This is my personal blog, on which I talk about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy. Some topics are serious, others whimsical. I love comments and questions so don't be shy, just courteous, even if you don't agree with me. I have another blog, The Story Template, on which I post writing-related topics on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Let's see, a bit about me... I'm married with two children, and spend much time taking care of our family. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research. I am a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. I also have written a nonfiction book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This book is a programmed learner-type book that helps you, the writer, develop a complete compelling story (novel or screenplay) from a vague idea.

YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Monday, March 25, 2013

What Losing 180 Pounds Really Does to Your Body — & Your Mind by Jen Larsen

Folks, I found this a fascinating article. Hope you enjoy it.

posted here: http://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/losing-180-pounds-really-does-body-8212-160-163900419.html


Jen Larsen is a fiercely real, funny, and honest writer. In her new book, Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head, she explains how losing 180 pounds and getting skinny wasn't all she thought it would be. Here, in an essay for R29, she explains what it's like to live through surgery - with unexpected results.

The doctor said, "It'll be nice to be able to walk down the aisle of an airplane, right? To fit down the aisle, and to not see that look of horror when someone sees you coming."

He said that because I weighed 300 pounds. He said that because he thought that all I wanted in life was to not be that creeping horror, shuffling sideways to the back of the plane, trying not to make eye contact with anyone because I didn't want to see their relief when I passed by. Trying not to make eye contact with the person in my row because I didn't want to see horror, and I really didn't want to see pity, and I really didn't want someone to lean over and explain to me that I was fat and that there are things I could do about it. Like water and jogging, or carrots and the Thighmaster.

He said that like it was a fact about all fat people. All fat people hate themselves. All fat people know that what's good in life is really only accessible to thin people. Thin is the most important variable in of life's equations. Thin equals happy, thin equals beautiful, thin equals a life worth living.

The most embarrassing fact of my life - and oh, how many embarrassing facts there are in my life - is that it was true. I was angry at him for saying it, for buying into the cliché of the fat person. For assuming that my life would transform immediately. Because he was saying all the things I had secretly thought. He was reinforcing all the secret fantasies I had about the way everything about me would be more amenable and lovable and acceptable to the whole rest of the world. To everyone on airplanes and everyone in my life. To myself. When I lost all the weight. When I got weight loss surgery.

He was my psychological consultant, the doctor who was tasked with clearing me for surgery. He signed off my mental and emotional fitness to get a surgery that I genuinely believed was going to save my life. Not just physically - though I was actually healthy - but emotionally.

And, three months later I got weight loss surgery. Seven months later I had lost over a hundred pounds; a year and a half from my surgery date, I had lost about 180 pounds. I lost a lot of things along with the weight. I lost my sense of self. My sense of proportion. My sense of dignity, of maturity, of control. I was skinny, but my life wasn't suddenly and magically perfect-and that completely astonished me. It sounds ridiculous, having really fallen for the fairy tale of weight loss. But I had fallen for it completely, and then was blinded by the egregious lack of a happily ever after.

The nature of the weight loss surgery I got is that you can completely ignore the things the doctors tell you to do. They say, exercise, don't drink, don't smoke, eat well. And you don't bother to do any of that, but still lose weight. You still lose every pound you want to lose, and then some.

The problem was that I lost all those pounds, but I didn't have to change a thing about my self. I didn't have to address any of the emotional or psychological issues. I didn't have to figure out why I had been depressed - why I was still so, so depressed, despite the fact that the one thing I thought had been ruining my life was suddenly gone.

I was skinny, finally, and I was fascinated by the physicality of it. It was like my skeleton had floated up to the surface from the bottom of a murky pond. I had muscles and tendons and bones and in the shower I'd soap the ridges of my ribs, the knobs of my hipbones, and be amazed to make their acquaintance. It wasn't pretty-I lost so much weight that I didn't look like myself, and then I lost past that, to the point where I looked like a sick stranger. Briefly, I was a size two. Sometimes I was disappointed that I couldn't be a size zero.

It doesn't go away, you see. I thought that my body was wrong when I was obese; I thought my body was wrong when I was thin past the point of health. I thought there was something wrong with my body whatever I looked like, because there's always just one more thing to fix before I look perfect, feel good in bed with hands on my body, feel sexy in a dress or a bathing suit, feel comfortable in my skin.

I felt helpless before. I tried to dodge out of the feeling by getting weight loss surgery, and now I'm angry. That I wasn't fixed, yes. But also that so many people deal with this, this exact and pervasive struggle at whatever size they are, whatever shape, whatever they do. That we're not good enough, with the implication that the best we have to offer to the world is an appropriately sized pair of jeans.

Magazine articles about body image talk about loving yourself despite your flaws. Sometimes they get really radical and they talk about loving yourself because of your flaws, and that is supposed to be empowering. And it makes me mad, because we're talking about flaws here. A body that doesn't look like the body of a Victoria's Secret model is a flawed factory reject. My thighs aren't the thighs of a figure skater, so they're not good enough, but I should love the flubby little things anyway because I am so incredibly self-compassionate.

