’m not interested in eating myself.  Definitely going to remember this.

~ ~ 2. Dog ~ ~

With a high-energy dog like my Lab, being stuck indoors can be a little tense.  I was thankful to see that she’s not the type to beg for walks at -40°, but even without wanting to be outside her spring is still tightly wound.

She’s been gaining weight for about a month and a half now (short-hand for “no-exercise”) and while she’s done well up till now I feel she might be reaching her limit.

Fortunately I just got re-motivated to focus on her training, and I’m told that should help.

~ ~ 3. Children ~ ~

The kids are actually easier to keep entertained than the dog, especially when you add movies to the mix.  Jay has a T.V. tuner in his computer and a series of programs he combines to record certain Saturday morning cartoons and remove the comercials.

The delightful result is a collection of sweet and fun options without the discontent- and consumer-training interruptions.  Other activities:

  • Games
    • Risk– I can’t stand it, but Jay plays with Natasha– essentially by playing himself but letter her move the pieces.  She feels so grown-up and is *thrilled* when she wins.
    • Rummikub is one I like better.  Practices pre-math skills like grouping, matching and sequencing.  Not that I thought of that before we started.  It’s just the game that has the best memories for me.
  • Running.  Yes, seriously.
    • I think every house with kids should have a kitchen island.  Before nap-time a couple days ago we put on some “wild” music (some high-energy stuff from Riverdance) and chased each other around for a chunk of time before storytime.  Totally confused the dog, but the children and I found it head-clearing.

~ ~ 4. Exercise ~ ~

The running is some of the only activity I’ve done in the last week.  Despite all my options… (here comes the YBH: yes but how) finding other elements of my day more important and engaging just crowds this out.

I find once I start I enjoy all sorts of things that work well in my living room:

  • Pilaties
  • Free weights
  • Running (with the kids– as I already mentioned)
  • Indoor walking (silly concept, but okay for what it is)

~ ~ 5. Housekeeping ~ ~

Being confined to house makes maintaining the home a higher priority.  We’ve been working at this since Christmas and I’ve been relieved at how we’ve been doing.

Having a solid half of our clothes outdoors has helped with this, along with the rearranging that gave the kids an area to play, and (more important) a place for everything to go.

Vacuuming is remarkably easier with floors kept clear… but yesterday I began bringing in bags of things and putting them away.  Having the drawers full again makes me realize how *much* we have, and what we were able to (almost comfortably) live without.

If things get harder to keep up with we might have to think about thining back again.

~ ~ 6. Writing ~ ~

Writing has simply got to be the easiest hobby for mothers, and I’m so glad to have it.

  • There’s no clean-up
  • You can work on it while you do pretty much anything else
  • It can be both a means of escape and remembrence– two contradictery things I appreciate as a mother
  • You’re already used to sleeping less because of your true children, so staying up for a beloved project seems only natural

~ ~ 7. Other fun indoor things we’ve done ~ ~

  • Music (both to make and to listen to)
  • Playdough
  • Baking
  • ***Reading***
    • We want to see if we can work through every children’s book in the house before the end of winter.  At least, that’s how I pitched it.  My ulterier motive is to provoke new favorites so I’m not reading the same dozen all the time.
  • Crafts
    • stamping
    • card-making
    • anything with scissors paint or glue (though these I seriously limit)
  • Including the kids in dog-training (a whole new dynamic, there)

More 7 Quick Takes At Jen’s blog.

7 Quick Takes on Untangling Tales