I want this: I want to say, don't love yourself even though you're not perfect - love yourself because you have a body and it's worth loving and it is perfect. Be healthy, which is perfect at whatever size healthy is and at whatever size happy is. And of course that's totally easy and I have just caused a revolution in body image. Let's all go home now.

Right. So, I don't know what the answer is, and I don't know how to make it happen, and I don't know what to do except keep yelling about it, wherever I can. Saying there's no magic number, and there's no perfect size - and of course you know that, but we have to keep telling each other because it's hard to remember sometimes. We have to keep saying it. We have to figure out how to believe it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mom's Stories Told in Six Words

In the 1920s Ernest Hemmingway was offered a bet. Write a full story in just six words. He won the bet with: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

A few years back, inspired by this story, Smith, an online magazine, challenged its readers to submit their life story in just six words.

Reader submissions poured in and before long, a collection of six-word memoirs was published. “Not Quite What I Was Planning” was full of poignant, funny, sad, and moving short – very short pieces. Smith published several more versions, which included the work of well known authors, artists, musicians, as well as unknown people. Some favorites: “MISSING: One backbone. Reward if found.” “Internal compass spinning, mid-life crash imminent.” “Love my cake. Eat it too.”

A new phenomenon was born. Soon everyone was trying to sum up their lives in just six words.

Can we be honest? The mother of the six-word memoir is, in fact, mothers. We have been speaking in six-word phrases since long before Ernest Hemmingway or Smith magazine. Somehow we missed our opportunity for a book deal.

Take for example, the time honored, “Don’t make me stop this car.” Or “Were you born in a barn?” Six words each.

It’s time we take the credit we’re due. Here’s a list of some of the six-word memoirs coined by moms. Each one stands alone as its own story. And together they are a collective story that mothers everywhere share:

Where did you last see it?

Put that down. Wash your hands.

Does anyone know how to flush?

Am I talking to a wall?

Did anyone feed the dog today?

I don’t care who started it.

No means no. Don’t ask again.

Who left the milk carton out?

Not until your laundry’s put away.

Let your brother play with you.

Santa won’t come until you’re asleep.

Clean up this mess. Right now!

Find a different place to sit.

(from an email sent to me by Claire).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Book Review: The Full Armor of God by Larry Richards

Spiritual Warfare: Practical Help Without the Drama

Spiritual Warfare is one of those topics that may seem *far out* to the materialist, and not correct to those who believe in white magic. However, Christianity describes an unseen battleground between angels and fallen angels whose fallout splashes onto us, the humans. While we can't see this spiritual warfare, we are a target for attack.

Richards' book, The Full Armor of God, is a practical guide to combating spiritual warfare. He describes how, in the first century, Ephesus was a central city for spiritual warfare because of its famed temple to Diana (Artemis) and consequent Diana-related commerce. Paul wrote to the Ephesians and in 6:11-17 describes *the full armor of God* using the metaphor of a Roman soldier to describe how we humans may defend against spiritual attacks.

Richards articulately goes through the metaphor of each piece of armor (helmet of salvation, shield of faith, sandals of peace, breastplate of righteousness, belt of truth, sword of the Spirit) to explain how each of these metaphors can be a spiritual defense from spiritual attack. Spiritual attack may not look like what we think, either: it is often simply discouragement or disinterest to the things of God, rather than an out-and-out obvious event. We are vulnerable to *demonization* (harassment by demons) by believing lies: we are worthless, we are guilty, and these lies are more easy to believe in company with anger, bitterness, or unforgiveness. Richards' book addresses how to combat these negative thought patterns to be able to receive the *true* values of God. Exercises at the end of each chapter practically focus the reader to address these issues.

This book also contains two appendices: Christian Counseling and Evil; and "Live Free" Support Group Lesson Plans. The lesson plans are helpful for small group study.

Overall, I found this a practical book, happily without *way out there* theology that often may accompany treatises on the unseen. It is written in an approachable yet intelligent style, and I imagine might give real help for discouraged or angry Christians.

I received a free copy of this book from Chosen Books in return for posting a review. These opinions are my own. I was not required to post a positive review.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Is There Life After Work? by Erin Callan

Is There Life After Work?
Published: March 9, 2013
AT an office party in 2005, one of my colleagues asked my then husband what I did on weekends. She knew me as someone with great intensity and energy. “Does she kayak, go rock climbing and then run a half marathon?” she joked. No, he answered simply, “she sleeps.” And that was true. When I wasn’t catching up on work, I spent my weekends recharging my batteries for the coming week. Work always came first, before my family, friends and marriage — which ended just a few years later.

In recent weeks I have been following with interest the escalating debate about work-life balance and the varying positions of Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo and the academic Anne-Marie Slaughter, among others. Since I resigned my position as chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers in 2008, amid mounting chaos and a cloud of public humiliation only months before the company went bankrupt, I have had ample time to reflect on the decisions I made in balancing (or failing to balance) my job with the rest of my life. The fact that I call it “the rest of my life” gives you an indication where work stood in the pecking order.

I don’t have children, so it might seem that my story lacks relevance to the work-life balance debate. Like everyone, though, I did have relationships — a spouse, friends and family — and none of them got the best version of me. They got what was left over.

I didn’t start out with the goal of devoting all of myself to my job. It crept in over time. Each year that went by, slight modifications became the new normal. First I spent a half-hour on Sunday organizing my e-mail, to-do list and calendar to make Monday morning easier. Then I was working a few hours on Sunday, then all day. My boundaries slipped away until work was all that was left.

Inevitably, when I left my job, it devastated me. I couldn’t just rally and move on. I did not know how to value who I was versus what I did. What I did was who I was.

I have spent several years now living a different version of my life, where I try to apply my energy to my new husband, Anthony, and the people whom I love and care about. But I can’t make up for lost time. Most important, although I now have stepchildren, I missed having a child of my own. I am 47 years old, and Anthony and I have been trying in vitro fertilization for several years. We are still hoping.

Sometimes young women tell me they admire what I’ve done. As they see it, I worked hard for 20 years and can now spend the next 20 focused on other things. But that is not balance. I do not wish that for anyone. Even at the best times in my career, I was never deluded into thinking I had achieved any sort of rational allocation between my life at work and my life outside.

I have often wondered whether I would have been asked to be C.F.O. if I had not worked the way that I did. Until recently, I thought my singular focus on my career was the most powerful ingredient in my success. But I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short. I was talented, intelligent and energetic. It didn’t have to be so extreme. Besides, there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor.

I didn’t have to be on my BlackBerry from my first moment in the morning to my last moment at night. I didn’t have to eat the majority of my meals at my desk. I didn’t have to fly overnight to a meeting in Europe on my birthday. I now believe that I could have made it to a similar place with at least some better version of a personal life. Not without sacrifice — I don’t think I could have “had it all” — but with somewhat more harmony.

I have also wondered where I would be today if Lehman Brothers hadn’t collapsed. In 2007, I did start to have my doubts about the way I was living my life. Or not really living it. But I felt locked in to my career. I had just been asked to be C.F.O. I had a responsibility. Without the crisis, I may never have been strong enough to step away. Perhaps I needed what felt at the time like some of the worst experiences in my life to come to a place where I could be grateful for the life I had. I had to learn to begin to appreciate what was left.

At the end of the day, that is the best guidance I can give. Whatever valuable advice I have about managing a career, I am only now learning how to manage a life.

Erin Callan is the former chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

INCIDENT by Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen (1903-1946) was an African-American poet of the Harlem Renaissance period. His works are thoughtful and sad and beautiful.
Here's one poem that I find wrenching:
Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.
Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, "Nigger."
I saw the whole of Baltimore
from May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.

Monday, March 4, 2013

History Channel Screens *The Bible*

The first episode covers Adam & Eve, and Noah. Schedule on THE HISTORY CHANNEL:

March 04, 2013 - 12:01-02:01AM
March 06, 2013 - 09:00-11:02PM
March 07, 2013 - 01:01-03:03AM
March 10, 2013 - 06:00-08:00PM

“The Bible” is an epic five-week, 10-hour television mini-series premiering
March 3, 2013 on the History Channel from Emmy-Award winning husband and wife
team, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. For two hours each Sunday night, millions of
viewers will see the Bible come to life in a way never before seen. The final
episode of the series will air on Easter Sunday [March 31] and will feature the
death and resurrection of Jesus. To help ensure the accuracy of the miniseries,
many Christian scholars served as advisors and hundreds of Christian leaders
have given their endorsement.

"In terms of importance, nothing we've ever done, not Touched By An Angel, not
Survivor, not The Voice, not The Apprentice, none of this could possibly compare
to “The Bible”," Burnett says. "This is not a TV show to us.
Its images, sound and sacred text that people will still watch, way after our
grandchildren are old people."

Famed television producer Mark Burnett tackles his projects with passion, but
The Bible is a special labor of love.

The 10-hour, five-part docudrama will span the Bible from Genesis to
Revelation, presenting some of its best-known stories, including Noah's Ark, the
Exodus, Daniel in the lions' den and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Former Touched By An Angel star Roma Downey, Burnett's wife and fellow
executive producer, heads a large international cast in the role of Mother Mary.
Keith David, an Emmy winner for voice-over performances, will narrate with a
musical score by Oscar-and-Grammy-winning composer Hans Zimmer.
Since the entire Bible can't be covered in 10 hours, the miniseries, which was
filmed in Morocco, focuses on a select group of stories and features such
compelling figures as Abraham, Moses and David. Some stories had to be
compressed for artistic purposes.

Here is a 4 minute trailer for the mini-series